Who Mourns for Morn? : Far Beyond the Stars : Message in a Bottle.
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.
Suddenly, Sisko transitions entirely into 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.[N 2] On the way to work, Russell buys the latest edition of Galaxy, their competitor, from a local newsboy. He then runs into his coworker Albert Macklin, and the two walk to work together. There, short-tempered liberal writer Herbert Rossoff argues with magazine editor Douglas Pabst over donuts, while writers Kay and Julius Eaton banter in the background. The magazine's illustrator Roy Ritterhouse then 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 realizes he also will not be included, which Pabst confirms. Rossoff 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, and lands it at the feet of two police officers, Burt Ryan and Kevin Mulkahey. The officers hassle and question Russell, but let him go with a "warning". Russell then encounters a preacher 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 , who instead wants to buy the diner where she works with him, doubting his ability to earn a good living as a writer. A local hustler, Jimmy, laughs at his idea of "Negros in space". Baseball player Willie Hawkins flirts with Cassie, but she rebuffs him. At the magazine, the entire staff loves his story, especially Pabst's new secretary Darlene Kursky. Pabst, however, 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 the staff devise 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 overhear gunshots, and rush out to find that Jimmy has been shot and killed by Officers Ryan and Mulkahey, ostensibly because he was 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 Benny Russell is dreaming of Deep Space Nine.
Errors and Explanations
- Mike Konczewski on Wednesday, December 16, 1998 - 2:03 pm: I realize this was a vision from the Pah-wraith, so you have to take the story line with a grain of salt. Regardless, I think the storyline shows how the writers of Star Trek don't know a lot about the history of science fiction. Okay, so we have Bennie, a black SF writer on the staff of 1950's science fiction magazine. The publishers won't reveal to the readers that Benny is black (or Kira's character is a woman). They are so predjudiced that rather than print his stories featuring a black hero, they destroy that month's issue.
A dynamic story. So what's the problem? It's misleading. First, 50's SF magazines didn't have staff writers. They got stories from freelancers (you don't think Asimov and Heinlein were on staff, do you?). Occasionally the editors would write a story or two (under a pen name) to fill out an issue, but they never had staff writing the entire issue. Secondly, almost no SF writer in the 50's made a living from just writing SF. Either they wrote for different genres, or they had a second job. Third, most SF mags were operated on a shoestring. It would have bankrupted the magazine to pulp an entire run of one issue. They would have rejected the story before it got that far. Fourth, while I wasn't able to come up with a black SF from the 50's, there were several female writers active and producing under their own name--Judith Merrill, Zenna Henderson, Leigh Bracket, Anne McCaffrey, Kate Wilheim, to name a few. Fifth, I've read SF stories from the 50's with black protagonists; Eric Frank Russell's Jay Score series come immediately to mind. Sixth, I can't believe that Benny would have freaked out just because he was turned down by one magazine. During the time period Benny was writing (I figure about 1953-56), there were about a dozen SF magazines being published, from Astounding Science Fiction to Galaxy to Amazing. A working writer doesn't stop with the first rejection; s/he goes to the next magazine.
I guess Benny's behaivor make more sense when you realize the story was written by TV writers. The environment pictured in Far Beyond the Stars is more like the process teleplay writers go through. Too bad they didn't realize it wouldn't transfer. Chris Thomas on Monday, February 22, 1999 - 5:41 am: Benny's freaking out and the whole thing is actually a whole metaphor for Sisko and the Dominion War - evidenced at the start when Sisko tells his father there seems to be no future and maybe he should throw in the towel. The whole thing is about Sisko and, like all dreams, his higher self is trying to tell him something - he just has to interpret it.
- Norman on Wednesday, February 24, 1999 - 6:00 am: Why doesn't Jennifer appear in this "dream"? She's such a prominent person in his life (At least have a picture of her, if you cannot get the actress). Of course, for that matter, we could also talk about Eddington, Curzon, etc. but you know what I mean. Seniram 11:49, October 22, 2017 (UTC) Jennifer, Eddington and Curzon are part of Sisko’s past, and therefore not entirely relevant.
