Production no.: 476
Written by: Michael Taylor
Directed by: David Livingston
Stardate: not given
First satellite airdate: October 7, 1995
Tony Todd .............
Galyn Görg ............
Aron Eisenberg ......
Rachel Robinson ....
Majel Barrett .........
The far future:
An old man shuffles slowly to the window of the house where he lives alone. It's dark outside, and raining. He fingers an old weathered baseball for a moment, then picks up a hypospray and injects himself in the neck. As he is about to sit back down, the door chimes, and he opens it to admit a young woman. She's been walking through the bayou in the rain, and confesses that she's a writer -- or at least she hopes to be -- and she was looking for him. "You are Jake Sisko, the writer?"
Melanie, the young woman, tells Jake with enthusiasm that he's her favorite author of all time. "You should read more," remarks Jake. Melanie relates how she discovered his novel Anslem, but could find only one other book by him, his Collected Stories. She loved them so much that she wished she hadn't read them at all, so that she could read them again for the first time. "There's only one first time for everything, isn't there?" Jake reflects. "And only one last time, too. You think about such things when you get to be my age. That today may be the last time you sit in your favorite chair, or watch the rain fall, or enjoy a cup of tea by a warm fire."
Melanie asks the question that brought her here. "Why did you stop writing?" He jokes at first that he lost his favorite pen, then says it's a long story. "I have time," she says, and Jake thinks about it. "If you had shown up yesterday, or the day before, or a week ago, I would have said no and sent you on your way. But here you are, today of all days. And somehow, it seems like the right time for me to finally tell this story. It begins many years ago. I was eighteen, and the worst thing that could happen to a young man happened to me. My father died."
Jake is having trouble with a story and is very preoccupied when his father takes him along on the Defiant to witness a subspace inversion of the wormhole, something that only happens once every 50 years. "I'm no writer," Sisko tells his son, "but if I were, it seems to me I'd want to poke my head up every once in a while and take a look around, see what's going on. It's life, Jake. You can miss it if you don't open your eyes." Jake is about to come along to the bridge when the ship lurches. When Sisko calls the bridge, Dax tells him the wormhole's gravimetric field is surging, and power output from the warp core just jumped off the scale. Since there is no response from Engineering, Sisko hurries down there, telling Jake to stay put. But for some reason, Jake doesn't, and follows his father.
The two engineers on duty are unconscious, and Sisko must realign the warp coils before there's a breach. Jake gets him a tool; Sisko finally manages to shunt out the excess power, ending the crisis. As he is handing the tool back to Jake, however, a bolt of energy from the warp core hits him in the back. Jake watches in horror as his father's form starts to flicker, then dematerialize.
A memorial service is held, with people one by one speaking about Sisko and what they remember and honor most about him. Jake, however, stays silent, feeling he could never do justice to his father. As time passes, everyone does their best to comfort Jake in his quiet grief, but they eventually move on with life, and Jake can't seem to do the same. One night, though, he is awakened by a strange flash of light. To his astonishment, he sees his father sitting there. "What happened?" Sisko asks, and disappears again.
Dax scans the room, but finds nothing, and Jake continues living on the station. Eventually, tensions with the Klingons escalate, and Bajor enters into a mutual defense pact with Cardassia, which the Klingons are unhappy with. Civilians start leaving the station in droves, afraid of being on the front lines. But Jake still stays. Kira speaks with him one day, telling him gently that she could order him to leave if she wanted. "Please don't make me leave," Jake pleads. "Not yet. This is my home. When my Dad and I came here, this place was just an abandoned shell. He turned it into something. Everywhere I look, it's like I see a part of him. If I leave, I won't have anything left of him." Kira understands, and tells him he can stay a little while longer, if he promises to leave when she tells him to.
