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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Star Trek: The Original Series – Season 1, Episode 19 – “Arena” – The Dilemmas of War and Power of Mercy

Star Trek Arena

   “Arena” is the first of a few “Star Trek” episodes I’ll be reviewing this week. On Facebook I did some “Trek Requests” and this was the episode requested for “The Original Series.” The other two episodes will from “The Next Generation” and “Deep Space Nine.” I’ll save which ones they are until I review them. Suffice to say “Arena” was very enjoyable though it still has the same problems I noticed when I first watched the episode as a young child.

    The episode was directed by Joseph Pevney with the teleplay by Gene L. Coon and story by Fredric Brown.

    The story involves the crew of the Enterprise arriving on the outpost Cestus III which is under attack from the Gorn. A dying survivor tells them how they were attacked leading Kirk to pursue the Gorn ship until they are stopped by the Metrons who transport Kirk and the Gorn Captain to the Arena where they can face each other using the resources on the planet so the conflict between the two ships will no longer be happening in Metron space. From here the story unfolds as Kirk must MacGyver his way out the situation and learn what bigger purpose he it being put up to by the Metrons.

The Pros: Cestus III – Cestus III is a warzone. We see that chemical weapons were used on Federation troops and the Outpost is a wasteland we also hear about the slaughter of women and children but due to the nature of the episode we aren’t able to confirm it. It is war and like war there is a fog. Luckily through quick thinking by Kirk, he and Spock are able to fight back though the red shirt is killed. It’s a very strong start to the episode and shows just what is at stake and what motivates Kirk in his desire to stop and destroy the Gorn vessel.

Sulu – Sulu is in charge of the Enterprise at one point when Kirk and Spock go down to Cestus III and he does a great job protecting their ship and keeping the Gorn at bay until Kirk and Spock are able to be beamed back aboard again. Sulu was eventually made Captain for a reason, the guy is great in a crisis.

Spock – Spock not being emotional is good as he points out that Kirk doesn’t know what happened or why they became under attack, what he misses is that the enemy has never communicated with them at all. Spock is implied to be right though on not destroying the vessel when it is found that the Outpost might have been placed in Gorn Territory and that it will be a situation for diplomats to handle.

McCoy – McCoy sees the consequences of fighting the Gorn too and makes an appeal to civilization to the Metrons to stop the fighting of Kirk and the Gorn Captain. They are ignored but when they are shown the fight the Gorn Captain says the Outpost was in their territory which changes McCoy over to Spock’s perspective of not attacking first.

Captain Kirk – Captain Kirk shows what he is famous for in this episode (no he doesn’t sleep with the Gorn) he MacGyvers a makeshift gun that defeats the enemy Gorn Captain after he’s exhausted all other traps against the Gorn…and after he shows Mercy which impresses the Metrons who appear to him and which later leads to a Kirk Speech where he tells Spock that in 1000 years maybe they will be an enlightened species, so they’ve got a little time. Kirk’s humor, passion, anger (the destruction of the outpost) and compassion (sparing the Gorn Captain) are on display here and show why he is one of the most popular Captains in “Star Trek.”

The Gorn Captain – The Gorn Captain has a great design and he is clearly alien. For him mercy is giving Kirk a quick death and any intrusion into their territory warrants a threat. The Captain is strong and powerful and is only stopped by a diamond fired from a gun. It’s a shame the Gorn weren’t used more as they have a great design and are one of the more intriguing lesser used species in “Star Trek” along with the Tholians.

The Message – The message is that mercy is important when you’ve defeated your enemy and to not leap to conclusions in war. The message is kind of wrong in regards to the outpost though as we never see the Gorn communicate with the Enterprise and to reason with another to understand a person you have to talk to them. The Gorn do not talk to the Federation as far as we can see until the Metrons force their captain onto the planet. Also, if there were women and children slaughtered on Cestus III than the Gorn involved were evil. There is nothing that can justify the killing of innocents and that is where mercy can be missed, as we have no guarantees the Gorn wouldn’t do it again elsewhere. The core message of not rushing to judgement is important though as the Outpost wouldn’t have been built if the Federation had known it was Gorn space (assuming the Gorn are telling the truth, just like have to assume the Federation soldier was telling the truth about women and children being slaughtered…we don’t know fully yet in either case).

Okay: The Metrons – Another God Species trying to teach the “lesser” species a lesson about compassion towards one another and mercy. I really don’t like the transcended species trope as it simplifies the issues and in most cases the folks like the Metrons stand by while real life atrocities are going on so all their talk of Enlightenment usually doesn’t mean much in regards to their actions outside those who enter their sphere. Still, one of the earliest uses of this trope so I’m putting them down as okay and not a con.

