Saturday, April 18, 2015

A to Z 2015 - Star Trek Episodes "Past Tense"

"Past Tense, Parts 1 and 2"
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Hey, so remember "The City on the Edge of Forever," the episode routinely listed as the best of the original and any other series in Star Trek lore?  Well, "Past Tense" is better.

Yeah.  I just said that.  "City on the Edge of Forever" is one of those experiences, and there are many, many such experiences in and out of Star Trek and throughout history, that maybe has been greatly exaggerated over time.  When you boil it down, the story is basically this: Kirk stumbles upon a gateway that can be used for time travel; McCoy, who has just accidentally overdosed on his own medication, uses this gateway to randomly screw up history; Kirk and Spock conveniently are sent by the gateway to the exact time and location they need to prevent McCoy from actually going through with it; the victim in all this is some woman who actually proves the lie in the Star Trek assumption that a perfect future, or idealism in general, is generally a good thing.  Kind of screwy, and I won't go much further into that.

So now that I have enraged all geeks everywhere, let me make my feeble defense of "Past Tense."

This is another time travel episode that deals with social issues, leaving members of the crew stranded in a situation where they end up living like bums (except for Dax, because she's pretty).  Except these particular bums are also about to make history, as long as one of them manages to live long enough.  Except he doesn't.  So Sisko has to make the difficult decision to replace the guy.  Which is a pretty risky move.

But it's perhaps Star Trek in a nutshell better and more nuanced than "City on the Edge of Forever."  There's very little artifice involved.  There's a crazy bum involved, too, and he's a lot of fun to watch, and he doesn't care too much about offending people.  (Call me crazy, but people who aren't afraid of offending people are so much easier to understand.  At least they're being honest.)

Plus it's just one of the many third season stories from Deep Space Nine that helped prove how awesome Sisko is.  Seriously, it's like the writers suddenly woke up and realized they had an infinite amount of ways to demonstrate how awesome he is, and they spent the whole season doing exactly that.  It's my favorite-ever season of Star Trek.  Late in it, he gets promoted to captain (finally!), but not before spending some quality father-son time solar sailing, which is another all-time favorite episode ("Explorers") of this or any other series.

"Past Tense" is one of those Star Trek stories that clearly evokes an earlier one, and is perhaps the better for it.  But I've angered enough geeks already.  I'll stop here.


Spacerguy said...

KILLERS,ASSASSINS!!!! KILLERS lol Great episode Star Trek City on the Edge of Forever. I see you've noticed the ears!

Pat Dilloway said...

I recently read Harlan Ellison's original script(s) for City on the Edge of Forever. It's better than what aired but the gist still boils down to Kirk deciding whether to sacrifice history for a woman.

Past Tense has more relevance in the 21st Century in light of the Occupy movement and such. I mean the basic premise of the episode is that the rich create ghettos to lock up poor people.

It was a lot easier for Dax to explain her spots than Spock to explain his ears. If they had done the episode a couple of years later they could have had Worf go and then how do you explain a Klingon?

Tony Laplume said...

Spacer, "Killers! Assassins!" Probably Spock would have commented that it was the best dialogue McCoy ever had!

Pat, I've always been morbidly curious as to how different Ellison's original script really was. I assume by degrees. Small ones.


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