Avery Brooks and His Understanding of Sisko

In a 1986 Good Morning America interview promoting the prime time show, Spencer, Avery Brooks was asked about another role he was playing in Uncle Tom’s Cabin for Showtime. The interviewer stated it was “against type casting, a very unusual thing” to which Avery Brooks replied, “No, not really. You know, I’m an artist. So I can do anything.” Brooks’s confidence in the dynamic range of his artistic abilities would come to light through the role and character arc of Benjamin Lafayette Sisko in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Through the serialization of the show and the mutually instilling character development there is a theme of what Avery Brooks discusses in a 1998 interview, that we are each the product of our past experiences. Avery states, 

I don’t approach this work any differently than any other work; that I am the sum of every preceding moment and I bring all of that to bear on this present moment, yeah? And so I rarely step away from it and try to premeditate what is going to happen. Sometimes I am sure it works out okay and sometimes it doesn’t. I mean, that is the nature of being human it seems to me. Once one starts to think that they are profound every single moment then, you know, I guess you can only do that in Hollywood, huh? We are fallible and we are imperfect and that’s the thing that attracts me to continuing this role. It’s that he is human and then we keep plumbing the depths of what that means to be human. 

This theme of continuously becoming that Brooks relates in his interview is directly expressed in the premier episode of Deep Space Nine, “Emissary” (1993). When Commander Sisko and Lt. Dax discover the wormhole, what is later understood as being the Celestial Temple, the dwelling of the Bajoran gods simply referred to as the Prophets, Sisko finds he must define linear time to the Prophets (or “wormhole aliens” as they are also called). In so doing, he engages in an ontological survey of how time and self interact and inform the present. The Prophets adroitly integrate Sisko by manifesting themselves as those he knows from his real life. In this instance, first Kai Opaka and then his son, Jake:  

Kai Opaka: Prove it? 
Sisko: It can be argued that a human is ultimately the sum of his experiences. 
Jake: Experiences? What is this? 
Sisko: Memories. Events from my past, like this one. 
Jake: Past?  
Sisko: Things that happened before now. You have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about. 
Jake: What comes before now is no different than what is now, or what is to come. It is one’s existence.
Sisko: Then, for you, there is no linear time.  

Perhaps the fact that the Prophets do not exist in linear time explains how at this moment they question what time is while having already separated themselves and visited Earth in the past to assure that Sisko was born. Or, this is just part of the testing of Sisko. Returning later to the Prophets’s manifestation of Jake to speak with Sisko: 

Jake: Then how can you take responsibility for your actions? 
Sisko: We use past experiences to help guide us. For Jennifer and me, all the experiences in our lives prepared us for the day we met on the beach, helped us recognize that we had a future together. When we married, we accepted all the consequences of that act, whatever they might be, including the consequences of you.  

The Commander Sisko that comes out of the rebirthed wormhole dragging the Cardassian warship in tow – humiliated in simultaneous reluctation and acquiescence – is the Emissary we come to know. He is not immediately altered by the intractable and intimate experience with the Prophets just minutes ago. He is not even slightly surprised to find himself rescuing the insalubrious Gul Dukat, and in the process Deep Space Nine, as Major Kira was just about to surrender before the wormhole emerged once more. In fact, it is all oppositionally peremptory in act and signification. Kai Opaka saw the person, Benjamin Sisko, who he was to be without accoutrements of formal display. Opaka understood that “The person who does not wish to be among us is to be the Emissary.” Opaka saw outside of linear time into the irenic designs of the Prophets as they had perhaps not yet occurred, but had already been created. Sisko had yet to discover the Celestial Temple, but the Prophets had always already orchestrated a marriage with his father to assure that he was born. 

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