Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Far Beyond the Stars"

****

Air date: 2/8/1998
Teleplay by Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler
Story by Marc Scott Zicree
Directed by Avery Brooks

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"You see, Albert's got the right idea. He's not interested in Negroes or whites. He writes about robots."
"That's because he is a robot."

— Douglas and Herb

Nutshell: Wonderful, classic Trek. A socially aware issue episode that's also an engrossing reflection upon Trek's own spirit.

Captain Benjamin Lafayette Sisko: portrayed by the engaging African-American actor Avery Brooks. Does it matter that Captain Sisko is black? In the color-blind 24th century, it's a non-issue. The word "black" (which, to my knowledge, has never directly been used to describe a Trekkian character) might as well be in the same group of descriptive words as "tall" or "bald." No character sees Sisko as a "black captain"—he's just "the captain." The case is similar for Voyager's female Captain Janeway. For the purposes of Trek, I think that's absolutely the way it should be. In 400 years, I hope we will have improved race and gender relations to the point that everyone can immediately accept people for who they are, rather than scrutinizing their ethnic background. I know—it sounds like a trite, obvious sentiment, but aren't the most universal statements always trite-sounding after they've been said so many times?

Next question: Does it matter that actor Avery Brooks is black? Deep Space Nine may take place almost 400 years from now, but let's face it: Reality is 1998, and no matter what your stance is, race issues are still relevant to most people in our society.

On a personal note, I find it very refreshing to see a black hero as the lead for a mainstream television series. In my opinion there are not, for whatever reason, enough impacting black characters in television drama (excepting Homicide: Life on the Street), so when DS9 premiered in 1993, I was pleased to see an African American leading a Star Trek series—a franchise which has always prided itself on forward thinking and social commentary.

But before this review turns into a column on race relations in the 1990s, let me frame my point in terms of this week's story. This episode, for the first time in DS9's run, utilizes Avery Brooks' character as "black." It accomplishes this by putting Brooks' in the role of Bennie Russell, a science fiction writer trying to make it in 1953, when racism built up the walls blocking opportunity.

"Far Beyond the Stars" is what it's all about, people. This is a perfect example of what makes Trek what it is: not just entertainment, but entertainment with a social awareness that goes beyond the technology, adventure, and space journeys, and into the exploration of the human condition.

The slice of Bennie's life is a dream that Sisko has when he falls unconscious, exhibiting medical readings and bizarre mental activity similar to when he had his visions in last year's "Rapture." The dream idea is itself interesting, and even though this was intended as a single-shot, stand-alone episode, there are little details within "Far Beyond the Stars" that make one wonder if the Prophets weren't somehow set on giving Sisko this vision for a specific purpose.

Bennie Russell's daily troubles begin with the editor of the sci-fi magazine he writes for: a man named Douglas (Rene Auberjonois), whose cowardice epitomizes the dangers of embracing a slanted status quo. He's a prime example of covert racism: Sure, he has a Negro writer on his staff, but he's unwilling to acknowledge that man's identity. "As far as our readers are concerned," he says, "Bennie Russell is as white as they are. Let's just keep it that way." He explains away all social responsibility for his own actions and opinions by blaming society—simply excusing his own close-mindedness on "the way things are."

Early in the episode, Douglas explains that the writing staff will be in a photo to be published in the next issue. Nobody is surprised when Douglas tells Bennie and Kay (Nana Visitor), the staff's only woman, to "oversleep" the day the photo is to be taken. "It's nothing personal," he tells Bennie. But that's the point—racism (and sexism) is rarely a personal issue.

When Roy, the resident artist (J.G. Hertzler), shows Bennie an intriguing drawing of a space station, Bennie is hit with an overwhelming inspiration. The next day he comes to work with a completed story about this space station—a place called Deep Space Nine—which is commanded by a black captain. The other writers love it. But it doesn't matter, because Douglas won't print it. "Your hero is a Negro captain ... It's not believable." Left with no option but to either make the captain white or not have the story published, Bennie suffers a defeat while maintaining his integrity. Because Douglas isn't willing to make a difference, Bennie's story is rendered useless.

Armin Shimerman portrays Herb, a forward-thinking liberal who represents the antithesis of Douglas. Throughout the episode, Herb hounds Douglas for his conservatism, and encourages Bennie to tell his story just as he wants to. Herb is interesting because he represents the other view—the side that realized that individuals had to make personal efforts to overcome the generally held opinions of the masses.

Also appropriate given the era of McCarthyism is Douglas' suggestion that Herb is a communist. "Far Beyond the Stars" benefits from a number of such historic touches. The casting of Michael Dorn as a Negro baseball player who has been inducted into the Major Leagues makes sense, and adds to the running commentary dialog.

"Far Beyond the Stars" is, of course, obviously intended as a Trekkian "message" episode, but there's much more to it than that. Anyone who sees this purely as a soapbox preaching is missing a lot of the story's more general elements. After all, this episode is also wonderful entertainment. Dropping all the DS9 regulars into these new roles is interesting for the novelty value alone, particularly giving human roles to the actors who are usually in makeup. I greatly enjoyed Shimerman as the lively liberal; and Auberjonois in that '50s-looking haircut and glasses; and Farrell as the ditzy New Yorker secretary Darlene, and Meaney as Albert, the "robot" writer who can never come up with the words he's looking for; and even Aron Eisenberg as a newsstand boy.

Then there's the Harlem setting, featuring Penny Johnson as practical woman Cassie, who just wants to marry Bennie and settle down; Dorn's engaging turn as Willie, the baseball star with the big ego; and especially the impressively convincing Cirroc Lofton as the charismatic but troublesome Jimmy—a cynic with little hope who is spiraling down into crime.

The atmospherics alone are worth the hour's view. The period costuming and production design looks great, and Dennis McCarthy's score is like a breath of fresh air. It's always enjoyable when the series gets off its standing sets, and even more enjoyable when such special settings are utilized for a story.

All things considered, I'm giving "Far Beyond the Stars" four stars because it falls into the category of great Trek. However, I think I'd better address one issue that may be on some people's minds: There's a melodramatic overture in "Far Beyond the Stars," and some are undoubtedly going to find it a little excessive and possibly obvious.

The two cops played by Marc Alaimo and Jeffery Combs, for example, are little more than shady, two-dimensional characters used to further crush Bennie's character into his tortured place in the world. Their racially motivated evil actions—shooting Jimmy for breaking into a car, and then severely beating Bennie when he reacts to his friend's death—are anything but sudden and subtle. But in the end, isn't that the whole point? Racism in the 1950s was hardly subtle, either.

The episode's climax follows from the idea of Bennie as a symbol of despair. The structure of the show sets him up for a terrible fall. There's a point when Douglas finally permits Bennie to go forward with submitting his Deep Space Nine story for the month's magazine run—provided he turns the premise into a dream (supposing people will be more open to it if "it never really happened"). Bennie is overjoyed with the hope of a major breakthrough that could have meaningful aftereffects. But then the publisher pulps the issue and, furthermore, orders Bennie's termination.

I'll admit that I think Avery Brooks may have overacted his payoff scene a tad more than he needed to. It seemed a little uneasy upon first viewing. But when I watched it again, it seemed to work better. If you think it through, Bennie is an example of one man who has reached his limits and can't take any more. Just when a lifetime of frustrations and fruitless patience finally seemed like it was going to pay off, he finds himself starting all over again with nothing gained, and no progress made. He loses it. "Nervous breakdown" would probably be an applicable '90s term.

But I think it goes even further than that—something that extends into destiny or prophecy. The mysterious street preacher (Brock Peters) offers cryptic words of foresight on more than one occasion, and much of what he has to say is reflected in Bennie's struggle. The fact that "hope and despair walk arm in arm" is particularly interesting given Bennie's defeat when considered alongside the implicit, unseen results of his writings. Indeed, there seems to be more at stake here than what concrete events can explain. As Bennie is reduced to a broken, crying heap on the floor, he professes that his characters cannot be destroyed—because he created them, they're real, and they exist somewhere, whether his story was published or not. And that's something that I think may have more literal implications than what anyone but Bennie can know. After all, these fictional characters had become a part of Bennie more than Bennie himself could ever have expected. When he was inspired with the idea of DS9, he began having hallucinations—seeing Sisko's reflection when he should've been seeing his own, and sometimes seeing his characters in his friends and co-workers. At one point he finds reality skewed, believing he is inside his own story.

This is Star Trek taking a leap into an unknown that only the truly great sci-fi ideas strive for. When Sisko wakes up, there's a sense that Bennie's existence goes beyond that of a simple dream. Given the mystical DS9 lore involving Bajoran prophecies and wormhole aliens, I seriously wonder if this wasn't a pivotal part of Sisko's own existence—and maybe even the Trekkian fictional history. The ending makes one seriously wonder about the nature of Bennie Russell's existence.

It's strange how many levels of poignancy Sisko's final reflection conveys. At one level, Sisko ponders his dream about this distant, tragic person who had a hopeful vision. On another level, Sisko wonders if he and everything he knows is just a figment of this person's imagination. And on a third level, it's a nonfictional reflection upon the real truth—that Sisko really is just a fictional dream, created by the DS9 writers at Paramount Pictures. There's something strangely bittersweet about that last sentiment. This is a story that wants to keep dreams alive.

Next week: Looks kinda silly. Two words: Runabout shrinkage.

Previous episode: Who Mourns for Morn?
Next episode: One Little Ship

Season Index

130 comments on this review

Stef - Mon, Sep 10, 2007 - 4:01am (USA Central)
I am surprised you've rated this episode so highly. I felt it was far to heavy handed and black and white (no pun intended). The episode essentially cried "Black=Good, White=Bad". Even Armin's character as the only non-racist white, while defending Sisko, almost treated blacks as children in his arguments. Almost as if Sisko wasn't in the room.

Sisko came across as a hypocrite at the beginning, when Visitor's character is told not to show up along with Sisko, the office rushes to defend Sisko and sweeps Visitor under the carpet. After all, she is only a woman.

Dukat & Weyoun as the comic-book bad cops put in their worst performances in the entire season, mostly due to the heavy handed approach and OTT script.

If the writers had been a little more subtle, the show could have been great, but for me the only redeaming aspect was Dorn's character saying that even though he had made the big leagues, he still wasn't accepted. That was the most believable thing about the episode.

And the ultimate irony of the show is, Sisko is forced to rewrite his story so it was all a dream. And what happens at the end of the episode? Oh, it was all a dream and , just like we used to write at school when we were 7 and knew no better.
indijo - Wed, Nov 21, 2007 - 9:01am (USA Central)
Be fair, Stef, the problem went much further than a simple picture in the publication. I doubt that many white women were being harassed by cops simply for the color of their skin or gunned down for shop-lifting in that era.

Besides, if a woman writer wanted to make her self known, there were other ways to do it, and if she did so, I doubt she would have lost her job for it.

I agree with Jamahl, this episode was excellent, one of the very best in the series.
AeC - Thu, Apr 3, 2008 - 12:18am (USA Central)
I can't believe it's been ten years since this aired. I remember upon first seeing the preview, my reaction was not dissimilar to Stef's: Trek to that point had always worked by way of allegory, yet here it looked as though it was going to remove all subtlety and give us a brick-to-the-head hour of didacticism that basically said, "Racism bad!"

I was overjoyed to find that I was wrong. True, it took away the allegorical element, but put in its place a nuanced, lyrical story. Several elements of racism were put on display, from the two detectives' overt menacing of Benny to Douglas' subtler attitude of, "It's not me; it's just what IS." I've seen both subtle and gross expressions of racism, both personal and institutional, and it felt right for each to be depicted, even if the cops' came up short characterization-wise as a result.

I don't know that I can add much that hasn't already been said here and elsewhere. I will say that I was surprised that in all the reviews I read, no one brought up what for me was one of the biggest belly laughs of the episode, namely, Herb's being accused of being a Communist. Sure, it was an illustration of the attitude of the times, but, given that other character Armin Shimerman plays on the show, it was also a hilarious bit of meta-irony.
Rogue09 - Mon, May 5, 2008 - 1:05am (USA Central)
I'm surprised anyone could like this episode. I'm not one to support racism, but it seems to me dwelling on the topic is as bad as supporting it. But my biggest problem with this episode had nothing to do with its racist implications. It was boring. It took a facinating concept, swept it out the door for no reason, and gave us an hour of "what the hell is going on now?". This has nothing to do with the main storyline, and did nothing but give trite dialouge and a sicophantic plot. It's all a dream! Whooo! Add to that Avery Brooks bad and over the top acting performance of a man who's losing his mind, and you come out with one of the worst episodes of the sixth season.
Occuprice - Fri, Jun 20, 2008 - 5:57pm (USA Central)
Far Beyond The Stars is a Trekkian Classic. Even outside Trek it is stellar science fiction.

Everything else to be said is in Jammer's review.
matt - Sat, Jun 21, 2008 - 12:09pm (USA Central)
I love this episode.
Jhoh - Mon, Oct 27, 2008 - 10:29am (USA Central)
I think this was a great episode and powerful, and it actually ties in not only with Trek but with future episodes. It really makes the 50s look bad understandably, and reinforces how much better things are not only now but in the Star Trek universe.

