Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Past Tense, Part I"


Air date: 1/2/1995
Teleplay by Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Story by Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Directed by Reza Badiyi

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Twenty-first century history is not one of my strong points—too depressing." — Bashir

Simply put, "Past Tense I" is one of the best episodes of the series. It works terrifically as a refreshing time-travel story (the first for DS9) as well as a provocative allegory, characterized by heaps of brilliantly realized character moments. Sophomore director Reza Badiyi gets a chance to shine two months after helming the relatively pedestrian "Civil Defense."

A transporter mishap sends Sisko, Bashir and Dax centuries into the past to a point in time just days before a violent incident that will lead to a turning point in Earth's history. Now they must find a way back to the 24th century, being sure to avoid disrupting the time-line while in the past.

Sisko and Bashir wake up on the streets of San Francisco in the year 2024, finding themselves separated from Dax. Caught by the police without ID, the two are placed in a "sanctuary district"—an isolated section of the city composed of thousands of homeless, jobless, poverty-stricken citizens.

Before long, Sisko, an avid history buff, realizes that he and Bashir have landed just days before the infamous Bell Riots—one of the most violent civil disturbances in American history, scheduled to unfold within the very sanctuary district where the two have become prisoners. History states the event begins with district residents taking hostages at the processing center. It ends with armed forces killing hundreds of innocent people in an attempt to secure the situation as it turns into a rally. A man named Gabriel Bell plays a pivotal part in the incident by sacrificing himself to ensure the safety of the hostages. Sisko tells Bashir the incident will cause public outrage of the nation's condition and a major step forward to solving Earth's social problems.

Brooks and El Fadil both deliver memorable performances, and the pairing of their characters provides a poignant subtext: Sisko as the wise teacher from a future that remembers its past, and Bashir as the student whose eyes are opened to grim, depressing history for the first time.

When the two have an unexpected confrontation with street thug B.C. (Frank Military), a fight leads Gabriel Bell to intervene. B.C. kills him in the brawl, thus altering the future. Without Bell to save the hostages and take his proper role in history, Sisko realizes that it is imperative he and Bashir make sure history unfolds as it should. When B.C. takes the hostages in the episode's closing minutes, Sisko decides he must take Bell's place in history even if it means sacrificing himself in the process.

The most notable aspect of "Past Tense I" is how it affects Sisko's character. It's nothing short of a breakthrough as the writers put him into an extremely volatile situation and allow him to make monumental decisions. The results are Sisko's best actions yet as DS9's leader and hero. This is the Sisko that's been in the making for two years now. Sisko's decision to take Bell's place is an act of heroism that deserves to go down in Trek history right along with Kirk's saving of Earth in Star Trek IV.

And as a social commentary, the episode is intelligent and effective. Set in what we would call the near future, homelessness and economic problems have escalated to the point where the urban unemployed are merely shoved into these districts (prisons would be a better description) where the government and more fortunate can simply forget they exist. Some gritty production design and interesting photography set the tone, turning a few city locations into a fairly convincing reality.

In addition, the B-story is sensible and subtle, characterized by some details that make a difference. Dax is found unconscious by communications executive Chris Brynner (Jim Metzler), who gives her access to a terminal she quickly uses to establish a proper 21st century identity. It's interesting how Dax winds up with people on the opposite end of the economic scale (Brynner is a multi-millionaire who hosts upscale business parties). Dax has a discussion with some of Brynner's snobbish friends that reveals the general public's uncaring attitude on the sanctuaries—one party guest dismisses them as "the only way to keep those people off the streets." Brynner comments that the sanctuaries exist solely for the residents' benefit, but he can't offer an answer when Dax asks why there is a wall around it.

Resembling The Original Series episode "City on the Edge of Forever" in many respects, this installment redelivers the poignant nature of the concept and remains true to the idea (with exception to the obligatory '90s Trek time-travel technobabble). Delivering on-target drama while keeping every element of the plot in sync, "Past Tense I" is a season highlight.

Previous episode: Fascination
Next episode: Past Tense, Part II

Season Index

45 comments on this review

Dan - Wed, Jan 9, 2008 - 2:52am (USA Central)
Fantastic episode. Trek doing what it does best. Social commentary with a futuristic slant.
Eduardo - Sat, Aug 2, 2008 - 9:56pm (USA Central)
Past Tense is so accurate, that it scares the daylight out of me. If we stop and think about it, we'll realize that future is closer to our own reality that we could possibly imagine.

With China becoming the dominant world power, and the US going through a severe recession, without any hope of climbing out, social issues will begin to dominate the next few decades. More than likely, we'll see sanctuary districts popping up all over american major cities. I only wish there were people like Gabriel Bell, willing to stand up for those people.

