Friday, October 12, 2012

Deep Space Nine, Season 1: The Passenger

Deep Space Nine, Season 1
"The Passenger"
Airdate: February 21, 1993
8 of 174 produced
8 of 174 aired


A distress call from a fatally damaged ship introduces a difficult problem to the station. Rao Vantika, a mass murderer with a desire to survive that goes well beyond the norm, intends to transfer his mind into the body of someone else before he dies of his injuries. The only question is: who has been mentally hijacked, and can it be discovered before the rogue consciousness selfishly causes the deaths of untold millions?

You're saying this sort of... stiffness... is normal for corpses, Doctor?


Matthew: Having read my reviews for "Turnabout Intruder" and "The Schizoid Man," I'm sure avid Treknobabblers (not to mention Kevin) can anticipate a whole species of objections I have to this episode. Yet again, consciousness is treated as a disembodied "soul" of sorts that can be transferred willy-nilly to a different receptacle, with little or no explanation of the import of such a concept, whether societal or metaphysical. Of course, these problems didn't sink either of those previous shows, so I suppose this one should be evaluated on its other merits and flaws. On the plus side, we got a half-hearted explanation of "glial cells" and how, apparently, data in a brain could be overwritten with these cells. How this explains transferring the flavor of consciousness, and the battle of wills between two resident consciousnesses, is beyond me. On the minus side, we get the old completely inaccurate saw of how human(oid)s use only X% of their brain. Now, I love Andre Bormanis as much as the next guy (probably quite a bit more), but this is the sort of crap that a science staff needs to keep out of episodes. The human brain is not an oil barrel that is only filled to a certain level, while being completely empty and receptive to new data otherwise.

Kevin: I think they missed an opportunity to put a fresh spin on this very problem. What if Vantika has started with the best of intentions in trying to prolong the life of his people, but the transfers lost his "consciousness" creating only an amalgam of information and intent. Each subsequent transfer causes more degredation until we're left with essentially a computer program with one goal: to continue on. That could have make the villain more interesting and solved the problem of treating consciousness as portable.

Matthew: The Kobliad might have been interesting, if they had not been used to simply inject a bit of false drama (oh no, Alien X needs Substance Y, or else DEATH!!!) into the story. I think the dyad of criminal and investigator is much more interesting, and though it is developed to a point, it really isn't allowed to fully breathe here. Why? Because of the perceived need to find a story for an underutilized character, Dr. Bashir. I think this story would have been much better if Vantika had actually implanted his mind into the investigator, Kajada. Then, we could have gotten a deeper reflection on what it means to share a brain, and the Doctor could still have been front and center, uncovering the mystery (instead of Dax), and perhaps even having some kinky brain displaced sex with the sexy but conflicted alien.

Kevin: I liked Kajada herself, as I thought the actress really sold it. I think the character herself was underutilized. Given her drive to stop Vantika at any cost, particularly if she were sharing a brain with him, the nature of limits and whether the ends justify the means could have been an interesting exploration. And I agree, needing an arbitrary substance on an arbitrary time scale was bad when it was new, and it's not new anymore.

Matthew: The B plot here is the introduction of Lt. Primmin. As a viewer, I'm sure people wonder what is up. I know I did. I think it's too bad this character was dropped in favor of a future one for the turncoat storyline. But I don't mind it overall, even though we kind of had an episode already about Odo's untrustworthiness. It was written reasonably well, and didn't just portray either character as an intransigent straw man. I liked Quark's moral ambiguity yet again.

Kevin: I don't really have much to say here, except that neither the Primmin or eventual Eddington storylines do enough with the idea of two security officers with different philosophies. There's a good episode in there somewhere, they just never wrote it.


Matthew: Siddig El Fadil takes a step back in this episode, after acquitting himself well in "Dax." It was his enunciation. It just killed me. "Ray O. Vantika" kept.... talking.... very.... slowly.... as if this was equatable with villainy, or brain transference. How much better would it have been if Siddig could perhaps affect some sort of Kobliad accent, at a normal rate of speech? Ugh. It was easily apparent from the first that Bashir was the host, since his voice was easily distinguished despite the shadowy presentation.

Kevin: I don't know if it was direction or acting or what, because I think Siddig is a good actor overall, this was just a crap episode for him. Maybe a blending of personalities rather than an outright takeover could have been more interesting and helpful.

Matthew: On the other hand, I loved Julie Caitlin Brown as Ty Kajada (previously the sexy pirate in Gambit). In addition to just being really attractive, she played Kajada with a wonderful melancholy intensity. I really wish she had been given the job of portraying Vantika as well. I liked James Lashly as Primmin. He had a very policeman vibe. It's too bad they didn't stick with him.

Kevin: Totally agreed on Kajada. She really sold me on the urgency of her mission, which is always nice when we are dealing with an alien of the week.

Production Values

Matthew: DS9 has kind of settled into a bottle show routine. There are very few visual effects that aren't stock items. I feel like they're just sort of relying on admittedly complex and interesting sets as opposed to really stretching their budgets and creative staffs. There was a CG animation of the humanoid brain which was pretty OK. There was a transporter effect when the Vantika consciousness was extracted.

Kevin: Overall, I agree. I don't even think they are using the sets they have to their fullest advantage yet. Like the darkened bar scene with "Vantika" attacks Kejada and Quark, just read as so too dark to be real places with people in them. They'll get there, but they aren't there yet.

Matthew: As far as sets go, we got a look at a deuridium transport ship. Its bridge seemed like a clear redress of some set or other from the movies or TNG, probably the battle bridge. Some phaser effects punctuated the fight, and some ugly gray freighter uniforms rounded out the scene. I guess what I'm saying is that nothing here did anything to lift the proceedings above where the writing and acting placed them.

Kevin: I remember liking the interior of the Kobliad shuttle for some reason. I want to say the transport is a reuse of the Sutherland bridge from Redemption, but I don't know why precisely I think that. Anyway, nothing to write home about.


Matthew: I hate doing it, but this is a 2 for me. There were a few story problems, but mainly the acting dragged me out of this story. But even beyond that, this is a tale that's been told before in Trek, and to better effect. It's just very ho-hum, and I think slips below mediocrity because of it.

Kevin: There's an interesting, if oft used idea, and a pretty good guest actor, but that's about it. Nothing really energizes the episode, so, I agree with the 2 for a total of 4.

1 comment:

  1. This is the episode that proved to me that Siddig El Fadil (or whatever he wants his name to be) did not start out as a very good actor, but later became one.

    Later in the series, he's fantastic.

    Here, he's painful.

    But, hey. At least he learned!