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

76 comments on this review

Dan
Wed, Jan 9, 2008, 2:52am (UTC -6)
Fantastic episode. Trek doing what it does best. Social commentary with a futuristic slant.
Eduardo
Sat, Aug 2, 2008, 9:56pm (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)

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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
@Trekkie98
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
Latex,

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 (UTC -6)
@ 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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
@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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
@Ian

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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
"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 (UTC -6)

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

5/10
kmfrob
Mon, Dec 9, 2013, 5:17am (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
@ 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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
Star Trek is an American series.
Peremensoe
Fri, Sep 12, 2014, 10:14am (UTC -6)
No kidding. It's also an Earth series, but it's aware that there are other planets.
Peremensoe
Fri, Sep 12, 2014, 10:23am (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
"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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
"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 (UTC -6)
@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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
@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 (UTC -6)
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.
MsV
Thu, Apr 30, 2015, 8:19pm (UTC -6)
I watched both episodes yesterday. Loved it. I've tried not to over-analyze the story as I would enjoy it more. The possibility of something like this happening on earth probably is impossible. I was amazed at how well the story was written. The main characters find themselves on earth, but 300 years in the past. If not for Sisko's love for earth history he and Bashir would have been on pretty bad shape. Inspite of Sisko's knowledge of earth history, their presence caused history to be changed.

Sisko realizing if Gabriel Bell was missing from the equation there would be terrible consequences, so he assumed Gabriel Bell's identity. Well done!!!
Del_Duio
Fri, May 1, 2015, 12:05pm (UTC -6)
@ MsV:

I especially like at the very end of the 2nd episode when they try to poo-poo away that Gabriel Bell looks a LOT like Sisko lol.

Great two-parter, I agree.
methane
Thu, Aug 6, 2015, 7:13pm (UTC -6)
Yanks hits on the truth of this episode: big government is clearly being presented as the problem here, and they want us to believe that more big government will ultimately solve the problems that it created.

It's painful to watch.

I've said this before elsewhere on this site: Star Trek in its most successful episodes doesn't really present a socialist society. It's a society where technology is so advanced that it's literally trivial to dispense some basic services. When diseases that ravage planets are solved in a week by one doctor and you can literally materialize anything out of thin air, you aren't making any economic sacrifices by sharing a little of that largesse with others.

Star Trek can have successful episodes about racism, about trying to get along with your enemies, about many other social issues; it generally fails when it talks about real economic issues, because the Federation doesn't have a real economy. We need a lot more technological development to get a "Star Trek" economy (if one is even possible); Star Trek has never shown socialism is the way to get that technological development.
Yanks
Fri, Aug 7, 2015, 7:39am (UTC -6)
Thanks methane.

Nice point about technology. I've always said that Gene's utopian world view isn't possible without replicators.

I would bet that "necessity is the mother of invention" is what brings humans the technology necessary to change. As many important inventions are a result of necessity driven by war, I would thing that replicators etc. probably came out of WWIII in the trek universe.
Robert
Fri, Aug 7, 2015, 8:48am (UTC -6)
Sadly agree. Regardless of if you think government/socialism or free market will make the best inventions, nothing makes cool gadgets like war.