It's a very real and scary prospect. Who would have thought? Ira Behr and Robert Wolfe nailed the reality of the issue 14 years ago, when they wrote it.
lvsxy808 - Thu, Aug 13, 2009 - 2:36am (USA Central)
I'm watching this right now in 2009, almost 15 years after it was written, and it's absolutely terrifying how prescient it is. These things are happening RIGHT NOW in American cities.
Jay - Sun, Aug 16, 2009 - 2:47pm (USA Central)
Loved this episode, but the way Frank Military played his character was so annoying it almost ruins the whole episode.
Elliot Wilson - Sat, Feb 6, 2010 - 2:13pm (USA Central)

Truly scary, because you can honestly see something like that happening in America today. And seriously, if real-life "Sanctuary Districts" started popping up over the U.S., even if people knew their true extent, I doubt they'd bat an eyelash. They'd be so caught up in their own petty problems that they wouldn't do anything. This is some pretty powerful stuff.
Jayson - Sun, Feb 7, 2010 - 1:40am (USA Central)
Elliot, I believe in the bonus features on the season three DVD Ira Steven Behr describes the genesis for this episode. He mentions a story that someone on the staff brought to his attention. Apparently the mayor of Los Angles at the time was pondering something similar to the sanctuaries in the show. Granted, that wasn't the inspiration for the idea but it was a pretty scary conincidence.
Jay - Sun, Feb 21, 2010 - 12:34pm (USA Central)
When I first saw footage of the health care clinics sponsored by Keith Olbermann and his Countdown viewers, it made me think of this episode.
Tex - Tue, Mar 2, 2010 - 1:02pm (USA Central)
DS9 was such a visionary series! Between these episodes and Homefront/Paradise Lost, it's telling the story of our times, truly amazing!
Mal - Wed, Mar 10, 2010 - 2:02am (USA Central)
Hey folks, we're halfway there. 15 years since the episode aired, only 15 more years to go. Who wants to go stand on California and Polk with me in 2024, and wait for Kira and O'Brien to show up?!?

Seriously, with the economy going the way it has, especially in California, plus San Francisco cracking down on the homeless ( http://tiny.cc/UNMQb ), the future ain't gonna be pretty.
Jeff O'Connor - Fri, Oct 1, 2010 - 7:13pm (USA Central)
I'll be doing something long before then. Waiting is boring; the woman who raised me was a political activist, and if things get just a tad worse than they are now, I'll be thinking very seriously of following in her footsteps.
Elliott - Mon, Dec 13, 2010 - 7:20pm (USA Central)
leaving aside the social commentary which is hardly bearable for all it's lack of subtlety (that ridiculous scene with Jadzia at the cocktail party: "those people...smug smug smug, sounds like some college Freshman's impression of a GOP party), the execution is horrible:
1) The unmentioned C-plot, the technobabble is really over the top on the Defiant, it's slow-paced, awkward and sometimes just silly (surge in temporal energy, huh what could that mean? Let me run some tests, it's not like I spent 5 years on the Enterprise where this sort of thing happened every few months) 2) other than Terry Farrel's typically bad acting, the B-plot is okay, 3) Finally, the main story, nothing terribly shocking happens, we get some VERY slow-paced action sequences, some typically bad starfleet fighting moves, and TOS era smugness about the past and the future; (Sisko says his job as a "Star fleet of fi cer"--every time he says this it's so insincere I grind my teeth--is to prevent humanity from facing its own ideals. Excuse me? What the hell is that?) Finally, the "social problems" are never spelled out--okay the economy is "bad" and it seems like the middle class is shrinking, but notice the overt effort to multiracialise every sector (the rich, the poor and the working class) making the whole thing seem rather unbelievable. Part of the message of Trek's ideals is that "social problems" are interconnected. Racism, bigotry, homophobia and classism are part-in-parcel the same and to show a society (not any society, OUR society) which has totally integrated in every way EXCEPT the one relevant to the issue of the episode is painfully simplistic. This episode is an example of how people unfamiliar with Trek might view its social commentary, trite and juvenile. The name's Bond, I mean Belle...
KingofMadCows - Wed, Dec 22, 2010 - 8:48pm (USA Central)
The episode's message was pretty obvious and a bit preachy but it did have some subtle touches that people don't seem to have noticed.

The one aspect of the sanctuary district that few people seemed to have picked out is how a large number of its residents, perhaps even the majority, are mentally ill. There was that one crazy guy that Dax had to deal with, which was pretty obvious and played for laughs but there are hints all over the place that suggest the sanctuary districts are the asylums of the future.

