Second Union

Second Union


“Let go, Jake. If not for yourself, then for me. You still have time to make a better life for yourself. Promise me you’ll do that… Promise me!”

Deep Space Nine began its fourth season with the introduction of Worf’s (Michael Dorn) character as he was contemplating resigning his commission following the destruction of the Enterprise-D in Star Trek: First Contact. It was a big two-parter titled, “The Way of the Warrior.” It was the beginning of a story arc that had the Klingons dissolve their truce with Starfleet, under the auspices of resident idiot Gowron, who can’t seem to rule the Empire with a leveled head or any measure of composure. I’ve never understood how Klingons get anything done when there is constant chaos.

Anyway, this episode isn’t about Klingons, thankfully. Well, maybe a little given to the instability of the Empire and what a possible alternate future would bring for Starfleet. Instead, we get an elderly Jake Sisko (Tony Todd) as he entertains a young fan of his work. Her name is Melanie (Rachel Robinson) and she has just one question for Jake: why did he stop writing? To answer the question, he has to go back to the time when he was 18 years old and living with his father on the station.

On a routine mission to study a “subspace inversion” in the wormhole, Sisko was struck with an energy discharge from the Defiant’s warp core. He didn’t die. He just simply vanished. After a few months, everybody (except Jake) got on with their lives. Sisko would then intermittently appear to Jake like a ghost, but a ghost who had no idea he was supposed to be dead. Jake convinces the senior officers he isn’t crazy and is actually seeing his dad.

Jadzia (Terry Farrell) reasons Sisko is trapped in subspace as a result of the inversion they were initially studying. The upshot is that he’ll only reappear every fifty years. Jake stops writing and starts studying subspace mechanics. He reunites the crew, including Nog (who is now a captain of his own ship) and they attempt to rescue Sisko, who appears to not have aged. Sisko’s visits to Jake are always punctuated by fatherly curiosity. He wants to know if Jake is happy. If Jake has found someone to be with. He seems disappointed that Jake has thrown his life away to bring his father back to the corporeal world.

At one point, Jake got married, but his stagnation and obsession with rescuing his father ended his relationship. The now-elderly Jake tells Melanie he intends to see his father one last time before he dies. Sisko appears the following day and Jake takes a fatal dose of poison which kills him, because he believes his death will somehow change the past. Jake is the “constant,” the one factor associated with each of Sisko’s visits, and if he dies, Sisko’s past will reset in some way and take them back to the point when he was struck with the discharge.

I understand Jake’s logic. If I had lived my life not knowing that I was sacrificing every day of it in a vain attempt to reunite with a loved one, I would simply look at death as a kind of escape, or as a way to become reborn. “The Visitor” is a stunning and evocative piece; science fiction from the heart and soul with no space battles, and the only enemy is regret. Tony Todd delivers a wonderful performance, even if it is under silly old-age makeup. Why is it makeup artists think our skin turns into worn leather when we grow old? “The Visitor” is one of the greatest episodes of Deep Space Nine.

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