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Sunday, 26 June 2016

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine 1-06: Captive Pursuit

Episode:6|Writer:Jill Sherman Donner and Michael Piller|Air Date:31-Jan-1993

This week on Sci-Fi Adventures, I'm going to be going through the fifth-ish episode of Deep Space Nine: Captive Pursuit.

This one's fairly well regarded I believe, for a season 1 episode. That's hardly a guarantee of quality, but it's an O'Brien story so I'm sure it'll be bearable enough. Bearable for me I mean; O'Brien himself will probably spend the whole thing tormented and miserable. Especially if his wife Keiko is in it.

Like always I'll only be writing SPOILERS for this episode and the ones that come before it, not the ones afterwards. So if you haven't seen Voyager, Enterprise, the Next Gen movies, the reboot films or the last 170 episodes of DS9 it's still perfectly safe to read on!

Man there's a lot of Star Trek.



The episode begins with... wait, is that Jool from Farscape? I don't mean the actress, I mean the character, making a cameo 8 years before she was created.

Anyway, Not-Jool is one of the Quark's Dabo table girls, here in Sisko's office to complain about Quark making sexual advances towards her. Or more accurately to complain that he claims that it's part of her job. Turns out she hadn't read the small print on the employment agreement she signed when she took the job. The writers wanted Quark to be a likeable character so I can imagine this was meant to be an 'Oh that Quark and his wacky Ferengi customs!' moment, but that's not quite how the actors are playing it. In fact they're treating this very seriously.

Sisko has to put their chat off until later though because they've detected an unscheduled wormhole activation. Either a transport's coming home early, or they've got a visitor... from the Gamma Quadrant!

Wait, hang on, why is he leading her over to this side door? No one ever leaves through the side door. I just assumed it must be the toilet, or maybe a store room. "I assure you that I take your accusations against our lovably roguish bartender very seriously, now climb into this closet and try not to make a sound for the next 42 minutes."

Hey, it turns out their visitor is an unknown alien ship with an unknown alien pilot. This really is a first contact situation!

Sisko explains to the alligator alien that he's just travelled almost 90,000 light years, and... wait wasn't that 70,000 light years a few episodes ago? Have they moved the wormhole exit 20,000 light years further away in the meantime? Anyway his ship's in danger of blowing up, so O'Brien talks the alien into letting him use one of the station's tractor beams to pull it into a dock for repairs.

And that's the teaser over.


ALMOST TWO MINUTES OF SPACE STATION ROTATION AND FRENCH HORNS LATER.


Okay, that has to be a painting. The DS9 filming model is six-foot in diameter and plenty detailed, but it's not that detailed.

Also that alien vessel from 70-90 thousand light years across the galaxy is clearly a Vulcan ship from The Next Generation painted lilac. Of course he might have just stolen a Vulcan ship that went through the wormhole, though he sure picked a dumb place to take it if that's the case.

O'Brien arrives on the alien's ship to find it deserted. Even weirder, the alien seems to use the exact same type of stool that they have up in Ops. It's not my fault I noticed it, the camera was pointing right down on it a second ago! They've got distinctive stitching.

Anyway, sensors say that the alien's still in there, hiding somewhere, but O'Brien dares to step inside alone, announcing to whoever's there that he's going to take a look at his ship. This is a first contact situation involving a possibly hostile visitor the crew knows nothing about, but I guess there's no harm in letting the station's Chief of Operations go in alone, without even a security officer outside to watch his back and guard the exit.

O'Brien opens up a hatch and discovers technology in there he's never seen before. So not Vulcan then.

Sure is flashy though.

But while he's busy peering inside the inner workings of the ship, the alien sees a chance to make his move. He turns off his invisibility cloak, creeps slowly closer, and then when he's right up behind O'Brien's back... he tells him which bit's broken.

And poor O'Brien jumps a mile, smacking his head against the hatch door.

O'Brien explains doesn't know how to fix the engine... yet, but with the alien's help he's sure they can figure it out. He introduces himself, and the alien reveals that he is Tosk. Whether that's his name or his species isn't clear though. Maybe it's both!

They can't fix anything until the reactor cools down, so O'Brien convinces Tosk to follow him to his guest quarters. Eventually. Takes a bit of trying.

On the way into the Promenade Tosk's freaked out when an energy field suddenly appears around the airlock. I'm a bit surprised too, I don't remember ever seeing that before. Turns out that it's just the security sensor picking up O'Brien's phaser though.

