Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Visitor   Rewatch 
January 10, 2016 12:36 PM - Season 4, Episode 2 - Subscribe

After a freak accident in the engine room of the Defiant apparently claims the life of Benjamin Sisko, Jake lives out his life in an endless quest to locate his father.

Synopsis, quotes, trivia, etc. from Memory Alpha's page on "The Visitor."

Quotes :

"I'm no writer; but if I were, it seems to me I'd want to poke my head up every once in a while and take a look around; see what's going on. It's life, Jake! You can miss it if you don't open your eyes."
- Benjamin Sisko

"To my father, who's coming home."
- Benjamin Sisko, reading the dedication in Jake's last book

Trivia :

* Writer Michael Taylor based the concept of a fan visiting a reclusive writer who hasn't published in years on the famous 1980 interview given by J. D. Salinger to a high school student who simply turned up at his door. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)

* Illustrator John Eaves based the design for Jake's house on the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland. (Deep Space Nine Sketchbook: John Eaves, DS9 Season 4 DVD special features)

* Tony Todd, who portrayed Worf's brother Kurn, was cast as the older Jake after it was deemed too difficult to make Cirroc Lofton appear to be in his seventies. He revealed that when filming the episode, he was mourning his aunt, who raised him as child, and had died only three months before. "This script got me out of my shell. It's like she was whispering to me 'Go back to work.' ... Doing this was as close to heaven as I can imagine." [1]

* Todd reprised the role of Kurn later in the fourth season in "Sons of Mogh". Todd commented "I really felt blessed that I was able to do two different roles on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine this year which may or may not be a small feat". (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Official Poster Magazine, issue 13)

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* Kira wears a new uniform from this episode onward. The shoulder pads of the old uniform have been reduced and the neck opened. The color is also a little darker and Kira now wears high heels. According to costume designer Robert Blackman the new outfit was "more body conscious". However, although actress Nana Visitor loved it, it wasn't popular among all of the fans, and it gave rise to an Internet campaign to return to the old uniform for fear that this one was an effort to turn Kira into a "Baywatch babe." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)

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* Many fans of Deep Space Nine have also counted this among their favorite episodes; in a 1996 issue of TV Guide, it was voted the best Star Trek show ever. TV Guide called this result a "shocker", surprised that "the least popular incarnation of Star Trek has produced the most popular show". (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)

* Avery Brooks sees this episode as an important milestone in the manner in which American TV depicts non-white families. Speaking of the relationship between Sisko and his son Jake, Brooks says "I'm glad that relationship is there. It is, even in the most naive mind, a sin of omission that we have not looked at this side of people raising their children in other television shows, and having some cultural resonance other than that of white Americans. It's something that we have to see more often, the relationship of a brown man and his son. Because historically, that's not how it began in this country for brown families who didn't have the freedom of their own will and volition, let alone the ability to hold their families together." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)

* Ira Steven Behr particularly liked the way this episode deals with love, a love that spans a lifetime, because it is not a romantic love, but a filial love, which is not something that is seen as much as romance; "A love stronger than death. Usually that's romantic love, but for this show, this series, we chose the love between a father and son. And it worked like gangbusters. Everyone could relate to it." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)

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#GARAKWATCH : Rachel Robinson, who played old Jake's visitor, is Andrew Robinson's daughter.

* Future uniforms and combadges worn in this episode were reused from "All Good Things...".

* The character of Nog held the Starfleet ranks of Commander and Captain, and commanded the USS Defiant NX-74205, outranking both Julian Bashir and Jadzia Dax, both of whom were Lieutenant/Lieutenant Commander when Nog in the original timeline was only a cadet.

* Korena appears again as Jake's wife in the novels "Worlds of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Volume 3," "Rough Beasts of Empire," "Raise the Dawn" and "The Good That Men Do."

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* It was also nominated for a Hugo Award for "Best Dramatic Presentation," which was won by the Babylon 5 episode "The Coming of Shadows". "The Visitor" was also up against Apollo 13, Toy Story and Twelve Monkeys for the Hugo Award. [2]
posted by Slothrop (19 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Star Trek never made me cry much, but boy, this episode turns me into a sobbing mess.

