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Past Tense, Part I


Production no.: 457
Teleplay by: Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Story by: Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Directed by: Reza Badiyi
Stardate: 48481.2 
First satellite airdate: December 31, 1994
 
Jim Metzler ....................
Frank Military ................
Dick Miller ....................
Al Rodrigo .....................
Tina Lifford ...................
Bill Smitrovich ................
Henry Hayashi ...............
Patty Holley ...................
Richard Lee Jackson ......
Eric Stuart .....................
John Lendale Bennett .....
Chris Brynner
B.C.
Vin
Bernardo
Lee
Webb
Male Guest
Female Guest
Danny
Stairway Guard
Gabriel Bell


The DS9 officers arrive at Earth on the Defiant, having been asked to address a symposium on the situation in the Gamma Quadrant. They receive an "emergency message" from Quark, who wants to relay to Sisko a couple of requests from the Grand Nagus, to whom Sisko owes a favor. Dax then reminds Sisko that they're having dinner tonight with Admiral Drazman, a particularly boring Starfleet official. O'Brien, Odo, and Kira all decline the invitation to come along, leaving Sisko, Dax, and Bashir to beam down to face the long dull evening.

As the three officers are being transported, O'Brien notices something strange on the console, though he thinks it's nothing serious. He stabilizes the beam, but then reacts in concern: according to the sensors, Sisko and the others never materialized at their destination.

Sisko and Bashir, lying unconscious in an alley, are prodded awake by guns, held by two security officers named Vin and Bernardo. Bernardo would like to just forget about them and go home to his wife, but Vin says there's a law against sleeping in the streets. "Though I do like the matching pajamas," he adds sarcastically. He asks Sisko and Bashir for their "logo" (ID), but they are still disoriented and confused by the fact that they don't see any sign of Starfleet Headquarters. "Perfect," says Vin. "Just what we need, two more dims." Getting an inkling of what's happened, especially when Vin mentions a Sanctuary District, Sisko asks what year it is. "Same year as it was yesterday," Bernardo tells him. "2024." The two cops escort them off through the streets. Unnoticed, out of view in a subway stairwell, lies Dax, still unconscious.

Dax wakens to see a well-dressed man looking at her with concern, wondering if she's been jacked (robbed). Quickly realizing her situation, Dax says yes, though she finds she still has her combadge. The man, whose name is Chris Brynner, offers to let her use his Interface terminal to order replacements for her credit chips and ID. Dax thanks him. "Don't mention it," he says. "It's not every day that I get to rescue a damsel in distress."

O'Brien is checking out the transporter, while Kira tells him that as far as Starfleet is able to tell, the transporter signal disintegrated immediately after they began the beamout sequence. But O'Brien says the transport was completed successfully, according to the system logs. He just doesn't know where they ended up. The only unusual thing in the log was a variance in the annular confinement beam, reacting to the buildup of chroniton particles in the ship's hull -- a byproduct of the Romulan cloaking device. It's never been a problem before, but O'Brien reads a surge of temporal energy a few seconds before the initiation of the transporter sequence. He doesn't know yet what it means.

Sisko and Bashir are brought to a wall that fences off an area of the city, which they're sure is San Francisco. They note that their combadges are gone, probably stolen while they were unconscious. "This is not the Earth we're used to, Doctor," Sisko says. "That's still at least a century away." As soon as possible, they'll try to find Dax, and then a way home. At that point, they are hustled through a gate into the Sanctuary District, and see a crowded street filled with dilapidated buildings and homeless people huddled at impromptu campsites. Sisko explains that this was one of the mistakes that Earth society made before the Federation. The people here are not criminals; they were put here because they had no jobs or places to live. "Welcome to the twenty-first century."

Dax has ordered ID and credit chips through Chris' computer and account. They converse a little, and Chris is surprised when she asks what kind of business he does. "I guess I have to have a talk with my public relations people. I'm Chris Brynner, of Brynner Information Systems. You know, Interface Operations, Net Access, Channel Ninety." Dax pretends to recognize those names. "That Chris Brynner!" He asks if there's a way she can get hold of the friends she mentioned, and she says she wishes she could.

Sisko and Bashir, in the Sanctuary District's processing center, are subjected to having their hands scanned by a computer, which says the fingerprints are not on record. "No ID, no fingerprint record, no Interface account. It's like you two don't exist," remarks Vin. Bashir suggests, "Since we don't exist, why not let us go?" "Let's see," says Vin, "you don't have any ID, you don't have any money, you're both dressed like clowns. You figure it out." He hands them each a stack of forms to fill out.

