In which O’Brien makes a friend, and Quark is a more effective counsellor than Deanna ever was.
Memory Alpha says: O’Brien helps an alien from the Gamma Quadrant as hunters descend on the station searching for their humanoid prey. (Please click the Memory Alpha link for detailed information.)
Although O’Brien wasn’t exactly the main focus of the last episode, he was our way into the story. I would say ‘Captive Pursuit’ is the first proper O’Brien Episode, so it’s an interesting one to look at in terms of how O’Brien is used in DS9. His initial purpose in the series, besides ‘mend the station,’ is to be a familiar face from TNG, someone reliable and relatable who we know and like, a bit of an anchor as we get used to the new characters and setting. The foundation of the ‘O’Brien Must Suffer’ policy was the fact that O’Brien was so relatable and likeable, that he had an Everyman quality in the midst of space opera. And of course now that O’Brien got to be a main rather than supporting character, he could be much more developed than there was ever time for in TNG. Good opportunity for the writers, and for Colm Meaney, of whom I am fond (see The Snapper). So this is the start of O’Brien’s new phase of development.
‘Captive Pursuit’ also features some far more convincing reptilian alien makeup than ‘Lonely Among Us’ did, just in case you really like reptilian alien episodes. Let’sssss go.
The episode begins with kind of a nasty situation kind of played for laughs, because it’s Quark and we have so far been encouraged to consider him a lovable scamp, but what he’s done is pretty repulsive. A woman with a forehead that would make Klingons wince has brought a complaint to Commander Sisko. She wants to stress that ‘I’m not what you might think,’ implying that dabo girls are considered more or less sex workers, and that this still carries a stigma in the utopian future. Her problem is the fact that Quark began making advances to her as soon as she started work for him, and when she declined told her it was ‘part of the job.’ A lot of sleazy bosses have said things like that to women workers, but in this case it’s literally true – he put it in her contract and she unwittingly signed it because that part was in ‘Ferengi print’ and buried in a sub-clause.
Sisko assures her that despite the contract being legal, he’s going to speak to Quark and make sure he doesn’t insist on that bit with any of his staff. They’re interrupted by Kira reporting that something’s coming through the wormhole, and it’s not one a ship that departed from DS9 returning. That makes it the first arrival from the Gamma Quadrant, and that calls for a yellow alert (and maybe a party later). And so, for now, we pass over the fact that Quark might be kind of a semi-rapist. This scene has always bothered me a bit, because while Quark is sleazy it usually seems like fairly benign sleaze, but an attempt to legally trap staff into having sex with him whether they want to or not is gross as hell. This woman, Sarda, was assertive enough to go to the authorities, but imagine how many others may not have had the confidence to do that. Ick, ick, ick.
Another thing that bugs me in relation to this will come up in a subsequent episode, but it’s more of a logical inconsistency than a ‘wait, I like this guy, but I kind of feel like I should de-friend him for that, and warn people.’ In the end, I tend to feel that this is one of those early anomalies in writing that is inconsistent with the character’s mature personality, like what a buttmunch Data was in ‘The Last Outpost.’ Either that, or the writers simply didn’t see it as darkly as I do.
Because I am bothered by the implications of this short scene, I’ve got majorly sidetracked from the actual episode. The wormhole dilates and a little ship comes through, flying wobbly. Wobblily? In Ops O’Brien and Dax report that it doesn’t match anything in Starfleet’s files, it’s got energy flux problems, and there’s one humanoid life-form aboard. They hail it, and get to see their first Gamma Quadrant dude. He’s green and scaly, but not in a bad way. Sisko blandly welcomes him to the Alpha Quadrant, explaining to the confused alien that he’s passed through a wormhole shortcut. Sisko appears to have no feelings about this encounter. Early Sisko is so dull. He doesn’t look like he thinks this is cool (it’s a first contact!), or like he’s cautious (it’s an unknown quantity), or a mixture of the two, or anything else. Sisko answers the guy’s brusque questions about the wormhole, and invites him to dock, but he says ‘No, no time.’
O’Brien reports that the alien ship is in danger of shaking apart, and Sisko offers to beam the guy to safety, but he refuses to abandon his ship. O’Brien offers the alternative of towing him in with a tractor beam that will hold him steady, and tells the alien to cut his engines. He asks why, and O’Brien assures him it’s so they can help him fix his ship up. He calls him ‘friend,’ and I don’t know, but when someone calls a stranger ‘friend’ or ‘pal’ or ‘buddy,’ it’s often not exactly friendly. If, on the other hand, he’d called him ‘mate,’ it would have sounded friendly and reassuring to me. What a New Zealander. Warily, the alien follows instructions, and O’Brien continues to reassure him, asking if he can feel the graviton beam steadying his ship (the shakycam effect they’ve been using on the viewscreen smooths out), and telling him to relax and enjoy the ride.