I don't remember if DS9 ever ended up winning a Hugo award. This was one of its best hours, but it's hard to argue with the Hugo going to B5's "The Coming of Shadows".
posted by crossoverman at 1:23 PM on January 10, 2016

crossoverman - I didn't watch DS9 when it aired and then about a year ago I watched a big chunk of seasons 4 and 5. I've now gone back to the beginning and am following along with this rewatch. I didn't know what to expect from this episode and while I have always liked Trek, I was never an insider or knew which episodes are considered classic episodes. So, when I read the synopsis for this one on Netflix, I thought "hmm... some sort of time-travel whodunnit? I don't know..." The episode started slowly for me and I ended up breaking my watching of the episode into two parts. After the first part, I was considering skipping the episode, but then thought "Well, I should finish this, so I can stick with the MeFi rewatch."

By the end, I was amazed! What a great episode! I am not as big a fan of Sisko as other DS9ers, but this episode really showcased Avery Brooks' abilities.

If I ever try to make a run at getting my wife to watch DS9, I will include "Duet," various Garak episodes and this one in our initial batch to get her hooked.
posted by Slothrop at 1:49 PM on January 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

This probably goes without saying, but "The Visitor" is especially poignant for those of us who lost a parent or other close relative at an early age.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:15 PM on January 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

That was beautiful. Tony Todd was perfect, I can't imagine this episode working as well if it was Cirroc Lofton in aging make-up all the way through. It would have been distractingly gimmicky. Todd's make-up(s) seemed like one of the best old-age make-ups I've seen in the Trek-verse -- I imagine it's due in part to him not being a familiar face on the show (I mean, there was nothing wrong with Dax or Bashir's, but, it just stands out more as being fake when you're used to seeing them every week) and in part to his being such a good actor, but, it also seemed like the make-up/prosthetics people didn't take it to extremes the way they can when there's a rapid-aging-disease episode.
posted by oh yeah! at 5:29 PM on January 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Loved the way Tony Todd managed to blend Cirroc Lofton's and Avery Brook's mannerisms in how he moved and spoke at various stages of his life. That blend reinforces the bond between them. Also loved the "cut the cord" analogy that brought them back together.
Deep space Nine's range is one of the factors in making it my favourite of the Treks. A wonderful portrayal of a close family and a close group of
posted by juiceCake at 7:25 PM on January 10, 2016 [5 favorites]

A truly amazing episode, arguably as great as Trek ever got.

It just occurred to me (after all these years) that it's really about grieving and letting go. When you're grieving in an unhealthy way, people will say that the person you're grieving wouldn't have wanted it like this. Here we have Ben Sisko as a kind of ghost who can actually confirm that he wouldn't have wanted it like this, and even so Jake can't accept things as they are. Jake gives up so much chasing his father's ghost, refusing to give up for decades.

But this story has the sci-fi twist, where in the end Jake's faith and sacrifices are worth it and his father DOES come back and the timeline is restored. I never thought about this before, but... if the episode is saying something about coping with loss, the ending is a sort of cheat, isn't it? By the end we're desperate for Jake's plan to work, because we know how much he needs this. But when somebody dies in real life, no matter what you do or how much you need them back, they're gone.

The episode is so dark and raw that it doesn't feel like a wish-fulfillment story... but is it? Is it kind of saying that Jake's desperation to bring back his dad is unhealthy, only to then flip it and reward him for his sad obsession? And if that IS what's going on here, why doesn't it feel like a cheat? Why is it so powerful? Why do even the most cynical Trek haters cite this as a standout episode?
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:34 AM on January 11, 2016 [5 favorites]

The episode is so dark and raw that it doesn't feel like a wish-fulfillment story... but is it? Is it kind of saying that Jake's desperation to bring back his dad is unhealthy, only to then flip it and reward him for his sad obsession? And if that IS what's going on here, why doesn't it feel like a cheat? Why is it so powerful? Why do even the most cynical Trek haters cite this as a standout episode?

You have articulated what I've always had tugging at the back of my mind about this one. I'm inclined to think that, when we have an obvious Very Special Episode placed before us, we naturally try to view it as some sort of Lesson. Maybe that's a mistake in this case?

