Written by Michael Taylor
Directed by David Livingston
Season 4, Episode 2
Production episode 40514-476
Original air date: October 9, 1995
Station log: On a rainy night in Louisiana, an old man sits at his desk, which includes a picture of Sisko and Jake, a baseball, and a hypospray, which he applies.
The doorbell rings—it’s a young woman named Melanie, who is scratched from a tree branch. She’s an aspiring writer, and she wanted to meet the old man: her favorite author, Jake Sisko. He’s only written a novel, Anslem, and a collection of short stories, and she wishes there had been more. She asks why he stopped writing, and he says that if she had come any other day, he would’ve refused and sent her on way. But today, of all days, he’s willing to tell the story.
It started many years ago, when he was only eighteen, and his father died. He was working hard on a short story that was frustrating the crap out of him, and Sisko distracted him by bringing him on the Defiant to observe a once-every-fifty-years event: the wormhole undergoing a subspace inversion.
Unfortunately, the inversion has done damage to the Defiant’s warp core. The engineering staff is all injured, and so Sisko has to save the day, with Jake’s help. But after he saves the Defiant, a discharge from the warp core hits him as he’s handing a tool to Jake, and he disappears.
There’s a memorial service, during which Kira speaks eloquently about how Sisko wasn’t just her CO and the Emissary, he was her friend. A few months later, after Jake and Nog spend some time on the holosuite that Jake barely even is able to register anything resembling enjoyment of, he goes to bed, unsure what he’s going to do with his life going forward—maybe take admission to Pennington, maybe stay on the station—when he sees Sisko for a few minutes in his quarters. Everyone assumes it was a dream, though Dax does do a thorough scan.
After eight or nine months, Jake is still on the station, with Nog having gone off to Starfleet Academy. Tensions with the Klingons have increased to the point that the Bajorans and Cardassians signed a mutual defense pact, which pissed off the Klingons. The civilian population on the station has been encouraged to resettle elsewhere, but Jake refuses to go, despite urgings from both Kira and Worf, the former later pleading with him, but understanding why he wants to stay.
Then Sisko reappears again in a corridor. This time he’s around for a bit longer—he thinks it’s only been a minute since being in the Defiant engine room. Dax and O’Brien theorize that the warp field dragged him into subspace, putting his temporal signature out of whack. O’Brien and Dax try some technobabble to keep him around, but it doesn’t work. Before Sisko disappears again, Sisko tries to get Jake to promise to move on with his life.
For the next several months, Dax and O’Brien try to get Sisko back, but it doesn’t work, and eventually the political situation changes to the point that the Federation turns Deep Space 9 over to the Klingons. Jake is forced to leave his home, and he attends the Pennington School, then moves to Louisiana to be near his grandfather. (Melanie at that point tells the elderly Sisko that his grandfather’s restaurant is still there, still called Sisko’s, and they still have the letter of acceptance for Anslem on the wall that Jake’s grandfather put there.)
Eventually, Jake met a Bajoran painter named Korena and married her. On the day he won the Betar Prize for his short fiction, Korena came home to find Commander Nog visiting to celebrate his friend’s award. He’s visited the Bajoran sector recently—the Klingons have let the Federation check the Gamma Quadrant to see how the Dominion would react after all these years—and he tells Jake that the station is a bit run down, though Morn is now running the bar, amusingly enough.
Later that night, there’s a burst of light, and Sisko appears in Jake’s living room. Sisko is thrilled to meet his daughter in law, who shows him Jake’s books. Sisko is very proud, but Jake is sorry that he gave up looking for his father. Sisko insists that he’s proud of Jake—and he definitely wants grandchildren—but then he fades away.
Jake consults Dax, who figures out the pattern to Sisko’s appearances—near Jake, but always when the wormhole undergoes a particular something-or-other. Jake, knowing it’ll be several years before it happens again, goes back to school at age 37 to study subspace mechanics. He becomes so obsessed that he loses Korena, as they’re divorced by the time he gets his doctorate. But Jake figures out a way to re-create the accident, once it hits 50 years since the event. Captain Nog is able to get the Defiant out of mothballs to do so, and Worf throws his weight around with the Klingons to get permission to go to the Bajoran sector.
With a cantankerous Dax and Bashir assisting, Jake is able to locate Sisko in subspace, and they’re both pulled into a subspace fragment. Sisko is disappointed to learn that Korena and Jake are no longer together, and even more disappointed that he’s abandoned his writing. Sisko begs Jake to let it go, to make a life for himself.