And I also agree, Gene's Utopia is an endorsement of nothing save post-scarcity.
Julian
Fri, Oct 23, 2015, 5:38am (UTC -6)
I wanted to enjoy this episode but constantly found it hard to believe that Bell and the riots were of such pivotal importance to the forming of Star Fleet. Any good that came from the riots was completely wiped out by world war three and the destruction it caused.
The arrival of the Vulcan survey team was the unifying force for earth not these riots that would have just been a small footnote in comparison
JMT
Tue, Oct 27, 2015, 9:22pm (UTC -6)
The reason this episode works so well is because it avoids giving any specifics as to how everything "got so bad". Since the details are not revealed, the viewer begins to fill in the blanks with the information that they have on hand. In the 90s viewers may have thought back on Giuliani's treatment of the homeless and mentally ill. In the 2000s our thoughts turned to the great recession. And today somebody watching this for the first time will fill in those blanks with their own answer as well.
Ben
Wed, Oct 28, 2015, 5:54pm (UTC -6)
@Yanks and methone: First of all the Federation isn't scialist. It is, in fact, communist (no money). And which important inventions were made because of war needs? The internet, telephones, airplanes, cars, antibiotics, computers ? And I could go on for hours. Which big invention was made because of war ??? I cannot even name one. And the difference from now to the star trek universe is a cultural shift. I think Picard explained it in "First contact" people just stoped wanting to have things just to show off, greed is no longer the driving force but personal fulfillment.
Jayson
Thu, Oct 29, 2015, 2:34pm (UTC -6)
Ben: Not to get too far off the subject but someone wrote a long paper explaining the economics of The Federation. It's definitely worth a read and watching Star Trek most of my life it seems like most of the people we've seen in the Federation have become minimalist.
Diamond Dave
Wed, Nov 25, 2015, 1:45pm (UTC -6)
Not sold on this as much as many others. For me the social commentary is about as heavy handed as it gets - lets have Sisko and Bashir see how the poor live and Dax see how the rich live, and compare and contrast.

The contrived nature of how we arrive at this point is my other big problem with the episode - it relies on too many outrageous coincidences. The transporter malfunction is highly unlikey in universe. The time travel is to the place and time of a critical event in world history. Gabriel Bell happens to be the guy killed saving our heroes. The Defiant evades the timeline change because of the same contrivance as the transporter malfunction. And so on...

Now that said, this is pretty atmospheric and the out of time world is nicely realised. But really, this is a bit overblown. 2.5 stars.
Brandon
Sun, Dec 6, 2015, 11:41pm (UTC -6)
I'm almost certain the mentally ill guy is played by Clint Howard, who was the baby in TOS's The Corbomite Maneuver. Apparently tranya has some psychoactive properties!
Del_Duio
Mon, Dec 7, 2015, 9:51am (UTC -6)
@ Brandon

I'd hope so only because otherwise there'd be two people that ugly floating around out there!
Yanks
Mon, Dec 7, 2015, 4:08pm (UTC -6)
It was him.
Yanks
Wed, Dec 9, 2015, 12:49pm (UTC -6)
For just about everything Trek I go to Ex Astris Scientia first.

h ttp://www.ex-astris-scientia.org/inconsistencies/economy.htm

This is a pretty darn good article on the economics of the Federation.

h ttps://medium.com/@RickWebb/the-economics-of-star-trek-29bab88d50#.21jq2s7i i
JC
Mon, Feb 15, 2016, 2:02pm (UTC -6)
I don't really like how communication speed seems to be a function of plot necessity rather than technology, e.g. the crew here is somehow able to have a live conversation with Quark from Earth to DS9 but just a few episodes later Odo's distress signal has a two day travel time, plus the multiple earlier episodes where Starfleet command couldn't be reached quickly.
BZ
Sat, Feb 20, 2016, 5:50pm (UTC -6)
@JC: I think for all the unofficial maps of the galaxy, the writers don't really have a good grasp of how far away places are from each other. It's just gamma and delta quadrants are far away. The alpha quadrant is close except when the plot requires it to not be. This gets especially bad with Voyager where you can encounter the same races in far flung reaches of the Delta quadrant because hey, it's the same quadrant.
Greattrekker
Sun, Mar 6, 2016, 5:33pm (UTC -6)
I re-watched this a few times and just re-watched today:

I have to disagree with several posters as I think this episode did succeed to be a timeless story of how we as a society can progress to a point of unlimited materials from a society that must allocate our resources.

Every generation that watches these two episodes get something new out of it, for instance I didn't notice this until now, but the "ghost" with the hat was obviously making an implied racial slur against the Hispanic security officer at the Sanctuary in part 2 (My guess upon this re-watch is that racism against Latinos was probably being played out by Trek to its logical evolution).

I watch this as a repudiation of our current economic system and the anger that has built up from the poor unemployed masses in these areas.

