The station detects a ship coming through the wormhole, from the far-distant Gamma Quadrant. The ship belongs to Tosk (Scott MacDonald), an alien of a type Starfleet has never before encountered. Observing that Tosk's ship is badly damaged, Sisko convinces the alien to land on Deep Space 9 so that O'Brien can conduct repairs. Tosk's reactions through the conversation are so skittish, Sisko elects not to treat this as an official First Contact, and simply has O'Brien meet the alien at his ship.
As O'Brien works to repair the ship, he develops a bond with the secretive alien. He knows that Tosk is hiding something about the damage to his ship, but he also is certain Tosk means them no harm. But when Odo observes Tosk trying to access the station's weapons, things take a more serious turn. Then another group of aliens arrives from the Gamma Quadrant, and everyone realizes that Tosk is engaged in a most dangerous game...
Commander Sisko: Observing Tosk's tense reaction toward the station's rescue, Sisko bends Starfleet's First Contact protocols and just sends O'Brien to make a less intimidating - and potentially less official - first contact. Continues to show a willingness to turn a blind eye toward the rules by telling Odo that "there's no hurry" about stopping Tosk's escape near the end, while his dressing-down of O'Brien is just a bit of "command theater," something each man clearly knows and something each man clearly knows that the other realizes as well. These kinds of shades of gray show the potential in Sisko's character... though I suspect it is some time down the road before the show starts to really play with that aspect of the commander.
Chief O'Brien: An O'Brien-centric episode, this doesn't really tell us anything we didn't already know (particularly any viewer who had been watching the preceding Next Generation seasons). Still, an episode which puts Colm Meaney front and center is never all bad. We see O'Brien's basic decency in his rapid bonding with Tosk. His solution, in which he changes the rules in a way that gives both Tosk and his hunters exactly what they wanted in the first place, is well-done and fits perfectly with who O'Brien fundamentally is.
Odo: Like O'Brien, he seems to sense that Tosk is not an immediate threat. When he catches Tosk trying to access the station's weapons locker, he does not react with the aggressiveness he has shown to other prey. Instead, he is fairly gentle about apprehending Tosk. He's methodical - putting up security seals and waiting for Tosk to realize that there is no place to run. But he is also understanding and even sympathetic in his dealings with him. He clearly has a proprietary attitude toward his duties, as his outrage at O'Brien's taking over the escort of Tosk at the end shows. Nevertheless, he is quite willing to "not hurry" when both Sisko and the situation itself call for him to perhaps let something slip by him.
SO LET ME GET THIS STRAIGHT...
An alien, given visitors' quarters, can simply punch up the computer terminal and order the computer to "show me where the weapons are" - and the computer will pinpoint the exact location on the station without asking for any clearance codes or identification of any kind. The request won't even be flagged on a security terminal as having been made. Um. Odo might want to start having some input into the station's computer security, because that's pretty doggone pathetic.
Yes, it's the requisite Most Dangerous Game knockoff. Captive Pursuit is another formula episode, though I have hopes that the Gamma Quandrant race introduced here will eventually be fleshed out into something a bit more interesting.
What carries Captive Pursuit is not the "hunt" storyline, which is a fairly thin and cliched affair given only a slight boost by having the hunted actually be willing prey. Despite the amusement provided by O'Brien's solution, when "the hunt" takes over the episode, things get a lot less interesting.
However, the first half of the episode is quite enjoyable. Watching O'Brien bond with Tosk is surprisingly good fun. Tosk's impassive and very literal reactions to everything he hears or observes are amusing, and until the hunters arrive to reveal this as a Most Dangerous Game knockoff, there's something intriguing in trying to piece together Tosk's secret.
In the end, the results are quite mixed. It's a watchable episode with some good scenes and a strong central performance by Colm Meaney. But regulars other than Sisko, O'Brien, and Odo are so sidelined as to be almost invisible, while the plot ends up being disappointingly generic after a strong start.
Rating: 5/10. Diverting enough, but the television definition of "expendable."
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