Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Season 6, Episode 13 – “Far Beyond the Stars” – The Ongoing Struggle For Justice and Equality

Ds9 Far Beyond the Stars

      “Far Beyond the Stars” is a masterpiece on so many levels and an episode where the trials and struggles of the 1960’s reveal themselves to sadly be just as true today. We are so far from the world of “Deep Space Nine” in not just our television but our science fiction books too, even if things have improved in some ways. This is an episode that has such a powerful point with some of the best writing and acting to come out of this series. The fact that Avery Brooks (Captain Sisko) was also the director also lends more power to it when you look how focused on justice so much of Avery Brooks’s passion has gone towards post “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.” On a final note before I get into the details, it is also a very meta and philosophical episode of Trek.

      “Far Beyond the Stars” was as stated above, directed by Avery Brooks with the teleplay by Ira Steven Behr and Hans Beimler with story by Marc Scott Zicree.

     The story begins with Captain Sisko’s Father Joseph Sisko visiting the station as Ben is rethinking what difference he is actually making, as his friend died in a routine patrol of the Cardassian Border and the Dominion War looks as if it has no sign of ending. His father tells him he should think on it as he begins seeing people from the 1960’s before he is transported into the world of Benny, an African American Science Fiction Writer during the 1960’s where his story unfolds and realities keep colliding as they try to find out what’s going on “Deep Space Nine” as he faces the reality of the past in the life of Benny.

The Pros: Benny’s World – I love that they set in the 60’s and unlike the “Mad Men” version of the 60’s we get to see the lives of the middle class, the poor and people who aren’t of European descent. The world doesn’t pull any punches with every character being flawed and discrimination being widespread and enforced by the law. I’ll get into more of the details when I explore the characters though.

The Soundtrack – There is so much great jazz in this episode and so often the episode knows when to be silent, it isn’t standard recycled music and that really made the episode just that much stronger in the presentation and story.

The Characters – I’m only referring to the characters of Benny’s world in this instance since the only people really explored in Captain Sisko’s time are himself and his father. The characters of Benny’s world (played by the same actors who make salutes to their counterparts in personality and actions) are wonderful. They are distinct while still having the inspiration of “Deep Space Nine” (or vise versa as I’ll go into later).

Willie Hawkins – Michael Dorn plays the baseball player who shows us that it doesn’t matter if you are star athlete, housing ordinances are still just that and even though some whites want to see you play they don’t want you around (most housing ordinances weren’t ended until the 90’s and 80’s even). His way of dealing with it is flirting with everyone. His character is very confident and it’s fun to see. He knows he’s a star and Dorn does it very well.

Jimmy – Jimmy is a young African-american guy and friends with Benny and a bit of a hustler. The day he gets the opportunity for wealth the detectives Burt and Kevin murder him. They say it was for breaking into a car but based of their reaction of beating up Benny for even asking questions I sincerely doubt that. R.I.P. Jimmy. Sad thing is this still happens today. This scene is given more power given the actor plays Jake Sisko…Benjamin Sisko’s son in the series as a whole.

Cassie – Played by the actress who plays Captain Sisko’s wife Kasidy she is great in this as the woman who accepts discrimination (and Willie’s creeping) and wants to build a life that she feels is practical with Benny. To this end she’s working at owning the restaurant she works at and trying to get Benny to see it too. She’s super supportive of him and his writing though and takes care of him after the cops beat him up.

Kay Eaton – Kay is played by Nana Visitor who plays Major Kira and she is an author who writes under a name K.C. so people will think she is man. She is aware of the prejudice and inequality around her and can relate to Benny in that way. She’s more resigned than Benny though and doesn’t fight Pabst over the injustice of the Editors.

Herbert Rossoff – Rosoff played by Shimerman (who plays Quark) is the one person always clashing with Pabst (played by Rene who plays Odo) and is most vocal against the injustice of Benny’s story not being published and the editors shutting down the magazine for a month because of Benny’s black protagonist.

Douglas Pabst – Played by the actor who plays Odo, like Odo Pabst is all about the rules, even if they are unjust. He doesn’t care about injustice he cares about money and fires Benny when the Publishers choose not to run the stories. He isn’t even well intentioned he is all about the rules, just like Odo. He is the status quo and those who do nothing.

Benny Russell – Benny Russell is the one dreaming “Deep Space Nine” and the one being dreamed by Captain Sisko. He has victories like when Pabst accepts the story of “Deep Space Nine” being a dream. He is inspired by Delaney a gay African American writer whose story was rejected because his protagonist was mixed race. Benny the character is different in that he is working to be married with Cassie but his role becomes bigger after “The Preacher” reminds him of his role as a a symbol of the future and justice and making the story of “Captain Sisko” real by telling the story. This ends with him being put in a hospital though as he stands up to Pabst and cries out to be recognized as a human being.

Joseph Sisko – Joseph reminds his son Ben of how important it is to fight, which makes sense that he’d be the Preacher in Ben’s dream of Benny as he is calling Captain Sisko back to the struggle and making sure a just world remains or can come about…that life is bigger than those he has lost and himself.

Captain Sisko – Sisko is mourning the loss of his friend but after he dreams of Benny and realizes that Benny could have dreamed one another into reality realizes how important it is to fight and struggle against injustice, be it discrimination or the tyranny of the Dominion.

Honorary Mentions – Alamo (Dukat) and Combs (Weyoun) play corrupt detectives who are the ones responsible for killing Jimmy…and Meaney played a bumbling writer who liked robots. They weren’t bad characters but they weren’t explored some of the other characters were, which is why I’m giving them honorary mentions.

