Avery Brooks said on a number of occasions that he accepted the role of Benjamin Sisko in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine because of the depiction of the ever-present father figure that Sisko represented in the series. Benjamin’s relationship with Jake, his son, was repeatedly emphasized as the most important thing to Sisko. In many ways Worf, and his absence in his son’s life, and Miles O’Brien, being a relatively new father who would rather spend time with Dr. Bashir than his family, play something like foils to Sisko. I say that because Sisko is not only a permanent and present father in his son’s life, but he is lifted to the height of a father to Bajor as the Emissary. When Sisko is challenged by Akorem Laan, who briefly claims to be the the true Emissary, Benjamin stands down and accepts that he is no longer a father to Bajor, instead, leaving Bajor for Bajorans just as many wanted. During this time, in the episode, “Accession,” (1996) Kira Nerys tells Sisko that he did not realize that Bajorans would have done anything for him, anything that he asked. We later learn this is true when Sisko is overcome by visions and tells Bajor not to join the Federation just yet (“Rapture” 1996).
Sisko was indeed a father to Bajor. In the same manner Captain John Sheridan in Babylon 5 plays several different larger-than-life father figures. Though not having children of his own during the time that we see him (he later has a son), he is first a father to the station, Babylon 5, until he then becomes The One. The One is a title he shares with Delenn and Jeffrey Sinclair. Each of the three, each being The One (“War Without End” parts I and II, 1996) consent to their role in history. The One, the trilogy of One, become parents to time and space, to place and the ramifications of the war that will save sentient life and the younger species. When Sheridan returns form Z’ha’dum, having been resurrected (“The Summoning” 1996), he becomes a father to the non-aligned worlds and even some of The First Ones, species that have lived and evolved far longer than the average, younger species. Captain John Sheridan’s father status in the Shadow War is repeated in the war to liberate Earth and then is finally cemented when he is made President of the Interstellar Alliance (“Rising Star” 1997).
The cosmic father figures of Sisko, who gives his life for Bajor, and Sheridan, who gives his life at Z’ha’dum, are not simple archetypes. While it is true that human history is littered with far too many father figures while women are dismissed and dispelled, I do argue that these two men represent what can best be achieved by taking responsibility and ownership of the situation presented to them. This is something we all learn as children, but so many of us forget in the fog of growing up and becoming young adults. That does not mean that it is not real. It is real citizenship. It is real equality. It is something we are all able to understand at one point, and if we are able to understand our responsibilities as citizens in a shared environment at such a young age, what is our excuse?
Just as we need these prominent, ever-present father figures, women teaching each new generation is not left out. We could not come to understand out mutual responsibilities in a shared environment without women leading the way, as they continuously do. Adulthood forgets who makes the contributions and even what the contribution is, thereby erasing women’s role in advancing what good may survive the chaos of the next generation. Parental figures place us in a climate of knowing. It might not be our biological parents, but someone, somewhere, is teaching skills that will either help the child grow to thrive, or simply survive the elements of destruction our society will burden them with. We can only hope that one day we will stop burdening our youth; stop forgetting who is contributing to raising children; stop preventing all of us from thriving. I believe those very roadblocks are why need to see father figures like Benjamin Sisko and John Sheridan be dramatized in the first place. We need to be reminded that the fight is real, but there are some called to calm the waters. Perhaps one day the waters will be calm on their own, uninterrupted by the preventive hand of hatred and the obstacles of fervent inequality.