Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Past Tense, Part II"


Air date: 1/9/1995
Teleplay by Ira Steven Behr & Rene Echevarria
Story by Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Directed by Jonathan Frakes

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Nice tackle, Bell. You ever play any football?"
"Baseball, actually."
"Really? I'd hate to be a catcher and see you barreling towards home plate."

— B.C. and Sisko

Gabriel Bell's death has changed history as the 24th century knows it, for as Kira and O'Brien prepare to use the transporter to travel through time and recover their missing comrades, they discover all remnants of Starfleet have been erased (aside from the Defiant, which remains in the time-line because it was conveniently trapped in a warp bubble). Sisko and Bashir find themselves about to write—or possibly rewrite—history.

Rather than working with the emotional pathos of the historical theme donned in part one, this episode concentrates more on the actual events surrounding the residents' negotiations and demands. Though it covers no territory not already explored in the first half (and contains a substantial amount of filler), "Past Tense II" sports adeptly conceived dialogue and some potent character interaction. It's not as impacting as part one, but it works very nicely on its level.

Sisko, filling what was supposed to be the role of Gabriel Bell, must negotiate with the police for a change in the way the homeless are treated while being sure the hostages remain unharmed by B.C., a thug with a shotgun and not a whole lot of patience.

Further complicating matters is hostage security guard and hero-wannabe Vin (Dick Miller), who is nothing more than a troublemaker. Throughout the episode he insults the residents, stating that he's not sorry for them and thinks they're a bunch of losers. B.C. would be content to shoot Vin and be done with it. This causes some tense moments of conflict between B.C. and Sisko, as Sisko would shoot B.C. before allowing him to kill a hostage.

In an unexpected scene, Sisko finally gets fed up with Vin and pulls him aside to attempt to shout some sense into him. I've never seen Sisko like this. He really loses his temper and lets the guy have it. ("You see how these people live, and you JUST DON'T GET IT!") While it's nice to see Avery Brooks' energetic performance to allow Sisko to display some passion, it seems a little over-the-top coming out of the blue the way it does. Nevertheless, it's one of the episode's highlights.

An interesting note about the hostage situation is how it affects all the characters. B.C. (who initially wants to negotiate himself a plane ticket to Tasmania) finds himself helping Sisko and fellow resident Webb (Bill Smitrovich) to negotiate for a change in the system. Near the end, B.C. softens substantially, as if the writers want to turn him into a good guy. Considering B.C. murdered Bell in part one, it's a bit of a reach. But it's pleasing to see the writers turn a simple thug into a dimensional character willing to change, even if his motives are questionable.

Set in the background which keeps the rest of the cast alive are two small but story-progressing subplots. Dax has to convince communications executive Brynner to help the sanctuary residents air their demands over "internet" TV. Meanwhile, Kira and O'Brien focus the Defiant's transporter beam through chronoton particles to travel back in time and retrieve the lost landing party.

The inevitable police assault on the processing center works pretty well—effectively photographed as numerous guest stars are gunned down in the mayhem. While, for obvious reasons, Sisko can't make the life-sacrificing action that Gabriel Bell was supposed to, the writers at least give him the opportunity to take a slug in the shoulder while protecting a hostage. But consequently, one thing missing in this ending is the Bell-type martyr. The closest thing to a martyr the episode finds is Webb, the story's identifiable family man, who is shot by swat officers as he instinctively reaches for a pistol to protect himself.

After securing the hostage site, the swat team goes on to "pacify" the streets as they break into rioting, leading to the hundreds of deaths Sisko described in part one. Noteworthy is how the whole incident is a big mistake, because the police storm the fort simply on rumors the hostages were killed, when none were at all.

If there's a scene that sums up the message of this ambitious two-parter, it's a thoughtful one between Bashir and hostage sanctuary clerk Lee (Tina Lifford), who discuss the problems the unemployed have in the current day. Bashir tells her it's not her fault things are as they are. "Everybody tells themselves that," Lee says. She's right.

