Rewatcher’s note: Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, there will be no DS9 Rewatch on Friday the 29th of November. We’ll be back on the 3nd of December with “Life Support.”
“Past Tense, Part II”
Written by Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe & Rene Echevarria
Directed by Jonathan Frakes
Season 3, Episode 12
Production episode 40512-458
Original air date: January 9, 1995
Station log: After a summary of Part 1, we get a nice tense little hostage situation. B.C. is in charge, but Sisko (pretending to be Gabriel Bell) and Bashir make it clear they’re part of this as well, with Sisko insisting that they need the hostages alive as bargaining chips and Bashir suggesting barricading the windows so snipers can’t pick them off. Vin, Bernardo, and Lee are all among the hostages, with Bernardo giving B.C. his access code so he can see what they’re saying about the situation on the net. (That last is against Vin’s orders, but Bernardo says they’re off duty, and he just wants to see his family again.) Sisko and Bashir ask Webb to round up some gimmes he trusts to help guard the hostages so it isn’t just B.C. and his ghosts doing it.
Dax and Brynner watch the news footage, and Dax is determined to get into the Sanctuary District to help her friends. Brynner—with good reason—thinks she’s out of her mind, given the dangers.
Back in the 24th century, O’Brien has narrowed it down to ten possible times the trio got sent back to. He and Kira will go back to as many as they can before they run out of chronitons with which to jimmy the transporter. They wind up in 1930 and 1967 with no luck—but when they arrive in 2048, they realize that it must a year before that, because it looks nothing like the mid-21st century O’Brien studied in school. Of the three pre-2048 dates left on his list, he picks one at random (they only have enough chronitons left for the one) and beam out.
B.C.’s demands are to get a flight to anywhere (he wants to go to Tasmania because Errol Flynn was from there) as well as amnesty and some credit chips. Sisko and Webb opine that maybe he should think of the other 10,000 people, but B.C. thinks they should get their own hostages. However, he does come around to the notion of letting the outside world see what’s going on here and demanding that they shut the districts down. Sisko suggests it be Webb who makes the demands, because he’s not a ghost, he’s an ordinary guy next door with a family. He’s the true face of the district, not a thug like B.C. (Webb points out that “Gabe” would be a better choice, but Sisko needs to keep a low profile.)
Unfortunately, Webb’s attempt to broadcast his demands on the interface are cut off. This prompts Vin to mess with their heads, calling them losers, and reminding them that they won’t even slow down the National Guard once they show up. They’re then contacted by Detective Preston of the SFPD, who’s there to negotiate. B.C. brings Lee to the screen to show that the hostages are okay (she’s obviously terrified). Preston meets in person with Webb and Sisko, at which point they give the demands: closing the district and reinstating the Federal Employment Act.
Bashir figures out that Lee is hypoglycemic. They talk for a bit, and she relates the story of a woman who had a warrant on her for abandoning her child. Lee felt sorry for her and so didn’t log her in, just let her disappear into the district. She has no idea what happened to her, but that almost got Lee fired, so since then she just processes everyone properly and tries not to think about it.
In the middle of the night, Vin tries to sneak out. B.C. is all ready to shoot him, but Sisko and Webb talk him out of that (Sisko a bit more violently), and then Sisko rips Vin a new one for being a douche. The next morning, Preston makes good on a promise to give everyone breakfast. Bashir also digs up some meds for Lee. However, Preston is less helpful on the demands front: the governor promises to reduce the charges to incitement to riot only and will also form a committee to look into the Sanctuary Districts. Webb and Sisko are, to say the least, unimpressed. Later, Sisko and Bashir try and fail to get online, which annoys Sisko as the residents got on the net and told their story—it was an integral part of the Bell Riots.
Showing tremendous intestinal fortitude and likely an ability to hold her breath for long periods of time, Dax gets into the Sanctuary Districit via the sewer system, which really doesn’t bear thinking about, so let’s not. (Seriously, have you ever been in a sewer? It’s gross!) But she gets caught by a couple of dims and is brought to the processing center.
