“Far Beyond the Stars” is the 13th episode of season 6 of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and today is the 20th anniversary of the original airdate. So I figured I’d write a little bit about it, as it is one of the finest hours of TV that Star Trek as a franchise has produced.
During a particularly stressful period in the ongoing Dominion War (I’m not gonna summarize that previous couple seasons, don’t worry), Captain Sisko (Avery Brooks, who also directed this episode) begins seeing people dressed in various 1950s style clothing on the station and eventually passes out in his quarters waking up in sickbay with Dr. Bashir examining him. During this examination though, Sisko slips entirely into a vision and finds himself in 1950s New York City as Benny Russell, writer for a science fiction magazine called Incredible Tales (with the rest of the show’s cast also playing significant roles in this time period as other characters).
At work Benny takes a drawing (the same one you see in the header) which inspires him to write a new story. About Captain Benjamin Sisko of the station Deep Space 9. He brings it into work where the story is made with rapturous applause from his coworkers…but his editor tells him that it will never be printed. Not as long as the hero of his story is a black man, telling Benny “Look, the way I see it, you can either burn it or stick it in a drawer for the next fifty years or however long it takes the human race to become colorblind.” Benny fights this, at great personal cost, throughout the episode (in many ways it is a heartbreaking episode, and Avery Brooks is terrific in it, one of his best hours on the show).
Racism is an important theme in this episode, Benny’s experiences professionally and personally in 1950’s New York are familiar images from history. Both past and recent history. Brooks was quoted as saying “If we had changed the people’s clothes, this story could be about right now.” Costar Armin Shimerman on the episode: “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.”
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is streaming in its entirety on Netflix (and for my money, is my absolute favorite Trek series) and “Far Beyond the Stars” is somewhat removed enough from the main story arc of the season that I think a casual viewer could watch it and appreciate it. Or I’ve just watched it enough to think that.
All right go and do your shitposting.
PS: Also in a fun bit of trivia, this is the only time over the course of close to 300 hours of Star Trek that Michael Dorn spends the majority of an episode without makeup on.