Previous episode: Past Tense, Part I
Next episode: Life Support

◄ Season Index

30 comments on this review

Sun, Sep 9, 2007, 1:58pm (UTC -5)
DS9 Companion states that this was originally written as a one-parter, and it shows. It seemed as though at least half the hostage scenes were filler.
Wed, Jan 9, 2008, 2:53am (UTC -5)
A worthy part II. Agree there is a lot of filler but its good filler. I just found Vin (Dick Mille) to be a bit OTT. Surely anyone with a gun at them and others would show a little more respect even if it was just a cover. Didn't sit right with me.
Sun, Aug 16, 2009, 2:49pm (UTC -5)
Yep...Past Tense was too big for an hour, but not quite up to two. It's too bad 90 minutes isn't an option.
Thu, Nov 5, 2009, 10:10pm (UTC -5)
It makes no sense that Kira and O'Brien would witness changes to the timeline, since Sisko was able to "set things right" BEFORE they came to get him. It also made the episode more complicated for nothing, I don't think it was necessary (there was already enough drama!)
Also, the episode IS a little preachy, and seems to be saying that one event like this can change everyone's minds, though obviously that is not the case. There have been tons of riots in our history, not to mention wars, and we are still learning these lessons. Still, it made a good point and it showed that we still have a long way to go to make Earth a "Paradise".
Mon, Dec 13, 2010, 7:41pm (UTC -5)
I'm sorry, does no one notice bad acting anymore? Look at the scene just before the credits; Bashir says, "But we're the only ones who know that [Sisko isn't Bell]" ominously. Fade out on Sisko's face...and he's smiling like he just got to punch someone for no reason. It's not the script's fault, but if it weren't for things like this, DS9 could have been a MUCH better series. Brooks' acting never did get better. And if I have to here Kira or O'Brien say "or WHEN we are" one more time, I'm going to pull a SIsko on my TV.
The "filler" with the hostages is actually the best that either parts has to offer dramatically. It is quiet and poignant and carries the message without being preachy. As bad as the searching scenes through Time are, they're better than Part I's technobabble. I agree Sisko is a lunatic "and I don't like your hat..." okay, Starfleet commander, fantastic. Overall it deserves a higher rating than Part I, which deserves about a star and a half.
Sun, Mar 6, 2011, 5:59pm (UTC -5)
I enjoyed part II, not as much as part one, but it was still a well-executed episode.

I would have preferred if when 'things were back to normal' the timeline was restored, but altered just slightly.

Perhaps they would refer to the Webb Riots (instead of the Bell riots, as 'Bell' didn't die but Webb did). Or if Brynner was elected governor two years later with a campaign of reform... just, something.

It's hard to imagine that with all the interaction that the 3 characters had with people in the past the timeline would be restored exactly. It would have had to be revealed in a conceit, but still something that got things back to the way they 'should be' but with a twist, would be both more believable, and perhaps more satisfying to see that these 3 people did have some impact.

Oh the whole though, this was a well written, fun, and suspenseful action episode, with a moral message that Star Trek is famous for. 4 Stars.
Sat, Mar 26, 2011, 8:36pm (UTC -5)
I remember when this two-parter aired back in my bright college days. My then-girlfriend (a Social Work major) and I were recommending it to everyone we knew. Now, I see a bit of over-earnestness in pretty much every speech made over its two hours, and truthfully, if I saw it for the first time today, I suspect I'd be rolling my eyes a fair amount.

Even so, the points made still resonate, all the more strongly as we approach the date of the episode's setting and, perhaps, see the beginnings of the crippling of the working and lower-middle class in the day-to-day news (Wisconsin, anyone?). Beyond that, I loved the little bits, particularly the baseball-tennis-soccer exchange in part 2 that served as a nice, understated bonding moment between "Bell," Bashir, and the hostages. Even if I take fault with how ardently the message is sometimes delivered, I suspect I will always love these two episodes.
Sat, Mar 26, 2011, 8:38pm (UTC -5)
"Take issue," rather. Must more assiduously proofread before hitting "Submit."
Thu, Jan 24, 2013, 11:52am (UTC -5)
My thoughts on "Past Tense I" were very positive, garnering it a 3.5 out of 4 stars. Typically, the 2nd half of Star Trek two-parters tend to be more of a let-down than the 1st half, and unfortunately, "Past Tense II" continues that trend.

My main gripe with Part II is that, with all of the talk about Bell's Riots being a significant turning point in Earth history, along with the tense build-up in Part I about needing to save all of the hostages in order to preserve the timeline, the execution fell flat. The showdown depicted in Part II was not epic whatsoever.

