20 legendary Black science fiction actors who rocked the genre

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Avery Brooks

As a tenured professor, Avery Brooks is probably feeling pretty secure right now. That’s a rare sort of feeling for many actors, who are by nature freelancers at the mercy of entertainment trends and casting directors. Even before he landed his academic gig, however, Brooks had already made a big name for himself as a science fiction actor.

We’re referring particularly to his work as Commander Benjamin Sisko on the third Star Trek series, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Now, for all of the good that Sisko’s character did, he wasn’t actually the first Black starship captain shown on the series. That honor actually goes to Paul Winfield, who played the very unfortunate Captain Clark Terrell in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Then, there was also the missing mother of Geordi LaForge, Captain Silva LaForge (Madge Sinclair) in The Next Generation.

Brooks, however, has the honor of being the first Black lead in a Star Trek series, and a groundbreaking one for other reasons. First, let’s talk a bit about the character’s backstory.

Sisko comes to the command of the remote Deep Space Nine station, in orbit around the planet Bajor, after personal tragedy. His wife, Jennifer, has died in a Borg-led attack at the Battle of Wolf 359. The Federation triumphs against the Borg, but clearly at a dear cost. Now, Sisko is left as a single father to his young son, Jake. It’s initially unclear whether or not the pair will thrive at all in Sisko’s new command.

Life on a space station, with its wide array of characters both helpful and annoying, is already tough. After the Bajorans start to believe that Sisko is a mythical “Emissary,” things get even more complicated. Thankfully, however, Sisko proves to be a fascinating character and, ultimately, a good parent to Jake. Brooks’ portrayal of Sisko as a Black man in command who is also a complex, loving father, was wonderfully done.