Sisko and Bashir were automatically assumed to be "dims" when they were processed. Bashir talked to Sisko about a schizophrenic he saw on the streets. Many of the people in the background behaved like they had mental illnesses. The ghost leader clearly had some kind of personality disorder and it's suggested that most ghosts have anti-social tendencies.

Clearly, the writers were aware of the huge number of mentally ill people in the homeless population today and how it goes unrecognized by most people.
The Sext Generation - Sun, Mar 6, 2011 - 5:05pm (USA Central)
I'm curious as to why you denigrate and malign what you 'technobabble'. I've seen this perspective in many of your reviews, both of Voyager and DS9.

To be sure, too much fantastic fakery in an explanation of causes and/or effects can bog down a story and make it dry. I have, however, not seen any evidence of that so far in DS9, at least nothing memorable for being over-the-top unnecessary.

In fact, from my perspective, not only do I expect 'technobabble' but I rely on it to assist me in my suspension of disbelief.

It would not be enough for me if O'Brian simply said 'oh they're in the past because of a transporter malfunction'. I'd lose immersion, and question the writer's laziness and commitment to the franchise.

In order to believe that this COULD happen, I need a plausible basis for doing so. Transporters don't just malfunction people to a differnt point on the timeline for no reason. But if, say, the annular confinement beam was affected by a passing micro singularity which hyper-excited the residual chronatons on the ships hull from use of a cloaking device... well then that explains this unique event in Star Trek history, and helps bridge the gap of credibility from the utterly absurd to the plausible.

Perhaps you're more fancy-free in your appreciation of sci-fi and don't need the technical justifications. I for one hold Star Trek to higher standards, and expect them to explain to me how something so different and unusual could happen.

That way I don't feel like I'm simply being entertained by a cheesy melodramatic space opera, but I'm immersed in watching the potential history of our future unfold.

My two cents, and 4.5 Stars.
Eduardo - Mon, Aug 22, 2011 - 4:35pm (USA Central)
A bit of breaking news: the director behind this episode, Reza Badiyi, passed away. He was 81.

Apparently, he directed more hours of television than any other director in the entire industry. He'll be missed.
Bimmer - Sun, Sep 25, 2011 - 6:42pm (USA Central)
Yeah, so I think I'm going to stop reading your reviews. This episode is extremely weak. Let me boil the whole story down. It's bad to quarantine your law abiding civilians.... m'kay. Repeat for two hours. The best episode ever! Stab me in the eye with a screwdriver, please.

And to tell this overly dramatic, sublte as a ton of pillows, DSN needed to burn a time travel plot and two parter. Jammer, you seem to rate these inferior bambi-like episodes high, and tend to rate any story that has a hint of challenge less flattering. IMO
Trekkie98 - Sun, Nov 20, 2011 - 6:04am (USA Central)
I wholeheartedly agree with what Sext Generation said. All to often Jammer dismisses the technobabble in any Star Trek episode as unnecessary and cumbersome. I'm glad to see that someone agrees with me that the technobabble is absolutely necessary to make the plot and how everything happened believable.

Maybe it's just the fact that I have a background in computer science, but for the most part, it makes sense to me. Of course chronotons would be an essential particle to make the cloaking device on the Defiant work, as it reveals to the viewer that when the Defiant cloaks, it's actually in a state of semi-flux in spacetime, which also makes sense why the Romulans go so far out of their way to protect such powerful technology. After all, the Federation isn't supposed to harness real, reliable time-travel technology for another thousand years after DS9's timeline.
Ilya Landa - Tue, Feb 7, 2012 - 11:36am (USA Central)
Correct. No controllable time travel for another 1000 years. Unless you really need to; then just warp around a star and be where you need to be.
Ok. I know that "Star Trek: Save the Whales" is not considered a technical cannon, but it would be nice to have O'Brien discuss the possibility with Kira.
Latex Zebra - Thu, Apr 26, 2012 - 4:11am (USA Central)
I do like both parts of this episode though Dick Miller & Frank Military's characters are both a touch annoying.
The thing that I don't get is how a riot influence so much in the future. Surely World War III would have been the biggest game changer.
Did the survivors (who suddenly have a lot more space to live in with billions dead) really think back to a riot 30 odd years before and think 'Well we can't let that happen again.'
Jayson - Mon, May 7, 2012 - 9:09pm (USA Central)

I have a few theories on why they didn't warp around the sun. It's possible that Starfleet classified all the details on that which makes sense given they do have a department of temporal investigations. Also, what O'Brien was doing did seem far easier and more accurate but I suppose once they ran out of magic time travel particles warping around the sun would have been an option.
Fantomex - Sat, May 12, 2012 - 1:30am (USA Central)
@ Jayson: No, they wouldn't have done so, because the showing up of the Defiant in the past (all ready to help Sisko, Dax & Bashir get out of their situation) would have destroyed the rest of the drama of the episode.

