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
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161 comments on this post
Wed, Jan 9, 2008, 2:52am (UTC -5)
Sat, Aug 2, 2008, 9:56pm (UTC -5)
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.
Thu, Aug 13, 2009, 2:36am (UTC -5)
Sun, Aug 16, 2009, 2:47pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Feb 6, 2010, 2:13pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Feb 7, 2010, 1:40am (UTC -5)
Sun, Feb 21, 2010, 12:34pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Mar 2, 2010, 1:02pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Mar 10, 2010, 2:02am (UTC -5)
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.
Fri, Oct 1, 2010, 7:13pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Dec 13, 2010, 7:20pm (UTC -5)
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...
Wed, Dec 22, 2010, 8:48pm (UTC -5)
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.
Sun, Mar 6, 2011, 5:05pm (UTC -5)
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.
Mon, Aug 22, 2011, 4:35pm (UTC -5)
Apparently, he directed more hours of television than any other director in the entire industry. He'll be missed.
Sun, Sep 25, 2011, 6:42pm (UTC -5)
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
Sun, Nov 20, 2011, 6:04am (UTC -5)
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.
Tue, Feb 7, 2012, 11:36am (UTC -5)
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.
Thu, Apr 26, 2012, 4:11am (UTC -5)
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.'
Mon, May 7, 2012, 9:09pm (UTC -5)
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.
Sat, May 12, 2012, 1:30am (UTC -5)
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.
Mon, May 21, 2012, 12:25am (UTC -5)
Tue, May 22, 2012, 11:58am (UTC -5)
Sun, Jun 3, 2012, 12:24pm (UTC -5)
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.
Mon, Jul 23, 2012, 3:03am (UTC -5)
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...
Sat, Jul 28, 2012, 12:33am (UTC -5)
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.
Sat, Aug 18, 2012, 7:11am (UTC -5)
Sat, Aug 25, 2012, 6:17pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Oct 5, 2012, 8:52am (UTC -5)
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!
Thu, Jan 24, 2013, 9:40am (UTC -5)
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 [email protected]@$$ 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
Tue, Oct 22, 2013, 6:48pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Dec 9, 2013, 5:17am (UTC -5)
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.
Wed, Mar 12, 2014, 7:36pm (UTC -5)
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.
Thu, Jul 17, 2014, 12:13pm (UTC -5)
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.
Thu, Sep 11, 2014, 9:24pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Sep 12, 2014, 8:09am (UTC -5)
Fri, Sep 12, 2014, 10:14am (UTC -5)
Fri, Sep 12, 2014, 10:23am (UTC -5)
But does it reflect the reality of America, of course not."
Not yet, I guess.
Fri, Sep 12, 2014, 10:36am (UTC -5)
In "All Good Things" Q took Picard back in time to France! And apparently that's where life began!
Mon, Sep 22, 2014, 12:07am (UTC -5)
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.
Wed, Nov 12, 2014, 6:50pm (UTC -5)
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.
Wed, Nov 12, 2014, 7:26pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Jan 14, 2015, 3:27am (UTC -5)
@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.
Wed, Jan 14, 2015, 4:01am (UTC -5)
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."
Wed, Jan 14, 2015, 6:48am (UTC -5)
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.
Wed, Jan 28, 2015, 11:48am (UTC -5)
Thu, Apr 30, 2015, 8:19pm (UTC -5)
Sisko realizing if Gabriel Bell was missing from the equation there would be terrible consequences, so he assumed Gabriel Bell's identity. Well done!!!
Fri, May 1, 2015, 12:05pm (UTC -5)
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.
Thu, Aug 6, 2015, 7:13pm (UTC -5)
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.
Fri, Aug 7, 2015, 7:39am (UTC -5)
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.
Fri, Aug 7, 2015, 8:48am (UTC -5)
And I also agree, Gene's Utopia is an endorsement of nothing save post-scarcity.
Fri, Oct 23, 2015, 5:38am (UTC -5)
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
Tue, Oct 27, 2015, 9:22pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Oct 28, 2015, 5:54pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Oct 29, 2015, 2:34pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Nov 25, 2015, 1:45pm (UTC -5)
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.
Sun, Dec 6, 2015, 11:41pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Dec 7, 2015, 9:51am (UTC -5)
I'd hope so only because otherwise there'd be two people that ugly floating around out there!
Mon, Dec 7, 2015, 4:08pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Dec 9, 2015, 12:49pm (UTC -5)
This is a pretty darn good article on the economics of the Federation.
Mon, Feb 15, 2016, 2:02pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Feb 20, 2016, 5:50pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Mar 6, 2016, 5:33pm (UTC -5)
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.
Mon, Mar 14, 2016, 1:36am (UTC -5)
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.
Mon, Mar 14, 2016, 9:35am (UTC -5)
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?
Mon, Mar 14, 2016, 2:23pm (UTC -5)
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.
Mon, Mar 14, 2016, 4:00pm (UTC -5)
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 :)
Fri, Mar 18, 2016, 11:49am (UTC -5)
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.
Fri, Mar 25, 2016, 9:45pm (UTC -5)
Tue, May 17, 2016, 12:15pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Sep 2, 2016, 5:47pm (UTC -5)
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.
Mon, Sep 5, 2016, 8:54pm (UTC -5)
2024 is still a few years away and we could yet see a walled neighbourhood like this in america.
Thu, Sep 29, 2016, 1:24pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Oct 10, 2016, 6:01pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Nov 22, 2016, 1:52am (UTC -5)
Thu, Dec 1, 2016, 12:59am (UTC -5)
Mon, Dec 5, 2016, 10:29am (UTC -5)
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.
Fri, Dec 16, 2016, 12:58am (UTC -5)
Sanctuary districts, poverty, no jobs, violence on the streets...
Couldn't help but notice that the events of this story are set exactly 8 years after Donald Trump becomes President...
Heyy, not trying to stir up politics or anything like that... just an observation... and this IS a fictional story... for now...
Fri, Dec 16, 2016, 12:52pm (UTC -5)
Good catch. If Trump was ever serious about building walls, then the sanctuary might be just the answer he's looking for.
That said, I can't see a Republican congress backing such a bloated state program.
Fri, Mar 24, 2017, 6:01pm (UTC -5)
And just as Time's Arrow is relatively upbeat and positive, which is fitting for a TNG episode, Past Tense is suitably dark, set in a dystopian backdrop of their past and our future, exploring the actions of desperate people in a bad situation. I was reminded of Sisko's statement in 'The Maquis': 'It's easy to be a saint in paradise ... but the Maquis don't live in paradise.' It's quintessentially DS9 to ask what will happen when push comes to shove, when people have to resort to desperate measures to keep their heads above water.
All in all I thought this was a great episode, chillingly similar to what is happening to the world right now. There don't seem to be a whole lot of jobs around, and the wealth inequality gap is growing wider. Very interesting, and rather depressing social commentary, which is sadly as relevant now, if not more, as it was when this episode was first released.
Thu, Apr 20, 2017, 10:32pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Jul 16, 2017, 9:34pm (UTC -5)
Meanwhile all Trump says is a government should tend to its own citizens first, and that gets him labeled literally Hitler. The Progressives are uttetly disassiciated from reality. Trump was the only candidate saying we need to stop waging war everywhere while the Left along with the rest of the GOP seem hellbent on starting WW3 with Russia and forcing our system on a world that doesn't want it.
