Friday, September 16, 2011

Piggybacking On A "Done" Idea: "The Passenger"

The Good: Good acting, Fairly interesting plot, Good character
The Bad: Predictable if you pay attention or know the genre
The Basics: "The Passenger" is a pretty standard science fiction plot executed with good acting and a fair amount of character.

In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's first episode that focuses an A-plot on Julian Bashir, we find the young doctor bragging about a patient he saved and a genuinely amazed Kira doing her best to put up with him. Then, in the all important plot emergency, a damaged ship is detected and the pair goes over to try to save the crew. The episode is "The Passenger" and while Dr. Bashir has been portrayed up until this point as arrogant, childlike and unprofessional, here we are allowed to see him as a professional who has some genuine abilities.

On the alien ship, Kira and Bashir find a wounded security officer and her charge, a murderer names Vantika. Vantika dies, but Bashir is able to save Ty Kajada (the security guard). When Kajada awakens, she is paranoid and adamant that Vantika is not dead. It turns out that Vantika has a habit of cheating death and she is convinced he's managed to do it again. She's right, of course, and it's not much of a mystery, but it's fun to watch the way the episode unravels.

In a rather minor B-plot, Odo is given a StarFleet equal, an officer named Primmen. If you don't like him, don't worry, he shows up in at least one more episode, but not more than that. Odo and Primmen clash over the role of the Security Chief and where his jurisdiction (on Deep Space Nine) ends and where StarFleet's begins.

So, why watch this episode (I do recommend it, after all)? Certainly it's something new if you're not familiar with basic science fiction plots. And if you are, DS9 takes a rather standard science fiction plot and executes it fairly well. The idea, essentially, is that the dead are able to live on somehow and the question of the episode is how is this killer surviving death and where is he? The answer to the latter question is troublingly easy for those of us who are fans of science fiction. The seasoned television viewer will know where Vantika is even before we know what Vantika can do. It's that kind of failure of surprise that makes the episode troublesome.

But what redeems the episode is the answer to the first question. How Vantika is doing what he is doing is fairly clever and it's fun to watch Bashir investigating to discover the truth and the machinations behind the problem.

The highlight - outside a wonderful banter between Odo and Quark - is the acting of Siddig El Fadil, as Bashir. His acting in this episode, where he comes across as listless, bland and speaks in a monotone is truly excellent acting. Why? Because, the actor is nothing like that! Contrasting his earlier enthusiastic performances, Siddig El Fadil is forced to play Bashir as dark, bland and dead-eyed and that is a stark contrast to his other moments in the series.

The only severe problem in the episode is in the reasoning. At some point, accusations of who Vantika has taken over are thrown around, pointing pretty heavily toward Kajada. That's fine, because she is the obvious suspect. The problem is, no one ever asks aloud, "What about Kira?" Being that she was on the ship, too, it's bothersome no one thinks it could be her!

Very much a "bottle episode," not unpleasant for non-Trek or non-DS9 fans. Not recommended as the only, or first, DS9 episode you watch! Most of them are much more clever than this limited "possession" story.

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Complete First Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the first season by clicking here!


For other Star Trek episode reviews, please be sure to visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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