Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Season 6 Episode 13

Far Beyond the Stars

Aired Weekdays 11:00 AM Feb 11, 1998 on Syndicado
out of 10
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203 votes

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Episode Summary

Stardate: Unknown Sisko has visions of himself and his crew as writers for a science fiction paper in 1950's Earth.

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  • One of Star Trek's best

    For this offering, Star Trek dispenses with its usual metaphor and addresses a social issue head on through a Quantum Leap like plot device. (The device itself is a sequel to "Rapture", but the means into the story itself isn't what's important here). Following up its Emmy nod for Best Make-up, DS9 eschews the alien looks here, with the actors (including those who play Odo, Quark, Worf, Martok, Nog, Dukat, and Weyoun) appearing - for the most part - as they really look in this side-universe period piece about the racism in the 1950s that blends the future and the past. It's a refreshing change of pace and a sincere homage to the science fiction writers that laid the foundation for Star Trek to follow. (In a way, it's sort of like the reverse of The Wizard of Oz: Sisko goes from a fantasy world to more realistic place, meeting familiar faces that aren't so heavily made up). It's also the only piece of Star Trek other than the fifth feature film to have the main star directing himself. Avery Brooks pulls double duty, overseeing a Sisko story that requires completely new sets, new characters, new costumes, and a powerful performance from himself. Like "Our Man Bashir", it's an incredible amount of work for just one episode (as opposed to spreading out the costs over two episodes like "Homeless") but Brooks pulls it altogether and makes it all worthwhile, thanks to his work both in front of and behind the camera (with a big assist from Dennis McCarthy, who gives the episode the perfect period score).

    The key to his character is the characterization, because the plot isn't ready made for sympathy: "Benny", Brooks's alter-ego in the alternate world, doesn't have a son or daughter who's dying, he's not going to jail for a crime he didn't commit, and there's no real threat to his safety so long as he keeps his head down. It's easy to dismiss his problems as unimportant and point out that there are many worse injustices going on in the world even right now. But his disappointments and successes are important to us because they're important to him. It's the reason Star Trek - and all fictional stories - work at all. We cry for Beth in Little Women not because we believe the story is real, but because we care for the characters, even if they only exist in our heads.

    In this episode, Benny creates characters of his own (turning his coworkers into the DS9 characters) and what's interesting is how the whole idea works "backwards" so to speak. It really does seem like the DS9 characters were created from Benny's world as opposed to the opposite. His boss, Pabst, who tries to conform with society, is cast as a shape-shifter who works for whoever is running the space station. Herb, who constantly bickers with Pabst, is turned into Quark who does the same with Odo. Albert, who loves robots, is used as an engineer. In a bit of fantasy, Benny recasts Jimmy, who can never seem to find the right path, as his son Jake, whom Benny is able to mentor and turn into a responsible member of society. (Jake even becomes a writer like Benny). His girlfriend, Cassie, gets a ship and an adventure. Willie, the handsome star baseball player who is constantly hitting on her, is turned into an ugly warrior. Yet all the characters have something admirable about them, and there's something touching about how Benny creates heroes out of ordinary people and turns himself into their Captain.

    As Benny fights to get his stories published with those that can't accept them, Star Trek fans are reminded of Roddenberry's struggles in the 1960s, when NBC and its sponsors demanded the removal of Mr. Spock, female officers, and blacks from the original series. It's ironic that the same arguments that took place behind the scenes during Star Trek's formative years are now inside an episode set in the same universe Roddenberry and those executives fought about. (In a stroke of genius, the episode's writers make the episode's true antagonist someone who doesn't even appear on screen: Benny's dreams are crushed by an uncaring businessman sitting behind a desk. How true to so many situations in life!) The only drawback to the story is that we know from the beginning that it's all a dream - and that there will be no tangible consequences to what's going on. (The episode even acknowledges the issue with a line from Herb inside the episode, but that doesn't solve the problem). The dream is, however, a shrewd way to use the Prophets: rather than having them be an external force as in "Sacrifice of the Angels", here they are an internal source of struggle and strength within Sisko - like a true religion. They reach into mankind's own history to interact with him in a way he can understand and help sort through his feelings through an allegory of his own world's creation. It's a profound way of communicating and makes for exciting television. DS9 returns to these ideas in the seventh season episode "Shadows and Symbols", a sequel to this one.

  • Terrible Payoff

    This episode intrigued me for about 30 minutes as I waited for the reason why Ben was trapped in this world. Was it the Cardassions? Was it some kind of Holodeck malfunction? NO. It was all a dream. The lamest way out of a story you could possibly contrive.