Her rescue is short-circuited by Sisko’s need to stick around and play out the role of Bell. Sisko sends her back out with Bashir to find her combadge (it’s emitting a subspace distress signal and the dims took it when they got her), and then she needs to head to the beam-out site so the Defiant can pick her up if they find them. She also thinks she can convince Brynner to give them the net access they need to let the Sanctuary residents tell their story.
Dax and Bashir find Grady, the guy who stole her combadge, and convince him to give it back, then she goes back out through the sewers. (Seriously, that is one brave-ass Trill…) Then she goes to Brynner and gets him to break a government lockout, lose his license, and probably some other things—but he’ll also get great ratings, so he agrees to let the residents tell their story via his news feed.
At five o’clock the next morning, B.C. interrupts a colloquy on baseball among Vin, Bernardo, and Sisko to say that another National Guard unit has arrived. They’re likely to storm the place. Sisko sends the hostages into another room, with Bashir to help protect them—and just in time, too, as the National Guard does indeed storm the place a minute later, in a manner that would’ve gotten the hostages killed if Sisko hadn’t moved them. B.C. and Webb are both killed, and Sisko is wounded saving Vin, who was almost shot by the very people who were supposed to be rescuing him. The leader tells Vin that they’d heard the hostages were dead (“Do I look dead to you?” Vin asks angrily).
The aftermath of the riots is ugly: dead and wounded bodies everywhere. In return for saving their lives, Vin and Bernardo switch Sisko and Bashir’s ID cards with those of two corpses and lets them leave the district. In exchange, Sisko asks Vin to tell people the truth about what happened, but he bitterly says he would’ve done that anyway.
Kira and O’Brien picked the right date, and they make contact with Dax. Sisko and Bashir meet up with them after Vin and Bernardo let them go, and they beam back to a restored 24th century. The only noticeable change: Bashir finds a picture of Gabriel Bell in the historical archives, and he looks a whole lot like Avery Brooks….
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? There are only enough chronitons in the Defiant hull for a limited number of time-travel transports. Luckily, O’Brien and Kira are on a TV show in which they and the people they’re rescuing are opening-credits regulars, thus enabling them to get it right on their final try.
The Sisko is of Bajor: Sisko spends the episode posing as Gabriel Bell and doing whatever he can to restore the timelines. This also gives Avery Brooks the chance to let his inner Hawk (from Spenser: For Hire) out and cut loose.
Don’t ask my opinion next time: In order to disguise the fact that she’s Bajoran, Kira wears a bandage over her rhinal ridges when she and O’Brien travel to the past. O’Brien suggests she say she broke her nose as a joke, but when she does so in 1930, it creates massive awkwardness.
The slug in your belly: Sisko and Bashir are willing to stay behind in the Sanctuary District to make sure history stays on track, but Dax needs to not be around when the spit hits the spam. As Bashir sagely points out, even a 21st-century doctor would take all of half a second to realize that she’s not human if she winds up hurt or killed and in a hospital.
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: B.C. falls instantly for Dax, and is heartbroken when Bashir says hi to her. “Story of my life. All the good ones are taken.” He’s sufficiently taken by her to actually introduce himself to her as Biddle Coleridge (which explains why he goes by B.C.).
Keep your ears open: “It’s not your fault things are the way they are.”
“Everybody tells themselves that. And nothing ever changes.”
Bashir trying to make Lee feel better and failing.
Welcome aboard: Back from Part 1 are Dick Miller as Vin, Frank Military as B.C., Jim Metzler as Brynner, Al Rodrigo as Bernardo, Tina Lifford as Lee, and the great Bill Smitrovich as Webb. We also get Clint Howard, making his first appearance on Trek since revealing himself to be the true face of Balok in “The Corbomite Maneuver” way back in 1966, as Grady (he’ll be back in Enterprise’s “Acquisition”) and Deborah Van Valkenburgh, who also appeared as William Shatner’s sorta-kinda love interest in Free Enterprise, as Preston.
