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WARNING: Spoilers for "Captive Pursuit", DS9's latest offering, are entering your area at a rapid pace. Those not wishing to be hunted by them should remain set apart from this.

Lose *one* small thing and you've got a great show on your hands. With it, it's still a pretty nice one.

That one thing of course, is Tosk managing to find out about weapons storage so easily, particularly given Quark's *difficulty* in finding out about something far less dangerous (crew replicators) only last week in "Babel". That is a cheat that's a slap in the face to the professionalism of both DS9's writers and Odo's security system, and both should be offended.  :-)

Apart from that, I was for the most part quite impressed with "Captive Pursuit". Like most of DS9's plotlines so far, the plot *itself* was something we'd probably all seen variants of in the past, but it was well pace and handled with a good eye for the key characters -- and that, after all, is usually what "makes" a show.

For starters, O'Brien had a key, meaty role in a show for the first time since, possibly, "The Wounded" -- and both the character and Colm Meaney were up to the job. O'Brien was a good counterpoint to Tosk; Tosk was a very convincing alien (more on that in a moment), and O'Brien is rapidly turning into the most down-to-earth human being on the station. (Truth be told, he's starting to remind me more and more of a cousin by marriage of mine who is, yes, an Irish cop.  :-) ) O'Brien's patter about how he couldn't rush things for fear of having a bad rep all over the Gamma Quadrant really *did* feel to me like it was second nature to him, which is a pleasant feeling to have about a character who's been a bit of a cipher in DS9 so far.

O'Brien seems to me to be very quick and talkative, and always ready with a comment -- but in ways very unlike Odo, the other source of "commentary" on the show. Odo makes acerbic comments to get his observations across or to let off steam; it looks to me like O'Brien's commentary is just part of his connection with the world, and is there almost to fill space, because *not* having a comment seems to be lacking somehow. Having some of those tendencies myself, I can well understand that.

As I've mentioned, O'Brien made a nice counterpoint to Tosk, who was one of the most convincing aliens Trek has seen since "Darmok". Although the problem of basic communication was not in evidence (a slight problem, since you'd think it would take a little while to have the translators figure out a new species), the differing mindsets very clearly were, and this was made clear in several ways. Chief among them would be the way Tosk stepped right up to people and examined them from a few centimeters' distance, rather than the normal distance most people consider their personal space. (Visually, of course, Tosk also worked well as an alien, but that's the least of the issues so far as I'm concerned.)

The idea of Tosk being bred specifically for the purposes of the hunt is an old one (one more amusing variant would be Douglas Adams' Dish of the Day :-) ), and worked primarily because of two bits of handling: Tosk's oath of silence concerning his purpose, and the hunter's absolute lack of understanding the Federation's reaction. In the hunter's point of view, declaring the wormhole out of bounds really *is* an ideal solution to all parties, and should satisfy even those who, due to "ignorance", oppose the very idea of the Tosk and the hunt. This wasn't so much a problem with basic communication as it was a problem with both sides talking right past each other.

The final major element of the story would have to be that, for the first time in a *very* long while, we've seen conflict *between Starfleet members*. Up until now, even in the "grittier" DS9, all the personality conflicts have been between Starfleeters and non-Starfleeters: Sisko/Kira, etc. Here, we saw the beginnings of something more. Sisko's harsh reaction to O'Brien at the show's close is an example, though merely a stronger version of what we saw in "Reunion" when Picard chastised Worf. Another, subtler example, though, would be the way O'Brien essentially ignored and ran right over Bashir's suggestion about Tosk "talking to his doctor". Now, the suggestion was naive enough that he may have been right to dismiss it, but O'Brien seemed distinctly annoyed by it. We shall see, but it's an intriguing sight.

(And, of course, the point that Sisko upbraided O'Brien for his actions while allowing them to reach their conclusion unhindered is a time-honored tradition in Trek lore, I think -- and it worked.)

Some smaller points, then:

-- The opening scene in the teaser would have been very pedestrian were it not for one thing: that Quark's sexual advances really *were* part of the contract. Trust a Ferengi to use the legal niceties to his advantage.  :-)

-- Odo is slowly being revealed as quite the technophobe. I've mentioned bits of it earlier, but here we saw two more points. One, he doesn't use weapons himself, which probably explains why he doesn't allow them on the Promenade. Second, however, he asks O'Brien to check on what Tosk did to the *security* grid, which is something I'd normally expect a security chief to know backwards and forwards. There's a clear pattern developing here, and it's decidedly interesting. I want an explanation for it sometime, though. (One that's been suggested to me -- sorry, I've forgotten who -- is that Odo has decided that since science hasn't been able to explain *him* or his origins, it's useless for his purposes. I like this idea very much.)

-- This time, O'Brien had all the good one-liners. I particularly liked "Glass jaw -- now I know why you wear a helmet."

-- A reminder for future episodes: Based on O'Brien's actions here, I expect to see Odo *very* pissed off at O'Brien for a while. I imagine he'll be professional about it, but next time there's a prisoner transfer Odo should probably object to keeping O'Brien anywhere near.

-- Another reminder of "Reunion", of course, was O'Brien neatly leaving his combadge behind. Smoothly done -- and I almost got the feeling that he did it on instinct.

-- O'Brien's and Tosk's ease in communicating during the repair work made me realize that music isn't the universal language -- *technobabble* is.  :-)

That's about it. Tosk's ease in finding the weapons was silly, but apart from that we're in very good shape here. Keep up the good work!

So, the numbers:

Plot: 8. A little unoriginality and one major gaffe, but solid.
Plot Handling: 10. Well paced and smartly done.
Characterization: 10. Flawless.

TOTAL: 9, up to 9.5 for some rare convincing alien makeup. Good job.

NEXT WEEK:

Q won't have *nearly* as much fun without Picard to tweak...

Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
BITNET: tlynch@citjulie
INTERNET: tly...@juliet.caltech.edu
UUCP: ...!ucbvax!tlynch%juliet.caltech....@hamlet.caltech.edu
"What took you so long?"
"Traffic was a bitch."
-- "The Player" --
Copyright 1993, Timothy W. Lynch. All rights reserved, but feel free to ask...

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