October 23rd, 2019

mug, tea, writer

Sacrifice of Angels (thoughts on DS9's "Past Tense")

I have been rereading Carol Plum Ucci’s excellent teen novel, “What Happened to Lani Garver”, and that caused me to start considering angels, and what they really are.

Epstein's Saint Michael the archangel, Coventry Cathedral
Epstein's Saint Michael the archangel, Coventry Cathedral

It is now October, 2019. In a little less than five years, as all passionate Niners know,  the Bell riots will take place in San Francisco. Government troops will open fire on impoverished, homeless citizens and kill hundreds. 

Showrunner Ira Steven Behr commented that, as they were filming the show, politicians were actually talking about putting homeless people in sanctuary districts—ghettos like those we see in these episodes. He was appalled at how close to real life a science fiction story became.

In Donald Trump’s America, where children are being torn from their parents’ arms and locked in cages, these episodes seem even more relevant than they were thirty years ago. The world of the Bell Riots and the sanctuary districts is a world of extreme capitalism, casual racism, and great wealth juxtaposed with dire poverty. It’s no wonder Past Tense, in spite of some weaknesses, is among the most admired of DS9 episodes.

Plenty of reviewers have discussed Past Tense. They’ve looked at the way the story shows the mentally ill, class divisions, government, and even redemptive violence.  They’ve quibbled about the technobabble and some minor logical glitches in the time travel. All fair enough! But, so far as I know, no one has focused on the story’s spiritual overtones. 

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