Trivial matters: Originally, Ira Steven Behr wanted Iggy Pop to play Grady, but he was unavailable. Behr eventually got his wish when he cast Pop as a Vorta in “The Magnificent Ferengi.”
During the 1960s scene, “Hey Joe” by Jimi Hendrix is playing in the VW microbus, and there’s a poster for Berman’s Rainbow Dreamers playing at the Behr Theater, a tribute to executive producer Rick Berman and co-exec Behr.
Speaking of posters, during the 1930s scene, there’s a poster advertising a boxing match at Bay Land Garden featuring the same set of boxers whose Madison Square Garden bout was advertised in a poster seen in “The City on the Edge of Forever” on the original series (billed as “their first rematch since Madison Square Garden”).
The baseball conversation is amusing, in that Vin cites the 1999 Yankees as the best team he’d ever seen, which is only one year off from being really prescient, as the 1998 Yankees were indeed one of the greatest single-season teams in baseball history. (Not that the ’99 team was bad either.) Of course, any prescience goes out the window when Bernardo mentions the 2015 London Kings, a team that is never going to happen in the next year-and-a-half. Sisko also name-checks Buck Bokai (2015 was his rookie year), whom we met an image of in “If Wishes Were Horses.” The Kings (and Bokai, though not by name) were first mentioned in TNG’s “The Big Goodbye,” in which Dick Miller also appeared.
It was on the strength of his work directing this episode in particular that led to Jonathan Frakes landing the gig to direct Star Trek: First Contact.
The picture of a Gabriel Bell who really resembles Benjamin Sisko will be seen again in “Little Green Men.”
This is the last episode of DS9 to air before Voyager’s premiere on UPN on 16 January 1995, thus ending a run that began at the top of this season where DS9 was the only Trek show on the air.
Walk with the Prophets: “You get on my nerves, and I don’t like your hat!” An excellent conclusion. We already know the ending, because Sisko told us what it was in Part 1 and his and Bashir’s (and eventually Dax’s) mission is to restore history to what Sisko remembers. But getting there is quite enjoyable, with Avery Brooks getting to cut loose and kick some serious ass and also let the crazy out a little.
Of course, some of the crazy is genuine. He’s absolutely appalled by the Sanctuary Districts. He’s never encountered anything like it in his time, and by this time he’s seen what it’s done to B.C. (turned him into a murdering thug) and to Webb (not enough to break him, but he’s obviously badly beaten down). When he blows up at B.C., he’s at least partly throwing himself into the part of Gabriel Bell hostage taker, but his plea to Vin asking him how he can be so blasé about what he sees every day is heartfelt. And there’s a noticeable change in Brooks’s tone, as voice gets higher pitched—it’s not the basso profundo threatening of B.C., which was mostly for show.
Points also for making Brynner out to be a decent sort when he practically screamed “creepy bastard who’ll betray Dax in Part 2” and instead did the right thing.
All in all, this two-parter really didn’t have enough story for two parts—there was too much filler, including Kira and O’Brien’s excellent adventures and the silly diversion with Clint Howard—but it probably had too much for one. Ultimately, it was done in by the rigid structure of syndicated television, where everything has to be in a particular timeslot with only occasional exceptions. Those boundaries are starting to break down (witness this season of Sons of Anarchy on F/X, where practically every episode of this theoretically one-hour show has been extended to 90 minutes), but in 1995 there was no chance of it. So rather than do a too-short one-hour story, they did a two-hour one with padding.
These episodes were strong enough that I, at least, can live with it. It was a Trek message episode done right.
Warp factor rating: 7
Keith R.A. DeCandido has autographed copies of many of the books and comics he’s written for sale. They make dandy gifts. Information, including several new books dug up in the garage recently, can be found here.