When I sat down for my epic DS9 rewatch earlier this year, this is the episode that really signaled, for me, the elevation of Deep Space Nine beyond Star Trek and into science fiction’s upper reaches.
It reminds me a bit of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, which exists almost as a vessel for the seemingly infinite variety of stories Gaiman wanted to tell. With “Far Beyond the Stars,” Deep Space Nine became a show that could provide a snapshot of the workaday world of pulp fiction’s pioneers, offer an incisive commentary on science fiction’s troublesome history with race and racism, dramatize the struggle at the heart of the human condition: to be more than you seem to be. To be better while the world around you is happy to see you be worse.
All while still being a show with Cardassians and photon torpedoes and hot, slug-bearing women.