Retro Review: Far Beyond The Stars

Original Airdate: February 11, 1998.

I’ve recently had the time to enjoy some Star Trek: Deep Space Nine reruns on SyFy here in the UK.  At present, they’re working their way through Season Six, probably my favourite season of any of the Star Trek shows.

Today, I noticed that Far Beyond The Stars was on.  I quickly announced that my housemate’s television plans for the evening were cancelled: we’d be watching this episode.

I remembered it fondly, and having not watched it for about ten years, I was curious to see how it had aged.

Splendidly is the answer.

It remains a fine hour of science fiction, and of Star Trek, and ranks up there with the best.  A challenging and thought-provoking look at racial struggle in mid-20th Century United States, all through the lens of hope that Star Trek offers.

Not only does it excel in its handling of the subject matter, it also excels as a piece of storytelling.  It’s fair to say that it is magnificently written with superb pacing.  The hour flies past, and I picked up on several parallels I missed when I was younger.  For instance, Sisko’s dreams of Benny Russell reflect the challenges he himself goes through.  He speaks to his father at the beginning of the episode of how every time he feels he’s achieved a victory, something happens that knocks him back to the start.  So too with Benny, as his glimpses of hope are shattered by circumstances outside his control.  And with the main villain of Deep Space Nine, the Dominion, being predominantly present far away in the Gamma Quadrant – an ominous distant danger represented by the limited forces they have in the Alpha Quadrant (Dukat, Weyoun et al) – in his dream the owner of the magazine, who is never depicted on screen, has the power to quash Benny’s hopes through his mouthpiece of the magazine editor, played by Rene Auberjonois.

All the while, it’s topped off by an acting tour-de-force from Avery Brooks, whose breakdown after failing to break through the shackles of racial prejudices is a simply mesmerising showcase of ability.  Not bad for the man who also directed the episode.

I’m quite certain more in-depth reviews than this exist.  However, I caught this episode in passing this evening, and it truly deserves an revisit.

It’s fantastic.  It’s challenging.  It’s possibly the best episode of Deep Space Nine there is.

And there are some pretty splendid episodes of Deep Space Nine out there.

So, while we’re at it, have your say: is it the best episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine?

Is Far Beyond The Stars the best episode of Deep Space Nine?

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The Perks of Being a Picard

Picard - Earl Grey

Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.

In 2011, I married the love of my life – Mr. Picard.  No, not that Picard.

My parents are long-time Trekkies, though I don’t think I necessarily loved the series in the way they would have preferred.  I am much more attached to the Star Wars universe (a mutual love of SW is actually how I met my husband).  I remember growing up watching videotapes of classic Star Trek episodes and trying to pry open my father’s glass display case, which contained a commemorative anniversary plate and replica phaser.  Numerous autographed pictures hung proudly on the wall of Leonard Nimoy,  Jonathan Frakes and of course, Patrick Stewart.

So you can imagine the day I called my parents to tell them that I was getting married.  “Oh really?!”  My father’s voice lifted and I could practically hear a twinkle in his eye.  “You’ll be Mrs. Picard.”  I didn’t think I could make him any happier until he said, “If he owned a boat, we could call him Captain Picard.”

Did I mention my father in law actually owns a boat?  I know as nerd offspring, I couldn’t have married a better surname (well, except Solo, maybe).

If you think being told repeatedly that you have an awesome last name would get old, well, you would be wrong.  I can’t wait to go to a convention one day with the name tag “Mrs. Picard” and not even have to pretend.

My husband and I have discussed children’s names – I have to admit I was a bit reluctant at first, but I finally caved to naming any future  boy “Jonathan Lucas Picard”.  I am hoping it is not so nerdy that the kid will be teased, but just nerdy enough that anyone cool will “get it”.  I look forward to many knowing smiles.

As the icing on a deliciously nerdy cake, my husband and I are avid tea drinkers.  I anxiously await the day I finally give in and buy this:

Yes, this does exist!

Yes, this does exist!


Sci-Fi Characters You Can Never Defeat In A Poker Match

Sci-fi, or science fiction, is not a big fish in French cinema. Although the country produced some critically acclaimed science fiction films such as Jean-Luc Godard’s Alphaville and Bertrand Tavernier’s Death Watch, most of the films shown on the French silver screen are dramas and art films. However, Paris became one of the preferred sets for some science fiction films, especially the ones that delve into cyberpunk. In a future as gritty as the cyberpunk version of Paris, the streets will be filled with popular noir elements like smoke coming out of manholes; mendicants and junkies occupying dark alleys, and constant sirens blaring out of futuristic Lamborghini-esque police cars. In a typical sci-fi scene, a dimly-lit bar will be the stop of our beloved antiheroes for information and the outlet of violent tendencies. But before a fight ensues, a poker match first will be initiated by the best card player in the house, challenging the antihero to a battle of wits and patience. But who among the famous sci-fi characters will emerge victorious from a poker match without resorting to violence or cheating? In no particular order, these are the characters that are sure to win the game of cards.

