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Monday, 29 August 2016

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine 1-09: The Passenger

Episode:9|Writer:Morgan Gendel & Robert Hewitt Wolfe and Michael Piller|Air Date:21-Feb-1993

This week on Sci-Fi Adventures I'm back to Deep Space Nine season one. I've got this season box set sitting here, so I might as well watch it.

But first I need to fill this introduction section with interesting and relevant text! Okay The Passenger is the eighth episode of the series, but the first to start with 'The'. It doesn't have a stardate, but it probably comes after Dax, which was probably meant to take place far later in the season than it aired. Uh... the title is anagram of 'Strange Sheep', it's not the episode that guest stars Iggy Pop, and it was first shown on US television the day before Star Trek: The Next Generation visited the station for the only time in Birthright, Part I. Sorry, that's all I've got.

But before I spoil the hell out of this episode, remember that anything that aired before it is fair game for SPOILERS too. Not that there's really any continuity at this point.



Oh, some more trivia for you: this is the first teaser in DS9 history that starts with a runabout flying past the camera. There's no 'Station log' opening this week.

In fact now that I think about it, Dax has been the only episode so far that's started with Sisko's station log narration. Well there's an absolutely pointless thing for me to be aware of. I'll certainly do my best not to keep track of that from now on.

Hey it's Major Kira and Dr. Bashir on board! I've just got a sudden urge to turn this off and put season 2's Crossover on instead. I think it's the USS Rio Grande they're on in that episode too; it's the most fun of the runabouts.

Without a 'Runabout log' voice over I've no idea why the two of them are out here together, but Kira's doing her very best to compliment him on saving a woman's life despite the tricorder showing she was dead. Kira soon regrets opening her mouth though as the praise gives him an opening to gush about his favourite subject: himself.
"I just seem to have a talent, I suppose. A vision that sees past the obvious, around the mundane, right to the target. Fate has granted me a gift, Major."
I have to respect the writers for having the nerve to make one of their main characters unlikeable and let him grow over time. It makes the angry former terrorist who dislikes the Federation and hits touchscreens too hard seem so much more sympathetic by comparison!

Luckily they receive a distress call from a transport ship before she can hit him as well.

The ship's structural integrity field is failing and they've got 10 minutes left until the air is unbreathable, so Bashir races to treat the wounded while Kira... oh she's already extinguished the fire. I expected this to be a race to get people off the ship before it exploded, but nope, Kira sorted that all out. It's fine now.

There's two survivors: a cop and her prisoner, though he's not a survivor for long. He started this fire to escape his cell but he's managed to kill himself in the process.

Though before he goes, he grabs Bashir by the throat and whispers "Remember".

Oh sorry, he actually whispers "Make me live". Unfortunately the tricorder says that he's dead, so he can't. End of teaser.


ACT ONE.


They get the two of them back to Deep Space Nine and now that they're somewhere better lit and less smoky I can see that the cop is Na'Toth from Babylon 5! Though here she's got less spots, more hair, and is calling herself Kajada. And she really does not like this prisoner of hers.

She demands to see his body, stabs it, then requests an autopsy! She knows full well what killed him, she just wants him opened up. I blame Bashir, as he keeps injecting her with a mysterious hypospray. Those things aren't 'one drug fits all' Doc, different aliens are going to react differently.

The prisoner's name is Rao Vantika and she's been chasing him for 20 years now. He's apparently a brilliant killer scientist who's very very good at faking his death. Or was very good. Or maybe is very good.

Meanwhile Quark is deluding himself into thinking that Dax is in love with him. Nothing wrong with a good delusion, he explains to Odo, in fact he sells them upstairs in the holosuites.

Eventually Odo drags the conversation over to the subject of the deuridium shipment arriving soon, as an excuse to say "I'm watching you Quark," which visibly confuses the nameless Starfleet extra in the background.

Hang on, the Starfleet extra has lines! Now it's Odo's turn to look confused.