- Cableface on Wednesday, January 20, 1999 - 2:11 pm: I'm watching this episodes in Ireland and Sky were good enough to have a "technical problem" for the first fifteen minutes, so could someone please tell me why Sisko was having these dreams?From what I did see though, it was a brilliant episode.It was cool to see what everyone looked like without the make-up.It showed us that the creators can do a good episode based on good acting and storyline without mega special fx( though they are cool).And, it showed us what a good actor Avery Brooks is.(That is his name i think)When he's playing Sisko, he's big, he's strong, he's unflappable and calm under fire.But in this ep, for the first time, we see him as a totally different guy.He's a small , frightened man.He does it brilliantly, and I found his speech when the editor fires him really moving.Top job. Mike Konczewski on Thursday, January 21, 1999 - 6:54 am:The reason for the dreams were never explained (in this episode at least). Sisko started seeing images from 1950's Earth on DS9, then he was suddenly on 1950's Earth as writer Benny, with no apparent memory of his future life other than as the plot for a science fiction novel. I think the episode from this season, "Images in the Sand", establishes that these were fantasies caused by the Pah-wraiths, in an effort to stop Sisko from fufilling his role as the Emisary. Matthew Patterson on Wednesday, February 24, 1999 - 9:24 pm: Now just hold on a minute! Just because the one image was caused by the pah-wraiths doesn't mean the both of them were! Just compare them: FBTS has mostly "good" actors. IITS has one "bad" actor. FBTS has mostly no negative messages, beyond the obvious racial thing. IITS has Dr. Wyckoff trying to convince Benny to wipe out all of DS9! FBTS's visions weren't meant to keep Sisko from doing anything. IITS was meant to keep Sisko from finding the Orb of the Emissary and freeing the Prophets. Clearly, IITS's visions were caused by the pah-wraiths in order to keep Sisko from freeing the Sarah Sisko Prophet and allowing it to free the rest of the Prophets; but FBTS's were meant to teach Sisko something that he and us can only guess at. I personally think that the Prophets were trying to show Sisko that even though the Dominion was temporarily winning the war, the concepts and ideals espoused by the Federation could never be destroyed. This is the only way I can think of to explain the incredibly moving "You can't destroy an idea!" speech within the larger context of DS9. (Wow, that was incredibly deep for so late at night. I'd better go lay down for a while.) sitroom1 on Wednesday, February 24, 1999 - 10:06 pm: I agree. The first Benny Russel vision could have been sent by the prophets to help Sisko through a difficult time. Then the second one sent by the Pah Wraiths to confuse Sisko. It could be easily argued that the Pah Wraiths somehow knew about the first vision and used it to their own advantage. Mike Konczewski on Thursday, February 25, 1999 - 3:15 pm: I would argue that the first vision from FBTS was sent by the Pah wraiths to confuse Sisko. Possibly the Prophets partially intervened; that's why there were some good characters. After Dukat temporarily turned off the wormhole, the Pah wraiths became more poweful. When it looked like Sisko was going to find the orb that would re-release the Prophets, the Pah wraith sent an even more confusing vision in IITS to trick Sisko into destroying the Orb. Luckily, it failed. Matthew Patterson on Thursday, February 25, 1999 - 5:27 pm: I still doubt it! The pah- wraiths were all entrapped until one got out and the Kira-Prophet fought it and Kai WIn flooded the Promenade with radiation and the other one was freed by Dikat and he was the one who got the Prophets trapped and the wraiths freed! I doubt the pah-wraiths could have managed to send messages to Sisko while they were all trapped wherever! David Hensley on Thursday, August 05, 1999 - 9:33 am: Pah-Wraith vs. Prophets - who sent the vision? I say, the Prophets. It does show Sisko, as Matt Patterson said before, that you can't destroy an idea. It also shows Sisko that he must walk the path the prophets have laid down for him. In a greater sense, Benny Russell espouses the absolute highest ideas that Star Trek, and all hopeful people, stand for. He sees a better future, and refuses to let anyone stomp on his vision. Pabst is the pragmatic (boo) force in our society, saying we must see what is, not what could be. But to paraphrase the historian Howard Zinn, all great changes in society were brought about by those