Jake makes it back to the Defiant engine room; Sisko doesn’t. Jake breaks down crying. Eventually he figures out that if he dies when he and Sisko are together, Sisko will go back to the time and place of the accident instead of bouncing back to subspace. After figuring that out, though, he spent the rest of the years between that discovery and Sisko’s next scheduled appearance writing a bunch of short stories, which he gives to Melanie.
After Melanie leaves with his manuscripts, Jake waits for his father to appear, gathering another copy of the manuscript and his father’s baseball, eventually falling asleep on the couch. When he wakes up, he sees Sisko watching him. Sisko is glad he still has the house, and has gotten back to writing. Sisko hates his plan to die, but Jake insists that this will give them a second chance—he isn’t just doing it for his father, he’s doing it for the boy he was, so he won’t lose his father.
Jake dies. Sisko is back on the Defiant in the present day. He ducks the discharge from the warp core and knocks Jake to the floor. They’re both okay, and Sisko clutches Jake to him.
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? The wormhole goes through a subspace inversion and Sisko gets sucked into subspace, but he’s tethered to Jake because they were holding the same framistat that looks like a giant key that Sisko used to save the ship and blah blah blah.
The Sisko is of Bajor: Sisko’s death leads to Bajor not trusting the Federation entirely. They sign a mutual defense pact with the Cardassians, but then the sector eventually winds up under Klingon control.
Don’t ask my opinion next time: Kira sports a new uniform, which is more skintight with an open neck, smaller shoulderpads, and high heels. While Nana Visitor loved it, a lot of fans were unhappy at the transformation of Kira into a “Baywatch babe.”
The slug in your belly: Jadzia Dax survives into middle age in the alternate future, and retains her friendship with Bashir. Since Jadzia will be killed in “Tears of the Prophets” at the end of the sixth season, it’s curious that, in essence, by saving his father’s life, Jake condemned Jadzia to an earlier demise.
Rules of Acquisition: In the months following Sisko’s “death,” Quark is actually willing to let Nog take some time off so he and Jake can use the holosuite.
Victory is life: In the alternate future, the Dominion War never happens. There’s obviously still tension, but it never breaks out into all-out war.
Tough little ship: The original incident happens on the Defiant, and when fifty years have passed, and there’s another subspace inversion, Captain Nog is able to get the ship back in service, though Dax complains about how nothing works and Bashir doesn’t know how they ever managed with two-dimensional consoles.
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: Jake meets and marries a Bajoran painter, but the relationship falls apart when he becomes obsessed with rescuing his father.
Keep your ears open: “Did you start the grill?”
“What are we having?”
“Blackened redfish fresh from the bayou.”
“Fish? When these woods are crawling with perfectly good slugs?”
“I suppose you’re going to ask me to chew your food for you?”
“I have to admit I’ve been more popular with women since I stopped asking them to do that.”
“I tried to tell you that twenty years ago.”
“I’m a slow learner.”
Korena and Nog discussing the finer points of cooking, with Jake jumping in when they modulate to the finer points of dating.
Welcome aboard: Tony Todd, who played Kurn on three episodes of TNG (“Sins of the Father,” the “Redemption” two-parter) and will reprise that role in “Sons of Mogh,” plays the older version of Jake. Galyn Görg plays Korena (she’ll also appear in Voyager’s “Warlord”), Rachel Robinson (daughter of Andrew “Garak” Robinson) plays Melanie, and of course we have Aron Eisenberg as Nog.
Trivial matters: The script was written by newcomer Michael Taylor, who would join the writing staff soon thereafter and remain until the show’s conclusion, then moving over to Voyager for its final three seasons. He’d write or co-write several notable episodes, in particular “In the Pale Moonlight,” and he has since worked on The Dead Zone (with Michael Piller), Battlestar Galactica, and Caprica (both with Ronald D. Moore). He’s currently an executive producer of Defiance.
The structure of this episode inspired the tenth anniversary anthology Prophecy and Change, with the framing story “Revisited,” in which Melanie visits an elderly Jake in the mainline timeline, and he tells her stories of his youth on Deep Space 9—to wit, the stories in the anthology.
Jake will eventually start to write Anslem in the mainline timeline, in “The Muse.” He was accepted into the Pennington School in “Explorers.”
In the tie-in fiction, Jake eventually does marry Korena, as seen in Fragments and Omens by J. Noah Kym, the Bajor portion of Worlds of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Volume 2. They’re seen as a couple in your humble rewatcher’s Satisfaction is Not Guaranteed (the Ferengi portion of WoDS9 Volume 3), the framing sequence of Andy Mangels & Michael A. Martin’s Enterprise novel The Good that Men Do, and David R. George III’s Typhon Pact novels Rough Beasts of Empire and Raise the Dawn.