    The only reason I am writing more words about this waste of time episode is because this website demands a 100 word review. Oh and 30 seconds of Dax looking hot chewing gum is the only reason this is a 1 out of 10, not a 0 out of 10. Still not at 100 words. Da Da Da, Da Da Da Da Da. Space. The Final Frontier. These are the Voyages of the Starship Enterprise...Yada Yada Yadamoreless
  • Not the Star Trek people, but somebody else

    In the '50s, there was a short story written (I'm very sorry, but I cannot recall the title, but I think the author was Fritz Leiber - it seems like his kind of tale), in which a staff writer for a second-rate science fiction pulp magazine (they weren't referred to as "papers") got mysteriously transported to a world where he was the center of everything.

    The situation here is the same story in reverse - Sisko is transported from a world where he is the center to one where he is a science fiction writer on the periphery of things.

    Star Trek borrowed from many science fiction sources, but with the exception of the animated series, never acknowledged borrowing story lines. In the academic world, that's called plagiarism.moreless
  • Absolutely Beautiful!

    I have always been a fan of TNG and I am just beginning to love DS9. This is the first ep of DS9 that has made me want to write a review. This is the most poignant and spot on episode dealing with race in the entire history of Star Trek. I love that this is the first one dealing with race that was not glossed over by making it an allegory with aliens. I am so proud of the DS9 cast and crew for finally tackling race head on in the setting of 1950's America. It was great to see the cast out of their makeup and yet still playing their characters personas. I love how Armin and Rene still played off of each other brilliantly and kept their characters personalities while playing humans in the 50's. Bravo to Star Trek DS9 for making this episode. They have defiantly come a long way from interracial kisses to express the breaking down of cultural barriers.moreless
  • Acting at its finest.

    This is one of my favorite Star Trek episodes of all time. The writing was brilliant, the setting was great, and the acting was top notch. Avery Brooks gave a spectacular performance as he managed to change his Ben Sisko persona to that of a 1950's writer. He portrayed his struggles really well and accurately depicted how difficult life was for an African-American during those years of racism. The supporting cast gave stellar performances and did wonderful jobs of making the 1950's scenery realistic with their mannerisms and personality. Hidden among the episode was an underlying lesson of morality. It was an episode that showcased a deeper meaning on how society was then and still is today. Not only did it dive into conflicts between dynamic characters, but it also managed to capture the varied storylines with sincere detail. In my opinion, television should have acting like this every day. By far, this was an all time great episode of the Star Trek ilk. Thank You.moreless
Armin Shimerman

Armin Shimerman

Quark/Herbert Rossoff

Terry Farrell

Terry Farrell

Jadzia/Darlene Kursky

Michael Dorn

Michael Dorn

Worf /Willie Hawkins

Rene Auberjonois

Rene Auberjonois

Odo/Douglas Pabst

Nana Visitor

Nana Visitor

Kira/Kay Eaton

Avery Brooks

Avery Brooks

Sisko/Benny Russell

Jeffrey Combs

Jeffrey Combs


Guest Star

Marc Alaimo

Marc Alaimo

Ryan/Gul Dukat

Guest Star

J.G. Hertzler

J.G. Hertzler


Guest Star

Brock Peters

Brock Peters

Joseph Sisko/Preacher

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (2)

    • Nitpick: This episode heavily focuses on racism, however, it is only very narrowly targeted. Despite the overt racism towards Sisko, Worf, and Kasidy, Bashir is treated as 'white' throughout.

    • Nitpick: The publication Sisko works for in the 1950's is referred to in the episode as a 'paper'. Actually, the science fiction publications have always been referred to as 'pulps', ever since Hugo Gernsback founded Amazing Stories, the first science fiction magazine, in 1926.

  • QUOTES (14)

    • Benny: Who am I?
      Preacher: Don't you know? You are the dreamer, and the dream.

    • (commenting on the character of Jadzia)
      Darlene: Oh! She's got a worm in her belly!.... oh, that's disgusting.

    • Jimmy: (to Benny) I told you you were wasting your time. (shaking his head) A colored captain? The only reason they'll ever let us in space is if they need someone to shine their shoes. Ain't that right, Cassie?
      Cassie: I don't know and to be honest, I don't much care about what happens a hundred years from now. It's today that matters.
      Jimmy: Well, I got news for you. Today or a hundred years from now don't make a bit of difference; as far as they're concerened, we'll always be negroes.
      Benny: Things are going to change. They have to.
      Jimmy: You keep telling yourself that.

    • Herbert: Will someone please shoot me and put me out of my misery?!
      Julius: Oh, how I long for a gun...

    • Sisko: Maybe, just maybe, Benny isn't the dream: we are. Maybe we're nothing more than figments of his imagination. For all we know, at this very moment, somewhere out there, far beyond all those distant stars... Benny Russell is dreaming about us.

