“Past Tense” is a two-part episode from the third season of science fiction television series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the 57th and 58th episodes overall and the last episode to air before the premiere of Star Trek: Voyager.
Some of the crew of Deep Space Nine take a trip in the Defiant to Earth, however, in the grand style of the franchise they encounter an anomaly that challenges their past, and their future.
The episode garnered acclaim for confronting American social issues in a science fiction context, but also for addressing various societal issues such as homelessness, poverty, race, and technology.
When Commander Sisko, Dr. Bashir, and Jadzia Dax attempt to beam down to Earth from the Defiant, an accident occurs and they materialise in San Francisco in the year 2024.
Dax is separated from her crewmates but is helped by a prominent businessman, Chris Brynner.
Meanwhile, Sisko and Bashir are awakened by a pair of police officers, who believe them to be vagrants and warn them to get off the streets. They are escorted to a “Sanctuary District”, a fenced-off ghetto that is used to contain the poor, the sick, the mentally disabled, and anyone else who cannot support themselves. Sisko sees the date on the calendar and realises they have arrived just days before the “Bell Riots”, a violent confrontation in the San Francisco Sanctuary District, that Sisko recalls as a watershed moment in human history. Dozens will be killed, including a man named Gabriel Bell, the leader of the demonstration. Bell will become a hero because of his self-sacrifice while protecting hostages. As a result of Bell’s heroism, attitudes toward the disadvantaged begin to change. Unable to find a building to sleep in, Sisko and Bashir live in the street.
Attending an affluent party with Brynner, Dax realises that Sisko and Bashir have been taken into the Sanctuary District, and sets about finding them.
Disaster strikes when a fight breaks out because Sisko and Bashir resist attempts to steal the food cards they have been given. A man who comes to their aid is killed, and Sisko and Bashir discover after the fact that he was Gabriel Bell. Sisko quickly realises that due to their presence, the course of history stands to be radically changed, since Bell is no longer around to play the prominent role of hostage protection in the historical narrative. Sisko, who bears some resemblance to Bell, assumes his identity to ensure that history is not altered.
Back in the 24th century, the crew left on the Defiant, Major Kira, Odo, and Chief O’Brien, lose contact with Earth as all traces of the Federation suddenly vanish; Bell’s death has radically altered the timeline. O’Brien calculates several possible time periods in which Dax, Sisko, and Bashir might have arrived, and Kira and O’Brien begin transporting to one period at a time in order to search for them.
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Production & Filming Details
- Director(s): Reza Badiyi.
- Writer(s): Ira Steven Behr and Robert Hewitt Wolfe.
- Release Date: 08 January 1995.
- Running Time: 45 minutes.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.