The future Starfleet uniforms and combadges were the same as those seen in the future segments of “All Good Things…”
This episode was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, but it lost to Babylon 5’s “The Coming of Shadows.” (Don’t get me wrong, “…Shadows” was a great hour of television, no doubt, but DS9 was seriously robbed here.)
Although always intended as the second episode of the season, it wound up being filmed third, with “Hippocratic Oath” filmed second, to accommodate Colm Meaney’s schedule on a film.
Walk with the Prophets: “Let it go, Jake!” Let me be blunt: if you don’t think this is one of the ten best Star Trek stories ever told, then you have no soul and I have nothing to say to you.
I remember being at the Hugo Awards in Los Angeles when this episode was one of the ones up for Best Dramatic Presentation, and they showed a clip from the scene where Jake is trading technobabble with Dax and Bashir—it’s quite possibly the worst scene to show out of context, because it’s filled with nonsense “science,” and then they cut it off before the emotional scene with Sisko. I was already livid, more so when the episode didn’t win.
That is, of course, the weakest scene in the episode, but it’s there for an important purpose: to get Jake and Sisko back together so that Sisko can be devastated by what his son has turned into, and turned away from, in the interests of getting his Dad back.
Ultimately, the episode is about love between father and son, which has been a cornerstone of the series, and we get to see it from all possible angles. On the one hand, the loss of Sisko is devastating to Jake. For almost two years, he mopes, made worse by the knowledge that his father is just lost, not dead, and then he tries to move on with his life, only to once again fall into the spiral of obsession.
But we see the good side of it, too, mostly in Sisko’s reactions to Jake’s passing life: the joy he takes in seeing that he’s a published novelist, in meeting Korena, in just staring at his elderly face as he’s asleep. That last may be my favorite shot in the whole episode, made even stronger by foregoing the lightning-style pyrotechnics that accompany Sisko’s other appearances, just quietly cutting from Jake asleep to Sisko watching him and smiling.
The heart and soul of the episode is Tony Todd, who imbues the older Jake with such passion and heart. The elderly version of Jake is a wise, charming old man, one who is comfortable with the decisions he’s made in his life. But we’ve also got the obsessed middle-aged version, who’s lost all sign of personality because it’s been subsumed to the mission he’s set for himself. And then there’s the late 30s Jake (the only version in which Todd wears no old-age makeup), and it’s stellar, especially since he spends those two scenes perfectly mimicking Cirroc Lofton’s mannerisms. He doesn’t do that for the middle-aged and elderly versions of Jake, which is a masterful choice, because those two iterations of Jake’s life are too far removed from the Jake we know.
Not that Lofton doesn’t deserve credit. We get very little of the Jake we’re used to in his scenes, with him focused on writing before the accident (a mode we haven’t seen Jake in that much as yet) and him moping afterward. The scene with Kira at the upper pylon is a tour de force from both Lofton and Nana Visitor, as Jake’s anguish is palpable.
Everyone who gets substantive screen time puts in a great performance here. Alexander Siddig and Terry Farrell are absolutely delightful playing Bashir and Dax as a couple of cranky old farts. We get a nice preview of what Nog will be like as a Starfleet officer, as Aron Eisenberg convincingly plays Nog as a more mature adult—as well as the excited youth in the early scenes with Jake not long after the accident. Galyn Görg doesn’t get as much to do as one would like, but you can see what Jake sees in her, and Rachel Robinson proves quite adept at being the wide-eyed young writer wannabe.
It’s funny, but looking at this episode from the outside it looks like it should be a stinker: the plot hinges on a particularly lame batch of technobabble, it has the resettiest reset button in the history of resets, and most of the screentime is taken up by a guest actor. But when the actor’s of Todd’s high caliber, that part isn’t even a factor, and as for the rest of it, it’s just a means to an end, whereby we see up close and personal the bond between father and son.
I haven’t mentioned Avery Brooks directly yet, but this is at least as much his episode as Todd’s—his absence informs every scene he’s not in, and his presence enlivens every scene he’s in. Every character note is perfect—the wide smile when he asks about grandchildren, the anguished query as to what Jake has done with his life, the glee with which he holds the copies of Jake’s books, the confusion in the infirmary when he realizes he’s a year in the future—and all of it bound together by the intensity of his love for his son.
Just a great great hour of television. One of the finest there has ever been.
Warp factor rating: 10
Keith R.A. DeCandido is running a Kickstarter for a new story in the Dragon Precinct universe, featuring the characters of Gan Brightblade and his friends from that novel. He hopes you’ll support it—just two bucks will get you a copy of the story itself! Details can be found here.