The only downside for me is that since ethnicity shouldn't be an issue in the Star Trek future, they're basically making it an issue. I sort of liked it when Sisko didn't have to be defined as a black man in the future. It is a concern that is supposed to be dated at that time, and only applies to us in the present. I know that's really why this episode exists and that's fine with me, but at the same time I think that within Star Trek itself it didn't much need a reason to exist.
Brendan - Sun, Jun 14, 2009 - 1:35pm (USA Central)
Despite a few small problems, the sheer creative brilliance and audacity of this episode, combined with the message and the cool things like seeing the cast in different roles, makes this one of the best episodes of Star Trek ever made, I think.
Brian - Wed, Jul 29, 2009 - 5:56pm (USA Central)
It was an ok episode for me. I have to dock marks from any episode that allows Brooks to put his hyper-ventilating into 5th gear.
Jay - Fri, Sep 4, 2009 - 11:00pm (USA Central)
I'm with Brian...I'm not a fan of Avery when he gets into full scenery-chewing mode.
Kyle - Tue, Sep 22, 2009 - 2:02am (USA Central)
I have very mixed feelings about this episode.

On one hand we have some great stuff with the interaction between Bennie and Douglas (the "it's just what it IS" line was very well conceived) and seeing the Trek regulars in different roles minus the makeup is good fun. The self-reflexive nature of the story and its commentary on the liberating power of the Sci-Fi thought experiment was also well done.

On the other hand, Brooks' delivery seemed really weak in this episode, especially the breakdown, only made worse by the full on close-up shot that was used to capture it. I also felt like the setup for this plot (Sisko doubting his capacity to fight, his father coming to visit) didn't really match the main plot very well, and felt like it could have gone in other interesting directions.

There are a lot of DS9 episodes that are just mediocre, this isn't one of them, being both a success and a failure at the same time.

At least they shot for the stars...
Destructor - Sun, Oct 11, 2009 - 7:03pm (USA Central)
I loved everything about this episode.
Wilbur - Sun, Nov 1, 2009 - 5:33am (USA Central)
Hundreds of years ago (as far as I can tell), my ancestors were serfs working for some baron in Southern Germany. Any of them could have been beaten to death for talking back to a baron. All of them, I'm sure, faced daily injustices. And when they went to sleep at night on their beds of straw, they dreamed of a world where they would be treated as human beings. I live a life of extraordinary comfort and freedom. When I feel like giving up, I have to remember that my life is a fulfillment of their dream. I have a responsibility to honor that dream, just like Captain Sisko has a responsibility to fulfill the vision of Bennie Russell.

It hardly matters that Captain Sisko isn't real. The dream itself is real, and everything good that we've accomplished as a species is a result of that dream.
Alexander - Wed, Nov 25, 2009 - 10:42am (USA Central)
Good review, for an excellent episode. One of the most ambitious, relevant and overall excellent episodes Trek has produced. Has to be in the top five of DS9 episodes ever.

Rogue: "I'm surprised anyone could like this episode. I'm not one to support racism, but it seems to me dwelling on the topic is as bad as supporting it"
Heavily disagree. Awareness of the process by which a large segment of humanity has, in the past and present, been brutalized, exploited, marginalized and killed is a vital process to combat ongoing injustices and work towards a more egalitarian society. Frankly, my mind boggles at the concept that recalling these incidents and the long structures of domination is as bad as the structures themselves. But in a way, thanks for voicing this, as it makes explicit what a lot of our culture implicitly believes. 'Things were bad in the past, let's not think about it, it's all fixed now, no need to upset people.' Wrong. A society that can't look at and value lives that struggled against such extreme prejudice is a society that's still profoundly broken. This is doubly the case when so much of the circumstances of this episode as still sadly relevant. Yes, even after Obama's election. Police pressure, from suspicion of 'driving while black' to disproportionate use of force are still a reality. To a large extent people are still more comfortable with a white scifi author or actor than a black one. Most of the speculations on the future take a basically "neutral" and white privileged standpoint. Bottom line, we still have a long way to go before we reach the 24th century, not just chronologically or technologically, but in social attitudes. Episodes like 'Far Beyond the Stars' can help move us there. So can shows like The Wire, but I digress.
Mal - Wed, Apr 14, 2010 - 6:40pm (USA Central)
Obama may be President, but other than Boston Public (which ended six years ago!), I can't think of one mainstream show besides DS9 (and The Wire, but that hardly counts - plus it ended two years ago) that has a black lead?!?

And this is 2010.
Kirby - Sun, Apr 18, 2010 - 5:14pm (USA Central)
Just watched this episode for the first time two nights ago. It definitely had excellent production, direction, and the outline for a classic story... But ultimately, it wasn't as satisfying as I had hoped and it seemed to collapse under the weight of its two major shortcomings. First, the premise felt like a gimmick instead of some organic extension of the series, and secondly (more importantly), there was a lot riding on Avery Brooks' performance and I just think he took things too far. From the get go, when he was listing off important African-American writers, I felt like he was trying to convince me that Benny has very intense feelings about the topic(I can see why he would), but it was too on the nose, too heavy-handed. You can imagine my reaction to the climactic breakdown scene. Avery Brooks seems to have a real acting sweet spot when playing things that are gravely serious (a la "In the Pale Moonlight") or lighthearted/casual (thinking of his interactions with Kasidy). Whatever the case, I find he's at his best when he reins in his impulse toward excess. One might say the same about Shatner! The episode had a lot of charm and heart, but couldn't quite live up to its lofty ambitions.
Nic - Sat, Jun 26, 2010 - 3:35pm (USA Central)
Somehow I agree with all the above comments, the good and the bad. One thing to remember is that Avery Brooks also DIRECTED the episode in addition to starring in it. That is no small task, and may be why he overacted a little. But the point still gets across. I wouldn't put it in my top 10, but this is still damn good Trek.

P.S. Anyone else wonder where Kasidy has been since "Rapture"? I know Penny Johnson was busy, but they never even mentioned what happened to her during the Dominion occupation of the station!
JohnG - Fri, Jul 2, 2010 - 10:21pm (USA Central)
Very good episode. The roles of the DS9 cast (especially the ones normally covered in makeup) were great fun and well done.

However, it is a CRIME that Louise Fletcher (Kai Winn) was not in the ambulance when Benny was taken to the psychiatric ward. Having the actress who won an academy award for playing the evil psych Nurse Ratched as a recurring character, how could they not use her in that scene?
Edge - Thu, Jul 8, 2010 - 12:48am (USA Central)
I like this episode a lot. I see it at a different level from the commentors above. I see it as meta-sci-fi. This is SF writers writing about what they can do in the medium and what they cant do. Two periods are compared 1953 and the writes of the Incredible Stories Monthly, and 1998 and the writers of Star Trek. There was no way Bennie was ever going to be able to have a black lead character in a story published in 1953. OK, so, now that can happen in 1998, is that cause for celebration ? The message I get from the episode is "No, it is not". There are many issues that Star Trek writers would like to put to screen, but which society will not tolerate, unless it is to further inflame existing prejudices. Epidoe 9 Statistical Probablilities was a profoundly flawed and derogatory attack on enhanced-intelligence. It was an embarrassment to see this script in Star Trek colours and indicates that there were as many problems in 1998 as there were in 1953. In hindsight we can see the prejudices that crushed Bennie. The message I got from this episode is that prejudices are crushing SF writers in 1998 and even today in 2010. We can tell this because Star Trek has closed its doors - its child's fantasy is no-longer sustainable. But nothing and noone has stepped forward to full the vacuum. The writers have been crushed.
Marco P. - Sat, Aug 14, 2010 - 11:38am (USA Central)
I was enjoying every MINUTE of this episode, until Avery Brooks's over-acting kinda ruined it for me. It makes perfect sense for Benny Russell's character to have a psychological breakdown in that scene, but the way it is delivered is not only trite and akward, but also needlessly long. We get the point. Kinda wished Patrick Stewart had been in those shoes for a second.

It's all the more a shame, because everything else about this episode is perfect. We have a great story with a moral, some meta-irony, the opportunity to see some regular cast members without make-up on (Odo, Quark, and Worf are awesome!), and even (as Jammer put it) a reflection upon Trek's own spirit. "Classic Trek" indeed.

P.S. Maybe I was too severe when I said "ruined". But the breakdown scene still knocks half a star for me to make it a 3.5/4 rating.
Kingofmadcows - Wed, Dec 15, 2010 - 5:33am (USA Central)
I think some people are missing some of the finer details of the episode. This episode does make the obvious statement that racism is bad but it also examines racism in the kind of detail that you don't find on television.

Think about it, Benny Russell basically writes the story of DS9 but DS9 never made a big deal about the fact that Sisko is black. If you just read the DS9 scripts and ignore the parts that describe Sisko's appearance, you won't even know what Sisko's race is since it is never brought up except in this episode and another episode in season 7. The writers could have easily made Sisko Asian or Hispanic or Caucasian or even a woman and it wouldn't make that much of a difference on DS9's story just like how they could have made Picard Italian or Portuguese instead of French and it wouldn't have much effect on TNG.

The fact that Benny Russell was so insistent on making Sisko black even though it would have no impact on the story is an excellent illustration of the mechanism of racism. Racism isn't just about how one groups benefits from the suffering of another group. It's not just about the physical oppression of a group of people. It's about the suppression of ideas. That is the true evil of racism that this episode is trying to show us. It ties everything a person does, everything a person is, to their race so that you can completely dismiss that person's feelings, thoughts, and ideas based on something as superficial as their skin color.

Also, this episode serves to remind us that segregation was not that long ago. There is the notion in society today that segregation and slavery ended a long time ago. There are plenty of people out there who think that slavery ended hundreds of years ago. In reality, institutional racism wasn't really abolished until 1968. When you see an African American with grey hair, then that person lived during a time when black people were beaten by the police and lynched by mobs.
Kingofmadcows - Wed, Dec 15, 2010 - 5:43am (USA Central)
I should also add that the "what is reality" part of the episode is reminiscent of "All Good Things." Remember Q's lesson for Picard in that episode, "For that one fraction of a second, you were open to options you had never considered. *That* is the exploration that awaits you. Not mapping stars and studying nebulae, but charting the unknown possibilities of existence."

In a way, the Prophets were teaching Sisko/Benny the same lesson, giving him/them a glimpse into the mysteries of existence. I think that this also illustrates how DS9 focuses more on the social science aspect of science fiction while TNG focuses more on the natural science aspects.
Elliott - Tue, Jan 11, 2011 - 1:51pm (USA Central)
If only THIS were the norm for prophet interactions with SIsko--religion is something internal--a source for strength and psychic mythos...we find the supernatural at work within our own experiences, our own history and our dreams...and it interacts with our world in our art, in our creation. THIS is the truth of the episode which makes it so great; the racism is a nuance of Sisko's particular history which is an allegory for HIM.

Again, I cannot reconcile this kind of profundity in the prophets with the absurd pettiness they exhibit in most episodes, but on it's own, I think this may be the best episode of DS9 created.

Brooks' acting came close to sabotaging the final scenes, but overall, it worked. Farrell, Dorn (he can't really do anything well except Worf) and Meany were pretty abysmal though, Lofton was pretty bad too, but at least he didn't get a lot of stage time.

The only 4-star rating for this series with which I can agree.
Jon - Sun, Jan 16, 2011 - 4:34am (USA Central)
I just watched it for the first time and feel completely cheated. This isn't a DS9 episode as far as I'm concerned.
Neil - Tue, Feb 1, 2011 - 6:35am (USA Central)
Alexander: "Has to be in the top five of DS9 episodes ever"

Wow, that's a pretty crazy idea :P I doubt even those who rate this episode as 'excellent' would claim that!

Alexander then went on a long 'rant' about racism and educating people about it. I use quotes around 'rant' because it wasn't angry or sarcastic, but 'rant' was the only word I could think of.

Here's my take: Roddenberry created the show not long after the period shown in this episode. Perhaps 15 years. He included African Americans, Chinese, and women in senior ranks right from the very first episode. You may remember that in the first episode, the XO was a woman, but the network executives got Gene to change it to make Spock XO for the 2nd and all further episodes.

However, Roddenberry *never* made a fuss about the race-neutral approach of his casting. He made the point that 300 years in the future, racism would be completely non-existant, so it would be highly unrealistic for any of the scripts to make a big deal about the race of officers on the ship.

So, I think this episode is *completely* against the way Gene wanted to deal with the issue of discrimination in the Trek universe. This episode is incredibly heavy handed, unsubtle, and itself completely cliched in it's portrayal of the police, the newstand boy, women, petty criminals and so on. In fact, almost every single character is a pretty offensive caricature in some way.

So it really is pretty lame to try and present some kind of message about racism while insulting half a dozen other groups along the way.

Besides, the 'lesson' the story tries to teach us might have been appropriate in 1950 or 1970, but in 1990-whatever it's completely inappropriate. It's good to discuss discrimination issues but this thing does it so clumsily, its almost impossible to think about without laughing at it.

Second, Sisko's 'breakdown' at the end when he gets the sack is just weird and over-the-top. A black guy in the 1950s who had made it into the writing trade would be *so* used to being discriminated against, he would never even dream of putting a black guy in the captain's role in his story. If he did, he certainly wouldn't be surprised if it was rejected.

No, the various racist incidents shown build up such a level of stress in Sisko, I think it only makes sense if it's Sisko himself getting treated so badly, and being completely unused to *any* kind of racism, he would find it very difficult to deal with. But the Sisko we know wouldn't respond to this by breaking down like a baby. He would suck it up and either ignore it, or go and beat the crap out of everyone who treats him badly.

