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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Past Tense, Part II (Review)

This September and October, we’re taking a look at the jam-packed 1994 to 1995 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily for the latest review.

Past Tense, Part II is a nice way to close out Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s solo run, the only period in the show’s history where it was the only Star Trek on television. Caretaker, the première of Star Trek: Voyager, would be the next episode of the franchise to air. Deep Space Nine spent a lot of its early third season attacking various foundations of the Star Trek universe, as if hoping to demonstrate how profoundly different the show was from its predecessors.

The Search promised a war brewing on the horizon, and presented a cynical view of Starfleet foreign policy, where pacifism amount to appeasement. House of Quark reduced the Klingon Empire to a joke. Equilibrium suggested that Sisko could live with (and passively enable) a government lie if it kept his friend alive. Second Skin hinted that things might not be as they appear to be. The Abandoned embraced the idea that sometimes people are incapable of being anything more than what their genes might tell them to be. Defiant was the story of sibling desperately trying to prove his unique identity.

Everything is under control...

Everything is under control…

Part of me wonders if this very cynical stretch of episodes is responsible for the perception of Deep Space Nine as an incredibly cynical and pessimistic television show – one consciously at odds with the utopian ideals of the franchise. After all, this was the stretch where Deep Space Nine was most in the spotlight. It had the spot previously allocated to Star Trek: The Next Generation in most markets. It had no televised competition. If ever Star Trek fans were going to jump on board Deep Space Nine, this was the moment. It seems quite possible that this run of episodes cemented the show’s reputation.

So it seems strange that Deep Space Nine should wait until its last possible moment in the sun to embrace the humanism and optimism at the heart of the franchise. Past Tense is a story about building paradise, and about how humanity has the capacity to be so much better than we currently are. In short, it’s quintessential Star Trek, right down to the occasionally heavy-handed moralising and utopian idealism.

Keep your hat on...

Keep your hat on…

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