Tosk's curious about the station and O'Brien's happy to tell him whatever he wants to know. The biggest reveal here for me is that the station only gets 5 or 6 ships visiting a week. That's a bit of a difference from Babylon 5, which often has a queue building up outside the docking bay. Also DS9 has just 300 people staying aboard right now, compared to the 250,000 on B5. You'd think that more of the billions of deeply spiritual Bajorans living on the planet nearby would drop by to visit their holy Celestial Temple, or even just look at it, but I guess it's hard for most to afford shuttle tickets when the economy's recovering from a brutal 50 year occupation.

After O'Brien leaves him alone in his room, Tosk starts interrogating the computer instead. Specifically he wants to know where the weapons are stored, and the computer actually tells him. They really need to do something about the security on this station.


ACT TWO.


O'Brien's no idiot though; he reveals to Sisko that he knows there's something going on with Tosk, and that his ship was likely damaged by gunfire. Sisko tells him to stick with his mysterious new friend during his stay and keep an eye on what he's up to.

So next time they have to take a break from fixing the ship, he takes him down to Quark's. The guy's not impressed with the idea of 'R&R', but he's bonding with O'Brien and lets slip that he's on a "dangerous adventure". Quark's taken an interest in Tosk as well, as the alien claims to have no vices for him to exploit and he likes a challenge.

I've been waiting for Sisko to drop by and challenge him over the sexy fine print in his employee contracts, but I'm starting to think that subplot died in the teaser. So weird.

The next time we see Sisko is when O'Brien gives him his next Tosk update. He reveals that he thinks that Tosk's a decent guy, kind of naive even. Sure he misled them about what exactly damaged his ship, but they've got no reason to hold him for it either way. Meanwhile Tosk's going exploring...

Ever noticed how there's no artwork hanging up in DS9's corridors? Tosk didn't. He walks right past this suspicious painting on the way to open the weapons locker without giving it a second thought.

Turns out that Odo might not be able to reproduce noses all that well, but he's amazing at imitating artwork. He reforms into his humanoid form, creeps over, and scares the crap out of Tosk as he's trying to steal their guns. That's karmic retribution for him pulling the same crap on O'Brien earlier.

The lighting in this shot makes it look like Tosk's got a goatee. It suits him.

Tosk goes invisible and makes a run for it, but there's security forcefields blocking both ends of the hallway so he soon realises that all he can do is give up. He explains that he can't explain why he was trying to steal a weapon, he's not allowed.


ACT THREE.


Sisko and O'Brien pay Tosk a visit in his cell, but they don't get anything out of him either. He still won't tell them why he wants guns, why his ship was being shot at, or why he can't tell them anything. So they're going to hold him and see if someone comes looking for him. Tosk definitely isn't happy about this plan though, asking O'Brien to let him die with honour. O...kay.

Incidentally, I'm pretty sure this the first appearance of Deep Space Nine's holding cells, though I believe we've seen the room before. Cover the cells with orange walls and put some desks down and you've got Keiko's classroom from A Man Alone.

I believe this episode's also the first appearance of the armour plated door in the Security Office which leads to the cells. If you look behind Quark on the left you'll see there was a wall there with an octagonal light in it in earlier episodes.

Also while I'm wasting your time with tedious trivia, Odo's tunic has gotten darker since the pilot as well!

Anyway some of Tosk's buddies drop by from the Gamma Quadrant, effortlessly disable the station's shields and beam troops over onto the Promenade.

Hang on, didn't that ship already turn up in an episode of Next Gen? I realise that this series only had a limited budget to work with and models were more expensive in the days before CGI, but it doesn't help sell me on the exotic alien nature of the unexplored Gamma Quadrant when every ship that comes through the wormhole is just a redress of a ship we've already seen in earlier Trek.

Still, at least it's an alien ship they reused. They could've just flipped the Enterprise over and painted it purple.


ACT FOUR.


The alien troops appearing on the Promenade ignore Sisko's demand to put their weapons down and... wait, did he just smack Odo to the floor? Wow, Odo, what's the matter with you? Did you forget that you're a human Bajoran-shaped puddle of shapeshifting goo? Get out the T1000 arm blades and sort this out.

Kira's had enough of this crap, so she opens fire on the invaders. But they just soak up the phaser energy with their forearms! It's pretty obvious that our people don't stand a chance against their advanced tech...

... oh never mind.

