[DS9] Lynch's Spoiler Review: "The Visitor"

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Peter Jones

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Oct 14, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/14/95
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tly...@alumni.caltech.edu (Timothy W. Lynch) writes:

Warning: The following contains spoilers for Lynch's rating of "The
Visitor".
(Yes, I think of it as a spoiler. His impression could severly influence
my impression if I were to see the rating before the episode. So, I might
be strange. Oh, well.)

Oh, and there are some episodic spoilers, as well.


>Writing: Okay, some minor logic problems. I don't care; the rest just
> shines.
>Directing: The only times it called attention to itself, it was excellent;
> the rest of the time, it shut up and got out of the way, as it
> should.
>Acting: Compelling performances from nearly everyone, particularly
> Brooks and Todd.

>OVERALL: An easy 10. More like this and I might even find my
>basic optimism about DS9 again!

It's not fair!!!!!
I loved the episode... as much as I saw.
Unfortunately, I got a phone call in the middle, and made the mistake of
answering it. The next 15 min were spent on the phone, so I missed
everything from Jake's faint-spell to his final revelation that he would
suicide.
Therefore, i couldn't really evaluate the entire episode. And it's one
which TL thought was excellent... ie, I would have *really* liked it.

Now I've got to wait till next saturday to see the entire episode.. and
that, only if I have time. *SIGH!*
--
(But) Nobody knew His secret ambition | Peter C. Jones
Was to give His life away | pet...@camelot.bradley.edu
-- Michael W. Smith, "Secret Ambition" | http://rhf.bradley.edu/~petercj/

Timothy W. Lynch

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Oct 15, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/15/95
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WARNING: The article below contains spoiler information for
DS9's "The Visitor", and anyone not knowing the details of the
episode is therefore advised to move on.

In brief: Superb. A DS9 analogue to "The Inner Light" -- not quite as
powerful, but exceedingly good.

======
Brief summary: Jake sees his father vanish before his eyes, and
spends the rest of his life trying to find a way to help him.
======

As I said above, "The Visitor" reminds me in a great many ways of
TNG's "The Inner Light". In both cases, we see an alternate "what
might have been" of a main character's life; in both cases, one
character is left with profound emotional consequences; in both cases,
the performances of the principals leaves one gasping for breath; in
both cases, there are minor questions of story logic that do very little
or nothing to damage the power of the story; and in both cases, the
show is superb.

Let me get the logic questions out of the way first. The primary one is
that Jake's analogy at the end doesn't really make sense to me. If the
two were bound together by some sort of elastic subspace "cord",
then cutting it when it's slack should simply leave Sisko where he is,
in Jake's time, not fling him back to when it all began. I'm perfectly
willing to swallow the idea that somehow severing the bond between
them will send Sisko back -- it's magic, but it's *good* magic. It's
just that the attempt to explain it didn't quite work for me. (I suppose
it could be more like a spring; when they're together, it's squeezed to
its limit, so that he'll be pushed back when it breaks. Maybe.) The
other point is even more picky; the timing as stated in the show
doesn't work, in that a Jake trying to rescue Sisko fifty years after the
original accident can't be only in his early fifties, as was implied by
the conversation they had. That's not a big deal at all. (I suppose
another questionable moment is why the subspace link cares whether
either party is alive or dead, but I'm prepared to get metaphysical
about it as long as it's not emphasized, which it wasn't.)

Beyond that, "The Visitor" pretty much struck gold. Despite its
similarities to "The Inner Light", it didn't feel like a rehash. Quite the
contrary, in fact; it struck me in some ways as the mirror image of
what had come before it. Picard's alternate life was pleasant and
fulfilling, once he learned to let go, and we mourned for his loss when
he "recovered" from his experience. In this case, Jake's life isn't
uplifting; it's tragic. Jake, unlike Jean-Luc, never manages to let go --
and so instead of a life whose loss we mourn, Jake's loss spurs a life
we mourn instead. We've seen before in Trek what an obsession with
hate can bring -- Khan among others made that quite clear. This time,
Jake's love for his father is no flaw -- but the obsessive extreme to
which he takes it is. Simply put, "The Visitor" is a tragedy, and an
excellently made one.

