Stuck in 2024 San Francisco in the middle of a freshly-erupted riot in Sanctuary District A, Sisko finds himself having to take the role of one of his idols, Gabriel Bell, who had been unceremoniously killed prematurely trying to protect him and Bashir from muggers. Now, he must play Bell's role in protecting the hostages. This objective is complicated by the antics of the trigger-happy ghost, B.C., as well as one of the hostages, guardsman Vin, who is looking to play the hero. Fortunately, Sisko has a level-headed ally in Michael Webb, the father of the boy Bashir helped earlier. Sisko tells Webb to gather more gimmes to help guard the hostages, hoping to keep B.C. and the other ghosts from making the situation worse.
Meanwhile, Dax and her new friend Chris Brynner work to find a way to reach Sisko. She eventually manages to sneak inside District A, where he tells her that they have to find a way to get the residents' stories out to the public - it was one of the key components of the Bell Riots that led to the welfare reforms needed to end the sanctuaries. Despite the legal risk to Chris, she convinces him to open up a network line to the inside so Webb and the other gimmes can tell their stories.
Meanwhile, the Defiant crew, having to rely on their own resources, have to Techno Babble a way to send Kira and O'Brien into the past to find Sisko and the others. They fail to reach them in 1930 and 1967, and determine that the divergence came sometime before 2048, as their visit to that year reveals an Earth is in far worse shape than even the World War III of their own timeline. They nail it down to three options, but can only take one more shot before they can't use that method anymore, and they luck out by hitting 2024 and successfully hailing Dax.
Sisko and Webb attempt to negotiate with the police, but Sisko knows the SWAT raid is coming, and has to prepare for it. Webb sends his son away, and B.C. (showing a brief semblance of humanity) gives Danny his hat. Shortly, the office is stormed, and both Webb and B.C. are killed, while Sisko takes a bullet protecting Vin. Sisko survives, and Vin agrees to let him go and tell the true story of the riot. He agrees to place Bell's ID on a body, thus allowing the world to believe that Gabriel Bell died protecting the hostages - thus restoring the 24th century for Sisko and company.
Back aboard the Defiant, Bashir treats Sisko's wound, and asks him how things could've been allowed to get so bad back then in the first place, but Sisko, to his regret, doesn't have an answer.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: This exchange.Sisko: You get on my nerves... and I don't like your hat.
- Bittersweet Ending: Webb and B.C. are killed when the police storm the building. But, history is restored and Sisko reassures Bashir that their deaths would not be in vain.
- Continuity Nod: The boxing poster from the 30's beam-in is for the same match advertised in "The City At the Edge of Forever," an extremely subtle hint that Kira and O'Brien are in the city at the same time as Kirk and Spock (who also had to save the Federation from not existing).
- Crazy Homeless People: Grady in particular (played by Clint Howard, no less). He genuinely believes he can turn himself invisible. Though he correctly figures Dax for an alien, and a good one at that.
- Dewey Defeats Truman: Averted! Vin's offhand remark about the 1999 Yankees would prove true when they won the World Series in that year, after having one of the best regular-season records in baseball history the previous year. Played straight with the 2015 London Kings,note though it is kind of hilarous in hindsight that a "regal" team, the Kansas City Royals, won that year and so they did somewhat elliptically get it semi-right.
- Didn't Think This Through: Sisko initially doesn't seem too concerned about passing himself off as Bell, reasoning that he's not in danger since he isn't really Bell. Bashir is quick to point out that no one else knows that.
- Dramatic Gun Cock: Sisko does this to get B.C.'s attention when it looks like he's about to shoot Vin.
- Embarrassing First Name: There's a reason he goes by B.C.B.C.: Biddle Coleridge.Vin: Biddle?B.C.: Hey!
- The Everyman: Sisko invokes this with Webb because he has an honest face and he's a family man (as well as something of a community leader) which makes him a better spokesperson for the residents than himself or B.C.
- Fatal Family Photo: Averted with Bernardo, but the point is still driven home when he shows Bashir the photo of his wife and kids and says that he knows they're wondering if he's ever going to come home again.
