Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Captive Pursuit written by Jill Sherman Donner & Michael Piller and directed by Corey Allen

What’s it about: O'Brien befriends an alien involved in a deadly hunt…

Single Father: Nice to see Sisko bearing his teeth again after a couple of episodes of fannying about. He tears into the alien hunter with real gusto and then chews out O’Brien in the sparkling final scene that shows that he can at least think outside of the dull Starfleet box. ‘Another stunt like that and your wife wont have to complain about the conditions here anymore!’ – phew, go Sisko! 

Everyday Engineer: Frankly even if O’Brien wasn’t the engineer I would still send him on his own to go an meet the first new species from the Gamma Quadrant because he’s so damn down to Earth. He's exactly the sort of person I would want to befriend in an unusual environment. When he walks along the Promenade O’Brien thinks he is living in the flea market of the sector. He may have a point about that. It’s in his nature to take the piss out of people and Tosk is the most natural straight man he has met in ages so it is doubly irresistible. I love how O’Brien talks right over Bashir when he tries to help, their relationship would be very different when they get to know each other. O’Brien's dilemma is touchingly played by Colm Meaney and is all the more convincing because he clearly has a great respect for the Prime Directive but his feelings towards Tosk are even stronger. The way he bends the rules to allow him to free Tosk and satisfy Starfleet conduct of non-interference is inspired. I have to admit when the smoking bodies started piling up I started thinking how the hell O’Brien was going to talk his way out of this one.

Community Leader: Quark continues to be the black sheep of the Star Trek universe, this time demanding sexual favours from his employees. He offers Tosk an adventure in the holosuite full of excitement and nookie. The scene between O’Brien and Quark once again shows what a bright idea it was to place so much emphasis on the bar and its Ferengi owner, it gives the show some real colour. 

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Piece of cake. Ram Scoop. Abernauts.’
‘You sleep a full third of your rotation, you rest and relax when you are awake…Alpha Quadrant has far too much down time.’
‘Die with honour, O’Brien.’ 

The Good: This is the first of two very impressive alien characters that Scott McDonald would play in DS9 (the second being a Jem H'adar soldier in the superior Rocks & Shoals from series six). His performance is wonderfully nuanced with tiny movements of the head and body to suggest his dissociation from his natural habitat and his wonder at the new environment he has found himself in. There are lots of little moments like how he recoils when the computer talks to him, looks in awe at Quark and stares agog into the drink put in front of him. The make up is phenomenal too with his reptilian features stretching down his neck and into his costume with lots of tiny segmented pieces adding to overall effect of the mask. Everything about these new aliens feels fresh from their ability to turn invisible, their striking scanning beams and their incredibly destructive weaponry (and they can catch phaser beams in their arms and redistribute the energy, how awesome is that?). To show just how alien these creatures are the most humiliating thing that could possibly happen to Tosk is that he can be captured and taken home alive. The episode skilfully builds Tosk up as a potential threat before revealing he is the ultimate victim. How embarrassing to be dragged through a public place wearing a collar. Odo’s gentle stroll back to the security office to stop Tosk is a lovely touch that only DS9 could pull off this well. You’ve got aliens flying off the top level of the Promenade, scanners tearing through bulkheads, explosions and slaughter in the corridors – it’s a very satisfying, action packed conclusion. 

The Bad: This might feel like a random observation but it is something about Star Trek that really gets on my nerves. I hate it when the direction of a show points to a plot twist before it has even happened and there is an example in Captive Pursuit that happens all the time across all of the Star Trek shows. Whenever there is a camera angle that features a character to one side of the screen and there is a huge amount of space to the other side you know that something is about to appear. It happened in Encounter at Farpoint when Q appeared behind Picard and it happens here when Tosh appears behind O’Brien. I know it’s a small thing to complain about but stories should not be this visually predictable. 

Moment To Watch Out For: As DS9 was pitched as something like a western town in space with a Sheriff’s office (the Security office), bar (Quark’s) and church (the Temple) it's great to see a proper western stand off. The Federation and the aliens walk towards each other on the dusty streets (the Promenade). and to add to the feel of the genre the gunplay is genuinely impressive and the security doors are literally blown to pieces. 

Orchestra: The music in the early seasons of DS9 is adequate with only a few episodes providing standout examples (Emissary, Duet, Necessary Evil). It would be from series four onwards that the various composers really started to up their game and provide some very memorable music. I do like the quirky score as Tosk explores the station and the action scenes are given some weight with a pulse pounding score to accompany them.

Result: Something unknown, mysterious and exciting comes through the wormhole – this is more like it! Captive Pursuit is a fine piece of writing which offers an intriguing mystery and an exciting resolution with plenty opportunities for action and a touching spotlight on O’Brien. The first half of the episode slowly builds up the relationship between O’Brien and Tosk before the rest of his people arrive to hunt him down and the pyrotechnics begin. Corey Allen provides some fine action sequences that really have some punch and yet still keeps the focus on the central relationship. The story climaxes in a very sweet ending that sees O’Brien defy authority and help his friend to escape. I really love that the poignant conclusion works through nothing more than retrained performances and that Tosk manages to remain an alien character throughout (had this been TNG he would have been happily humanised by the conclusion). Well paced with some dynamic sequences and DS9’s own brand of exceptional character work, Captive Pursuit gets two thumbs up from me: 9/10

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