First off, the bloodshed and riots were nearly non-existent from an on-screen perspective. In the minute of footage where the National Guard stormed the processing center and shot everyone, it was the antithesis of what I would consider "bloody but epic history." When I think of bloody and/or epic, I think: Paul Revere's secret mission, Boston Tea Party, the Civil War, Civil Rights March on Washington, etc.

More screentime could have been spent watching Bell's Riots itself unfold, especially in the streets and in other areas of the sanctuary. Doing so would have conveyed the sense of epic history. I would have preferred that over unnecessary scenes of Kira and O'Brien traveling to the 1930's and 1960's. The attempt at humor was appreciated, but awkwardly placed, since it detracted from Part I's darker tones.

Also, the ending left me a bit bothered (where Sisko walks out of the processing center with a mere flesh wound, moments after the National Guard stormed in). Seeing Vin (Dick Miller's character) have a 180-degree change of heart was implausible. It all felt too too rosy and convenient.

The political messaging, a core strength in Part I, was M.I.A. in Part II. Yes, the hostages did survive (except for Webb), and we know the Sanctuary District is later dismantled. However, the aforementioned dull ending stole much needed drama away from a supposed epic event in Earth's history.

It would have been more effective had the writers coined it as "Webb's Riots," and that Sisko, Bashir and Dax were simply trying to help advance Webb's cause (in an effort to preserve the timeline). After all, Webb became the face of those quarantined in the Sanctuary during the negotiations and after the link to Public Internet TV was established. Not to mention, Webb himself was killed during the riots. Having Sisko take Bell's place seemed "cool" on paper, but fell flat in execution.

Or alternatively, as I mentioned in my commentary for "Past Tense I," what if the DS9 crew had to address the use of the Sanctuary District (with Kai Winn's blessing) on Bajor? Bajoran society IS in the midst of being rebuilt, and it would have helped to continue developing the Bajor arc. The writers could have still created an allegory to modern day Earth, and Sisko could have still served as the 'teacher' when making comparisons to Earth's own tumultuous history.

Overall, Past Tense II is a reboot episode in disguise with only one minor consequence: Sisko's face is used in lieu of Gabriel Bell's. Nothing else in the universe became impacted. I would have forgiven the reboot ending had we seen the riots unfold in epic manner. Such "cop out" writing is what frustrates me about Seasons 1 through 3, since I know how great the writing becomes in Seasons 4 through 7.

My rating: 2.5 out of 4
Fri, Jun 7, 2013, 12:43pm (UTC -5)
Your all crazy... Avery was a great actor.... granted when he getting visions from the profits it was most likely a result from LSD hit from before (LOL) but never the less this episode is great... and if you dont think society is heading in this direction... then you have more faith then any practiced faith on this planet.

I too loved the scene when Sisko lost it and yelled at the guard. It was so appropriate for the generation... "You want me to care?" guard said.
"IT WILL BE A START!" Captains reply... uhh they don't make shows like this anymore...
Tue, Oct 22, 2013, 6:49pm (UTC -5)

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

Sun, Apr 6, 2014, 12:29pm (UTC -5)
I kept wondering why Sisko doesn't just punch BC and take away his gun? If he's that big a loose cannon, why does he get to keep his gun?
Mon, May 12, 2014, 10:42pm (UTC -5)
Everyone in the district was so clean. It made no sense. They're living on the streets, but soap and shampoo and a safe place to shower are plentiful?

When Dax came to the district why was it deserted? Where did everyone go?

And, her hair and outfit was so ugly it was distracting.
Thu, Jul 17, 2014, 12:32pm (UTC -5)
Predictable Part II because everything meaningful was revealed in Part I. If only Star Fleet hadn't disappeared and everything had to happen the way it happened historically so we get Star Fleet back, maybe we would have got some suspense/surprise here.

But we didn't.

Why did Star Fleet disappear again?

O'brien and Kira hitting different time periods was cute.

Anyone know why Sisko's picture replaced Bell's in the history books? Didn't they leave Bell's body there for the police to find, etc?

2.5 for me.
Tue, Mar 3, 2015, 2:18am (UTC -5)
I know its at least 6 months too late to respond to Yanks, but I also had a problem with that photo. I have a pretty good imagination and couldn't come up with even one of my ideas. Someone mentioned Dax's outfit as being distracting, well, remember that old cliche' "I just threw this outfit together," when someone comments on what you're wearing. Dax really threw that one together, from a rummage sale.

