DS9: S3E12: “Past Tense: Part 2”

In which it’s all just a little bit of history repeating. 

So, recap. Sisko, Dax, and Bashir have beamed down to an America ravaged by Donald Trump but which is destined to rise from the ashes when an innocent black man is killed while doing the opposite of committing crimes. Meanwhile, if such terms even apply, the remaining crew of the Defiant have figured out what’s happening but not when they are. Fortunately, the Starfleet that forbade them from going to look has been written out of existence, so it’s not like searching the past is going to cause any further damage. And now, the conclusion.

Filmed in 1995.

Filmed in 1995.

So now Sisko is pretending to be the key figure, Gabriel Bell, and has to ride the tiger of this fedora-wearing, neckbeared agitant. Sisko is able to do a little lateral management and prevent an early and violent end when leatherfaced Vic the Cop bursts in with a gun. Next comes the classic stage of any classic hostage movie – getting information in, establishing lines of communication, and Bashir and Sisko confront the idea of historical inevitability.

Is Sisko doomed now that he’s taken on the mantle of Gabriel Bell? To the rest of history, it would make no difference if it’s Sisko or the real Bell who dies in the riot, but it might make a difference if Sisko-as-Bell lives or not.

Sisko and Fedora are watching the news, and Fedora is surprised that everyone else is surprised. Sisko’s reasonable organizer friend shows up, and is sent out to go try to turn the tide by filling up the ranks with the decent, rather than the violent malcontents. Jadzia, having just found out that Sisko and Bashir are in the district, is now watching the news and getting ready to go down there. She makes an impassioned speech, and Chris Brynner, the media mogul, is moved by her words.

"How 'bout I just break anybody's nose who asks."

“How ’bout I just break anybody’s nose who asks.”

Back on the Defiant, O’Brien has narrowed the search options down, but it’s still a gamble. Kira is wearing a disguise that’s about as elaborate as Spock’s was. I kind of wonder if O’Brien watched Odo work the transporter and just despaired at the lack of artistry in moving the dials.

Kira’s wandering around tapping her communicator. Without the Defiant overhead, the communicators won’t have a satellite station to bounce off of, but apparently they function just fine at short (city-scale) ranges. Their first guesses will be obviously wrong.

Fedora is not all that pleased about the Gimmes that have shown up, but the point is made that Sisko’s consortium is a lot more trustworthy than the bullies Fedora hangs around with. His main plan is to trade the hostages for some tickets out, but Sisko and friend, who I’ve just looked up and his name is Webb, get him to think a little bigger. ‘Course, now that they’re going from personal demands to political ones, they’ve officially transitioned from criminals to terrorists. And as Kira would remind us, Terrorists don’t get to think of themselves as the heroes.

Webb starts to give a really good speech, but it gets cut off from the outside. Meanwhile, Vin is doing his best to agitate and get Fedora and Sisko to screw up, and the SFPD has taken over negotiations. Oh hey, Fedora’s name is B.C. I might keep calling him Fedora. Fedora is really jonesing to hurt someone, and while Sisko’s away with Webb meeting Detective Preston, Bashir will be guarding the hostages. Preston’s doing the classic thing of attempting to whittle down the number of hostages in preparation for the inevitable military rush.

One of the hostages, Sisko and Bashir’s caseworker, is diabetic, and this allows Bashir to have a little conversation. We find out that once upon a time she tried to help someone and it nearly got her fired. The drones aren’t evil, they’re as much a captive of the system as the disposessed. Just slightly more comfortable.

You get the feeling Sisko would be pointing the gun at Fedora even if the timeline weren't at stake.

You get the feeling Sisko would be pointing the gun at Fedora even if the timeline weren’t at stake.

Vin’s gonna just keep making things worse until Fedora finishes losing his temper. But it’s Webb who finishes defusing the situation, because Sisko’s gotten emotionally invested and hasn’t been here long enough to have most of the passion drained out of him. Or possibly he’s suffering the effects of Temporal Narcosis, which is a real thing in the Star Trek universe.

Kira and O’Brien have tried and missed again. This time they’re in the ’60s and get beamed up in front of some flower children. Hisrorical joke achieved.