    • Benny: I'm tired of being calm! Calm's never gotten me a damn thing!
      Pabst: I'm warning you, Benny - if you don't stop, I'm calling the police.
      Benny: Call them! Go ahead! They can't do anything to me! Not anymore. None of you can. I'm a human being, dammit! You can deny me all you want, but you can't deny Ben Sisko! He exists! That space station - those people, that future - they exist! In here. In my mind. You hear what I'm telling you? You can destroy the story, but you cannot destroy an idea. That's ancient knowledge! That future is real - I made it real! You hear me - it's real!

    • Benny: What about my story?
      Pabst: The way I see it, you can either burn it or you can put in a drawer for fifty years or however long it takes the human race to become colorblind.

    • Herbert: Congratulations, Douglas. That's the most imbecilic attempt to rationalize personal cowardice I've ever heard.
      Kay: Uh-oh, he's angry now.
      Pabst: Herb's been angry ever since Joseph Stalin died.

    • Pabst: I'm sorry, Benny. I wish things were different, but they're not.
      Benny: Wishing never changed a damn thing.
      Pabst: Come on, Benny... it's just a photo.
      Benny: I'll try to remember that.

    • Herbert: (sarcastic) If the world's not ready for a woman writer - imagine what would happen if it learned about a Negro with a typewriter - run for the hills! It's the end of civilization!

    • Pabst: Next order of business, some of our readers have been writing in, wanting to know what you people look like.
      Kay: Write back and tell them we look like writers. Poor, needy and incredibly attractive.

    • Herbert: I can see it now - the lonely, little girl, befriended by empathethic aliens who teach her how to smile... (shudders) it's enough to make you go out and buy a television.

    • Kay: Voila! A pitcher of plain water instantly becomes a pitcher of ice tea.
      Julius: Incredible. White Rose Redi-Tea. What an appalling concept.
      Kay: I bet H.G. Wells would've liked it.

    • Sisko: I just don't know how many more friends I can lose. Every time I think I've achieved a real victory... something like this happens and it all seems to turn to ashes.
      Joseph Sisko: So what do you want to do?
      Sisko: Maybe it's time for me to step down... let someone else make the tough calls.
      Joseph Sisko: I see. Well, no one's indispensable, son. Not even you. Whatever decision you make, I'll support it. Of course, if Quentin Swofford was here... I'd bet he'd have a few things to say to you.
      Sisko: But he's not here... is he? That's the whole point.

  • NOTES (6)

    • Brock Peters (Joseph Sisko/Preacher) also played the role of Admiral Cartwright in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

    • This episode is listed on the Star Trek: Captain's Log Fan Collective DVD box set as being Avery Brooks' favorite episode.

    • In the episode "In The Cards" from the previous season, Jake Sisko and Nog make a series of increasingly complicated trades to acquire a Willie Mays trading card for Jake's father. Thus, Mays already had an important tie to Sisko, and that could be reason that Sisko imagined Hawkins as an incarnation of Mays.

    • This is the only Deep Space Nine episode in which Marc Alaimo, Aron Eisenberg, J.G. Hertzler, Armin Shimerman, Jeffrey Combs and Michael Dorn appear in human form, without their alien make-up.

    • When Sisko picks up the padd in the Infirmary and transitions into the world of Benny, he is suddenly holding the latest issue of Galaxy magazine. The cover is a futuristic building on an alien planet and the featured story is Court Martial. In fact, the image on the cover is Starbase 11, which was the site of Kirk's hearing in the Original Series episode "Court Martial". The author of the "Court Martial" story is Samuel T. Cogley. Samuel T. Cogley was Captain James T. Kirk's defense attorney in "Court Martial".

    • The original script had Jake going back into time instead of his father. This is one of many shows where Jake was meant to be used and was replaced.


    • "Calm down dear boy. We're writers, not vikings." Bashir's alternate

      This line was meant to be a play on Star Trek's famous catchphrase "I'm a doctor, not a..."

    • Hugo Awards
      Sitting on the desk of Herb Rossoff (the science fiction writer character played by Armin Shimerman aka Quark) is an actual Hugo award. The Hugos are awards for achievement in science fiction most notably in writing, but also includes excellence in movies, TV and illustration. It was lent by DS9 designer (and Hugo award winner) Rick Sternbach. The awards were first given out in 1953, but did not become an annual event until 1955.

    • Kay: It Came From Outer Space.
      Kay is referring to the 1953 film of the same name, which was written by famous sci-fi writer Ray Bradbury. Also, Ray Bradbury is mentioned as writing for rival Galaxy.

    • Joseph Sisko: I have fought the good fight. I have finished the course. I have kept the faith.

      Joseph Sisko is quoting quoting from the Bible (2 Timothy 4:7).

    • Isaac Asimov
      The robot obsessed writer Albert Macklin (played by Colm Meaney) is inspired by pioneer science fiction writer Isaac Asimov, who originally won fame for his stories about robots (an early collection of these stories was entitled I, Robot).