Also, I think that Starfleet, after having had the Enterprise do one research trip into the past with slightly disastrous results, realized the danger of this being done by unscrupulous people, and restricted its use-in short, I agree with you.

@Elliott: You may not believe this, but there are Black Republicans, and black people who are millionaires; therefore, some of the wealthy classes shown in the party scene by this point in the 21st century were, and are, or color.

The only problem I've had with this episode is that the real reason for people being homeless and in these districts is never mentioned: that of the policies of the presidents of the late 20th and early 21st centuries making such things happen. It would have been nice to hear Sisko say the the policies of Reagan, Bush Sr. Clinton, Bush Jr. and to a lesser extent (IMHO) Obama were the causes of the Sanctuary Districts being set up, and also of the inability to bring the banking/financial sectors of the economy to heel as had been done in the late 20s and early to mid-30s by FDR. That's what I would have liked to hear, not just 'the conditions got worse' and that was all there is to it.

@Bimmer & Elliott: This story wasn't any more heavy-handed than the crap episodes of everybody's favorite new show Battlestar Galactica with its equally heavy-handed attempt to bridge what was going on in Iraq and Afghanistan by showing the Colonials kill their own people in suicide bombings while on New Caprica.
Nebula Nox - Mon, May 21, 2012 - 12:25am (USA Central)
This is already happening. Prisons are full and yet states are building more. The US incarcerates a huge percentage of the population in comparison to other countries - largely to give more money to those running the prisons.
Paul York - Tue, May 22, 2012 - 11:58am (USA Central)
I wish that DS9 had dealt with something already happening in the early 21st century: climate change -- and later this century the "wars over scarce resources" - namely water. Soylent Green, which this episode resembles a lot, actually referred to it, and that was in the early 70s! It's almost as though there is some kind of taboo against referring to the most dire challenge facing humanity. But as social commentary goes this was a great episode, to be sure.
Elliott - Sun, Jun 3, 2012 - 12:24pm (USA Central)
@Fantomex: I did not mean to imply that there aren't, but it is a fact that in the USA, most wealthy conservatives are Caucasian. This is not simply a question of portraying accuracy, but the economic disparity between our classes and how it relates to race (and other social discriminators) is a fundamental factor in understanding both the sociopolitical landscape of today and the ideology of trek--that the only way to end the oppression or ostracisation in one arena is to end it in all arenas.

Regarding bsg, it's an entirely different universe, and I would argue the allegorisation in that show was shown rather than preached. The dramatic device did not live on its social commentary, it was relevant to its own plot and characters.
Ian - Mon, Jul 23, 2012 - 3:03am (USA Central)
Sorry, but this episode seems more like a throwback to the worse of TNG's early seasons.
It was pure unwatchable garbage.
Two hours of sickening political correctness run amok.
Remember, during the period when this was filmed the so-called homeless problem was all the rage. I say so-called becuase eventually the homeless advocates themselves were forced to admit that the problem was VASTLY overblown.
The fact is that the majority of the homeless ARE individuals who are either mentally ill or addicts.
Not just poor people down on their luck.
Once groups like the ACLU began losing their fights to prevent these people from being helped, the problem all but vanished.
Now, it is replaced by the newest politically correct fad, namely global warming. Excuse me
I mean climate change...

Considering that they had all of time to play in something a little less preachy and more relevant to DS9 would have been better.
Like Sisko having a hand in the founding of the Federation, or Starfleet, etc...
Nathaniel - Sat, Jul 28, 2012 - 12:33am (USA Central)

Weird, I must be imagining all the homeless people I see when I'm in Washington D.C., and the record breaking temperatures. My thermostat seems to be having an active fantasy life as well.
Phillip Watson - Sat, Aug 18, 2012 - 7:11am (USA Central)
I agree it is a good episode but the premise is too US-Centric for my liking. I know it is an American show but I find hard to believe that a US riot would have such big conesequences for the future when these reforms have been in place in Europe for nearly 100 years. Also wouldn't all this wonderful progress be wiped out within 50 years when WWIII destroys most of the major governments (Riker in ST:FC)
Jayson C - Sat, Aug 25, 2012 - 6:17pm (USA Central)
Phillip, Riker said that only six hundred million were killed. That still leaves the majority of the human population still intact. So it's not a stretch to imagine The Bell Riots still remained an important event in human affairs despite WWIII.
Nick P. - Fri, Oct 5, 2012 - 8:52am (USA Central)
I can't lie, alot of your comments are ridiculous. I wonder how many of you actually live in a major US city? I do, and I can assure you, there are no poor innocent families behind walls. I can assure you that the homeless in the park next to my office are constantly accosting my co-workers, the female ones in particular. For all of you complaining about how we treat the homeless clearly have no experience of them accosting your wife when she comes to visit you for lunch, and the cops just ignore it.