Not bad for a show which started with two people we've never seen.
:-) "The Visitor" is also rare in that it featured a narrator presenting the
story. We've seen that before, in TNG's "Suspicions" among other
places, but this is the first time I remember it really *working*. Part
of that success is probably due to Tony Todd, who like Patrick
Stewart has what can only be called "the voice"; but a lot of it's simply
the strength of the material. When the main character of the story is
himself a storyteller, having the episode unfold as a story Jake tells
seems entirely in character and entirely natural -- and I think it made us
empathize both with Melanie and with Jake himself.

A show like this could easily seem maudlin without good
performances from all the actors involved, though -- and fortunately,
we were blessed with top-flight work from almost everyone involved.
(The only slight exception to that, in my opinion, would be Aron
Eisenberg -- Nog was certainly a lot less annoying than usual, but I
still couldn't quite get behind him.) Tony Todd and Cirroc Lofton
were both excellent as Jake, and Todd was easy to accept as an older
Jake -- almost surprisingly so. (The two have similar facial features,
but that's not always enough; something in the mannerisms, however,
was.) Rachel Robinson was also quite good as Melanie, the young
writer-to-be; although her main function was to react to the story as it
unfolded, that's not always easy, and here she managed to put all of
us in her place, which was the point.

Avery Brooks was also tremendous here. I consider the real tragedy
of the story to be not Sisko's untimely accident, but Jake's
unwillingness to let go, and Sisko's realization over the years that
that's what was happening made it all the more poignant. His
repeated insistence that Jake make a life for himself ("promise me
you'll DO that!") made Sisko's growing anguish an integral part of the
story, and by the time Sisko "visited" for the final time, I at least
found myself more concerned for how Sisko was going to weather
Jake's revelation than for anything or anyone else. Brooks's choked
"Jake, my sweet boy..." as Jake died in his arms brought a lump to
my throat in a way that few Trek offerings have -- there's no better
testament than that.

There's really no weak link here on any significant level. We had
strong storytelling and strong acting, as I've mentioned, but the
directing (by David Livingston) also worked nicely. One of the
difficult parts to a show like this is the transitions between past and
present (or future, in the case of "All Good Things", which had a
similar challenge), and Livingston made those that weren't effortless
noteworthy in their own right. (Two in particular that struck me were
the slow dissolve from young Jake to old as Sisko vanished in the
infirmary, and the way in which old Jake's eyes flicked to the door as
his wife entered in flashback.) Add to that many of the little touches
(such as the shadow-filled scene between Jake and Kira, which gave
the scene a much deeper feel than it might otherwise have had), and
the directing joins all the other facets of "The Visitor" in the
"excellent" category.

Much of the dialogue was also noteworthy. The old Jake had a
number of wry comments, my three favorites being his admonishment
to Melanie to read more, his statement to her claim that she wasn't a
writer ("sounds like you're waiting for something to happen to turn
you into one"), and his note that "if you publish posthumously,
nobody can ask you for rewrites." However, there were many gems
throughout the show, from the repeated advice to poke one's head up
and look around at life (shades of "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and "The
Inner Light", yes, but good advice still), young Jake's worry that "if I
leave [the station] ... I won't have anything left of him", Jake's book
dedication ("to my father ... who's coming home soon"), and Sisko's
observation about wanting grandchildren.

Some other small observations:

-- It's interesting to see that Jake's wife Korena was Bajoran, even
though he implied he didn't meet her until he got back to Earth.

-- On a more amusing note ... good heavens, but Cirroc Lofton is
HUGE now. :-) On some level, Jake had better leave the station for
Pennington soon; if he doesn't, he'll burst through the confines of the
station and cause all kinds of problems.

-- Another interesting difference between this and "The Inner Light" is
that it was really a pair of characters drawing us in and not just one.
TIL was very much a Picard story; "The Visitor" could only have been
told with a parent/child pairing such as this one, and only one where
we know both characters well. By the end, the tragedy was visited
mostly upon Sisko the elder, not Jake -- and I very much hope we see
some examination of how Sisko's approach to Jake changes as a
result of this.