Most of the acting in this ep. was great, just didn't like Vin and BC.
Wed, Mar 4, 2015, 11:28am (UTC -5)
I'm sorry, but this was perhaps the most irritating episode of DS9 I've seen so far. Too preachy by half, full of lazy contrivance and the scene where Dax recovers her badge from the loony was embarrassingly bad. Coming after the train wreck that was Fascination, it feels like they're in danger of throwing away all that good work from the first two seasons. Please get back to the Cardassians and the Dominion.
William B
Tue, Sep 15, 2015, 10:06am (UTC -5)
Though the two parts are different in content and tone, I think it's best for me to discuss the two parts of "Past Tense" in a single comment. Part 1 sets up the fundamental social problem (Sanctuary Districts) and Sisko tells us the solution -- the Bell Riots -- until, at the end of part 1, Bell is killed and Sisko decides that *he* must be Bell. The second part is the execution of the solution that Sisko already proposed, with Sisko playing Bell in a script that has largely been written already. The scope of the two parts is different as a result; the first part is mostly exposition on this wide-ranging social problem, and seems to encompass the whole of this particular district as microcosm of the whole of the homeless/unemployed problem in the world, and then the second part narrows focus down mostly to a single room where a single event decides the course of history, in a hostage situation.

Fans seem split on whether the two-parter, and especially part 1, is a riveting and frighteningly prescient depiction of a horrifying set of social conditions or a preachy poorly-thought-out tract which provides too little detail about its imagined world to be of any use. And, well, I have sympathies to both. I do think that the depiction of the desperation of homelessness and unemployment, and the desire for "polite society" to ignore those problems because of an inability to deal with them head-on, is believable and relevant/timely. I also think that the extreme pinpoint focus on the issue of how it's bad to lock people up and not permit them to leave (yep, I agree) means that there is not that much room for debate and ambiguity. The genuinely difficult question is how to find a way for these thousands of people to "earn a living," and what kind of social restructuring will be required given that the Districts already exist, and that is not examined in the two-parter besides assurances that the Bell Riots do deal with it. This is too big an issue for this episode, I'll grant, but especially for a two-parter I think some more details on the roots of these social issues or how they were resolved besides a vague muttering about the economy being bad and then people coming together to work out their problems would have improved the shows a lot.

Nor, frankly, is the question of when to protest peacefully and when to take up arms when one's fundamental rights are being trampled dealt with much either -- Webb wants to protest peacefully, B.C. wants to blow stuff up, and then they sort of...compromise because Sisko-as-Bell gets them to, I guess, but the friction between these two very different approaches dissipates early. Part one sets up Webb and BC as opposing types, I guess to be reconciled by Sisko in part 2, but Webb accepts that his peaceful protest idea has gone into a hostage situation pretty early and B.C. goes from murderous thug to a guy who seems about as dangerous as Okona within a few acts. I'm all for revealing the complexity beneath a person's surface, but there is something artificial about the way B.C. is a full-on villain who stabs the real Bell to death in part 1 and talks about how fun killing is through much of part 2, but is actually just a pretty likable guy who gives his hat away when given the chance. If he's a man hardened enough to stab a man to death and then lead a violent revolt the next day, it should take a little more to soften him, I think. That said, the character interactions in part 2 are fairly entertaining, in a chamber drama sort of way, and I think there is more effort to get into people's heads than in part 1.

It seems to me that the two-parter also only barely touches on one of the more interesting things about its set-up with Sisko becoming Bell, which is how hard it would be to reverse-engineer a central moment of history, particularly one which seems to be genuinely incidental (i.e. I don't get the impression Bell had particular plans on being a peaceful revolutionary). Sisko has to do so in a way that would somehow allow Sisko to have the same impact Bell did, in addition to the fact that he will have to *die* to satisfy Bell's martyr role in history. And, well, the big dilemma that Sisko will have to die is handwaved away with "Bashir is a 24th century doctor," which means that Sisko's willingness to die for history loses some dramatic oomph (though not all). More importantly, though, for me the very basic outline of "Bell's honourable behaviour during the riots let people see that there are good men among the Sanctuary District populace" sounds vaguely plausible as a short-form summary of a complex event, but the opportunity in part 2 to see how Sisko/Bell's actions affect a public watching during the events is mostly lost. I think I'm not explaining my issue well enough; I guess it's that "Bell not hurting the hostages" is a sketch of an idea for why the Riots bring public support to the Sanctuary Residents, but not quite a full, believable description, especially since the hostages were taken in the first place as a result of these Riots. If all that Sisko has to do as Bell is prevent the hostages from dying (and, I guess, eventually martyr himself), then there are not that many difficult decisions for Sisko to make.