Historians will one day spit the narme Progressive, amd your decendents will curse you for your pig ignorant idiocy,
Mon, Jul 17, 2017, 1:50pm (UTC -5)
They're talking about fictional Sanctuary cities as they apply to this episode. It doesn't sound like you've watched this one, but they have nothing to do with immigration.
Mon, Aug 28, 2017, 9:00pm (UTC -5)
Perhaps, we should evaluate this episode more for what is in our present (very close to their Present 2024) and see what we can do to prevent it.
I think they were focusing more on the issue of insulating poor people into Sanctuary cities/Safe areas that the Left has been promoting as a defensive tactic. Pres. Trump's actions are turning this defensive tactic into a siege tactic, the Liberal Bastions are insulated, defended by municipal walls to keep out people, but in the end without money, influence, and support from outside, these places might as well become Become Sanctuary Districts like this episode.
I think your anger is misplaced, the Left's own desire to seek shelter will likely create the outcome that is most feared. If you were just trying to get to be angry at you and raise hell, CNN and other forums are better for that.
@Those on the Progressive side, if you want to prevent Sanctuary districts from rising, prevent this kind of segregation based on poverty, and social status (on this point, I do agree that the episode heavily implied immigration issues to point when a supporting character in Part 2 was distinctly Hispanic descent was telling his story to the web), then stop creating castles and do something about the world at large. If there's prejudice in the small towns, drive down to the closest town of less than 20K people and go to the local Church, School, or Bar and practice some good civic duty and better yet invite some friends from different racial/ethnic/religious backgrounds too. Help set up events, fundraise, or buy a round of drinks and just be part of America rather than preach down.
Overall, this future is not set in stone, we have time to change it.
Tue, Aug 29, 2017, 11:01am (UTC -5)
You mean the guy with one line who we weren't told was an immigrant? You do realize there are Hispanics living in the U.S. who were born and raised here and don't speak any English, right? Let's be honest, this sounds like a very weak anti-immigration argument.
Sun, Sep 3, 2017, 1:04am (UTC -5)
Thu, Sep 7, 2017, 4:29am (UTC -5)
I grew up on the newer Treks and I'm on the far right. Short answer is, there is appeal in watching a group working as a hierarchy, respecting rank, sacrificing where need be, putting their emotions to the side when the situation requires it, and (occasionally) making tough choices between their empathy, their duty, and their sense of what is right. The head gets priority over the heart from time to time. Individuals die but the ship and crew moves on.
Although there are obvious exceptions, it portrays a social group operating harmoniously, and even when it doesn't (DS9 is loaded with legitimate conflict, warfare, and realpolitik), it's very rare that one side or the other is treated as completely unrelatable. Concerns over race and culture are even taken seriously, shown as maybe something other than pure delinquency, which never happens anymore, as nice guy consumerist individualism is basically the only position you can now take. Compared to the overdramatic good-versus-evil moralism that so many other TV shows have to offer, this is a cool, Apollonian breath of fresh air, even 20 years on. Frankly, it's about the only thing I ever watch anymore.
I am well aware of how the franchise has its roots in a type of utopian leftism, but it is also ultimately the creation of one guy, Roddenberry, who's understanding of utopia was so quirky and in some cases contradictory that it stands as a creative act.
I think Star Trek usually gets human nature wrong, although there are times it gets it very right. This episode isn't one of them. I liked it when I first watched it, but I wasn't old enough to drive a car then. Now I have degrees in history and economics, and I think the message stands on a laughable soapbox with a severely screwed up sense of what social dysfunction looks like. My $.02.
Wed, Oct 18, 2017, 4:18pm (UTC -5)
I get that a family show won't go into details about certain things, but for a setting that was supposed to be so dark and chaotic, it was so G-rated it was ridiculous. I'm not saying the Sanctuary looked like fun, but for something that was supposed to be one of Earth's most "depressing" periods of history, the people living there seemed more disgruntled and irritated than desperate, impoverished and living in chaos. And don't even get me started on the language. I don't expect F-boms or the N-word on "Star Trek," but for god's sake, "New boy?" "Losers?" Is this really a sci-fi dystopia, or an episode of "Hey Arnold!" ?
It's also really wall-banging how close into the future they set the Bell Riots. (2024 is only seven years from now, and even when this aired the writers knew how close it was; Dax's friend mentions being in high school "in the '90s" for Q's sake). I give the Original Series a pass for making "future history" in the 1990s, because they had no idea what a long-lasting phenomenon "Star Trek" would become. But by DS9 the writers should have known better than to set this episode in a year where their own kids, if not also themselves, would still be watching "Star Trek."
Overall I put this episode in the same category as "Voyager's" "Equinox;" great episode in all ways except the plot.
Thu, Apr 26, 2018, 7:00pm (UTC -5)
The social commentary is on point here -- one can legitimately see a greater divide between the rich and the poor, and ultimately perhaps somebody in power was able to create these sanctuary districts and deal with the problem in that way. I liked how the people in the sanctuary districts made up their own terms like "dims" and "ghosts" -- the episode did a great job realistically creating a sub-culture.
Great episode for Avery Brooks, an actor that I'm not a fan of for most of his DS9 performances, but here his style of acting is suitable. His understanding of the history and attempts to not corrupt the timeline are well portrayed -- as is his ultimate decision to say he's Gabriel Bell. And Bashir is the right character to be with him (being a doctor), younger, and unaware of the history. So their dynamic worked pretty well for me. They had some good dialog about those times, talking about ideals, society not caring etc. -- pretty profound stuff for a change.
The thugs were one of the weaknesses here -- just seemed forced in how they had to act -- didn't come naturally to them to be bad guys of that era. The Dax B-plot was weird -- was it building to Chris falling in love with Jadzia? If it was, it was moving quite slowly by Trek romance standards. But ultimately it serves to give the perspective from the wealthy part of society, which is key for understanding the dynamic. We know from their dinner party conversation that Europe was apparently a mess so there's some sort of global phenomenon that is building to a boiling point.
So they're on the verge of the riots and hostage situation taking place but no clue how they come back to the future. Unfortunately, that whole bit of technobabble temporal nonsense will likely hurt the 2nd part.
3.5 stars for "Past Tense, Part I" -- a truly prescient episode and it's intelligent and creative that for a time travel episode, it went back to a time in the near future so as to create the drama. But it's all very realistic, which is the best part. It's neat for a Trek episode to really immerse itself in a time in the past -- like "The City on the Edge of Forever". And as for the time travel, the technobabble that created it sounds reasonable, so that wasn't an issue for me (but probably will be in Part II). Quite a compelling hour of Trek.
Wed, Aug 8, 2018, 4:57pm (UTC -5)
Wow. Nick speaks of his personal experiences and all you can muster is that?
Live a day in someone else's shoes...
Fri, Aug 10, 2018, 10:34am (UTC -5)
Fri, Aug 10, 2018, 12:04pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Aug 29, 2018, 7:58am (UTC -5)
Tue, Sep 11, 2018, 12:20pm (UTC -5)
At any rate, by now he should have been evicted and now be placed wherever those people with criminal records ended up.
Wed, Oct 3, 2018, 1:13pm (UTC -5)
Teaser : ***.5, 5%
The entire senior staff, aboard the Defiant, is about to arrive at Earth. The hoity-toity events surrounding the upcoming symposium don't appeal to most of said staff. I really enjoy good food. I am a composer of opera. When I was in school, I worked for a catering company. These kinds of formal events have always struck me as problematic. There is a sense that the people in attendance *deserve* the opulence to which they're being treated, whether because they “worked hard” to earn the disposable income which purchases such luxuries, or because they are Very Important People stanning for whatever cause or political party is being celebrated. I'm not saying it's universal, but it is always present; a depressing lack of humility or gratitude and a nauseating overabundance of entitlement. Like O'Brien, the enlisted man, and Odo and Kira who aren't in Starfleet, I would probably pass on this party, too.
