Classic Science Fiction - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Visitor
Before Ron Moore brought us Battlestar Galactica, he was a producer on what is now widely considered one of the best Trek spin-offs - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. As a series it broke away from what we knew as Trek and gave us something darker, grittier and far more involving. After a few years, the show really hit its stride and with Season 4 really kicked into top gear. The season opener, Way of the Warrior unfortunately overshadowed one of the series true gems - after the wonderful bombastic opening to the season we had a much lower key and personal story.
Largely set in the far future, an old Jake Sisko (Tony Todd) is reaching the end of his days. He was a successful writer in his later years, but after two hit books he stopped. Melanie (Rachel Robinson, Andrew 'Garak' Robinson's daughter) is an aspiring novelist who tracks down Sisko in order to find out why he gave up his writing. As Jake recounts his story, we're treated to one of the best performances of the series as well as a truly heartbreaking final act.
With flashbacks to his time on Deep Space Nine, we discover that the younger Jake's (Cirroc Lofton) life is torn apart when his father, Captain Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks), is apparently killed in an accident aboard the Defiant. Sisko senior is ripped away in front of his son and believed to be dead. A few months later, whilst still grieving, Jake catches sight of his father for just an instant. The following year, Ben appears again, this time for longer and is able to talk to his son - we discover he's still alive but trapped in out of phase, only returning to reality for short periods. Unable to correct the problem, Jake tries to move on with his life with only occasional chances to see and talk to his father. As we see the rest of the DS9 crew age, Jake continues to search for ways to bring his father back for good but there is just one thing that can do this and it will have tragic consequences. As the story draws to a close, we realise that there is only one option left to him and it'll change his past forever.
What truly holds this episode together is Tony Todd's performance - he is truly one of the best character actors working in TV today and it's rare to see him given such emotionally challenging roles to get stuck into. As the older Jake, he lends a gravitas to the character. His final scenes alongside Avery Brooks are some of the best in the seven years of the show and Brooks is probably at his most natural here. When he discovers what Jake has to do, we really feel for both characters. The other star is the script - what could have been a sickly sweet, cliche ridden story becomes something far, far more under the pen of Michael Taylor.
Deep Space Nine had so many classic episodes that singling one out is difficult, but it's this writer's view that The Visitor is probably the best single hour of Star Trek ever broadcast and truly is fantastic television.