Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"The Hunted"

**1/2

Air date: 1/8/1990
Written by Robin Bernheim
Directed by Cliff Bole

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

The Angosians, applying for Federation membership, invite the Enterprise crew to their world. The visit is cut short, however, when a dangerous prisoner escapes a high-security prison and attempts to flee the planet. After much effort (the prisoner is innovative and unyielding) the Enterprise stops the man, named Danar (Jeff McCarthy), and holds him in the brig. Danar says the Angosian government engineered him (and all the prisoners) to be perfect soldiers. With wartime over, they were all deemed dangerous and cast into these prisons to safeguard the rest of the population.

"The Hunted" has philosophical intentions. It asks questions like: Is it wrong to engineer people to be perfect killing machines to fight your wars, while hiding key facts from them? Is it wrong for the government to wash its hands of them after they are no longer needed to fight? Is imprisonment still imprisonment even if the facilities are comfortable? These are not particularly challenging questions, I'll grant. That's the problem; "The Hunted" is a little obvious.

The rest of the time, there's routine action on a TNG budget. Danar runs around the Enterprise causing hand phasers to overload and eluding Worf's security teams. Maybe Danar's really smart and strong, or maybe Worf's security teams are less than competent. You decide. I also did not understand how Danar escaped a transporter beam by causing an explosion from within it (without killing himself).

The episode ends with the typical TNG moralizing, where Picard gives a long-winded speech that is reasonable, yes, but talks down to the Angosians and, thus, us. The head of the government is played by James Cromwell as a bureaucrat who wants to close his eyes and pretend an obvious problem does not exist rather than trying to deal with it. There's a certain satisfaction in watching Picard wash his hands of a situation where the genie has been uncorked and now the Angosians must deal with the consequences. Frankly, they had it coming. But when you're reduced to laughing at a society for their wrongheaded mistakes, the story has become too simplistic.

Previous episode: The Defector
Next episode: The High Ground

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10 comments on this review

Elliott - Thu, Sep 15, 2011 - 11:44am (USA Central)
RE: "The Hunted" -- "Is it wrong to engineer people to be perfect killing machines to fight your wars, while hiding key facts from them? Is it wrong for the government to wash its hands of them after they are no longer needed to fight? Is imprisonment still imprisonment even if the facilities are comfortable?"

Wrong. These are not the questions the episode asks, they are the veneer which is apparently all you were able to glean. The real questions translate as follows :

Is the creation of a solider who is good at his job a sabotage of his identity? Where do soldiers fit in to society once the fighting stops and they've been traumatised beyond reproach? How exactly can a man be imprisoned? In jail, in a comfortable cell, in his own mind?

"What he didn't realise was that he would have to give up that way of life. For ever."--Troi

These are lingering, relevant and difficult questions. The episode is a thoughtful and mostly subtle exploration of those ideas. The ending is a little pat, I'll grant, bringing down the overall quality of the episode. The action scenes are necessary, though the execution is frequently laughable (not for the pyrotechnics, but for the stunting). It deserves at least 3 stars. I would probably say 3.5 on the low side.
Grumpy - Fri, Apr 5, 2013 - 5:04pm (USA Central)
The Angosians are introduced, in the person of the prime minister, as pompous, arrogant, and smug. Picard immediately comments, "They'll make a fine addition to the Federation." Unintentional humor or wry self-criticism?

Also, the teaser of this episode is one of the few times I ever recall Data commanding the Enterprise.
William B - Tue, May 21, 2013 - 10:49am (USA Central)
I have little to say about this one. As Elliott points out, the themes of this episode are very important. The bioengineering is mostly there as metaphor; for the real world equivalent of "creating a perfect soldier," think not genetic engineering but the training as represented in (e.g.) Full Metal Jacket, where in order to become perfect killing machines people are stripped of their individual identities and "reprogrammed" through intensive training. The split personality within Danar also hits many of the points associated with soldiers suffering from PTSD after the war is over (or even milder forms thereof), of one part of them never really leaving the battlefield while they try and try to reclaim their identity otherwise; and Danar's scenes with Troi do help get across his conflicts, and his absolute recognition that he can kill any moment and has killed. The government's disinterest in making any real effort to help "deprogram" or reverse the bioengineering of their soldiers is also believable and on point, since while soldiers are publicly honoured upon their return the medical and psychological damages wrought by the war are no longer so important once the soldiers' use to society as a whole has ended.