Easter Eggs – The Magazine they are writing for has “Star Trek: The Original Series” stories in it’s pages. Ranging from “The Cage” to “Where no One has Gone Before.” It’s a really cool salute to the past early science fiction as well as the ripple “Star Trek” created by it’s existence as a show during this time period.

The Meta Moments – The whole idea of “Deep Space Nine” all existing in the mind of Benny is very meta as “Deep Space Nine” existed in the writers who wrote the show. Benny is almost a stand in for them and the story they all sought to tell.

The Message – There are quite a few messages in this that stands out. The dreams of the present can become the dreams of the future and the dreams of the past remind us of what we still need and can accomplish. There is also the fact that injustice must be fought if anything is ever going to change and the power of story and how ideas can never die.

Representation and racism in the Past and Present – Delaney was an African-American Gay Black Science Fiction writer whose story was rejected by his racist publisher. Here is a great article that explores it and the lack of representation of people of color today: http://www.newrepublic.com/article/121554/2015-hugo-awards-and-history-science-fiction-culture-wars

This article shows that Delaney’s story is still true in many ways today and it is certainly true on television and other forms media. Now I don’t know how much talking about it changes it, but sometimes it is the stories that do. Look at the influence “Star Trek” has had on the culture and with that the same potential other science fiction shows can have. What is the future we want to create?

The Potential Future – There will always be problems I think, maybe and hopefully not the same ones even if echoes of those same problems remain…but it is in our power to change them, for each generation to make those changes in how they live, the laws they make and how they and we treat our fellow human beings. I don’t know if it will ever happen, but I hope for the future that “Deep Space Nine” represents.

Final Score: 10 / 10. One of the greatest stories to ever come out of “Star Trek” and still relevant to this day.

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In Bruges (2008): A Tragic Quest for Redemption

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“In Bruges” was a film that was recommended to me by a friend, and I got to say it didn’t disappoint. I’ll get into what I liked and disliked about in the assessment, but for now this is one of the most beautiful films in regards to cinematography.

“In Bruges” was directed and written by Martin McDonagh and produced by Graham Broadbent and Peter Czernin.

The story is that of hitmen. Two hitmen named Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) are sent to Bruges by their boss Harry Waters (Ralph Fiennes) after Ray accidentally kills a kid during a hit job. From here the story unfolds as Ray wrestles with his guilt and the world around him unfolds.

Here as my assessment of the film:

The Pros: The Cinematography – Visually, this is a stunning movie. The use of fog and light are used to capture how grey the characters are morally and emotionally through the film, and even ties to the end with the mystery of what finally happened.

The Music – The music is also reflective it shows us the dilemmas Ray faces as he considers taking his own life, and Ken has when Harry orders the hit. It is a stunning soundtrack and one I plan to use for writing in the future. Carter Burwell’s use of the piano made this soundtrack a masterpiece.

Chloe – Chloe is Ray’s love interest and the one showing him a reason to live as she’s been in deep with gangs and drugs herself and they help give each other direction and higher purpose beyond themselves. As her ex-boyfriend is a thief. She’s a very beautiful, kind and complex character. Poesy is fantastic in the role.

Jimmy – Is a drug addict Dwarf from the United States, who is in Bruges as part of a film. He has racist tendencies and thinks there will be a race war between whites and everyone else. When he is called on it by Ken who had a black wife who was murdered by a white man he changes his tune. He blames his racism later on the cocaine, but he seems to have learned from Ken. Ken really is the moral center of the film. Jordan Prentice is a great actor and I want to see him in more films.

Ken – Ken is the moral core of the film. While Ray reacts and tries to escape from his actions, Ken is always facing them. We see this in his love of history as he is the one taking in the sights and history of Bruges and really appreciating the place. He owes a lot to Harry the mob boss as Harry avenged his wife (in a deleted Harry played by Matt Smith does it) so you get the life debt he owes and why he doesn’t hold Harry killing him against him and uses the last of his will to give Ray a gun and warn him that Harry is in town. At one point he is about to kill Ray when Ray is about to kill himself so he changes his mind, saves Ray and gets him out of town. It is here that he chooses to make the right choice rather than stay a killer, which leads to why Harry tries to kill him later. Brendon Gleeson is wonderful in this role.

Harry Waters – This guy is the clear set moral mob boss. “You don’t kill kids.” Is his philosophy in regards to when he does hits, it doesn’t matter if it’s accidental or not, the person who does it will pay, even if it is him. We see the reasons why since he has a family and children of his own and this sets the stage of him killing himself after he accidentally kills a kid into perspective. He’s a character true to his word. Ralph Feinnes shows is acting depth and range again with this character.

Ray – Colin Farrell shows why he won an award for this film…from his hate of Bruges, love of Chloe, nihilistic escapism and confronting his guilt when he almost takes his life in the park while watching kids play. We never know if he dies at the end, we just know he doesn’t want to die in Bruges. He fucking hates Bruges and describes it as being in Hell for an eternity if he dies here. We’re left wondering if he’ll ever find redemption as so far he’s either been running or lost in guilt. This theme pervades the film. 

Cons: The First Third – The first third of the movie is really slow, it’s before we meet Jimmy and Chloe and the backstories of our characters haven’t been fully revealed yet. It goes on way too long and could have been cut since when it picks up it keeps going. This is the only thing keeping it from being a perfect film. Action should have been faster initially, or at least more drama in the first third of reflection.

I loved this film, the cast, music and cinematography are spectacular and it gives us very human characters facing their choices. All the choices have consequences too and there are no easy outs and asks the question of redemption being even possible. For these reasons I would recommend this film, just know the first third is a bit long before the action really picks up.

My final score for this film is 9.4 / 10.