A comparison of Trials And Tribble-ations and Flashback, but ultimately a comparison between the approaches of Deep Space Nine and Voyager.
Useful Links for Avery Brooks
Trekland Ira Seven Behr Interview Finale Released
by Christopher DeFilippis
DeFlip Side, Vol. 1, No. 6
(First Appeared: June/July, 1999; First Light E-zine, Issue #82)
This is going to be short and sweet, folks. My original plan for this month’s column was to bid a fond farewell to Deep Space Nine, until recently the best show on television. I was going to do an in-depth review of the final episode, exploring whether or not it brought the Dominion war arc to a satisfying conclusion, as well as if it proved a fitting send-off to the best Trek series ever; my swan song to the swan song, so to speak. But those ne’er do-wells at Paramount took the wind out of my sails. After watching the finale, I came to only one inescapable conclusion: It’s not over.
After all, Sisko left his baseball behind.
Of course, there’s also the question of his unborn child, his career in Starfleet, a new Defiant that needs to be broken in, an unfinished real estate transaction on Bajor and his promise that he would return “in a year from now or yesterday.” But the baseball is the cincher. He doesn’t leave home without it, much less take up permanent residence in Prophet limbo. We haven’t heard the last from him or the rest of these characters. I don’t know when or in what format, but we’ll see them again. Bet on it.
This fact colors my opinion of the two-hour series finale. As a final good-bye, it would have left too many loose ends. But as a “so long for now” it was perfect. It brought enough closure to satisfy, but egged us on just enough to keep our expectations for a return simmering on a low frame somewhere in the back of our brains. Like Kira and Jake, we’re all gazing out of a portal on the Promenade, waiting patiently to see what happens next.
I’ll spare you all a long-winded essay on what I liked and why. Different parts of the finale will have appealed to different people for different reasons. But there is no call for excess exposition. After all, we’re not talking about “Mirror Image” here (the legendarily confusing finale to the TV series Quantum Leap). Instead, I’ll be as succinct as possible:
The Good Stuff:
The Bad Stuff:
As you can see, the good clearly outweighed the bad. I think the very best thing about the episode, and the series over all, was that I could never tell exactly how things would turn out. And even when I did have a pretty good idea of where things were going, the characters would reach their destinations via completely unexpected routes.
This rule holds true for the future of Deep Space Nine. It’s a foregone conclusion that Sisko will come back. Just watch; he’ll soon get tired of playing pinochle with Wesley on the astral plain and shuffle back into his mortal coil for a return to his old life. But to what effect? Will he be considered a lord on Bajor? Will his new found Prophet wisdom cause a rift between him and his all-too-human friends and family? Will he have hair? I can’t even guess at the possibilities.
Of course, we’re most likely to be hearing from Worf the soonest. I just hope the powers that be use the opportunity they’ve created to full effect in the next movie. Worf’s position as Federation ambassador to Qo’noS lends itself to a sweeping story that could encompass the Federation and Klingon Empire and propel the franchise forward, something it sorely needs after the disaster that was Insurrection.
The one thing I do not want to see is a feature length film that combines the Next Gen and DS9 casts. The writers have a tough enough time as it is finding useful roles for the entire Enterprise-E ensemble with each outing. If they tried to add the DS9 crew as well, the screen would be packed tighter than Seven of Nine’s Wonder Bra, but with a far less marvelous result. I’ll pin my hopes on a small-screen reunion that will give the DS9 characters and plot lines free reign.
In the meantime, I guess I still have Voyager to give me my Star Trek fix, though it’ll be like going from heroin to methadone. Now that the DS9 writers are freed up, maybe they can help put Voyager on the right track and raise it to the standards we’ve come expect from Star Trek. But I’m not gonna hold my breath. I don’t have to anyway.
When DS9 premiered, I still had a maniacal hatred of new Trek. I wasn’t sucked over the Next Gen event horizon until Generations hit the theaters. And by the time I got into DS9, it was well into its run. So I ask you to pray with me now that channel 11 in NY soon starts rerunning the series from the beginning. There are three years worth of episodes I’ve never seen. It’s a little something extra to look forward to.
See Pop? Sometimes it works to your benefit to be a day late and a dollar short…
While the story arc itself had its problems and the series as a whole did have its flaws (overuse of the Ferengi as comic relief, a very weak seventh season with a rushed finish, poor to non-existent exit strategy for the Dominion War story arc, etc), I think the Dominion War worked overall and helped define Deep Space Nine as a series, for better or worse.