I do think that the Angosian prime minister (James Cromwell!) and the society he represents are not given enough depth. It certainly is plausible that the bioengineered soldiers would have trouble adapting and that there would be large outbreaks of violence upon their return; but we don't get a real sense of scale of how bad this was that the Angosians went to the idea of resettling the ENTIRE soldier force away from society. This works best as an allegory if we consider this to be representative of soldiers on Earth being socially ostracized and feeling no longer at home, but this social ostracization is often unconscious or contributed by both sides, and one doesn't have to kill to get out of it. The allegory is certainly more effective than something like "Symbiosis," but I think that while there is an attempt to portray both why Danar is dangerous and why he needs sympathy and understanding, there is very little effort to present the prime minster as anything but smug, condescending, and cowardly. This probably is done so that the pat ending can feel less unearned than if he was actually portrayed sympathetically (the way, for example, the police chief in the following episode, "The High Ground," is, despite a somewhat similar function in the episode), in which Picard leaves him and his to be held at phaserpoint by prisoners who *did* use the Enterprise to get back to the planet.

I think all in all 2.5 stars sounds right.
Corey - Tue, Jul 9, 2013 - 11:06am (USA Central)
I found some of Danar's actions unbelievable. Namely, he showed a very in depth understanding of Galaxy Class starship systems - was he trained as a soldier or as an engineer? And if as an engineer, why aren't there a lot of Angosian starships flying around?

I can believe he is resourceful, but not Omni-scient!

I agree with the others that a very shallow picture was painted of the Government side, which weakens the episode - 2.5 out of 4 stars sounds about right to me as well.
Moonie - Wed, Oct 9, 2013 - 4:53am (USA Central)
I thought this was one of the best and most meaningful episodes so far. And a character I could really care about.

Having just watched "The Defector" before, that now makes two fantastic episodes in a row!
SkepticalMI - Tue, Jan 7, 2014 - 6:54pm (USA Central)
There were quite a few comments about this episode as allegorical, but referring to both the morality of training soldiers as well as the the treatment of veterans (particularly in terms of PTSD). The latter seems obvious to me, but I don't really see the former. While the show must dutifully explain what happened to Danar, Picard et al never really pass judgement on the war or the use of supersoldiers, except in regards to whether the government knew the programming was irreversible and/or if this information was given to volunteers. It was the forced resettlement that caused all the problems.

Overall, I thought this was a pretty good episode. Like many TNG episodes, it's preachy, but such preachiness didn't overwhelm the episode itself for two main reasons:

1) It was still an engaging episode regardless of the morality. Outside of the main plot, the episode has the "cat and mouse" sections, which can be assessed independently of Danar's condition and the Enterprise's reaction to it. Personally, I found both of them (the initial attempt to find Danar and bring him to the ship, and the second attempt to capture him after the transporter accident) pretty enjoyable. It also seemed fairly realistic, in that it didn't make the Enterprise crew too dumb. Both Data and Worf (independently, no less) outsmarted him on one occasion each, and at least the bridge crew was acknowledging that certain aspects may be a ruse. Yes, the transporter exploding came out of nowhere and was a pretty blatant contrivance. And looking back at it, it is rather improbable that Danar could gain enough engineering information to not only effortlessly move through the ship, but also know exactly what systems are where and how to jury-rig a phaser into a battery. The point was to keep us guessing with all the misdirection, and I think it worked.

(Besides, maybe Picard suscribes to the Kirk school of thought that, when you have a genetically advanced supervillain on board your ship, it is only polite to give him all the technical manuals on your ship to help him take it over...).

