Jammer's Review

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

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16 comments on this review

idiotghos - Sun, Sep 9, 2007 - 1:58pm (USA Central)
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.
Dan - Wed, Jan 9, 2008 - 2:53am (USA Central)
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.
Jay - Sun, Aug 16, 2009 - 2:49pm (USA Central)
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.
Nic - Thu, Nov 5, 2009 - 10:10pm (USA Central)
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".
Elliott - Mon, Dec 13, 2010 - 7:41pm (USA Central)
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.
Sexpun - Sun, Mar 6, 2011 - 5:59pm (USA Central)
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.
AeC - Sat, Mar 26, 2011 - 8:36pm (USA Central)
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.
AeC - Sat, Mar 26, 2011 - 8:38pm (USA Central)
"Take issue," rather. Must more assiduously proofread before hitting "Submit."
Comp625 - Thu, Jan 24, 2013 - 11:52am (USA Central)
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
Josh - Fri, Jun 7, 2013 - 12:43pm (USA Central)
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...
Kotas - Tue, Oct 22, 2013 - 6:49pm (USA Central)

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

MidshipmanNorris - Sun, Apr 6, 2014 - 12:29pm (USA Central)
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?
Quarkissnyder - Mon, May 12, 2014 - 10:42pm (USA Central)
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.
Yanks - Thu, Jul 17, 2014 - 12:32pm (USA Central)
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.
MsV - Tue, Mar 3, 2015 - 2:18am (USA Central)
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.
Robrow - Wed, Mar 4, 2015 - 11:28am (USA Central)
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.

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