Captive Pursuit

The hunters

We’re up all night for good fun. We’re up all night to get lucky.

Episode: 6

Original air date: January 31, 1993

Notable guest stars: Scott MacDonald as Tosk, Gerrit Graham as the Hunter, Kelly Curtis as Miss Sarda

In a nutshell: O’Brien makes a new friend. Unfortunately, he’s marked for death. And he likes it that way.

Say hello to: Folks from the Gamma Quadrant!

Say goodbye to: Nobody.

Missing in action: Jake Sisko

Words of wisdom: “Alpha Quadrant has far too much downtime.” – Tosk

Miles gets tied up in The Most Dangerous Game

A dabo girl lodges a formal complaint with Commander Sisko over the working environment at Quarks’s – she says that Quark started sexually harassing her immediately and furthermore, certain “expectations” are included in the terms of her contract. Sisko tells her that those provisions aren’t enforceable and assures her that Quark will be forced to change his management practices.

Tosk

“Give me a diablo sandwich, a Dr. Pepper, and make it quick, I’m in a god-damn hurry.”

As soon as Sisko gets the dabo girl taken care of, Kira informs him that something is coming through the wormhole – a small vessel. They hail the ship and are greeted by a reptilian alien who doesn’t seem overly happy about discovering them on the other side of the wormhole. He seems nervous and doesn’t want to really answer any of their questions.

His ship, though, is about to blow up, so he reluctantly accepts DS9’s offer of assistance. O’Brien pulls his ship towards the station with a tractor beam and Sisko tells him to meet the alien at the docking ring. Even though it’s not standard protocol for a first contact, Sisko thinks it’ll help ease their nervous guest’s mind.

OPENING CREDITS

O’Brien makes his way into the ship, but can’t find the alien despite Dax’s assurances that sensors show he’s still in the vessel. As O’Brien begins poking around at the ship’s controls, the alien suddenly appears. He’s in a hurry to leave and doesn’t want to wait around for lengthy repairs. He tells O’Brien that he is Tosk, but it’s not clear whether that’s his personal name or the name of his species.

Tosk and O'Brien

“Really, Cousin Larry? A station in space? Don’t be ridiculous.”

O’Brien manages to coax Tosk off of his ship and onto the station. After O’Brien trips the station’s security sensors with his phaser, the two have a brief conversation about personal armaments. O’Brien tries to uncover what happened to Tosk’s ship, but Tosk isn’t forthcoming with any answers.

Tosk says that others from the Gamma Quadrant will eventually discover the wormhole and make their through way as well. O’Brien responds that he hopes they do; Starfleet wants to meet new species and exchange information with them. Their conversation is interrupted when Quark throws a woman out his bar, allegedly because she was cheating at one of the games.

As they reach Tosk’s room, he explains that he only requires 17 minutes of sleep per day. He also doesn’t need any food. After O’Brien leaves, he accesses the computer terminal and requests information about the station: specifically, the location of the weapons.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

Sisko and O’Brien discuss their new guest’s demeanor. Even though he seems like a nice guy, O’Brien knows that Tosk is withholding the truth from them. The damage to his ship was obviously caused by weapons fire, although he won’t be able to discern any more detail until he can begin repairs. Sisko tells him to keep an eye on Tosk, and says that he’ll order Odo to do the same.

Tosk, breaking into a panel

Tosk behaving badly

O’Brien and Tosk start repairing the ship and engage in some small talk. O’Brien offers to buy Tosk a drink at Quark’s, where they continue to make idle chit-chat about how different they are and yada yada yada… Quark tries to sell the visitor on some time in the holosuite, but Tosk says he has no need to fantasies since his real life is the greatest adventure of all.

Back in Ops, O’Brien talks to Sisko and Dax about Tosk. O’Brien admits that Tosk is obviously hiding something, but he’s taken a liking to him. Sisko is a little less enthusiastic about Tosk’s presence, but he accepts that he has no right to press the alien for more information about his past.

While the crew discusses whether they or should trust him, Tosk is busy acting suspicious elsewhere on the station. As he’s attempt to break into a weapons locker, a painting morphs into the form of our trusty security guard, Odo. Tosk tries to evade Odo, but is trapped by force fields in the corridor. He accepts his capture and agrees not to fight Odo or his men.