There's not much else I have to say about "The Visitor". It's not one
of those stories that needs or even admits dissection -- just sit back
and let it wash over you. It's well worth it.

So, summing up:

Writing: Okay, some minor logic problems. I don't care; the rest just
shines.
Directing: The only times it called attention to itself, it was excellent;
the rest of the time, it shut up and got out of the way, as it
should.
Acting: Compelling performances from nearly everyone, particularly
Brooks and Todd.

OVERALL: An easy 10. More like this and I might even find my
basic optimism about DS9 again!

NEXT WEEK:

Bashir and O'Brien are taken captive by Jem'Hadar -- but is it a fifth
column?

Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
tly...@alumni.caltech.edu
"To my father ... who's coming home."
--
Copyright 1995, Timothy W. Lynch. All rights reserved, but feel free to ask...
This article is explicitly prohibited from being used in any off-net
compilation without due attribution and *express written consent of the
author*. Walnut Creek and other CD-ROM distributors, take note.

x...@nwu.edu

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Oct 15, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/15/95
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In article <45sdkq$m...@ixnews4.ix.netcom.com>, tina...@ix.netcom.com

(Christina L. Melville ) wrote:

> >
> >It's not fair!!!!!
> >I loved the episode... as much as I saw.
> >Unfortunately, I got a phone call in the middle, and made the mistake
> of
> >answering it. The next 15 min were spent on the phone, so I missed
> >everything from Jake's faint-spell to his final revelation that he
> would
> >suicide.
> >Therefore, i couldn't really evaluate the entire episode. And it's
> one
> >which TL thought was excellent... ie, I would have *really* liked it.
> >
> >Now I've got to wait till next saturday to see the entire episode..
> and
> >that, only if I have time. *SIGH!*

> To make sure this never happens here we have two back up systems.
> First, Tina and I do not answer the phone when Trek is on.
> We tell our friends specifically not to call at the time
> the episodes are shown locally. Second, we put a tape in our VCR
> and record the episode. If all else fails we catch the repeat the
> following weekend.

---
Christina, I am right with you. That was the best ST DS9 episode yet. I
love the suspense in the story line and the fact that no phasers or
torpedoes had to be used to keep my attention. I think this season will
be the one that propels DS9 into Star Trek infamy.

dartaganan

Sarah Cherlin

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Oct 15, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/15/95
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In article <45pp6b$4...@gap.cco.caltech.edu>, tly...@alumni.caltech.edu
(Timothy W. Lynch) wrote:

> "The Visitor" is also rare in that it featured a narrator presenting the
> story. We've seen that before, in TNG's "Suspicions" among other
> places, but this is the first time I remember it really *working*.

You seem to have forgotten 'Whispers' :)

--
The opinions expressed in this posting do not necessarily reflect those
of my employer, my friends, the fungus in my refrigerator, my potted
plants, the aliens that beam messages to my brain, the little guy who
keeps hiding my socks, anyone who has a lawyer, or, for that matter, me.
Send mail to cher...@class.siskiyous.edu.

Christopher B. Stone

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Oct 15, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/15/95
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Minor spoilers for DS9 "The Visitor"

In "The Visitor," Jake tells Kira that his grandfather -- Sisko's father
-- had invited Jake to live with him on Earth after Ben Sisko's death.
Moreover, we learn that Jake got married in his grandfather's New Orleans
restaurant. All these things imply that Sisko's father is still alive
during the DS9 series.

I just got through watching "The Alternate," however. This second season
episode featured Odo working with his Bajoran mentor, Dr. Mora. At one
point Dr. Mora takes ill, and Odo is disturbed. Sisko consoles him by
telling him how he felt when his father died.