He reveals that he's Lieutenant Primmin, the Starfleet officer in charge of security for that deuridium shipment, so he would've preferred it if Odo hadn't leaked word of it to the local black market. He's very keen on getting the job done right seeing as it took him three weeks to get here, so I guess DS9 actually is a fair distance away from... wherever he came from. Presumably somewhere in the Federation.

Primmin also mentions that the deuridium is coming from the Gamma Quadrant, so either they've started trading with people or they've got mining going on now. I guess the writers thought that neither was worth mentioning on the series.

Wow, it still surprises me when I see Sisko with hair. Wait... Dax, Sisko, Kira, Bashir... where's O'Brien? Is he still on Earth celebrating Keiko's mother's birthday?

Dr. Bashir is telling the senior staff about the autopsy on Vantika. Seems that he's 100% definitely dead this time, which obviously isn't true as it'd make his plotline entirely pointless. But it turns out that Vanitka intended to come to DS9 anyway, as his race needs deuridium to survive, so he may still have accomplices here.

Primmin soon turns up as well and Sisko invites him into his office for a chat. Primmin makes it clear he feels Odo's not up to managing the security of a deuridium shipment, and Sisko makes it clear that he's a guest in someone else's house and he should show a bit more respect.

So Primmin goes back down to shake Odo's hand and try to get off on a better foot. Well it's nice to see that was resolved quickly.

Odo grudgingly brings up his security plans on the computer, only to discover that the database is offline! Everything in active memory has been been accessed and wiped, and Kajada pokes her head around the door to mention that it's totally a Vantika move to do that.


ACT TWO.


Seems that whoever wiped the computer memory (Vantika) did it because it was easier than getting around Odo's security measures to get at a single file. Makes no sense to me, but then it's a Cardassian computer so it likely makes no sense to the crew either. 

They're able to figure out where the unauthorised computer access happened at least, so Odo and Primmin send a security team down to investigate... simultaneously.

Sooooo awkward. Primmin seems genuinely taken aback there that the head of station security is handling station security.

This is the first time I've really noticed that the Bajorans have their own combadges, just like the Starfleet officers. I guess pinning your phone to chest is now universally considered by the galactic community to be a good idea. I'm also starting to notice how distracting that pulsing light in the background must've been for the actors.

Odo's had it up to here with Primmin by now and storms into Sisko's office to announce his resignation. Also he's sick of everyone calling him 'Constable' all the time. Sisko explains that Odo freaking out over nothing, as he's in charge of security and he already had a chat with Primmin to explain this. So Odo doesn't quit.

With that crisis resolved (again), Sisko goes to Dax's rarely seen science lab to have a chat.

Dax has discovered a chip in Vantika's belongings, and on it she's found a really low resolution 3D render of a humanoid brain made out of orange jelly. There's evidence that someone broke into Kajada's ship looking for this, so it's apparently important.

A rubbish episode of Next Gen once established that the Enterprise is self-cleaning, but Quark isn't so lucky has he has to pay his staff to clean up after hours. Actually their main job here to look for lost jewellery and slips of latinum that have fallen on the floor during the day to return them to their rightful owner (Quark).

But as Quark's crawling around the upper level, a mysterious gloved figure grabs him from behind.

"Have you made the preparations?" the man whispers. Quark's a little confused, as he's had no dealings with this guy before. He was supposed to be hiring mercenaries for Vantika it turns out, but Vantika's dead... surely?

Vantika explains that he's not quite dead yet, and shoves Quark aside, giving us a quick glimpse of his face!

Oh, that could be anyone. Anyone who looks and sounds just like Dr. Bashir, that is.

But why would the only person who's had direct physical contact with a dying genius scientist obsessed with prolonging his life suddenly act like he's been possessed?


ACT THREE.


That next morning Kajada drops by the infirmary to check Vantika's DNA results. Well they know that the body's definitely not a clone this time at least. Bashir's not going to make that mistake again, not after the trouble it caused in A Man Alone.

But we're given another suspect here, as Kajada had so much trouble getting to sleep last night that she used an alpha wave inducer to help. So she's been using technology that messes with your head and was unconscious during the time Vantika popped up to scare Quark. Could the woman obsessed with catching Vantika have become Vantika?

