May 27, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Weekend Trek “The Visitor”

Considered by many to be among the best episodes of Deep Space Nine, an older Jake Sisko reflects on his lost father.

So, I heard a lot about this episode before I saw it.  Namely, I heard it was one of the best episodes of the entire series, and that it featured actor Tony Todd as an older Jake Sisko.  Now, Tony Todd had already done some Star Trek by this point as Worf’s brother Kurn, so I was thinking we’d see a Jake that was older and crankier due to what happened in this episode.

I am glad to say I am very glad to have been wrong about that.

In many ways, this was a delightfully surprising episode.  Let’s start with Tony Todd.  The guy’s done a lot of genre work, and he’s a reliable screen presence.  But, let’s face it:  he’s usually cast as a more intimidating figure.  Sure, he can be more of a good guy figure like Kurn, but he’s probably best known for the Candyman and other roles that take advantage of the actor’s height and distinctive voice.  Imagine my surprise to see him playing such a warm, loving character.  The episode opens with Todd as an elderly Jake, a reclusive former writer who takes in a young woman out of the rain, offers her a chance to warm up, and tells her why he stopped writing decades earlier.  There’s no bitterness there, no animosity.  He’s genuinely glad to tell this story to this young woman he’s never even met before.  Not to say Todd couldn’t play a role like this, but more importantly, I am not sure he was ever even really asked to before.  It was quite refreshing to see an actor so often set in certain roles if not outright typecast prove he could do other things.

In fact, knowing what I know about Ben Sisko’s own father and who ended up playing him, and having seen how Ben Sisko tends to come across when dealing with his son, I actually felt like this was a Jake Sisko who really could come across as someone related to Ben.  That’s not necessarily a knock on Cirroc Lofton, but let’s face it, he is the one member of the main cast most likely to have little if anything to do in any given episode.  That’s probably due to his age, and while it is somewhat of a shame that what is possibly the best Jake-centric episode of the entire series has another actor playing the character for most of it, I think it still worked out well to show what kind of man Jake Sisko will be and how much he loves his father.

In brief, what happened was this:  during a routine trip on the Defiant to observe a rare wormhole phenomenon, an inversion hit the warpcore, and while Ben and Jake Sisko were making a quick repair to make sure the ship didn’t explode, something hit Ben and he disappeared.  Everyone assumed he was dead, but some time later, Jake woke to find his father sitting near his son’s bed only for the older Sisko to disappear again.  When this happened again much later, Jake was able to get Ben down to the infirmary for Bashir, Dax, and O’Brien to basically discover Ben was stuck in subspace and he could only come out for very brief periods.

That later turned out to be brief periods but always near Jake wherever Jake was.  These instances were rare, and when Ben returned a third time, it was to an adult Jake played by Tony Todd as a happily married, published author, still good friends with Starfleet officer Nog, and in this case, Ben’s whole return upset a whole lot of stuff going on, forcing Jake into an obsession to return his dad to the proper plane of existence, something that ended Jake’s writing career and ruined his marriage to a perfectly lovely woman that Ben took a liking to based entirely on a maybe five minute conversation.

By the by, as much as it is awesome to see Tony Todd playing an adult Jake, it does seem a little weird that adult Nog is still Aron Eisenberg.  I know Nog is probably a little older than Jake on the show given where the series is now, but it is a little odd.  Then again, the late Aron Eisenberg was also nearly a decade older than Cirroc Lofton anyway, so maybe it isn’t so odd.  Just change the Ferengi make-up to age him up and he’s fine.  He even in his first scene as an adult comments that he started having more luck with women once he stopped asking them to chew his food for him.

But really, as much as I was expecting Tony Todd to play his usual role, this is a very different Jake Sisko, one who becomes obsessed with rescuing his father from subspace, and one who is ultimately successful at the end of the episode when Ben returns for the final time, with little time on his own end passing, to find Jake has poisoned himself in anticipation of his father’s return.  Jake figured, correctly it turns out, that he was the anchor holding his father down, and if Jake died while Sisko was nearby, then Ben would go back to where this all started and prevent it from every happening.  That’s exactly what happened, and it does look like Ben Sisko is the only one with any knowledge of what would have happened.  He even returns and quickly dives to the side to knock Jake and himself out of the way of the energy blast.

I am left to ponder what all that meant.  It meant that Jake would give up his own life for Ben, and it’s something that only Ben really knows firsthand.  He saw his son ruin and eventually take his own life to save his father.  True, the whole thing snapped back like nothing happened, but Old Jake had no way of knowing that.  It’s a sad episode in many ways, considering it’s about a son’s love for his father.  Considering Deep Space Nine may be a little more likely to show the reverse, it’s a nice message on the one hand, but a tragic case of things going wrong on the other.

But still, that performance by Tony Todd was a thing of beauty.