It’s a fun argument, with almost too many options to consider, but, to us, the answer to the question What was the single best episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine? is “Far Beyond the Stars.” The extraordinary hour of television — which debuted on February 11, 1998 — or 19 years ago today — was directed by Avery Brooks and gave us a Prophets-inspired vision of 1950s science-fiction writer Benny Russell struggling to overcome racism and prejudice as he aspires to tell the adventures of Benjamin Sisko, who, centuries in the future, captains a certain space station.
“Far Beyond the Stars” succeeds on several levels. It’s pure science-fiction. It’s fantastic Star Trek. It’s a showcase for Brooks as both a performer and director. All of the show’s regulars and recurring actors get in on the action, playing vastly different roles than usual. It’s full of in-jokes. And best of all, we get to see the likes of Armin Shimerman, Rene Auberjonois, Nana Visitor, Michael Dorn, Jeffrey Combs, Marc Alaimo and J.G. Hertzler, among others, out of makeup.
To celebrate the 19th anniversary of “Far Beyond the Stars,” StarTrek.com is pleased to share some facts, figures and anecdotes, as well as quotes we beamed up from Shimerman, Visitor, Dorn and Combs.
“Far Beyond the Stars,” written by Ira Steven Behr and Hans Beimler based on a story by Marc Scott Zicree, was the 13th episode of DS9‘s sixth season.
Stars, Cold and Distant
The episode’s working title was “The Cold and Distant Stars.”
Oh, That’s DisgustingOne of the episode’s many amusing bits of dialogue, spoked by Terry Farrell as Darlene Kursky: “Oh! She’s got a worm in her belly!… Oh, that’s disgusting. That’s interesting, but that’s disgusting.”
Inside JokeIf you look closely, a memo above Rossoff’s (Armin Shimerman) desk reads “No one would believe that a cheerleader could kill vampires.” That’s an inside joke for Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans; Shimerman, of course, played the recurring role of Principal Snyder on Buffy.
“You Are The Dreamer…”A most-poignant line: “You are the dreamer,” said the Preacher (Brock Peters)… “and the dream.”
Most Important Moment
Avery Brooks considered this his favorite DS9 episode. As he said on the DS9 Sixth Season DVD extras, “I’d have to say, it was the most important moment for me in the entire seven years.”
Benny Russell Nails It“I am a Human being, dammit!” Benny Russell yelled. “You can deny me all you want but you cannot deny Ben Sisko. He exists. That future, that space station, all those people, they exist in here, in my mind.”
Combs Doesn’t Split Hairs
“It was one of the most poignant, powerful and masterful episodes in all of Star Trek,” Jeffrey Combs explained to StarTrek.com. “And that’s saying something. I have vivid memories of the shoot. We shot exteriors on the New York Street on the Paramount lot. The fact that it was an all-night shoot was unique. I wonder if any other Star Trek episode ever did that? The street was filled with vintage cars and slews of actors and extras in period dress. It was like traveling in a time machine back to the 50s. So magical. I hung out a lot with Ira Steven Behr in between shots. It’s one of my favorite episodes in all of Star Trek. I’m so proud to be a small part of something so great.”
Captain Sisko Wonders
“I have begun to wonder,” Captain Sisko mused. “What if it wasn’t a dream? What if this life we’re leading – all of this, you and me, everything – what if all of this… is the illusion?”
Nana Visitor’s… Mom “There are only two things that come to mind,” Visitor told StarTrek.com. “One was that I fashioned my look on a self-portrait my mother had done of herself when she was my age at that time period — and I looked eerily identical. In one of the shots I took the pose she was in — hand to chin — and it was a little secret homage to my mother. The other thing was how on-the-edge Avery’s performance was. When his character collapses, I remember being alarmed and unsure that the actor was OK. I’d never gotten scared like that for another actor’s welfare in all my experience. It was chilling to watch.”
Channeling Dr. McCoy
Trek fans across the galaxy laughed when Julius Eaton (Alexander Siddig), groused that “We’re writers, not Vikings,” a sly spin on Dr. McCoy’s legendary “I’m a doctor, not a…” complaints about the limits of his medical abilities.
You Go, Hugo
The item on Herb Rossoff’s desk is… a real-life Hugo Award. Its owner: Rick Sternbach.
If The World Is Not Ready For a Woman Writer…
Another trenchant bit of conversation: “Oh yes,” Herbert Rossoff (Shimerman) argued. “If the world is 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!’”
Dorn Free“I just remember how wonderful it was to NOT be in makeup,” Michael Dorn told StarTrek.com. “Also, after being in makeup and watching most of the cast in makeup for a number of years, you tend to forget how wonderful they are as actors when there playing human beings and contemporary parts. So solid, and with an ease that you realize why they are where they are in their career. It was a pleasure to watch on the set and to watch the finished product. But the ‘wonderfullness’ of the filming always had the caveat that it would be over soon and I’d be back in Worf-dom. So I enjoyed it to the fullest when it was happening…”
Look CloselyThe Galaxy magazine cover art features a matte painting of Starbase 11, glimpsed in the episode “Court Martial,” and the cover of the March 1953 issue of Incredible Tales depicts the surface of Delta Vega as seen in “Where No Man Has Gone Before.”
And The Emmy Nominations Go To…
“Far Beyond the Stars” earned three Emmy Award nominations: Outstanding Hairstyling for a Series, Outstanding Art Direction for a Series and Outstanding Costume Design for a Series (Robert Blackman).
Shimerman Answers “To What End?”
“‘Far beyond the Stars’ is my favorite episode of DS9,” Armin Shimerman noted to StarTrek.com. “It is not just good Star Trek, but the best of Science Fiction, powerfully combining fantasy with social commentary. Racism is bred in the bone of American culture. Even in the 21st century, we all need to be reminded of the scars and tragedies that that plague left on our national conscience, so that we and future generations never forget its ugliness. The episode was brilliantly conceived by Marc Zicree, brilliantly written by Ira Behr and the staff, and most brilliantly directed by Avery Brooks. I especially remember Avery giving an Emmy-deserving performance as he broke down over the crushing of Ben’s dreams. I had tears in my eyes as I watched off-camera. I know many of the Niner fans did the same. Non-Star Trek fans often sneer at our franchise’s frothy and light entertainment. ‘Oh yes,’ they say, ‘you pose some interesting questions; but to what end?’ I always suggest watching this episode to rebut the inanity of ‘To what end?’”
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