Also, I would think the Sanctuary residents would make great Donald Trump supporters in the US Republican party race of 2016. There's innate racism, anti-elitism, and anti-government feeling among these people.
Luke
Mon, Mar 14, 2016, 1:36am (UTC -6)
Okay, let's just get it out in the open right up front - I really, really hope we can talk about these two episodes without anybody devolving into herp derp "look what Donald Trump will give us if he gets elected" nonsense territory. With that out of the way, I'll move on.

I'm really torn on what to think about "Past Tense, Part I"; I really am. There's a lot to like but also quite a bit that rubs me the wrong way. First off there's the plot-line onboard the Defiant. I could really take it or leave it as it's riddled with problems. Quark's appearance at the start of the episode is completely unnecessary, serves no purpose to the story and gives us another Kira/Quark interaction (groan). But, they had to shoehorn Armin Shimmerman into it somehow, didn't they? Then there's the plotholes. Why doesn't the timeline get effected by Sisko and Bashir until after we see Bell get killed? Shouldn't time have been altered the moment they went back? Why does the crew spend half of the episode in an unaltered "present"? That's a pretty glaring mistake. And there's the whole business about only having enough time travel particles for five or six rescue attempts. Here's an idea, send one person instead of two - that way you can cover all twelve possible time periods. It's just a way to artificially increase the tension.

Now, as a character piece for Sisko and Bashir, "Past Tense, Part I" works phenomenally well. This, I think, is were Sisko becomes the badass we all remember him as. Up until now he's been a fairly restrained kind of person, but here he's really allowed to become a much more forceful personality. As for Bashir, I think this is where he finally sheds his persona of "wet behind the ears newbie" and really comes into his own. He's thrown into the fire and comes out of it a much more mature person. He's no longer the guy who you're annoyed at for having to play Future Racquetball with; he's very much the kind of guy you would want by your side in a crisis.

Then there's the social commentary, which is rather hit and miss. I absolutely love how the message is somewhat subversive for Trek. Big government is clearly presented as the problem here. The main antagonist is a government security employee. The government is the entity who created the Sanctuary Districts and is overseeing the horrors inside them. On the other hand, it's the ultra-rich private sector businessman who's presented as compassionate and an all around "good person." When Brynner comes across Dax he does everything he can to help her and help her locate and help her friends (who he's never met). When Vin comes across Sisko and Bashir all he does is dehumanize them and spends the entire episode simply not caring about them or the other District residents. That was nicely done. I also loved how they showed the results of government rationing. When Sisko finally manages to get some government provided food from the District center, it's just a slice of bread, some scrambled eggs and no utensils or napkins. In other words, rationing causes shortages.

But then there's the rather naive and simplistic statement "they could cure that man now, today, if they gave a damn" and Sisko's response of "the social problems they face seem too enormous to deal with." It's not that people just don't care about the homeless or the poor or the mentally ill. It's not that the problems seem so big that people just throw up their hands and ignore it. Almost everybody cares about these issues and wants to make things better. It's that most people often have other, more pressing, concerns to deal with. If you're middle-class and feeling the squeeze from a economic recession or depression, you're naturally going to be focusing on your own problems, not the problems of society at large. Simply telling people to care more isn't going to solve anything. It all reminds me of that god-awful movie "Superman IV: The Quest for Peace" where the solution to nuclear proliferation was for people to just care enough about it thereby making governments disarm. Yeah, little more complicated than that!

Despite those flaws though, the episode does manage to do what Trek social commentary does best - spark a debate. And for that, I applaud it.

7/10
Robert
Mon, Mar 14, 2016, 9:35am (UTC -6)
@Luke - Going to talk about politics for a minute, because I think this episode is politically interesting, but I'm not going to talk about MY politics because I don't want to get into that either.

For what it's worth, I think this episode is very relevant politically... but I'm not sure it's a matter of which side of the aisle you're on. And I certainly don't think Trump is going to cause THIS, and I think THIS is hyperbole anyway because hyperbole makes good TV.