By contrast, the Xindi storyline in Enterprise was a good idea that was not as well executed as the Dominion War… but that describes many of the ideas Berman & Braga have come up with over the years. To begin with, the concept itself was really a clone of the Dominion War done to drive up Enterprise’s lackluster Nielson ratings. Created as a prequel by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga (both of whom had lost their touch by then, in my not-so-humble opinion), Enterprise wasn’t doing very well as a series. This was largely due to poor stories that either lacked internal continuity (on an episode-by-episode basis) or pissed all over established continuity for either the series or the franchise (by either introducing certain concepts from TNG way too soon in the timeline or by introducing potentially major threats to Earth in one episode, then completely ignoring them and the story-telling opportunities they could have raised in later episodes by never mentioning them again and zooming off to some other would-be threat). Remembering the brief viewer increase caused by the Dominion War in DS9, Berman & Braga decided to bring their own war into Enterprise with the Xindi.
While that might have been a good idea, the concept suffered problems from the start. To begin with, the entire Xindi arc wasn’t its own story; rather, it was just one season-long subset of a larger conflict that was shown, but never explained in the series: namely, the Temporal Cold War. No real details were ever given as to what the nature of the Temporal Cold War really was (a cold war across time itself, we assume?) or who first started it. We know some of the factions, but not all, nor do we truly understand their motives, beyond the old “Saturday morning cartoon villain” m.o. of “destroy the Federation!” that gets so cliché. Like many concepts from Berman & Braga, it was a great concept poorly executed and given little true depth. We saw precious little of this concept in Enterprise (aside from the occasional Suliban episode or the odd appearance by either “Future Guy” or Daniels, none of whom give nearly enough exposition), and what we did see was rather lackluster. Originally, this concept was expressed through a rather poorly-conceived race called the Suliban (which, guessing by their name, I assume were supposed to be some sort of heavily veiled parody of the Taliban?), though that didn’t quite pan out the way Berman & Braga hoped. With more viewers slipping away, they rushed the Xindi storyline into production.
Again, it began with a great concept: some faction in the Temporal Cold War called the Sphere Builders (really, you couldn’t give them a better name than that?) attempted an invasion of the Federation in the 26th Century, but the Federation repelled them. Instead of retaliating in that era, the Sphere Builders attempted to prevent the founding of the Federation. (As time travel expert M.J. Young would attest to on his website about temporal anomalies, such a notion has its own problems, but Star Trek has always played rather fast and loose with the concept of time travel, anyway.) To do this, they provided the Xindi with trumped-up evidence that the Federation would one day cause the destruction of their homeworld. (So, they’re fighting a war over something that hasn’t happened yet based on evidence “from the future” that could easily be manufactured? We can manufacture war photos using Photoshop right now. What kind of photo/video/hologram-doctoring technology would they have in the 22nd Century? Surely the Xindi thought of that!) This managed to get the Xindi moving in high gear, and they initiated a conflict against humanity – the Federation’s major founding member – by attacking Earth in “The Expanse“, Enterprise’s Season 3 opener. Enterprise gets recalled from its mission of exploration (which, I’m sorry to say, really hadn’t been going very well, as the crew of Enterprise either nearly got their ship destroyed each episode or spent as much time as they could pissing off the Vulcans, who – for whatever reason – were written to be colossal uptight assholes during the series) and assigned to head for a massive area of space called the Delphic Expanse in search of the Xindi’s homeworld. Once there, they would either parlay with the Xindi’s leaders and try for peace, or kick their asses and come back home victorious.
This war lasted all of one season (when has an actual war ever lasted only one year? Hell, Voyager took seven damn years to cross the Delta Quadrant – a feat they only barely accomplished by cheating several times via numerous space/time “shortcuts” – and the NX-01 Enterprise, which is technologically inferior to even the [/i]shuttlecraft[/i] of Kirk’s day, was able to cross this vast expanse of space in one year and return home in less time than that??). Some of the Xindi sided with our heroes; the others said, “Fuck it!” and launched a superweapon at Earth, which our heroes then had to stop in the Season 3 finale “Zero Hour“. Since the producers weren’t quite certain if Enterprise would return for Season 4 or not, they tried to bring all the major plot threads they had woven into the series (what few plot threads they actually bothered with, like the switch from a potential Archer/T’Pol pairing to a much more intriguing T’Pol/Tucker match)… Then they completely threw a giant WTF into it by ending the episode on a shot of an alien in a Nazi uniform. (I kid you not! Click the damn link and see for yourselves already!)