Jake is walking through a corridor when unexpectedly, there is a flash of light, and his father is there again. This time, Jake touches him, and knows he's real. In the infirmary, Dax, O'Brien and Bashir discuss the situation. Sisko's temporal signature was altered by the energy discharge interacting with the graviton pulse. It then shifted him into subspace. Sisko is startled when Jake tells him it's been a year since the accident; it feels like only a few minutes to him. As the others work on a way to realign Sisko's temporal signature before he's pulled back into subspace, Sisko tries to reassure Jake, who chokes up with tears. Then Sisko's body starts to flicker again. "Look at me," he tells Jake. "I need to know you're going to be all right." And despite all efforts, he dematerializes again, leaving Jake devastated.
The far future:
As Jake is describing his feelings at losing his father again, he seems to have a seizure. Melanie is concerned. "Telling me all this is hard for you. Maybe I should come back some other time." "No," he says. "There won't be any another time. You see, I'm dying." He reassures her, however, that he was simply admitting to the inevitable, and notes that she's a good listener, which is important in a writer. Melanie, however, says rather bashfully that she's not a writer yet, but has been reading a lot, to see how it's done. She asks if he ever saw his father again.
Dax and O'Brien try for a few months to find a way to bring Sisko out of subspace. They consider re-creating the accident, but this is impossible since the wormhole won't undergo another inversion for decades. Finally the Federation turns control of the station over to the Klingons, and Jake has no choice but to leave, and to get on with his life. He goes to Earth, attends the Pennington school, settles in Louisiana to be near his grandfather, and writes his novel Anslem. Eventually, he marries a Bajoran woman named Korena, an artist.
Nog, now a commander in Starfleet, visits one day. He's been to the station recently and says it's looking a bit run-down these days, but Morn is now the owner of the bar. They drink a toast to Jake, who has won a prize for Collected Stories.
The far future:
Jake falters, dropping his tea cup, his breathing becoming labored. Melanie, concerned, asks if she should call a doctor, but he says no. She offers to let him rest. "No," he says. "You came a long way to find out why I had stopped writing, and you deserve an answer."
That night Jake is staying up working when Korena coaxes him to bed. As he is about to follow her, however, there is a flash of light behind a couch. Jake checks it out, and sees his father once again. The two men stare at each other in amazement.
Sisko is thrilled to be introduced to Jake's wife, even though it means he has missed a lot. They have been married seven years, but there are no children. Korena shows him Jake's two books, and Sisko is proud of his son. Jake is overwhelmed by emotion; his father holds him as Korena leaves them alone. Crying quietly, Jake says he's sorry, and Sisko asks what for. "For giving up on you." "No one could be expected to hold out hope for this long," Sisko tries to tell him, but Jake says it doesn't matter. "Now that I know you're still lost out there." "Of course it matters," his father says. "You have a wife, a career. And don't think because I'm not around much, that I don't want grandchildren." As Jake smiles, suddenly Sisko fades out again. Jake gasps, a tear rolling down his cheek.
The far future:
Melanie is caught up in the emotion of the story. But Jake tells her, "Just listen, because there isn't much time, and there's so much more for me to tell you." He says he consulted with Dax and they realized that the accident created a subspace link between him and his father, which was why Sisko always appeared somewhere near him. Also, there was a pattern to the appearances: they were governed by fluctuations in the wormhole's subspace field. Dax calculated that the next time Sisko appeared, Jake would be an old man.
That was when Jake quit writing, to go back to school to study subspace mechanics. Although Korena supported him at first, due to his obsession with his studies, they slowly became estranged, until finally she left him. Jake pressed on, and at last he figured out a way to re-create the accident.
Fifty years after the accident, as the wormhole's next subspace inversion approaches, Jake goes there in the Defiant, captained by Nog, with an older Jadzia Dax and Bashir along. Years of work have culminated in this, the only chance to rescue his father, and when the moment arrives, Sisko starts to materialize. However, he then disappears, and so does Jake.
Jake finds himself with his father in a white void. Sisko is less concerned with the prospect of being freed than he is with the changes in Jake. "Look at you. You're older than I am...It's been so long. I need to know what I've missed. What about those grandchildren we talked about?" Jake tells him he and Korena are no longer together. "I shouldn't have let her go, but there was so much I had to do. This has taken years of planning." "What about your writing?" Sisko asks. "...Jake, what's happened to you?" Jake's body starts to fade back into normal space. "No!" he shouts, desperate. Sisko looks sadly at the son whose obsession has destroyed his life. "Let go, Jake," he urges. "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!" Jake lowers his head in anguish, and when he rematerializes in normal space, alone, he weeps heartbroken on Dax's shoulder.