Incidentally we've had a phaser fire on the Promenade three times in the last five episodes, and every time it was Sisko firing the weapon. The guy likes shooting off his ray gun to make a point I guess. Shame that the one time he needs to stun someone with it they just get right back up again.

This is also the first time we're told that Odo never uses a weapon, though he's proving to be pretty useless without one here, as he cowers behind Kira while she blasts away with phasers in each hand. I like how he's much more of a detective than a fighter though, compared to Worf on Next Generation.

These invaders are definitely aware there's a fight going on, but the best the DS9 crew can do here is slow them down. The aliens finally reach the security office and...

They blow up Odo's door! He only just got that fixed after someone put a space brick through it last week!

Tosk waits inside his cell doing his Predator trick, but the guy sees right through his invisibility with a sensor on his helmet and that's that. They've caught him.

He gets on the communicator to his men outside and they all beam away again.

I like how their beam out effect is as goofy as their costumes. Also they're apparently space vampires as they don't cast shadows.

Yeah I'm not really a fan of those costumes. Though they do look convincingly alien... as no human would choose to dress like that.

The crew soon piece together that these aliens are basically space fox hunters and Tosk is their space fox. And they're very disappointed in him, to be captured so easily. This is the most rubbish hunt in memory! The leader finally acknowledges Sisko's existence and explains that Tosk are genetically engineered to give them sentience and make them a willing part of this most dangerous game; they want to be hunted as much as he wants to hunt them.

So hang on, the Tosk are clearly not a secret back in his own part of space, so why is there a rule forbidding Tosk to explain himself? Do the Hunters make a habit of taking their hunt to other species' territory? If so, then why are they so surprised at Sisko's reaction?

Sisko swallows his instinct to punch the guy and agrees to hand over their Tosk as long as they never come back. The Federation is strongly against hunting people for sport, but it's also strongly against getting involved in other people's business so he's stuck. Of course it'd be different if Tosk requested asylum, but he was literally born for the hunt so there's no chance O'Brien will be able to talk him into that. It'd be an even greater dishonour than being brought back alive!


ACT FIVE.


So O'Brien decides to go get drunk and yell at Quark some more. We're only five episodes in and already Quark knows him well enough to assume he's having trouble with Keiko... and gets lifted by the lapels for his error.

Quark persists in trying to help him out though and inadvertently helps the Chief come to an epiphany: if he doesn't like the rules they're playing by, he should break them! Pleased, Quark goes to help the next depressed customer. Genuinely helpful Quark is one the best kinds of Quark.

Wow they fixed the security office door quickly.

O'Brien explains to the alien leader that Sisko has sent him to escort the prisoner to their ship, as a sign of respect. Good relations with other cultures is a high priority for Starfleet!

Odo storms up to Sisko's office, pissed that he'd send O'Brien to take charge of his prisoner transfer, but Sisko explains that he didn't and they both realise bad things are about to happen. In retrospect he should've probably called in with his communicator.

O'Brien cunningly rigged the security scanner he walked through earlier to stun the Hunter! Then he uses a low-tech solution to finish the job, knocking him down with one punch.

The aliens start beaming in again, so Tosk does a super jump right over O'Brien... then sort of stumbles into the Hunter on landing, knocks him off the walkway to the floor below. Good job he was wearing that crash helmet.

I'm still trying to figure out how they pulled this jump off though. We can see the ceiling so it probably wasn't wires. A trampoline maybe? See, this is why these episodes need commentaries on them.

Back in Ops, Kira tells the others that security's reported a fight in the Promenade, then points to the right of the docking ring instead. I guess the director was in too much of a rush trying to get an episode of television filmed in just seven days to call someone up and ask where the place is.

Odo runs off to the lift to seal the corridors and block their escape, which is apparently something controlled outside of the station's operations centre, but Sisko stops him and explains that there's no hurry. Odo spends a moment processing that, and then takes a comically slow stroll to the lift instead. Him and Quark are the best part of every episode even when they're not saying anything.

Here's a rare look at the station's access tubes as O'Brien and Tosk escape to the docking ring. The conduits are made from two-meter thick duranium composite apparently, which seems a bit excessive considering they're not even two meters wide. It's handy though when the aliens are trying to blast through from outside.

They drop through a hatch and Tosk takes a Hunter out by landing on him. Now they both have guns!

These alien energy crossbow props were created for this episode and are going to get a lot of use in the future. Not just in Deep Space Nine, but in Enterprise as well, though they're most often seen being carried by... a faction I'm not going to spoil here.

