Monday, May 9, 2011

The Next Generation, Season 3: The Hunted

The Next Generation, Season 3
"The Hunted"
Airdate: January 8, 1990
58 of 176 produced
58 of 176 aired


The Enterprise is in orbit of Angosia, a recent applicant for Federation membership. During a tour of the planet, a dangerous criminal escapes an orbiting prison facility. The Angosians are not equipped to handle this crisis and ask the Enterprise for help. After the prisoner gives a surprisingly resourceful chase to the Enterprise, they manage to capture the prisoner, one Roga Danar. While awaiting an Angosian ship to take Danar back, Counselor Troi speaks to Danar in the brig, and discovers he is the not by nature the violent man the Angosians suggest he is. Danar was part of a group of physiochemically altered super-soldiers created by the Angosians to suit their needs during a war. Now the Enterprise must contend with a highly skilled solider bent on escape at any cost.
Well, we've finally got a new, improved brig. Let's see how well it works!


Kevin: I'm ambivalent on this episode. There's some good stuff here, but somehow, it never really grabs me and I honestly skip this one when I'm rewatching. It's certainly not bad, per se, it just never gels. I think my problem is that there's really two episodes in here. First, there's a pretty neatly executed set up exploring the nature of soldiers in peacetime and society's obligation to those soldiers. I liked both Troi and Data's conversations with Danar, and it seemed that's where the episode was going. The only real flaw with this half of the episode is that its not really developed further. I would have enjoyed Troi trying to help him more and exploring that relationship. We could have also gotten a little more of the Angosian side. Maybe some discussion of the planet full of nerds getting their asses handed to them and this was a arguably necessary act of desperation.

Matthew: I teach Ethics to undergraduates. I offer one page papers on Star Trek episodes for extra credit. Episodes like this are why - you couldn't get a more classic utilitarian question than if you had ripped it from the pages of John Stuart Mill. Does the happiness of an entire society outweigh that of a handful of super-soldiers? If they were altered without informed consent, does that change the calculus? What sort of freedoms are necessary for the true happiness of a sentient being? So let it be said that maybe this episode tickles a few soft spots for me. I like that it takes the standard "Captain America" comic book trope and asks tough questions about it. Does it go far enough with the questions? No. I wish that writer Robin Bernheim had made the insurgents more ambiguous, instead of just straight victims. It would be nice if they had actually incurred some civilian casualties. Or maybe if Danar had killed a security officer. Or if the other prisoners weren't as nice as Danar, and things spiraled out of control. Something to "raise the stakes" as it were.

Kevin: I think the moment the episode goes off the rails is when Danar somehow runs away from the transporter. It's two, two, two stupid things in one. First, there's the technological malfunction that makes no sense and exists only to advance the plot. I get, and even enjoy, the idea he can naturally evade sensors, but the transport is taking him apart atom by atom. How do you evade that? Does waving your arms work on the quantum level? Second, there's some singularly dumbass security protocols. We have the security guard facing away from the bad guy so he can cold-cocked. The forcefields can apparently be deactivated if ask nicely. It goes on. Aside from that, the sequence goes on too long. The teaser was much more efficient and was actually tense. The sequence on the ship just dragged, and it prevented more than a superficial discussion of the ethics of what the Angosians did.

Matthew: I agree that these plot devices were somewhat hackneyed. But they didn't drag me out too much, because the central conflict was interesting enough to me. Although the transporter escape idea was Abrams-level dumb, the chase scenes overall were a lot of fun. Danar employed some clever ruses. They could have just left out the phaser-powered cargo transporter and the transporter beam escape.

Kevin: My other issue is Picard's solution. He is really, unsettlingly cavalier about leaving the Angosians in that situation. This is one sneeze away from a massacre, and Picard is displaying almost Kirk levels of nonchalance at what is going on. We also get another Symbiosis-style wishy-washy invocation of non-interference.

Matthew: I liked the solution, personally. Sometimes I wish an enlightened alien race would visit us and then be all snotty abut our stupid problems. It might actually reverse-psychologize us into doing something useful for once. I would have preferred, however, if the Enterprise hadn't jetted out of orbit right when things got interesting. I'd have liked it more if they had stayed in orbit to observe, and were seeing the signs of a Libya-style civil war. Apparently, things were initially planned to end more violently, but the "cliffhanger" ending was improvised somewhat quickly due to a lack of budget and shooting time.


Kevin: Here, the episode is pretty solid. Jeff McCarthy did a good job of giving Danar some depth, and he's not exactly hard on the eyes, either. James Cromwell did a good job of having a stick up his butt, and it's easy to see why the show brought him back over the next several years.

Matthew: It's too bad Cromwell didn't get something more interesting to do. I agree that McCarthy was good. He portrayed world-weariness quite well, but still had charm. His scenes with Troi showed good chemistry between the actors. And he played the physical aspect of the role well. Now, speaking purely as a casting director, it might have been more interesting to make the guy ugly, get the crew to sympathize with him, and then have him turn around and be violent again. But McCarthy did his job well.

Kevin: Troi and Data have some good scenes with Danar and I liked the ensemble scenes tracking Danar in the teaser. The timing, dialogue, and reactions were all well done.

Matthew: This was kind of a lame duck episode for Frakes. He said Angosia was stuffy, and asked Worf to watch the captain. But his lines weren't as juicy as anyone else's. It must have been frustrating. Stewart was a bit too snide for my liking in his line readings.

Production Values

Kevin: This episode is neatly in the fat part of the bell curve. The asteroid chase scenes were really neat, as were the effects of the ship bouncing off the shields. I prefer the Jeffries tubes we'll eventually get, as it seems odd to have an access corridor the size of a regular corridor. The transporter escape was a little overwrought visually, though I may just be dinging the quality of the effect for how annoying I found the plot device.

Matthew: I actually thought there were a bunch of subtle but reasonably nice things here. The animated matte painting of Angosia was nice. The new Enterprise D model gets a more detailed close-up than in the last episode. I think the Angosian ships were new models, or at least model redresses, too. There are some decent force fields. I agree on the superiority of the eventual Jeffries tubes, but I liked these ones, too - I'm thinking they were a re-use from Star Trek V. The brig set is also new and improved. The transporter escape did just look kind of dumb, regardless of story logic silliness. Why would it cause a fireball? The real knock on this show production-wise was the very closed-in feel of the planet set. The matte and the interior set felt like they had no relation to each other. There were no vistas, and very few extras.


Kevin: This is between a 2 and a 3. The acting is solid, and the effects are good, but the plot development is decidedly underbaked. Individual parts are good, they just don't come together as well as they could have. The first half hour has a flawlessly executed chase scene, and some great dialogue, but the second half drags and is full of the series' most annoying plot devices. I'm grudgingly giving this a 2.

Matthew: It's true that i wanted more depth and complexity from this episode. But I was entertained enough and engaged mentally enough to give this a 3. This episode had excitement, some decent acting, and a good premise. It also never got unduly preachy, which brings us to our next episode...  Anyway, that makes for a total of 5.

1 comment:

  1. This episode is crying out for a classic TNG conference scene, maybe in the captain's quarters, a la "Pen Pals" or "Where Silence Has Lease." Worf could take the hard utilitarian line, Geordi, Crusher and Troi could take the compassionate line, Picard could try to thread the needle on the prime directive.