I frankly would welcome these people behind walls. Call me a bigot all you want, you don't have to walk to the metro every day wondering if this is the day one of them will be bold enough to knife me for my wallet.

As for the episode, I LOVE it. This isn't just one of the highlights of the season, this is a highlight of Star Trek. But does it reflect the reality of America, of course not. I will say that for some reason, even though this is my favourite DS9 episode (that I have seen), I remember every episode before this clearly, but not many episode after this. i had just turned 14, I am wondering if started getting into girls or sports of something.

@Fantomex, i agree with everything you say!
Comp625 - Thu, Jan 24, 2013 - 9:40am (USA Central)
"Part Tense I" was a great episode, but I'm not sure if it was deserving of 4 stars. I'll address the 2nd half on Jammer's Part II page.

The social messaging that Star Trek was trying to convey certainly worked for me as I rewatched "Past Tense I." Jammer said it best when he used the analogy of Sisko as the teacher and Bashir as the student. The long scene where Sisko and Bashir walked down the street just talking about the historical impact of the Bell Riots was very well done. It was also great to see Star Trek address how the impoverished are viewed in future-America as they sit behind walls in quarantine, with no pragmatic assistance from the government.

The processing center scenes were dark and amusing; it very much reminds me of how real-life patrons are treated at the DMV, and how the workers are very apathetic to their job and its surroundings. After all, scenes depicted in "Past Tense I & II" represent a drastic change from the culture that Starfleet is accustomed to where everyone is motivated not by money or survival, but by a yearn for curiosity.

According to Memory Alpha, this contrast in human culture was said to be part of Ira Steven Behr's continued studies on Gene Roddenberry's visions. Until these real-life societal issues are solved, if ever, "Past Tense I" is a timeless episode in that homelessness, hunger, unemployment and economic decay still plague us in present day (2013). With 2024 only 11 years away, and with the continued economic recession, it's eerie to think that DS9 may predict the future just as they predicted the '99 Yankees in the same episode.

To address concerns about "technobabble," I'm actually glad that the writers chose to limit it to just a few short scenes with Kira and O'Brien. After all, they needed a plausible explanation as to how Sisko, Bashir and Dax ended up in 21st century Earth, and how their comrades can track them down. Frankly, I appreciated this time travel explanation over the one used in the TNG "Time's Arrow I & II" where an alien culture created a temporal vortex on a distant planet that led the crew back to Earth.

Avery Brooks is finally "breaking out" in that the Sisko character is showing more emotion. It's great to see it coincide with the new adventuring themes in Season 3. Echoing others' opinions, my gripe is that his acting does feel a little forced at times, but that could be because viewers are accustomed to the high bar that Patrick Stewart set with Picard. Although Sisko posing as Gabriel Bell was VERY predictable, I appreciated his b@d@$$ comment at the end of Part I: "The name's Bell, Gabriel Bell."

I also have to agree with some of the previous comments about the execution of the political commentary. As I mentioned before, the message itself worked, but the execution itself felt a little overly dramatic (and reminded me quite a bit of how TOS and early TNG handled commentary). This correctness did convey a slight sense of smugness, as Elliott mentioned. It came across as a bit awkward and forced.

Although I enjoyed "Past Tense I," one has to wonder if this could have been an even more effective episode had the writers used a DS9-relevant story arc as the foundation to this episode. Imagine if the crew found out that the Bajorans were setting up a "Sanctuary" to hide their diseased and overly impoverished people, and that our DS9 heroes (Sisko, Bashir and Kira) have to somehow stop the madness. After all, Bajor is in a rebuilding process and their society is still in shambles. Heck, perhaps Kai Winn is the one who came up with the Sanctuary idea!

I know this is Hollywood, and the writers needed an excuse to time travel to near-present day Earth. However, the lack of DS9-arc relevancy and the awkward-at-times execution and hints of political smugness warrants a .5 star demotion.

My rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars
Kotas - Tue, Oct 22, 2013 - 6:48pm (USA Central)

The first part of a decent two-parter with no real story impact.

kmfrob - Mon, Dec 9, 2013 - 5:17am (USA Central)
I have to agree with Elliot here... It's hardly up there with The Wire in its execution.