The Cons: Pacing – The episode is really slow. It starts out strong when Kirk and Spock are on Cestus III under fire but most of the action on the Enterprise is passive watching of either the Gorn ship or of the Gorn Captain and Kirk fighting on the planet. This episode should have been 35 minutes ideally or given us more character moments like when Kirk and Spock were discussing the attack and what might have lead to it and what must be done. Those were the strongest moments in the episode outside of Kirk’s ingenuity.

  This is classic “Star Trek” and well worth watching, even though it isn’t my favorite episode and I do take issue with the Metrons approach to life, the pacing and that the Gorn are just presented as bad guys if we only take how they react to Kirk and what happened on the outpost. There was the potential for much more complexity this episode than we got, though I really like the idea and watching Kirk MacGyver his way out of a situation is always fun to watch…and the horror of Cestus III really raises the stakes in the episode and kept me interested even with how slow the episode felt at times.

8 / 10. Solidly good.

In Memory of Leonard Nimoy – Leonard Nimoy Week

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     Leonard Nimoy was an amazing man, that much has been obvious for a very long time. From his military service, music, directing, writing and acting and what he did outside of his work he touched the lives of so many people.

       I know him largely from his work with “Star Trek” as I grew up watching “The Original Series” and “The Original Series Films.” It was his death in “Wrath of Khan” that first made me tear up during a “Star Trek” film and it was his character Spock who I could relate to, as an autistic kid who I was felt outside of things and could relate to his analytic approach to all things.

    This week I’m honoring him by reviewing some of his earliest work, some of his last work and of course an “Original Series” episode. Anytime I’d been given the ‘Choose your own Crew?’ Question in regards to Star Trek, I always chose Spock as the First Officer. He was the best and grounded everyone around him, much like Nimoy himself did. Nimoy was and wasn’t Spock, he wrote two books on the matter and both were right. He was bigger than this role that really put him on the radar for me and so many other people. He was talented beyond the screen and within the screen itself as he produced, wrote and directed films and television. If you hear about what was going on during the films, it was Nimoy who reminded the writers that it wasn’t about Kirk and Spock, it was about the crew and that dialogue should be given to all. You see this especially in “The Undiscovered Country,” where the crew is victorious because everyone is involved, versus “The Final Frontier” where it is the Kirk and Spock (though mostly Kirk) show. This was a huge reason he was respected by those who knew him…because he lived respect towards others.

   For what I’ll be reviewing of Nimoy’s filmography…going to start at the beginning with “A Quality of Mercy,” from “The Twilight Zone,” next doing “Balance of Terror” from “Star Trek: The Original Series,” “The Transformers: The Movie” and “There’s More Than one of Everything” from the tv series “Fringe” which was his last television show he was a part of.

     Nimoy influenced those who knew directly and those who didn’t like me, through the life he lived. He was truly an amazing Renaissance man who will be missed greatly. Though, even in death he gave us something to remember.

   “A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP”

   As we will remember you. This week is to honor you and all that you’ve done.

A Look Back on the Star Trek Pilots and the Future of Trek

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I want to end the “Star Trek Pilot Episodes Series/Star Trek Pilot Series,” with a reflection on the episodes and what I see in the future of Star Trek.  Star Trek at it’s best deals with issues of justice and dilemmas in modern day while giving us the hope for the future…the hope that we can be more and better. Each of the series barring much of “Voyager,” and nearly all of “Enterprise,” understood this and that was why they are so popular.

I still remember my first Star Trek convention, I was in Middle School living in Michigan at the time and I got to meet Vaughn Armstrong, who has played multiple characters on Star Trek as well as Roxann Dawson who played B’Elanna Torres on “Voyager,” in Middle School and High School was what motivated me to write sci. fi. My first sci. fi. idea ever was a Star Trek crew run by the outsiders or enemies of the Federation (Cardassian, Borg, Romulan and Ferengi were who I had in mind), and that motivated me to write my own stories post Middle School.

Before I get into the future of Trek I’m going to do one last recap of the Pilots…from best to worst with a summary.