The fact is that for a time after WW2 and the Depression the middle class was winning, hard. The wealth gap has gotten so progressively bad in the decades following and if you look at both sides of the aisle I think there's a lot of resentment about it all. People like Brynner in real life aren't the devil, they are just so far removed from those problems....

If you look at Trump and Sanders they are really fighting the same battle from different sides. Trump sees the middle class and poor as being screwed over by foreigners... illegal immigrants, currency manipulation from China, bad trade deals, etc. and Sanders sees the middle class and poor as being screwed over by big corp/Wall Street.

I think the reality is that it's easy to point to China/Wall Street/illegal immigrants and make a boogeyman out of it... THAT'S the cause of all of your problems!!!! Hitler did the same thing with the Jews. (please GOD let THAT statement not cause us to discuss Sanders/Trump as the next Hitler, that is NOT we're I'm going with any of this) Angry people doing poorly economically like to elect politicians that have easy solutions to hard problems, and pointing to ONE THING that will fix it all makes it sounds easier than it is.

I'm not saying Trump/Sanders don't have all the answers, because again, I'm not politicking here. I just think it's interesting that in the time since DS9 episodes like this have gotten almost more impactful because of our time. DS9 had episodes about religious zealotry, terrorism, terrorism related to religious zealotry, government paranoia with regards to terrorism, marginalized elements of society, etc.... and they often did it without demonizing the entire thing. You have good terrorists and bad terrorists, you have good religious people and bad ones, you have... well no, all of the admirals are bad because it's Star Trek, but you do have guys like Brynner that don't demonize Wall Street types even as they likely contributed to the problem at hand.

DS9 could be very heavy handed, sure, and there's a lot to dislike, but I think they were good at showing the future and both sides of the coin. I think about Grandpa Sisko ever time I take my shoes off at the airport and walk through the naked scanners and wonder where we all went wrong. Setting aside Trump/Sanders though, because I'm not here to talk solutions, it's really interesting how well DS9 pegged the PROBLEMS of the future.

Oh, and while we're on the eerie future predictions here.... how about those 1999 Yankees. Who wrote this episode again, and where can I get them to pick me some lotto numbers?
Luke
Mon, Mar 14, 2016, 2:23pm (UTC -6)
@Robert - "DS9 had episodes about religious zealotry, terrorism, terrorism related to religious zealotry, government paranoia with regards to terrorism, marginalized elements of society, etc.... and they often did it without demonizing the entire thing."

And that is one of the reasons why DS9 is my favorite Trek series. When it gets up on its soapbox and starts preaching or pushing a "message" it often does it in a fairly even handed way. Not always, there are plenty of times DS9 falls victim to the same "in your face, shove it down your throat" moralizing the other shows are guilty of, but more often than not they do attempt to show both sides of the issue. Just look at Section 31 - even when the organization is doing something remarkably evil (the attempted genocide of the Changlings) - we're still invited to at least attempt to see it from Sloan's perspective.

That's probably the main reason why I like this episode as much as I do. People from both sides of the aisle politically can find things they can point to. Those to the left can point to how little compassion is being extended to these people. Those t the right can point out this is an example of what happens when you have "cradle to grave" welfare. As someone from the right side of the spectrum, I think the Sanctuary Districts are a prime example of how social problems like this shouldn't be left in the hands of a bureaucracy, especially a federal one. Bureaucracy breeds a climate of disinterest and non-compassion. Societal ills like this should be left in the hands of those most capable of caring - i.e. those closest to the actual problems (private charities, churches, etc.) If the government does have to be involved, it's better for the state, or preferably the local, government to run it. Having it controlled by a large, distant federal leviathan is a recipe for disaster.

Sadly, most of this wonderful grey area falls away in Part II and that episode falls victim to the "in your face" moralizing somewhat with it's remarkably simplistic proposed solution to the problems.

"Setting aside Trump/Sanders though, because I'm not here to talk solutions, it's really interesting how well DS9 pegged the PROBLEMS of the future."

