Episode 1.6: Captive Pursuit

This episode brings the first story that exists because the wormhole to the Gamma Quadrant exists.  First contact typically means a conflict that arises due to cultural differences, and this is no exception.  These differences are played up from the start.  O’Brien opts for the “constantly friendly” attitude toward Tosk, which is exactly what we expect from Miles O’Brien.  O’Brien’s role as the everyman or average Joe begins to take shape here.  He doesn’t want to (or doesn’t know how to effectively) put on a face for this first contact, so he just makes jokes like he normally would.  He’s cautious, and doesn’t show all his cards right away, but he is not ungenuine.  This eventually breaks through to Tosk, and Tosk warms up to O’Brien.  The clear cultural mismatch shines through, but the crew pushes on for the sake of first contact, the greatest achievement a Starfleet officer could participate in.  The rules change when Tosk attempts to break into a security locker, and they escalate further when the hunters come through the Wormhole.  Though not overwhelmingly so, the hunters’ tech is superior to the stations’ crew, and Tosk is found.  Finally, all the cards come out on the table, and the nature of Tosk and the hunt is revealed.  This leaves the crew with a question.  Do they honor their form of justice or the Prime Directive (not interfering with other cultures)?

How far should we honor another culture?  This is the crossroads the crew stands at (particularly Sisko and O’Brien).  Sisko’s response is the ‘proper’ response in a 20th century society (ie don’t interfere, because we have no right to).  He displays disgust at the hunters’ treatment of Tosk, but in the end, he must honor their wishes.  Sisko’s disgust is countered by the head hunter’s description of Tosk life on his homeworld.  Tosks are respected and symbolize courage and nobility.  Sisko successfully negotiates an ‘out-of-bounds’ when it comes to Federation territory, but the hunters are still free to do as they please.  Is this the response that is most honoring?  O’Brien takes a separate path.  After offering Tosk asylum, O’Brien realizes that Tosk wants to be hunted.  Tosk lives and dies for the hunt.  Miles decides to go so far as to ‘reset’ the hunt.  He takes Tosk out of the clutches of the hunters and delivers him to his ship.  Tosk escapes with a repaired vessel, and the hunt is back on.  Does this honor the Tosk and the hunters?

Ultimately, the crew decides to honor choice above all else.  Choice is more important than the brutality of blood sport (Sisko), and choice is more important than safety (O’Brien).  Both sides, Tosk and hunter, desire the hunt, so the crew give them what they want.  Is choice an inherent right to sentient life?  Whose choice is honored first?  What if choices contradict each other?  What if only one party in the conflict has a choice?  I can’t even begin to address this idea in a modern context.  Not without several blog posts.  Needless to say, our culture greatly values the right of choice, and rightfully so.  But should choice be the final deciding factor to the resolution of conflict?  This is what both Sisko and O’Brien have in common in their paths: they both equate honoring a culture to not taking away choice.  But the episode does not close the topic.  Both parties in this conflict chose the same choice in the end, thus simplifying the crew’s rationale.  What happens when choice contradicts?  Is there inherent justice beyond choice?

A couple interesting character developments here.  Sisko clearly and firmly puts O’Brien in his place at the end of the episode and reasserts his authority as commander.  O’Brien needed it too.  Working outside the bounds of the chain of command is necessary (once again, letter of the law is mutable for the greater good), but the reprimand reminds O’Brien that this is to be done only rarely.  We see a bit of Quark’s personality as well.  The opening scene between Sisko and the Dabo girl tell us that Quark absolutely has his vices, and will exploit them as often as he can.  Quark also loves being the barkeep.  He hates the term, but loves the job.  His conversation with O’Brien is very fun.  We also see the glimmerings of Bashir & O’Brien’s friendship forming.  Bashir throws in his opinion, all covered in naiveté, and O’Brien ignores it.  A veteran noncomm like O’Brien is horrendously bothered by the opinion of this brash, upstart officer.  Miles steamrolls right past Julian’s comment.  Obviously, this is fertile ground for an amazing friendship.

Random Thoughts: 1) Morn sighting, yet again!  2) Reversing polarity?  Classic Trekkie trope.  3) Odo never uses weapons.  4) I love the side door to Sisko’s office.  Reinforces the fact that this is a civilian station when access to the station commander is so easy.  5) There are hints that the Hunters belong to the Dominion.  Both in conversation and in the similarity between Tosk’s cloak and the Jem’Hadar cloak.  6) This episode won an Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Makeup for a Series.

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~ by Joshua Black on July 19, 2012.

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