Being Brown in Space

Posted by Niall Harrison

Continuing in a Star Trek vein, at Racialicious, Kendra James has an appreciation of clearly the best Trek captain, Benjamin Sisko, and the actor portraying him, Avery Brooks:

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.

I've been rewatching DS9 this year, and (not an uncommon experience, this) finding that it holds up really quite well. I always liked Sisko, but even characters I wasn't so keen on first time around -- notably Dax and Bashir -- have really grabbed me this time.


           

Comments (3)


Hooray! I've been arguing for years that Sisko is the best Star Trek captain, and I'm very impressed with how well DS9 as a whole has held up over time.


Sisko is a very cool character; but Avery Brooks is an actor of the William Shatner school: which is to say, not terribly good, with a tendency to throw odd vocal emphases into his dialogue and to substitute a string of more-or-less eccentric mannerisms and tics for actual acting. He's less self-parodic than Shatner; and more to the point (of course) Shatner's 'acting' was no bar to Kirk becoming a cultural icon. The same may hold for Sisko too.


Adam, there's some truth to that -- but for me, as with David Boreanaz on Angel, the writers learned how to play to their lead's strengths, which makes the performance itself compelling and convincing. And there are some scenes in which he is just flat-out excellent: most famously the end of "In the Pale Moonlight", surely.


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