• Far Beyond The Stars ...



    Above: Avery Brooks as 'Capt. Benjamin Sisko ala Benny Russell
    Deep Space 9 (Star Trek TV Series 1993-1999)
    Season 6, Episode 13


    After I watched this episode again recently, it set me thinking about a lot of things that I not only saw with this particular version of Star Trek, but science fiction as a whole. The episode 'Far Beyond the Stars' is easily the high-water mark for this entire show, despite the fact that it was completely separate from the main and ongoing story-line of the show. This episode actually stands by itself much like 'Inner Light' does with Next Generation and 'City on The Edge of Forever' with the Original Series.

    The main thought, and I won't even bother to say premise, is that the ever lingering question that plagued this show and made things abrasive for many of the cast members was openly and very adroitly addressed here.

    The question being: Can a show have a black Captain, or a black hero as the driving force?'

    Avery Brooks as Captain Benjamin Sisko suffered under this plague the entire time that the show ran. While many think that Hollywood is colorblind, it just isn't the case. Tensions from this show probably derailed much of what was going on with Star Trek in the nineties and quite possibly damaged the franchise for a long time to come, much like a butterfly effect. I'm sure the producers would disagree. Of course they would. I'm not saying that it was the fault of Avery Brooks or because they cast a black Captian and that it was a bad idea. Not at all. On the contrary.

    The executives in charge of DS9, as well as the head writers were openly hostile towards Brooks and even through the seven years the show ran, the problems continued and never seemed to fade until finally, the show ended. Star Trek lore is rife with information about the relationships between Avery Brooks, Brannon Braga and Steven Behr. Let's just say it mirrors what Albert R. Broccoli once said about Sean Connery as James Bond when they were originally trying to get Carey Grant: 'He's not exactly what I was looking for'.

    This episode speaks to this tension, in my opinion, more than anything. Not being a trekkie without inside knowledge doesn't diminish it either. Benjamin Sisko is 'Benny', stuck as a black science-fiction writer in 1950's America, during Jim Crow, Segregation and probably just before the bulk of the civil rights movement and dreaming of a better future for all of us, not just himself. The episode in this context is bleak and has the same sinister feeling that most of the DS9 episodes had, but deals directly with every day issues. It was a stroke of genius to have a science fiction show set 200 years in the future deal with an issue that is apparently 50 years in our past, but still relevant and eye-opening. Should this episode have won a Hugo Award? Yes. Without any doubt in the world. In 1998, when this episode and aired and would have been a contender, it never even got a mention. The Hugo in 1998 went to the film 'Contact'. Just shameful. I wonder if it had anything to do with 'a Black Captain'?

    The struggle Benny is going through in this, shows the pain that all writers must endure on some level, some more than others. Charles Bukowski, suffered much like our good friend Benny and once stated: 'The Gods have really put a shield on me'. I've truncated that quote for reasons that are obvious to anyone that has read Bukowski. I fall apart every time I watch this episode because Avery Brooks depiction of the frustrated writer, caged in like a parakeet, is very true and very well-acted. It's painful to watch, not because of the intensity that he's going through on-screen, but because every word and gesture he emits is more than true. You can feel on some deeper level that you're seeing the events of perhaps thousands of peoples lives. It takes you all the way back to another question: 'Does the caged bird still sing?'

    His soliloquy of 'you cannot destroy an idea' is powerful and so in the face of everybody that has never faced a day like this, a moment like this, a life like this.

    I don't want to recap the entire episode as many folks have already done that. Watch the episode if you haven't seen it, you're really are missing out if you haven't. If it's been awhile revisit it, it's honestly Star Trek's finest hour, bar none.

    This episode 'Far Beyond The Stars' is from Season 6 and is Episode 13. It premiered February 11th, 1998.


    4 comments:

    1. Good one, Steffan.

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    2. Thanks ... this review/rant festered within me for almost a decade. I'm sure a lot of folks we're more than upset that Avery Brooks never was offered an ST film. It would've been cool. Now that Paramount has blown it big-time, too much time has passed and we'll probably never see his return.

      What a shame and what a disgrace, to boot.

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    3. I'll bet Captain Benjamin Sisko would have appreciated having Marcus on his crew.

      Although I would not think of casting Avery Brooks as Marcus in the movie adaptation of "Greyhound", it seems a novel he might well enjoy. It would seem worth your while to send it to him.

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    4. I'm sure he's got enough to do other than read my fiction.

      But I always imagined that he would play Monty in any adaptation.

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