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Twenty years later, this is disturbingly familiar
I'm a Star Trek fan from its beginning, and I know that one thing they do poorly is time travel. This story is not an exception to the general rule, but today's viewer can be distracted from the flaws by the jarring effect of seeing what writers in 1995 considered fiction.
The "sanctuary" district in San Francisco interns the homeless, the unemployed, and mentally ill people. The government processes them and hands out food stamps. Welfare is not merely accepted, but an enforced one. The writers call the Bell riots a watershed moment of the 21st Century as a harbinger of change for the better. Today we can look at this fiction and see how much closer we are to it now than we were twenty years ago.
I've always admired Arthur C. Clarke for his vision of the future. He was startlingly accurate in his depiction of online media, but we lack only extraterrestrials to drive us forward into his vision. "Past Tense" doesn't require its writers to look so far ahead. They only had to extend a trend line of poverty a few years out. But, while it might have seemed far- fetched in 1995, today's viewer can see that the trend line is no longer fiction.
The only real requirement is that the writers not let the characters get in the way. There is little in the way of character development. Sisko, Bashir, and Dax are observers, even when Sisko has to take part in the action.
Still, I'm not convinced about the writer's view of neckties in 2024...
The real "Brigadoon" saves this...barely
The minute the planet appeared in space, I said to myself, "This is Brigadoon!" It was so obvious.
I loved Brigadoon but not because it was Brigadoon. I'm a huge fan of Cyd Charisse and Gene Kelly. They carried this. The music and singing and costumes carried it. These characters and actors cannot carry the DS9 adaptation of it. It succeeds only as an homage to the original film. It has little merit of its own.
On top of all that, we already know the outcome even if we don't know the film. Dax is a recurring character and can go nowhere. There is no element of surprise. This is a poor episode but bearable if you're reading or knitting while you watch it.