1. Spock, Star Trek
Spock is a logical thinker unlike most of his Vulcan brethren due to him being a hybrid of humans and Vulcans. Aside from thinking from a logical perspective, Spock is also guided by his human emotions despite having an expressionless face. Though be wary of him, the game is most likely probably over when he looks at his cards and says “fascinating.” But if you want the same thrill of being up against THE Spock, you should play games at and enjoy fast-paced adrenaline-kicking poker anytime, anywhere.

2. Master Chief, Halo
Halo is one of the most celebrated video games in France; it even has its own e-sports tournament in the country. Trained to become the greatest hero in the Halo universe, John 117 is not your average determinator. He is fast, strong, smart and most important of all, deadly in all ways possible. Master Chief probably doesn’t understand the word ‘tact’. Hell, he might even put his life on the line just to get the Dead Man’s Hand.

3. The Doctor, Dr. Who
Aside from being the most successful and longest running sci-fi television show in the entire television history, it also became a hit in other countries such as Germany and France. Depending on who among the eleven incarnations of the famous renegade Time Lord people are going to fight, The Doctor can be as easy to read as an open book or as hard to crack as an overcooked crème brûlée. Though he acts like a true gentleman, don’t ever think about cheating on him because he will result to violence if he has to.

4. The Terminator, Terminator Series
Whether you fight against the extremely scary T-800 {The Terminator} or the protective guardian Cyberdyne Systems 101 (Terminator 2), there is no way to win against Terminators. Apart from being able to process information quickly, they do not have facial reactions that are used by poker masters to read your cards. And if you are about to face the former, I suggest that you just run away from the match, unless you can lure him to a hydraulic press and crush him there; just make sure you don’t leave the hand.
Since the French are not fond of making their own science fiction movies, maybe this is the right time to begin one, especially with their passionate drive to make cinematic masterpieces.


NASA Working On Warp Drive

In the second of today’s new technology stories, it’s the exciting news that NASA have begun work on warp drive.  

[quote]Perhaps a Star Trek experience within our lifetime is not such a remote possibility.”[/quote] - Dr. Harold White.

It would appear that NASA now believe that a real life-warp drive is now possible, by rejigging the energy requirements of previous hypotheses.

Dr. White’s team are working on loopholes that are believed to exist in certain mathematical equations.  Such loopholes, though they may sound like nothing, may indicate that warping the fabric of space-time is possible.

According to Gizmodo, “The Eagleworks team has discovered that the energy requirements are much lower than previously thought. If they optimize the warp bubble thickness and “oscillate its intensity to reduce the stiffness of space time,” they would be able to reduce the amount of fuel to manageable amount: instead of a Jupiter-sized ball of exotic matter, you will only need 500 kilograms to “send a 10-meter bubble (32.8 feet) at an effective velocity of 10c.” ‘

Read the entire story at Gizmodo.


Azati Prime Finale

In this week’s Clip of the Week, have a think back to Star Trek: Enterprise – namely the final scenes of Season Three’s Azati Prime.

Actually, don’t.  Just give it a watch.  One of my favourite Trek cliff-hangers.  Considering how the season had progressed relatively easily for the show’s so-called darkest season, Azati Prime gave us the Enterprise receiving a seriously heavy tonking off the Xindi fleet, ending up drifting helplessly in space with a drug-riddled T’Pol in command.


Star Trek Renegades

The latest Star Trek fan project that’s causing people to turn their heads and notice is Star Trek: Renegades.  It’s the team behind Of Gods and Men, and they’ve just released their second teaser trailer featuring Walter Koenig (Chekov) and Tim Russ (Tuvok).  They’ve also got Harry Kim and Soval from Enterprise lined up for appearances, so we look forward to that.

Thanks to John Skinner Jr for the heads up!


No More Trek! Ad

I remember this airing (terrifyingly, that’s eleven years ago now) but this was a pretty funny commercial launched in the run up to Enterprise.  The words Star Trek would later be dropped from the title, ironically. (Yes, I know they were re-instated during the third season…)

Just one of those amusing commercials worth remembering.