Before they can get underway, Quark calls from the station on an emergency channel to remind Sisko that Zek wants to be credited for his great assistance in helping Sisko achieve nothing in “The Search.” Of course, he had to call when the Defiant had already reached Earth (can subspace really simulcast at such a distance?), because if he had reminded Sisko before they left, Armin Shimmerman wouldn't get to appear in the episode. Either that, or he's banking on Sisko not being a Sith and thus unable to choke him through the viewscreen, which is Quark's usual reward from the senior staff.
Dax, Bashir and Sisko transport to the surface, but the Chief loses their signals. Next thing you know, Sisko and Bashir are being awoken on a city street by the barrel of a gun. The patrol men or whatever they are debate what to do. The older cop chastises the younger for suggesting that they let Bashir and Sisko go free rather than arrest them for the crime of sleeping in the street, calling him an anarchist. Yeesh. Bashir's questions about Starfleet get the pair labelled “dims,” but Sisko recognises the technology and uniforms from somewhere. We quickly learn that the year is 2024 before the men are hauled off to the “Sanctuary District.” Sounds fun. Dax is revealed to have materialised in a transit tube out of site. I do find the conceit very alluring here; we have a double time-travel story with the heroes travelling back to *contemporary* Earth, but of course, this is not 1994, but an imagined near-future. Here in 2018, it's going to be very interesting to how prescient the writers were.
Act 1 : ***, 17%
Dax, who still has her combadge, is awoken by Mark Zuckerberg. In what for Trek is an astonishing display of situational awareness, Jadzia plays along with his assumptions that someone mugged her and he offers to try and help her out. It's nice to be a pretty white girl, I guess.
Meanwhile—or whatever temporally accurate term applies—O'Brien is babbling some technos trying to figure out what happened with the transporter. Apparently, there was an accumulation of chronotons on the hull created by the cloaking device, because all Romulan technology relies on the most dangerous spacetime-altering science, like black holes and time-travel. Oh yeah, there was “a surge of temporal energy” just before the transport. The Chief is clueless as to what this means because...the plot needs him and Kira to be idiots. Temporal energy? Why, why I fear that Commander Sisko may have been transformed into a rubber chicken!
On Earth, Bashir caught a glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge—the only landmark in San Francisco—on their way to the Sanctuary District. Sisko has a more rounded understanding of history, able to explain what they witness in their new home, poverty, dejection, ghettofication. The people in this tent city have no criminal records, but are jobless and homeless. I am sorry to report that the depiction here is remarkably sanitised compared to the actual tent-cities in San Francisco today.
Act 2 : ***.5, 17%
Jadzia is playing around with Mark Zuckerberg's super computer, having taken the opportunity to figure out where and when she is, while ordering a new ID and credit chips. There's an interesting discussion regarding Dax' “tattoos.” Zuck had his removed in order to market himself as “presentable” for government contracts. It turns out he's actually a Very Important Person—having invented or marketed or vertically-integrated or start-upped or whatever bullshit business jargonned some internet thing. He seems almost pleased that Jadzia doesn't recognise him.
In the Sanctuary District, Bashir and Sisko naturally aren't showing up in the ID database. They are given forms to fill out, and it's made quite clear that this is all bureaucratic bullshit, as much a headache for the cop as it is for our heroes.
On the Defiant, O'Brien as deciphered the technobabble and determined that the trio were transported centuries out of time.
Sisko takes his surroundings in, a really drab and hellish post-apocalyptic DMV by my assessment. He notes the date (hey, at least we finally adopted the metric system). They are about to witness a revolution in the SD, which history has called “The Bell Riots.” So, there's a ticking clock.
Act 3 : *.5, 17%
Sisko explains that the riots will incur loss of life, but will help lead the country out of this wilderness. Gabriel Bell, one of the residents, will sacrifice his life to save the lives of government hostages when the army storms the SD. Eventually, this event will pave the way to social reforms. Sisko, naturally, wants to ensure that their presence does not interfere with the course of history. I guess he couldn't live with it. The pair are assigned a social worker, who is surprised and pleased to learn that the men aren't dims (slang for mentally-ill), but belong to the much more enviable caste called “gimmes” (slang for the poor). The social worker says the government can't afford to hospitalise the dims, that she hates this unsavoury reality but is resigned to it nonetheless. Yeah. I wonder how much Zuckerberg pays in taxes. She gives them ration cards and releases them into the SD proper, but not before issuing a warning about the third caste called “ghosts.” The ghosts have “not integrated” into the District and are considered dangerous. So, they're criminals, right? And they're allowed to remain because...?
Zuck invites Jadzia to a party he's holding the next day, after securing her some lodging for the evening. Nice to be a pretty white girl.
Meanwhile, the brown men are having trouble finding a spot to sleep. They take the opportunity to discuss the sociology of their circumstances. Essentially, Bashir thinks the citizenry has become cruel and apathetic, while Sisko attributes their actions to...well, depression. Indeed, what we have seen of the “middle class”--meaning the guards and the social workers—shows us that those doing the difficult labour of maintaining the Sanctuary Districts are overworked and cynical. Bashir's observations, lacking any historical perspective are understandable. Sisko's oversimplification, if we are to understand that he has studied history, are not so forgiveable. There are potent socioeconomic factors at work here, but Sisko heavy-handedly puts the whole thing down to the people having “forgotten,” for the time being, how to be compassionate. This sophomoric conversation reaches its zenith with this line:
BASHIR: But it makes you wonder, doesn't it? Are humans really any different than Cardassians or Romulans? If push comes to shove, if something disastrous happens to the Federation, if we are frightened enough, or desperate enough, how would we react? Would we stay true to our ideals or would we just stay up here, right back where we started?
Ugh. Look, Doc, if humans are better than Romulans and Cardassians in the 24th century it's because they *live* better ideals. Humans have created an economy and a social structure which promotes the exploitation of qualities that they, as a species, have deemed “good” for society. The same is true for Cardassians and Romulans, it's just that those values are different. Moreover, the economic collapse which has led to the formation of the Sanctuary Districts didn't just happen. It is the direct result of Neoliberal economic policies which, by 2024, would have plagued the earth for the better part of a century. I'll return to this topic in part II.
The other dimension to this conversation is about building up the series' anti-Trekkian thesis, posed as a what-if question. If the Borg or the Dominion or whoever were able to destroy the Federation infrastructure which promotes our ideals, would we revert to an un-evolved state? Well, let's use an analogy from the context. If you take good people and systematically rob them by shunting economic benefits towards those at the top, say by reducing the tax rate, suppressing wages and privatising social goods like healthcare, will they become cruel and apathetic like the SD workers, or worse, homeless and possibly violent like the SD residents? Yes, probably. And what does such a lesson teach us? That humans can't really ever evolve past sucking? Or that maybe we shouldn't be creating socioeconomic situations which promote our sucky behaviour? That's a head-scratcher, that is.
The philosophers come across a man being beaten by a street-gang led by Cliché Caucasian Badass. They demure, not wanting to interfere in this important unfolding of history.
