In the conclusion of this season’s epic two part episode, Sisko faces choices on a past Earth that may cost him his life. Originally airing on January 9, 1995, this is Past Tense Part II.
Station Log Stardate Undetermined: Past Tense Part II
Sisko has taken on the identity of Gabriel Bell, a hero who help change the course of history during an event known as The Bell Riots. With the very fate of history at Stake he must find a way to keep events in line with the past even if it means dying in the process.
With the riots in full swing Sisko and Bashir find themselves assisting in a hostage situation at the processing center. Taking command, he informs the hostage takers that the hostages must be kept alive for leverage. It is only when Bashir reminds Sisko that Bell died when the building is stormed by guards that the Commander realizes that this may be his final fight. Requesting help from his new friend, Michael Webb, who’s son he saved earlier, Sisko finds a way to get help protecting the hostages form the insane Ghosts.
Back in the 24th century, the crew of the Defiant, seeing that history has been altered, decide to risk it and go back to the past to find their crew-mates. Narrowing it down to ten different time frames, Miles leads the away team to the past to see if they can find their friends.
The lead Ghost, B.C., is upset at the new Gimmies who have arrived and makes it clear that he has a plan. He wants to trade the hostilities for their freedom, personally hoping to go to Tasmania. Sisko steps in and says that they need to make demands of a larger nature, if they want the hostages back, the government must shut down the Sanctuary Districts and provide jobs for everyone. Nominating Webb as the face of Sanctuary District A, he begins to broadcast their demands to the world only to find themselves cutoff without warning. It isn’t long before they are contacted by the police in the form of Detective Preston who is attempting to open a dialogue. Soon Webb and Sisko are asked by Preston to talk in person. Sisko makes it clear that they want the Federal Employment act reestablished and the Sanctuary’s closed before they give up any hostages.
Hostilities erupt when B.C. threatens to kill the guard Vin. He is soon able to alleviate the situation with the help of Webb but it is clear their control is tenuous at best. Sisko is frightened, not only for himself but for the very fate of humanity if they are not able to succeed in their mission. The next morning it is clear that the government have no plans to give in to their demands when Detective Preston informs Sisko and Webb that they have been offered a reduced sentence in return for the hostages. Standing their ground, they refuse to give up any hostages until the Sanctuary is shut down.
Watching the events online, Jadzia is assured by Chris Brynner that he will get word out as soon as the events settle down. Unconvinced Jadzia finds her way into Sanctuary District A through the sewer system, where, after having her combadge stolen, she is soon taken to the processing center where she finds Bashir and Sisko.
Ben informs Jadzia of the situation and instructs she and Bashir to find the man who stole her combadge as it is the only means to contact the Defiant should they find the team. Returning to the place her combadge was stolen, they encounter Grady who is clearly insane. He believes that there are aliens who will suck their brains out but, after Jadzia tells him that she is a good alien who needs the combadge, he relinquishes it to her without a fight. Returning to her Brynner, Jadzia asks him to break through the blocks and let the people in the Sanctuary have a voice. She tells him that this is the only chance for these innocent people to tell their story and he reluctantly agrees to cooperate, even though it may cost him his license. Back in the Sanctuary, the citizens begin telling their stories on the air but Detective Preston is instructed by the Governor to raid the compound and rescue the hostages at all costs.
Having expelled all options, the crew of the Defiant make one last attempt and soon find themselves in the right time period. Contacting Dax, they meet up to plan the rescue of Sisko and Bashir.
It isn’t long before the raid begins and Sisko does all he can to protect the hostages from the attack. Standing in front of Vin, Bell/Sisko is shot. The anti-riot squad leaves when Vin tells them he has the situation well at hand. Sadly, Webb has been killed in the raid. Vin reluctantly lets Sisko and Bashir go as a thanks for saving them. They are soon reunited with theri crew and return to the Defiant only to find that the timeline had been restored.
Back on the ship, Julian shows Sisko a historical record with Ben’s photo under Gabriel Bells name.
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
Star Trek is known for having some of the finest sociopolitical stories of all of televised Science Fiction. This is one that, to this day, remains ever so relevant to the time.
Whether that be as simple as a chipped tooth or a major as ignoring the homeless, it is withing the nature of humans to ignore the things that make us uncomfortable or remind us that the world is not perfect. We tell ourselves that such things are really not that bad or that there is nothing we can do to fix it for now. It isn’t right but such things occur on a daily basis, not just in our own country, but the world over. Sadly, as is shown in this two parter, those things that are ignored only tend to fester and grow worse over time, eventually resulting in a larger problem that could have been prevented had it been treated on the onset. That chipped tooth becomes a root canal, those ignored homeless start the Bell Riots.
Throughout the episode there are simple themes and questions that keep cropping up. How could we let this happen and How could they let things get so bad are the common threads. Star Trek, in general, presents a Utopian outlook on the future with mankind having defeated things like homelessness, disease, racism and more, but as depicted here, it had to get so bad that no one could ignore the issues at hand in order for humanity to finally make a choice, deal with it or just accept defeat and die. I genuinely hope that we, as a people, find a way to deal with all of the things we are so afraid of, the things we try to hide, the things that make us uncomfortable.
This is also one of Avery Brookes best episodes to date, showing us just how passionate that Ben Sisko can be about societal issues. Ben is not a man who is afraid to step out and tell the world that it is wrong, even if it means he could die in the process. We see much more of this Sisko in the coming seasons, giving this character a wonderful growth through the rest of the series.
All in all, Past Tense I and II are two of the finest episodes of season three of Deep Space Nine.
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
- If you were really watching when Kira and O’brien were traveling through time you would notice that the area they beamed down to was the same set just redecorated to fit the time period.
- I also noticed something interesting. There is a scene where Jadzia lifts a manhole cover with ease using only her fingers to lift it off from below and move it aside. Later we see Bashir struggle with it as he places it back as Jadzia leaves. Now, either Bashir is super weak or we Trills are stronger than humans. If that is the case, I am beginning to think Humans are really the weakest species in the Galaxy. I mean, Vulcans, Klingons, Romulans and even Andorians are known to be stronger than humans, now Trills too? hmmmm
- For those actor buffs, Clint Howard played the role of Grady. Clint has been a Star Trek regular having even appear as a child in the Original Series episode The Corbomite Maneuver.
- Once again, Commander Riker is behind the camera as this one is Directed by none other than Jonathan Frakes.
- And finally, There is a subtle nod to Doctor Who with a bluish box that the police are using. Time Travel…a blue ‘police’ box….interesting…
Now, seeing that this episode was about homelessness, lets talk about how you can help prevent the problems we saw in today’s episode. If you have the time, volunteering at the local homeless shelter is always a good thing. If you dont have time, there are other things you can do such as Donate clothing, groceries, school supplies and more.
For a comprehensive list of things that you can do, here is a great resource from ripplekindness.org. You can also donate money to any of these (and more) organizations who actually make a difference.
Lets go from asking How did we let it get this way to saying, I am glad we never let it get as bad as it could have.
Thanks for reading the Retro TV Review, I look forward to discussing the rest of the series with you, one episode at a time every Monday, Wednesday and Friday! Next Review: Life Support
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Late To The Game 5/22/2021 (Originally published 7/5/19)
Special Thanks to Memory Alpha as they are one of the best sources for details on Star Trek information available. Although I have a pretty deep knowledge on the subject, they have proven invaluable as a regular resource.
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