Finally, the ending where 'it was only a dream' is really stinky and as always, the audience feels completely cheated. It might have worked if they writers had somehow tied the prophets into the dream and it was their way of communicating with Sisko about something. But instead, it was just a completely pointless diversion.

I actually skipped this the first couple of times I watched the series, but watched it this time based largely on Jammer's high rating and positive review. I think honestly that he, and many others, had so much fun seeing the regular characters playing dress-up (or, in some cases, dress-down, as they are all without the usual prostheses) that they gave a lot more credit to the actual story than it deserved.

It *is* entertaining seeing Quark without the makeup, or Odo as a real person. I liked Shimerman as the nasty principle on Buffy; and those of you who are old enough will remember Rene Auberjonois as the stuck-up irritating PR guy on 'Benson' about a thousand years ago. So it was good fun to see them as their ordinary selves again.

But the story was crap, and as allegory about discrimination it was childish and too obvious to take seriously.

ps: Rene Auberjonois doesn't look like he's aged one day since Benson in the early 1980s. He was born in 1940, so when he filmed DS9 he was almost 60 years old. Pretty well preserved, I have to admit.
Polt - Wed, Feb 2, 2011 - 6:08pm (USA Central)
Never understood the appeal of this episode. I agree wth Rogue09. And I think this sentence from Neil totally sums up me thought on it: "But the story was crap, and as allegory about discrimination it was childish and too obvious to take seriously."

Other than racism is bad, I dont see a point to the episdoe at all. And really, did they need to use a sledgehammer to get the point across.

I personally consider this one of the worst episodes of DS9. The only that saves it, even slightly, is seeing the actors without their alien makeup.

Weiss - Wed, Feb 23, 2011 - 4:37pm (USA Central)
seems like most are projecting their own insecurities.

"Besides, the 'lesson' the story tries to teach us might have been appropriate in 1950 or 1970, but in 1990-whatever it's completely inappropriate."
the episode took place in the 50s, so I dont see the problem...? They have the right to talk about racism for that time.
hell i even remember an episode whre they did roswell in the 40s. I think every decade has been shown in every trek except the 70s.

but then again best not to talk about discrimination or racism.
maybe roddenbery shouldnt have created Guardian of Forever, why talk about nazi's and stopping them... just too uncomfortable.

--
my only complaint with this episode when I was young was that it was not part of the "real" storyline, felt like a waste. but later seeing it, felt more interesting and true science ficitonish. reminds of what farscape would later do in Human Reaction, Wont Get fooled again, take your regulars and throw them in a nightmarish Earth situation, and show prejudices...but there was alot of truth in what happened to John's friends once they landed on earth (Rygel dissected, and rest captured)

--
this plot was relevant to the future storyline of DS9, it was foreshadowing of the despair that was to come to Sisko. lofton's death I think was a hint of Jadzia. the references to hope and despair go together, was to show Sisko what was coming for him.


Weiss - Fri, Feb 25, 2011 - 12:36pm (USA Central)
I forgot the mythical Roddenbery capacity for subtletly when speaking about race and never being obvious or childish

maybe the DS9 writers should have changed the dream to have some characters in 'black face' and others in 'white face' make up. or better yet, some characters in 'half black'/'half white face' make up, and other characters in 'half white/half black face' make up. That would be nuanced true to trek.

since they didnt go that route, the route they did choose was probably the reason DS9 was heads above the other trek series.



Neil - Fri, Feb 25, 2011 - 4:52pm (USA Central)
Ha - for those who don't realise, Weiss is being savagely sarcastic in that last comment, because there WAS a TOS episode where there were two alien races who where both half-white and half-black.

Episode 70: Let That Be Your Last Battlefield. Check out the picture here:

ttp://www.amazon.com/gp/product/images/630098866X/ref=dp_image_0?ie=UTF8&am p;n=404272&s=video

(add the 'h' at the start of that address, this forum doesn't allow h ttp to be used for some reason)

These two races were locked in perpetual conflict because one of them was white on the left, but the other race had black on the left.

It was an incredibly heavy-handed didactic treatment of the race issue, so bad that it's laughable now. But I think in it's time, the general TV-watching public were actually seriously ignorant about such things and may well have needed the message shoved down their throats like that.

Either way, I wasn't even alive when that episode aired, so I'm in no position to make any judgement as to whether this story was too heavy-handed to be useful for it's audience at the time.

But for this episode of DS9, I was alive in 1998 and I stand by my opinion that it is too simplistic and obvious for the audience of 1998 when it was aired.

I realised much later in the series that this episode was the start of a critical story arc for Sisko, and mental breakdown here that I described as 'weird and over-the-top' is much better understood in the context of the later episode where Sisko is searching for the Emissary's orb and discovers the truth about his own origin.

But I still think this was a clumsy and artificial treatment of racism in the 1950s, and even as the first episode in the long-term arc it starts, I think it could have been done a lot better.

Jon - Fri, Feb 25, 2011 - 5:04pm (USA Central)
My chief problem with this episode is that it has no bearing on the DS9 universe. Neil, am I missing something with the 'critical story arc' business? I remember Sisko returns to the asylum briefly as part of a hallucination at the start of S7, I think? Doesn't seem much of a story arc to me.

Somebody mentioned the Roswell episode. The point is, that was a time travel episode, which had a proper bearing on the DS9 universe. Equally with Trials and Tribbleations.

FBTS had NO bearing on the DS9 universe. It was basically an excuse to lecture its audience on racial politics. It had no meaning outside of itself and its own perceived self-importance. If you want to include race issues in DS9, then fine, but at least BOTHER to write a DS9 episode! Not this 'oh, it was all just a dream' rubbish!

Uggghhh. Just horrible. The worst episode of DS9 in my book, and not by a short measure.
Neil - Fri, Feb 25, 2011 - 5:31pm (USA Central)
Jon - well, this idea of Sisko hallucinating as a way of finding the Emissary orb is part of the somewhat important revelation that Sisko was deliberately conceived by the Prophets 40 years earlier so they could use him when the time came, which is 'now'.

The 1950s story and the incarceration in a mental hospital aren't particularly critical, but Sisko learning the truth about his origin certainly is. It's only after learning the truth about his mother that Sisko can completely give himself up to the job of being emissary, and not worry about nagging doubt from the rational atheist part of him that doesn't like supernatural explanations for anything.

Honestly, they could have easily done the whole story about him finding the Emissary orb and discovering his true origin, without ever having this 1950s story occur at all. But this episode, which seemd completely pointless at the time, does at least seem to have a reason for being written once you know the whole story.
Nick - Wed, Mar 2, 2011 - 11:40pm (USA Central)
I showed the scene to a non-fan and he said it was amazing. the whole point of a nervous breakdown is that it never SEEMS right or appropriate. They always seem a bit over the top, out of place, and always more intense than the moment demands. So in that regard, Brooks nailed it. Nailed it
Dave Nielsen - Sat, Mar 5, 2011 - 4:51pm (USA Central)
The best Trek episodes of any series are best when they lack subtlety. It's practically necessary in a one-hour show to beat the audience over the head to make a point. Classic TOS was certainly never anything but obvious in the points it was trying to make. So, that aspect of this episode didn't bother me at all. Even seen that way, some of the criticisms that others here have made here aren't rational. As the reviewer correctly stated, racism was hardly subtle in those days. There were a lot of people who were as openly racist as those cops. Without having been around in the 1950s - and without being black in the 1950s - I can't know for sure how accurate that all was but it rings true. As for the dream aspect of it, I don't think that diminishes it at all. I'm not sure what the other options were. To have made it about a real 1950s black sci-fi writer would have been extremely and offensively cheesy as it is unlikely that he could have got the names and other details so exactly right. The Prophets giving him that knowledge makes the story meaningless as his stories wouldn't be the result of his creativity and writing ability. In the end, as viewed from the perspective of DS9 as reality the episode has no point. As a classic example of Trek social commentary it is nearly brilliant.
Nathaniel - Sun, Apr 3, 2011 - 7:04pm (USA Central)
For those who seem to feel that Brook's acting of the nervous breakdown was over the top, let me reassure it wasn't.

How do I know? Because I had one.

Someone claimed it was silly that a 1950s writer would breakdown after dealing with racism all his life. Nervous breakdowns aren't logical. And they are not subtle or small.

In all honesty, Brooks played it much smaller than he otherwise could have.

The entire scene makes me uncomfortable. It feels... almost voyeuristic, watching something so intense.
Paul - Wed, Apr 27, 2011 - 6:40am (USA Central)
"The whole point of a nervous breakdown is that it never SEEMS right or appropriate. They always seem a bit over the top, out of place, and always more intense than the moment demands. So in that regard, Brooks nailed it."

Agree. The guy is having a breakdown! It is supposed to be extremely over the top. That's the whole point of it.
Greyfeld - Mon, Oct 3, 2011 - 12:37am (USA Central)
I don't care so much about his "overacting," my problem with it is that what he was screaming just didn't make any sense in context with the scene.
Nathan - Sun, Oct 23, 2011 - 8:51am (USA Central)
According to Memory Alpha, Albert is based on Asimov. Obviously both wrote about robots, but it also goes a little deeper. Asimov rarely included aliens in his stories since editor John W. Campbell (likely a racist and sexist) refused to print anything where humans didn't win, so Asimov turned to human-constructed robots as an alternative.
Steve - Tue, Dec 13, 2011 - 3:10am (USA Central)
People here are thinking too much. There's one reason and one reason only I dislike this episode.

It's boring and not Star Trek.
tec - Fri, Dec 16, 2011 - 5:25am (USA Central)
Steve please tell me you did not say that?

Wow

This and its type are the very essence of Star Trek
Roddenberry has used Trek as a social commentary sence the start !

Dont like asians or Russians..to bad our show has thim as good guys! blacks? Ha! Our captan kisses one on screen...shocking I know..

Race color gender creed Trek has tryed to show social relevence sence the start
Mordy - Sat, Jan 28, 2012 - 5:52pm (USA Central)
I can't believe I'm responding to these comments in 2012, but I finally saw this episode again for the second time and it rings so powerfully this time around it makes me dizzy.

When I first saw this episode I was a child and I didn't get the overtones of meaning in this fantastic episode and at the time I just thought it was more heavy handed trek moralizing. *yawn*

These days after all the youtube videos of cops beating up on blacks, people getting rejected from jobs due to their names, extraordinary renditions and innocent people being held without trial etc I'm ashamed to be one of those people who wanted to sweep talk of racism under the rug and rated this episode a dud. I'm disgusted now by some of these commenters but I guess everyone grows up and sees things in a new light.

The whole point of this episode wasn't merely to be a "let's talk about racism in the 50's" but to highlight the power of racism to limit the expression of ideas and how it crushed men's souls and even the ability for others to dream of a better life, because that was its purpose. To deny blacks even the simple joy of dreaming of a better future and having hope.

The other main theme was the prophets trying to show Sisko, that even if he thought he was beaten by the dominion he was never beaten as severely as Bennie was his whole life, and still Bennie struggled to push on. This is telegraphed by the police officers who were savagely beating Sisko and alternately looking like 1950's and DS9 dominion characters while they're beating him up. It's just brilliant. Bennie rises from his beating and plods on, Sisko was considering quitting after the dominion's pummeling.

It's like the prophets are amused that Sisko is considering giving up when he has ancestors who have struggled far more to survive relentless oppression and dared to continue dreaming and striving to a better future, which he embodies as the black commander of DS9. (similar to Wilbur's comment)

The number of layers of meaning in this episode is just beautiful. I give it 5000 stars
Jake Sisko - Sat, Mar 24, 2012 - 4:47am (USA Central)
To me, this is a top five episode. I don't understand why people are complaining that this episode has no relevance to Ds9. There are several amazing episodes that also have little to no relevance main arc-wise (Episodes like "The Visitor" and "In the Cards" come to mind). Imho, these types of "non relevant" episodes add extra flavors to create a more complex show that the other Trek series couldn't come close to. Sure, it doesn't fit GR's ideal views on race (true color blindness), but in defense of Ds9, GR only showed us one side of the coin and ignored the other, which is far easier than how Ds9 tries to show us both sides. This episode shows us the side of the coin we rarely get to see in the Trek universe. In the process of achieving a utopian society, we must not forget our dark past and the growing pains required to create a new world.

"Far Beyond the Stars" remains true to the primary reason why I love Ds9; it doesn't hold the punches. The episode is painful to watch because we as an audience are forced to live vicariously through Bennie. It is a visceral reminder of the recent norm we would like to forget. As for Avery Brooks over acting, I don't presume to know what it was like being black in the 1950s. Maybe that type of breakdown was not uncommon in a society that judged people of any color other than white as lesser beings.

Finally, I'd like to say that I think this episode had a positive message overall. As a society, we have progressed from the kind of institutionalized racism shown in the episode and although we are far from GR's vision, we are slowly but surely getting there. I think that by remembering the past, we can move forward towards GR's vision of equality with resolve as opposed to the acquiescent meandering could get caught in if we forget the past.
Jake Sisko - Sat, Mar 24, 2012 - 5:16am (USA Central)
One more thought for a bit of irony: when GR created TOS, he had more women on the ship and his future wife was cast as the first officer to Kirk. The network was against this and had him recast a man (Spock!) as first officer as well as reduce amount of women from 50:50 to 1/3 of the crew. So GR experienced first hand a similar censure that the fictional Bennie Russell faced (although it was gender vs race).
Nebula Nox - Sat, Mar 31, 2012 - 1:00pm (USA Central)
In a way I dislike this episode because it feels like a digression.