2) The episode at least tried to give the stuffy politicians a 3D profile and not just make them mustache twirling villains for Picard to pontificate against. Unfortunately, they only partly succeeded in that respect. The Pompous Prime Minister did not exactly hide what they did and was pretty open about it when questioned, which suggests he believes in his solution. He also made it clear that they did try to integrate the soldiers into society, but that it was too dangerous for everyone else. He mentioned that the Lunar colony was initially just a resettlement and not meant to be a prison, and that they tried to make the life of the veterans as comfortable and pleasant as possible. In other words, this isn't just a straw-man situation, but one that you can buy as a realistic "least bad" option for this society. They also mention that many of the veterans don't actually mind the situation much, and that it's only a few that cause trouble. Again, at least the episode pays lip service to this being a complicated issue.

Unfortunately, it does seem to be only lip service at times. My biggest problem was the line about how the PM knew they could reverse some of the effects, but didn't bother to do it. Not only does this make you look like a mustache twirler, but if you have super-powered prisoners who hate your guts and you know how to remove said super powers, wouldn't you at least do that? And the callous line that they may have to "use" the veterans again someday also rang hollow. Because of that, the protestations that the government tried and failed to come up with a way to undo the damage comes off as about as convincing as the government guy saying "we have top men working on it" in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

In any case, the ending is a nice scene, and is rather gutsy of Picard. For starters, he knew Danar was a peaceful man when not overpowered by his programming, but what of the other 20 prisoners? How did he know that none of them wanted to kill? I'm going to assume that's a plot oversight. But the ending, where Picard leaves a powder keg of a situation with the simple statement that they need to solve their problems, works. It's a gutsy call, and seemingly morally unjustified for the humanist Picard. But in the grand scheme of things, the government needed to solve this problem, and couldn't just let it go away. Picard defused the powder keg as much as possible by keeping the government from resorting to violence, and truthfully at that point there was no rational way to apprehend all the prisoners without a lot of bloodshed. It was simply acknowledging reality. And since the government had finally acknowledged the severity of the problem, it was about the only time that it could actually be solved. In fact, in the end, Picard (despite his preaching) didn't even condemn the government. He offered them the Federation's assistance in deprogramming the vets and also mentioned that their application to membership in the Federation was still on the table despite this issue (albeit apparantly delayed). All told, a reasonably diplomatic solution. And a rather engaging one too.
Rikko - Thu, Jan 30, 2014 - 9:54pm (USA Central)
I thought it was pretty mediocre. Close to Jammer rating, if not lower.

I didn't like all those chase scenes around the Enterprise. The soldier guy felt a bit overpowered, yeah, he's a supersoldier but all of a sudden he knows his way around a huge complex ship from another society.

Also, it was a bit preachy and that left me a bad aftertaste because it reminds me of Season 1 (silly, I know). But, a good episode should have a more natural way to prove its "message" than relying on The Captain (tm) scolding a bunch of planet leaders at the end of the episode. (I think it was just one guy, if I recall correctly)

The premise wasn't bad, but maybe they'd have needed to expand the concept in a couple more episodes or something. Reading Memory-Alpha, it seems their original intention was to end it with a big battle of the soldiers vs the Government.

Now, that'd have been different.
Patrick D - Thu, Jan 30, 2014 - 10:01pm (USA Central)
This ep has the best episode trailer:

"Heee's a man MADE killerrr, risking death for freedom."

"Next time on Staaaaaaaaaar Trek: thenextgeneration…"

Ernie Anderson R.I.P.
Pollyanna - Thu, Feb 20, 2014 - 12:57pm (USA Central)
Since I have friends and family who suffered from being "programmed" to kill in various wars, I found this episode very moving. The idea that killing others has no impact on those who kill is pervasive in our culture. I think that Worf's security force was too easily over powered but other than that the episode highlights the disposable status that many cultures assign to soldiers...especially when they are honored so deeply in death but treated so poorly when wounded.
Jack - Tue, Apr 8, 2014 - 6:29pm (USA Central)
I agree with Jammer,it was just absurd that a person who has begun to dematerialize can still control his body and break out of it, and even more ansurd that he'd survive. As presetned her, he breaks out of the beam, and after the explosion they all just assume he survived...though nobody saw him leave the "explosion"?

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