Bashir tries to save a prisoner who has been killing others to prolong his own life.
Plot Summary: Kira and Bashir go to aid a Kobliad ship in distress but are warned by an officer named Kajada not to try to help the prisoner in the brig. Bashir insists on administering aid to the prisoner, Rao Vantika, though Kajada tells him that Vantika is responsible for the fire on the ship and that he has faked his death to escape before. Though the prisoner dies after trying to strange Bashir and is taken to Deep Space Nine’s morgue, Kajada insists that he will return to try to steal the shipment of deuridium that will soon arrive at the station. Security officer Primmin has been sent by Starfleet to guard the deuridium and he feels that Odo’s preparations are insufficient. It soon becomes obvious that there has been a security breach, but on a massive scale affecting the station’s entire computer memory. Kajada identifies this as Vantika’s work. Meanwhile, Quark is attacked by Vantika while making preparations to steal the deuridium for a private buyer. Bashir insists that Vantika is truly dead, though Dax suspects that Vantika has used new technology to transfer his consciousness into another body. She suspects Kajada, but the Kobliad is soon attacked and incapacitated. When Quark and his accomplices go to take the deuridium, they are shocked to be greeted by Vantika in the body of Bashir. Primmin discovers that the station’s defenses have been sabotaged via the waste reclamation units, allowing Sisko to prevent Bashir from escaping with the deuridium long enough for Dax to send an electromagnetic pulse that enables Bashir to regain control of his body. Back on the station, Vantika’s consciousness is extracted from Bashir and destroyed by Kajada.
Analysis: Deep Space Nine produced a number of terrific mystery episodes during its seven-year run, but “The Passenger” is not one of them. It doesn’t help that superficially it resembles a previous first-season episode, “A Man Alone,” in that it concerns an alien who has faked his own death and that it focuses on Odo and his position as an outsider among Starfleet officers. It also doesn’t help that Odo ends up looking much less competent in “The Passenger” than in previous episodes. If the point is to show us that he’s learning to be a team player, couldn’t that be demonstrated without a snotty Starfleet officer who thinks all along that Odo’s in over his head making the crucial discovery that saves Bashir and the station? It also doesn’t help that Quark, who’s been shown previously to be slightly on the wrong side of the law but not engaged in anything truly dangerous to the Federation, is revealed to be a big-time gangster planning to steal material Starfleet considers so important that special security has been dispatched to protect it. It’s always seemed amusing before when people picked on Odo for his casual chats with Quark, but here, Odo really does seem out of his depth, and he’s not getting the kind of backup from Kira and Dax that he’s had before, though Sisko defends him strongly to the hard-to-like Primmin.
I know that the writers intended all along for Deep Space Nine to be a grittier, more realistic show than the previous Star Trek episodes, but right about here I could forgive any viewer for thinking they’ve gone out of their way to emphasize the flaws of the main characters over the strengths that got them into their current positions. Though Odo is proud of not sharing human bonding rituals, he’s the most temperamental character on the show – he’s ready to resign over a single misunderstanding about his authority over a Starfleet officer – and we already know that Kira has a temper, that Dax has the memories of a drunken womanizer, that Bashir is awfully full of himself, that Sisko isn’t even sure he wants to be there. No one comes off looking particularly heroic or even clever in “The Passenger” except perhaps for Kajada, and whatever warm feelings we’ve built up for her by the end of the episode are blown up, at least for me, when she blasts the disc with Vantika’s consciousness. Maybe she has both the authority and the mandate to do so after her long hunt for him, but that’s not made clear; what is made clear is that, although she was initially transporting him presumably for trial and incarceration despite what she knew were grave risks, she now chooses summary judgment and execution. It’s hard to tell whether Sisko looks appalled or admiring of this.
Dax comes off looking best of the series regulars, but her scientific genius first in figuring out that Vantika has transferred his consciousness and then in setting up a means for Bashir to regain control over his body gets cloaked in so much technobabble that I can’t begin to summarize either how Vantika took over Bashir’s brain or why an electromagnetic pulse shot at a spaceship interfered with the possession. It was more fun when Spock simply stuck his katra in McCoy without any explanation; sometimes a scientific revelation energizes a story, but in this case all the jargon slows down the pace. “The Passenger” would have done well to incorporate B plot, maybe something witty about how Quark recruited his accomplices and how he too is often in over his head – a common theme for nearly everyone, since the episode starts with Bashir bragging about his talents and Odo insisting he doesn’t need any help from Starfleet. Apart from expecting a dead man to stay dead, Quark’s only real mistake in the episode is thinking that Dax might be romantically interested in him. We get handed some red herrings – when Odo tells Kajada that computer access is restricted to himself, Primmin, Sisko, and Kira, it sure seems to me like we’re supposed to suspect the red-shirt in that bunch – but we don’t really get any sly hints of Bashir’s brain takeover until he starts stealing runabouts and killing people. It would be nice to see him growing up and learning from his experiences instead of getting banged around and waking up the same person for so long.