Following a medical emergency, Dr. Bashir and Major Kira are en route back to the station when they detect a vessel in distress. Beaming over, they discover that the ship was being used by Kajada (Caitlin Brown), a security officer, to transport Vantika, a criminal genius who has successfully faked his own death repeatedly.
When Vantika dies in front of Dr. Bashir, Kajada is certain that he is faking his death again. Bashir is equally certain that there is no possible way that the criminal could have lived. With a sensitive shipment, which had been the criminal's target prior to his death, passing through the station, Sisko decides to operate on the assumption that Kajada is right.
That's when Dax comes up with a startling theory about the true nature of Vantika's death...
Commander Sisko: Probably the most refreshing thing about Sisko, compared to other Trek spinoff captains, is that he is willing to bend the rules a bit to make things work. "You don't have to forget your training," he tells the security man brought in by Starfleet, "You just don't shove it in anybody's face."
Dax: Though she clearly enjoys the male attention that her current form earns her, she largely prefers to spend her time alone. She does show some fondness toward Dr. Bashir. She is clearly worried about him when he disappears near the end of the episode, and is equally clearly relieved when he ends up all right at the very end. I suspect that, had the show had a Worf-free future, it is very likely the Dax/Bashir flirtation of Season One would have been further developed.
Odo: The shipment sees a Starfleet security officer coming in, which Odo sees as a threat to his authority. Even after the Starfleet man apologizes for his brusque entry, Odo still bristles at the man's every question and statement, and even threatens to resign if his control of security is questioned. That doesn't stop Odo from promptly acknowledging when the other man's actions help to save the day.
Dr. Bashir: The teaser shows us that he is not only confident of his own abilities, but downright arrogant about them. It was inevitable that his initial arrogance was setting up a fall for him, and sure enough he ends the episode "humiliated." A pity - Siddig plays the arrogance quite well, resulting in the first genuinely funny "Bashir comic relief" scene of possibly the entire series, and it might have been interesting to have maintained an essentially likable, but overtly arrogant, regular.
One major nit-pick: Did the writers of this episode really have to repeat the urban legend that humans only use a small portion of the brain? Even in the 1990's, hadn't that myth been thoroughly enough debunked for it to have registered on somebody's radar? OK, it's a very little thing. But it annoyed me massively, and it makes Bashir - a brilliant doctor who one supposes knows a heck of a lot about the workings of the brain - look like an idiot when he invokes it.
The episode itself is not a bad one, but falls a fair bit short of the series' average to date. The plot progression is just too predictable. The episode sets up a "twist ending" which almost any viewer will see coming from a long way off. The episode's climax feels rushed and a bit contrived, and the episode just never quite engages the way it wants to.
Part of the problem is the guest character. Caitlin Brown was marvelous as Na'Toth on Babylon 5. Unfortunately, she isn't good here. The character is written in broad strokes, shrill and vehement in every scene that features her. The lack of variation makes her a one-note character, impossible to latch onto. Vantika, meanwhile, is a phantom, and as such has no character to care about one way or another.
It's still better than A Man Alone (to date, the worst DS9 episode); and as with that episode, it seems evident that subpar DS9 is far preferable to subpar Next Generation or Enterprise. But this episode is still decidedly below par for a series that has maintained consistent high quality to date.
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