Act 4 : ***, 17%
The Defiant gang—consisting of the former terrorist, an non-commissioned grease-monkey, and a shapeshifting Gestapo agent—has planned a rescue attempt THROUGH TIME!! Gosh, it's too bad they can't consult with one of the likely thousands of super-scientists mulling about on Earth. I mean, it's so far away! Maybe, they didn't want to spare a location shoot...oh wait. Kira, unilaterally decides that “a couple of crazy volunteers” will risk getting lost in time while they search the likely time-periods where Sisko and co. were lost.
Over their shitty breakfast, Sisko and Bashir decide they're going to try and escape the SD. One bit I did like is how Sisko calls the doctor “Julian,” having bonded a bit with his young subordinate over this experience. Eventually, they offer to barter their clothes in exchange for access to one of the buildings, so they can scout out the district from the rooftop. On their way up, they encounter a man tending to his wounded son. Julian offers to take a look and Sisko lets him proceed. Luckily the boy isn't seriously injured, but at least they've made a new friend, at least until Bashir makes it clear they don't intend on sticking around:
WEBB: You two are new here, so let me explain something to you. You can forget about getting out of here any time soon. This is your home now. The only help we're going to get is from each other, and if we don't start pulling together, we're finished.
SISKO: All we want is to be left alone.
WEBB: My mistake. I thought you wanted to get out of here.
BASHIR: We do.
WEBB: Well the only way that's going to happen is if we get organised and let people on the outside know what's going on in here.
The man has a point. The only hope of resolving such endemic socioeconomic disparity is intensive political action. And Sisko has already confirmed this to be true.
Speaking of disparity, we cut to a fancy-pants party. I'm sure Jadzia is happy she gets to attend one after all, having missed that symposium. The 1%s at Mark Zuckerberg's shindig complain about student uprisings and general political unrest in Europe which has impeded their holiday plans, poor sots. The general snobbery of the conversation clues Jadzia in to what likely happened to Sisko and Bashir and she asks Mark to try and help her check the SD records.
Cliché Dude starts a fight with our heroes over a food card. Well, Sisko may not be good at diplomacy...or ethics...or command...but if there's one thing he knows how to do it's throw a punch. A man emerges from the crowd to give Sisko a hand and Cliché Dude ends up stabbing him in the back, murdering him and taking his ration card for good measure. Sisko takes his ID card and starts panicking since they indirectly caused his murder. After fleeing the authorities, Sisko reveals that the knife victim was actually Gabriel Bell. Whoopsie daisy.
Act 5 : ***, 17%
Bashir wonders aloud how Bell's death will affect the future, and Sisko determines that they will have to make sure the hostages are protected in his stead.
In said future, Starfleet has determined that the Defiant gang's plan is too risky for the integrity of the timeline. Gee, you think? Before Kira can scream at them, they learn that Starfleet has disappeared. Along with the entire Federation. Oy. Odo surmises that Sisko has broken the timeline. Why they would only notice these changes now after we the viewers have seen Sisko break the timeline, is unexplained, and in fact inexplicable. The moment the trio beamed away, Starfleet should have disappeared, just like in “Yesterday's Enterprise” when, the moment the C appeared, the timeline was altered. But don't worry, the technowhatsit bubble that affected the Defiant has *also* protected it from the changes in the timeline. Well, I guess Kira won't have to yell at any admirals.
In the wake of Bell's death, Sisko decides that he and Bashir will join Webb's cause. He is organising a protest. Webb is determined that the protestors appear “their best,” clean, with their children—empathetic to the media in other words.
Mark Zuck has confirmed Sisko and Bashir's whereabouts. Zuck is...naïve about the purpose of the SDs, saying Jadzia shouldn't worry about her friends, who are just being looked after in their hour of need. She suspects that the giant wall suggests an alternative purpose.
Meanwhile—literally this time—the guys have done their part to spread the word about Webb's protest, but too late, the powder keg has ignited. A fight has broken out and guards are being shot at and beaten by desperate residents (ghosts, most likely, although who is supposed to tell the difference?). Cliché Dude has taken hostages at the processing centre, including the social worker and our grumpy guard. Sisko decides to cooperate with the cartoon idiot and identifies himself as “James Bond,” I mean “Gabriel Bell.” And cue cliffhanger.
Episode as Functionary : ***, 10%
Part I is entirely setup, so I'm not going to comment further on the political components here except to say that I appreciate the fact that we are bearing witness to the situation from several perspectives, the upper crust at Zuck's party, the social worker, the marginalised within the SD. What's still missing is a more holistic perspective, which I would expect Sisko to provide, having studied history and all that, but maybe this can come from somewhere else. The actual plot around him, Bashir and Dax is quite engaging but is somewhat hampered by goofy performances, especially from Zuck's crusty friends and dear god Cliché Hat Dude. He has all the depth of a Captain Planet villain.
The B-plot on the Defiant is pretty awful. It is painfully obvious that it only exists to pad out the story. If the story in past were more fully fleshed-out, all we would need here is a scene where, post-transport, the gang realise the Federation has disappeared and decide to mount a rescue. This could have happened right at the top of Act V, delaying the cliffhanger climax ever so slightly. As written, this plodding mess drags down the otherwise fairly strong story.
Final Score : ***
Wed, Oct 3, 2018, 1:46pm (UTC -5)
"The other dimension to this conversation is about building up the series' anti-Trekkian thesis, posed as a what-if question. If the Borg or the Dominion or whoever were able to destroy the Federation infrastructure which promotes our ideals, would we revert to an un-evolved state? Well, let's use an analogy from the context. If you take good people and systematically rob them by shunting economic benefits towards those at the top, say by reducing the tax rate, suppressing wages and privatising social goods like healthcare, will they become cruel and apathetic like the SD workers, or worse, homeless and possibly violent like the SD residents? Yes, probably. And what does such a lesson teach us? That humans can't really ever evolve past sucking? Or that maybe we shouldn't be creating socioeconomic situations which promote our sucky behaviour? That's a head-scratcher, that is. "
The issue is *in what way* Federation citizens are better than contemporary people. We know that they act better, and have better technology. But the question is what is the cause of their acting better: is it that they have cushy technology and this causes them to be improved? Or is it that they have cushy technology, and are also improved independently of that? Or is it the more dystopia-aware version, where they have learned how to be better *despite* having advanced technology? Asking which of these three is true of Federation citizens is a real and important question to ask and is at the heart of Trek, not contrary to it. If you disentangle the cushy tech from Federation citizens, and thrust them into a zero-sum game, would they then just resemble people from today? Kirk and Picard would argue that, no, people actually *are* better and it's not because their lives are more comfortable. But to what extent is this really true, since one can only observe those Federation people *with* their technology? In TOS we're shown various cases (like the miners in Mudd's Women) who live in more brutal conditions and are not entirely civilized.
So Bashir's question really goes to the issue of whether there's a way to improve as people beyond improving our material environment. Current (American) mentality suggests that you only improve people by improving the environment, which is the liberal ideal Elliott mentions. But I do not believe this is entirely true, and indeed I think it's entirely likely that improving the environment in certain ways to make everyone more comfortable may well lead to a general reduction in personal virtue. Very comfortable people are the least likely to want to be disturbed with problems, unless they've also developed the compulsion to act for the greater good as well.
Wed, Oct 3, 2018, 2:41pm (UTC -5)
"The issue is *in what way* Federation citizens are better than contemporary people. We know that they act better, and have better technology. But the question is what is the cause of their acting better: is it that they have cushy technology and this causes them to be improved? Or is it that they have cushy technology, and are also improved independently of that? Or is it the more dystopia-aware version, where they have learned how to be better *despite* having advanced technology?"
