The Visitor (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)
"The Visitor" is the 75th episode of the American syndicated science fiction television series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and the third episode of the fourth season. The episode was written by Michael Taylor and directed by David Livingston. It originally aired on October 9, 1995.
|Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode|
|Episode no.||Season 4|
|Directed by||David Livingston|
|Written by||Michael Taylor|
|Featured music||Dennis McCarthy|
|Cinematography by||Jonathan West|
|Original air date||October 9, 1995|
Set in the 24th century, the series follows the adventures on Deep Space Nine, a space station located near a stable wormhole between the Alpha and Gamma quadrants of the Milky Way Galaxy. In this episode, an accident leaves Captain Benjamin Sisko frozen in time, leaving Jake with a lifelong obsession of rescuing his father while having his resolve tested when they briefly reunite every few decades.
The episode was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation in 1996, but lost to Babylon 5's "The Coming of Shadows". It consistently ranks in polls as one of the most popular episodes of the entire series, often vying for first place with "In the Pale Moonlight" and "Trials and Tribble-ations", with one critic writing that the episode "sums up everything that made DS9 so unforgettable."
The episode is mostly set in the 25th century, starting in the year 2450. On a rainy night on Earth, the elderly Jake Sisko (Tony Todd) is visited by an aspiring novelist Melanie (Rachel Robinson), who is curious to learn why Jake gave up writing after publishing two successful books. Jake, knowing the time in his life is short, decides to tell her his story, revealed as flashbacks in the episode.
Many years earlier, when Jake was eighteen, he went with his father, Captain Benjamin Sisko, on the USS Defiant to observe the inversion of the Bajoran Wormhole, an event that only occurs every fifty years. The inversion causes a malfunction in the Defiant's warp drive, but Sisko and his son are able to fix it. However, as they congratulate themselves, a bolt of energy discharges from the warp drive and strikes Sisko, causing him to vanish into subspace, a dimension in which he is frozen in time. Believing him to be dead, Jake and the rest of Deep Space Nine mourn for his loss, but a few months later, Jake catches sight of his father for a brief moment. A year after the incident, Captain Sisko appears again, remaining much longer than before, and Jake and the rest of the crew ascertain that his temporal signature is out of phase, but cannot correct it in the limited time. Before he disappears, Sisko tells Jake, "I need to know that you're going to be all right." He soon disappears again as Jake cries, "don't leave me!"
When the Klingon Empire assumes control of Deep Space Nine, Jake is forced to abandon his home of five years and give up any further hope of finding his father. Returning to Earth, he eventually decides to study writing, marry and settle down. Achieving success as an author, Jake is able to think less about the past. His father suddenly appears again, this time in Jake's home. Jake introduces him to his wife and shows him the books he's published. He apologizes to his father for abandoning his attempts to save him and instead moving on with his life. But Sisko is proud of his son's accomplishments and hopes one day Jake will give him grandchildren. When his father suddenly disappears again, Jake is traumatized and decides to help him by returning to school to study subspace mechanics, abandoning his writing career and marriage in the process.
Finally, fifty years later, the wormhole is to undergo another inversion. With the help of Dax, Dr. Bashir, and Nog (now a Captain in Starfleet), Jake attempts to recreate the events with the Defiant. The rescue seems to be going well when a malfunction occurs sending Jake into the white void of subspace with his father. During this brief "visit", Jake, who is now older than his own father, explains that he's brought the Defiant back to the wormhole to rescue him. Sisko is disappointed that Jake has abandoned his writing and marriage in order to save him. Realizing the rescue attempt is failing, he tells Jake to "let go", and begs him to promise he'll return to his true passions and live out his life for his own sake. Jake returns to normality without his father and tries to figure out what went wrong with the rescue attempt. But eventually he honors his father's request to rebuild his life by returning to writing.
On the night of Melanie's visit, Jake knows his father will appear again, and has injected himself with a lethal hypospray dose, believing that he is acting as a tether that is keeping his father frozen in time; by dying when Captain Sisko is present, Jake will allow his father to become unstuck and return to a time before the warp core incident. After seeing Melanie off, Jake waits for his father. Sisko appears as expected, and Jake explains everything to him, telling him that his death will give them both a "second chance", and reminds him to dodge the energy discharge. Jake dies in Sisko's arms; Sisko immediately finds himself back on the Defiant, and remembers elder Jake's advice, pushing himself and his son out of the way of the energy discharge, erasing the future timeline. As they return home together, Sisko gains a greater appreciation for his son, knowing Jake would have given up his life for his father.
