31 March 2011

a storyline that isn’t linear

Once again, I’ve been reminded why, of all of the Star Trek series, Deep Space Nine is my favorite.  Over the past few months, I have visited (via DVD) Captain Benjamin Sisko and the rest of the crew.  The writing for the show was consistently superb; there were so many great episodes.

It’s a rare thing in television (forget simply Star Trek) when we’re treated to a storyline with the power of this show.  The evolution of Sisko’s character, played so brilliantly by Avery Brooks, is a joy to behold.  He goes from being a bitter Starfleet officer, anguished by the death of his wife, to accepting his role as the emissary to the Prophets of Bajor.  These Prophets, godlike beings, choose him—against his wishes!—to help the Bajorans restore their planet and culture, after decades of military occupation.

I especially love the episode in season six, “Far Beyond the Stars.”  Sisko receives visions from the Prophets in which his consciousness keeps shifting to the mind of Benny Russell, a black science fiction writer in 1950s America.  Racism prevents the magazine he works for to reveal that he isn’t white.  He authors a story about a space station four hundred years in the future with a black captain.  The publisher refuses to print the story.  The stress is too much for Benny, and he collapses, shouting, “I am a human being, damn it!  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.”

At the end of the episode, Benjamin is speaking with his father, who has come from Earth to visit him.  He’s reflecting on the vision.  “I have begun to wonder.  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?”  His father replies, “That’s a scary thought.”  He agrees, “I know, I know.  But 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, far beyond all those distant stars, Benny Russell…is dreaming of us.” 

For a man who discovers that his life is not linear, that may be some useful insight!

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