So, is Ben Sisko's father alive or not? Since "The Visitor" was such a
powerful story, I'd give it more credence. Let's just say that Ben Sisko
was referring to his *grandfather* -- Jake's great-grandfather -- in "The
Alternate." Given that human lifespans are much longer in the 24th
century, this explanation is quite plausible.
--
Chris Stone
cbs...@phoenix.princeton.edu * http://www.princeton.edu/~cbstone
"Consensus is the negation of leadership." -Margaret Thatcher

Christina L. Melville

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Oct 16, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/16/95
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son...@utdallas.edu

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Oct 17, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/17/95
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Christopher B. Stone (cbs...@tucson.princeton.edu) wrote:
> Minor spoilers for DS9 "The Visitor"
>

> In "The Visitor," Jake tells Kira that his grandfather -- Sisko's father
> -- had invited Jake to live with him on Earth after Ben Sisko's death.
> Moreover, we learn that Jake got married in his grandfather's New Orleans
> restaurant. All these things imply that Sisko's father is still alive
> during the DS9 series.

> I just got through watching "The Alternate," however. This second season
> episode featured Odo working with his Bajoran mentor, Dr. Mora. At one
> point Dr. Mora takes ill, and Odo is disturbed. Sisko consoles him by
> telling him how he felt when his father died.

> So, is Ben Sisko's father alive or not? Since "The Visitor" was such a
> powerful story, I'd give it more credence. Let's just say that Ben Sisko
> was referring to his *grandfather* -- Jake's great-grandfather -- in "The
> Alternate." Given that human lifespans are much longer in the 24th
> century, this explanation is quite plausible.

Well, considering that it wasn't Ben Sisko that said father but everyone
else that's said grandfather, I could imagine that it was Ben's
grandfather and everyone else just referes to him as grandfather as
well. It's easier to say than great-grandfather.

:)


--
"Somewhere else the tea's getting cold." -- The Doctor
"In science there is only physics; everything else is stamp collectiong."
--Ernest Rutherford
"Politics is for the moment. An equation is for eternity." -- A. Einstein

David Mears

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Oct 19, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/19/95
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Timothy W. Lynch (tly...@alumni.caltech.edu) wrote:

> WARNING: The article below contains spoiler information for
> DS9's "The Visitor", and anyone not knowing the details of the
> episode is therefore advised to move on.

> Tony Todd and Cirroc Lofton
> were both excellent as Jake, and Todd was easy to accept as an older
> Jake -- almost surprisingly so. (The two have similar facial features,
> but that's not always enough; something in the mannerisms, however,
> was.)

I noticed some striking similarities in the tone and phraseology of
the way Todd spoke the elder Jake's lines to the way Brooks speaks
Sisko's lines. There were times I actually wondered if Brooks wasn't
playing the role of the elder Jake, even though I knew he wasn't. It
really seemed as if Jake the elder had picked up his father's vocal
mannerisms, as if he were unconsiously mimicking how he remembered
his father so as to try to keep his father close to him. I've known
people who do this. For this to show up here is both extremely subtle
yet extremely effective. I don't know if it was the director's idea,
or the actor's, or merely a happy accident, but it added tremendously
to the effect.

David B. Mears
Hewlett-Packard
Cupertino CA
me...@cup.hp.com

Christopher B. Stone

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Oct 20, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/20/95
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In article <95291.094...@uicvm.uic.edu>, <U35...@uicvm.uic.edu> wrote:

>Maybe it was his maternal grandfather that invited Jake to live on earth with
>them.

Doubtful; he spoke of getting married in "Sisko's Restaurant" in New
Orleans. The shared last name implies it's on his father's side, as does
the profession. We learned in the pilot that Ben's father was a cook,
and it's been implied that Jennifer Sisko's parents are scientists in
both the pilot and "Through the Looking Glass."

>Or it could have simply been that Ben Sisko's grandfather was the one
>that Ben refered to in "Alternate".

That's how I'm rationalizing it.

BROO...@cronus.bentley.edu

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Oct 23, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/23/95
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> So, is Ben Sisko's father alive or not? Since "The Visitor" was such a
> powerful story, I'd give it more credence. Let's just say that Ben Sisko
> was referring to his *grandfather* -- Jake's great-grandfather -- in "The
> Alternate." Given that human lifespans are much longer in the 24th
> century, this explanation is quite plausible.


Maybe Sisko just lied to Odo to make him feel better.

Lewis


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