Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Captive Pursuit"

***

Air date: 2/1/1993
Teleplay by Jill Sherman Donner and Michael Piller
Story by Jill Sherman Donner
Directed by Corey Allen

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

When the first visitor from the Gamma Quadrant comes through the wormhole, O'Brien befriends the mysterious alien (Scott MacDonald), known only as Tosk. Some of the crew suspects Tosk's unclear motives, especially when Odo catches him trying to access the weapons locker. But when another ship comes looking for Tosk, it's revealed that he is the prey in a highly honored cultural hunt—much to the ire of Commander Sisko, but presented as an issue that's treated fairly by the script.

While the episode has its origins in the action-adventure genre, much of what makes it a winner is the infectious friendship evident in the scenes between Tosk and O'Brien. MacDonald's portrayal of Tosk, while not the best in line delivery, exhibits body language that conveys his sense of wonder at the Alpha Quadrant. Colm Meaney turns in an amiable performance in his first vehicle on DS9. The alien hunters, unfortunately, aren't very compelling (and their costumes are quite hokey), but Tosk is a success because of the good makeup design and, more important, his appropriate interaction with his situation. O'Brien's decision to ignore Sisko and the Prime Directive in order to "change the rules" of the hunt and help Tosk escape is a noble act that rings true. Sisko's way of letting O'Brien help Tosk—and then calling O'Brien in for a chew-out as the job demands after the fact—is also quite gratifying. Overall, it's not an inspired concept, but it's nicely conveyed and characterized.

Previous episode: Babel
Next episode: Q-Less

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16 comments on this review

Jay - Sun, Nov 6, 2011 - 11:23am (USA Central)
Okay...the hunter aliens in "Captive Pursuit" seem pretty powerful, their technology making short order of the DS9 crew. Were they Dominion members? If so, you'd think we'd see them again. If not, you;d think the Federation would have sought alliance with them against the Dominion.

That's the trouble with these stories...powerful aliens are introduced and then ignored.
Paul York - Mon, Jun 4, 2012 - 9:40pm (USA Central)
I like the allusion to the moral evolution of humanity beyond hunting "lower animals" for sport, and also the obvious moral disgust that Sisko has for this apparent act of slavery -- given that his ancestors were probably slaves a thousand years previous. The moral dilemmas that come up when different species inter-mix is the best part of ST, I think. Sisko's and O'Brien's sidestepping of the prime directive was good; the PM is stupid and wrong and should be ignored. It is not a "very correct philosophy" as Picard says at one point; it is a very wrong-headed philosophy.
Paul York - Mon, Jun 4, 2012 - 10:53pm (USA Central)
The Hirogen and the Tosk should meet -- they were made for one another: hunger and prey. Another comparison: the Tosk, like the Jem Hadar seem to be engineered for combat -- apparently a 24th century thing.

Someone should write a show with a "magnificent 7" lineup of a hirogen, a Klingon, a Tosk, a Jem Hadar, a Nossican, and human soldier, and a Ferengi for comic relief.
William - Tue, Jul 24, 2012 - 10:49pm (USA Central)
I'm making my way through DS9 from the start and really enjoy it -- and your reviews.

This episode always stuck with me. It's not great, but pretty good. I'm sorry Tosk or some other Tosk didn't come back.

You always were left to wonder how these first Gamma Quadrant aliens fit in with the Dominion. There must have been regions of the Gamma Q not under their influence.
Van_Patten - Sun, Aug 5, 2012 - 7:58am (USA Central)
Another classic concept -'Aliens arrive and aren't what they appear to be, and then a crew member befriends one of them and goes against his creates to save them' - been a staple of drama and SF in particular for years.- Again the startling difference between TNG season 1 and this is once more execution. Scott Macdonald had appeared in TNG ( 'Face of the Enemy') and would go on to appear in Voyager and Enterprise also. He's good here as the Alien whose interesting ability (self-camouflage) hides his true nature, effectively a beast bred to be hunted. There's great rapport between him and the excellent (again) Colm Meaney who follows up his hitherto strong performances in the Pilot and 'Babel' with another competent display here.