Or maybe it's partly about belief in science? Maybe we're supposed to be on board with Jake because he knows the galaxy's full of whackadoo anomalies, and that therefore what seems to other characters to be obsession, he (and we) know to be just bleeding-edge science or whatever. That it happens to involve death's impact on a close (and well-acted) father-son relationship is what really hits the ball out of the park, then-- what enables it to transcend a sci-fi story hook and become one of those "Inner Light"-level, truly literary sci-fi moments.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 5:35 AM on January 11, 2016

Maybe my interpretation last night was wrong (Bowie had just died and it had me in a grim mood) and this episode is about faith and an undying love, more than it's about grieving. Jake knows his father isn't truly gone, and that's no delusion. He gets rare but regular visits from Ben Sisko. The people around Jake, and Jake's own father, are framing this as an unhealthy obsession, as grieving gone wrong, but Jake knows he can't give up hope. There IS an element of unhealthy obsession in it and he does sacrifice his life, but he was right all along that his father could be saved.

Maybe this story is only wish-fulfillment if you choose to look at it that way. Maybe it's really about sticking to your convictions, no matter how hard it is, because something is just that important to you. If the lesson is something like, fight to the end for what you kbelieve is right and in the end you may be rewarded for that, that works a lot better for me than, wish hard enough, and you can bring your dad back from the dead.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 11:27 AM on January 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

Ursula Hitler - I can see where your reading is coming from. The episode is ambiguous with regards to its lesson. I think you could also come away from the episode thinking that Jake only succeeded when he finally heeded his father's request to live his life again. Once he returned to his writing then he somehow discovered the solution to releasing his father from subspace. In that way, I think the episode has some internal consistency with regards to the opening scenes where Sisko asks Jake to come up and see the wormhole inversion - Benjamin is only trying to help Jake achieve some measure of happiness and satisfaction with his life.

Plus the solution for Old Jake doesn't bring Benjamin back to him. It's pretty much a devil's bargain - if Old Jake kills himself when his father next appears, the accident can be averted and a different Jake, in another timeline will have his father back.

One thing that DS9 did well, that you rarely see on other shows, is show how parenting contains that bittersweet core of drawing your child very close, closer than you can imagine, but then also developing them to be an independent person who will have to separate from you to become an adult. In this episode Sisko is trying to help Jake let him go and regain his life. This picks up a thread from an earlier episode ("Explorers") where Sisko and Jake try out the ancient Bajoran ship and Jake begins to build up to his decision not to go to Starfleet.
posted by Slothrop at 7:01 AM on January 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


I remembered this episode as uniquely terrible, And instead it's uniquely great.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:32 PM on January 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

I definitely could not appreciate this episode at age 19 like I can at age 37. I think you have to have been through or at least understand thugs about life and parent/child relationships for it to really speak to you.

The relationship between Benjamin and Jake is so well-drawn throughout the entire series, and this episode really builds on it. What makes this episode work is that, because he lost his mother, Jake really needs his dad. They need each other really. The loss they share is the core of their bond. When Jake loses his dad, not only has he lost the person he can share that burden with, but he has a new extra burden to carry. And Todd does just an incredible job conveying that Jake just can't do it alone. Maybe that's a failing on his part. We all have to learn to deal with loss. But it's also totally authentic that some people just can't let go. And honestly, having the person you lost re-appear every 7 years would only make it harder.
posted by dry white toast at 12:36 AM on January 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

What makes this episode work is that, because he lost his mother, Jake really needs his dad.

SPOILERS for the rest of the series follow:

The saddest part of Old Jake's sacrifice to me is that it buys Younger Jake only 2.5-3 more years with his dad before losing him again (though at least there is the hope that Sisko will return to him and Kassidy sometime later). Of course, to many people who have lost a parent (myself included), 2.5-3 more years would be greatly treasured, but man, Jake is still so young at the series end. I hope that he's grown up enough in that intervening time that he'll be able to live his life after this loss of his dad.

