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December 10, 2012

Star Trek: DS9 - Ep 8 - The Passenger

Warning: While I usually reveal major details about the episode's plot, I generally try to avoid the ending. This time, I can’t really do that. Some major twists have to be talked about. So for this review, major spoilers ahead.

When one sees arrogance, especially in somebody young and inexperienced, we want to bring it down as hard as possible. What business does this young pup have thinking so highly of himself when he hasn’t proven anything? It really rubs us the wrong way. In “The Passenger,” Dr. Bashir (Siddig El Fadil) experiences this in the worst possible way. He goes from the height of saving somebody who everybody else assumed was dead, to the low of having his body used for the basest murder. It’s funny how, while he’s been arrogant before, they ratchet it up a notch in the teaser to this episode to make the fall so much worse.

Major Kira (Nana Visitor) and Bashir are headed back to the station after dealing with some emergency. Bashir is breaking his arm congratulating himself for saving a man who everybody else thought was dead. Kira, for once, is impressed with him, but quickly cools off when Bashir won’t let the compliment stand and continues to talk about it. Thankfully, they’re interrupted by a distress call. It seems there’s a major fire on board a ship, the pilot is dead, and Kajada (Caitlin Brown) is calling for assistance. She’s transporting a dangerous prisoner, and when Bashir tries to save his life as well, she resists him. This one, however, he’s unable to save.

They take the body back to DS9, where Kajada continues to insist that scans be made to ensure that her prisoner, Rao Vantika (James Harper) is dead. Meanwhile, a Deuridium shipment from the Gamma Quadrant is coming through DS9, and Odo (Rene Auberjonois) is in charge of security for it. It seems that Vantika was coming here in an attempt to hijack it. Lt. Primmin (James Lashly) has been assigned as Starfleet security liaison, something that makes Odo bristle. The two spar and Odo threatens to quit. However, they have bigger fish to fry, as it’s soon revealed that Vantika is still alive somehow, trying to get that shipment hijacked. The crew of the station have to figure out how he’s still alive and what mechanism Vantika’s going to use. It becomes extra personal for Bashir, however.

Funnily enough, much like "Dax," I found myself dreading this episode, but when I actually watched it, it wasn’t as bad as I’d remembered it. I’m not quite sure why that is. The premise is inherently silly and cliched (transfer of consciousness from one body to another) explained with giant reams of technobabble (the solution even more so) and some of the guest acting is horrendous. When I actually sat down to watch it, however, I found myself watching some good stuff.

Unfortunately, the ending drags the episode to a screeching halt, with some of the worst acting I’ve seen on the show so far. El Fadil and Christopher Collins (playing a mercenary) try to out-Steven Wright each other, to the episode’s detriment. I swear I was watching an audition from the 250th respondent to the casting call. El Fadil seems to think that saying his lines like he’s learning to read makes him sound evil. Collins sounds like he’s trying to outdo El Fadil in a race to the laughably bad line. It’s just horrendous, and completely overshadows some earlier good work on El Fadil’s part (Collins never reaches above adequate, but he’s not given much to do before the end).

Harper as Primmin does some good work playing off Odo, but he just sounds so square (then again, that’s Starfleet for you). His dressing down scene by Sisko (Avery Brooks) just kind of lies there, but not because of Brooks, but because of Harper. Balancing out the guest acting so it gets back to “average” is Caitlin Brown. She is wonderful as Kajada, obsessed with Vantika, just strange enough to be credible as the possible host to Vantika’s consciousness, understandably irate when she’s shut out of the security loop, and all around wonderful. The only scene that really fails is her falling off the balcony in Quark’s, just because there’s no indication of how that happened and it’s played a little too loosely. Otherwise, though, she’s great.

As far as the regulars go, they were hit and miss. Most of them didn’t have much to do (Terry Farrell got to do a lot of technobabble, but no real character work), but there were three who did. First, Auberjonois was wonderful as usual. Primmin’s muscling in on Odo’s turf, and Auberjonois plays him perfectly. Affronted that somebody is being assigned to “assist” him and unsure where this puts him in the eyes of Sisko, Odo has it out with him in a very effective scene. (“No Starfleet officer can do the job that you do.” “You got that straight.”).

He also has a very effective scene with Quark (Armin Shimmerman) where they discuss the human need for companionship, as Odo subtly chides him for chasing the unattainable Dax. I have yet to see an Odo/Quark scene I haven’t liked, even in the worst episodes. This one’s another keeper. Shimmerman also does well with the other scenes, with some humorous moments to boot (crawling on the floor of the empty bar looking for dropped valuables, or being outraged at Kajada’s presence in his empty bar, even though she interrupted a meeting between him and some mercenaries).

The weak link, however, was El Fadil. This was his episode, and he tried to run with it. Unfortunately, he got 10 yards down the field and then fumbled the ball and the other team returned it for a touchdown. While he overplayed the arrogance a little bit at the beginning, his “this one I couldn’t save” at the end of the teaser was well done. He’s pretty good throughout the rest of the episode too. And then there’s the ending, discussed above. It really soured me on him, when my admiration was starting to grow.

Plot-wise, there isn’t a whole lot to say. It’s the standard “possession” Trek plot, giving the chosen actor a chance to act evil. It’s the first time this happened in Deep Space Nine, and if this is any indication, it really should be the last. The red herrings are too obvious (hmm…Kajada spent the night in her room asleep, eh? Or so she says!), even using Primmin for one near the end. Unfortunately, El Fadil’s voice gives him away in the scene where he meets with Quark (by strangling him from behind so he doesn’t get a good look at Bashir). It’s completely obvious that it’s Bashir, but I wish I could tell whether that’s because I already knew it or because his voice really was that distinctive. Unfortunately, one can’t go back to not knowing anything about an episode, so I can’t tell. Even without the voice giveaway, though, it’s a pretty safe bet that the culprit is Bashir.

The crew does have one brutal logical failing that could have solved this before the episode started. When they finally figure out that Vantika has been able to transfer his mind, they automatically jump to the conclusion that he jumped to Kajada. However, when Bashir was trying to save Vantika’s life at the beginning, Vantika reached up and grabbed Bashir by the throat. Kira had to forcibly remove his hand. Obviously, Vantika still inhabited his body at that time, so why didn’t Bashir fall under suspicion? He had more contact with Vantika than Kajada did. C’mon, Kira’s smarter than that.

Finally, an ongoing joke begins in this episode, as we have the first reference to waste extraction (though in this episode, it’s waste reclamation). I’m going to be making a note of this whenever it happens, because, for awhile there, it seemed there was a reference in almost every episode. It doesn’t detract from the episode. It’s just a bit of fun.

All in all, this wasn’t as bad as I remembered it. Without the horrid ending, it would be about a 3-star episode. The ending brings it down a bit, but rounding up still makes it a 3. It’s just a low 3 instead of a high one. While I can’t say I recommend it, I would recommend that you don’t run screaming in terror if you happen upon it.

Memorable Quote:

“What kind of fool are you?” “My own special variety.” Kajada & Odo

3 Stars


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