Technology plays a factor, but I'm not sure why you zero in on that here. The technological capabilities of the Federation are not greater than the Klingons or Romulans, yet the societies are quite different. That is because the socioeconomic systems are radically different. The Federation uses its technologies in a way that promotes as much social and economic equality as possible.
"I think it's entirely likely that improving the environment in certain ways to make everyone more comfortable may well lead to a general reduction in personal virtue."
Comfort is relative. I live pretty close the bone, especially in comparison to the upper middle class and wealthy people who co-inhabit my city, but I am sure than many people living in places like the Sudan would gladly trade their limbs for the kind of comfort I enjoy. But I would not say that the Sudanese are especially virtuous, either.
Bashir and Sisko don't stop being the evolved humans they are simply because they spend a few days living in the Sanctuary District, robbed of their creature comforts. The real issue is *systematic.* Turning people into apathetic assholes--like most contemporary Americans--because of some disaster, as Bashir says, like a Dominion invasion wouldn't prove anything except that being invaded is not a very good thing. What makes future humans better is their political system, which is why fighting for political change is so important.
Thu, Oct 4, 2018, 3:05pm (UTC -5)
Complicating things more, the film First Contact actually has the same stakes as this episode. However, that film tells us that it was actually Cochrane’s flight that resulted in humanity meeting the Vulcans and *that* single moment finally united humanity in peace. So we’re left wondering which version of history is correct, and how do the Bell Riots mean anything to the Federation?
So yeah, I think it was lazy to just say the Federation wouldn’t exist if not for the Bell Riots. Surely it or some form of government would still exist, but it would be less tolerant and maybe more barbaric like the Terran Empire. At any rate, there needs to be logical connection to a historic event and it’s effect on history or else the real feeling of how historic events unfold is lost to melodrama.
Thu, Oct 4, 2018, 3:26pm (UTC -5)
I would tend to agree that the "Federation is gone!" trope has probably been overused over the course of Trek in general. In particular Past Tense seems to have wanted to directly borrow from The City on the Edge of Forever in its premise that interfering with an important social progress event in the past makes the Federation 'just disappear'. I think the logic of it is a bit less important than the fact that *any variation* on the reality they know would constitute basically losing everyone, figuratively speaking. Certainly their lives as they knew them would be over, even though Earth would no doubt have some sort of civilization still there.
About the Encounter at Farpoint kangaroo courts, one thing that may be relevant is the distinctly weird design of the courtroom and costumes. Could it have been depicting an Eastern nation? Or at any rate, we don't exactly know that this precise fascist court system was the same all over the world. But it would be sufficient for Q's point that humanity would do this at all on a large scale. For instance, the Nazis were confined to one small part of the world but they would no doubt be enough for us to quality as "humanity being barbaric". We don't really know the future history leading right up to WWIII, but it seems in keeping with that to assume that the one side of the conflict may have been less despotic than the other. Maybe the 'San Francisco effect' is what led the one side to be more humane than the other in the first place? Who knows. I sort of try to treat these tales as one-off moral fables rather than additions to a strict chronological canon. I mean, we do want canon consistency, but on the other hand we don't want that to create a straitjacket, which is I think what Ron Moore complained about.
Thu, Oct 4, 2018, 5:47pm (UTC -5)
Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I don’t know if you’ve seen Enterprise’s “Fallen Hero” or not but the continuing fallout from the post-atomic horror was mentioned as a lingering problem that affected all of Earth, which well, makes sense considering WWIII should by definition affect all of Earth and seriously cripple all governments throughout.
But yeah, I can get behind DS9’s writers just wanting to tell a story and not wanting to be nailed to the wall by continuity issues. The funny thing is, they could’ve made the Bell Riots happen after First Contact which would fit into a more cohesive narrative where alien contact really made humanity think out its global problems together, including this one.
Behind the scenes though it might be that, as some of the commenters here have mentioned, the writers wanted to put this episode in the near future to alert a 1990s audience to a growing problem. Basically the message is “hey viewers, this tragedy is taking roots right now in our world but you can get out and do something about it!”
Thu, Dec 13, 2018, 8:15pm (UTC -5)
--Transported through time. That's a new one. Wow. I'm not looking forward to 2024.
--Hard not to notice how close 2024 is to now, and how much doesn't match reality, and what does.
--A cure for schizophrenia by 2024? If only, Bashir.
--Nice contrast between the Sanctuary area and Dax's opulent surroundings.
--Major technobabble, paradox stuff it's best not to think about, i.e., the usual with time travel eps.
--Interesting so far. On to part 2.
Fri, Dec 14, 2018, 3:24pm (UTC -5)
You're not wrong about the time travel logic. This is one of those episodes where you have to suspend your disbelief, big time. It makes no sense, even by Star Trek standards.
Wed, Aug 14, 2019, 7:47am (UTC -5)
Fri, Jan 3, 2020, 2:28am (UTC -5)
Keep in mind that these riots are taking place two months before a Presidential election, and, according to Star Trek chronology, it's the last Presidential election before WWIII breaks out in 2026. How the riots play out is obviously going to have a major impact on the election and it's not hard to believe that if they go a different way, a different President would be elected. That President might turn out to be a Chamberlain rather than a Churchill, or an isolationist rather than an FDR, to make an analogy to WWII, and that in turn might lead to an even worse WWIII.
As bad as WWIII undoubtedly was (will be?), it could have been a lot worse. We don't know a lot about it directly, but we do know that less than 10% of the world population died, most of the Earth remained inhabitable, so there was almost certainly no large-scale nuclear exchange, (though there obviously was some use of nuclear weapons), and enough of an industrial and technological base survived that a spaceship with a functioning warp drive was built and launched less than 10 years after the end of the war.
Given that O'Brien detects no satellites in orbit 350 years after WWIII in the altered timeline, the war in that timeline was likely bad enough to knock humanity back to a pre-industrial level of development. To me at least, it's plausible that a political change in the United States due to the altered course of the Bell Riots in the lead-up to a crucial election would be enough to worsen the character of the ensuing war to such a degree.
Fri, Jan 3, 2020, 9:58am (UTC -5)
I watched this one yesterday and did thoroughly enjoy it, but was wondering if it might be straying too close to the "Great Man" theory of history -- the oversimplified and thoroughly flawed "one person is responsible for this incredible change, and history would not be the same without them" that discounts complex causation. Popular media (with its focus on strong individual characters) falls victim to this all the time, and the entire known structure of life in the 24th century collapsing without Gabriel Bell would make this seem to be no exception. Why couldn't the breaking point for societal change happen at some other time? It seems that society was ripe for a positive response to a tragedy like this -- who says it couldn't have been some other tragedy?
But you make a compelling point about how there wasn't much time left for another tragedy like this -- at least, not before the great tragedy of Star Trek's 21st century. One major news event leads to increased social awareness, leads to a change in what's seen as publicly acceptable policy, leads to a shift in popular politics, and before you know it you've changed the landscape of what matters to the American people and who they vote in charge of deciding what happens -- who's deciding what happens for a crucial period of history. Good ol' butterfly effect.
Thu, May 7, 2020, 3:26am (UTC -5)
Also, there's basically nothing 'prescient' about the 2024 in this episode - it's far closer to 1994 than it is to 2020.
Income inequality is wider now than it's ever been, which is of course a problem, but it has nothing to do with poverty, the measurement of which is adjusted on a yearly basis (meaning people in 'poverty' in 2020 are much, much better off than people in poverty in 1960). It makes the whole idea of Sanctuaries very unlikely.