Dax breaks the connection and suggests that they skip formal first contact procedures for now, and Sisko says ‘agreed,’ although deep down he is disappointed that they don’t get to do the whole time-hallowed ceremony with the tequila and ‘Ooby Dooby.’ He suggests that O’Brien go to meet him alone, as he’ll seem less intimidating than the whole lot of them and a jukebox, and try to find out what he’s so nervous about. If I had to meet aliens for the first time, I think I’d be less nervous if they looked as cuddly as O’Brien.
Actually, no, I’ve seen enough movies to assume that the cuddly-looking ones are the most likely to eat your liver while you’re still using it.
Opening credits of melancholy grandeur!
O’Brien enters through the steampunk cogwheel airlock, and cautiously steps into the alien’s ship, looking around the seemingly empty interior. He calls Ops to ask if they didn’t beam the guy out after all, but Dax’s sensors say he’s still on board. Still calling him ‘friend,’ O’Brien tells the alien that if he’s in here, he’s got nothing to worry about from him. He prepares to examine the ship, continuing to talk soothingly, saying ‘Just so you know, I’m an engineer. I know a little about ships. Well, more than a little actually.’ (I enjoy his delivery on this, because the third sentence, which could sound boastful read a different way, is said in an undertone, very low-key.) He’s never seen any quite like this, though. He’s able to make an intelligent guess what the different parts of the engine must do, and as he talks half to himself, half to the unseen alien, we see the alien decloak behind him. Well, I don’t mean he has a silly Harry Potter invisibility cloak, but he was being invisible over there in the corner, and he just stopped.
The alien is a stocky guy roughly the same shape as my friend Rajneel, which I think predisposes me to like him. He carefully creeps towards O’Brien, then speaks unexpectedly, causing him to crack his head on the underside of the dashboard. O’Brien tells him not to sneak up on him like that, adding ‘It’s an Alpha Quadrant rule.’ He’s still calling him ‘friend’ and it sounds really artificial, so I’ll be glad when he gets on name terms with the alien. The alien leans in close and has a good look at him, then asks briskly ‘Can it be repaired?’ O’Brien says that depends – ‘Depends?’ – on what exactly the thingy that’s gone wrong is. (Where I can’t make out technobabble terms, I will rely heavily on the universally accepted ‘thingy,’ ‘wossname’ and ‘doofer.’)
The alien says bitterly that on his own world this would be simple; if he could get the parts he could fix it himself. O’Brien, in a jollying-along tone, says that they can figure it out together. The alien objects that he has no time, and O’Brien says everyone’s in a hurry these days, but they’ll sort it out ‘as soon as humanly possible,’ then explaining that he is human and his name’s O’Brien. The alien answers ‘I am Tosk,’ and O’Brien has to ask if that’s his name or his species. The alien looks nonplussed and repeats ‘I am Tosk.’ At least that gives O’Brien something to call him besides ‘friend.’
O’Brien leads the way through the steampunk cogwheel, looking back to reassure the hesitating Tosk that there’s nothing to be afraid of. They can’t start the repairs till his reactor cools down, and O’Brien’s got other work to do. Tosk very carefully and watchfully steps through the airlock. In the corridor between locks, O’Brien asks what happened, since it looks like he took a shock to his hull, and Tosk answers ‘The passage through the anomaly was very rough,’ an obvious ‘say something which is true but not the answer to the question’ feint. ‘Yeah. Sure,’ says O’Brien knowingly. ‘The wormhole can shake you up all right.’
Stepping out of the second airlock, a light flashes and an alarm sounds, and Tosk drops into a defensive crouch. O’Brien explains that it’s just a security thing, registering his phaser – ‘for defensive use only,’ since you don’t know what you might find when you go into an alien ship. He chucklingly adds ‘You may even find someone who can make himself invisible – d’you know what I mean?’ Tosk gives him a good hard Look and says ‘I understand.’ O’Brien seems a little bit abashed at the very serious reaction to his little joke, which I think was meant as an invitation for Tosk to relax a bit – a gentle ‘I’m on to you, but I’m not going to use it against you.’
They pass the entrance to the infirmary, where Julian is conveniently standing just inside the doors talking to a nurse, and Tosk goes in to have a jolly good look at Julian while O’Brien explains who he is. (He isn’t gentleman enough to introduce the nurse, who is only an extra.) I inadvertently pause the episode at a moment when Julian appears to be sneaking a look at Tosk’s bum. I was going to make up a joke about Julian being inappropriate but I really don’t need to. Tosk wants to know how many live here, and O’Brien estimates 300. He asks the purpose of the place, continuing to be all business, and O’Brien again tries to lighten the mood, saying sometimes it feels like the flea-market of the sector. I would also like to note that he pronounces purpose as ‘porpoise,’ which I enjoy.
