Second Union

Second Union

STAR TREK REWIND: “Past Tense, Part I,” “Past Tense, Part II”

“21st-century history isn’t one of my strong points. Too depressing.”

Through a transporter mishap that is never thoroughly explained (at least to my satisfaction), Sisko, Bashir, and Dax travel through time and arrive in the 21st Century. San Francisco, to be exact, during the time of an economic upheaval that saw the elite living in Ivory Tower bliss, and the poor re-located to dangerous “Sanctuary Districts.” Intended to be a temporary measure to provide housing and food to the less fortunate, the Districts have instead become a crutch and a permanent solution to the problems of homelessness, dementia, and poverty.

There’s an old saying: “There’s nothing more permanent than a temporary government solution,” and this episode is proof. Dax is separated from Sisko and Bashir and courts a wealthy, prominent benefactor who aids her in manufacturing identification, transit passes, and a five-night stay in a swanky hotel. Meanwhile, Sisko and Bashir are taken to the Sanctuary District, where they must fend for themselves. Sisko realizes an important event, a riot, is due to occur in the District shortly, led by Gabriel Bell.

The aftermath of the riot, while bloody and destructive, was the catalyst for much-needed change and the beginning of a prosperous future. An appropriate analogy that could be made involves the United States’ entrance into World War II. The idea of “killing Hitler” would result in stagnation and eventual collapse because the war was a catalyst for technological advancement and evolution. Unfortunately, Bell is, himself, killed in a fight over ration cards, and Sisko must assume his identity in order to make sure history fulfills its promise to the future.

It’s interesting to me that Bell’s name is not heralded well into the future. Even as the riots did motivate social and political change, Bell is merely a footnote. Even Julian hasn’t heard of him, but that may be for the convenience of the story so that Sisko can educate him. Looking at San Francisco now, it’s easy to see the short step to brutality and indifference, but in 1995, Deep Space Nine gives us a chilling prophecy of a once beautiful city converted to squalor and chaos by way of increasing bureaucracy and promises of helping hands and tolerance.

Dr. Bashir is appropriately appalled by these conditions while Sisko assures him something good will come out of this madness. This is an almost excellent two-parter. The only problem I have is some of the forced humor of having Kira and O’ Brien journey through our puzzling times looking for their lost crew-mates as well as Quark’s unnecessary “cameo” in the teaser, but otherwise, this is great science fiction that is more disturbing than enlightening. This was the last episode of Deep Space Nine to air before the series premiere of Voyager.

Star Trek Rewind explores the Star Trek universe. From Archer to Janeway, Kirk to Picard, and Georgiou to Sisko — boldly read what no one has read before!

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