Monday, July 3, 2017

One of the great problems with television in general is the trite, over-used, even pathetic dramatic trope of "the intergenerational rift". Fathers can't love their sons; sons have to be in rebellion; fathers are conservative old farts. When the trope isn't used, parents are never mentioned. They don't exist.

Look at the Star Trek franchise: Kirk's father was barely mentioned; McCoy's never was. Spock's father fit right into the trope. I guess we can forgive Star Trek for doing that, as it was the mid-1960s and rebellion was in the air.

By the time Star Trek: The Next Generation came around 20 years later, we have pretty much the same thing. Picard's father was a conservative troll and is dead now, and Picard was a rebellious kid. Riker's father was a con-man, and Riker hated him. Worf can't stand his nerdy human father, and his Klingon parents are conveniently dead. Worf has a very troubled relationship with his own son. Geordie's parents are barely mentioned. Beverly Crusher's parents are never mentioned, and Wes' father is conveniently dead. Troi's father is also conveniently dead. (Dear god!!!! Being a character on Star Trek is like a death-knell for someone's parents.) O'Brien's parents are never mentioned.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine changes this. Sisko's dad is alive, well, and beloved. Sisko loves Jake. Julian Bashir's parents are incredibly loving, and he has a very strong relationship with them. Rom and Nog have a very strong relationship. Quark's father is dead. Kira's, Jadzia's, Garak's, and Ezri's parents are never mentioned, Odo has no parents, and Weyoun is a clone. The only person who has a bad parent-child relationship is Gul Dukat, who has a very fraught relationship with his bastard daughter, Ziyal.

One of THE very best episodes of DSN was "The Visitor". That's the one where Tony Todd (who was criminally overlooked for this performance) plays an aged Jake Sisko. A young woman who is enthralled with Jake's writing comes to see him. She learns Jake's life history: When Jake was 17 years old, Benjamin Sisko was apparently killed by an energy bolt from the USS Defiant's warp core. Years later, after becoming a successful novelist, Jake realizes that his father is not dead, but in some subspace dimension. Jake spends the rest of his life trying to free his father -- without success. Only as an old man does Jake realize that it's his own existence that traps his father in subspace. If Jake dies while his father makes one of his rare appearances, Ben will be freed and return in time to the point of the accident.

The scene right at the end is some of the best writing and acting on the show. Ben appears, and learns that Jake has given up his writing career. Ben is heartbroken, and begs Jake to let go of his grief. Jake responds by telling him that his father meant everything to him, and he desperately needed his father's guidance more than he needed to be a famous author. Jake, who has already taken poison, dies in his father's arms. And as he dies, Ben is yanked away -- unable to grieve for the immense sacrifice his son has made.

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