Except for that, it is fabulous.

And now with the killing of Trayvon Martin - guilty of buying candy and tea at night - and the bizarre lack of response - it sadly seems more relevant than ever. The breakdown of Avery Brooks at the end is justified - the stress caused by trigger-happy prejudice must be unbearable.
Justin - Tue, Apr 17, 2012 - 5:26pm (USA Central)
It's clear from the range of comments above that "Far Beyond The Stars" made many people feel uncomfortable. That I think, is a good thing. Because this episode dealt with uncomfortable realities in both obvious and subtle ways. It entertained and it made us think.

In other words, it's classic Trek. Possibly its finest hour.
Cappo - Tue, Apr 24, 2012 - 7:30am (USA Central)
Not to throw things off-topic, but: I've seen at least two people mention the network forcing Gene to replace Number One with Spock. That's not truly accurate. The Network wanted Number One AND Spock BOTH gone. They thought Spock looked Satanic, thought he would upset viewers in the Bible Belt, etc. They even airbrushed out the points on his ears in publicity photos before the show premiered.

Gene knew if he fought the Network he could win one battle, but only one, and keep either Number One or Spock. He felt that the non-human character was more important to the show, so he fought to keep Spock. (Also feedback from test audiences shown the pilot revealed that not only did men generally dislike Number One, women generally disliked her too.) So he rolled Number One's logical personality into Spock's character and that's how we got the Vulcan we know today.

So... yeah the Network didn't want a woman as first officer, but they didn't want Spock either.
Wouter Verhelst - Thu, May 3, 2012 - 4:11am (USA Central)
I never liked this episode. That's to say, if it had been part of another show, one playing in mid-20th century Harlem, I might've liked it. But as it is, I don't.

Is this episode watchable? Yes. Does it ask "interesting" questions? Probably. Does it have anything to do with the entire premise of DS9? Not even remotely.

Yes, in the mid 20th century, being black in the US probably wasn't a very interesting proposition. But in the 24th century of Star Trek, it's a non-issue. It has absolutely no relevance to what's going on around DS9, other than "it's a dream to Sisko". Or was it a "vision from the profets"? If so, then wtf were they trying to tell him? I haven't got a clue.

When I first watched this episode, I remember wondering to myself halfway through when they will finally get to the point. There isn't any. The episode starts off with Sisko being desperate about lost friends, then we get a whole "dream" or "vision" about something not involving anything remotely related to that emotional pain, and then we get a payoff where Sisko is feeling magically cured of his desperation. I don't buy it.

It's interesting to see the regulars playing some other characters, I suppose, but ultimately, this episode adds nothing to the show in the way that some other episodes do. When we look at Season 7's "Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang", we also see our characters in semi-historical settings; but that one works much better for me, because it's actually *our characters*, not some throwaway characters that we see once and never after, which just happen to be played by our same regular actors.

Essentially, this episode just doesn't work for me.
Paul York - Mon, May 28, 2012 - 4:05pm (USA Central)
It's also interesting to note that the Federation of Planets does not discriminate based on species either. Klingons, Ferengi, Trills, etc. are all officers.

"In 400 years, I hope we will have improved race and gender relations to the point that everyone can immediately accept people for who they are, rather than scrutinizing their ethnic background."

First thought: why 400 years? why not now? Discrimination based on arbitrary criteria should end today everywhere.

Second thought: why stop a race and gender? Discrimination based on species who are sentient is also wrong, and many non-human Earthlings have been shown to be sentient (certainly all mammals and birds and reptiles and marsupials, for example). The Federation does seem to for an end to speciesism (at least in the early TNG) but that value has lapsed by the time we get to Voyager and DS9, for some reason. A shame.

The correlation between discrimination against (and by) non-Terrans and current human discrimination against other Earthlings is a strong one that should be explored more. ST gives a lot of thought to machine rights; why not animal rights? There is a strong parallel with racism. I'm glad this episode explored at least that.
Paul York - Mon, May 28, 2012 - 4:17pm (USA Central)
It should be noted that this story comes back in a later episode to represent Sisko's choice of life and death, ultimately deciding the fate of the Alpha Quadrant and the war. Thus in a way his suspension of disbelief (his faith, essentially) in the importance of this narrative (DS9) represents the struggle of the main character's soul. I like the fact that we don't know which reality is real: 1953 or the 24th century. In a way they are both true on a subjective level, just as spiritual realities are, which explains their power over human beings. This was a deep episode, metaphysically, and thus great SF.
Elliott - Mon, May 28, 2012 - 6:09pm (USA Central)
@Paul York :

Paul, please show me some evidence that a Koala or a Gecko can question its own existence. There are at most 4 minimally sentient species on earth.
Drachasor - Sat, Jun 23, 2012 - 12:37am (USA Central)
The "only a dream" structure seemed extremely trite to me, especially at the end. This is overdone far, far too much. At times the script seem to be trying to say "look how clever and deep we are!"

Regarding the aspect of discrimination, I feel it went about this the wrong way. Trek episodes like this are best when they tackle modern problems. A black writer not being taken seriously is not really a modern problem with racism. I'd rather have seem something more relevant to the 90s...it was just too heavy-handed for me in this regard. Not that the racism of the time portrayed was handled poorly, though it was somewhat clichéd. I just thought "why are they talking about this?" while I watched it.

I also felt like the problems in this "dream" didn't match up all that well with what was going on in the present. Certainly not as something uplifting for Sisko. It was just kind of weird in this regard and felt forced.

Beyond that it was good, save for completing ignoring how Visitor's character also was generally getting screwed because she was female.
Jasper - Wed, Jun 27, 2012 - 9:23am (USA Central)
Described as one of the best episodes by numerous people involved with its creation, this episode relies VERY heavily on its sledgehammer commentary on discrimination. (Alright, this page more than anything shows that some people only took it to be about discrimination in the past, so I suppose it was a little more subtle than I would have thought.) However, it's not just about discrimination, it's about discrimination in America.

I am not an American. I won't say we are free from discrimination where I live, but I will say that the problem is not quite as big as it is in America. As such, that part of this episode just fell flat for me.
It's not that the issue of racism in America doesn't interest me at all. In fact, just the other day an episode of Everybody hates Chris was on and I was discussing with a housemate how well its heavy commentary on discrimination in the United States worked. I don't now why that aspect didn't work for me in Far Beyond the Stars, but it just didn't.

Stripped of that part of the episode, you don't have much left, as this episode turns out to be rather thin. We have a decent story that is typical Trek: putting the characters in roles from a completely different setting. We have seen this many times and sometimes it was done to great effect and sometimes we had really poor episodes based on this same premise. Some examples of this premise that spring to mind are the countless holodeck episodes, Voyager's "11:59" (where we get to see Janeway's ancestor), The Next Generation's "The Inner Light" (where Picard gets to live out as a member of a forgotten species) and even The Paradise Syndrome from the original series (where Kirk gets to be an Native American In Space).

There is one thing that makes this episode stand out from any other in the franchise - the way we have a number of characters that usually wear lots of makeup now acting without any. While this is nice, it is no more than a gimmick. It can't carry the episode all on its own.

Admittedly, there is yet another thing that makes this episode stand out - however, that isn't in a positive way. That is how there basically how there isn't any resolution to this episode. We just have the captain waking up and deciding that it was all a dream - or maybe all the reality and normal DS9 is the dream. That is an interesting note (very Matrix-like) but an interesting note can't cover up the fact that they leave a hole in that it was nothing but a dream. Speculation about the involvement of the prophets in this may patch up some of this hole, but it still can't make for an effective resolution.
Another point that this brings up is how there is no explanation for the fact that all the other characters in the dream-world where actors from the actual show. One could theorize about the way they were used as templates for the new characters by either Sisko's mind or the prophets, but in my opinion, that makes it not much better. The problem is that it can't grow beyond a gimmick. Without any resolution as to why these are the same actors, it is a gimmick and not much more than that.

The execution of this episode it what makes it still a good episode. It doesn't give it the brilliance people for whom the discrimination part works see, but it does make it a good episode. The execution is truly great and that keeps this episode from being average and makes it a good episode. It also serves as an important factor in this episode being considered brilliant by so many people and it most definitely very good.
Elliott - Wed, Jun 27, 2012 - 10:22am (USA Central)
@ Jasper ;

To claim that this episode relied heavily on social commentary is profoundly narrow in thinking, devastatingly tragic in feeling and just plain wrong. As I said before, the racism commentary is an allegory set up, not for the audience per sæ, but for Sisko. Yes, we understand and believe it to be wrong in its social implications, but those times (as depicted here) are past. The impetus for the way people behave towards dreamers and artists like Benny have not vanished however. This is why having the characters portrayed by Sisko's familiars is so important and not just a "gimmick" as you say. That's why they briefly revert to their 24th-century selves in Sisko's view; it's not as though this is for the benefit of the audience playing a game of who's who.

I'd like to point out the VOY and TNG episodes you pointed to are also fantastic episodes of Trek--all different in their implications, but similar in method and in the level of thinking they demand from an audience.

To say the episode had no resolution is ridiculous. *Benny's* story may not be over, but Sisko has reïmagined his whole universe. He has been the architect of his own reality and seen the characters of his life as archetypes. As I said in a previous post, this kind of interaction with the prophets is exactly what this show needed. You can still have Sisko the Builder, Sisko the Captain and Sisko the God in one perfectly balanced character IF you treat the metaphysical with the kind of respect this episode does. If you write and produce beautifully, even Brooks' hyperventilating cannot sink an episode so great.

It's a tragedy that the wonderful way religion and myth was handled here was not touched upon earlier, would only be revisited once, and was and would be replaced by comic-book nonsense robbing any credulity to the depth of the prophets. But here, as a stand-alone, episode, is DS9's finest hour and among the pantheon of great hours of Trek.
Martino - Thu, Jun 28, 2012 - 7:48am (USA Central)
African-American ... even the definition is racist. I guess racism is still prevalent even among trek fans.
Latex Zebra - Thu, Jun 28, 2012 - 9:48am (USA Central)
After seeing Martino's comments above I had to do a little straw pole.

I just asked a black guy in the office how he would describe himself and after he said, black with dark hair I asked him again and he described himself as a British Indian. That is obviously from India and not a Native American.

Asked another guy and he said he is a Muslim. So his religion defines him.

I can see on face value why it could be scene as offensive to some but to say it is racist is a bit wide of the mark.
Benji - Fri, Aug 17, 2012 - 3:21pm (USA Central)
I think this episode is pretty bad. It seems to have been created to indulge some of the actors - with Avery Brooks being given a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate how he always falls short as an actor. I found the episode boring, confused and disjointed. But of the things that really annoys me about it is the sanctimonious hypocrisy of it. They're quite happy to jump on the "racism is bad" bandwagon decades after it was a controversial issue, but at the same time Star Trek's producers have done the very same thing with gay people that this episode accuses the magazine publishers of doing with black people and women. They have consistently refused any attempt to introduce an openly gay character, and have at times been pretty offensive towards gay people.

Let's look at their record on this, shall we? TNG "The Outcast" - Riker falls in love with Soren, a member of an androgynous species. But of course the person playing this character is (quite clearly) a woman, and the character self-identifies as female. TNG "The Host" - Dr Crusher falls in love with a male Trill and there is a brief moment at the end, once the symbiont has been transferred to a female host, with a bit of speechifying about how this doesn't have to change their love. DS9 "Rejoined" - a lesbian relationship develops between Jadzia Dax and the new (female) host of a former love. But the relationship was originally heterosexual, and inevitably ends in their parting.

Even more shockingly, the bisexuality of the mirror-universe Major Kira is used to show how corrupt and decadent that universe is.

In this context, pontificating about racism from a very safe distance is risible when the very idea of portraying a gay male character sends the producers into a panic. If there's still a Star Trek franchise in thirty years, we can probably expect some grandstanding about gay rights/homophobia in an episode - it'll probably be safe for them by then.
Londonboy73 - Sun, Sep 9, 2012 - 9:43am (USA Central)
I Just read this on memory-alpha:-

“According to thethe Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, everyone who worked on the episode felt that Brooks gave an Emmy award winning performance, and there was a great deal of disappointment amongst both cast and crew when he wasn't even nominated.”

HA HA HA HA HA. This has literly made me cry with laughter!!!

An Emmy winning performance!!! HA HA HA.... Maybe if there was a catogry for ‘most over the top performance in this history of television’... then he would be a dead cert!!

Seriously – was everyone who worked on this episode on mind altering drugs or something. How can ANYONE think this performance deserves an award. It is diabolical beyond belief.

Thanks to Mr Brooks though for giving me the best laugh I have had in ages.... “You cannot destroy an idea! That future, I created it, and it's real! Don't you understand? It is REAL! I created it and IT'S REAL!".... HA HA HA HA HA – unlike your acting mate which is the most unreal I have ever seen!!!!
Nathaniel - Sun, Sep 9, 2012 - 4:12pm (USA Central)
Yeah, because as everyone knows, nervous breakdowns are quiet and understated.

