Episode 08: The Passenger
Before we begin, I would like to start with a rant.
Dear Star Trek Writers:
We use all of our brains. Every last bit. If you are talking about the ability to think abstractly, you’re right. That job is the job of the cerebral cortex, which is only a section of the brain. But all the other bits of the brain? They have jobs, too. Like giving you the ability to breathe and blink.
I know it doesn’t sound like an impressive job (although, I, personally, think the autonomic nervous system is a very impressive thing), but just try losing the ability to breathe and blink.
Now that you’ve thought about it, I’m sure that you will agree that the brain is a very, very busy beaver in which all parts are in use.
Get a basic anatomy and physiology book like the kind they give out in high school and crack the spine just once so you can look at the chapter on the brain. Kthanxbi.
Now that I’ve got that I’ve aired the peevest of my peeves, what can I say about this episode?
No, really, what can I say?
It’s really that boring and that bad. Eyerollingly bad. Technobabbly bad. Acting bad. What-were-they-smoking bad. Bad in that special way that only bad Star Trek can be.
Okay, it’s not ‘Spock’s Brain’ bad, but Lordie it’s not good.
I think the writers were kind of going for a SF-based ghost story, but seriously missed the mark. It’s sad. DS9’s particular specialty was ghost stories — and those ghost stories seemed to be unfailingly effective and haunting. This first toe-in-the water in DS9’s version of the ghost story genre, however, is an absolute flop.
The upshot: Kira and Dr. Bashir answer a distress call from a freighter transporting a rather infamous serial killer of the Dr. Mengele kind. They’re too late to save the killer, but they do save the security officer who spent most of her life chasing Dr. Mengele-lite. Even though the dude is dead, our high-strung security officer demands that the Deep Space Nine crew check, and re-check, and re-check again that the prisoner is dead. Apparently this guy has a talent for not dying and coming back like a bad penny, so she wants to be sure.
Despite all the crew’s assurances that he’s dead, however, the security officer absolutely refuses to take their word for it.
Her argument is bolstered when things start happening around the station that bears our serial killer’s signature. It doesn’t take too much brain power to figure out what the serial killer, or a damn good copycat, is after: a shipment of a rare ore that’s bound for the serial killer’s homeworld. Think of it like spice from Dune. If you got it, you get to live. If you don’t, you die a slow, painful death of cellular degeneration.
Using too much technobable than should be legal, Dax figures out that our serial killer has possessed someone and is using their body to do the dirty work without their knowledge. Of course, this possession is done in a technobabbly way using some kind of computer chip to implant a program that mimics the serial killer’s personality. Not that I, personally, can see why it does the serial killer any good. I mean, the serial killer is still dead, right? So programming someone else’s brain to do the dirty work really isn’t going to benefit serial killer dude at all.
But I digress.
In any case, by the time it’s all over, you find out that obsessed security officer was correct, Bashir drew the short straw and was the one possessed, the crew manages to stop the ore shipment from being hijacked (barely), and the program is removed from Bashir’s brain using yet more technobabble that makes even less sense than the technobable used to describe how he got possessed to begin with, and everyone lives happily ever after.
There’s just a lot of bad here, I’m afraid. Incomprehensible plot. Incomprehensible technobable. And medical babble that even I know is wrong.
And the acting doesn’t help. Julie Caitlin Brown (a.k.a. Na’Toth on B5) as the obsessed security officer is so wooden that I thought someone had stuck a stick up her butt. Alexander Siddig (who’s still being credited as Siddig El Fadil at this point in DS9’s run) momentarily forgets that he inherited his acting gene from his mother’s side of the family (his uncle is Malcolm McDowell) and does an uncharacteristically terrible acting job as the possessed Bashir.
Still, there’s always something you can salvage if you look hard enough, and there are some salvageable points:
- A little meta for your enjoyment. In the opening teaser, Bashir once more manages to irritate Kira just by being his clueless, socially retarded self. I still shake my head that the actors playing these characters ended up having a kid together and getting married (in that order) during the run of the show. They, ummm, divorced in 2001.
- Odo and Federation Security clashes in an impressive way. It’s not played as if one side is wrong, and the other side is right. It’s not played like one side is dumb, and the other side is smart. It’s played exactly for what it is: a fundamental culture clash between what is essentially civilian security and military security.
- Sisko’s sharp reminder to our guest Federation Security man that the Federation is on the station only because the Provisional Government has asked the Federation to administer it while the Bajorans get busy rebuilding their planet. In short, the Federation are guests. What that means is that Starfleet can’t go stomping around the station in their size elevens and bossing the local security people around.
- Sisko again. This time his ability to soothe Odo’s ruffled feathers, while still reminding Odo that he’s being a little unrealistic in expecting the Federation not to have any Starfleet security personnel on the space station.
Personally, I think you could skip this episode and not really miss a thing.