The crew gather in Sisko's office to discuss the possibility that Vantika's copied his mind into someone else's head. Bashir's never heard of synaptic pattern displacement being done before by a non-Vulcan, so now we have a technobabble phrase to describe what Spock did to McCoy in Star Trek II. He also mentions that humans only use a small percentage of their brain so there'd be plenty of room for a second consciousness, which is a bit worrying considering he's a doctor and should know better.

Their prime suspect is Kajada, though they don't think she's consciously aware of the passenger in her head. Either way they can't risk letting her join in with the deuridium shipment plotline any more. She's not happy about being left out, but she at least wants to make sure that they're keeping an eye on Quark. Odo assures her that he always keeps an eye on Quark.

Later that night she sneaks into Quark's and sees him chatting with mercenaries about the job they're going to pull for Vantika. So Kajada has been right about basically everything so far!

Though she kind of gives herself away when she slips and falls from the upper balcony. It happens so suddenly that I couldn't help but laugh out loud, which probably wasn't the reaction the writer intended.

The scene gives us a great look at the top of Quark's bar though. This must have been a three storey set as it just keeps going up.


ACT FOUR.


Kajada survives the fall, but Bashir has to knock her out for a bit to avoid permanent paralysis, so she's out of the story now. Odo suspects Quark was meeting with someone at the bar but he doesn't really take it much further. In fact they give serious consideration to the idea that she tried to commit suicide, because they've all been taking stupid pills this week.

Meanwhile Dax is still trying to figure out how Vantika may have transferred his consciousness without Vulcan telepathic powers.

Eww. Quit playing with the dead guy's hand Dax. Those hands have only ever been used for evil.

Turns out the answer is under his nails: a microscopic storage device with enough capacity to store his entire mind and enough power to copy it into someone else's. A backup plan just in case he ever died in a fire.

Elsewhere, Quark and his crew march to meet with Vantika inside one of the runabouts. I guess the production team didn't have time to find the merc on the right a sci-fi costume, so they just left him wearing what he came in with.

I've been sitting here trying to figure out what Odo's shapeshifted into this time, what disguise he's using to spy on them, but it's beginning to dawn on me that maybe he's not here. Odo told Quark he was watching him, he told Kajada he was watching him... in fact multiple security officers have been getting in his face about Quark this episode and he was outraged they doubted his competence to the point where he tried to quit his job!

And now we get the punchline: HE HASN'T BEEN WATCHING QUARK.

All he had to do was follow him and he'd have been led right to Vantika. Then he'd have seen that the character possessed by Vantika is...

Dr. Julian Bashir. Well that hasn't really been a mystery since Dax figured out the fingernail trick, but it's nice to have it confirmed.


ACT FIVE.


Odo's really on a roll today, as Vantika's just stolen a runabout right under his nose with Quark's help, and it's the Rio Grande! All three runabouts are absolutely identical, but that's totally the best one. Meanwhile Primmin went and followed his own initiative and discovered another hacking device attached to the computer which Odo never thought to look for.

Vantika takes the Rio Grande over to the very Star Wars looking deuridium freighter as it comes in to dock at the station and decides to invite himself aboard.

Wow, that's a surprisingly nice looking bridge set. Looks like they put it together with pieces of the Excelsior bridge from Star Trek VI maybe. Shame they couldn't find any taller chairs though, or at least a couple of seat cushions; that poor guy can barely see over the top of his console.

Suddenly the merc squad beams aboard, armed with a... well it looks like a Star Trek III phaser that shoots purple rays and lightning.

It didn't vaporise him, but it looked like it hurt. They've got some proper practical impact effects going on this episode and the sparks are amazing.

Vantika takes command of the freighter, and the deuridium, while his merc sidekick gets to sit behind the tall console. They could've tilted the thing at least. Funny thing is, Vantika doesn't even need the deuridium any more, as he's taken a human body. Still, it's worth a fortune, and funding life-extending research isn't cheap!