Moron.
Elliott - Sun, Sep 9, 2012 - 5:45pm (USA Central)
If I had to guess, I'd say the cast and crew were euphoric from having created such a wonderful episode. I can imagine Brooks' delivery working in a live setting, sans microphones and close-up cameras. But in the tv, his performance is indeed almost laughable. That said, the episode is too good to be brought down by it.
Londonboy73 - Sun, Sep 9, 2012 - 6:30pm (USA Central)
Nathaniel:

Why is it when people disagree they have to revert to insults. Calling me a moron doesn’t change the fact they guy can’t act. Just because he is performing a breakdown doesn’t excuse the fact that he destroyed what could have been an excellent show with acting not out place in a school play!

Also, just for the record – and only using Trek examples – here are some breakdowns to compare it with:-

Jonathan Frakes: Frame Of Mind

Patrick Stuart: Chain of Command, Part II

Colm Meaney: Hard Time

hmmmmm – None of these performances are quiet and understated.... but they are all really well performed and believable?? How is that possible??.......Maybe because THEY CAN ACT!!!!!!
Nathaniel - Mon, Sep 10, 2012 - 3:45am (USA Central)
Dude, if you're going to argue, at least get your terminology right. None of these supposed other examples you give come even close to the symptoms of a nervous breakdown. Getting emotional or losing a bit of control isn't a nervous breakdown, any more than stubbing your toe is a form of suicide.

My point stands.
Londonboy73 - Mon, Sep 10, 2012 - 6:09am (USA Central)
Colm Meaney wasn't having a nervous breakdown?? He was just going to kill himself for the hell of it??

Ok - end of arguement - there is no point discussing the issue with someone who thinks a person would try and kill themsleves after 'getting emotional' and 'losing a bit of control'

You want to believe that Brook's acting was good that's fine. I am happy you are so easily pleased.
Nathaniel - Mon, Sep 10, 2012 - 10:33am (USA Central)
Once again, your argument betrays your ignorance. Thinking about killing yourself is distinct from a nervous breakdown. There have been millions of people who kill themselves without having a nervous breakdown, just as most people who suffer from nervous breakdowns don't kill themselves.

Educate yourself if you wish to further to discussion.
Londonboy73 - Mon, Sep 10, 2012 - 2:53pm (USA Central)
'Educate yourself if you wish to further to discussion.'..... You can always tell when you won an arguement. The other person just relies on insults.

Of course O'Brien was suffering a breakdown in Hard Time. The fact you are arguing he was not is beyond belief!!!

Please don't insult me any more though eh. You are simply embarassing yourself.

By the way over 10 people on this site have complained about Brook's overacting. I take it they are all 'morons' as well......
Londonboy73 - Mon, Sep 10, 2012 - 3:17pm (USA Central)
Nathaniel,

Actually - on refelection- lets just forget it shall we. You like his acting and I don't. We are both entitled to our opinions and both can't believe the others point of view.

We could go on at each other for weeks and at the end of the day we are arguing (in public) over an epsiode of DS9 over 10 years old!

When you look at it like that I think we have both been 'morons'!! OK mate???
DG - Thu, Dec 6, 2012 - 3:32am (USA Central)
Opinion One: Watching them out of makeup was funny!

Odo looks naked (and mean...), Quark is cuter as a Ferengi, Jadzia Dax was hilarious! Kira was forgettable, Worf was "THAT WAS WORF??? wtf?",
Weyoun was lame, Gul Dukat was kinda 'cool/meh'. Jake was sad... Nog was funny! (did any of you catch Nog?) That was cool.


Opinion Two:

Sisko: "I'm having a bad whiny day, boo hoo."
Prophets: "Oh? You think it's bad now? Lemme drop you into your ancestral past! Ha ha!"
Sisko: (afterward) "I'm not whiny anymore... Also, I am Black Man! blah blah blah"

Seiously?

Sad thing is, this plot type is only socially acceptable with Black people.

Could you imagine a Ferengi having a bad day and getting zapped back to WW2 because the actor's Jewish? That wouldn't fly so good...

Or really, anybody, for *anything!* except being Black. Bashir to Right Now in Lebanon. O'Brien to the American railroads in the 1800s (or the Potato Famine, if he has to stay in Europe). Yick.

Or if it has to be a Captain: Janeway to a women's suffrage event.

It just doesn't WORK.

*Shudder*
Robert - Tue, Dec 11, 2012 - 10:05am (USA Central)
I've thought about this episode a lot. And I've been reading through Jammer's Reviews during my third rewatch of DS9.

I think what I felt was wrong with it was that I wasn't clear how this vision was the best way to perk Sisko up. I thought it was a good hour of television, and I actually LIKED the performances, but I just didn't get it in the context of the small bit of story that was being told on the station. I liked it, and seeing the actors turn in a different kind of performance was fun. The homage to early sci-fi was good and we shouldn't forget acceptable this kind of awful racism was in most of the country not long ago...

But I didn't get how being sent THIS vision would have solved the original problem Sisko had, yet it seemed to. I think I liked the followup in the early part of next season when the Pagh Wraiths sent the vision of him in the mental hospital better, because it seemed to more organically flow from the station story (ie taking the easy way out and denying the story would have been akin to taking the easy way out, covering up the orb and going back to the restaurant and not walking the hard path of the Sisko).

If anyone felt differently about this piece I'd love to hear your opinions and why. This disconnect is keeping me from seeing it as a 4 star episode.
Grumpy - Tue, Dec 11, 2012 - 2:34pm (USA Central)
Am I the only one who thinks the 24th century frame story was unnecessary? This whole show could've been an atypical meta-episode, like "Yes Virginia, There Is a Hercules" around the same time. The reference to DS9 in Benny's story would've been enough connection to the series, and the story-in-story could even have referred to or advanced the ongoing arc in some way.

According to Memory Alpha, the series finale might've revealed that the whole show was, in fact, based on Benny's story. Which might've been better than the finale we got.
Robert - Tue, Dec 11, 2012 - 2:47pm (USA Central)
Grumpy,

Yes, I guess that's what I was saying. I just feel the framing was weak and hurts the episode somewhat. I like the idea of a war weary Sisko being sent a morale boosting vision by the prophets and I liked the 20th century story with our characters out of makeup but they didn't mesh well together like I felt they did in Shadows and Symbols next season (granted that was only a brief scene, but it felt really relevant to the 24th century story).
Michael - Sat, Feb 23, 2013 - 11:33am (USA Central)
Well, I'm going to step in and side completely with Londonboy73. Not only did you make rational arguments with evidence, your opponent reduced themselves to "I'm right because I say so, therefore you are stupid".

It is incredibly saddening that a Star Trek fan can not have an open, peaceful, and effective dialogue. Obviously not picking up on what you're watching.

I also want to comment on Avery Brooks overacting, and if this was the only episode in which he does it there wouldn't be a problem. However, he does it throughout the entire series whenever he has to convey any emotion other than grim determination. It is especially noticeable in the first season, when they haven't discovered his inability to act.

This episode was a severe disappointment to me because of the complete ham-handed way they handled the "message" they were going for. Usually, with a racism message, it's Starfleet commenting on another culture that isn't as civilized as they are. That keeps it from being a big finger point at any group or society. This is important because everybody did racist / sexist nonsense throughout history. No group, no society, no ethnicity is clear of this.

This also has nothing to do with Star Trek. Typically a character remains in character and can view and comment on the culture objectively. We at least have someone we know along for the ride.

In this episode, it might as well have been a different show with the same actors. Any connections with Deep Space 9 were just to make some way to connect with the larger story so they can beat us over the head with their over-obvious message.

What's worse? The writers / creators for this show filled the Captain's seat specifically with someone who is black, just like they specifically filled Voyager's Captain with a female. There is no reason for it, as in the future everyone is the same and equal. There is no story reasoning behind making a character a certain race or sex.

ANY decision that you make that is specifically preferential to one race or sex IS racism. Voting for Obama because you like his policies is fine, voting for him because he is black is racist. Putting an actor in a role because you loved his performance is fine, doing it because he is black and that fills your quota is racist.

So I have a lot of trouble with them trying to force feed me a message when their own "color-blindness" is in question.

Terrible Episode, Terrible Acting. Best thing about it? It has absolutely nothing to do with the overarching story (The pah-wraiths attacking Sisko with visions about Benny was another bit of nonsense (there would be more effective ways to stop Sisko) and can be completely ignored as well). Feel free to skip. You will lose nothing.

someome - Sat, Feb 23, 2013 - 12:57pm (USA Central)
So something occurred to me when I watched this episode again recently. Making Bennie's story a dream of a downtrodden black man is even more subversive than the original story when it was just played straight.
Baron - Sat, Mar 23, 2013 - 11:06pm (USA Central)
When this originally aired I didn't like it. Just didn't seem to fit in the DS9 universe for me.

Now many years later I love the episode. I don't think anything changed. I didn't find any deeper meaning. I think I changed. I can now appreciate the need for a episode like this.
Paul M. - Wed, May 1, 2013 - 6:26pm (USA Central)
@Michael: "What's worse? The writers / creators for this show filled the Captain's seat specifically with someone who is black, just like they specifically filled Voyager's Captain with a female. There is no reason for it, as in the future everyone is the same and equal. There is no story reasoning behind making a character a certain race or sex.

ANY decision that you make that is specifically preferential to one race or sex IS racism."


I always marvel at the faux political correctness jumping out of every corner these days, all the while betraying ulterior motives. Yes, Brooks and Mulgrew were probably picked for their roles because they are black and female, respectively. But guess what? Shatner and Stewart were ALSO picked because they were white males!

A vast majority of main characters on TV even today are white heterosexual males, and intentionally so. It's so "normal" and expected that most people, especially white heterosexual males, don't give it a second thought. But the moment a woman or a gay or, as seen here, an African American gets a high profile role, it's inevitable someone will come out with something borderline racist/misogynistic masquerading as poltically correct and progressive.
Grumpy - Thu, May 2, 2013 - 12:05am (USA Central)
As the story goes, Rick Berman's first choice to play Sisko was... Siddig El Fadil (as he was known). Changed his mind when he realized how young Sid was, and also decided Sisko should be black. Apparently, James Earl Jones was considered for the role.

But notice how, until this episode, Sisko was never written specifically as a brown man (as Avery Brooks prefers to be called). Paul M.'s comparison with Picard is apt: he was conceived as a Frenchman and, in early episodes, blatantly portrayed so. Less grating were casual allusions to Picard growing up in wine country. But when Sisko's heritage is highlighted once, all hell breaks loose.
Elliott - Thu, May 2, 2013 - 10:32am (USA Central)
Picard's "Frenchness" was never made into a culture v. culture issue--the fact that he was French never caused him to resent historical holographic programmes (his accent in Dixon Hill, eg) or isolate himself and his fellow Frenchman from the rest of his crew. I would say the issue "breaks loose" in "Badda-Bing".

I maintain Sisko's (not Benny's) race is not an issue here and that this is DS9's best episode.
Paul - Thu, May 2, 2013 - 7:00pm (USA Central)
@Elliot: This is not DS9's finest episode. It's probably it's most overrated.

That said, it's a GOOD episode and I did like the ending with the reflection. But Brooks' TERRIBLE acting "It's in my MIND!" just kills a key scene. Also, the 20th century characters are just such stereostypes. O'Brien's character was somewhat interesting, I guess. But everybody else was straight out of a book of '50s characters stock characters.
Elliott - Thu, May 2, 2013 - 8:10pm (USA Central)
@Paul: I normally would agree about Brooks, but here I not only give it a pass, I embrace it. This is a mythology episode, a distillation of the essence of what Star Trek believes in. Those are the best episodes of the Franchise: Darmok, Inner Light, Living Witness, etc. DS9's characters are frequently too "human" to transcend their soap opera shenanigans, but these characters succeed in being larger than life through archetypification. Such a "large" character as Benny has the right, nay the need to express an inner voice which supersedes a human heart. For all the trash I may speak about this show, I get chills every time I think about it. It is, like the religious self of which myth makes metaphor, perfect.
Paul - Fri, May 3, 2013 - 8:56am (USA Central)
@Elliott: I respect your opinion. But I still find this episode to be vastly overrated. The '50s characters, by and large, are just so one-note and stereotypical. And then there's the acting by Brooks.
Jerome - Sun, Jun 16, 2013 - 2:39am (USA Central)
Just watched this episode again. Probably seen it five or six times. I come back to it because I write science fiction. It's message of the power of writers to create the future is very strong. Douglas wants to appeal to the status quo because the status quo has money to buy issues. The future may contain readers who want this but he can't spend future money. The real value though is in Bennie's world changing ideas.

Folks have mentioned Roddenberry's purposeful diverse cast. And I'm sure you've heard Martin Luther King's poignant response to Nichelle Nichols as she tried to leave the show. That BEING a black woman on the bridge of the Enterprise showed that one day race wouldn't matter. She stayed because the appearance of her character on the bridge gave hope to MLK and others that the future was now possible.

What Roddenberry never did was place a gay character on Star Trek. When I watch this episode I think about that. Not comparing my life to Bennie's. But I think about how writers make the future happen by getting you to think about it. To see a gay person and it be a non-issue would have signaled to all those gay kids that the future included them as acceptable folk. And it does. Roddenberry never traipsed down that road. He was also not a big fan of religion and found ways to dethrone it, demystify it, demyth it at every opportunity. DS9 explored it fully and Kira and Sisko are great examples of those who accept a faith without all the answers. And without the need to counter it with science.