Fri, May 8, 2020, 4:38am (UTC -5)
Also, “You can’t free a fish from water” is the funniest Rule.
Fri, May 8, 2020, 9:20am (UTC -5)
It's been 25 years since Past Tense first aired. Only 4 more years until the Bell Riots!
There have been many amazing comments on this episode in the last 10 years. Two I would highlight are:
@ Matt, and his very unique take on Vin. Reminds me of all those wonderful theories that Jar Jar Binks was actually a Sith Lord, or something like the Mule out of the Foundation stories by Asimov.
@ Gaius Maximus, who provides what I think is the first realistic answer to why the Bell Riots could possibly be so pivotal to Earth history. The Bell Riots take place close to Labor Day weekend in September, which as we all know, is the kickoff to the Presidential elections. Everyone has heard of how an October surprise can turn an election. And in the Trek verse, WW III is said to start two years later, in 2026. Given that we've been living for several years with folks palpitating about WW III is about to break out any day now, Past Tense becomes eerily more and more prescient every time I watch it.
Given the way the world is today, who here thinks it impossible that Seattle, or L.A. or Austin, or San Francisco might build a wall around their tent cities in the next 4 years? The only thing missing from the episode was face masks.
As I said in my comment 10 years ago, I fully expect to be at the corner of California & Polk around Labor Day 2024. Just in case O'Brien and Kira really pop up.
Live long and prosper.
Sat, May 23, 2020, 12:37pm (UTC -5)
I agree Sisko was shown to have more depth than usual (that isn't saying much, he still isn't the deepest character but he is really likeable and "neutral" enough to pander efficiently for Picard of DS9).
I really doubt time travel when the show tells me changes in the past project into the future in real-time. That and the fact that the Romulans never polluted the timeline with their chromaton cloak particles in the same way DS9 did is not addressed.
P.S if Sisko's face was in 2024 I would assume by the time Sisko was recognized in the then-future he would be already arrested and questioned for violating the prime directive before he ever got the Defiant. Very stupid.
Tue, Jun 9, 2020, 2:42pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Jun 14, 2020, 7:24pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Jun 21, 2020, 4:29am (UTC -5)
Sat, Sep 26, 2020, 1:12pm (UTC -5)
This episode is so bad that I think I need a break from DS9 as it's actually offensive how terrible this was.
Sat, Sep 26, 2020, 1:19pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Sep 26, 2020, 2:00pm (UTC -5)
Which one of these two choices would you say is more important for any television show?
Well written characters and stories
Trying to correctly predict appliances of the real world future
Wed, Dec 2, 2020, 11:55pm (UTC -5)
The other problem I had with the episode was the “destruction of the time line”. It made no sense. Since Sisko made the decision to replace Bell, it was obvious that he WOULD have done what was necessary to preserve events as he remembered them. Indeed, he WAS Bell , for all intents and purposes. So why would things have EVER changed? Answer: They WOULDN’T.
Thu, Dec 3, 2020, 1:34pm (UTC -5)
Yeah actually, it did. Loss of farm jobs led to a flood of poor unskilled people into cities looking for factory work. Some were able to scrape together a living in tenements with 10 people per room and no windows, but plenty were also out on the streets or living in shacks by the river. Overall standard of living markedly decreased during the industrial revolution until there was time to catch up.
The buggy to automobile thing is irrelevant, they were both still manufactured by many of the same people with similar skills. It wasn't until around the post-WWII era that automation began to take over and eliminate jobs. Growth of an industry hides job losses from automation, so it can still be a net win, but growth doesn't last forever.
Something that's often forgotten about the Luddites (19th century skilled English textile workers) is that they actually did lose their jobs and had trouble getting work in the factories that replaced them because not only were fewer workers needed, they also commanded lower wages due to less skill being necessary. They didn't protest and destroy the new factory machinery because they were simpletons afraid of new technology, they did it after they lost their livelihoods because of those machines. Skilled tradesmen replaced by unskilled workers.
The important takeaway of all this is that so far we've been able to absorb or redistribute people displaced by automation to new jobs, but there's no guarantee that it will continue. Considering that half of the American population is too poor to even pay Federal income taxes suggests that we're not doing so great on that front after all. Not everyone is cut out for programming, and nowhere near as many people are needed to fix and maintain the machines as are displaced by them.
Also, this episode isn't saying that these people are all just out of work. B.C. the main antagonist clearly has some mental issues, as do several other people we see. It's suggested that these aren't just homeless people who've been rounded up, but anyone who lost their job and couldn't afford the rent, or even just got drunk and passed out on the sidewalk without their ID. Anyone can be shoved in a sanctuary district with little recourse to get out, but nobody cares since they're out of sight and out of mind. That's what matters.
Thu, Dec 3, 2020, 2:08pm (UTC -5)
And this is to say nothing of the inevitable day when it's not just some jobs in some sectors being replaced, such as in factories. Fully automated services that can replace cashiers, bank tellers, and eventually lawyers and other skilled tradesmen, will eventually make even the "get off your butt and get a job" crowd start crying to mama.
Thu, Dec 3, 2020, 2:23pm (UTC -5)
Which they found, because you didn’t have politicians thinking they had to “solve the problem” by “protecting jobs” or inhibiting the rise of the factories. Sure, there was a transition period, but the fact remains that the country became immensely wealthier and better off. The picture of farm life as some kind of idyllic paradise is silly. Somehow, the idea of everyone, including children, working very long, hard hours just to feed little more than THEMSELVES because of the lack of the mechanization that “destroyed the jobs” doesn’t bother people. But a factory job is somehow horrible.
“growth doesn't last forever.”
Growth in a particular industry isn’t guaranteed to last forever, because a market economy is dynamic , ever changing, and people find new and better ways to do things. It’s that dynamism that helps the continued growth of wealth. We are materially FAR better of than we were a century ago or more by any rational measure, all due to CHANGES that resulted in IMPROVEMENT, improvement that didn’t come about because of a “Federal employment act”.
“Something that's often forgotten about the Luddites (19th century skilled English textile workers) is that they actually did lose their jobs and had trouble getting work in the factories that replaced them because not only were fewer workers needed, they also commanded lower wages due to less skill being necessary. They didn't protest and destroy the new factory machinery because they were simpletons afraid of new technology, they did it after they lost their livelihoods because of those machines. Skilled tradesmen replaced by unskilled workers.”
So find something ELSE to do. Like I said, a growing, dynamic economy means new ways of doing things that make us better off. The alternative would be to be in an eternally frozen, static state, where innovation isn’t allowed because it would “threaten jobs”, or more generally the status quo. When the movie Avatar came out, I read ridiculous comments from people saying they’d love to live like that. Of course they were saying that on their electronic devices, and of course none of them actually left for the jungle. So it is with everyone saying “let’s keep things the same way forever”, which would keep us perpetually POOR. I think it was great that the unskilled workers were able to get jobs and provide better, cheaper textiles to consumers, and the idea that the ONLY thing that should have mattered was maintaining the status quo of the Luddites is ridiculous.
“The important takeaway of all this is that so far we've been able to absorb or redistribute people displaced by automation to new jobs, but there's no guarantee that it will continue.”
But it is guaranteed that “protecting jobs” by stifling innovation would make us poorer. People who only think about “jobs” have a deeply flawed view of an economy. Any industry exists to satisfy human wants and needs, not to “provide jobs”. Feudal serfs had PLENTY of work. Jobs are the BYPRODUCT of the ability to serve those wants and needs, NOT the primary goal.