What lets the episode down, for me, is the villains of the piece (ostensibly), The Hunters - Gerrit Graham's an underrated actor, but their dialogue makes them one-dimensional - also, given Sisko's flagrant defiance of them, there seems no repercussions in later episodes (although I grant that's most likely due to the fact this is designed as a standalone premise)

That said, this is another commendable effort - The sisko/O'Brien scene at the end is powerful, and the concept,although not exactly earth -shattering plays out well. Another good effort, meriting 3 stars....
Shawn Davis - Mon, Aug 20, 2012 - 11:48pm (USA Central)
I know I'm responding to someone's post that is about a year old, but in response to Jay's post, from what I read on the memory alpha website, the writers originally tried to set up a story where the Hunter aliens use to be breed for the dominion but the dominion discarded them and breed the Jem'hadar instead, but they abandoned the idea. Read more on it on the memory alpha star trek site.
Cail Corishev - Tue, Sep 11, 2012 - 8:48pm (USA Central)
This one feels like a TNG episode to me: an Alien of the Week from a one-dimensional society with some weird, unsustainable custom. Chief makes it better than typical, with some help from Tosk.

I'm not sure there is a bad Chief-centric episode, now that I think about it.
grumpy_otter - Sun, Apr 7, 2013 - 9:11pm (USA Central)
It's a simple premise, but I was captivated throughout. Like O'Brien, I liked Tosk and as his nature was revealed I was rooting for him. I wonder if old Tosk ever get to retire? But maybe that wouldn't be satisfying for them.

But what is bothering me after five episodes is how blase everyone is about the wormhole. That's the GAMMA quadrant! This is the first new species to come through! I cannot believe everyone on the station wasn't lining up to meet Tosk. I was fascinated by him and I know it's fiction--if it were real, wouldn't people be a bit more awe-struck?

I also find it surprising that people aren't just itching to jump on ships and get out there. I understand that transports have gone through apparently, but it didn't sound that important. Shouldn't a major exploration fleet be going?

Still loving it, but I am afraid I may have to skip reading others' comments for now--too many spoilers about future events. I've heard of the Dominion, but I don't want to know more yet!

T'Paul - Sat, Jun 29, 2013 - 5:24pm (USA Central)
O'Brien should be the official Federation first contact guy! No patronising, no sermons, only trying to understand Tosk on his own terms and on whatever common ground they have.
azcats - Thu, Sep 5, 2013 - 3:17pm (USA Central)
O'brien is definitely the best character on DS9. i am not sure there is a bad o'brien character show.

t'paul...you are right
.

and grumpy otter...good point. the wormhole shoudl still be fascinating.. there should be hoards of ships from all the major species looking for resources and other contacts!
Snitch - Fri, Oct 4, 2013 - 7:23pm (USA Central)
I liked the episode, it is O'Brien centric, which usually works.

The Tosk was interesting, but the sergeant neon sign guys were a bit tacky and overpowered.

O'Brien's humanity makes it very Trekky.

3 Stars from me.
Kotas - Tue, Oct 22, 2013 - 1:40pm (USA Central)

Interesting episode. Reminiscent of TNG.

7/10
Nissa - Wed, Jan 22, 2014 - 11:24pm (USA Central)
Um, I actually found this episode really boring. There was nothing particularly interesting about it. Just some Trek cliches here and there. Colm Meaney is amazing though.
Latex Zebra - Thu, Jan 23, 2014 - 7:14am (USA Central)
Such a great exhange at the end with Sisko and O'Brien. I still crack up as this now...

SISKO: Just what did happen at that security checkpoint, Chief...

O'BRIEN: The weapons' sensors must have overloaded on all his various gear, sir.

SISKO: "Must have"?