COMMERCIAL BREAK
Tosk

“We’ll destroy the humans in this Temporal Cold War…” Wait, wrong series.

Sisko and O’Brien head to the brig to talk to the alien. Repeated attempts to uncover the reason for his behavior fail, and Tosk only offers Sisko the explanation that “he is Tosk.” After Sisko and Odo leave, O’Brien tries to learn the truth, but is also rebuffed. Tosk, still unwilling to tell him what’s really going on, asks that O’Brien let him die with honor.

Soon, another ship with similar readings to Tosks’s emerges from the wormhole. The other ship refuses to respond to DS9’s hails and scans the station. Heavily armed personnel from the mystery ship transport themselves onto DS9 and begin to make their way to the brig.

As the three mystery aliens arrive at Odo’s office, Sisko, Kira and O’Brien show up to offer reinforcement. As the new visitors arm their weapons, Sisko tells his people to get ready to rumble.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

Sisko orders the intruders to surrender their weapons, but they refuse and a firefight breaks out. The crew’s phasers seem to have no effect whatsoever against the aliens. Odo, master of the obvious, states that the intruders are there for Tosk, but he doesn’t intend to ever let someone steal one of his prisoners. Kira offers him a phaser, but he refuses. Apparently Odo subscribes to the MacGyver school of thought on weapons.

The hunter and Sisko square off

They won’t be exchanging Christmas cards.

The intruders blast their way into the brig and begin scanning the cells. Tosk has made himself invisible, but he’s soon discovered by the new aliens. As Sisko and the gang make their way into the brig, one of the intruders removes his helmet and tells his companions that he has found Tosk alive. He seems genuinely disappointed and even offended, and tells Tosk as much.

Sisko realizes the intruders are hunting Tosk. The helmetless hunter decrees that Tosk will be captured alive and brought back to their world to endure the ultimate shame his kind can have. He orders Sisko to release Tosk into his custody, but Sisko refuses. Back in his office, they hold a conversation about the morality of hunting another sentient species specifically created for the task. In acknowledgement of Sisko’s distaste for their ways, the hunter offers to make sure that his people declare the Alpha Quandrant off limits for future hunts.

After the hunter leaves, Sisko tells his officers that he really has no choice but to release Tosk unless he asks for asylum. O’Brien runs to the brig to let Tosk know that he’s got a sure way out of his jam, but the alien refuses to ask for asylum. He says it would be an even greater dishonor than being captured alive.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

Back at Quark’s, O’Brien is trying to drink his troubles away while Quark complains about the lack of business the Gamma Quadrant is creating. Quark eventually gets O’Brien to open up about what’s troubling him, and while explaining the situation, O’Brien comes to a sudden realization and abruptly leaves the bar.

O’Brien enters Odo’s office as the hunter is preparing to take custody. He claims that Sisko has ordered him to escort Tosk to the hunter’s ship, since the matter of his transfer is a Starfleet issue and not a Bajoran one. Odo storms off in a huff to go complain to Sisko. O’Brien convinces the hunter that his escort duty is meant as a honor guard. As he leaves the office, he removes his badge and leaves it on the desk.

O'Brien frees Tosk

O’Brien risks his career for some guy he just met.

When Odo arrives to tattle on O’Brien, Sisko tells him he has no idea what he’s talking about since he never gave anyone such an order. He tries to reach O’Brien, but can’t since the chief has taken off his communicator badge.

O’Brien, Tosk and the hunter reach the airlock, where suddenly the force field overloads and knocks down the hunter. O’Brien uses the moment to free Tosk and escape into the bowels of the station. Both the hunters and the DS9 crew begin a manhunt for the two fugitives, but Sisko lets Dax and Odo know that they shouldn’t try too hard to locate O’Brien and Tosk.

O’Brien removes Tosk’s collar and the two fight their way to his ship. As he prepares to depart, Tosk offers O’Brien a chance to join him as the hunted, but Miles politely declines. The two tell each other to die with honor and then part ways. The hunters return to their ship and begin pursuing Tosk once again.

Back in Sisko’s office, the station commander gives O’Brien a dressing down over his conduct throughout the whole affair. O’Brien responds that he really did the only thing that would make everyone happy by allowing the hunt to continue. When O’Brien asks how the crew failed to find them during their escape, Sisko slyly says that they must have just gotten lucky. Without saying it explicitly, the two understand that it’s all good between them and they’ll be back next week to have another crazy adventure.

