I know this will sound like sacrilege to some, but Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was never my favorite Star Trek series. I liked the characters, but I thought the writing was hit or miss, and I didn’t understand a Star Trek that was not centered around exploration. But I decided to give this show a second chance by rewatching it from the beginning. I will be recapping my favorite episodes. This was the first episode in which I finally started to feel like I was getting into this show. Some Star Trek series can be kind of slow burns.
“Captive Pursuit” is the sixth episode of Season 1 and it is a Miles O’Brien character study through and through. The episode starts off with Sisko responding to a complaint from a Dabo girl who is concerned that sexual assault is a clause in her employment contract. The Dabo girl then disappears for the rest of the episode. I suppose the purpose of this scene was to show a brief flavor of life on board a space station.
Next, a mysterious vessel arrives from the wormhole and is not one of the ships scheduled to arrive. It becomes evident that the ship is in trouble and needs help. The crew hails the occupant on board, but he does not want to leave his ship. It soon becomes apparent that this is a First Contact situation. This reptilian humanoid is DS9’s first visitor from the Gamma Quadrant. However, since O’Brien and the alien seem to make a connection, Sisko decides to dispense with First Contact protocols and set up a more personalized first meeting with O’Brien only. O’Brien will then help repair the alien’s ship.
The being and O’Brien soon form an awkward but charming friendship. The alien calls himself Tosk, but it is not clear whether Tosk is his name or his species. He seems to be on the run from something, always cagey and talking about his need to rush off, but appears too naive to O’Brien to have criminal intent.
It is discovered that Tosk is investigating the station’s security systems, so he is taken into custody. Odo shapeshifted into a picture frame and appeared in Tosk’s quarters to catch him in the act. I can think of all sorts of legal ramifications for a security officer who can break and enter at will without a search warrant or reasonable cause to do anything other than follow a suspect discreetly, but I digress.
We soon discover Tosk’s secret when other aliens emerge from the Gamma Quadrant in hot pursuit. They are also reptilian humanoids, but a different species. Tosk was sworn to an oath of secrecy about the intricacies of his species’ culture, and that’s why he wouldn’t talk. Tosks are bred by their captors to be prey in an elaborate hunt throughout the universe. They are bred with sentience to make the hunt more exciting. Both the prey and the hunters live for the adventure and romance of the hunt and yearn for deaths of honor.
O’Brien and Sisko are soon caught in a difficult ethical quandary. Do they interfere in another species’ culture, even if it does not respect the value of life? Or do they let Tosk be captured? Or is there some other way out, that bends the rules? That involves looking the other way?
For me, this episode finally captured the Star Trek ethos. Not only the spirit of exploration and discovery, but it also explored the moral gray areas that I love about Star Trek. Star Trek is fascinating to me in ways that Star Wars is not because not about black and white, good versus evil. It is about the choices we make when the rules are unfair, how we stay true to our integrity in impossible situations, and who we are as sentient beings relating to others who are different than us.
It was also a good O’Brien character study. I feel as if O’Brien often gets the short end of the stick in TNG and sometimes DS9. He’s the flat character, the character that is meant to be likable, but only if you like dad jokes and can relate to his family dynamics. The long suffering wife, the career ambitions cut short by a sense of duty, the “just a decent, hard-working guy” schtick. This episode gave O’Brien depth.
All in all, it was a good character-driven story and definitely worth a watch.