Jadzia's eventual involvement in the Sisko-as-Bell plot, and Bashir's treatment of people there, are also curious, in that they surely would not have been possible for Bell to do, unless Bell was also a doctor who was friends with some other IT kingpin. How did Bell get people's message out, given that he didn't have Jadzia? Unless this was a paradox and Bell was *always* Sisko. For what it's worth, that interpretation has some worth. I never did get to writing about Star Trek IV, but one thing I was going to say is that the idea of the fictional, Trek-future Starfleet officers coming to our present (or in this case near-future) and dealing with some of our social issues becomes a grand metaphor for Trek itself, where the (fictional, nonexistent) Sisko represents an *idea* of a better future which can help save humans in the present from our worst excesses.

The episodes do lose a lot because of the running commentary, especially from Bashir. I get why he finds this so distasteful, don't get me wrong, but the episode may have been much stronger if it had just let the horrors of the Sanctuary District situation speak for themselves, rather than have Bashir in charge of telling us how bad they are. I also find the tag at the end, where Bashir asks how people let it get this bad and Sisko says that he does not know, particularly annoying. The Sanctuary Districts may be an extension of current policy and social structures, but they are still a fictional future. The writers made up this future; having a character declare their own future to be hard to understand is a poor substitute for them to explain how they expect their future to develop (along with the implied recognition that it's important not to make those mistakes).

Why couldn't Kira and O'Brien have done a binary search through time? Start somewhere in the middle and rather than spend thirty seconds, arrange for the transporter to take them out after an hour so they have time to get as much information as possible (newspapers; if they are in a time with computer access, get that), then bring it back to the Defiant and compare it with Earth history on file so that they can narrow down whether the changes have started or not. More to the point, I'm not clear why the future was so drastically changed anyway since Sisko succeeded in restoring the timeline. Surely if the whole of Earth was transformed before Kira and O'Brien went to retrieve them, Kira and O'Brien's actions would have had to affect the outcome of events? Maybe we're just supposed to assume that after successfully playing out the Bell Riots script, Sisko, Bashir and Dax then ruined all of Earth's history over the rest of their lifetimes. Technobabble on the Defiant is really hard to take.

I don't really know how to rate the two-parter as a whole. Maybe 2 stars for both parts? There are some things I liked a fair bit, even if I found myself less than wowed by the final product.
William B
Tue, Sep 15, 2015, 10:10am (UTC -5)
Oh right, I should also add: that the guard just swapped Bell's card with a corpse's also bothers me. Now there should be *three* images of Bell -- the actual Bell, Sisko (from pictures taken, what, by bystanders with their cellphones?) which makes it into the history books, and whatever that random corpse looks like. And all three would be different. Is the corpse so shot up by the crazy troops, or ghosts, or whoever killed him that no one can tell that he looks different from *both* the picture on Bell's file and from Sisko? Moreover, that Sisko so easily convinces Vin to pretend that he died makes it seem as if Gabriel Bell very well could have done the same (convinced people to pretend he was dead for martyrdom's sake). It's all just pretty weird.
Wed, Sep 23, 2015, 7:25pm (UTC -5)
So... a couple things with this 2 parter which I had mixed feelings about but mostly liked. First off: Did Bashir and Sisko fuck those dudes in part one? I don't... I don't understand. The guys are like "you can't come in." then one whispers in the other's ear and they're all "maybe you CAN do something for us" and the next scene they're inside, putting on clothing which is not their own with no explanation of where the original clothes went and never mentioning what they did for the clothing. Did they sell their bodies for building access and a change of clothing? The American people want to know DS9 writers. The American people DESERVE to know.

