the story: Sisko, Bashir, and Dax end up in early 21st century San Francisco, where they are confronted with the horrors of the Sanctuary Districts.
what it's all about: If it sometimes seems I express the merits of Deep Space Nine with excessive hyperbole, I want you to understand that nothing could be further from the truth with the breakthrough two-part "Past Tense." This is the "City on the Edge of Forever" of thfranchisee Next Generation era. It's brilliant, timeless social commentary that's still very much relevant today, when we're still grappling with issues of economic equality, brought home in the most deliberate manner when Sisko must assume the identity of the man who's not only destined to play a huge role in the historic moment everyone realizes change is necessary, but is also destined to die in the effort...
Talk about desperate straits! Star Trek at its best almost should be preachy. It's one of the few creative outlets that actively embraces, not merely on an occasional basis, but as a general rule, the need to advocate for a better tomorrow, even the newer movies that tend to be dismissed as generic action vehicles despite being anything but. But being preachy and actually earning it are two different things. At its worst, the franchise's efforts could be considered a little on the nose, but "Past Tense" is a deliberate, considerate contemplation on poverty and how easy it can be to dismiss it as a necessary evil of a functioning society.
This was one of the rare instances where Star Trek visited the present, well almost the present, so that there could be no mistaking because of the way people were dressed that it was addressing the here and now. The first part of the story is all set-up, of course, and finds its best material as Sisko and Bashir struggle to understand what's happened, and just how significant everything is. There may be a level of convenience built into the story, but that shouldn't distract you from its impact.
Besides, the fun really begins next episode...
- franchise - The best tradition of Star Trek's social conscience.
- series - It's hard to imagine another series doing something quite this deep.
- character - Fun fact! Alexander Siddig was originally considered for the role of Sisko.
- essential - One of the best episodes of the whole franchise.
Frank Military (B.C.)