**** (4 stars out of 5)
Sisko, Bashir, and Dax step into a routine transporter and land in San Fransisco, but WAY BACK on August 30th, 2024. (A Friday.) It's a little less 'Things To Come' and a little more 'Soylent Green', a little bit country and a little bit 'Rock and Rule' slightly before the city of Nuke York. Ten points to Gryffindor if you've seen any of those movies (which have very little to do with this episode, frankly).
Ben and Julian are mistaken for mentally challenged 'dims' and escorted at gunpoint to a Sanctuary District. (The nice word for a walled-up slum.) Jadzia falls into the lap of luxury, which is to say the lap of Chris Brynner of the 1%. She finds playing a little mugged Dutch girl with tattoos is easy enough. After all, Dax was alive way back now, only not on Earth-Snooki (as the planet was renamed following Khan Singh's conquests. Brynner owns Net Interface Channel 90, AKA Your Face In A Tube.
It seems chroniton particles from the cloaking device, lodged in Defiant's ablative hull armour, struck by a micro singularity sprinkling fairy dust futzed with the transporter. As is wont to occur.
According to Sisko, to see an Earth they're used to they'd have to visit 2124 at least. This is still that shitty primitive Earth I've heard so much about. The homeless are walled up in every major city in the States. Bashir doesn't know much 21st Century history: "Too depressing." Which of course, means it's a hobby of Ben's. Ladies and Gentlemen, Commander Benjamin Sisko: he unwinds by reading about social breakdown, chaos and suffering.
When Ben realizes the date, and the location: Sanctuary District A, he warns Bashir that they are mere days away from 'The Bell Riots', one of the most violent civil disturbances in US history. THE ONE TO BEAT! And with the original Gabriel Bell shanked dead by a gang of 'ghosts' while trying to help them, Ben takes the homeless man's name and place in history. Which is to say: a hostage taker, fighting only to be heard, who is fated to be gunned down by the authorities.
"Past Tense, Part I" has many fine assets, chief amongst them Roger Corman's favorite cabbie Dick Miller. The crusty fascist cop with the heart of gold, or so one would hope. And hope is what this two-parter is all about: in order to reach Trek's utopia, the 21st Century was always presented as monumentally disastrous: Eugenic and Atomic War, WWIII, and social collapse. I hope not, but this near future looks a little too familiar.