Via Unimatrix Eight
When I find myself in times of trouble
Captain Sisko comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom,
Beets are a very misunderstood vegetable
Via ~Kingdom Burning Down~Douglas: Here, write me a novella based on this picture. I’ll print it in next month’s issue. You do a good job, you might even get the cover.
Benny: What about my story?
Douglas: Look. The way I see it, you can either burn it, or stick it in a drawer for the next 50 years, or however long it takes the human race to become color-blind.
Benny: I want people to read it now!
Douglas: Fine! You want me to print it? Make the captain white!
Benny: That’s not what I wrote!
Douglas: It’s your call.Of all of the episodes of Star Trek that have addressed issues of social justice, no episode of any incarnation did so more directly than “Far Beyond the Stars.” It tackles, head-on, in specific terms, the American history of racism and representation in media, particularly sci-fi. It addresses the lives of various black people in the 1950s, from laborers to hustlers to athletes to professionals, effectively tearing down the idea that anyone, even those who are professional successes, can fully escape the crushing weight of societal, institutional racism. It explores the importance of placing people of color front and center in media, as leaders, as heroes, and how truly damaging the idea of whitewashing a character or excluding stories which feature a person of color as the central character can be. And in an amazing, meta sort of way, the episode stands as a defense of Star Trek as a cultural institution that takes bold steps to move forward in media. At the end, when Sisko says that maybe he isn’t real, that maybe his vision-sequence alter ego Benny Russell is the real one, and that he and everyone on Deep Space Nine is the actual dream, it’s a moment that almost breaks the fourth wall, because at the end, the lives of viewers fit more into Benny Russell’s world than Benjamin Sisko’s.Summary: I won’t get into details here. The details aren’t important. Long story short: Sisko gets a detailed vision from the Prophets, in which he is Benny Russell, American science fiction writer in the 1950s, who comes up with an amazing story about a space station called Deep Space Nine, with Captain Benjamin Sisko, a black man. His coworkers at the sci-fi monthly magazine where he works love the story, but unfortunately, his boss does not. He rejects the story, telling Benny that he won’t print it unless he makes Sisko white, claiming that readers won’t believe a black man in charge. Benny refuses, and instead of writing something else as his boss wants, he writes sequels to the “unprintable” story. A workplace debate after he writes the sequels breaks out, and a compromise is agreed upon: Benny can keep his black captain, as long as the story is revealed to be just a “dream,” not a reality, and the plot twist at the end is that it’s all a fantasy of someone longing for a more hopeful future. Benny’s boss agrees, but sadly, his boss’s boss does not, and the story is rejected outright, which triggers a breakdown for Benny, who has been struggling recently because of being beaten senseless by the police, and is taken away on a stretcher. As soon as he gets into the ambulance, the vision ends, and Sisko is left to ponder the meaning of it all.Throughout the narrative are vivid depictions of the lives of Benny and others in his community, and the constant, persistent racism that hampers their existence. All of the characters in Benny’s vision are characters from DS9, out of make-up and given similar alter egos.From Memory-Alpha:
- Of the period in which this episode is set, director Avery Brooks comments “The people we saw in that office each had a very specific identity. I wanted to see who those people were, in order to investigate one of the most oppressive times of the twentieth century. They were living with McCarthyism and the atomic bomb and the Red Scare. I mean, that was a very interesting period.” (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- In terms of why Brooks was chosen to direct this episode, Steve Oster explains, “Ira Steven Behr and I discussed the possibility of Avery directing, knowing that he was going to be in every frame of film. We don’t like that combination, because it’s very hard to direct yourself. However, this was a story about racism and prejudice and we felt very strongly that it would be wrong if it came from a bunch of people who didn’t necessarily know about that experience. We knew that it was imperative to the story and imperative to the integrity of television for it to be done right.” (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- Of the inherent theme of racism in the episode, Brooks comments, “If we had changed the people’s clothes, this story could be about right now. What’s insidious about racism is that it is unconscious. Even among these very bright and enlightened characters – a group that includes a woman writer who has to use a man’s name to get her work published, and who is married to a brown man with a British accent in 1953 – it’s perfectly reasonable to coexist with someone like Pabst. It’s in the culture, it’s the way people think. So that was the approach we took. I never talked about racism. I just showed how these intelligent people think, and it all came out of them.” (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- Armin Shimerman makes a similar comment about the dual existence of racism in the period of the episode and in society of today; “Star Trek at its best, deals with social issues, and though you could say, ‘Well, that was prejudice in the fifties,’ the truth of the matter is, here we are in the twenty-first century, and it’s still there, and that’s what we have to be reminded by, and that’s what that episode does terrifically well.” (Mission Inquiry: Far Beyond the Stars, DS9 Season 6 DVD special features)
- This episode is Avery Brooks’ personal favorite, and was his episode of choice for the Star Trek: Fan Collective - Captain’s Log collection. Brooks has also stated, “I’d have to say, it was the most important moment for me in the entire seven years.” (Mission Inquiry: Far Beyond the Stars, DS9 Season 6 DVD special features)
- Ronald D. Moore said, “In my humble opinion, I think it’s one of the best episodes in the entire franchise. (And I wish I was the one who wrote it!) Ira & Hans have written a true classic and when this show is long gone, I hope that people will still remember this one.”
Character + Color: Benjamin Sisko in black & white :: requested by shuumatsuheroine
““That may be the most important thing to understand about humans. It is the unknown that defines our existence. We are constantly searching, not just for answers to our questions, but for new questions. We are explorers. We explore our lives day by day, and we explore the galaxy, trying to expand the boundaries of our knowledge. And that is why I am here. Not to conquer you with weapons, or with ideas. But to coexist…and learn.”