To be honest, Enterprise as a series bored me to tears (except for the occasionally interesting or even good episode, like “Regeneration“), and the Xindi storyline – while offering a few intriguing tidbits here and there (like “E²“) – was something I was rather blasé about altogether. To start with, I had grown weary of the emotional highs and lows of the Dominion War, so another war in an entirely different Trek series – especially when that war wasn’t the Earth-Romulan War we had been promised so many times – just didn’t hold as much appeal to me. I had just come to terms with the ending of Voyager (good or bad), and I wasn’t quite ready to commit to Enterprise the same way I had for TNG, DS9 and Voyager. Moreover, I had just started watching a different Roddenberry-based series – Andromeda – and had grown quite fond of it. The episodes I had seen of the Xindi war were very reminiscent of both the good and bad aspects of the Dominion War with a few interesting (and many not so interesting) twists. The writing, unfortunately, was still done by Berman & Braga (way past their prime, if you ask me) and the characters were still as… well, dull as they had been since series launch.
In Season 4, they left it to new Enterprise scribe Manny Coto – Brannon’s & Braga’s replacement, as they were refraining from writing duties (yay!) – to finish out the faux cliffhanger they created with the silly Season 3 finale “space Nazi” end scene. This he did in the two-part “Storm Front“, which explained how aliens had gone back in time and aided Nazi Germany, changing the timeline and enslaving America, and how our heroes had wound up back in the 1940s and blah blah blah… Normally, I enjoy alternate histories, but these two episodes stretched the concept beyond credibility.
After this horrid start, Manny Coto gave us a kick-ass final season of Enterprise, as (unlike Berman & Braga) he actually had a little something called talent. By then, however, the damage to the series had been done by Berman & Braga, and not even the Xindi conflict or the talented Manny Coto’s intriguing fan-wank scripts loaded with awesome original series references could save it. Enterprise was cancelled. The Earth-Romulan War plot they kept promising us and building up to? Never happened. As interesting as portions of the Xindi conflict were, maybe they could have focused on the Earth-Romulan War instead? *sigh*
To sum: Dominion War good, Xindi War so-so.
Anyway, that’s my two cents on the issue. Apologies for both the length of the post and the time which I posted it. (I hadn’t gotten to see my sister on her birthday, so I was taking her around town last night to make up for it.) What’s your take on the whole mess?
This is based on an idea from DarklyInclined, who was wondering how I might rate the rather protracted Dominion War featured in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine versus the one-season Xindi conflict (a subset of the much larger Temporal Cold War) as shown in Star Trek: Enterprise. I thought I’d also open the topic up to other wars in Trek, since those two weren’t quite the only wars shown in all of the series.
This will be a lengthy post. I’ve been working on it for a while now. I tend to write essays instead of simple replies; apologies in advance. Non-Trekkies who don’t really give a shit might want to head for another thread. For those Trekkies not well-versed in the subject matter, I will include links to pertinent data where applicable. Those who do choose read this, please bear with me.
You could make it more fun by taking a shot of your favorite alcoholic beverage anytime I bash Rick Berman & Brannon Braga (two of Trek’s longtime writers/producers, both of whom were blamed for Star Trek’s demise and the early cancellation of Enterprise, if not the near-total downfall of UPN itself) or anytime I mention Ronald D. Moore and Ira Steven Behr (two longtime Trek scribes who later moved on to Battlestar Galactica on SyFy) in a positive light. You’ll be happily plastered by post’s end.
Which did you think was done best: the Dominion War from DS9 or the Xindi conflict from Enterprise (or a different conflict featured in one of the other series, like the Klingon/Federation Cold War from TOS or the brief war against the Klingons in DS9 that served as a prelude to the Dominion War)?
Or, for a much more broad, open-ended question (if it suits you): do you think Star Trek handles a mature subject such as war well or poorly?
If you really don’t care about my lengthy diatribe on the Dominion War vs. the Xindi conflict (maybe because you didn’t live your entire life in your parents’ basement and you actually did have a social life), just skip past this and post your response already. Otherwise, feel free to keep reading.
