Mark Watches ‘Deep Space Nine’: S03E11 – Past Tense, Part I

In the eleventh episode of the third season of Deep Space Nine, OH MY GOD. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek. 

Trigger Warning: For discussion of poverty, homelessness, oppression, ableism.

You have no idea how eerily real this episode is.

Or maybe you do. Maybe you remember when Gavin Newsom pledged in 2004 to “solve” the homeless crisis in San Francisco, only for us to get to 2014 and San Francisco was no better. It was worse. Perhaps you remember the stunningly horrifying letter that Justin Keller wrote about how he no longer deserved to see homeless people because he pulled himself up by his (wealthy white) bootstraps. Perhaps you remember when Mayor Ed Lee sanctioned the forced relocation of the homeless in San Francisco in advance of the Super Bowl… which was held forty-five miles away.

I moved to the Bay Area in 2010 with goddamn stars in my eyes. Y’all, I was so excited and thrilled to move to a place that appeared to me as queer-friendly, openly progressive, and accepting. Within two years, I was so disappointed with the place that the only thing that kept me there was my last partner. (Which should help partially explain why, once I got dumped, I high-tailed it out of the city.) As someone who has been homeless a couple of times, I know I’m more sensitive to this stuff than others. Yet the amount of vitriol I experienced or witnessed there both as a person of color and as someone who had a very traumatic set of experiences with homelessness shocked me. I’ve written about it before, but y’all. Y’ALL. I had a person tell me that all the homeless in the city should be set on fire; another said they should all have been shipped to Angel Island. Another ignorantly said that being homeless should be a crime in order to deter people from being homeless, which… look, first of all, homelessness is already criminalized in a billion different ways. Secondly, deterring homelessness? There are plenty of those without homes who certainly didn’t choose to be that way, so NO. STOP IT.

But let’s say that Deep Space Nine had not creepily predicted something that is already happening. In just forty-five minutes, the writers accomplish an astounding amount of worldbuilding. It felt significant to me, though, not just because of the scope of it. For what seems like the first time in Star Trek, the future is a terrible place. Granted, this is technically a giant flashback, but it still takes place in 2024! This is the first time we get to glimpse the collapse of the world (albeit through an American lens) that we’d heard about so much on The Original Series and The Next Generation.

And what a horrifying world it is. The show brilliantly sends Jadzia in one direction while Julian and Sisko are sent to one of the Sanctuary District, allowing us to see the very well-defined social and economic strata at the heart of this nightmarish existence. While Jadzia is able to secure an ID and money with absolutely no proof of her identity, Sisko and Julian are forced to wait in a seemingly endless line in order to even get food cards. Jadzia wines and dines with the upper echelons of society, casually discussing the collapse of Europe and the necessity of the Sanctuary District while Julian examines a young boy who nearly got his ribs broken in a brutal fight. The contrast is glaring and absolutely necessary. Obviously, this doesn’t reflect on Jadzia as a person; it’s just luck that the Sanctuary forces didn’t see her when they grabbed her crewmates. Yet it’s a storytelling technique that allows us to see a bigger picture, even if this all unfolds in a single city.

OH, AND IT’S A TIME TRAVEL PARADOX STORY ON TOP OF IT, TOO. I love time travel, but I think the need to discuss the logistics of it is the only sore spot in an otherwise fantastic episode. Like, I don’t think the science makes any sense whatsoever, which is fine by itself, but I’m finding it increasingly difficult to care about people yelling nonsensical jargon. There are so many scenes where people do this in Star Trek! It’s absurd! What I do care about is the fact that by sheer luck, Julian and Sisko got the one man killed who is most responsible in public opinion shifting about the homeless and the jobless. It’s a tragic bit of irony, given that Sisko had been so adamant about not interfering in anything in order to prevent from poisoning the timeline of history. AND THEN, WHOOPS, THEY INADVERTENTLY GOT GABRIEL BELL KILLED.

Oh, this is such a classic time-travel dilemma, and I might not be all that interested in it otherwise, but the setting makes it worth it. Sisko’s interest in 21st century American history makes it worth it. THE STAKES MAKE IT WORTH IT. Starfleet has DISAPPEARED FROM ALL EXISTENCE BECAUSE OF GABRIEL BELL’S DEATH. (Well, all of Starfleet except for one ship because science.) I figured that Sisko would have to take Bell’s place, but that doesn’t make this less exciting for me. I’m in, y’all. I’M READY.

The video for “Past Tense, Part I” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

– I will be at numerous conventions in 2016! Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be Death Note and Neon Genesis Evangelion. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
- Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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