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.
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