Saturday, September 19, 2009

Classics: DS9 1:5 - Captive Pursuit

Overall Rating: 5.5

An episode that comes across as simultaneously genuine from O'Brien's perspective, and obnoxious from the perspective of liberal Hollywood. Watching it, you cannot help but grow a deeper admiration for O'Brien and the choices he makes when faced with a new life form and strange customs, but I cannot get past Hollywood's "respect" for cultures that include things that clearly violate the inalienable rights of sentient beings.

Plot Synopsis:

When an unidentified vessel blunders through the wormhole and a new alien species makes unintentional first contact with the DS9 crew, Chief O'Brien establishes a rapport with the man despite his unwillingness to tell the truth about his identity (saying only "I am Tosk."). As he works with Tosk to repair his battered ship, O'Brien develops a bond with him...a bond which is stressed when Tosk attempts to break into DS9's weapons locker and the crew is forced to jail their visitor. When other members of his race arrive in search of Tosk, the truth about his role in a barbaric blood sport comes out and O'Brien must think quickly to save Tosk from a humiliating existence on his home world.

Writing: 6

There's nothing inherently wrong with the writing of this episode, but it is, unfortunately, the first genuinely boring hour the writers managed to produce. No franchise is perfect and they all include misfire scripts that probably shouldn't have gotten past the pitch phase. It says something that while I was watching this episode again to prepare for writing this piece, I fell asleep and had to watch it through a second time after I woke up four hours later. I have a major problem with the point the authors are trying to make, but I'll save it.

Acting: 7.5

This episode gets a lot of credit because it features Colm Meaney at his best. He doesn't have a Hollywood look so he's reduced to character roles to make a living, but if there was justice in this world, he'd have himself a few Emmies and Oscars. I don't know how Star Trek manages to find so many quality actors and actresses with so little name recognition, but this is another fine example of Colm Meaney's best work. Unfortunately, his foil (Tosk) is pretty unconvincing, so the emotional drama I'm supposed to be feeling when O'Brien offers Tosk asylum and he turns it down and when it looks like Tosk is doomed to a life as a laughingstock and street victim just doesn't resonate.

Message: 3

Every time I watch a Star Trek episode that features the Prime Directive applied stupidly, an angel loses its wings and is run over by a mac truck. "It's their custom, Chief. The Prime Directive clearly applies!" What a cheap cop out. When you are confronted with a civilization where any subgroup of its people are given different rights and privileges than the rest and/or where any group is treated in ways that deny them of their inalienable rights...and you have to power to step in on their behalf, you do it. End of story.

Now in this particular episode, the writers made Tosk a willing (and in fact even honored) participant in "the hunt"...I would have been much happier with the show's message if Sisko had been willing to violate the Prime Directive and Tosk had refused their help. I would have felt sad for the mental conditioning it must have taken to get this Tosk ready to sacrifice his own freedom for the entertainment of others, but at least the show would have had its integrity. As it is, it stands as a condemnation of free peoples acting to increase the freedom of others and that I cannot respect.


"Don't call me barkeep! I'm not a barkeep..." (Quark to O'Brien, just before O'Brien calls him barkeep about 5 more times)

"You sleep a full one third of your rotation, you require rest and relaxation as well. It seems in the Alpha Quadrant, you have too much 'down time"."
"Ha! My wife would laugh at that..." - Tosk marveling at the comparatively relaxed way of life O'Brien leads.

"No day as a tosk is enough for me..." - O'Brien politely telling Tosk he's not interested in a life in the hunt.


Explain something to me. In Babel, when Quark is looking for a replicator that has been repaired so that he can save his business from a depressing downturn caused by bad food, he needs to hack the station's computer just to display where the command level replicators nearest the bar would be. So why can Tosk, clearly not possessing any security clearance, just ASK the computer where the weapons are stored and get a pretty picture with directions right to it? We don't care about keeping the location of the station's weapons a secret, but God help you if you want some Hasperat Souffle or a Ferengi Starduster. :)

Closing Comments:

The modern idea that any interference in the internal problems of a sovereign nation is bad, no matter what the reasoning behind that interference, is intellectually lazy. They've taken a generality that has some merit (history has shown that taking actions against a sovereign nation without the proper forethought, infrastructure and commitment to defending your actions and offering support to the affected people as a means of demonstrating that your ways are more beneficial to them than their old ways can have nasty consequences) and turned it into a holy oracle...a one-line debate-stopping muzzle that allows Star Fleet officers the luxury of turning a blind eye to the problems of the Alpha Quadrant (and now, the Gamma Quadrant) and refusing to make a difference when they have an opportunity.

The writers themselves know that their idol is false, and you can tell this because every single time the Prime Directive gets inserted into a story as a means of creating internal conflict, the writers have their heroes do some appropriate liberal hand-wringing before blithely defying their orders and doing the RIGHT THING.

One of the reasons I enjoyed Enterprise more than the average Trekkie (aside from the fact that we finally got to see imperfect Vulcans acting in ways that made much more real-world sense) was that the Prime Directive hadn't been invented yet, so when Archer ran into some injustice, he got to go in guns blazing and make things better for oppressed people around the Alpha Quadrant. Not a popular position at a typical sci-fi convention, but one I hold rather dearly.


  1. Speaking of the Prime Directive, perhaps I should actually type up my talking points from 2006 in essay format and post that as a side article here...

  2. I'll make it a feature and post the link if you ever get around to doing that.