I think this is my main problem with Star Trek... I don't mind when they talk back about human's muddled past, but when they insist on SHOWING it to you in episodes like this it always feels incredibly heavy handed and somewhat contrived.

This episode was fun, but it still comes across like a cliche ridden b-film from the 80s. It's like a Robocop fuelled yuppie nightmare about their fears regarding the underclasses of our cities (as perfectly demonstrated by that idiot above, Ian).

I didn't hate this episode as I've learnt to live with the Star Trek way now and can enjoy it for what it is, but I certainly wouldn't be heralding it as a masterpiece of social commentary.
Trekker - Wed, Mar 12, 2014 - 7:36pm (USA Central)
2014, we are not seeing any Sanctuary districts yet :D

While many people here question the episode as contrived or heavy handed, part of it can actually go back to our own reality. The US has a mental health issue, a high unemployment and underemployment issue, a huge wealth disparity that will not disappear, and our government has been reducing social program funding with the recent cuts.

Let's also be honest on Star Trek's Federation viewpoint, it's a socialist utopian state, not a Federal Republic or Libertarian state. From their perspective, we would seem backwards and evil, because we don't take the time to help the less fortunate in society or give everyone a job. I get that view, it is not heavy handed, but I disagree with it.

The problem with Star Trek is not in its heavy handed social commentary. We're just not that good or idealistic as these guys. Star Trek was created during the Kennedy era of Liberalism that has long since died along with many other facets like continued social security, free health care, and unlimited welfare.

We're not going to be like that in the future, if anything we are closer to Bablyon 5 or BSG in terms of mentality.
Yanks - Thu, Jul 17, 2014 - 12:13pm (USA Central)
@ KingofMadCows.

Brilliant observation. I'm surprised Jammer didn't take notice to the inference that the mentally ill are the real victims in this episode and in our society.

Addicts and the mentally ill make up the majority of the homeless in this coutry. Not hard working folks that are down on their luck.

"This is the Sisko that's been in the making for two years now. Sisko's decision to take Bell's place is an act of heroism that deserves to go down in Trek history right along with Kirk's saving of Earth in Star Trek IV."

Wow... The Bell riots made things change v Kirk saving mankind from extinction/wipe-out. I'm sure someone else would have rioted or affected change, no one else was going to produce a couple whales.

I wonder if the writers would have had Sisko take Bell's place if he were white? Just how have the events of the last 2 years produced this response from Sisko?

Star Trek just doesn't do human historical bad guys very well. Just like the NYC WWII era gangsters in STE: Storm Front, these "bad guys" are poorly acted and hammy at best.

I thought Vin was not acted very well and BC was a joke.

This is the standard Rich guy = bad, blah, blah…

If this episode "preaches" anything, it's that the government can't be the solution. These districts were set up by the government and it's obvious they fail miserably. Just like the "war on poverty" has affected no change what-so-ever. The same percentage of the population are poor or disadvantaged now that were in the early 60's. Over 1 trillion dollars wasted. Again, more proof that the government isn't the answer.

But in trek, the "Federation/Star Fleet" is the utopian socialist answer to everything...

Just how does the death of Gabril Bell eliminate Star Fleet?

I don't hate this episode, but to put in on such a pedestal is puzzling.

Did Sisko do the right thing under these circumstances? I think so. I’ll give him credit for sure.

Man, you’d think that Star Fleet would fix or redesign these transporters…. Time after time after time after time after time… (get the point?) they fail transforming into a convenient plot device. Darn that annular confinement beam power stabilizer. I have to wonder how many Romulans have been sprinkled throughout the timeline because of those pesky chroniton particles? … you know the ones that get lodged in the armor? But hey, Kirk brought back 2 hump-backed whales using technobabble time travel, you remember, the one where Spock has to take manual control of the thrusters while the ship heads straight at the sun at “warp 9 point”… pretty good reactions, eh?

I’ll give it 3.0, probably about a 2.8 if I could.
Alkar555 - Thu, Sep 11, 2014 - 9:24pm (USA Central)
The bad thing about this episode is that it is - once again - about America. Seriously, if you go to the past in Star Trek, what are you chances to end up in any nation-state except the USA? Zero, I'd say.
Yanks - Fri, Sep 12, 2014 - 8:09am (USA Central)
Star Trek is an American series.
Peremensoe - Fri, Sep 12, 2014 - 10:14am (USA Central)
No kidding. It's also an Earth series, but it's aware that there are other planets.
Peremensoe - Fri, Sep 12, 2014 - 10:23am (USA Central)
Nick P.: "I frankly would welcome these people behind walls...
But does it reflect the reality of America, of course not."