The strength of this episode is in the power writing has to change the future. Roddenberry contributed to that dream and that reality. And as science fiction writers, or writers in general, we face the Douglases who say, "But it doesn't matter if you write it, it won't sell." Readers of science fiction don't want a gay protagonist. They can't identify with it, do let's make it a straight male to broaden the audience. Otherwise you'll be in the Queer Lit section. This episode gives the viewer a task to change history too. Bennie may not have been successful. But Gene was.

I too wished the plot line had been more seamlessly placed in the Dominion War arc. It seemed that someone took a cool episode and tried to make it match the arc, but with no consequence. But then there are baseball playing episodes that I think could be more relevant too.

By and large, this was a good episode about how society changes one idea at a time. Even Cassie might have been changed by Bennie's ideas if she realized that one day she could dream of a bigger future for herself. Heavy handed at times, the episode still inspires me.
Frank Wallace - Tue, Jul 9, 2013 - 8:34pm (USA Central)
The things that bother me about this otherwise interesting episode are:

a) It doesn't actually "happen", and I always dislike that in a sci-fi show, or any show really. One of Voyager's several flaws was the need to make an episode a dream, or a projection, or a pretend future reality, or whatever. It always has more meaning to me to see the actual characters IN continuity doing something.

b) Normally when Star Trek does the anti racism bit (other than the constant focus only on white on black racism and little other bigotries) they do it through the alien lens, an allegory or metaphor or whatever. It might be paper thin, but it's not literal. In this case however, it is literally "These white people are bad to these black people". It's a legitimate message, but it's not overly clever to just flat out say it like that, rather than make people "learn" it subconsciously.
Grumpy - Wed, Jul 10, 2013 - 6:01pm (USA Central)
Frank, without dismissing your criticism about out-of-continuity stories, let me say that it reminds me of Alan Moore's disclaimer from "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?": "This is an imaginary story... aren't they all?"
Sybok - Tue, Jul 16, 2013 - 4:02pm (USA Central)
To respond to the post above, being gay is not like being black. Gayness is a lifestyle choice. Being Latino, black, or white is not. There is a large group of folks who do not want the gay agenda crammed in our face. If you want to be gay, great. I am not saying you can't be. Buy many if us don't want to see it. That's what Glee is for.
Elliott - Tue, Jul 16, 2013 - 4:44pm (USA Central)
Woah! I thought that kind of sub-mental nonsense had gone extinct in venues such as this. If you're going to make this claim, I suggest you start complaining about all the FX shots showing the earth to be round and gravity pulling people towards the ground.

I am always amused by the big it's inability to resist demonstrating homophobia with phrase like "crammed in our faces" or "shoved down our throats". Too perfect.
Elliott - Tue, Jul 16, 2013 - 4:46pm (USA Central)
Ah, damn: "big it" = bigot.
Latex Zebra - Wed, Jul 17, 2013 - 10:45am (USA Central)
@Sybok

Sorry, being Gay is a lifestyle choice!

Wow, just wow.

Are you one of these people that think you can beat the gay out of people or that Gay people chose to be Gay?


sybok - Thu, Aug 1, 2013 - 4:30pm (USA Central)
No I don't want to "beat the gay" out of someone. I am simply stating an opinion...which last I checked, I'm allowed.

Being gay is not the same as being black. You can choose to be gay, straight, or bi, or asexual like Godzilla. You can't really choose to be black. There is a big difference between race and gender preference for who you snuggle with at night.

Sybok - Fri, Aug 2, 2013 - 10:13am (USA Central)
Correction to my above post. You CAN choose to be black. Look at Vanilla Ice....he choose to be black, and he got to do that awesome Ninja Turtle rap for second Ninja Turtle movie.
Elliott - Fri, Aug 2, 2013 - 10:53am (USA Central)
Can someone expunge this idiot from the forum? I'm sure he didn't *choose* to be an homophobic, hate-spewing assbag, but for the rest of our sakes, please...
Sybok - Sat, Aug 3, 2013 - 3:35pm (USA Central)
I guess I will go watch glee and then crank up the Clay Aiken music. Then maybe you'll accept me too....since we all apparently must accept everyone. Oh wait, you won't accept my views because thy are different than yours. That makes sense. Double standard much?
Jammer - Sat, Aug 3, 2013 - 4:16pm (USA Central)
Don't feed the trolls. It isn't worth the time.
ProgHead777 - Sun, Aug 4, 2013 - 8:16pm (USA Central)
Regarding Brooks' "overacted" breakdown scene. Be sure to watch the episode in a high enough resolution that you can see the REAL tears running down the actor's face. I think it was an amazing piece of work and the fact that Brooks was not at least NOMINATED for an acting Emmy is indicative of another type of prejudice commonly found in the entertainment industry: the one about science fiction being taken seriously. Although that too is hinted at in this episode.
Andrew - Thu, Aug 8, 2013 - 8:48pm (USA Central)
I admit, I haven't seen much of ds9, but I do have this ep in the "Captain's Log" collection. But I just posted a similar comment on TNG's "Royale" episode contrasting this one to that.

My problem is that unlike "Royale" this ep takes itself extremely seriously. Star Trek crew... in earth's past.. taking itself seriously... yeah. TOS did that too I believe, and I disliked it there too.

Trek has dealt with racism fantastically in the past. To just dive into an extremely racist period and say "this is wrong." that's just too straightforward for me. Combine that with "it's a dream" and you have a really painful episode to sit through.

The message itself is great, acting is great, but I just don't like the thing.
Dominick Destine - Sun, Aug 11, 2013 - 2:44am (USA Central)
@Elliot and others insulting Sybok

Congratulations on completely proving Sybok's point. You call him an idiot and a "hate spewing ass bag" but from my vantage point, you and others like you are the only people spouting intense hatred. You are a hypocrite.

In any case, I happen to agree with Sybok's position but even if I didn't, I would almost be forced to agree with him because those who oppose him (people like you) can't go through a single response without degenerating into ad hominem and strawman arguments.

I have no problem with people that choose homosexuality. You can have sex with whoever you want, I support that freedom. What I don't support is the blatant double standard wherein you can express your approval of the homosexual agenda but others cannot express their disapproval. Being black isn't a choice. You don't choose what color your skin is before you go to sleep, you -do- choose who you will sleep with.
Understand?




"Far Beyond the Stars"
I hated it. It was terrible... and I believe it is tremendously overrated. The pacing was awkward and thus the episode tended to drag a lot (Not that I was surprised, the premise is wafer thin), the acting was extremely weak and amateur (Looking at you, Avery Brooks) and worse than everything else, it is not DS9, it's not even a Star Trek episode. Star Trek is meant to be science fiction, wherein the problems of today's society are highlighted within a different cultural context. "RACISM IS BAD" is something we already know and accept, a sledgehammer to the face with the words "racism sucks" is not a good way to promote acceptance.

I'd rank it very low, about 1.5 out of 4.
For the record, I am hispanic and come from a jewish family (Figure that one out), I know what it's like to be discriminated against, but making an episode about the Evil White People and the Poor Black Victim just reeks of lazy writing and lame storytelling.
That is my opinion on it.
William B - Mon, Aug 12, 2013 - 10:30am (USA Central)
I don't think anyone disputes that people choose "who they sleep with." But "being gay" or "being straight" is not a matter of who you sleep with, but whom you are attracted to. People do not choose who they are attracted to; they may be able to think about what they are interested in in a romantic/sexual partner, and they certainly choose whom they do date and sleep with. But they don't choose to be straight/gay/bisexual, because being straight/gay/bisexual is not about who you sleep with but who you *want to* sleep with/be in love with/etc. They often imply similar things, because there is no reason why consenting adults should not act on their mutual attraction for each other, but a person can be gay and celibate just as they can be straight and celibate. That is why people react so strongly to the idea that being black and being gay are completely unrelated because you can "choose" to be gay, because that's not true.

The idea that having one single gay character in Star Trek would mean promoting a "homosexual agenda" is a position I find bizarre. Some people are gay. Jerome's point that Star Trek showing a gay character could help the people in real life who *are gay* find better self-acceptance is valid and responding to that with the suggestion that gay people should only be on Glee and no one else should have to have the presentation that gay people exist shove down their throats *is* hostile to posters on the board who are gay, by saying that the mere existence of people who have things in common with them in a fictional universe is offensive.

And even if it's a "choice," well, it's a choice whether to drink coffee or Earl Grey, and somehow the Star Trek universe is big enough for both Janeway and Picard without promoting coffee or tea agendas.
DavidK - Fri, Aug 16, 2013 - 7:14am (USA Central)
To back up what William B is saying, the way I understand it is this...and apologies if this is a bit crass...but I have yet to meet someone who can choose what causes blood to flow to their penis. Stimulus, response. I have a thing for brunettes, that was also not a choice.

I'm slightly more open to the idea of acting on the situation being a choice, but really given the other options are a) live alone until death; or b) find a woman to lie to until death, I think that's a hit our society can absorb (especially since it's been absorbing that hit fine for thousands of years), I think we can manage to let them find some happiness before they die.

Maybe if your population is at critical levels I could buy coupling up for the good of mankind (like, a colony on the moon are the last humans alive and they're just barely replacing themselves each generation, *that* kind of critical). Beyond that, the sum negative of a gay person living a lie, lying to a partner who probably knows, and children born into a loveless marriage probably outweighs the positives of a slight population bump.
nemo - Sat, Aug 24, 2013 - 12:57am (USA Central)
This was a great episode, I don't understand how people can not like it. Well, actually I do...

Reading some of these comments, it seems like quite a few white people didn't like this episode. They didn't like being reminded of how white people were in the past. When they want to think of the past, they want to think of "Leave it to Beaver" and the all-American middle class family of the 50s. They don't want to think of the Benny Russel's of the past who lived in the same time period but experienced a much different life. I mean, people here literally complained that the white people were portrayed as bad in the episode. Are they trying to say that white people weren't racist in the 50s? And not all of the white people in the episode were racist anyway... All of the main crew (the other writers) weren't racist, even their boss (Odo) wasn't really racist or sexist. He did hire Benny and Kira's character. So personally, he's not racist, he's just not someone who's willing to fight the status quo.

And others are complaining that the racism wasn't subtle enough... Please, like racism is always subtle. Star Trek always went about disguising these issues with aliens and whatnot, but I'm glad they finally just went forward using a real HUMAN issue of the past (and present). You don't like that the episode dared to show that a black man's life in the 50s was hard and filled with injustice? How are you going to deal with the racism of the present if you're unwilling to acknowledge the racism of the past?

And then people are complaining about it not being a real "Star Trek" episode. There are plenty of derivative episodes out there that barely have anything to do with sci-fi. But people don't complain because at least the actor playing Quark is still dressed as a Ferengi. And this episode actually validates Star Trek and the future of the human race. Someone complained about the producers making the captain black. I'm glad they purposely made him black. There's no shame in that. People of all backgrounds should be able to have the same hopes and dreams for the future. Star Trek is about an equal future for everyone, it would be silly and hypocritical if there was never a Star Trek captain what wasn't a white man.

Lastly, I never understood why people hate on Brooks' acting. People say he "overacts," but I just see it as the kind of person Captain Sisko is. He has that kind of flare. He's not Picard, he has a sense of humor and can be very emotional (which means sad, happy, or angry). Picard rarely showed that much emotion, but that doesn't mean Sisko can't. Picard took quite a while to get worked up about things, but in a lot of episodes all it takes is a single instance for Sisko to start yelling his head off. I like that about his character though. So imo, Brooks isn't overacting, he's just being Benjamin Sisko.
Paul - Mon, Aug 26, 2013 - 11:17am (USA Central)
@nemo: I'm a white person, and I don't have any problem with DS9 tackling race in an episode. My issue is how the episode was made.

Too many of the characters are one dimensional. Dax's character, in particular, is annoying. Quark's character has no subtlety, either. The best supporting characters are O'Brien's and Jake's, and even they're not that good.

The Benny breakdown scene in this episode is really terrible. It's fine that Sisko is more emotive than Picard. It's not fine that Brooks often goes off the rails in those scenes. This isn't about writing -- it's about acting.
Elnis - Tue, Aug 27, 2013 - 11:24am (USA Central)
I guess the many discussions on this forum show that this episode of DS9 was, if nothing else, thought provoking.

In my eyes it’s an episode with many layers and messages, some more subtle than others – but all of them very well orchestrated!

As many others I was a bit disappointed that the message about racism was handled so ”in your face”. Usually, when Trek works best, I find it to be when the message is conveyed through a (more or less) subtle allegory. A lesson is often times best learned not when preached directly, but when it’s shown through mirrored example.

But then I realized … the main message in this episode is NOT about racism!
Sure, racism is the main vehicle used to power the plot and drive the point home – but, while one of the many messages of this episode, it’s NOT the main point!

To me, the main point is censorship and artistic control. Once I had that thought, all the pieces of the episode seemed to fall perfectly into place.

And what on Earth made me get that impression? Okay, bear with me here …

There are two end-of-episode speeches, one made by Benny as he has a breakdown, the other made by Sisko as he looks out the window of his office.

