Episode 4.3: The Visitor

The sci-fi and fantasy genres utilize a storytelling method that is more rare in other genres of TV. This episode leaves open the question of whether the entire story, the experience of the older Jake, ever happened at all. This method is beneficial because it allows the setting of a show to go to an unpleasant ending, but not disrupt the broader series narrative. This episode portrays quite a tragic experience for Jake, but this gets reset in the last 2 minutes of the episode. All of the future what we saw, except for the snippets that Sisko was present for, are lost to the collective knowledge of the characters. DS9 engages this method a couple other times; Far Beyond the Stars (Ep. 6.13) is another where the viewer is unsure whether it happens in the canonical DS9 world or is standalone.

This episode is a tragedy. I initially thought that Jake losing his father was the impetus for him missing out on his life. But that’s not really the case. It is when Sisko reappears in Jake’s mid-life, at age 37, that Jake is shattered. All the mourning he did was completely undone. Jake’s thrown back to a moment when he’s most vulnerable and most terrified for his father. He switches to doing anything he can to save him, even if it means giving up on his family and his talents. More than that, Jake ends up missing life. That’s the central thematic element of this story: Missing life due to singular focus is tragic. It makes me ponder how my life has been shaped by the events of my past. It’s actually a beautiful thing that our species is capable of; we can speculate on what could have happened. Our minds are able to literally conceive of what doesn’t exist. It can get us into trouble, which is a main message in this episode, but I believe it’s a core element to what makes us uniquely human.

There is the implication that Jake and Sisko’s souls are interconnected in a way that transcends the physical. At the moment of Jake’s death, Sisko is snapped back to the moment of the accident. The death of Jake is an infinitesimal change in the physical makeup of Jake. It is only when the spark of life within Jake has fully gone out that Sisko returns to normal space in his normal time. Our connections to the people around us, particularly influential people like our parents, goes beyond physical interactions. It’s more than gravity and electromagnetism. Even at 18, Jake needs his father still. He carried that throughout the rest of his life, like an anchor; the sci-fi premise of Jake pulling Sisko through time is symbolic of this. I find this elegant, and a lovely reminder that we are connected to those who are closest to us, not by some physical techno-babble, but by the spiritual bonds we form.

Random Thoughts: 1) While I see enjoyable, interesting themes here, this wasn’t one of my favorite episodes. I can’t really put my finger on why. However, I have to note that this is an extremely popular episode, often ranking in the Top 5 episodes on various lists and polls. 2) The episode begins as “a dark and stormy night.” The episode is structured to resemble a novel. 3) Jake is 18 here at the start of Season 4. That makes him 15 at the start of the series and probably 22 at the end of the series. 4) Tony Todd is another of the great guest actors DS9 was able to acquire. He already had Star Trek credits though. He was Kurn in TNG, a role which he will reprise in DS9. He’s had other notable repeat appearances in sci-fi. 5) Melanie is played by Rachel Robinson, Andrew Robinson’s daughter (Garak). She also auditioned for the role of Ezri, but obviously wasn’t selected. 6) The future uniforms and combadges are the same as those in TNG All Good Things… (Ep. 7.25/26). 7) There are some light themes here regarding Jake’s boyhood-to-manhood journey. We need our fathers, or a father figure, to complete that journey. Men learn from those who came before; we all stand on the shoulders of giants. 8) Jake’s work with O’Brien allowed him to help Sisko in a crucial moment: finding the right tool. 9) Quark’s compassion comes through a bit, when he allows Nog time to be with Jake. 10) The name of the book, Anslem, is the book that Jake writes in The Muse (Ep. 4.21). 11) Without Sisko, the Dominion War never happens. This could be a convenience, but it more likely that Sisko’s leadership forces the Dominion’s moves. 12) When Jake gives Melanie his notes, that is his legacy as a writer. She will incorporate his style into her own works. 13) Upon death, Jake grabs the baseball, as both a comfort for what he is about to do and as a way to more deeply connect to his father. Several times throughout the series, the baseball is symbolic of Sisko. 14) I think it is strongly implied that Bashir and Dax are married. I’ve yet to remember where, but I know Ezri says sometime that if it wasn’t for Worf, Jadzia would have chosen Julian. By abandoning DS9, Jadzia and Worf never got a chance. 15) It’s also ironic and tragic that in this timeline, Jadzia is very much alive into old age. 16) Kira dons a new uniform, one that she’ll keep for the rest of the series. I like this change. The old one was rough and brutish, I think. This one is more stylish and freer. 17) This episode was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Makeup.

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~ by Joshua Black on June 16, 2017.

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