Recap / Star Trek Deep Space Nine S 03 E 11 Past Tense Part I

The Defiant is headed for earth for a combination of R&R and dinner with Admiral Drazman. Odo, Kira and O'Brien stay on board while Sisko, Bashir and Dax beam down to San Francisco...only the computer says they never materialized where they were supposed to.

Well, they've arrived in San Francisco alright. 2024 San Francisco. With their com-badges taken and no I.D. Sisko and Bashir are hauled off by security. Dax lucks out thanks to a nice fella named Chris Brynner, who offers to assist her in getting a new I.D.

While O'Brien pieces together what happened in orbit, Sisko and Bashir are shoved into a Sanctuary District. The place where the jobless, homeless and general unfit for work types are crowded into. Bashir isn't a fan of this era, noting how many people there would be leading a normal life in his age. Sisko tells him to deal and the two head off to get I.D.'s and jobs.

Meanwhile, Dax finds out Chris is pretty well off for a 21st century guy. He'd head of Brynner Information Systems, and he's a helpful guy who says he'll help find her friends.

While Sisko and Bashir get outfitted, O'Brien has finally discovered they've been warped to a different time period. They just don't know which one. And things don't end there. Sisko notices the date on a nearby wall display. August 30, 2024. Mere days away from the infamous Bell Riots, the incident that would set the groundwork for massive social reform. Sisko realizes they can't interfere with it. Bashir isn't happy, but he agrees.

They find the situation rather distressing. Residents of the District have been reduced to three categories: "gimmes", those who actually want to work and need help finding jobs; "dims", the homeless and hopeless, often mentally ill but unable to afford the necessary treatments that would allow them to be normal; and "ghosts", those who hadn't "integrated well" into the population, and have become bullies and thugs. Sisko and Bashir conclude that as long as they can avoid the ghosts and stay out of the rioting, they'll be okay. But staying out of it proves hard when a particularly dickheaded ghost robs a man and taunts Bashir and Sisko to do something about it.

After trading their uniforms to get into a building, Bashir helps treat an injured boy. His wounds aren't serious, and their assistance nets them a new friend: his father, Michael Webb, a gimme.

While warming up around a barrel fire, the asshole ghost from before shows up and starts a fight with Bashir and Sisko. A random man intervenes and tires to help, and winds up fatally stabbed for it. Sisko and Bashir book it from the scene. And the kicker? The man who was just killed was Gabriel Bell. The effects become apparent soon. Back in the 24th century, Starfleet is gone. Thanks to some Techno Babble, the Defiant is immune from the changes in the timeline.

Back in 2024, the riots have begun. The ghost who killed Bell has several hostages (the ones Bell is said to have defended) at gunpoint. Time hinges on those hostages surviving. And Sisko knows how:

B.C. I've waited a long time for this and I know I won't be disappointed, ain't that right new boy?

To Be Continued...


  • Alien Sea: To Dax and Kira, Earth's blue sea is rather odd.
  • Casting Gag: John Lendale Bennett, the real Gabriel Bell, was a stunt and scene double for Avery Brooks.
  • Crapsack World: The United States in 2024 has essentially washed its hands of the problems of poverty, unemployment and homelessness, choosing to "warehouse" people suffering from them in Sanctuary Districts instead. Comments also indicate that conditions elsewhere on the planet aren't much better.
  • Former Teen Rebel: Chris. If the story about the badass Maori tattoo he used to have is any evidence.
  • Head-in-the-Sand Management: America of the early 21st century dealt with its social problems by shoving the unemployed and mentally ill into walled districts so they wouldn't have to look at or think about them anymore, rather than try to help them in any meaningful way.
  • Mandatory Line: It would've been hard to fit Quark into a story where the characters time travel to the 21st century Earth and have to pretend they're humans of that era, so he only has a couple of plot-irrelevant lines at beginning of the episode, and doesn't appear after that.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: The Sanctuary District personnel, though not by choice. They're just so badly underfunded and under-staffed that they can't possibly help everyone who needs it.
  • Oh, Crap!: Sisko looks at the calendar in the processing center and realizes that he and Bashir have been transported to the day before a riot in which hundreds of people will die.
  • San Dimas Time: When Gabriel Bell is killed in the past, Starfleet disappears in the present, though by rights it should have happened immediately after they traveled into the past (or not at all, given the events of the next episode).
  • Shout-Out: The names of the 21st-century characters are all references to The Magnificent Seven (eg Chris Brynner).
  • Subtext: Sisko and Bashir, who are dark-skinned, are treated with suspicion and taken into custody. Jadzia, who is white, is treated kindly and given assistance. The story never points this out explicitly but the choice was an intentional one.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: We meet the real Gabriel Bell for a few moments... before he's fatally stabbed trying to protect Bashir.
  • You Will Be Beethoven: Gabriel Bell is killed because of Sisko and Bashir's presence. When the riots begin, Sisko decides it's his responsibility to take up Bell's name and place to ensure history proceeds as written.
    • Or, alternatively, they were in a Stable Time Loop and the real Gabriel Bell was just a decent guy who gave his life to protect strangers while the leader of the revolution was always Sisko working in his name. Current!Sisko studied the riots without any way to know it was his own actions.
  • Zeerust: 2024 looks extremely 1990's, and the computers look almost look outdated even for then.