I really like the parallels (which I think might have been deliberate) in the shots with Kira and Jake in both this episode and What You Leave Behind.
posted by creepygirl at 11:28 AM on January 13, 2016 [4 favorites]

Creepygirl, I started a comment to the same effect but ended up bailing because I got lazy. The end of the series is bittersweet, but it's more bitter than sweet when you think about The Visitor. WYLB does so many things so well, but the fate of Sisko has always been frustrating to me. Avery Brooks was the one who pushed for Sisko's fate being kind of ambiguous, that he could come back someday, and part of me likes that because the alternative is pretty heartbreaking. But that ambiguity leaves us (and Jake and Kassidy and Kassidy and Sisko's child) in limbo, never knowing if Sisko is really gone... not unlike his situation in The Visitor. It seems poor Jake is just fated to lose his dad without ever quite knowing if he's gone forever.

(Just realized that if DS9 had continued and followed a chronology roughly equivalent to ours, Kassidy and Sisko's son would be 15/16 now. Here's hoping Sisko at least got to pop in and advise the kid occasionally, Obi Wan style!)

The Star Trek Online game is supposed to be canon, and it flashes forward a few decades from the end of Voyager. But I've gathered they keep Sisko's fate ambiguous, even there. I guess they'd have to. For fans of DS9, Sisko's return (or lack of return) would be a pretty big deal, the kind of thing you can't really deal with in a tossed-off line in the middle of a game campaign.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:13 PM on January 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

It seems poor Jake is just fated to lose his dad without ever quite knowing if he's gone forever.

Sounds pretty close to real life.

Sisko's fate being kind of ambiguous, that he could come back someday

Sisko is one of the prophets. He's always been there, and he always will be there. Sisko exists out of time, so to speak of a return is to misunderstand the Sisko.
posted by rocketman at 9:43 PM on January 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

The best DS9 episode, no doubt about it.

And suddenly realizing that Old Jake is Tony Todd makes me that much more unhappy about the C&D on Axanar.
posted by mwhybark at 5:49 PM on February 4, 2016

So it would completely break the episode, but it would probably have been worthwhile for Jake to ask the Prophets for help here. For all we know, they're aware of Sisko's subspace pocket, but just didn't realize that he wasn't supposed to be there. Maybe they could have helped.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 12:02 AM on February 28, 2023

I've got an emperor's new clothes thing going on here because I thought this episode was pretty bad. Half the lines were delivered in a way that made me wonder if the actors were improvising them under pressure. The whole "adoring young female fan hangs on every word of the aging male writer" felt like the episode writers were showing too much about themselves. It dragged. And I did lose a parent at the age Jake was, and I'm a parent now, and I had a career as a writer, and I cry at dog food commercials, so it's not like I couldn't relate or that I have a heart of stone.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:33 AM on January 20

I've got an emperor's new clothes thing going on here because I thought this episode was pretty bad.

I half-agree. I think it was a really good episode--but that doesn't become clear until the big payoff at the end. Before that I was also rolling my eyes at the cringey exposition-dialog between old Jake and the young writer.

This ep reminded me a lot of TNG's "The Inner Light", where Picard lives out an entire lifetime stuck on a backwoods planet, but it turns out it was all a dream and he's right back on the Enterprise. In both eps, I felt like it dragged in the middle and I wondered where they could possibly be going with this. I feel like "The Visitor" comes out a little worse in the comparison, and yet I do think the payoff was better in "The Visitor", perhaps because it felt more personal.

if Old Jake kills himself when his father next appears, the accident can be averted and a different Jake, in another timeline will have his father back.

I see this as the point. It wasn't a cheat b/c old Jake really did kill himself. Not only that, but sacrificed his entire lifetime in obsession over the problem. He states that he's doing it to save his dad (and credibly so), but the implication is there that he's also saving alternate-timeline Jake--not himself. (Furthermore, I think even if it's only for a few short years, maybe that's enough.)

(It also seemed pretty clear to me that he's saving the galaxy, b/c although I haven't seen it yet, I'm confident that Captain Sisko has a lot of galaxy-saving left to do).

I does carry a lot of weight that Sisko told Jake again and again not to do this, and now he's left with a more painful understanding of just how important he is to Jake and what sacrifices Jake would make for him.
posted by polecat at 4:43 PM on January 23 [2 favorites]

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