O'Brien tells Kira he thinks he knows what happened. A microscopic singularity passing through the solar system exploded at the moment of transport, shifting the chroniton particles into temporal polarization. The transporter beam, passing through the polarized particles, was redirected through time.

As Bashir is complaining to Vin about the slowness of processing, Sisko notices a wall calendar with the date 8/30/24. "Ever hear of the Bell Riots?" he asks Bashir. 21st-century history is not the doctor's forte. Sisko tells him that one of the most violent civil disturbances in American history is going to occur here, a few days from now. "Which means if we don't get out of here soon, we'll be caught right in the middle of it."

Sisko explains that the Sanctuary District will be taken over by the residents, and some guards will be taken hostage. When the government sends in troops to restore order, hundreds of Sanctuary residents will be killed. However, the riots, says Sisko, will be "one of the watershed events of the twenty-first century. Gabriel Bell will see to that." Bell, after whom the riots are named, will be among the people guarding the hostages, and ensures that they are not harmed, sacrificing his life to save them. The outrage his death will raise through the nation will lead to sweeping reforms correcting many social problems. "If we warn these people about what's coming, if we try to help them in any way, we risk altering a pivotal moment in history. And we can't let that happen."

Finally it's their turn to be interviewed by an official named Lee, who realizes that they are gimmies -- people sincerely looking for jobs and homes, as opposed to the mentally ill dims. Learning that they have no jobs lined up, no place to stay, and no one to vouch for them except a friend whom they have no way of contacting, Lee says they'll have to stay in the Sanctuary for the time being, for their own safety, not to mention that it's the law. The District is supposed to provide job placement service, but Lee regretfully says jobs are hard to come by right now, so she advises them to be patient. She gives them ration cards, which they can use to get food and water. They can stay in any of the buildings. Lee also advises them to stay away from District Security, and to watch out for "ghosts": Sanctuary residents who prey on others. Sisko thanks her for the warning.

Dax is trying to contact Sisko and Bashir through her combadge, with no luck, when Chris tells her his assistant has gotten her a room. No one matching her friends' descriptions has been admitted to any of the local hospitals or trauma wards. Chris invites her to a party he's having in the office tomorrow night, and she accepts.

Sisko and Bashir have been turned away from every building they've tried to find a place to stay in. It's not surprising to Sisko, who remembers that overcrowding was a primary complaint against the Sanctuary Districts. "It got to the point where they didn't care how many people were in here. They just wanted to keep them out of sight." Bashir is frustrated by the conditions; it seems to him as if the powers that be don't give a damn. "It's not that they don't give a damn," Sisko says. "They've just given up. The social problems they face seem too enormous to deal with." "That only makes things worse," Bashir replies. "Causing people to suffer because you hate them is terrible. But causing people to suffer because you've forgotten how to care -- that's really hard to understand...Are humans really any different than Cardassians or Romulans? If push comes to shove, if something disastrous happens to the Federation, if we are frightened enough, or desperate enough, how would we react? Would we stay true to our ideals, or would we just stay here, right back where we started?"

They come upon a group of ghosts, led by one named B.C., who are beating up a dim and stealing his ration card. Sisko holds Bashir back from intervening. B.C. sees the doctor's look of outrage, and sarcastically apologizes. "Don't worry about us. We're new here," says Sisko, trying to avoid a fight. B.C. welcomes them. "Enjoy your stay. And in a few days, I know you're gonna feel right at home." Sisko leads Bashir away.

O'Brien has a possible way to retrieve Sisko and the others, focusing the transporter beam through the polarized chroniton particles. He has narrowed down the possible time periods to a dozen, but they only have enough polarized chronitons for a few attempts. "The hard part will be to find a couple of volunteers crazy enough to risk getting lost in time to do the job," Kira remarks. "I think I know a few likely candidates," says O'Brien, looking at her.

Having spent the night sleeping on the sidewalk, Sisko and Bashir have some breakfast, and discuss what to do next. Sisko wants to try to get on top of one of the buildings for a better look at the district. They return to one of the buildings they were rejected from the day before, and offer to trade something to get access to the roof. Having nothing else, they swap away their uniforms for some more period-looking clothing, and enter the building. Inside, they find a teenaged boy named Danny, who is injured and being tended by his father, Michael Webb.