On a more serious note: Thing 2. Why didn't business guy know why the wall was there? Actually, follow up: why WAS the wall there? I mean, it didn't just appear. And it's not some ancient awful tradition that nobody thinks about because "it's always been that way." like the lottery from the short story The Lottery. At some point, in the last 20 years, they had to make a decision to build a giant fucking wall around a section of the city and then lock the doors and throw everyone who didn't have ID or a job inside. The American People had to KNOW about this right? They had to put forward a bill to allow this to happen, and pass it and then build the giant wall. Like... at least one reporter had to have been like "hey. what's with the wall?" I mean, I guess that maybe it's kind of acting as a metaphor for how once society puts you in certain conditions like homelessness and unemployment it traps you and without services to help you out you're stuck in that hell forever and it's the system's fault? Maybe? But in non-metaphorical terms. Why is there a wall that they can legally lock people behind for just being unemployed? How did that happen?

Thing 3. I was really expecting BC to end up being Bell. The ending I pictured was that instead of getting some weird psuedo character development as "maybe not ALL bad because he gave a kid a hat" they would just double down on making him an absolute piece of shit. Have him kill some of the gimmes. Maybe even kill Webb. Just clearly be the worst in humanity who is making this problem worse and deserves to suffer for it. Then the swat team breaks in and everyone's all "OK, we surrender" and BC is like "Fuck that." and opens fire, and a whole mess of sanctuary people (including him) get killed. THEN after all is said and done. the ID gets planted on BC and his face goes down in history as the face of Bell and there's statues of him and he's honored forever. And Sisko and Bashir are just looking at that padd at the end like "that fucking guy." That's what I think would have been a better ending. I mean, I kinda like the idea that this is a paradox and Sisko was always Bell and this is how it always happened, but the starfleet disappearing thing kind of negates that.
Thu, Sep 24, 2015, 11:30am (UTC -5)
^^ They gave them their uniforms because they were nicer clothes than the rags they had, lol ^^
Diamond Dave
Wed, Nov 25, 2015, 4:31pm (UTC -5)
This basically boils down to a hostage drama and why it's OK to far as it goes - it's good to see Sisko kicking ass and taking names - but given we already know from Pt1 how the end will play out, if not the exact mechanism, then there isn't really a whole lot of suspense.

Add to that a number of irritating hostage cliches, some blatant moralising, and some somewhat misplaced humour it's OK but not much more than that. 2.5 stars.
Wed, Dec 23, 2015, 5:49pm (UTC -5)
Not sure how much it matters that they began to solve the social problems after this episode, since according to the Star Trek timeline, WW3 happens just a few years later...
Mon, Feb 15, 2016, 12:38pm (UTC -5)
The thing I never understand about time travel episodes like this is time always seems inexplicably flow in parallel in the present and past.

Sisko, Bashir, and Dax all fixed the damage on their own with no influence from the present crew. So the present should never have even noticed a change, since the timeline *was* preserved. Yet somehow the present was changed for a few hours.

It wouldve been one thing if the Defiant crew had a part in restoring the timeline, so the present was changed until they went back and helped fix it, but it wasn't. The past happened as it was supposed to and so the present had no reason to have been affected, the crew should never have observed a change.

Now I'm all for dramatic license but the problem I have is this: I did respect that the writers tried to offer some explanation about why the Defiant wasn't affected, but they didn't go all the way and attempt to explain why the crew observed an altered present (which inexplicably lasted precisely the same amount of time as Bells death to the end of the riot) even though the situation was resolved in the past. I think the writers should have made zero attempt to explain anything, or they should've gone all the way and either had the Defiant crew have a hand in righting the past or at least explained why their present was briefly on an altered timeline.
Mon, Feb 15, 2016, 3:50pm (UTC -5)

That same critique of time travel could be used against First Contact or even Back to the Future. You need to view these under the assumption that an alternate timeline is shown to the DS9 crew, but seeing that alternate timeline encourages them to act to fix it. Kira and O'brien probably needed to retrieve Sisko to completely stabilize the timeline.
Tue, Mar 15, 2016, 12:17am (UTC -5)
Well, "Past Tense, Part II" is definitely a step down from Part I. Whereas in the first part there was an interesting set-up and even some laudable social commentary, Part II basically consists of little more than a standard hostage situation story. Sisko's and Bashir's character development continues on from Part I but other than that there really isn't anything of note on display.

