I found the implications of this episode deeply disturbing, and not just because it’s another Bashir episode. Don’t get me wrong, Bashir eventually becomes a likeable character, but he’s still very much the condescending jerk in The Passenger. The episode starts on one of the runabouts, on a return trip from some conference. Kira suffers from Bashir’s tremendous ego about his medical expertise. Soon, they encounter a ship in distress, to which they beam aboard to give assistance.
Here, we get the best scene in the episode, as a dying prisoner grips Bashir by the throat, demanding that he be saved.
There are some decent plot misdirections in the episode. Once we discover that Vantika transferred his consciousness to a new host, we are left guessing as to who. Possible suspects include the new Starfleet security officer, Primmin, the Kobliad security officer Kajada, and finally, our man Bashir. While the clue was of course in the opening scene, it’s interesting to look at some of the reasons the other characters were likely candidates.
First, Kajada could have been Vantika all along, before Bashir and Kira rescued her. With the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde split personality in place, the idea of a security officer fighting to find a hidden personality would be interesting. She would have become the thing she hates the most. This could have turned out to be a more interesting twist, but it doesn’t offer as much character development for Bashir.
The other main candidate would be Primmin. As a new crew member, and a Starfleet security officer to boot. Just give him a red shirt and he’s toast. Wisely, the writers avoid this route, and instead use Primmin as a foil for Odo.
This episode introduced a new Starfleet security officer, Lieutenant Primmin, supposedly to oversee the security details of some important cargo shipments. This of course adds tension in Odo’s role as the chief of security on the station. Primmin comes across as a close minded, by the books security officer. He’s not well adapted to running security on a space station, where the free flow of trade is essential. He’s openly dismissive of Odo, as a non-Starfleet local. While his opinion changes over the episode, Primmin doesn’t really endear himself to the viewers.
Handling interpersonal conflicts is an important part of team building, which is based on good, open communication. There is little evidence that Primmin is ready for any kind of command role, as he lacks understanding and empathy with “outsiders”.
How do you best inject a new character into a television show? I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t use this as an example.
The question of motive
One major issue I have with the plot is that of motive. Kajada explains that Vantika was attempting to steal a shipment of some special ore used to prolong life among the Kobliad. This motivation seems to fall apart once Vantika’s consciousness has been transferred. If it can’t directly prolong his life, why is he still trying to hijack the shipment? It doesn’t really speak very well of someone who has cheated death so many times.
Although I must say, Bashir’s ego does seem to suit Vantika. It’s probably best not to read too much into this though. While he looks much more dangerous like this, his speech patterns are.. how shall we say? Reminiscent of Shatner.
A most disturbing act
However, the biggest shock of this episode is in the final scene. When Kajada receives custody of the prisoner–now a collection of information on a Petri dish–she draws a weapon and disintegrates it in front of Sisko, Dax, and Bashir. While Sisko appears somewhat disturbed by this, Dax and Bashir remain expressionless.
While Vantika’s biological body died at the beginning of the episode, there has been substantial evidence throughout the episode that his consciousness remains alive in this status chamber. Should we not then consider this the cold-blooded murder of a prisoner in custody? That the only reaction is a relatively minor reaction from Sisko is perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the episode, especially when we consider Dax’s situation.
As a joined Trill, Dax has relevant experience: after the biological death of the host, the memories and experiences are transferred at the next Trill joining. While in the case of Trills, this is a symbiotic joining, while with Bashir and Vantika, we see a very forceful control being exerted.
In the end, I’m not sure what is more concerning: that the main cast doesn’t see this action as an issue, or that the writers themselves didn’t consider this worth discussing further, especially as so much time in TNG was spent determining whether Data was an autonomous being worthy of rights and freedoms, or whether he was merely “property”.
The Passenger first aired February 21, 1993. Teleplay by Morgan Gendel, Robert Hewitt Wolfe, and Michael Piller. Story by Morgan Gendel. Directed by Paul Lynch.