“Far Beyond the Stars” is the 137th episode of the syndicated science fiction television series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the 13th episode of season six.
The teleplay was written by Ira Steven Behr and Hans Beimler, based on a story by Marc Scott Zicree, and directed by Avery Brooks.
The episode is unique in that almost the full cast of DS9 portrays human characters, without their alien costumes, a rare example of metafiction in the fictional Star Trek universe.
The stress of the space war is getting to Ben and his dream-like visions recur during a visit from his father. Inside Ben’s mind reality and fantasy mix into a nightmare set in mid-20th century New York City. The episode was novelised by Steven Barnes.
Distraught by the death of a close friend in the Dominion War, Captain Benjamin Sisko speaks with his father about leaving Starfleet, but as the two talk, Sisko is distracted by a vision of a man dressed in 20th-century clothes. When Sisko’s visions become more frequent and pervasive, Dr. Bashir examines him, and finds similar brain activity to a prior episode of visions Sisko experienced (in the episode “Rapture”).
Suddenly, Sisko is taken over by his vision, becoming Benny Russell, an African-American science fiction writer in 1950s New York City. Russell writes for the science fiction magazine Incredible Tales and most of the people he encounters bear the likeness of people from Sisko’s life on the station. On the way to work, Russell buys the latest edition of Galaxy, their competitor, from a local newsboy (Aron Eisenberg/Nog). He then runs into his coworker Albert Macklin (Colm Meaney/O’Brien) and the two walk to work together. There, short-tempered liberal writer Herbert Rossoff (Armin Shimerman/Quark) argues with magazine editor Douglas Pabst (René Auberjonois/Odo) over donuts, while writers Kay Eaton, a.k.a. K. C. Hunter (Nana Visitor/Kira) and Julius Eaton (Alexander Siddig/Bashir) banter in the background. The magazine’s illustrator Roy Ritterhouse (J. G. Hertzler/Martok) arrives with a stack of sketches for the next edition. Russell is particularly drawn to a sketch of a space station much like Deep Space 9, and decides to write a story for it. When Pabst announces the next edition will include photos of the staff, he suggests Kay “sleep late” that morning, as the public would not respond well to the revelation she is a woman. Russell realises he will be excluded and objects but Pabst stands firm, choosing to conform to the prevailing public opinion.
Leaving the office that night, a gust of wind takes Russell’s drawing, which lands it at the feet of two police officers, Burt Ryan (Marc Alaimo/Dukat) and Kevin Mulkahey (Jeffrey Combs/Weyoun). The officers hassle and question Russell but let him go with a “warning”. Russell then encounters a preacher (Brock Peters/Joseph Sisko) who seems to be speaking directly to him, imploring him to “write those words” in the name of “the Prophets”. He goes home and begins to write.
Some time later, he finishes his story, titled “Deep Space Nine”, about a black captain of a space station. He shows it to his girlfriend Cassie (Penny Johnson Jerald/Kasidy Yates), who instead wants to buy with him the diner where she works, doubting his ability to earn a good living as a writer. Baseball player Willie Hawkins (Michael Dorn/Worf) flirts with Cassie but she rebuffs him. A local hustler, Jimmy (Cirroc Lofton/Jake Sisko), laughs at his idea of “coloured people on the Moon”. At the magazine, the entire staff loves his story, especially Pabst’s new secretary Darlene Kursky (Terry Farrell/Dax). Pabst refuses to print it and Russell refuses to change his story.
Instead of turning his efforts to something more acceptable, Russell decides to write six sequels to his story, angering Pabst, until Macklin devises a compromise: Russell’s story will be a dream. Russell insists the dreamer also be black, to which Pabst consents. While Russell and Cassie are out celebrating, they hear gunshots and rush out to find that Jimmy has been shot and killed by Officers Ryan and Mulkahey, ostensibly for trying to break into a car. When Benny protests this injustice, they beat him savagely.
Weeks later, on his first day back at the office, excited to see his story in print, Pabst arrives empty-handed and informs them the whole month’s run of the magazine has been pulped, as the owner wouldn’t publish a story featuring a black hero. Pabst tells Benny he is being forced to fire him as well. Benny breaks down; he screams that although the world can deny him, they cannot destroy his ideas and the future he envisions is real. He collapses to the floor sobbing and is taken away by an ambulance. As he falls unconscious, he looks through the window and, rather than the city, sees stars streaking past. The preacher sits by him and tells him that he is both the dreamer and the dream. Sisko wakes up back on the station. He is deeply moved by his vision and wonders if somewhere, far beyond the stars, Benny Russell is dreaming of Deep Space Nine.
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Production & Filming Details
- Director(s): Avery Brooks.
- Writer(s): Marc Scott Zicree.
- Release Date: 11 February 1998.
- Running Time: 45 minutes.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.