the story: Sisko becomes trapped in time, leaving his son on an obsessive quest to rescue him, which takes a whole lifetime...
what it's all about: This right here is what it's all about, the best moment of the whole series and prime contender for best episode of the franchise. What do you get when you combine the original series' "City on the Edge of Forever" with Next Generation's "The Inner Light"? Something that eclipses them both, which the franchise would spend the next decade trying to recapture (Voyager with "Timeless," Enterprise with "Twilight," both superb examples in and of themselves).
This is a truly transcendent experience, and extremely clever storytelling, and it once and for all justifies Jake Sisko's legacy in Deep Space Nine, even if for most of the episode he's portrayed by Tony Todd (otherwise known to franchise fans as Worf's brother Kurn) rather than the youthful Cirroc Lofton. Todd, who is actually best known as the star of the horror film Candyman, delivers one of the most emotionally resonant performances in all of Star Trek, the anchor that holds everything together (Avery Brooks holds his own, too, but has less screen-time; this is almost entirely Todd's show).
"The Visitor" is one of the rare Star Trek episodes to begin in the middle of the story, in the future, with Old Man Jake receiving, well, a visitor. And he decides to tell his guest a story. In the third season Jake had expressed his desire to become a writer, and in a lot of ways, "Visitor" is the big payoff for his ambition (later, "The Muse," shows how difficult such a goal can be), as we not only learn a version of how it plays out, but that he managed to become not just a writer but a great one. But the problem is, he lost his dad, and has spent his life trying to get him back.
It's really that simple. By the end of the episode, there's even a preview of how the series ends (or perhaps "What You Leave Behind" merely echoes this momentous experience).
Old Man Jake's story skips along as he grows older and finds out what happened to his father, and that, incredibly, it's not too late to save him. But every time he sees his father and can't, it's a gut punch all over again. Finally we see Sisko wake Old Man Jake up, after his guest has left, and the plan to finally succeed is explained. It's heart-wrenching.
Even if you doubt every other time I heap praise on this series, please understand that this is one you will need little coercion to appreciate.
- franchise - Transcendent.
- series - Transcendent.
- character - The story of Sisko and his son Jake, in a nutshell.
- essential - Transcendent.
Tony Todd (Old Man Jake)
Aron Eisenberg (Nog)