Indeed, in that department I find little to no fault with "Past Tense" and certainly not with the problems presented in "Homefront"/"Paradise Lost". Though I do think that the solution offered in the later two-parter is much better than the one offered here.

And, thank you for the way you discussed Trump and Sanders. Bringing politics into it a little, I do think they both are working on the same problem but with different viewpoints and solutions. Even if I do think Trump has better solutions than Sanders, I can see that he (Sanders) is at least on to something.
Robert
Mon, Mar 14, 2016, 4:00pm (UTC -6)
@Luke - You and I tend to have some of the more civil political discussion on this site I'd like to think. We don't often agree, but I don't usually come away from it with a rage feeling of "SOMEBODY IS WRONG ON THE INTERNETZ!!!" :P

But here I totally agree with you across the board. Both on Homefront/Paradise Lost being more interesting/nuanced in it's solutions/lack thereof (because I don't actually think Homefront/Paradise Lost actually totally resolves it's problem... and that's a good thing) and with the problems of "Left Leaning" solutions (though I'm probably not going to go as far to say I think the "Right Way" is the right way either :P). I think the real issue with Sanders is that his solutions are 100% right, but not for our world yet. The reason you want to keep solutions local is because of how people work.

RIKER: Just human nature, Data.
DATA: Human nature, sir?
RIKER: We feel a loss more intensely when it's a friend.
DATA: But should not the feelings run as deep regardless of who has died?
RIKER: Maybe they should, Data. Maybe if we felt the loss of any life as keenly as we felt the death of those close to us, human history would be a lot less bloody.

Maybe it's too optimistic a sentiment... but I hope we get there someday. I look forward to your review of Homefront/Paradise Lost in any case, I'm sure you will have interesting things to say on it! Til then, boldly go :)
Chrome
Fri, Mar 18, 2016, 11:49am (UTC -6)
I thoroughly enjoyed this episode when I was young. I admit to being somewhat of a history buff and time travel stories are usually among my favorite.

The one thing that gnaws at me in this episode is the contrivance of the time shift. Was Sisko intended to be put back in this time and become Gabriel Bell? If not, isn't this whole story a bit too convenient? Sisko just happens to know about the events of a random era of history he fell into. If any of us fell into the Flour Riots of the 18th century, would we just how to behave, regardless of what we read about them?

So I'm going to have to believe that Sisko was put there by the Prophets. That's not an unusual DS9 premise. However, I wish the writers had at least signaled something like that. Maybe Kira could've explained a Bajoran fable about the Prophets guiding them through social upheaval. Or there could be small subtle vision given to Benjamin.

So not a perfect episode, maybe 3 stars.
Robert
Fri, Mar 25, 2016, 9:45pm (UTC -6)
So, funny to hear a lot of the comments praising this 2-part episode. Seriously, compare it with other ST two-parters and I think you would agree, or should, that this is the weakest of them all from so many angles. The acting is horrible. Let me say that again. The acting is atrocious. The black woman, the main guard, the period with the flower children from the seventies. There's many more. the concept of O'brien and Kira trying to find the right timeline and just getting lucky at the end is weak. The historic relevance to the future is far fetched. When I think of Best of Both worlds, Unification, some of the Voyager 2 parters; This just didn't compare at all. So, the political implications lost any significance due to the horrible writing more than anything. Really, this is a 2 star at best and should go down as among the worst episodes in ST history.
Skywalker
Tue, May 17, 2016, 12:15pm (UTC -6)
@Luke, I agree with your analysis completely!
Odyssey47
Fri, Sep 2, 2016, 5:47pm (UTC -6)
"It's interesting how Dax winds up with people on the opposite end of the economic scale"

Sisko is a black man and Bashir is an Arab man whereas Dax is an attractive white woman. It's very realistic where the three ended up.
dave
Mon, Sep 5, 2016, 8:54pm (UTC -6)
Interesting to watch this today, thinking the concept of a walled sanctuary city would be right up Donald Trump's alley when it comes to illegal immigrants or peole he doesn't like.