Damn Tosk, three in one shot? That's... convenient. I hope they keep one of these weapons to send off to Starfleet R&D after this as they're pretty effective.

And that's pretty much all of the Hunters down now I think. Tosk wins! Wait, they crawled all the way to the docking ring from the Promenade? The internet tells me that's like 700 meters! It's a bloody long way to travel on your knees.

They get to Tosk's ship (which has been repaired in the meantime), but O'Brien declines his offer to come with him, as he's got a wife, a kid, and a job to worry about. Well maybe not a job any more, he'll have to see how that goes. Tosk turns to his new friend and says "Die..."

Then after an uncomfortably long pause, continues with "... with honour, O'Brien."

And the episode concludes with Sisko chewing O'Brien out over his actions. Now he has to explain to his bosses at Starfleet HQ how they made first contact with their first alien culture from the Gamma Quadrant and then ballsed it up spectacularly.

He can't be too mad though, seeing as how both the Hunters and Tosk basically got what they wanted in the end... plus he made himself an accomplice by keeping Odo from turning the forcefields on, though he's not going to put that in the report. Interesting how O'Brien immediately comes out with the truth, which is his first duty as a Starfleet officer, but Sisko doesn't.

So... I suppose all those people who were shot and dropped off walkways survived then. Happy ending!


CONCLUSION

I'm finding it hard to judge this one as I immediately remembered who Tosk was and what was going on, so there was very little mystery left in it for me. Still plenty of scenes of likeable characters talking to each other though. O'Brien, Quark and Odo are standing out to me as being the most interesting of the main cast and the episode gives all three something to do. Watching this in 2016 has given me a new perspective on the guest star though, as now that I've seen Guardians of the Galaxy, Tosk has become a cross between Drax and Groot. Seriously, the guy continually says 'I am Tosk'.

I do appreciate that the episode didn't begin preaching that genetically programming sapient beings to enjoy being hunted for sport is bad, because like duh. Though it spends so long setting up the mystery of Tosk that it can't really examine the ethics of setting him free to become the most dangerous game either. He kind of reminds me of the Ameglian Major Cow from The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, who wants to be eaten and will tell you so. You can't un-create him, so do you allow him to be a victim of its engineering or protect him against his will? Next Gen would've likely spent longer dwelling on the morality of it all, but the drama here comes from the characters coming up against their own rules (and superior firepower) while trying to help a guy out. So yeah it's yet another episode of Trek where the Prime Directive gets in the way of doing the right thing, but at least this time no one was arguing that they should let a whole planetary population die or something, like that omnicidal fatalist Jean-Luc Picard.

Also good is that first contact is treated like a big deal, because if the characters care then it feels more important to the viewer too; though it's strange that no one really seems that interested in Tosk besides O'Brien. This guy is their first glimpse into what's on the other side of the wormhole, he could tell them so much, but no one asks! Maybe he's got the Hunters' equivalent of Microsoft Encarta 2369 in his data tapes, or perhaps his computer's set up to connect to the Gamma Quadrant internet, they never check. But hopefully now that the crew knows there's people out there that can create invisible reptilian super-warriors and shoot right through their shields they'll start showing a bit more interest in getting intel.

Overall I found Captive Pursuit enjoyable enough but absolutely skippable. O'Brien talks to people and sometimes those chats are pleasant to watch. Then there's a shoot out and another shoot out and everyone goes home happy. The Chief didn't even suffer all that much!

ODO'S MORPH OF THE WEEK:

An incredibly suspicious painting.


Deep Space Nine will return with Next Generation guest stars invading the station in Q-Less. But next on Sci-Fi Adventures I'll be watching more Doctor Who, with The Girl Who Died.

If you've got any thoughts or opinions on Captive Pursuit then don't hesitate to throw them into the comment box below and click 'Publish'. I can't guarantee it'll bring you happiness, but you never know.

4 comments:

  1. Yeah, I was reminded of the Space Cow too. You're right, they would have spent a whole episode of TNG on the morality of the game, then dodged the whole issue with some Data/LaForge/Wesley jiggerpokery so no one would have to make a tough decision.

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  2. Odo should have totally turned into a painting... of Odo.

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    Replies
    1. That would've been amazing. Especially if he has the same expression and pose that he does when he reforms.

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    2. Oh for fuck's sake, now I'm imagining him walking around with the Mona Lisa for a head.

      Frame and all. And he moves the lips when he talks.

      That or abstract art.

      Delete