The episode's greatest weakness is how it so fundamentally drops the ball with "the message." We have here a situation where the government is clearly the problem but the solution is.... more government. What? So big government royally screwed these people over but somehow that same big government is going to fix everything? Something doesn't compute here. The Sanctuary Districts aren't examples of what happens when people at large stop caring, it's what happens when governments stop caring. What we have here is a situation where the government has forcibly relocated people it deems "undesirable" into special areas that are separated from the rest of the public. It then forces those people to remain there and violently reacts when they try to change their lives. Does that excuse the fact that the general public seems oblivious? No. However, I would say it shows that people are under the impression of "well, the government is taking care of the situation, so why should I bother with it." Whenever the government takes over something like this, you get the extreme overreaction of "storm the place with guns blazing," and that certainly isn't justified either. Private individuals and groups need to step up and deal with the situation in a humane way - something governments, in my humble opinion, aren't capable of doing.

But apparently simply reinstating the Federal Employment Act is going to fix this. Given that the episode has Sisko go out of his way to say that these people don't want to live on hand-outs, that makes no sense. You can't just create a bunch of make-work jobs out of thin air and expect the problems to disappear. Jobs have to actually contribute something to society at large or provide a needed service. Otherwise they are nothing more than a more complicated form of a hand-out. As a result, the wonderfully complex problems (and presentation of those problems) established in Part I are given a truly naive and simplistic solution. And I'm not even going to get into the problems involved with the B.C. character other than to point out that he's a cold-blooded murderer (he was the one who killed the real Gabriel Bell in Part I for no reason after all) who apparently gets a free pass just because he's homeless.

Methane I think said it best in the comments for Part I, so I'll quote - "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 largess 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."

Aside from those problems in the A-plot there's also a B-plot involving O'Brien and Kira traveling to different time periods in an attempt to locate Sisko, Bashir and Dax. If this was only there to provide some comic relief it failed. I really could have done without this at all. And just to note, at one point they travel to the year 2048 and O'Brien says that the real timeline was "never that bad." Given that 2048 in the normal timeline is either right in the middle of or just before the Third World War I'd really like to know what O'Brien thinks is so much worse than global thermonuclear war leading to the Post Atomic Horror that we saw in "Encounter at Farpoint". Dammit, this episode just made me think of TNG Season One. Bad episode, bad! You should be ashamed of yourself! Then there's the episode's coda which is so over-the-top that I honestly expected Avery Brooks to look directly into the camera and say "only you can prevent it."

I will be slightly generous with my score because I do really like that Sisko's and Bashir's characters really come into focus in this two-parter, finally. The scene where Sisko takes Vin aside and chews him out really allows Brooks to play the character more to his strengths and, I think, is the point where Sisko transforms into The Sisko. :-P

Tue, Mar 15, 2016, 8:22am (UTC -5)
@Luke - I think they were trying to make a poor comparison to the Depression where public works projects created jobs that stimulated the economy. It was helping (and is generally a good idea), but the war stimulating the private sector probably helped more.

The number of factors that got us out of the Depression where numerous and probably one of those really rare cases where good ideas on both sides of the aisle shined together along with "fortunate" circumstances (air quotes because of the war being one of those circumstances).

We all know I'm one of the liberals around here (well, center-left anyway), so I'm not about to bash the concept of liberal solutions too much (only really implementation), but it rubs me the wrong way to act like the government could have just reinstated this act to totally fix all the problems and hadn't done so before because....? They are monsters? I dunno.
Tue, Mar 15, 2016, 11:30am (UTC -5)
"it rubs me the wrong way to act like the government could have just reinstated this act to totally fix all the problems"

Exactly. The message is "just pass a law and everything will be fine." Yeah, no. I think it's going to take a little more than that. If that was the case we would have no murder since there's a law against it.

Here's my two cents - obviously the very first thing that needs to be done is to simply shut down the Sanctuary Districts. That, and that alone, could do wonders to fix the problems. It obviously isn't the only thing that needs to be done but would be a drastic step in the right direction. Leaving aside the moral problems with them (I don't think it's fair to call them concentration camps as the District residents aren't actively being killed but it is fair to call them internment camps - similar to what Roosevelt did to Japanese Americans during World War II), let's just focus on the economic effects of them. Imagine how much money is being spent on maintaining these places. Sisko, in Part I, says that there is at least one of these Districts in every major American city. Given that they are in San Francisco's Sanctuary District A, I think it's fair to say there's more than one in really large cities. It would take a hell of a lot of money to keep these places running, even with the horrible conditions present. Paying all the guards, maintaining the District walls, paying all the center staff, providing all the food (what little is actually provided because of the rationing), etc. - it all really adds up. Now multiply that for how ever many more Districts there are across the nation. How many millions, or more likely billions, of dollars are being flushed down the toilet here? That money would be much better spent in the private sector.

