Alternate Realities Star Trek: Deep Space Nine — The Visitor

DS9 goes for an uncommon depth of character and narrative in this classic episode...

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The VisitorSeason: 4 Episode: 3First aired: September 10 1995

As one of DS9’s most powerful, The Visitor stands as one of the all-time classic Trek episodes, and features some rock solid performances, including an excellent guest appearance by Tony Todd.

The episode begins with an elderly man opening his door to a young woman seeking shelter from a storm. This woman, however, doesn’t stumble upon the old man’s home by accident, and is, in fact, a budding writer who wishes to speak to the old man, who we find out is an elderly Jake Sisko (Tony Todd). Jake was once a prize-winning novelist, but stopped writing abruptly, and Melanie (Rachel Robinson) wants to know why. Jake decides to tell Melanie his story.

Events then switch to a flashback on DS9. Benjamin and Jake Sisko are taking a trip to witness the ‘inversion’ of the Bajoran wormhole. This event, which happens only once every 50 years, causes the Defiant’s warp core to go into overload, and Ben, followed by Jake, attempts to stop the imminent explosion. He manages to save the ship, but in the process is struck by an energy discharge. Jake grabs his father, but Benjamin is seemingly killed by the blast, vanishing before Jake’s eyes.

Ad – content continues below

A service is held aboard DS9 for Ben Sisko and Jake is left alone. A few months after his death, however, Jake sees his father for a few seconds, only to witness him vanish again. This event is thought to simply be a dream (he was in bed at the time), and Jake dismisses the sighting.

Around a year later, Benjamin appears to Jake again, this time in a corridor. Ben is rushed to sickbay where Dax, Chief O’Brien and Dr Bashir attempt to stabilise his apparent subspace phasing. Sadly, Jake sees his father disappear again, not before Benjamin pleads for his son to continue on with his life.

With Benjamin gone the Bajorans lose faith in the Federation, as their ‘emissary’ is no longer able to save them. Relations with the Klingons become worse, and the Federation evacuates the station, which is then taken over by the Klingon Empire.

Forced to return home due to the occupation of Deep Space Nine, Jake becomes a novelist, and starts to write his stories. He settles down and gets married, and his life begins to become a happy one, as events of the past slip into memory. But, when his father appears once again (still the same age as he was when the accident occurred), Jake is determined to find a way to rescue him.

Events then detail Jake’s attempt to help his father. He stops writing and instead begins to study subspace mechanics in order to better understand his father’s predicament. With the help of Nog, his childhood Ferengi friend, who is now a starship captain in Starfeet, he attempts to reproduce the initial accident, theorising that this will help bring his father back. It’s been 50 years since the accident, and so the wormhole undergoes another inversion. Jake does see his father, and even gets pulled into subspace with him, but is then returned, while Ben is still left behind.

Eventually, we return to the elderly Jake, who reveals to Melanie that time is short. His father is due to visit him again, and for the last time. Jake has taken a lethal dose of an unnamed substance, and has realised that it is he, himself, that is keeping Benjamin flitting in and out of subspace. He believes that if he were to die when Benjamin was present, the link would be broken, and his father would return to the time of the accident.

Ad – content continues below

Ben appears, and after a moving reunion, Jake’s plan does indeed work, and Benjamin is returned to the accident, and this time, dives out of the way of the energy discharge, and is reunited with his young son.

The Visitor is a very strong episode because of many elements, including the underlying theme of family, particularly the father and son bond between Benjamin and Jake. When Jake tells Melanie that the worst thing that can happen to a boy is to lose his father, it’s something that will resonate with anyone watching, and thanks to excellent performances from both Cirroc Lofton (young Jake Sisko) and Tony Todd as the older Jake, this point is hit home with unavoidable emotional impact.

The writing and pacing of the episode is also superb, and instead of taking the expected route of charting Benjamin’s experiences in subspace, the story instead sticks to Jake’s emotional journey to rescue his dad. As these events unfold over around 80 years, we get to witness an entire alternate timeline that’s made possible by the ‘death’ of a single Starfleet officer.

The rather simple and relatively low-key feel of the episode is perfect, as this is not all about effects, sci-fi technobabble and high-octane rescue missions. Instead, it’s simply about a boy’s love for his father and immense sense of loss. Jake gives up everything – his career, marriage and even his life, to help his father in a wonderfully told story that’s understandably a favourite of fans and crew. This is vintage Trek, make no mistake.

Star Trek – Alternate Realities Collection is available now.