Friday, September 28, 2012

Deep Space Nine, Season 1: Captive Pursuit

Deep Space Nine, Season 1
"Captive Pursuit"
Airdate: January 31, 1993
5 of 173 produced
5 of 173 aired


The station receives its first visitor from the Gamma Quadrant, an alien that only identifies himself as "Tosk." His ship was damaged, but he won't tell them why. He won't tell them much of anything in fact. Chief O'Brien discovers Tosk's ship was damaged by weapons fire, but Tosk refuses to tell them more. Chief O'Brien has been introducing Tosk to life around the station, and has grown to like him, and wants to give him the benefit of the doubt. Matters are complicated are when aliens calling themselves Hunters follow Tosk through the wormhole. They say Tosk is hunted for sport on their world, and they will not stop at violence to get him back. The Prime Directive seems to bind Sisko's hands, but what about Chief O'Brien's?

Thanks for your offer, friend, but I'm just not into that sort of thing.


Kevin: I think this is a solid, if not spectacular episode. In the plus column, fiction of many genres has successfully explored the idea of hunting sentient beings for sport, and as aliens of the week go, I actually cared, at least somewhat about the outcome. I think a lot of that goes to the quality of the guest actors which I will get to in a minute, but the basic story outline here is solid. The drama is tied, largely successfully, I feel to the main cast via the relationship with O'Brien. And it generally serves to lay the groundwork that the conflicts and resolutions are a little less neat than they are in TNG.

Matthew: O'Brien's general care for Tosk felt a little forced, but I could go along with it in the end. I wish it had been tied to either O'Brien's experience in the war, or some personal aspect of his life or childhood. I just wanted more precedent for this sort of principled decency on O'Brien's part. I liked that the Prime Directive prohibited Sisko from interfering, while O'Brien still felt obliged to do so. I wish it would have been tied to the fact that he has apparently never been a commissioned officer.

Kevin: There isn't really a B-plot, except for a teaser that is upsetting to me because it does seem to make light of the fact that Quark is sexually harassing his employees, but beyond that, I kind of appreciate the lack of a B-plot. There's not really a slice of life on the station I could really imagine that would go with this story, so I'm glad they didn't try. We did get an exploration of station life through O'Brien's befriending of Tosk, and we got a few character notes that would actually stick through the series, like Odo's refusal to use a weapon.

Matthew: The Quark sexual harassment stuff was weird. I can see a decent story being made of it. This wasn't it. I think the remaining cast was really underutilized here. O'Brien cuts off Bashir in mid-sentence, effectively confirming his uselessness as a character thus far in the series. I did like Quark's scene with O'Brien generally. Quark is an amusing foil for character introspection because of his moral grayness.

Kevin: Again, I think a lot of it is due to the actors, but I liked the action sequences and ready room scenes with the Hunters. His description of Tosk being publicly humiliated made me really upset as a kid. I like the moral superiority that the Hunters maintain in their attitude and I like that Tosk did not have a too extreme awakening by the end of the episode. He grew enough to except O'Brien's help, but only to continue being hunted. It was a refreshingly low-key take on how people might still seek to maintain a society that oppresses them.

Matthew: I agree that this episode did not push any easy moral answers on us. But I think it whiffed on presenting us a compelling and convincing picture of how such an arrangement between two species could possibly come about, and persist over time. I guess it is said that they're bred, so there is some sort of genetic engineering going on. But how does one breed a sentient species of super-soldiers with a concept of honor, that doesn't eventually just turn on its creators? The asylum question was pretty quickly dismissed, and probably for the better. O'Brien's interference being tacitly supported by Sisko was interesting, but perhaps a bit too cute.


Kevin: This is definitely the highlight of the episode. Gerrit Graham comes back at Q/Quinn in Death Wish and Scott MacDonald was N'Vek in Face of the Enemy and will play Goran'Agar in Hippocratic Oath, and it's a no-brainer why they were repeat customers. They really through themselves into the part, and passed that all important test for Trek guest stars, they inhabited, rather than merely appeared in the fictional universe we're watching.

Matthew: Scott MacDonald brought a nice physicality to Tosk. It's a tough role to play, given the character's lack of, well, character. So the physical performance really carried the day. Graham was also quite good as the hunter. so i agree, this was a strong guest cast all around, and it helped make up for story deficiencies.

Kevin: I also liked Colm Meany here. He does a dozen tiny things to portray his moral outrage at Tosk's situation and really sell his decision to set Tosk free and risk his career to do so. O'Brien is the quintessential everyman because of the genuine life Colm Meany infuses in the character.

Matthew: Armin Shimerman has been, thus far in the series, consistently the most impressive actor. his brief scenes with Meany are really good, and they make me wish for more.

Production Values

Kevin: I liked the inside of Tosk's ship. It was cramped, but had lots of nooks and crannies and the camera work was really good. The transporter effects for the Hunters were really good. I also liked the make-up and uniforms for both Tosk and the Hunters. It looked reptilian and credible, and the red combat outfits really popped in the grey, rusted setting. This isn't Cause and Effect or anything, but a perfectly competent episode, production wise.

Matthew: We get two venerable ships which have been used numerous times in TNG - the shuttle which was in both "A Matter of Time" and "Final Mission," as well as the rounded ship seen in "Haven" and many other shows. I agree that Tosk's makeup and wardrobe was good. The hunter costumes were just OK for me. Their transporter effect was certainly interesting.


Kevin: This is a solid 3, and a welcome change. It's not a personal favorite or anything, but it has a clearly defined story, anchored in a main character I like, and if nothing else, the two main guest stars were really good. That makes a (in this case, delightfully) average episode.

Matthew: I think this barely scrapes into 3 territory, mainly on the strength of the acting. I think too many obvious sci fi questions are overlooked or left unanswered. It seems obvious that the Tosk idea was a germ for the future Jem'Hadar. It had potential and it delivered just enough on it to keep the episode pretty entertaining. But it didn't really reach for more. That's a 6 from the both of us.

1 comment:

  1. Regarding Quark's behaviour…

    I'm not making excuses for, but you do need to put DS9 in context. It had only been a couple of years since the Anita Hill came forward with allegations that then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her. As I recall, Thomas called her a liar, accused her of being paid off by his political opponents, and tried to paint the accusations as a racist conspiracy of the diabolical white "liberal elite" (despite the fact that his accuser was a Black woman). Today it's easy to recognise the behaviour that Hill described as something many men have gotten away with, but then it was a wake-up call; while she didn't keep Thomas from getting confirmed, Hill did make it easier for young women to come out and talk about their experiences of sexual harassment and assault. (I was in high school at the time, and it was the first time I'd even heard the phrase "sexual harassment.")

    My understanding is that Quark, along with the general "anything-goes" atmosphere on the Promenade where Odo struggles to maintain at least some degree of law and order, was meant to show that DS9 is kind of dodgy, that Starfleet doesn't have the degree of control here that it would have on a Starship, a way of distinguishing the show from the concurrently-running Next Generation. This is the seedy underbelly of the 24th century, a darker, at best morally ambiguous part of the Trek universe, where Federation laws and ideals aren't shared by everyone. Later in the show, we learn that even Starfleet and the Federation are far from perfect, with the introduction of plot elements like Section 31.