Simply shutting the Districts down and allowing all that money to flow back into the economy in the hands of private entrepreneurs would actually allow jobs to be created - jobs these people desperately need. And those would be long-term, sustainable jobs, not some make-work, handout jobs created by the government. Again, that's not the only thing needed. For instance, public perception of these people really needs to be addressed (especially if you have people referring to them as "those people") and that's something that is going to take a lot of work and a whole lot of time. But, instead, we'll just pass a law to fix everything. That's just more of the same thinking that's actually condemned by the episode with the denunciation of "everyone tells themselves that and nothing ever changes."
Wed, Apr 20, 2016, 4:59am (UTC -5)
Another ridiculous, preachy, Lefty episode, where the resolution is completely bogus and short sighted. It's akin to saying "Let's all hold hands and sing kumbaya, and everything will be all better." I kind of expect that from the Left, though. It's not a great two-parter, at all. But it's not terrible, at least. I just found it very mediocre. I generally don't like these "back to earth" episodes, because my suspension of disbelief hits rock bottom. Also - Avery's acting was hilarious (as in terrible).
Tue, May 17, 2016, 12:48pm (UTC -5)
@Luke, again I agree completely!

"Then there's the episode's coda which is so over-the-top that I honestly expected Avery Brooks to look directly into the camera and say "only you can prevent it." " LOL! Perfect.

Luke, you and I see economics and politics in a very similar way. The writers, I believe, fell into their own leftist trap. The dichotomy they see in America is between compassionate vs. uncompassionate government as the binary choice, not government as the problem versus freer society as the solution, which is our Reaganist hypothesis. The irony is that these (I assume) leftist writers so elegantly recreated a realistic economic depression -- caused by big government -- that they didn't even realize this is the recurrent problem in our society. Hilarious, really.

Unfortunately, Luke, I think the writers were mostly trying to emulate the apathetic kingdom of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, and that the Bell Riots are the French Revolution (or even the mini-revolution seen in Les Miserables, especially with the make-shift barricade!). Many left-leaning types (the French included) lionize the actors of the French Revolution as heroes against tyranny, when in fact the Revolution led to indefensible crimes against humanity, mass killings of their own people, and ultimately the acclamation of a new and more deadly tyrant that drafted millions of Frenchmen to their doom in the Russian steppes.
Peter G.
Thu, May 19, 2016, 2:34pm (UTC -5)
@ Skywalker,

"The writers, I believe, fell into their own leftist trap. The dichotomy they see in America is between compassionate vs. uncompassionate government as the binary choice, not government as the problem versus freer society as the solution, which is our Reaganist hypothesis. "

I do not believe this is correct. The episode is not about what to do with the bottom-rung people in a capitalist society going forwards. It's about the beginnings of the outright caving-in of capitalism, which we are already seeing in progress today. It's partially due to technology replacing human labor, partially due to outsourcing labor, and partially due to production capability far exceeding demand, the latter of which is artificially restricted by cash flow based on employment.

Capitalism (i.e. employment/income-based market society) is a dead-end street, and that is exactly how Gene saw it back in the 60's as well. The Federation is a society that exists after the transition was already made, and where the needs of its citizens are provided based on production capability (e.g. replication and natural resource availability) and not based on individuals scrambling for resources.

Past Tense didn't say this explicitly, but I think it's fairly clear that the events in this episode are depicting the deterioration of the old style of economy, and desperate measures governments took to try to deal with it and prevent the system from collapsing. I very much doubt that the great Federation ideals emerged based on good common sense and future-thinking. On the contrary, Gene tells us again and again that all the great advances Humans made came as a result of terrible events such as the Eugenics Wars and WWIII.

Unless you want to think of Star Trek itself as fundamentally "leftist" then I don't really see the validity of the argument that this episode exists somewhere on the current right/left political spectrum. To me Past Tense is about the recurrent Trek theme that Humanity needs to eventually come together and help each other rather than trying to "win the game" and separate winners from losers. It's not about which model of capitalism is the superior one - right versus left. It's about the need to move past capitalism altogether.

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