Thu, Dec 3, 2020, 2:37pm (UTC -5)
Significant parts of the populace will no longer be needed for the economy. If you have a master degree or more you will be doing alright or better, if not then you will almost certainly be poor. How such a system can sustain itself, who knows.
Hey but considering what happened temperature-wise in Siberia this year maybe we don't need to be concerned about the future.
Thu, Dec 3, 2020, 2:38pm (UTC -5)
The irony is that people in Star Fleet are in the service sector. I'm sure Kirk, Picard, Sisko, etc. would react well to being told that they have "annoying soulless jobs".
Thu, Dec 3, 2020, 3:13pm (UTC -5)
"The irony is that people in Star Fleet are in the service sector. I'm sure Kirk, Picard, Sisko, etc. would react well to being told that they have "annoying soulless jobs"."
Uh...I think you are confusing the service sector with the armed services. I assure you that a naval Captain is not in the 'service sector.' And obviously regardless of what term you want to use for what sector Sisko and Kirk are in, they are clearly not sitting working a cash register at Walmart or taking orders at McDonald's, so I'm not sure what point you think you are addressing there.
Thu, Dec 3, 2020, 3:25pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Dec 3, 2020, 3:29pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Dec 3, 2020, 3:33pm (UTC -5)
I think you're engaged in a semantic evasion. Clearly, people are SERVING in Starfleet. Quote from Memory Alpha: "Starfleet was the deep space exploratory and defense SERVICE maintained by the United Federation of Planets." (caps mine). So it clearly is in the service sector as opposed to manufacturing, which likely almost disappeared completely when horrible evil replicator technology destroyed untold numbers of jobs. As for belittling the service sector by pointing to jobs at Walmart or McDonald's which fulfill human wants and needs, I could just as well point out manufacturing or farm jobs which are hardly more exciting, and I could also point out service jobs such as gourmet chef or concert pianist which are very rewarding indeed.
Thu, Dec 3, 2020, 3:41pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Dec 3, 2020, 3:50pm (UTC -5)
Attorneys indeed work in the service sector. Glad you agree.
Sun, Feb 28, 2021, 11:56pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Mar 3, 2021, 6:02pm (UTC -5)
The lockdowns of 2020/2021
Thu, Mar 18, 2021, 9:05am (UTC -5)
Meanwhile, the state's elected officials (both locally and in Washington) have spent less little time addressing the issue because they're more concerned with wokeness and conservatives hurting their feelings on Twitter.
Thu, Mar 18, 2021, 11:42am (UTC -5)
I'm sure if conservatives were in power the homeless would pull themselves up by their bootstraps in go poop in the woods. :)
Thank you for your service.
Thu, Mar 18, 2021, 1:04pm (UTC -5)
Strawman argument is a strawman. Come back to me when you have something constructive to say.
Fri, Mar 19, 2021, 3:12am (UTC -5)
Wow. Freaky, I was going to recommend the same to you. Weird, huh?
Not that we are not happy that you push US domestic problems into every second post of yours.
Fri, Mar 19, 2021, 5:50am (UTC -5)
Fri, Mar 19, 2021, 7:40am (UTC -5)
No, we don't have homeless... don't research that.
Well, there are many public toilets.
"I thought you said they poop everywhere??"
I meant that homeless everywhere poop in the streets. They are homeless. :)
Tue, Aug 17, 2021, 9:59am (UTC -5)
We now have tech in our hands that looks far more modern than what Picard and Crew had on the Enterprise D lol - tech that is supposedly from 345 years in the future.
Only a extreme hih concept things such as holodecks, replicators and warp drives will remain out of reach for a long time to come. Most everything else is either already here or is nearly here as depicted and realised in the TNG era shows.
Tue, Oct 5, 2021, 1:10pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Oct 5, 2021, 1:39pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Oct 7, 2021, 11:43am (UTC -5)
A stylus, on the other hand, has already become a quaint instrument. The writers probably didn't foresee that hand gestures would become more useful as tools and that glass could be made damage/smear proof.
Sun, Oct 24, 2021, 3:11am (UTC -5)
In fact there was *THEN*. Loren Mosher, R D Laing and many others found a cure but, scandalously, its rarely used to this day because, like the Sanctuary residents, its "forgotten". See https://michaelzfreeman.org/yet-another-successful-non-drug-treatment-for-schizophrenia-yet-its-not-being-used/
Sun, Oct 24, 2021, 4:37am (UTC -5)
Ok, you have a certain agenda and want to push it here. I get it but could you stop. In Germany we have at least 15 soteria clinics. There is actually one less than 2 km from where I am now. While it seems as successful as using the more traditional medication heavy way in treating acute psychosis, it is also more costly because it takes the patient longer to recover and you need more staff. The benefits are less side effects because medication is used less often. It is a treatment, not a cure per se.
Everybody with a working brain knows that big corporations will try to corrupt/hurt society if it benefits them. You do not need to remind us. Google until 2018 for that reason had in it's code of conduct the sentence:
"Don't be evil."
Sun, Nov 21, 2021, 1:52am (UTC -5)
Sun, Mar 20, 2022, 1:14am (UTC -5)
Thu, May 12, 2022, 10:05pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Aug 17, 2022, 1:12pm (UTC -5)
I strongly dislike time-travel episodes, especially when the destination time is Earth, in our current recent past or future. Very lazy and unimaginative. The preachy "social justice" angle doesn't endear me either. Maybe I'm too jaded but I realize that a utopian society--whether as imagined by the Right, the Left, the unaffiliated, or anyone else--is unachievable.
Cisco talking about some dude, Bill or Bob or whatever: "He saved hostages and he became a national hero and served as a catalyst for change of 100 years of social problems and..." Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...
Yeah, so was George Washington, and today his statues are being torn down by blue-haired freaks because, I don't know, he wrote a transphobic tweet in 1780 or something.
My point is: Imperfect humans are incapable of fashioning a perfect society. The most we can do is keep experimenting and instituting new ideas, which are not actually new at all but had been tried (and failed) before. They failed either because THEY sucked or because PEOPLE suck. We are too fickle, too bored, and ultimately self-destructive for an ideal socioeconomic system to be even envisioned, let alone successfully and permanently implemented. Even if resources were unlimited and even if there was a perfect equality not just of opportunity but also of outcome, how long would it take before someone would just HAVE to find something that HAS to be "fixed," some ""struggle" to be had, some "injustice" to be rectified...? Not very long. Not very long at all.
Rant over. That's why the haughty moral diatribes don't resonate with me in the slightest and I don't want to waste my time watching them.
Then there's Cisco's comment: "We must do nothing to interfere with this seminal event [viz. the riot]."
Yeah, hey, bucko, ever heard of the butterfly effect? Your very presence there is interference. Merely occupying space displaces subatomic particles' position and momentum, and there's no telling how such alterations affect the spacetime continuum. I mean, Bashir inhaling a particular O2 molecule could well have made the difference between a particular sperm inseminating an egg, thus precluding the birth of another Abe Lincoln. (Has he been "canceled" yet, too? Probably.)
Just... - to stupid (or maybe better put, frustrating) for my taste. Pass.
Wed, Aug 17, 2022, 1:24pm (UTC -5)
So, Fahrenheit is long gone in the "enlightened" Trek universe, replaced with Commigrade--I mean, Centigrade--in all contexts. Yet, the date is still displayed in the M/D/Y form. What, they hadn't imposed that wonderful, oh-so human-centric, utopian S.I. standard for dates on the 22nd-century 'Merica?! Slacking off there, S.I.!
