"The Visitor" is an episode of the television show Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, of its fourth season. It originally aired* October 9, 1995. The story is mainly concerned with the characters of Captain Benjamin Sisko (played by Avery Brooks), and his son, Jake (Cirroc Lofton). As far as the cast goes, all the usual suspects are present. Filling in the "guest starring" roles, we've got Aron Eisenberg as Nog; Tony Todd as the elder Jake Sisko, Galyn Gorg as Korena, Jake's future wife; and finally, Rachel Robinson as Melanie, who appears pre-title credits.
In short, Captain Sisko vanishes in a bizarre engineering mishap and Jake spends his life trying to bring him back (from wherever he went, assumed dead). Here is what happens. Spoilers follow.
At the opening, we have a scene involving a considerably older Jake Sisko (now a somewhat successful writer) being visited by someone named Melanie, a fan of his books. She questions him as to why he stopped writing so suddenly, years earlier. He then explains what is, largely, the premise of the episode: when he was 18, he'd seen his father seemingly vaporized in some sort of warp core accident, and over the years, he'd had repeated flashes of his father, appearing wherever he was--they'd have a moment to talk, but nothing more.
At first, Jake thought it was just an aberration: a bad dream, some memory holdover, wanting to grip Dad and keep him, but it wasn't. Though it became more and more rare as his life went on, his father would appear. It cost him his marriage--his wife was none too fond of the idea that her fairly successful writer husband would want to abandon his life in order to learn about subspace stuff, to assuage the idea that his father might be alive.
The way it ended up: Jake poisoned himself, to pull his father back to the correct time, the idea being that even if he died, he wanted a chance to have that father-son life again. The world wasn't the same without him, etc. etc. Basically, it's another chance at having a Dad again, even if it's not for him, specifically, but a version of him.
The best of the episode is the older Jake's frustration with trying to find and keep his father. Not only is the acting fairly top-notch, but it's written well. At the beginning, we see Jake mourn. As we progress, we go from something like resignation--yeah, my father is dead--to what must seem like a fanatical obsession with finding a man that's been dead for years. Even better: the story doesn't go too quickly, leaving the viewer behind. We only get glimpses into Jake's life. It's the emotional rollercoaster we're here to see for this one. We're not bogged down in stupid technobabble, and there aren't Cardassian ships all over the place.
My take? As much as I am loathe to use the word "touching" anywhere, ever, that's the only word I can use for this episode. Now, realize I'm not the world's biggest weenie. I didn't cry at any of Forrest Gump, or like, the end of Gladiator where the lady goes, Go to them. (I don't really cry at movies; at least, no movies that immediately spring to mind.) I didn't cry at this episode of Star Trek, either. Well, not really. I experienced one of those throat things, however, where your throat makes that weird noise you can hear in your head when you swallow. The tears were close, but they never came. Close enough, though, especially for, of all things, a Star Trek episode.
Apparently, this one was nominated for a Hugo Award (it was written by a guy named Michael Taylor), and rightfully so; as far as touching Star Trek episodes go, this one's right up there with The Inner Light. Even the technobabble is minimal, used only as set-up (read: the accident that causes Sisko to phase in and out of space is one of those things you can duplicate, in fifty years, stuff like that). You should probably watch it. Borrow someone's DVD, or download it, find it on TV, whatever. Just see it. You probably won't cry: but it'll be a close one.
* As far as sources go, I just sort of ran through some forums and my memory. There's a good article at the Star Trek website, as well as a decent entry in the wikipedia. Between the wikipedia article and the startrek.com article, however, there's a discrepancy with regard to the original airing date. Wikipedia says October 14, and startrek.com says October 9. I assume that this is because the original airing may differ from country to country. However, being that it's, uh, the Star Trek website, and is more than likely the correct date, and American airing of the show, I've gone with October 9.