The point of Benny’s speech is, essentially: you cannot kill and idea! You can try to oppress it, but you can’t kill it. In context with the plot of the episode, this seems to mean that you can’t suppress the idea of freedom and of equal rights – but in the scene, Benny breaks down because he is being denied voicing his opinion, making his point. After all he’s been through, in the very end, he fails because the publisher Mr. Stone (the studio Paramount) didn’t think that his controversial message would prove popular by the readers (lower ratings). Douglas (the producers of DS9) is actually sympathetic to Benny’s (the writing crew’s) situation – but he HAS to defend the publisher’s (studio’s) decision and take the pragmatic standpoint.
In my eyes, the obvious theme driving the plot – racism – could just as well have been any other theme that made for a controversial topic in the setting the story provides. It could’ve been prisoners of war never receiving a trial (set in Guantanamo today), women being oppressed (Middle East today) or abortion (USA today) instead of racism in 1950’ies USA. The MAIN point, as voiced in Benny’s speech, would still have been the same: you can stop an opinion from being voiced, but can’t kill an idea.

Then there’s Sisko’s speech: what is real, the dream or the dreamer? Are both equally real?
This speech seems pretty out of place in relation to the main plot – if the main point of the plot was racism. How would this relate to racism?
The key to understanding what this last speech is really about, I believe, is found in the preacher that Benny encounters in the street. The preacher serves as an angel on Benny’s shoulder, telling him to do the right thing and sharing it’s wisdom in telling Benny to be cautious. It also tells him: “you are both the dream and the dreamer”.
So, according to the preacher, the dream and the dreamer is the same thing and equally important. And what is Benny? A dreamer, a writer. In my interpretation, Benny represents the writers of DS9 … and when Benny sees Sisko in the window and Sisko sees Benny in the window, they are basically the same. The fact that these two characters are “dreaming” about eachother means that the dreamer (writer) and the dream (the story) are part of eachother, dependant on eachother.
In the start if the episode, when Sisko complains about being beaten down again and again and is thinking of quitting, Sisko’s dad says: “well, you’re not irreplaceable”.
At the end, though, Sisko, seeing Benny as a reflection, comes to realize that this is EXACTLY what he is: irreplaceable.
In other words: the writers on the show aren’t just mindless machines that you can put coins into and then get to write a nice, neat package of a story that’ll please everyone. They are people with a voice, and their contribution to Trek is personal and important to them – they can’t just be replaced whenever the studio finds the stories to be to controversial to please everyone in the broad audience.

I get the distinct feeling that the writers of this episode are making a very personal statement to the studio – they are saying that it’s wrong for the studio to tell the writers what they can and can’t write, and it’s wrong for them to dictate what should and shouldn’t be included in the show. Furthermore, the writers are telling the studio that while the writers depend on the studio as employers, the studio’s product depends heavily on the work of the writers – they aren’t just dispensable drones.

Remember how the studio forced Worf on the show? Remember the rumble about the same sex kiss between Terry Farrell and Susanna Thompson in “Rejoined” – would you like to bet that this was cause for discussion between the studio and the writers?
I think it would be naïve to think that this kind of thing doesn’t happen all the time. There’s no doubt in my mind that very good ideas – and even fully written scripts – are frequently shot down because it “wouldn’t please the demographic and would cause lower ratings” – it just is what IS, you know?

I’m convinced “Far Beyond the Stars” was written to voice the frustration of the writers that they get censored and forced to make changes all the time, oppressing ideas that need to be brought up – and that the writers aren’t happy with the threats of being fired and replaced if they insist that their script is filmed in the original version.
Andrew - Tue, Aug 27, 2013 - 12:13pm (USA Central)
All of the above ideas, which are great, could have been done in a better way, without having an entire episode take place in an "it's all a dream" episode.

"Star Trek always went about disguising these issues with aliens and whatnot, but I'm glad they finally just went forward using a real HUMAN issue of the past (and present)." - Nemo

Why bother with any "star trekking" then? Just bounce around between eras and have every episode literally around a social issue. And rename the show "Moral Trek" or maybe "Morality Dream" since they aren't trekking anywhere.

This show takes place in a fictional future - use it! Even the holodeck is better than a dream episode.
ZurielSeven - Fri, Aug 30, 2013 - 6:06am (USA Central)
"Lastly, I never understood why people hate on Brooks' acting. People say he "overacts," but I just see it as the kind of person Captain Sisko is. He has that kind of flare. He's not Picard, he has a sense of humor and can be very emotional (which means sad, happy, or angry). Picard rarely showed that much emotion, but that doesn't mean Sisko can't. Picard took quite a while to get worked up about things, but in a lot of episodes all it takes is a single instance for Sisko to start yelling his head off. I like that about his character though. So imo, Brooks isn't overacting, he's just being Benjamin Sisko."

Perfectly said, Nemo - I agree. Four stars for your comment.
Stephen Belgrave - Sun, Sep 1, 2013 - 11:05pm (USA Central)
Very wow episode! I absolutely admire Avery Brooks for the passion and emotion he brings to the role of Benny Russell.
andrea - Wed, Oct 9, 2013 - 3:06pm (USA Central)
I agree with 'sybok'. This is a good episode. I am always brought to tears by Avery's performance. It does alot to make me (a white person) have some small understanding of what it may be like to be black person.

What I don't like is how the "gay agenda folks" try to hijack things. Civil rights for African Americans is not the same thing as gay rights today. You can choose to be gay. It's a lifestyle choice. You don't choose your race. You can't change races. You can change sexual preference, or choose to have no sexual orientation at all. You cannot decide to be a Native American, or a Gorn. Gorns can be gay though I suppose.

Apples and oranges folks.
Niall - Thu, Oct 10, 2013 - 5:21am (USA Central)
Andrea, when did you choose to be straight?
Andrea - Thu, Oct 10, 2013 - 1:55pm (USA Central)
Um....probably somewhere around Stardate 4345.23?

I choose to be straight again this morning with my husband in the shower. What's it to you.
Elliott - Thu, Oct 10, 2013 - 7:14pm (USA Central)
@Andrea: rhetorical question, meet Andrea, Andrea, Rhetorical question.

Ruin though it does the humour in Niall's post, allow to point out that the choice to have sex (thank you, by the by, for sharing) is not the same as having an inherent sexual attraction to a particular gender or genders. Although sexual orientation can only be demonstrated through action (unlike race), its inherence likewise does not depend upon its demonstrability. A person may be gay and have sex with the opposite gender, straight and have sex with the same gender or either (or bisexual/pansexual, etc) and have sex with no one! A gay "lifestyle" only describes one's action not his intrinsic nature. This becomes important when people lie to themselves or others by living a lifestyle that is in conflict with their nature. I don't sense that your attitude stems from purposeful bigotry, but the results are unfortunately the same.

Simply put, being gay is not a choice, gay sex is. The burden if proof is on you why a gay person should not engage in relationships which fulfil him or her as deeply as your relationship with your husband (presumably) fulfils you.
Niall - Fri, Oct 11, 2013 - 4:53am (USA Central)
Elliott, superb.

I love Jammer's reviews and his superb writing and analysis (have done since the 90s), but there are certain rather depressing comment threads on this site - like this one and the "death penalty" debate under Repentance - that from an outside perspective just seem so uniquely... American. Seriously, the tone and content of some of the pro-death penalty comments on Repentance, and the comments by people who had a "problem" (let's put it that way) with Far Beyond The Stars, are just completely alien to most people in the rest of the developed world - it's like reading something from the 17th century. When I see someone churning out stock phrases like "lifestyle choice" and "gay agenda" which are characteristic of US extreme-right discourse (you know you've lost the argument when you aren't even bothering to try and analyse something for yourself but are merely regurgitating other people's buzzwords like memes), I pretty much instantly know the commenter is American and from a certain segment of the population.

The only "gay agenda" is "not to be invisible"/"not to have their existence whitewashed".

I can honestly see why some people think they chose their own (hetero)sexuality and why gay people thus choose theirs. After all, around 95% of kids who grow up thinking "I want to marry someone of the opposite gender and have kids" will indeed turn out to be heterosexual and thus be able to do so. However, I can tell you from people I've known that there are also plenty of kids who grow up with this same heterosexual family ideal who are devastated - absolutely devastated - when they come to realise they're not attracted to the opposite gender.

And as Elliott intimates, there are plenty of men and women of homosexual orientation who - all the more so in conservative societies - decide to suppress it, "choose" heterosexuality and marry someone of the opposite gender, have kids etc. This is the worst of all scenarios, for reasons I shouldn't need to elaborate. It very often has a devastating impact on the partner, the children and the person themselves. Living a lie is hugely damaging to yourself and all around you, and suppressing one's sexuality in the long-term is near-impossible.

Finally, regarding "you can choose to have no sexual orientation at all" - that's complete rubbish, and I think the fact you state it so authoritatively and self-evidently really shows up the absolute depth of your ignorance on any and all issues relating to sexuality. Being asexual - ie. having a lack of sexual drive or interest in sex - is extremely difficult and isolating in a sexual society where the norm is for people (straight or gay) to pair up. Asexual people commonly lose partners because of their lack of interest in sex - imagine being in a relationship with a man or woman who you really connect with and who you care deeply about, only for it to fail because they have a normal or high sex drive and you have little or none. Did these asexual people "choose" to have no sex drive, no sexual orientation or both? I think it's quite clear they didn't. A lot of asexual people would choose to be sexual if they could because it makes life a lot simpler and it's much easier to connect with society, connect with partners and fit in. But they can't. Some can go through the motions, some even enjoy sex (they just don't desire it or have a drive to have it), but you can't choose to have or not to have a sexual orientation.
Niall - Fri, Oct 11, 2013 - 5:18am (USA Central)
I might also add, it's all the more depressing if not outright shocking that the anti-gay, pro-death penalty and coded anti-black sentiments (because unlike open homophobia, open racism is a societal taboo in the US now, hence people find proxies, straw men and other ways to express it) that I see too often on this site are coming from self-professed Star Trek fans. I mean, have you learned nothing from the show? I actually credit Star Trek, to a significant extent, as part of the reason I have the values I do today. My sense of right and wrong, of justice, and of not sitting on my hands, staying silent or taking the easy way out but speaking out and fighting for causes (based not on whether they benefit me, but for their own sake and that of society as a whole) has a lot to do with growing up watching Sisko, Kira, Picard, Worf et al. They are role models, in the best possible way. With the possible exception of Voyager, in which Janeway's reactions to situations were often kneejerk, emotional, unethical and inconsistent, Trek is set apart by its values. It's about responding to a problem intellectually and considering the different angles and perspectives rather than reacting emotionally without thinking something through. It's about the desire to understand. And it's this exactly desire to understand so integral to the series that I'm not seeing in a lot of the wilfully ignorant comments in threads such as this one and the Repentance thread.

If you can sit through hundreds of episodes of Trek and come out pro-death penalty, anti-gay, and hate episodes like Far Beyond The Stars and Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang where race is a theme - in some cases passionately, judging by the sheer volume and vehemency of comments on this thread - you've been watching Star Trek wrong. Trek is about listening to others, thinking things through in a considered manner that brings in perspectives other than your own, and the desire to understand.
Jo Jo Meastro - Fri, Oct 11, 2013 - 7:56am (USA Central)
I've been biting my tongue for a while on this quite depressing debate, I normally don't wish to get involved. But to the comments that are reeking of ignorance and intolerance, all I've got to say is; some people are gay, get over it. As a hetrosexual guy I despise any intolerance in any form it takes. Forget about agendas. The only intolerance I support is against, well, intolerance!

If somebody is doing no harm then why not let them be happy and free to be themselves, exactly the same as everyone else? If it makes you uncomfortable, then that is your problem. Live and let live and judge people based on who they are as an individual.

Skin colour, sexual orientation, religion, background etc etc should all be about as important as whether you are right handed or left. The world would that little bit happier and better off if we all just let go of stupid prejudices.
Jo Jo Meastro - Fri, Oct 11, 2013 - 7:57am (USA Central)
As to this episode, it has always been one of my all-time favourites :).
kevin - Sat, Oct 12, 2013 - 10:20pm (USA Central)
Awesome episode, and very brave. Star trek has a long history of tackling the issue of racism, but usually through alien cultures. Removing that layer clearly makes some people uncomfortable, which had to be point. It's important to remember how recently these racist feelings were out in the open, and that they didn't just disappear. Clearly, intolerance is still alive in one form or another.
Kotas - Wed, Oct 30, 2013 - 10:20pm (USA Central)

An interesting episode to be sure, but not a home run.

7/10
Trekker - Fri, Mar 14, 2014 - 6:43pm (USA Central)
An episode that is historic, because for the first time in Science Fiction on TV, we are referencing our historical bigotry outright without parallels or allegory. This episode is not for everyone; I think it's a compelling storyline, but I am neither "Black" or "White", so my view is alien to the dynamic as an observer watching a tragic historical reality.

Another reason why I liked this was that Colm Meaney was definitely a parody of Asimov and his writings on robots :P (Well done by the way)

The racism in the story is poignant, but it adds a deeper layer of complexity, if they had done one of the ending for DS9 with it in mind (according to rumors, one of the scripts in the 90's was that at the end of "What you leave behind", they would shut down the set, then would phase off to an aged Benny Russell holding a script, Deep Space Nine. It would have been a beautiful note to give hope to Benny's dream of equality). Too bad the producers did not allow that ending.