O'BRIEN: Yessir. They must have... since... I increased their output by about two hundred percent...


Always loved this episode. Nice that they reference back to this subtely when the Jem'Haddar are introduced. 3.5/4 from me.
Yanks - Wed, Jun 18, 2014 - 1:50pm (USA Central)
Don't forget this part Latex Zebra!!

SISKO: Save it. You ignored your duty to Starfleet. You took off your comm. badge so you could ignore me. You even ignored the Prime Directive by interfering with their damned hunt. Another stunt like this and your wife won't have to complain about the conditions here anymore. Do I make myself clear?
O'BRIEN: I understand. I was surprised by one thing, sir.
SISKO: What's that?
O'BRIEN: I knew I couldn't override all the security seals on the station, and I figured once you and the Constable located us, well, it'd be over. We'd find ourselves locked behind some forcefield somewhere.
SISKO: I guess that one got by us.
O'BRIEN: Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.
SISKO: Dismissed.

One thing I liked about Sisko... he's break the rules and did it in such a way that no one got in trouble.

I thought it was great when Sisko told Odo "Constable. There's no hurry"... and Odo took his good ole time getting to the turbo lift ... lol

I really enjoyed this episode. Love the "Tron like" hunters, love Tosk and thought Obrien and everyone else was fantastic.

Die with honour!!

4 stars for me.
Elliott - Fri, Jul 25, 2014 - 4:05pm (USA Central)
Teaser : ***.5 , 5%

Something's coming through the wormhole! Finally!
Dax : "It doesn't match anything in Starfleet files." Really? How odd that a vessel from 70K lightyears away would not be in your files. The NSA must have stolen them. The score's a little better than usual during this scene, it helps add to the feeling of discovery and urgency, two desperately needed feelings on the series so far. I realise that Sisko thinks O'Brien would be less intimidating to Tosk than a formal greeting party, but what if he were dangerous? No security for poor Miles? So far, this is the best teaser since the pilot.

Act 1 : ***.5, 17%

Seems like Meaney gets all the scenes where he's talking to thin air. Hooray for good actors! There's a classic sci-fi trick of nominal ambiguity in Tosk's self-designation. It's an interesting little insight into his psychology. The majority of this act is just O'Brien and Tosk chatting. Thankfully they're both portrayed amiably and with an understated thoughtfulness. No forced smiles, not awkward laughs, no wasted steps. It feels more natural and artful than nearly any other dialogue we've seen on the series. Unfortunately, it seems like Tosk is up to no good, however, as he searches the station's plans for weapons storage, thus making the ominous music cue justified for once.

Act 2 : *** , 17%

Things continue to be paced better and more naturally, but I am curious if Sisko has even advised Starfleet that they just met a new race. I mean, first contact is a big deal isn't it? It brings up the question as to whether anyone on DS9 or in Starfleet is trying to contact the Wormhole Aliens. We could have had a DS9-Cmdr Maddox whose curiosity about these new creatures led to a conflict with Sisko. Are they really just like, "okay, so our only means of accessing this remote part of space requires travelling through the territory of non-linear beings who can enter our thoughts and physically control the wormhole. I'm sure that doesn't need a followup."?

DS9's setting requires a lot of extras doing group-acting ("Dabbo!"). For budgetary reasons, this often leads to distracting little bits in the background. Ostensibly, all these extra people are supposed to differentiate DS9 from a starship, with its function-centric corridors and clean rooms, but the fact that so many of these extras perform so poorly ends up making the environment feel *more* artificial sometimes. Just a note. The same thing happened in Ten Forward.

Next good choice, adding Quark into the mix. Horray for good actors! I do think drinking beer out of coffee mugs is kind of idiotic, however. Was this a censor issue? Next good choice, cutting Bashir off mid-sentence!

One gripe is that Sisko still hasn't bothered to introduce himself to this new alien species. I realise he was trying to earn Tosk's trust by letting O'Brien deal with him, but doesn't Sisko have an obligation as a Federation commander to make a legitimate first contact? And now it seems he'd be willing to let Tosk leave without even meeting him!

