Posted 21 September 2012 - 10:58 PM
I have a tough time with Far Beyond the Stars.
On the one hand, the episode itself is gorgeous, well-acted, interesting, and compelling. Seeing the actors do something different is great because it's not as hammy as Mirror Universe stuff, nor as meta or gimmicky as the holodeck. Also unlike some of those episodes, it's still rooted in the idea of science fiction rather than wish-fulfillment, outright fantasy, or technological masturbation. Like dothog, I don't watch DS9 to see period dramas, historical fiction, or intellectually lazy things like visiting the present day era. I want science fiction in my sci-fi, dammit. I feel, though, that by making Sisko and DS9 part of the story in the past and being a commentary on the notion of science fiction and dreams of the future that it's not just the same old holo-bullshit.
I just don't quite get a number of things about it. For the vast majority of DS9, Sisko's race is a non-issue. That makes it hard to understand why the Prophets would choose this particular story as a means to impart wisdom to him, or what exactly he was supposed to get out of it. Sisko was thinking of resigning because a friend died and the Prophets serve up an Afterschool Special? How does this experience help with that trauma? It is affirming of Sisko's struggles and position, but it's almost a non-sequitur. And how does inserting themselves into the story and talking about the "true path" fit?
(I don't even want to get into the minefield of what the Prophets would make of racism, or why they would go back to the 1940s. They have no concept of time, so is racism something they associate with Sisko in the present? That isn't supported by anything in the series. Is it important to their understanding of The Sisko? If not, why are they showing it to him?)
I feel the episode is on the edge of brilliance, especially with the idea that everything may just be a dream inside Benny's mind. The problem I have is that, like just about everything else with the Prophets, they decided to hint and suggest without any substance, explanation, or reason behind it.
You end the episode, wondering what exactly they mean by "he is the dreamer and the dream" and thinking this is probably Important or will be followed up on or something. But no. It's more Mystery of the Prophets that doesn't have to mean anything.
I guess that's more of my frustration that the Prophets were made up as they went along, with no intention of ever having some sort of payoff or, for that matter, coherence. It makes them feel even more like a plot device or that they were shoehorned into the script for this episode on the second or third draft.
Also, I think it needs to be said: for an episode whose major point was Racism is Bad, it's kind of sad that the women got stuck with little more than cliches and dismissal. You can't just say it was the time, either, since that's kind of the point of the episode.
This sounds harder on it than I meant to come across. I do quite enjoy the episode, and consider it in the same league (both in terms of quality and theme) as The Inner Light and The Visitor. It's not like The Inner Light was critical to later TNG episodes, nor did it have to be.
It's just that those episodes were obviously self-contained. This one hinted at being a bit more and, by failing to deliver on that promise, ended up feeling like a little bit less.
Now playing: Some Game I Last Played Months Ago (DS), Ancient Game I Tried Once (PS3), Why Do I Never Update My Signature? (360), Backlog Assassins (iPad)