I’ll open the discussion with my response…
I think Deep Space Nine handled the Dominion War fairly well. They didn’t just rush into it head-on. The writers gave it a great build-up, slowly tip-toeing into it, mentioning the Dominion here and there throughout Season Two (the Dominion were first mentioned in “Rules of Acquisition“, a Ferengi episode, no less!) before introducing us to their foot soldiers, the genetically-grown Jem’Hadar, in the Season 2 finale. Even after that, the Dominion didn’t quite take center stage yet, opting instead for a Cold War against the Alpha Quadrant powers, during which they covertly started two wars involving the Klingons – a war between the Klingons and the Cardassians (which the Maquis would get involved in) and renewed hostilities between the Klingons and the Federation. After destabilizing the Alpha Quadrant’s major powers, the Dominion finally invaded. Brilliant tactic! By then, the Federation was so shell-shocked from having to deal with wars on all borders (save the Romulan Neutral Zone) that they barely had the resources to fight the Dominion, a nigh-unstoppable force compared to the Federation.
The Dominion seemed militarily superior in all respects: non-stop construction of warships while the Federation was still trying to convert aging exploration vessels into battleships; they could grow Jem’Hadar at an exponential rate (and even tailor-make them for warfare in that part of the galaxy) while Starfleet couldn’t recruit new officers fast enough; the Dominion were united while Starfleet was divided between the pacifists and the war-mongers (usually represented by a shadowy “rogue” group of Starfleet Intelligence called Section 31, a sort of Starfleet “Men in Black” that utilized very dirty tactics like assassinations, cover-ups and even genocide to preserve the Federation; this was the series’ attempt at exploring a darker side of Starfleet that I, for one, appreciated). Good mix of drama, tension and action all around, plus it was an interesting examination of the Federation through darker lenses than we’re used to.
While Deep Space Nine’s executive producer, Rick Berman (Roddenberry’s hand-picked successor), wanted the Dominion War to last only three or four episodes tops, DS9′s lead writers – Ira Steven Behr and Ronald D. Moore (themselves chosen by Berman for their outstanding work on The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, both of whom would later helm the Battlestar Galactica reboot and create its prequel series Caprica) – conned him into allowing the Dominion War to play out until its “natural” end, which came during the final episode of the series. Say what you will about the Dominion War as a storyline and how it diverges from Roddenberry’s utopian vision of the future or about Deep Space Nine as a series, I think the Dominion War worked successfully (mostly), given its purpose as a method of deconstructing Roddenberry’s notions of the Federation as a utopian society. Ira Steven Behr re-imagined Deep Space Nine as a darker, grittier version of Roddenberry’s vision, and given how the series was written before that (set aboard a Cardassian space station by Michael Pillar – the brain behind some of the best TNG episodes ever, including “The Best of Both Worlds” – who imagined the series as a “frontier town in space” filled with broken individuals, former terrorist “freedom fighters”, orphaned aliens and unscrupulous bartender/merchants), the series worked well as such. The Dominion War, while I admit it was rather protracted (and ultimately weakened the hell out of Season 7, when the writers had to figure out a quick way to end the war in only one season after building the story arc to be a lengthy epic), worked overall as the ultimate test of Roddenberry’s dream.
When such a dream – the notion of humankind striving to better itself through peace and cooperation – is threatened by outside forces, what will humanity endure to protect it? The approach to this was very realistic, from the major portions of the story (“Operation Return“, the re-taking of DS9 after it was taken over by the Dominion) to the humdrum day-to-day stuff (Sisko’s grim ritual of posting casualty reports from the war every Friday). Ultimately, the war took a bitter toll on everyone involved, especially Captain Sisko; he would later commit acts that many Trek fans consider cardinal sins against Roddenberry’s lofty ideals – specifically helping a former Cardassian spy murder a Romulan senator in cold blood and blame the Dominion for it in the masterpiece episode “In the Pale Moonlight” – just to bring a quicker resolution to the war by bringing the Romulans into it. By the series’ end, the Federation is saved, and all the major goals of the series – bringing an end to the Cardassian threat and putting Bajor on the fast-track to membership in the Federation – have been met, along with the added bonus of creating a tentative peace between the Federation, the Klingons and the Romulans. Additionally, Ira Steven Behr was able to inject a bit of Judaism into the story through the Bajorans and their Emissary (messiah figure), Benjamin Sisko, whose story arc Behr based loosely on Moses.
By Guest Contributor On March 15, 2012, Kendra James:
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is like The West Wing. But in space. With a Black president. Kind of.
That’s normally how I find myself trying to describe the show to the uninitiated, as I firmly believe that it’s the Trek series you have to use when trying to get people into Trek canon, especially people of color. Deep Space Nine (DS9) causes a strange division in the world of Trekkies. I’ve always found (non-scientifically; I just spend a lot of time at cons) that people either love it or loathe it. Meanwhile, I can’t wait to show it to my kids.
