Every week throughout 2016 we'll be looking back at a Star Trek episode picked out as a favourite by one of our team or by a guest contributor. Today Rick Trivett looks back at the third episode from season four of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, The Visitor.
Of all the various incarnations of Star Trek to date, Deep Space Nine is my favourite. It is the first and only time (in my opinion) that Star Trek has had a substantial and grounded story arc. And whilst the franchise has, from its beginning, challenged convention and social issues, DS9 takes it even further. In fact, it goes so far as to challenge the whole utopian premise of the show, and the militaristic basis of the Federation. From the start we see the horrors of war, forced labour camps, espionage, politics and double-dealing. And whilst, to a great extent, DS9 didn’t really take off until Babylon 5 showed it the way, it went to places, and explored issues that none of the other incarnations of the Star Trek universe have.
And yet, I pick an episode that has none of these ingredients as my favourite, and it has one of my pet hates, flashbacks and flash-forwards. The Visitor, from season four, written by Michael Taylor and directed by David Livingston.
The Visitor opens in the future with an aged Jake Sisko (Tony Todd), living as a virtual recluse, and being hounded by a young novelist who is curious to know why Jake gave up his career as an author after publishing only two successful books. Eventually Jake relents and recounts his tale.
Flashback to what would be the present (in the story arc of the series), and a pause in the Dominion war. An eighteen year old Jake accompanies his father, Benjamin, onboard the USS Defiant on a mission to observe the inversion of the Bajoran Wormhole, an event that only happens once every fifty years. An unforeseen consequence of the inversion causes a problem with the Defiant’s warp drive, and as the Sisko’s senior and junior repair the warp drive, Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) is struck by an energy pulse and vanishes.
I’ll say no more about the plot, if you can’t remember it then treat yourself and go back and watch it.
So why have I picked The Visitor as my favourite? Because it is cleverly written, wonderfully acted, and produced and directed to bring the best out of the story. It is, in many ways, a reflection on the parent, sibling or sibling, parent relationship and the bond between them, and oh so much more besides. It gives Tony Todd, as Jake Sisko, a substantial platform upon which to shine. In so many episodes Jake is little more than the comic aside, here, he is front and centre. Avery Brooks always gives good value for money, and, to my mind, is always underrated. And finally, being a writer myself (or wannabe) the whole story within a story thing is intrigues me.
The Visitor also features hints of the future, and alternative timeline high-end physicsy timey-wimey stuff. Oh, and some messy heartstring tugging bits as well. Above all else, it is a very human story, made all the more poignant by its backdrop of the horrors and consequences of war.
R.J.Trivett (Rick) is the writer of comic fantasy series the Lyonnesse Tales. www.lyonnessetales.com
He hasn’t been able to give up the day-job yet, whatever it is, but
lives in high hopes. When not reading, writing or watching a boxset, he
tours around the UK and Europe on a motorcycle looking for interesting
roads and sampling the local equivalent of beer.
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