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November 26, 2012

Star Trek: DS9 - Ep 5 - Captive Pursuit

Hunting is a very common activity, one which many humans think nothing of. There are, of course, others who find the whole concept abhorrent. The debate can get quite heated at times, and the subject in this case is a “dumb animal,” a non-sentient being. What would happen, however, if the hunted was as intelligent as you or me? That would probably be a different debate all together.

“Captive Pursuit” addresses this issue a little bit, but it is more a character and moral study of Chief O’Brien (Colm Meaney) then it is an anti-hunting statement. It’s also an examination of a clash of cultures that Trek excels at, though it is a bit simplistic in its structure. All in all, it’s a captivating 45 minutes, as Meaney excels as he usually does with a bit of meat, and once again a rather pedestrian episode is carried by the acting involved.

Commander Sisko (Avery Brooks) is dealing with a sexual harassment complaint against Quark (Armin Shimmerman) as the episode opens, but he quickly has more to deal with then that. A ship has appeared from the other side of the wormhole, the first such ship to ever be encountered. Sisko is practically salivating at the prospect of his first chance to have an initial meeting with a new species. The ship is badly damaged, and only O’Brien’s quick thinking manages to bring the ship to the station in one piece. Sisko quickly assigns O’Brien the role of figuring out what needs to be done with the ship, and to meet the alien for the first time.

Over time, O’Brien shows the alien, Tosk, around the station and tries to figure out what damaged the ship. Tosk (Scott MacDonald) is clearly hiding something, and he’s clearly running from something. After a while, more aliens show up and try to capture Tosk, embroiling the station and Starfleet in a sticky situation as they get caught in the middle of something that’s fundamental to an alien culture. O’Brien, who feels attached to Tosk, has some decisions to make, ones that could affect his career as well as his life.

Make no mistake, this is Meaney’s episode. All of the other characters have bit parts, though some are more important then others (especially Sisko). They all have some good lines, but it’s Meaney who has to carry everything, along with MacDonald. Thankfully, they do the job wonderfully, as their interaction is very interesting. MacDonald brings a certain stoicism to his role as Tosk, a man (for lack of a better word) resigned to his fate and determined to preserve his honour, even as one of the most dishonourable things imaginable to a Tosk is about to happen. He refuses to sully his honour even more by accepting what O’Brien’s offering. O’Brien surprises him by offering him something from his world: a new chance.

MacDonald moves around like the costume is really restricting, but when he’s called upon to do something action-like, he holds nothing back. The fight scenes are well choreographed, and he pulls them off very well. Meaney does a great job with the myriad emotions that he has to convey: his tentativeness upon officially meeting Tosk (remember, he’s not a trained first-contact specialist), his slowly growing respect for Tosk, and then his determination to do what he considers the right thing.

There were a couple of minor logic holes in the episode, however. First, I can understand why there are weapons lockers in the habitat ring of the station (you never know where invaders are going to board, especially with transporters). But where’s the logic in allowing guests to access where those lockers are? Sure, the lockers require security clearance to get into, but why even allow guests to be able to ask the computer about them? Maybe that’s something Odo addresses later, but it’s such a fundamentally stupid thing that it should never have happened in the first place. It never has much bearing on the episode, since its only function is to allow Odo to catch Tosk doing something wrong. Why couldn’t there have been some other reason for Odo to capture him? Or at least make Tosk work at it a little bit more.

The second problem is Sisko’s quick aboutface on the hunting issue. There’s a scene where Sisko is venting his outrage at the lead hunter (Gerrit Graham), saying it’s barbaric to be hunting a sentient species, and how it may be the way they do things, but it’s not going to happen on this station. Then, without explanation, he comes out of his office and says that they are going to hand Tosk over to the hunters.

He claims it’s a prime directive thing, but it would have been nice to see this realization on his part. As it is, it comes out of left field a little bit, and seems tacked on in order to give O’Brien a moral dilemma to deal with. He also seems a bit hypocritical to berate O’Brien at the end when he basically allowed the whole thing to happen by asking Odo (Rene Auberjonois) not to hurry in his security arrangements to catch O’Brien and Tosk. It makes a nice scene at the end, but I think the scene could have been written better to make Sisko look like less of an asshole. Maybe a stern reminder to “not do this again, or I’ll have your badge.”

I know it’s a pedestrian episode, and some of the above makes me want to give it three stars. But I really enjoy it. Meaney and MacDonald give it a lot more substance then it seemingly deserves, so I’ll have to give it four stars, for enjoyment if nothing else. This is yet another episode that is saved by the acting (or, in the case of A Man Alone, a bad episode that is made bearable). Early in the first season it’s becoming a habit, and I hope it doesn’t maintain that attitude. Good acting is one thing, but one of these days the story won’t even support the acting at all. Then where will we be?

Doctor Who fans will get a kick out of O’Brien saying that the enemy ship is “reversing the polarity of our shields.” Sure, it’s not a neutron flow, but it’s close.

Memorable Quotes
“I’m sorry. I have no vices to exploit.” Tosk

“Nobody’s abducting a prisoner out of my brig as long as I’m alive.” Odo

4 Stars


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