DS9 has your aliens and spaceships, and characters do occasionally say things like “set phasers to stun,” but the Trek cheese-factor is more often than not outweighed by the political storyarcs covered over six out of the show’s seven seasons, its criticisms of 20th century history, race relations in America, and lead actor, Avery Brooks, who stars as Captain Benjamin Lafayette Sisko–the first and only African-American captain to lead a televised Star Trek franchise.
In both the original Star Trek series (TOS) and Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG), the existence of the United Federation Of Planets provided a perfect excuse to ignore (human) race and racism completely. The Trek franchise has always featured black actors and actresses, well developed Black characters, and TOS even featured the first televised interracial kiss in the episode “Plato’s Kiss.” Both shows dismissed racism on Earth as being as outdated as using money, instead highlighting racial politics between alien species rather than humans.
This model may have continued through DS9 had they hired any other actor to portray Captain Sisko. However, Brooks–a Shakespearean-trained actor, graduate of Oberlin College, and the first African-American to earn an MFA in acting and directing from Rutgers University, where he has also worked as a professor–brought much of himself to the role, and that included an emphasis in the importance of the African-American experience. Even nearly three hundred years in the future. Whether Trek fans were ready for it or not, DS9 brought the topic of race closer to home.
While I suspect that direct tone is one of the reasons DS9 isn’t as popular as its’ predecessors–along with the heavy emphasis on backroom politics instead of “seeking out bold new worlds”–if you didn’t like TNG chances are you’re going to love a show that goes out of its way in the first episode to distinguish Sisko from the already-established Captain Jean-Luc Picard. In the premiere we learn Picard (while under control of the alien species The Borg) had killed Sisko’s wife.
In a meeting between the two, Sisko speaks to Picard in a tone he’s likely never heard from a non-superior officer before, and Sisko’s dislike of the man–and the stationis made apparent. With that, Sisko distinguishes himself immediately in the DS9 pilot as one of the few people with the mettle to speak openly to Picard and to not simply fall under the spell of influence the captain was often written to command. While the scene was likely included to make the segue from TGN to DS9 as smooth as possible, Picard does not exist to emerge as the hero of the scene or to bring Sisko back in line, so to speak. Because Sisko is given his outrage, his choice to accept permanent assignment there later is that much more genuine.
The meeting also introduces what would be one of the series’ most important subplots: Sisko is a family man in a way that neither Picard or Kirk ever were. He’s a widower with an 11-year old son Jake (Cirroc Lofton), a situation that was one of the reasons for resisting his assignment to the station.
In William Shatner’s documentary The Captains, Brooks said it was important to him to portray a black father on television that plays an positive role in his son’s life.
“I read the pilot, and said well, this is very interesting to me,” Brooks said. “A man dealing with loss, having to raise a child–indeed a male child–by himself, and be brown as we spin this tale in the 20th century about the 24th century.”
The depiction of the black father continued to be an important dynamic to Brooks through the show’s finale, like when he initially thought they were going to have Sisko abandon his son and unborn child. Upset by this decision he’s quoted as saying, “ The Producers told me, ‘Look we thought you’d be thrilled…The difference, of course, is you have Sisko with another child on the way. You still have Sisko with a young man [Jake Sisko] trying to find his way…That wasn’t fair.” [Shortened for Spoilers].
This view on “Parenting While Black” is unique in sci-fi fantasy television. More often than not in these shows, black parents die off or abandon their children early on in their lives, leaving them unhappy, lonely and hungry for revenge. Brooks’ efforts helped Lofton’s character largely avoid the fate of others like Robin Wood and Kendra Young (Buffy The Vampire Slayer), Charles Gunn (Angel), Bonnie Bennett (The Vampire Diaries), and Walt Lloyd (Lost).
Even with an intergalactic war raging around them later in the series, Sisko is always there for Jake. They’re often shown having dinner together and Sisko is always eager to read over and help edit Jake’s stories and articles. He supports Jake’s decision to become a writer instead of going to the Starfleet Academy, even though that’s perhaps what he would have preferred. Episodes like “The Visitor” (guest starring Tony Todd as an older Jake Sisko) and “In the Cards” (where Jake tries to acquire a 1950s baseball card to cheer Sisko up during a stressful week) highlight the strength of the bond and loving relationship between father and son.