- Guile Hero: In order to save the situation, Sisko has to be violent and threatening so that B.C. will respect him enough to listen, but also reasonable and clear-thinking enough for Webb, Preston, and the hostages to trust him. It's a hell of a tightrope but Sisko walks it skillfully.
- Hollywood Hacking: Averted. Public opinion changed when the residents were able to get around the government lockout on the Interface (implied to be some kind of television/internet combination) but Sisko and Bashir don't know how it was originally done. Jadzia accomplishes it by talking Brynner into giving them access.
- The unseen governor, whose response to the situation is to declare he'll form a committee (which Sisko points out is just refusing to do anything), and is the one who makes the police go in shooting.
- Vin and B.C., continuing from the previous episode. Vin is rude and confrontational, even when the unhinged B.C. is holding several people at gunpoint, and says that the only reason people end up in the District is because they're "losers."
- Just Following Orders: The SWAT leader tries to use this to justify their storming of the building, but Vin sees right through it.
- Mood Whiplash: After a very tense and emotional scene with a shotgun wielding Sisko, we cut to... O'Brien and Kira arriving in 1967 and getting flowers from some hippies.
- My God, What Have I Done?: After the shooting stops and they're able to leave the building, Vin looks at the bodies covering the dirty streets and asks how they could have let this happen.
- Nice Hat: B.C. is very proud of his hat and asks Sisko his advice on whether it looks better with the brim up or down. Just before the building is stormed, he gives it to Webb's son.
- Not So Different:
- As the hostage situation wears on, they eventually engage in some small talk about sports. Sisko, Vin, and Bernardo debate baseball.
- According to history, the Sanctuary policy collapsed when the inmates were able to broadcast their stories on the national network and prove that they were good people wrongly imprisoned.
- Oh, Crap!: O'Brien and Kira, when they start beaming out in front of two hippies. Fortunately, they beam out in front of hippies.
- Police Brutality: The SWAT Team barges into the sanctuary district to "pacify" it by shooting everyone in sight. One of them even tries to shoot Vin as he tells them they're alright.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: The police chief tries to be one, but she's hamstrung by orders from above.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Jadzia convinces Brynner that giving a public voice to the injustice of the Sanctuary districts is worth risking his broadcast license.
- Society Is to Blame:
- B.C.'s comment that "if you treat people like animals, you're gonna get bit." After introducing him as a gang leader and the killer of the real Bell, this episode hints that he wouldn't have become such a thug if he hadn't been shoved into the Sanctuary.
- The fact that people with criminal records aren't allowed into the Sanctuaries. The "ghosts" only become criminals after living there.
- Somebody Else's Problem: Bashir says to Lee that it's not her fault that things are the way they are.Lee: Everybody tells themselves that. And nothing ever changes.
- Taking the Bullet: Sisko saves the hostages from the trigger-happy National Guard by jumping in front of them, though his wound isn't fatal.
- This Is Gonna Suck: After finding that, while history is restored, Gabriel Bell now looks exactly like him, Sisko says that he is not looking forward to the debriefing from Starfleet Command.
- Too Dumb to Live: Vin is uncooperative and insulting for most of the time he's a hostage, prompting B.C. to comment "I really think we should kill this guy." Sisko has to slam Vin into the wall to make him shut up.
- Totally Radical: The phrase "check your e-mail" seems to mean "get a clue."
- You Already Changed the Past: Not confirmed, but implied. Sisko doesn't recognize the real Gabriel Bell in person and only realizes who he is by looking at his ID card after he's dead. This implies that Sisko had never actually seen a picture of Bell before and had only read about him. The picture of Sisko as Bell was only found after returning to the present, and it is also implied that it took Bashir awhile to locate a picture of him in the historical database. Also, it's VERY unlikely the real Bell would've been able to get access to the interface as history records, as it took help from Chris Brynner via Dax to accomplish it. If you ignore the San Dimas Time elements (which don't make sense either way), this is the most likely explanation. Out of universe, the actor playing Bell was Avery Brooks' stunt double so they looked similar anyway. The alternative explanation is Close-Enough Timeline but the first makes more sense.