2024 is still a few years away and we could yet see a walled neighbourhood like this in america.
Jor-El
Thu, Sep 29, 2016, 1:24pm (UTC -6)
This is so inaccurate technology-wise that it's hard to watch and not believable in 2016. I couldn't sit through it. As Yogi Berra said, "The future isn't what it used to be".
David Pirtle
Mon, Oct 10, 2016, 6:01pm (UTC -6)
So, if this is the turning point for the US, I'm guessing the nuclear war that allegedly happens in a couple of decades isn't a big deal...Yet one more episode that doesn't fit with that terrible TNG retcon of the future's past.
Tanner
Tue, Nov 22, 2016, 1:52am (UTC -6)
Amazing that no one has a cell phone. Even in 1995 people had phones and yahoo.. Do you have anyway to contact your friends? In Voyager in 1996 people even had phones.
Trek fan
Thu, Dec 1, 2016, 12:59am (UTC -6)
Four stars? Seems quite excessive to me: This is no "City on the Edge of Forever." I liked the still-relevant social commentary aspect and opportunity for Sisko to shine as star of a story, but the script is total boilerplate, and I predicated *every* plot development about five minutes ahead of time. As usual on much of Star Trek, the time travel details only work as the plot dictates, with lots of technobabble covering rather average plotting. But above all else, Frank Military's "BC" character is incredibly annoying and ruined both parts of this episode for me, with badly written lines apparently designed only to generate an artificial sense of tension. Much of it defied logic, especially his arguments with the processing officer played by Dick Miller, and I really wanted Sisko to punch him in the face and tie him up for the rest of the show. Honestly, this is a bad actor doing a bad performance of badly written lines, and the fact that he plays a central role in the drama weighs the whole thing down like a lead balloon. This is average-to-good material at best, delivered in the typical '90s Trek monotone other than a few passionate Sisko moments, and I would give it 2 1/2 stars.
Matt
Mon, Dec 5, 2016, 10:29am (UTC -6)
With how frequently the actors racked their shotguns to emphasize whatever it was they were saying at the moment, I'm wondering how they had any ammo left in their magazines. Maybe that's why Vin was so antagonistic the whole time. He realized that he was no longer in any real danger because B.C. and Sisko had completely unloaded their shotguns through unnecessary dramatic flourishes.

Actually, watching the episode in that light makes Vin a very interesting character. He knew he wasn't in any danger but went along with the whole thing anyway, antagonizing the hostage takers to see if they were genuine in their motives or just opportunists. He's worked in the sanctuary for who knows how long. He knows the plight of the residents and it eats away at the very fiber of his being him daily as he puts on the uniform. But he's just one cog in the machine, he has no real power. Then along comes the opportunity for real change via the Bell Riots. Finally, his chance to really stick it to the system! But it was started by a ghost who simply wants money and a trip to Tasmania. That's not going to generate any sympathy from the outside world. His dreams of shutting down the sanctuaries all but crushed, along comes Sisko, Bashir, and Webb preaching the very thing he hopes for. But he has to test them to see if they actually mean it. It's important that they are genuine if there is any hope for the outside world to gain the political will to take positive action. Thankfully, B.C. and Sisko love to argue and rack their shotguns unnecessarily! They've run them dry through their grandiose prose! Finally, Vin can antagonize them in just the right ways to prove they mean what they say without there being any real danger of any hostages being shot. He'd never risk that, he couldn't have that on his conscience.

That's also why he was so mad during the raid. He knew he wasn't in any danger, but the government's response actually put the hostages in danger. After the raid he is completely shocked by the aftermath of the government's "pacification" of the sanctuary. He knew the government had reached depraved lows, but he had no idea just how far it would go. Killing innocents and leaving orphans to hopelessly call out "mama." His disgust of the government fully cemented, he will go on to lead the watershed change in how society deals with the less fortunate. At the end, when Sisko asks him to report what he saw honestly, he replied "I was going to do that anyway." Indeed he would have. Truly, Vin was the unsung hero of the episode, his bravery bolstered in his knowledge that the shotguns were empty.

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