Emissary

1st) Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Pilot – “Emissary Parts 1 and 2”

This pilot knew what it wanted to be and lived that fully, keeping the tone and dilemmas true throughout the entire series. It dealt with war, post-war and post-occupation and all the consequences on the species involved. Captain Sisko is my favorite of the Captains and the fact that it was an ensemble cast served the story…we got to see the Cardassian perspectives through Damar, Dukat and Garak, to Bajor with Kira and Kai Winn, to the Ferengi and even an extra named Morn got his own episode. The series showed the consequences of war and abuse of power and provided actual dilemmas. I was never bored watching the series and enjoy following certain arcs (especially the “Dominion War Arc”) to this day. I look forward to reviewing more episodes and that arc.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/06/05/star-trek-deep-space-nine-pilot-emissary-part-1-and-2/

9 / 10

star-trek-the-man-trap

2nd) Star Trek: The Original Series Pilot – “The Man Trap”

This pilot captured the wonders and dangers of space travel the best out of all the pilots. Where “Deep Space Nine,” looked big TOS started small. We get introduced to a new species that is the last of it’s kind and are forced to face the dilemma to kill it in “Kill or be Killed,” and we get to see most of the crew being active. TOS at it’s best used all of it’s crew members and captured the wonder and dangers of exploring strange new worlds and seeking out new life and new civilizations.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/05/23/star-trek-the-original-series-the-man-trap-red-shirts-and-the-thing/

8 / 10

The Cage

3rd) Star Trek Original Pilot: The Cage

The original pilot was really the Pike and Spock story. Most of the other characters don’t even have names and are so replaceable they are basically Proto-Red Shirts. What drives this story and elevates it over it’s problems of sexism (the aliens capture two crew members who are women so Pike can choose a mate in the cage they’ve created). What elevates it is that it deals with an actual alien species (Talosians) who are nearly extinct. We see the dilemma that is faced and Pike and the aliens come to an understanding. This episode captures the essence of “New Life and New Civilizations,” really well.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/05/23/star-trek-original-pilot-the-cage-before-there-was-captain-kirk/

6.5 / 10

star-trek-farpoint

4th) Star Trek: The Next Generation – “Encounter At Farpoint Part 1 and 2”

“The Next Generation,” began with a very rocky start. It was trying to be “The Original Series,” when it clearly was not. This brought down the episode as well as the fact that besides Patrick Stewart and John De Lancie, no one else was any good as an actor. It captures the essence of Trek with exploration, it just doesn’t fully achieve it since it wastes the potential of Q and Farpoint Station (and the aliens are ideas, not actual interesting species).

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/05/30/star-trek-the-next-generation-pilot-encounter-at-farpoint-part-1-and-2/

6 / 10

Caretaker part 1 and 2

5th) Star Trek: Voyager – “Caretaker Part 1 and 2”

This is the point where there are a lot of interesting ideas but very poor execution. Maquis and Federation are pulled across the galaxy to the Delta Quadrant…but after they just get along. There is no conflict and Janeway is just assumed to be Captain even though the Maquis had a captain too. The species are poorly explored as well with Kazon as weaker versions (both physically and in writing) of Klingons and the Ocampa are poorly realized Space Elves. The whole getting stranded in the Delta Quadrant because of Janeway’s choice is never addressed either. In the end, it was average Star Trek.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/06/12/star-trek-voyager-pilot-caretaker-part-1-and-2-lost-in-space/

5 / 10

Broken Bow

6th) Star Trek: Enterprise – “Broken Bow Part 1 and 2”

How do you miss the point of Star Trek? You do what Enterprise did. You write people as needlessly antagonistic, not very smart, objectify them sexually and create enemies who are mysterious for the sake of being mysterious and than do nothing with it…oh, and also forget all about all pre-established Canon in the Star Treks that came before. This was the series that killed Star Trek, and this pilot fully captures the reasons why. If your characters are useless and unlikable, your story goes nowhere and the only things you seem to care about are sex and violence…you’ve missed the entire point of Star Trek and your series deserves to die.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/06/19/star-trek-enterprise-pilot-broken-bow-part-1-and-2-missing-the-point-of-star-trek/

1 / 10

With Abrams new “Star Trek” movies I have seen new fans being created of this series. This gives me hope that we’ll be seeing another Star Trek series sometime in my lifetime. There has already been talk of “Star Trek: Captain Worf,” which would be awesome (http://www.blastr.com/2013-8-20/michael-dorn-reveals-his-capt-worf-star-trek-tv-series-not-dead-yet) since he was part of what made “The Next Generation,” and “Deep Space Nine,” so interesting and Netflix has been talking about doing a series too (http://uproxx.com/gammasquad/2014/06/netflix-wants-to-make-a-new-star-trek-series-happen/). I am down for either of these or a different one, since I think the mistakes of “Nemesis,” and “Enterprise,” have been learned from. This universe is rich with stories that can be applied to our own and help us to grow, understand and appreciate one another…for it is in those great stories of Trek that we have the chance to think deeper about ideas and in that Universe being offered as a good possibility, it gives us a future worth striving for and to boldly go where we haven’t gone before.