Still a good episodde,

9/10
Niall - Sun, Mar 16, 2014 - 5:27am (USA Central)
I'd have loved that ending too.
Andy's Friend - Sun, Mar 16, 2014 - 7:01am (USA Central)
@Trekker: I appreciate the sentiment of that ending. But I guess that for the vast majority of the viewers of a series spanning seven seasons, a finale like that would feel very anticlimactic when aired. At a series finale, you normally don't want to break the illusion. And what if the viewer just happened to have missed this episode? That ending then wouldn't make any sense at all. Still, I appreciate the idea - as an idea. The episode itself, of course, is one of Trek's very finest. How on Earth could you deduct one of your ten stars from it? ;)
Nick P. - Fri, Apr 18, 2014 - 3:05pm (USA Central)
I did not love this episode. It was alright and it was really cool seeing everyone out of make up, Dukat and Nog in particular. I quite liked the first half of the episode when I thought it was going to be a light period piece, but than the "Racism=Bad" chanting started, OMG, can we ever get past this as a culture? I agree with some of the poster above who said that star trek works best in allegory, I did not like at ALL when this became "12 Years a slave" light.... I disagree on one major point with Jammer also, it is true this is the first direct reference to Brooks being black, but ever since "Past Tense" it has certainly been right there under the surface waiting for this terrible episode to happen.

Now, I have never been a fan of the "issue" episodes, I have stated many times I love Sci-Fi for the Sci-Fi, not for BS political reasons, I don't need over-acting Avery Brooks to tell me racism is bad, or stupid face painting in TOS for that matter, or boring TNG season 7 to know polluting is bad. I look forward to getting back to real science fiction.
Ric - Mon, Apr 21, 2014 - 3:40am (USA Central)
@Nick P. It's fine enough that you have such preference, but then Trek certainly is usually not real sci-fi according to your standards. Fortunatelly, I should say.
Variel - Sun, May 4, 2014 - 3:29pm (USA Central)
Wow...I knew that this episode would happen eventually. Star Trek has a legacy of talking about the issues from a subtle, detached and light-handed way, but this was so heavy handed and in-your-face that I almost stopped watching it.

I don't care to have present day political garbage thrown in my face by a sci-fi show, so I must agree with Nick P. to an extent.

Star Trek does contain political, societal, and humanitarian messages, but they are delivered with more class and intrigue than whatever this garbage is.

So far, worst episode of DS9.
ShastOne - Tue, May 6, 2014 - 6:05pm (USA Central)
The race issue was heavy-handed here because the episode was from the perspective of a black man in the 1950's. Race was laid on thick here because it was laid on thick then. I've seen a lot of self-righteous, preachy works when it comes to race, and to be honest, I'm usually on the other side of the fence with contemporary racial issues (that racism still exists, but is often too eagerly made an accusation). But this episode is not 2010's, it's 1950's, when it really was like this, and I think this one felt pretty real to me.

Considering that, and all the things Bennie had to deal with, I didn't think Avery Brooks was overacting -- Bennie's situation was just that soul-crushing. In fact, I thought Brooks' acting sporadically sucked the first season (he slips in and out of an African accent in the first episode -- lol wut?), but I have to say I've grown accustomed to him and don't think he overacts, because I interpret Sisko as someone with dramatic mannerisms and thus it's part of the character to me.

Anyway, although, yes, this episode doesn't seem relevant to the show, from Bennie/Sisko's personal struggles to breaking the fourth wall at the end, it did what my favorite Star Trek episodes do: made me think.
Vylora - Wed, May 7, 2014 - 9:30pm (USA Central)
I like the idea of Sisko, after contemplating stepping down from his post, beginning to receive visions from the Prophets involving the plight of Benny Russell. Showing Sisko that even within an environment of despair and seeming hopelessness, the struggle to fight for the right ideals is a heroic albeit painful one. The fact that the visions are also obviously utilized as social commentary just enhances the story.

Absolutely brilliant episode on all levels.

4 stars.
Latex Zebra - Wed, Jul 2, 2014 - 11:03am (USA Central)
For all those complaining about Brooks overacting in this.

Read the script. Seems to me like he played it as it on the page.

www.st-minutiae.com/academy/literature329/538.txt
Jon - Mon, Aug 4, 2014 - 10:06pm (USA Central)
Now I understand why the directors never really give Brooks much of an emotional role. He just doesn't have the training.
Jon - Mon, Aug 4, 2014 - 10:17pm (USA Central)
One more thing...this just proved a few more things that I have thought about this cast. Alaimo is probably the best actor in the series followed by Grodénchik. They should be ashamed they ever hired Farrell.

The writers in season 5-6 have really been awesome until this episode. Does this make me a racist ?

Alkar555 - Fri, Aug 15, 2014 - 6:42am (USA Central)
It often seems to me that people who rate this episode rate not this piece of fiction, but their support for black people's struggle for equal rights. Meanwhile, while I oppose racism in all manifestations, I think that this episode was not a very good one. It just makes no sense and purpose and is not connected to the main storyline at all.
Baron Samedi - Fri, Aug 15, 2014 - 11:47am (USA Central)
One of my favorite episodes of the show, maybe third after "Duet" and "In the Pale Moonlight". Race is, of course, a big theme in it, and I appreciated that the episode didn't tack on a sugurcoated, self-congratulatory ending where good triumphed over evil racism. I interpreted the visions as being inspired by the Prophets to prevent Sisko from giving up after learning of the death of his friend, as if seeing Bennie refuse to give up on his dream in the face of true defeat would encourage Sisko not to resign from Starfleet before his purpose as Emmissary was fulfilled. But I'm also fine with there being a certain ambiguity about it. The episode reminded me a little bit of "Maelstrom" from BSG, which, like Ronald D. Moore's work here, was one of the few episodes from that series to successfully integrate the supernatural elements of show's universe into its story. The recreation of the 1950's was also quite successful and more convincing than what television budgets can typically afford for period pieces. The whole cast acted superbly, many in their only appearances without makeup. I loved the dreamlike atmosphere, especially when Sisko was dancing with Kassidy. And the implication at the end that maybe DS9 is just a part of Bennie's imagination is a strangely powerful and glorious one, given the ambiguous yet hopefuly way that it is presented. Anyway, it's pretty pathetic seeing so many commentators here getting all butt-hurt about the racial elements of the story, and their complaints say a lot more about them than the show or, for that matter, the world we live in that produced it. DS9 could have stayed away or dealt with these issues through allegory, but I admire the DS9 writers for tackling them head-on. At the same time, I didn't think this episode was too blunt or preachy at all. Even if we believe that racism has truly vanquished from the Federation, it is a huge part of Sisko's family's past and his present identity. I respect that for many, the purpose of Science Fiction is to imagine ourselves in a world detached from our own where issues like racism don't exist - that was, after all, one of the positive attributes of Bennie's original story. But we also can't simply ignore the reality that we live in for the sake of escapism - or at least, I don't think we should indict a science fiction show for choosing to deal with reality. Knowing how many black youths are raised by single parents in America today (and at the time of DS9's original run) had a big effect on how moved I was by "The Visitor" and the importance it placed on the relationship between Jake and his father. Avery Brooks was at his finest here, too. A truly magnificent work of fiction, bravo.
Elliott - Fri, Aug 15, 2014 - 1:07pm (USA Central)
@Baron Samedi :

I too love this episode. It's my favourite of the series. But I thought part of what made it brilliant was that they *did* use an allegory, in classic Star Trek fashion, but "in reverse." The Benny Russel story is an allegory for Ben Sisko. So the idea of racism is, quite interestingly, used to give us a moral about Science Fiction. We aren't given a sci-fi situation that is meant to open our eyes to a modern social issue, we're given a pre-modern social issue to open our eyes to the power of science fiction, and Star Trek in particular.

"The episode reminded me a little bit of "Maelstrom" from BSG, which, like Ronald D. Moore's work here, was one of the few episodes from that series to successfully integrate the supernatural elements of show's universe into its story."

In full agreement here, although I think BSG succeeded in this regard more often than DS9.

"Knowing how many black youths are raised by single parents in America today (and at the time of DS9's original run) had a big effect on how moved I was by "The Visitor" and the importance it placed on the relationship between Jake and his father."

I have to say, that never occurred to me. I'll have to bear this in mind next time I watch the episode.
Robert - Fri, Aug 15, 2014 - 1:19pm (USA Central)
@Elliott - I really LIKE your interpretation of this episode, but I don't totally see it. Can you connect the dots for me as to have this pre-modern social issue story's moral helped Ben Sisko? It, to me, is the single failing that I don't really get entirely how the vision solved his initial problem (whereas him overcoming the Pagh Wraith's vision in the S7 opener worked really well for me in the context of the 24th century story). If I could get past that it'd be 4 stars for me. There are 1 or 2 episodes I've seen differently based on your thoughts behind them, so if you don't mind giving this a whirl I'd appreciate it.
Yanks - Mon, Aug 18, 2014 - 9:55pm (USA Central)
Wow. I can't believe I read all these colorful comments. :-)

Elnis - Tue, Aug 27, 2013 - 11:24am (USA Central), very VERY interesting post. I can see those writers/producers/network meetings, ideas being suppressed, stories dropped etc. Especially WRT DS9 as many thought it was not "trek" (no Enterprise, etc)

Jammer, you made a comment about Avery's acting:

"I'll admit that I think Avery Brooks may have overacted his payoff scene a tad more than he needed to. It seemed a little uneasy upon first viewing. But when I watched it again, it seemed to work better."

I'd say that sums it up for me. I've been vocal here about my opinion of Avery's acting. Bluntly it isn't very good at times, cringe worthy - but it IS Avery and each time I watch this great show, I grow to accept Avery for what he is. My convention experience in 2010 helps as well. I got to see Avery just being himself and I can see allot of him in Sisko. That doesn't mean his acting gets any better, but it doesn't bother me as much as it once did.

So, on to this episode.

I enjoyed seeing all the actors out of their normal make-up. It was fun picking them all out. JohnG is most correct, not including Louise Fletcher in the ambulance was a sin :-) It was also a shame we didn't get Andrew Robinson and Max Grodénchik.

I think this episode would have been much better had it related to the DS9 story more. I can't see Benny breaking as any motivation to Sisko and his current self-doubt. The other "link" in Season 7's episode 'Shadows And Symbols' makes even less sense to me. Why can't Sisko open the Orb without Benny writing it? If the prophets gave Sisko this dream of Benny, and Sisko's destiny is to save the prophets, why would this dream crop up and keep him from fulfilling his destiny? Maybe I'm missing something.

As we have it, it is a "white males were bad" episode and that's not very comfortable for those that are white males and not racist. I'm not saying that this didn't happen in the 50's, it certainly did. I'm also not saying there aren't still problems today, there are. But as some have said, Kay is just kind of a forgotten afterthought and women suffered the same problems in the workforce. This might have been more effective if it addressed those issues more equally in the context of the story. Maybe work in some sort of Kay/Kira allegory or something that helps Sisko regain confidence in him.

Even after watching this episode multiple times, I don't see how the preacher's (Joe Sisko) "preaching" helps Benny at all. He's more mystical than anything else. So Joe goes from "I see. No one is indispensable, son. Not even you. Whatever decision you make, I'll support." to his unhelpful preaching in the dream, to "I have fought the good fight. I have finished the course. I have kept the faith." I'm not clear on how this all works together.

So I'll go 3 stars on this one. I think it fell short of its lofty goals.
Robert - Tue, Aug 19, 2014 - 11:06am (USA Central)
"I think this episode would have been much better had it related to the DS9 story more. I can't see Benny breaking as any motivation to Sisko and his current self-doubt. The other "link" in Season 7's episode 'Shadows And Symbols' makes even less sense to me. Why can't Sisko open the Orb without Benny writing it? If the prophets gave Sisko this dream of Benny, and Sisko's destiny is to save the prophets, why would this dream crop up and keep him from fulfilling his destiny? Maybe I'm missing something. "

The prophets are sealed off when he gets that vision. It's from the Pagh Wraiths trying to convince him to abandon his role as the emissary.
Yanks - Tue, Aug 19, 2014 - 11:24am (USA Central)
Robert,

OK, lets say that is true. You are saying the Pagh Wraiths gave Sisko this dream? They wanted Benny in the physic ward? Seems a huge stretch to me.
Robert - Tue, Aug 19, 2014 - 12:23pm (USA Central)
The Prophets gave him the first dream and the Pagh Wraiths the second one.

From Memory Alpha

"The Benny Russell vision in this episode is sent to Sisko by the Pah-wraiths to divert him from his efforts to reopen the Wormhole; the previous vision, as seen in the episode "Far Beyond the Stars" was sent to him by the Prophets to help him get over the death of a close friend (Quentin Swofford). "

I actually felt the second vision worked MUCH better than the first in the context of the DS9 story. Trying to get Benny to give up his dream with promises of a new happier life if he just gave up was a really interesting dark twisted version of the original vision (which was clearly meant to make him NOT give up). I've never been 100% clear on how the first vision accomplished that, but I LOVE the Pagh Wraith's twisted version in S7.
Yanks - Tue, Aug 19, 2014 - 2:06pm (USA Central)
Man, do we ever see Benny in the physic ward in 'Far Beyond the Stars'?

Gonna have to do some digging later.

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