The script was written by Michael Taylor, who would later join the writing staff until Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's conclusion; once finished, he moved on to help write Star Trek: Voyager during its final three seasons. He also co-wrote "In the Pale Moonlight", another critically acclaimed episode of Deep Space Nine. Showrunner Ira Steven Behr noted that the everlasting love in the episode wasn't a romance, but something altogether more relatable: the devotion of a son to his father.
Although the episode was always intended to be the second episode of the season, it was filmed third; "Hippocratic Oath" was filmed prior to accommodate Colm Meaney's (Miles O'Brien) schedule on a film. Tony Todd, who guest stars as adult Jake Sisko in this episode, also portrays Worf's brother Kurn in all his appearances in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Melanie, the aspiring writer who listens to Jake's story, is played by Rachel Robinson, daughter of actor Andrew Robinson (Garak). Rachel Robinson also later auditioned for the role of Ezri Dax.
Writing for Tor.com, Keith DeCandido felt that the episode was among the ten best Star Trek stories and praised the acting of Avery Brooks (Benjamin Sisko), Cirroc Lofton (Jake Sisko), and particularly Tony Todd (adult Jake Sisko). He felt that "Everyone who gets substantive screen time puts in a great performance here", also commending Terry Farrell (Jadzia Dax), Alexander Siddig (Julian Bashir), and Aron Eisenberg (Nog). DeCandido summarized his thoughts on the episode by writing, "Just a great great hour of television. One of the finest there has ever been", and awarded the episode a "warp factor rating" of 10/10. Jamahl Epsicokhan of Jammer's Reviews gave the episode 4/4 stars. He felt "The Visitor" was a "moving, thematic tale [that] is one of the most brilliantly realized character pieces I've seen on television." He lauded Michael Taylor's story, David Livingston's direction, the editing and the music. Ending his review, Epsicokhan wrote, "Even if you're grabbing the tissues by the end of this episode (I was) there is no way you can call this story maudlin or melodramatic. It's completely absorbing from the first frame to the last; definitely one of DS9's finest moments. There is true magic working here." The A.V. Club's Zack Handlen reviewed the episode standalone rather than alongside another episode – he had done so similarly in his review for "Duet" – and interspersed his review with memories with his own father. Handlen explained that he was reduced to tears when old Jake woke up to find his father watching him and smiling towards the end of the episode.
Analyzing Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's representation of black fatherhood in America through the characters of Benjamin and Jake Sisko, Vulture's Angelica Jade Bastién wrote how the "beauty of [their] relationship is perhaps never better portrayed than in the season-four episode “The Visitor.” [...] Seeing black men cry, grapple with the historical importance of their existence, and remain beautifully, dynamically human is something no other science-fiction series on television has done with such panache." In 2018, the website had rated "The Visitor" the second-best episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
"The Visitor" was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation in 1996, although Babylon 5's "The Coming of Shadows" won; during his review of "The Visitor", Keith DeCandido wrote that he was present at the Hugo Awards in Los Angeles at the time and noted that the clip they showed for the episode cut off before the emotional scene between Captain Sisko and his son – while he liked Babylon 5's "The Coming of Shadows", he felt that this episode was "seriously robbed". It was ranked as the tenth best Star Trek episode for TV Guide's celebration of the franchise's 30th anniversary.
Based on user ratings, "The Visitor" holds a 9.2/10 on TV.com and a 9.1/10 on IMDb. It has consistently ranked in polls as one of the most popular episodes of the entire series. IMDb ranks it at third place (between "In the Pale Moonlight" and "Duet") based on over 1,200 user ratings, as did About.com's Nigel Mitchell. Den of Geek's Gem Wheeler considered the episode the best of the series and thought that if one was only going to watch one episode of Deep Space Nine, then this episode should be it, writing, "quite simply, one of the finest hours of Star Trek ever made." In a poll conducted on the official Star Trek website to determine the best episode of Deep Space Nine, "Trials and Tribble-ations" won, leaving the staff to ponder why "remarkable episodes as "The Visitor," "What You Leave Behind," "Duet" and "Far Beyond the Stars"" didn't receive the necessary votes to challenge the winner in earlier rounds.
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