who operated under what they wanted to be, not what "really' was. Mark Wells on Tuesday, November 16, 1999 - 1:54 am:David, I like your interpretation, but I must point out the irony of Sisko the idealist in this episode contrasted with Sisko the ruthless pragmatist just five episodes later. So much for "you can't destroy an idea". In In the Pale Moonlight, he destroys the idea himself. Rene on Thursday, December 28, 2000 - 1:39 pm: In this episode, the vision had to have been sent by the Prophets. Why? Because look at what it accomplished...At the beginning of the episode, Sisko was ready to give up and was letting all the stree get to him. At the end, he resolves to continue fighting. Josh M on Sunday, December 31, 2000 - 12:41 pm:I think that Sarah told him in the second episode of the seventh season that it was sent by the Pah-Wraiths to try and fool him into thinking that he was really a 50s writer so they wouldn't have to worry about him. Of course, that may have just been where he was in the nut house with the human based on Damar
- norman on Tuesday, March 09, 1999 - 5:10 pm: Perhaps she ended up only being popular back in the late nineteenth century and ended up having no literary merit (or is waiting to be "rediscovered" in the Literary Canon) but when Benny mentions the Great African American writers he knows, he forgot to mention Guinan! (Who was considered "good" and well-renowned sixty years earlier). I guess yet another example of the racist society in how writers are remembered. Mike Konczewski on Wednesday, March 10, 1999 - 7:50 am:Guinan is neither African nor American (even though I know she is played by Whoopi Goldberg, but that's "reality"). She's an alien. Of course, she could have written under a pen name. norman on Wednesday, March 10, 1999 - 10:45 am: I take that nitpick back. If Star Trek is in Benny's "fantasy world," then Guinan would be part of that, too. So he wouldn't mention her.
- Anonymouse on Monday, January 08, 2001 - 8:09 am: The details of "Old New York" bothered me a bit though. Why was Worf/Willie playing for the Giants? margie on Thursday, February 01, 2001 - 12:21 pm: The Giants were in New York until the end of the 50's. I think they moved to California in 1957 or so.
- Ratbat on Wednesday, February 28, 2001 - 9:48 pm: I'm not quite up on the rules of faux-1950s-vision bigotry, but… Why were the female KC and the black Benny asked to stay home on photo day, but the Asian Julian allowed to stay? Or were only certain people of colour frowned upon? Mark Stanley on Thursday, May 03, 2001 - 5:54 pm: I have three possible explanations.
This being in Sisko's head, perhaps he actually doesn't think about the colour of Julian Bashir's skin, and simply thinks of him as British? After all, the dream was about and for Sisko, not Julian. If the Prophets needed to get Julian to do something, I'm sure they'd use *his* subconsious, but here, he's not that important. Sisko's surface impressions of him would be enough to create his role in the dream.
Or, alternatively, in the "real world" of the dream, perhaps black and white photos make Jules look white enough to "pass"? (I have some B&W photos of Sid, some printed in a fan club newsletter, some pro photos taken on-set. He looks well-tanned, but if the attempt were made to pass him off as white in a B&W photo, it would probably succeed, especially if people had never seen him in colour, and were predisposed to *assume* he was white, as the readers of Jules' work in this episode would.)
Or perhaps racism didn't extend *in the same way* to light brown people with British passports? There would be racism, but it might manifest more in seeing Jules as exotic and foreign and not quite real, as opposed to seeing him as trash. (I don't know nearly enough about American history of this era to say for certain. This is a guess based on much older literature, and from Britain and Canada, not America.)
- ↑ According to the startrek.com episode list, the provisional stardate for this episode is 51452.
- ↑ Newsboy (Aron Eisenberg = Nog), Albert Macklin (Colm Meaney = O'Brien), Herbert Rossoff (Armin Shimerman = Quark), Douglas Pabst (René Auberjonois = Odo), Kay Eaton, a.k.a. K.C. Hunter, (Nana Visitor = Kira), Julius Eaton (Alexander Siddig = Bashir), Roy Ritterhouse (J. G. Hertzler = Martok), Burt Ryan (Marc Alaimo = Dukat), Kevin Mulkahey (Jeffrey Combs = Weyoun), Preacher (Brock Peters = Joseph Sisko), Cassie (Penny Johnson Jerald = Kasidy Yates), Jimmy (Cirroc Lofton = Jake Sisko), Willie Hawkins (Michael Dorn = Worf), Darlene Kursky (Terry Farrell = Dax).