Tosk is caught meddling with Station security and taken to Odo's office for questioning. Here's another good choice; O'Brien earlier remarked that he found Tosk's naïveté charming and disarming, and here we see that in action (this is in contrast to just telling us he's naïve, or worse, showing us and THEN telling us he's naïve).

Act 3 : **.5, 17%

Well, good job putting off meeting this guy, Sisko, because now first contact is happening in prison. And now you want to "hold him till someone shows up looking for him"? You should get a promotion!

"Allow me to die with honour." Oh no, he's a Klingon in disguise!

Unfortunately, the plot starts to take a dive here. The other Gamma Quadrant ship emerges and starts shooting the station. The results are identical to what goes on on Starships, things shake, no one fires weapons, shields down, "I've never seen this before." It's a gigantic space station against a tiny vessel. Anyone who claims DS9 didn't pull Trek clichés is delusional.

Act 4 : ****, 17%

So, we get this goofy little fire fight (also, why would hitting a Changeling injure him?) between the crew and Tron. And it turns out Tosk is designated prey in a "noble and honourable hunt." It's a little predictable, but a worthwhile bit of Trekkiness. It reminds me of a cross between TNG's "Suddenly Human" and "The Perfect Mate"; Tosk is bound by his conditioning (conditioning which, by any human standards is nothing less than barbaric), but to deny him the fulfilment of his conditioned purpose would be to rob him of everything he has ever cared about.

We get a moving little scene where Tosk refuses to request asylum from the Federation. Whatever injustice was done to Tosk is impossible to rectify. He's already bound to his fate. Either he dies unjustly with his socially-conditioned honour in tact, or not. Those are his only options. He cannot be saved. O'Brien doesn't plead with him, but silently walks away.

Act 5 : *.5, 17%

....So O'Brien tricks Odo by playing on his Starfleet resentment. Okay, good. Then Odo just leaves Tosk, his hunter and O'Brien alone with no other security monitoring. Wow. So O'Brien breaks Tosk free (violating orders and getting at least one of the aliens killed).

And here we go off the rails...we were doing so well, too. SIsko tells Odo not to hurry, other SF officers watch O'Brien go by and say nothing. No security alert. I realise that Sisko doesn't approve of the Hunt (nor should he), but you can't have it both ways. Either you're sticking to your oath or your principals. True, there are times when regulations need to be broken (see "The Drumhead"), but you don't get to hide behind a presumed morality like the Q. So what is Sisko's report to Starfleet going to say? "I tried to stop him, really." That's just a lie. He's a liar.

The fact is, the hunters are as socially-conditioned as Tosk himself. They may not deserve as much sympathy as the prey, but they aren't "bad guys," they're following their conditioning. They deserve pity just like Tosk.

So Sisko throws the riot act at O'Brien because of course he realised he fucked up royally in his Starfleet duty. Then has the audacity to smile, pleased with himself for helping O'Brien along. But I guess these guys just know that they're right. No moral ambiguity. Helping Tosk escape, violating their own laws and potentially igniting contact with a new species--all okay. But I'm sure there will be consequences...

Episode as Functionary : **.5, 10%

It's a good character piece for O'Brien. I'm not against his having a personal ethical code which overrides his duty, but there should be consequences to this behaviour right? Sisko dubious moral code is further flushed out. When Kirk, Picard or Janeway violated the letter of the law, they OWNED it. They decided to face the music and live with their choices because they thought they were right. Sisko plays this little game where he pretends to try and stop O'Brien so he can falsify his report to Starfleet. What a coward. And talk about a reset button! In spite of these issues, it's a more engaging watch than any of the previous episodes. Credit to better pacing, acting and dialogue along with a score that's at least an interesting shade of wallpaper instead of the usual beige.

Final Score : ***

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