With a highly educated and vocal African American actor in the lead it’s no wonder you get get seven seasons of a series that takes his cultural experience to heart; Sisko is specifically written to acknowledge the implications that the color of his skin bring.
Not only are there references to Sisko’s New Orleans heritage, soul food, his love of baseball (particularly players Willie Mayes and Jackie Robinson) and bits of African art we see decorating his quarters, but we see him enter a relationship with an African-American woman, Kasidy Yates, enabling them–and the viewers–to discuss the cultural history of racism, of which Sisko is still acutely aware. In one episode his crew becomes infatuated with visiting “Vic’s,” a holosuite program set in a 1960s Las Vegas casino and lounge, and Kasidy asks him why he doesn’t want to join his team’s Rat Pack cosplay.
Sisko: You want to know … you really want to know what my problem is? I’ll tell you: Las Vegas 1962, that’s my problem. In 1962, black people weren’t very welcome there. Oh sure, they could be performers or janitors, but customers? Never.
Kasidy: Maybe that’s the way it was in the real Vegas, but that is not the way it is at Vic’s. I have never felt uncomfortable there, and neither has Jake.
Sisko: But don’t you see? That’s the lie. In 1962, the civil rights movement was still in its infancy. It wasn’t an easy time for our people, and I’m not going to pretend that it was.
Kasidy: Baby–I know that Vic’s isn’t a totally accurate representation of the way things were, but… it isn’t meant to be. It shows us the way things could’ve been – the way they should’ve been.
Sisko: We cannot ignore the truth about the past.
Kasidy: Going to Vic’s isn’t going to make us forget who we are or where we came from. What it does is reminds us that we are no longer bound by any limitations–except the ones we impose on ourselves.
It’s a small scene in a 45-minute episode, but the fact that it’s acknowledged is important and more than you get from most genre shows. Sisko is initially displeased with his crew’s little Mad Men fantasy, and he’s allowed to express it, no matter how uncomfortable it might be for the viewer.
During season five, Brooks also tackled nostalgic racism from behind the camera, as director of the episode “Far Beyond The Stars,” which spends an entire 45 minutes dealing with race relations in mid 20th-century America. “Stars” reimagines Sisko as a science fiction writer named Benny Russell working for a racist and sexist New York magazine in the 1950s where racism is present, but more deceptive and innocent, casually rolling off the tongues of people Benny considers friends and colleagues. The magazine refuses to publish his stories about the character Benjamin Sisko, a black starship captain.
When Benny’s editor finally does agree to publish his stories he insists that the stories must be revealed to be the dreams (not the reality) of a poor Black man in their present time–because everyone knows the idea of a black sci-fi hero is that unrealistic. With that, the episode also reminds the viewer that despite the inclusive attitude the Trek franchise has embraced, science-fiction is still very much a white man’s world. For every Octavia Butler there are five Joss Whedons. More pointedly, for every one Captain Sisko, there’s a Captain Picard, Captain Kirk, Han Solo, John Carter, and … well, you get the picture. With Sisko in the lead, DS9 is self-aware and capable of criticising the flaws of its own genre, and that’s something to appreciate.
I’m struck by how much more I understand this show at the age of 24, compared to when I rewatched it at 17, and before that when I originally watched from 1993 to 1999. I was only 11 when the finale aired (and grounded for a good deal of the season, but that’s another issue entirely) and while I vaguely understood the significance of Sisko, I admit to taking his presence–the presence of a starring Black man–on my screen as normal. I like to think that Brooks would have appreciated that, knowing that part of his reasoning for accepting the role of Sisko was his belief that “brown children must be able to participate in contemporary mythology.”
In some ways the 1990s were better landscape for a kid of color to get into science fiction and fantasy. Not only did I have Sisko, there was Carl Lumbly as M.A.N.T.I.S; Wesley Snipes was Blade; Spawn aired on HBO and was made into a film; Cleopatra 2525 starring Gina Torres debuted in 2000; my favorite book series, Animorphs, starred Black and Latino teens; and Will Smith was king of the summer sci-fi box office.
When one looks at the scope of white genre heroes this isn’t a large number in comparison but, because Sisko was always there, I didn’t feel as if I was lacking for anything. It never occurred to me that the physical and cultural representation I was seeing was unique not only within the Trek franchise, but on television in general. Because, let’s be real: It’s already been 12 years since DS9 ended, and sometimes it’s nice to watch Avery Brooks as Sisko and remember that, yes, we can do that, too.