Sat, Dec 24, 2022, 10:38pm (UTC -5)
We live in an age where phony virtue signaling is used as a weapon to manipulate people into accepting a society that is decaying with corruption.
It's all happening under the guise of "diversity," "inclusion,"and "equity."
Under these policies, society has allowed criminals to become a protected class... while society itself breaks down into poverty and despair... and if you call it out for what it is you will be shamed as "xenophobic" or a " white nationalist," a racist... or whatever the current "thing" is. We see this happen on a daily basis. If we don't support the victimhood of the day we will be silenced, shamed, censored, and canceled.
The writers of this episode envisioned that this would happen, because this agenda has been planned for a very long time by power hungry globalist elites. They just needed time to make sure the sheeple fall in line.
Sat, Dec 24, 2022, 10:45pm (UTC -5)
I would listen to interviews with the writers of this episode to further explore how off the mark you are as to their intentions. Cirroc Lofton’s DS9 podcast is a good place to start.
Sat, Dec 24, 2022, 11:10pm (UTC -5)
They did the same thing in the 70s when they were pushing the "ice age " propaganda. When that was exposed it then became "global warming" in the 90s.
When their "global warming" narrative was debunked, they came up with the generic "climate change" label.
Their stated goal is to reduce peoples "carbon footprint."
What they don't admit, however, is that in order to do that there needs to be a mass de population.
That brings us to today... a time when one of the most powerful criminal drug manufacturers (Pfizer) are profiting from vaccine mandates and nonstop propaganda designed to put people into a state of fear and uncertainty... along with a sharp rise of "unexplained" death.
Sat, Dec 24, 2022, 11:28pm (UTC -5)
@Gorn with the wind
You can't be serious....you're just buying into the phony virtue signaling that comes along with it. Sisko even called out the exact time frame (early 2020s") of when the shit hit the fan.
Even if what you say has merit, there are always multiple paths to get to the same dead end. This episode embodies that.
Star Trek doesn't hide its contempt for humanity whenever they have encounters with the people in todays modern day society. This episode is no different.
Sun, Dec 25, 2022, 2:03am (UTC -5)
If they aren't the same, then why do they have the same name?! Think! Follow the letters!
Sun, Dec 25, 2022, 2:05am (UTC -5)
Look at her go!
Sun, Dec 25, 2022, 1:32pm (UTC -5)
Warp Speed ahead, Ensign Exxon-Mobile! And be sure to suppress evidence that dates back to the 1970’s!
Sun, Dec 25, 2022, 9:33pm (UTC -5)
That graph proves absolutely nothing. The global warming virtue signalers are some of the most gullible people in the world. The climate has been changing on this planet since it was conceived of almost 4 billion years ago. It's not hard to overdramatize it by only comparing two cherry picked points on a massive time-line.
I'm all for protecting the environment and it's resources...but it's not something I would bend the knee for when the government and power hungry activists start making ridiculous demands. Hell, right now the World Economic Forum is telling us that eating bugs is the way of the future. They are also pushing to require everyone to carry "vaccination cards" in order to function in society.
Sun, Dec 25, 2022, 9:52pm (UTC -5)
You don't have to believe what I'm saying, but it’s obvious that your sarcastic remark is just a silly defense mechanism known as "deflection."
Mon, Dec 26, 2022, 4:10am (UTC -5)
Who am I to argue with such a revered gullibility expert but one or two remarks.
"That graph proves absolutely nothing."
Nothing? It shows that the temperature is rising extremely fast. A temperature rise of this magnitude normally takes hundreds of thousands of years or longer.
"The climate has been changing on this planet since it was conceived of almost 4 billion years ago."
True, all (ok sticklers, almost all) interconnected system in existence change all the time but there are factors that influence how systems change. When it comes to global climate the most important factor is the composition of the atmosphere and specifically Greenhouse gases like Carbon Dioxide and Methane. More Carbon Dioxide means higher temperature. This process is accelerated by the shrinking ice sheets that reflect less sun light and by continental ice sheets who store huge amounts of methane. In other words, if you take huge amounts of Carbon Dioxide for example in coal or oil out of the earth and release it into the atmosphere, then this leads to stronger greenhouse effect and that is the reason why the temperature rises so fast as shown in the graph. :)
"They are also pushing to require everyone to carry "vaccination cards" in order to function in society. "
Let's keep in mind that WEF is more garden party and less forum and I also fail to see what vaccinations have to do with global warming.
And for god's sake and it is gods birthday tune down your "virtue signalling" usage. It's makes you sound like a broken record.
Mon, Dec 26, 2022, 10:43am (UTC -5)
Agree with @Matt -- I think that's what most rational, reasonable people would say. It's clear the tide is turning against climate activists and their virtue signalling -- and that's exactly what it is. It's hypocrisy and duplicity. And then there's the WEF and it's Great Reset... Ugh.
A few weeks back - didn't Greta talk about overthrowing the racist capitalist system? And it's come to light that in Canada (where they have a very left-leaning gov't that is trying to show how proactive it can be to get to net zero by 2050) that its environment ministry bought 122 vehicles at $5.6 million—with none being electric. Just a couple of examples.
And then these climate activist are lying across roads, destroying paintings in art galleries ... is that really going to win them support?
It's also becoming clear from the Twitter files dump that doctors who raised red flags about mRNA vaccines were suppressed -- so what do you think is the case for scientists who raise legit concerns against the prevailing climate change narratives put forth by left-leaning governments and large multilateral bodies? I think more people are waking up and realizing that these tinpot authoritarians that are running the show are full of shit. And when climate activists pipe up, if people just lap it up, then you know they are just useful idiots. How can one not at least question these climate change narratives? (And the same would go for vaccine mandates, lockdowns, safety of mRNA vaccines).
Mon, Dec 26, 2022, 2:03pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Dec 26, 2022, 2:18pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Dec 26, 2022, 3:00pm (UTC -5)
They just can't deal with the truth / facts and will try to ridicule anything they disagree with. The average person is getting pretty used to these tactics now and they're making up their own minds...
Will leave it at that.
Mon, Dec 26, 2022, 3:34pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Dec 26, 2022, 7:49pm (UTC -5)
2. There is no relationship that I am aware of that shows that the obnoxiousness of activists is correlated to the falsity of a scientific observation about our environment. In other words, hate Thunberg and those stupid art-defacing kids all you want, but it won’t put the water back in Lake Mead.
3. Vaccines and climate change are not related issues. Feel free not to get vaxxed to your heart’s content. Again, it won’t magically end any droughts.
4. It’s true the climate has changed many times throughout earth’s history; no one is saying that all climate change is bad. It’s this specific type of climate change, also known as global warming, which is the problem. The climate is a reactive system. If another asteroid the size of San Francisco hits the earth, the climate will change. If Russia and the US launch their entire nuclear arsenals, the climate will change. If the Deccan Traps go beast mode again, the climate will change. If 8 billion humans release CO2 into the atmosphere over the span of decades or centuries, the climate will change.
5. Finally, if a climate scientist truly had no morals and only cared about a payday, they would work for the Koch Brothers and shit out pro oil and gas “studies” on par with those ones that said cigarettes prevent Covid. Scientists have been sounding the alarm about global warming since at least the seventies. Hell, my kindergarten teacher taught us about it in 1989 (along with the holes in the ozone layer issue, which was actually solved without too much hand wringing or conspiracy theorizing.)
TLDR: Do you really want your descendants to live on Venus just so you can own the libs?
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