Thoughts and ruminations

  • Two O’Brien stories in a row? I would have aired this one first and pushed the previous episode further back in the season.
  • The writers do a crafty job of never explicitly outlining what is included in the dabo girl’s contract. But we all get the point.
  • Finally, someone from the Gamma Quadrant! After opening up a whole new realm to be explored in the pilot episode, the crew has done just about everything except seeking out new life and civilizations. Actually, they don’t even seek it out here. It comes to them.
  • Since his days on TNG, O’Brien has undergone an amazing transformation from being just a transporter jockey to an engineer who can fix any weird vessel that flies into port. Or maybe he was just holding out on Picard and La Forge all that time.
  • Tosk’s ship has a Kmart Blue light special going on under the hood. Quite possibly the least convincing “alien technology” since the original series.
  • It doesn’t seem very Quark-like to refund a gambler’s money while tossing them out for cheating.
  • And come to think of it, that little scene is really random and pointless. Maybe it was originally tied into secondary story that got cut? This episode certainly had enough room for one.
  • O’Brien is really bad at handling a first contact mission. All he does is throw around cultural references and idioms that aliens won’t understand.
  • Unlike military forces of the 20th century, Starfleet and Bajor apparently have no problem with officers gambling in uniform.
  • The crew really needs a private meeting space near Ops. It seems wildly inappropriate to have these conversations about what’s happening and what they’re going to do right in the middle of Ops with people milling about.
  • The “Tosk is a mysterious stranger with a dark past” portion of the story lasts too long – over half of the episode is gone before we get to the real plot.
  • Odo’s shapeshifting ability leads to some interesting questions about the legality of his surveillance techniques. Imagine the U.S. government had shapeshifting law enforcement officials. Would you be cool with them just being able to hang out on the wall as a painting to spy on you whenever they felt like it?
  • Later in the series, it’ll be revealed that Kira and Odo have more of a common history than just the past few weeks on the station. If that’s the case, shouldn’t she already know about his aversion to guns? Shouldn’t she know about it already as the second-in-command of the station? Seems like a big detail to miss.
  • The hunters have reversed the polarity of the shields? The Doctor would be proud!
  • The hunters should totally sue Judge Dredd, Daft Punk, the Judoon and the Power Rangers for stealing their look.
  • The notion of a race being bred to die for the pleasure of another one is an interesting one. Fortunately, this story doesn’t turn into a typical TOS/TNG morality play where Tosk discovers that he wants to live at the end. The writers are content to let him be happy with a fate most humans can’t fathom.
  • Sisko says he can’t intervene to save Tosk because of the Prime Directive. How exactly does the Prime Directive apply to Tosk or the hunters? These aren’t savages drawing crude stick figures on cave walls; they’re obviously interstellar beings who have mastered the technology of spaceflight. Perhaps the laziest bit of writing we’ve seen so far on the show.
  • Even in the 24th century, Miles O’Brien still can’t determine when to use “wife and I” or “wife and me” in a sentence.
  • Quark is very much the anti-Guinan. Instead of letting people come out of their shells gradually and tell their stories on their own, he browbeats it out of them.
  • Why can’t Odo just use the comm system to verify O’Brien’s orders instead of leaving to ask Sisko about them directly? Because the plot requires his absence.
  • I don’t think a Cardassian could fit through the narrow corridors of DS9’s maintenance shafts with their broad shoulders.
  • Oh, Sisko. The lovable hardass that cares.

The verdict

Although it tries to string the mystery out a little too long and suffers from some lazy writing towards the end, overall this is probably one of the strongest episodes of the entire first season. I can’t imagine any member of Picard’s crew taking the actions that O’Brien did in this episode and it’s a nice change of pace. This story lets us know that things won’t always go by the book on this show and neither will the officers. Three out of four Odo buckets.

The Odo Scale

The Modernish Father

Your guide to DS9 is a father of two, husband of one and inspiration for millions of sardonic bald guys. A Texas native who recently moved to San Francisco, he loves baseball, history, most science fiction and generally all things nerdy. Find out more on his blog.

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