How ‘Star Trek’ Told the Story of Fatherhood Unlike Any Other

Jake (Cirroc Lofton) and Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks).

Screengrab from CBS Jake (Cirroc Lofton) and Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks).

Father’s Day in the United States is today, June 20, and fathers across the nation are probably getting some sort of acknowledgment from their families. It could be breakfast in bed, or sometimes dad gets his car washed by the kids or a lovely gift from the family. There are many gift guides out there that can guide the family to a gift dad would enjoy. 

While there was no specific “Father’s Day” episode on any of the “Star Trek” series or films, many storylines dealt with serving in Starfleet and being a dad.

In “The Next Generation,” Commander William T. Riker (Jonathan Frakes) faced his dad on the ambojitsu court for the episode “The Icarus Factor.” Dr. Julian Bashir (Alexander Siddig) was not happy to see his father at Deep Space Nine for the first time during “Doctor Bashir, I Presume?” Worf (Michael Dorn) had many unpleasant run-ins with his son Alexander on TNG. Captain Kirk (William Shatner) watched his son die at the hands of the Klingons in “Star Trek III: The Search For Spock.”

Fatherly Love on ‘Star Trek’

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Most of these stories were one-offs, meaning that the father character was back at his post and not dealing with family issues by the next episode. The big exception to this was the seven-year story of Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) and his son, Jake (Cirroc Lofton). 

From the start, Commander Sisko had to navigate the world of the Bajorans and the Cardassians while juggling Starfleet’s varied interests. If that was not hard enough, he also had to raise a young son by himself. This was unique in the “Star Trek” franchise. 

Some may point to Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) and her son Wesley (Wil Wheaton) on TNG, but it was not the same. Wesley disappeared through many episodes, and his mother was gone for the entire second season. Wheaton stopped appearing regularly through Seasons 5-7. 

The Story of Benjamin & His Son Jake

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Ben and Jake were a constant story through the seven years of DS9, and during this time, fans saw them both grow and change. Benjamin eventually embraced his place in the Bajoran religion, and Jake grew to be a writer in his own right. 

The importance of the relationship of Ben and Jake, both as father and son and as African-Americans, cannot be understated. In a recent podcast by the SyFy Sistas show, which was entitled “Celebrating Black Love,” Cirroc Lofton said that he was not aware of the impact his on-screen relationship was having on those watching at home.

“I had no idea,” said Lofton on the podcast. “For me, it was another job. Something new. A new challenge. I didn’t really know about the history of ‘Star Trek’ … how big the franchise is as far as the following and the fans.”

Lofton said that much of the fan feedback at first was negative, which led the cast and crew to think that DS9 would fail. He told the Sistas that much of Brooks’ performance as Sisko was not acting, that he really was like the father he portrayed on television.

“It wasn’t an act,” said Lofton. “Avery is like that … as far as being a father, a loving father … a committed husband. I watched him do these things with my own eyes. I know that’s just who he is. Family means everything to him.”

“He would fly back to the East Coast just to be with his family on the weekends,” said Lofton. “He would work a 70 hour week … 80 hour week, and then Friday night on redeye to fly back to Jersey to be with his family. He dedicated his life to being a family man.”

While DS9 was on the air, it was rarely noticed for this achievement. Even today, many news stories skip Ben and Jake Sisko’s story when ranking the “Best TV Dads of the 1990s” or even “The Top Black Fathers in the History of Television.”

Thankfully, New York Magazine’s Vulture recently honored DS9, saying that “Deep Space Nine Is TV’s Most Revolutionary Depiction of Black Fatherhood.” Writer Angelica Jade Bastién compared Ben and Jake to the many other father and son stories on television. She found that theirs was above any other.

“When watching ‘The Emissary’ recently, the chemistry between Brooks and Lofton was immediately apparent,” wrote Bastién. “They moved and touched one another with a familiarity that struck me as having a deep, emotional history. They felt like a family with an immediacy I’ve seen few actors able to match on television.”

The Emissary

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Like Armin Shimmerman said, “wait 20 years, and they’ll discover us.” The discovery of DS9 to the masses as a great work of science fiction now must include that it is also a remarkable story about a father and his son.

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