Webb at first suspiciously points a knife at Sisko and Bashir, but then decides they're harmless. Bashir takes a look at the boy, who was beaten up by ghosts, and treats the injuries with what little is available. After they leave the building, Webb follows them out, but Bashir, mindful of disrupting the timeline, declines to help anyone else out. "This is your home now," Webb argues. "The only help we're going to get is from each other. And if we don't start pulling together, we're finished." He wants to get organized and let people outside know what's happening in this place. Sisko and Bashir have no choice but to refuse to get involved.

At Chris' party, Dax has a conversation with him and a couple of guests about having been mugged yesterday; one of them remarks that she was lucky that she didn't get picked up on the street without ID, or she might have ended up in a Sanctuary District. Dax immediately thinks that perhaps this is what happened to Sisko and Bashir. Chris promises to pull in a few favors to check the records of the local Sanctuary Districts.

Sisko and Bashir are waiting for dinner when Sisko goes to see how long the line is, and Bashir is accosted by B.C. and his gang. A fight ensues. Bashir and Sisko are outnumbered, but then a bystander -- a man of Sisko's approximate age, size, and skin color -- helps them, only to be stabbed by B.C. for his trouble. Bashir and Sisko finish off the ghosts who are taking the man's card. Bashir tries CPR, but it's too late; the man is dead. Sisko picks up his card, looks at it, and drags Bashir away as the police approach. They hide in an alley, where Sisko gives Bashir some dire news. According to the card, the man who died trying to help them was Gabriel Bell.

Sisko tells Bashir that without Gabriel Bell to protect the hostages, there's a good chance they'll die, and the timeline will be changed. "We have to save them," Sisko decides. "Whatever it takes, we have to make sure those hostages survive."

Kira and O'Brien are about ready to go, but Starfleet has nixed the mission for fear of contaminating the timeline. However, when O'Brien tries calling an admiral so Kira can argue, there's no response from Starfleet. O'Brien soon ascertains that Starfleet no longer exists. Something must have happened already to change the timeline. O'Brien theorizes that the reason the Defiant is still here is that the singularity explosion created a subspace bubble around it.

In the morning, Sisko and Bashir find Webb and offer their help in organizing the residents. Webb is glad to hear they've changed their minds. "This place is about to explode. Most of us agreed to live here because they promised us jobs. I don't know about you, but I haven't been on any job interviews lately. And neither has anyone else. They've forgotten about us." But Webb promises they will make society remember them. A rally will be held outside the processing center in two days. "I want to remind the people outside that we haven't done anything wrong, that we're not criminals, and that we don't deserve to live like this."

Chris tells Dax that he has located Sisko and Bashir in Sanctuary District A, but getting them out may not be so easy; first the Sanctuary personnel have to find them amid the 10,000 people there. "But don't worry. Your friends are fine. That's the whole point of the Sanctuary. To give people in trouble food and a place to stay." "If that's all it's for," Dax says, "then why is there a wall around it?"

That night, as Sisko and Bashir are spreading the word about the rally, they hear a commotion breaking out in the street. Danny, looking for his father, tells them, "One of the guards got into a fight with a dim, down at Processing. Everyone's going crazy." Sisko and Bashir push through a frenzied crowd and see Bernardo being attacked by a group of residents, one of whom takes his gun. Sisko snatches the gun away and fires into the air, scattering the attackers. He and Bashir drag Bernardo into the processing center, which has been taken over by B.C. and several other residents.

There are four hostages, including Lee, and B.C. is terrorizing her when Sisko shouts, "That's enough!" Seeing his gun, B.C. accepts that he's there to help guard the hostages. Bernardo is placed among them. And there is only one decision Sisko can make. He tells B.C. in a firm voice, "The name is Bell. Gabriel Bell."

To be continued...


  • The original title of this episode was "Cold and Distant Stars". It was initially conceived as a story in which Sisko has somehow wound up as a homeless man in 1990's Santa Monica.
  • As the writing staff were "breaking" the episode, an article was printed in the Los Angeles Times that actually proposed that a portion of the city be walled off and used for much the same purpose as the Sanctuary Districts in the episode.
  • The character B.C. was named after first assistant director B.C. Cameron.
  • Paramount's "New York Street" lot was utilized.