Not yet, I guess.
Robert - Fri, Sep 12, 2014 - 10:36am (USA Central)
"The bad thing about this episode is that it is - once again - about America. Seriously, if you go to the past in Star Trek, what are you chances to end up in any nation-state except the USA? Zero, I'd say. "

In "All Good Things" Q took Picard back in time to France! And apparently that's where life began!
Seryn - Mon, Sep 22, 2014 - 12:07am (USA Central)
People around 2008 to 2010 particularly picked up on how eerily close "Past Tense" gets to our social issues now. Yet those commenting most recently have decided to argue over the realism of the episodes, when our social issues have gotten worse (the unemployment rate going down does not mean that it will keep going down and evidence to things getting worse before they get better is prevalent on even the mainstream news networks). The entire Cold War was based on walls both real and metaphorical; are the walls going back up?

The appeal to the audience is simply a case of whether one enjoys entertainment over intellectuality, a line DS9 cuddles against, usally making everyone happy. It deviated from the line in this case.
Filip - Wed, Nov 12, 2014 - 6:50pm (USA Central)
Somehow, I find it hard to believe that the death of one man and an event in American history played out a bit differently would impact humanity in such a way that there would be no space program in the next 350 years.

Maybe there would be no Starfleet (although even that is a stretch), but if in one possible reality humanity created a warp 9 capable ships, then surely in a reality that differs only in one man's death humanity would at least develop something that could be registered by Defiant's sensors.

Although, I have to admit that the scene where O'Brien registered only Romulan signals so close to Earth was both interesting and somewhat sad.

Looking at the episode now, 20 years after it aired, and 10 years before its plot, gives us a really different perspective - in a sense that the episode seems much more real than it probably did 20 years ago. Plus, being a European, the comment that Europe was falling apart just made me sad, as well as Dr. Bashir's comment that "21st century was too depressing," because in fact, it really is turning out to be just like that.
Elliott - Wed, Nov 12, 2014 - 7:26pm (USA Central)
"Dr. Bashir's comment that "21st century was too depressing," because in fact, it really is turning out to be just like that. "

Amen, Filip.
Brian S - Wed, Jan 14, 2015 - 3:27am (USA Central)
@Latex Zebra: "The thing that I don't get is how a riot influence so much in the future. Surely World War III would have been the biggest game changer." - Probably true. But while WWII was the biggest game-changer of the 20th century, there were still plenty of political, economic, and social turning points in the decades prior to Pearl Harbor that heavily influenced how we went into that war and how we came out of it. If the Sanctuary problem wasn't addressed when it was and the economic divide among the classes grew worse and worse to the point where change became significantly harder to achieve (with potential ramifications for which factions "win" WWIII), that could have had significant consequences. Imagine how different today's world would look if the US that didn't have the economic or manufacturing strength to win either WWI or WWII. The economic impacts of the Gilded Age and Great Depression, as well as the social impacts of Reconstruction and the Progressive movement are still with us a century later.

@Yanks: "This is the standard Rich guy = bad, blah, blah…...If this episode "preaches" anything, it's that the government can't be the solution." - I disagree.

First, this isn't about "Rich Guy = Bad." It's about a lack of empathy and human compassion for those in lower classes. The bad guys aren't bad because they are wealthy, they are "bad" because they've stopped caring about other people to the degree that millions of people are locked up in a de facto prison. Some are locked up for the "crime" of being unable to obtain adequate care for their mental illnesses, and that lack of empathy extends in this episode to people who lose their jobs and are unable to support themselves (or in our current vernacular, the "moochers"). It's the same reason the Ferengi are so grotesquely portrayed. The problem with the Ferengi is not their wealth, it's their excessive unconscionable pursuit of wealth to the exclusion of any compassion or consideration for the well being of anybody but themselves.

Second, Star Trek IS big government. Star Trek's "solution" to the ills of the 20th & 21st centuries is a one-world government, later superceded by a larger Federation government that encompasses roughly 10% of the entire galaxy. Starfleet itself (the organization shown in every iteration of Star Trek) is the military wing of that government. So you'll be hard-pressed to argue that Star Trek is making a case that government is "never the solution," when the government of Star Trek is basically omnipresent to the viewer. Not every government solution IS the answer, but good government solutions CAN be the answer. And the problem isn't really government.....it's power. Removing government power from a situation like poverty doesn't automatically solve a problem. All it does is create a vacuum where someone else with power will step in. In our current climate, that power vacuum will likely be filled by a small group of extremely wealthy and powerful people acting on their own accord, accountable to nobody but themselves. If we're lucky, the elite oligarchs who take control of our society in the absence of strong government will be benevolent. But if they aren't? That's what democratic govt is supposed to do. We put the responsibility of solving society's ills in the hands of a democratically elected Congress, ultimately accountable to the people. If you remove that responsibility of government, the problem of homelessness doesn't go away.....it just shifts to a small group of people like Bill Gates, or Elon Musk, or the Koch brothers, or the Waltons, or Rupert Murdoch who can handle the situation however they personally choose, accountable to nobody but their own whims. And if they choose to exercise their power in a way that benefits them to the detriment of society, so be it.
Brian S - Wed, Jan 14, 2015 - 4:01am (USA Central)
I have mixed feelings about this episode.

