Star Trek 344: Past Tense, Part I

344. Past Tense, Part I

FORMULA: The City on the Edge of Forever + 90 years

WHY WE LIKE IT: Its relevance.

WHY WE DON'T: So Quark is in charge of the station?

REVIEW: Past Tense starts out with beautiful shots of the Moon and Earth and a cute conversation between Dax and Kira about the color of the oceans being a bit... off. Nice to see our world as an alien world. In the prologue, Sisko also mentions his sister, but not his father, leading one to believe that he didn't exist yet. There's a nice bit showing Sisko having studied the Rules of Acquisition to better manipulate Quark... and then it turns into a time travel story.

The idea behind Sanctuary Districts to house the homeless, whether they be unemployed, mentally ill or criminal, isn't all that far-fetched. It's a lot like what was done with people who couldn't pay they debts in Victorian England. And it's a souped-up version of today's ghettos. As a solution to where we put the people we don't want to see, it's probably something some governments might consider. And so setting this dystopic concept, not on some alien planet where it can serve the grand allegory, but in our rather near future, here on Earth, makes it hit closer to home. That the two men of color on the show are the ones trapped in the District is not lost on me.

Of course, it's a big set-up for Part II, and there's a LOT of info-dump. How the Districts were set up and why, what happened to them and to the residents, what's a dim, a ghost or a gimme, how do you get food or jobs, etc. A lot of talking. Still, Sisko gives us a road map of the Bell Riots so that we know what we're in for, and what kind of danger he's personally placed himself in by adopting the guise of Gabriel Bell.

Meanwhile, Dax trades on her looks to get the help of a rich Internet mogul, but also shows a lot of smarts. It's a strong story for her as she ably fudges her way through conversations and explains away her jewelry and tatoos. For fans of the Star Trek timeline, listen closely at the cocktail party for Euro-news that might indicate the rumblings of World War III. And up on the Defiant, we find out the timeline's been altered and there's no Starfleet anymore. Without a Starfleet, the Romulans move in. So that's that.

LESSON: Sometimes, Harlan Ellison lets one slip by.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium-High: Yes, a heck of a lot of set-up, but it's all important to the story, and explores an important issue in a slightly bolder way than usual.

9 comments:

Snoops said...

See, now here's the proof that tastes vary. I've been loving your recaps and quickly made this site a must-visit, but this story? This was the episode that not only turned me off DS9, it finally made it okay for my Trek nerd heart to basically stop all Trek, except for trips back to TOS. As I recall it, this came out right after the Republican victories in the US House and Senate, and I thought they might as well have made the promo line "Sisko and team must travel back in time to save the world from the eeee-vil Republicans."

Siskoid said...

Tastes? Or cultural context?

After all, I'm Canadian, and at this point in time, the episode is more than a decade old. When I saw it originally, I don't know what kind of effect it had on me, but on repeat viewings, I do.

I don't know if the production team's politics really informed this one or not (they may have). After all, it's not like homelessness was solved under ANY regime.

Lightchild247 said...

Was it just me, or were the 'Ghosts' strongly reminiscent of Clockwork Orange?

Siskoid said...

Shades of Clockwork, sure. Not something that struck me too much upon watching, but I see it when you call attention to it.

LiamKav said...

While I can respest Snoops opinion, I've never really understood the whole "I disliked that episode so I am never ever going to watch the series ever again." I'd have stopped watching Top Gear a long time ago, and I'd have given up on Spider-Man after he thought to himself that global warming was nonsense.

Sometimes things happen on TV (or in books etc) that don't match my personal beliefs. You either learn that other people are sometimes different, or you storm out of the room and take your ball with you.

blue said...

Are you sure you don't mind old comments?

About Dax trading on her looks, I don't see any indication in show about what she actually is trading/expected to trade. As a woman, it immediately sounds klaxons that this guy is helping her so much. He expects something in return. That's not explored at all. I actually feel quite scared for Dax throughout this episode but ultimately end up hoping the guy is truly a helpful, kind man.

Siskoid said...

I really don't mind. It's actually heartening that these older posts still get some readers.

LiamKav said...

I think it's a bit less "Dax is offering sex for help" and more "Dax is acting like a helpless girl wanting a strong man to protect her". I do think if this had been done post-BSG there might have been a bit more blatant "I will sleep with you if you help me", but I can also believe that Dax might actually do that if necessary. She's certainly not beyond stroking Quark's erogenous zones to get what she wants.

As for her being in danger, I don't really feel that. Physically, Dax is often put on par with highly skilled Klingon warriors. She'd have no problem taking down a regular dude. But obviously I'm a bloke so I accept I am missing context.

LiamKav said...

To be honest, the most unrealistic part of this episode was the idea that the USA would start using Celsius by 2024.

 

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