Past Tense, Part 2 (***½)
On the second part of this very special episode of Blossom, Captain Sisko keeps the peace by wielding a shotgun, Kira and O'Brien meet some hippies, and Odo says "Whoa!" While still being quite preachy, this episode tones it down a bit from part one where the majority of the story consisted of Sisko and Bashir talking about how horrible the whole sanctuary district thing is. That's because this episode actually has a story, a story about hostages, madmen, and internetworks. Still, the episode does end with one of the least subtle scenes in the show, where Bashir asks Sisko why things were allowed to get so bad. I half-expected Sisko to look directly into the camera and say "Only you can prevent ̶w̶i̶l̶d̶f̶i̶r̶e̶s̶ sanctuary districts."
A lot is made of Sisko's characterisation in this episode and how it signals the true arrival of The Sisko. I have to admit that during this rewatch Avery Brook's performance wasn't quite as off-key as I remembered it being in the early seasons. All the weird little eccentricities and restrained anger were there all along, but the writers didn't seem to get a handle on how to write for the character yet. In this episode he finally gets a chance to cut loose and be a badass, which is something that Avery's "theatrical" style was made for, so it's not so much that Sisko's character changed it's just that it finally starts to develop in the right way. As for Avery Brooks' performance, I can understand why some people have a problem for it but to me it's just part of the character. Sisko's a little weird and that's part of the reason why I like him. And from what I've seen in interviews Avery is pretty weird himself, which is why I like him too.
Less commented upon about this episode is how Bashir's character comes of age too. His obnoxiousness has been toned down considerably since the first season, but coming into contact with such abject poverty appears to have changed him somewhat. Remember back in Emissary
how he revelled about the possibilities of being out on the frontier? Well, now he has truly experienced what that means and he has found the frontier on his own home planet, which is a pretty big learning experience for him. He's less the brave, young, idealistic doctor, now he transitions into a more seasoned, cynical phase which will culminate with the Section 31 arc in the later seasons.
As an aside, back when I first saw this episode I scoffed slightly at the idea of "the net". The internet was a big buzzword at the time, futurologists were talking about how it would revolutionise the world and it seemed like Star Trek was buying into the spin. I was wrong, if anything this episode undersold just how big a thing the internet would be. Of course, this episode also overestimated how interested internet users would be in current events and tragedies when they could be watching clips of people wiggling their eyebrows on Youtube or making comical images about insane wolves.