On the one hand I like the message that it tries to convey, which is the message that's really at the heart of the entire Star Trek franchise....it gets better.

Star Trek itself is an admittedly rose-colored utopian view of what humanity can achieve. Unfortunately, for all its utopian ideology spread out over almost 50 years, Star Trek is deafeningly silent on the particular specifics of how we get from here to there.

One of the most interesting and yet ultimately useless exchanges in this episode is that conversation between Sisko and Bashir as they walk through the Sanctuary. Bashir asks how they could let things get this bad and Sisko says he doesn't know. But the answer is obvious and repeated by other characters throughout....because there simply aren't enough resources to feed and house and medicate and employ everybody in society.

We've grappled with those problems for centuries. Right now, there is no viable economic solution to that. Arguably the biggest hurdle we face between getting from here to there over the next 300+ years is the economic front....and yet the economics of life in the Federation are the most underexplored facet of the entire Star Trek genre. They've explored virtually every obscure social, political, and scientific theory to date, and yet they have largely completely ignored explaining something as basic as how Sisko's dad operates a restaurant in a world of replicators and no profit motive.

I love that this episode begins to touch on some of those issues that bridge the gap between our current world and the ideological world of Star Trek, but in an episode where the primary villain is an economic system that is out of control, they basically punted on any discussion of how to actually address any of the very real economic problems. Give people a chance to work. Okay. Doing what? I have no job openings. I love Star Trek's idealistic message, but a message devoid of any practical application is useless.

Say what you will about the transporter "technobabble," but at least the writers put in some effort to logically explain how Sisko, Bashir, and Dax were transported into the past. That was a lot more effort than what they put into explaining how Earth overcomes the economic problems of the 21st century. The existence of the Sanctuaries and the actions necessary to eliminate them are a whole hell of a lot more complex than just some more "caring" and not "giving up."
Robert - Wed, Jan 14, 2015 - 6:48am (USA Central)
@Brian - On the one hand I do see what you're saying, on the other hand...

To my personal take on Trek, we will eventually reach a post scarcity world government. If we had a world government today and true unadulterated communism in it's perfect form nobody would be hungry.

"Give people a chance to work. Okay. Doing what? I have no job openings."

Anything they want. Once you have enough shelter and food for everyone and the government is providing it for free you can have people doing anything. They can be artists, writers, musicians or just lay around and do nothing for a few years. Who cares? And obviously unlimited planets and replicators just amplify this.

Once we are post scarcity we will need a lot more of those types of jobs to keep the "economy" going. I know they "don't have money"... but I'm going to go out on a limb and claim that there is a luxuries exchange where you can earn credits.

You can't replicate art (I mean, you could replicate the Mona Lisa but the next Leonardo still needs to paint the next great thing). I assume that Sisko got a permit from the government to open a restaurant and that he enjoys keeping busy but also earns luxury credits to use to buy art, get a massage, eat at other restaurants, "hire" a musician to work at his restaurant, get a landscaper for his house, etc. Also, you kind of get the feeling the restaurant is his passion, his art anyway...

And as to today... doing what you say? How about public works projects. I'd love to take a bullet train from NYC to California. Or finally have the NYC subway go to the damned east side. Or new bridge lanes to unclog traffic, etc.

Once society decides that having an obscene amount of the wealth in the hands of 1% of the population is wrong you could tax them to the point where they are only filthy rich instead of obscenely disgustingly rich and use the income to fund such projects. Would this work today? Absolutely not. If you hit them that hard they'll leave. If we had a world government? It'd work. Those people would still work hard and be job creators. Given the choice between being regular or rich they'd still pick rich, even if it was less obscene.

Not to mention that creating a world infrastructure that would keep everyone sheltered and fed would require a ridiculous amount of work. It's doable, but not with the mentality that the world has and the incompatible governments.
Impaler - Wed, Jan 28, 2015 - 11:48am (USA Central)
Filip - The bell riots created public awareness to the situation at hand. If there was no uprising and people just went on without it, there never would have been the one world government that laid the foundation to starfleet. Butterfly effect.

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