Negotiations are not going anywhere quickly, and the governor isn’t biting on the hook. Fortunately, Jadzia has found a swer to sneak in through in order to get accosted by either a malcontent or one of the mentally ill. At around this time, Sisko and Bashir are frustrated by their inability to get past a console lockout, despite history telling us that Gabriel Bell was supposed to be able to do this.

What happens next should be obvious. Jadzia gets taken to Sisko as a hostage, uses her connection with neo-Google CEO Chris Brynner to bypass the lockouts, and take us forward. But think about the implications. The history that Sisko and Bashir remember seems to follow roughly this course. Maybe the real Gabriel Bell was a programmer or white hat hacker before the economic collapse, but that’s an awfully big coincidence. An alternate hypothesis is that travel via Chroniton-Singularity interaction observes similar rules as the Slingshot Effect has been observed to – namely, that alternate timelines created via this method don’t persist outside of the loop itself, and that history doesn’t actually change. The real Gabriel Bell always died saving Bashir and Sisko from Fedora’s gang. Chris Brynner always rescued and decided to help the mysterious woman he found in the subway, and always helped the three of them override the ‘net lockout.

While we have seen an effect in which an observer of the loop witnesses the loss of Starfleet from history, that effect occurs concurrently with the loop itself, so neener neener.

Also, someone ought to punch O’Brien in the face for not insituting a binary search algorithm and beaming into the median of all their options and checking whether the past is changed yet or not, and repeating. They have ten options and six chances. With binary search they’d need at most four. Just saying.

On her way in, Jadzia set her comm-badge to ‘Mayday,’ which will be useful when Nerys and Miles finally show up. But Bashir and Sisko are going to stay, and Jadzia only has to leave because of her alien biology. Otherwise, they’re all in for the plan of maintaining the timeline.

Something about the lightbulb placement in this shot has me thinking I could BS an undergrad midterm paper on the symbolism.

Something about the lightbulb placement in this shot has me thinking I could BS an undergrad midterm paper on the symbolism.

First they have to get her commbadge, so we make a brief stop to go visit the guy who took it. He’s… remarkably helpful, and soon Jadzia is back through the sewers to pull the greatest pirate radio heist in history.

Brynner only needs to be convinced, and it doesn’t take much. He’s a media guy, it’s all about PR. With his help, they get an endless parade of the honest, the decent, and the unfortunate. The governor of the city responds, of course, by ordering the use of force to stop the spread of a nonviolent message, against the advice of the expert on the ground. The detective negotiator has her reservations.

I want to take just a moment to mention that O’Brien and Kira, after getting back from 2048, say that Earth history was never as rough as that was. I’m only doing this because eventually we’ll get to First Contact (the movie, not the TNG episode) which shows a United States ravaged by global nuclear war. After the Bell Riots went south, things must have gotten really, really bad.

Fortunately, on their last guess, O’Brien guesses right and they get in contact with Dax and disable the automatic beam-out function. Now they’re on a 24-hour cycle.

Sisko’s built up enough of a rapport with the hostages that they’re discussing hypothetical baseball matchups, when Fedora spots the national guard buildup and gets everyone into a saferoom. Webb sends his kid away from the hot zone, and everyone hunkers down and gets ready to be shot. Fedora even gives up his hat, and becomes B.C., because a man’s gotta save his hat, even if he’s not going to be the one wearing it anymore.

Novikov would be proud.

Novikov would be proud.

Pretty much everyone gets shot, and Sisko takes a bullet saving Vin the Surly Cop, who’s now surly at the National Guard. Webb’s done for,  a bunch of the residents of the District are dead, maimed, burned by flash grenades, and the sun rises on a brave new world. Vin agrees that Bashir and ‘Gabriel Bell’ can switch their ID cards for two casualties, and that they died in the suppression. The history that goes down in the record books will remain intact. With one possible change, or possibly not. See, we don’t actually know whose face was on the Bell Riots before this little sortie, but guess who’s in the records books now? Sisko expresses some worry about explaining it to Starfleet, but there’s nothing to explain. After all, to Starfleet Command, Gabriel Bell has always looked like that.

Kindly ignore the dramatic anvil at the end.

Did we miss something awesome?