Friday, May 6, 2016

Episode Review - The Visitor (Deep Space Nine, Season 4)

For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here.

Episode Overview - Jake accompanies his father on a routine assignment aboard the Defiant when an accident takes Captain Sisko away from his son. Feeling the great loss over now losing both of his parents. When Jake begins to receive visits from his father, he embarks on a lifelong journey to bring his father home.




Episode Score - 10/10. In my opinion, this is one of the greatest episodes of television, not just of Star Trek. It mixes science fiction with real human emotions as it discusses the love of father and son that transcends time and space. As with any episode that delves into the future there are the fun "what if" moments and eventual foreshadowing. The acting is brilliant by so many people (special props go to Avery Brooks, Cirroc Lofton, and Tony Todd as the elder Jake Sisko). Emotionally, this is the best of the best at tapping into the human condition. By focusing on the relationship between father and son instead of the more cliched romantic love, it touches a broader range of the audience (if we aren't all parents, we can at least claim to all be children of parents), and feels fresh and original. Great music, great lighting, and not a lot of need for splashy special effects. Both Lofton and Brooks cite this as one of their favourite episodes, and for good reason.


Relevance - 3 points. So much is referenced here that either foreshadows future events or throws back to the past. The uniforms that the Defiant crew wear in the older Jake's time are the same uniforms seen in the future of the TNG finale "All Good Things". The future shows many of the crew in what could be well predicted (Nog becoming a Starfleet captain, Quark gets his own moon, Morn owns the bar on DS9), and the novel that Jake writes, “Anslem” is the novel he begins later on in the season. We also see a shot after the funeral where Jake is looking out a window into space and Kira comes up behind him to offer comfort. This same shot is almost identically blocked at the end of the series finale, just from a different camera angle. References to the Dominion and the conflict with the Klingons show us how things might have worked out differently.


Continuity - 3 points. Character continuity fires on all cylinders as the Siskos have always been close, and both Jake and Ben act the way one would have expected in the situation. Also, that Jadzia and Kira both would take Jake under their wings as much as possible shows the depth of their relationship with Captain Sisko. Universe continuity is solid, as always. Story continuity also works here, as it is nice that little details like Jake marrying a Bajoran and writing a great novel are, if not directly picked up, at least hinted at in future episodes. The alternate future does provide some apparent contradictions, but with episodes like this where only a possible future is shown can lead to changes happening that are easily explained away. For example, Jadzia lives another fifty years in this episode, but with Captain Sisko being restored to the moment of the accident, there is no need for the Federation to have abandoned the station, meaning that the Dominion war did happen and Jadzia would have been killed as we ended up seeing in season 6. Some may find that infuriating, but I think it allows the writers to have some fun without having to limit what they can do in the future.


Character Development - 2 points. Major development for Ben and, finally, Jake Sisko. Of the handful of episodes that are Jake-driven, this one gives him the most growth. For Ben, the growth is quite significant as he retains the memories of who his son becomes without him. Sadly, all the great growth for Jake is largely gone as the “alternate future” effect causes that development to be erased in a science fiction motif. That fact caused me to dock one point here, where normally it would have scored all 3.


Social Commentary - 3 points. Dealing with loss is always going to be relevant to our society. Such commentary does not have to be complex or deeply profound to cause us to think. Losing someone we love and depend on, such as a parent, is something almost all of us will have to endure one day if we have not already done so. What is so interesting in all of this is seeing how the one that was lost is affected by watching their loved one cope with it. In the end, the Siskos get a second chance. We will rarely get such a chance, so we are reminded to stay close to the ones that we love now.


Cool Stuff - 3 points. OK, future episodes always have cool stuff in that it is always cool to see what could happen to our characters without committing ourselves to a particular outcome. Seeing the end result of Nog’s Starfleet ambitions, what Dax and Bashir look like as elderly officers, learning the fates of beloved characters like Morn, all of this is cool. Another cool factor is the casting of the young woman who the elderly Jake Sisko tells his story to. The actress is Rachel Robinson, daughter of Andrew Robinson (famous in Trek for his role as the Cardassian tailor Garak). It’s always cool to make family connections. Third cool point is the casting of Tony Todd in his second of three Trek roles. When it was determined that having Cirroc Lofton in makeup to make him appear older wouldn’t work, Todd was brought in and gives one of the most moving performances in TV history. This will be the first of two characters Todd plays on DS9 in the fourth season, as later he reprises his role of Kurn, Worf’s brother.



Rank - Admiral (24 points). While this episode does not contain massive special-effects battles or exciting revelations about the crew, the beauty in the story shows that CGI is not necessary to make an excellent sci-fi story. To see the depths of the love between a father and son is wonderful. To see the ultimate sacrifice that Jake is willing to make, not just for his father, but for his younger self is touching and real. Nothing but love and respect for this episode, and everyone should watch it.



Blogger's note: upon receiving a lot of feedback, I adjusted the scores from my original publication. I did not want to appear biased towards my favourite episode of all time, and originally scored the episode 9/10. Many people pointed out that this episode was near perfect, and I agree, so I changed the score to a 10. 

2 comments:

  1. Wonderful episode, fantastic review!

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    1. Thanks! We will have to do another co-review in the near future. Over the next week or so I am swamped, but start thinking about which episodes to do.

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