The far future:
Jake directs Melanie to his desk, where she finds a collection of new stories. "I decided to honor my father's request and try to rebuild my life. Writing those stories was the best way I knew to do that." He offers her a copy, but she would rather have the original, handwritten notes and all. She wants to study them, to see the changes. "Because you want to be a writer someday," Jake smiles. When she asks why he hasn't published these, he says cryptically that "if you publish posthumously, nobody can ask you for rewrites."
"You keep on saying there's no more time," Melanie says. Jake explains that he eventually realized that the link between himself and his father was like an elastic cord. When it went taut, Sisko would be yanked forward to Jake's time for a few minutes. "I realized that if my motion through time came to a stop, the cord would go slack, and he'd be lost in subspace forever. But if I could cut the cord when the link was at its strongest, while we were together, he'd return to the moment of the accident."
It dawns on Melanie what he's saying. "Your father's coming here, isn't he? Soon." "Yes," Jake says. "You're going to cut the cord, aren't you?" she realizes. Jake's silence is her answer. He asks her to promise him something. "While you're studying my stories, poke your head up every once in a while, take a look around, see what's going on. It's life, Melanie." "And you can miss it if you don't open your eyes," Melanie finishes softly. "Thank you, for everything." With a kiss on his cheek, she quietly leaves him.
Jake settles in to wait. He is gently shaken awake by his father, who sits there contemplating with sad tenderness the old man who is his son. "I've been expecting you," Jake tells him. Sisko is holding the manuscript of his stories, pleased to know that Jake has gotten back to writing. Suddenly Jake has another seizure, and tells his concerned father to look at the dedication. "'To my father, who's coming home,'" Sisko reads. "Thank you, but I don't understand."
"It was me," Jake says. "It was me all along. I've been dragging you through time like an anchor. And now it's time to cut you loose." "Jake, what are you saying?" asks Sisko, who then follows his son's gaze to the hypospray, and goes to read the label. He then looks up in horror. "It won't be long now," Jake tells him serenely.
"Jake, no!" Sisko shouts, stunned by the realization that his son has poisoned himself. Jake tells him that when he dies, Sisko will go back to the moment of the accident. This time, he must remember to dodge the energy discharge from the warp core. "Jake, you could still have so many years left," Sisko pleads, but Jake is firm. They have to be together when he dies.
Sisko is torn up. "Jake, you didn't have to do this. Not for me!" "For you," Jake counters, fading fast. "And for the boy that I was. He needs you more than you know. Don't you see? We're going to get a second...chance." Sisko watches his son's body seize up for one last time, and reaches out to take him into his arms. "Jake...my sweet boy..." And Jake dies.
The familiar present:
Suddenly Sisko finds himself back on the Defiant, handing Jake the tool after saving the ship from an imminent warp core breach. He dives to one side, tackling Jake to the floor to avoid the discharge of energy. Jake is confused, and asks how he knew it was coming. "I guess we were just lucky this time," Sisko says, overwhelmed by emotion at holding his son again. "You okay, Dad?" queries Jake, unaware of the future his father has seen.
Sisko holds him close. "I am now, Jake," he whispers, his voice breaking. "I am now."
Rachel Robinson (Melanie) is the daughter of Andrew J. Robinson (Garak). She was later a candidate for the role of Ezri Dax. This episode was nominated for a Hugo award for best dramatic presentation, and won a TV Guide poll as best episode of any Star Trek series. It received an Emmy nomination for makeup. The original script focused more on Sisko being thrown forward in time, but as it evolved, the emphasis settled on Jake. The idea of Jake as a famous writer telling his story to a young woman was inspired by a high school student's interview of J.D. Salinger. "The Visitor" was Michael Taylor's first screened teleplay (though René Echevarria did an uncredited rewrite). Taylor went on to write three more DS9 episodes, and became a staff writer on Voyager.