But. For. Whatever. Reason. Siddig. El. Fadil. Is. Now. Portraying. Vantika. As. Someone. Who. Likes. To. Talk. Very. Slowly. And it's not really working for him. I wouldn't say he's a bad actor but this is the least convincing performance I've seen from... well basically anyone on the series so far.

Vantika's plan was to disable the station's tractor beam and simply fly away, so he's a bit annoyed when he learns that his tractor beam sabotage was discovered by the heroic and competent Lt. Primmin. But he's got a plan B: put a gun to his own head, metaphorically speaking. He tells Sisko that if he doesn't deactivate the tractor beam and let him go, he'll blow the ship up and kill Bashir. Coming from a man who's defining characteristic is his absolute refusal to die, that certainly seems like a threat worth taking seriously.

So Sisko stalls for time while Dax solves the crisis with technobabble! They pull a variation on Kirk's Star Trek II prefix code trick, by pretending they're the pressing buttons that shut the tractor beam down when actually they're sending a pulse through it to shut Vantika down.

The pulse temporarily disrupts Vantika's hold over Bashir, giving the doctor a chance to turn the shields off, which then gives the crew a chance to beam him to Ops.

But Sisko's not taking any more chances, and he decides it'd be best to put Vantika out for a while with a phaser on stun. Hope he didn't hit his head too hard there.

It's already entertaining enough to watch Bashir's dance, but this scene would've been so much better if he'd shown no signs of being possessed after beaming back, and Sisko still shot him anyway. I mean he's got a lunatic murderer in his head and he's armed, this is not a situation where you take unnecessary risks.

Later Dax uses the transporter to beam the Vantika right out of the doctor's head, which sounds kinda dangerous. But it's reassuring to know that the have technology that can detect alien possession and be absolutely certain they've removed it.

Then Kajada takes her phaser out and straight up executes the container of evil glial cells, leaving Bashir to deal with the scorch mark on his desk while she heads off to find something else to obsess about for the next decade or two. And everyone lived happily ever after.


CONCLUSION

The Passenger is the second episode in a row where someone manages to kidnap a senior officer, bypasses security to take them to a docked ship, then comes very close to getting away with it because they had the forethought to sabotage the tractor beam in advance. This crew really is hopeless without O'Brien around. That guy needs to come back from visiting Keiko's family or filming a movie or whatever he's doing already. I mean I like Lt. Primmin and I hope he sticks around a while, but he's no substitute for the Chief.

He seems like a good replacement for Odo though, who was conspicuously useless all episode. He had two other security officers on board trying to steer him on the right path, and he was indignant about their interference. Then when it turns out they were both entirely correct, it doesn't lead to any consequences or character growth for him, it just gives him a new respect for Primmin. You know, now that I think about it, I'm not sure Odo ever figures out that Quark was working with Vantika.

I can't judge the mystery myself though as I've seen the episode before and I already knew Bashir was possessed, but I've been assured that it isn't hard to figure out (especially if you've seen The Search for Spock.) I'm really done with stories about Odo and Bashir investigating a murderer who faked his death using a sci-fi trope now though, let's never do that again. Leave it for CSI: Bajor.

Speaking of things that should never happen again, maybe it'd be best if Siddig El Fadil doesn't play Bashir possessed by a villain any more. The man looked like he was suffering. Though I've heard that part of the reason for that is that they got him to dub a more normal voice over his original performance, so he had to talk unnaturally slowly to match the words up with his lips. Makes me wonder what the original voice he used sounded like, if this was considered an improvement.

Overall the episode's not torture to watch, but it's the definition of skippable and the series as a whole would be untarnished if it suddenly vanished overnight. Though the good Odo and Quark scene comes early so you can watch the start of it for that and then turn the episode off.


Deep Space Nine will return with Move Along Home.  But next on Sci-Fi Adventures, I'll be watching Babylon 5 episode Deathwalker. Hopefully it's better than its name.

If you have any opinions or thoughts to share about this episode or the screencaps and words you have just experienced then please go ahead and share them. Use the comment box below, that's basically what it's there for!

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