“Far Beyond the Stars” (originally aired February 9, 1998) was, in many ways, an attempt to bring “Deep Space Nine” back to Roddenberrian notions of an optimistic future. DS9, while brilliantly characterized and morally complex, is a relatively pessimistic sight when placed alongside “The Next Generation”, and it would be DS9 that depicts all-out war in a universe previously ruled by careful diplomacy. “Far Beyond the Stars” revealed just how far humanity had come — and how awful things were — in the 1950s, particularly when it came to racism.
In the episode, Captain Sisko (Avery Brooks) receives a vision from the Prophets (a godlike race of non-corporeal aliens who know no linear time) in which he finds himself living as Benny Russell, a science fiction writer living in 1953. York. Benny begins to write a sci-fi story not too dissimilar to “Deep Space Nine”, featuring characters from the show. The rest of the DS9 cast (many without their alien makeup) play Benny’s co-workers and compatriots. The episode’s drama stems from the fact that Benny wrote “Deep Space Nine” with a black captain, a detail that turns out to be a racist bugaboo for his editor. Benny, a black man who faces racism every day, tries to envision a future where racism has been excised from the human vocabulary.
For his dream of a future without racism, Benny is finally institutionalized. He is not allowed to dream, look up or yearn beyond the confines of a racist system. The science fiction writers he works with are very welcoming — the science fiction community is more open to diversity — but their protection of Benny doesn’t extend beyond their office walls.