Of course Tosk doesn’t get that either, so O’Brien says the real job is to keep an eye on the wormhole, since ships come and go through here all the time. Tosk, though, is the first to originate from the other side, and he thinks that others will come through the same way he did, spotting and following Alpha ships. O’Brien says that’s good, meeting aliens and learning about them is Starfleet’s favourite thing. They’re passing Quark’s now, and he’s throwing out a customer who he saw moving her wager on the dabo board. She’ll get her money back, but she’s not welcome in his bar any more. He’s quite formal about this, and quite loud – I guess it’s important for him to be seen to run a fair house. (Speaking of which, you know how on the Cheers set, next to the little corridor that went through to the billiards room and the toilets, there was a sign on the wall that said ‘This is a SQUARE HOUSE – please report any unfairness to the proprietor’? I spent YEARS trying to figure out what that meant, and I’m still not entirely sure. What kind of unfairness?) O’Brien looks a bit embarrassed and adds that there are some things to learn about ‘us’ that can wait. Well, both those people were more or less ‘them,’ given that Quark is visibly a different species from O’Brien and the woman he threw out was blue and bald.
O’Brien tries to draw Tosk out a bit, asking if he’s an explorer or a scientist, and just gets ‘I am Tosk’ in reply. Right, so. Taking him into a guest compartment, he hastens to say ‘I wasn’t the decorator.’ I would genuinely like to see how O’Brien would decorate a room, given free reign, but he seems to me the kind of person who wouldn’t so much decorate as gradually fill the room with stuff, not really noticing how the place looks as long as it’s comfortable and he can find everything. Tosk wants to start work on his ship, but O’Brien invites him to have a rest first. (The bed in this room actually does look reasonably comfortable, since it’s been made up with sheets and a blanket, and has a mattress, albeit thin.) Tosk only requires seventeen minutes of rest per rotation, though. O’Brien needs his eight hours. He offers Tosk food, but he pretty much lives on his hump. Pointing out the replicator, O’Brien says they’ve got it to make a pretty good bowl of oatmeal, which irks me, because he really should say porridge. Porridge isn’t a word Americans don’t know, is it? I mentally ADR this episode with ‘mate’ for ‘friend’ and ‘porridge’ for ‘oatmeal’ and feel better.
As O’Brien leaves, Tosk thanks him, the first bit of unbending he’s shown. O’Brien answers, ‘As the Vulcans say, we’re here to serve.’ a) It’s nice to see a human imply a favourable opinion of Vulcan philosophy, b) come on O’Brien, Tosk doesn’t know what Vulcans are yet! I have now typed the name ‘O’Brien’ so many times that it looks really strange to me. Anyway, once O’Brien leaves, Tosk looks around him, then goes over to the computer alcove and looks up diagrams of the interior of the station – specifically, where weapons are stored. In case you ever need to know, for an emergency, it’s Habitat Ring, level 5, section 3, but you’ll need security clearance 7 or above to get in. So first, go and get that chip from Quark’s till, unless Odo confiscated that after the great replicator caper. Tosk gazes intently at the screen, and partly because of his makeup, partly because of the actor’s performance, his intentions really are ambiguous, so I like that. Is Tosk planning something bad? Or is he simply afraid and wants a weapon for self-defence?
The makeup is really cool, by the way, including slit-pupil contact lenses. It must be hard for the actor to breathe, because his nose is flattened right down. I think this episode won an Emmy for that. For nose-flattening. When the alien makeup is so complete that you can’t even guess the ethnic group of the human inside, they’re doing a really good job. Tosk doesn’t look like ‘a guy wearing a snake mask,’ he genuinely looks like a reptile species that evolved into humanoid form.
In Sisko’s office, O’Brien expresses some doubts about Tosk – he hates to pre-judge, but he’s so jumpy it seems like he’s on the run from something. He wasn’t telling the whole truth about his ship’s damage – O’Brien recognised it as a shot. Sisko asks O’Brien to stick close to Tosk, and says he’ll sic Odo on him too.
Down in the gubbins of Tosk’s ship, he and O’Brien work out that they’re familiar with some of the same technology, just under different names. O’Brien inadvertently gives Tosk the impression that ‘piece of cake’ is another name for the same device, and has to explain – they’ll be easy to fix. They just have to take out the damaged parts and replicate new ones. Tosk repeats ‘Piece of cake,’ another little bit of unbending, and asks how long. O’Brien says some tests are needed, to which Tosk objects, but he says that if he doesn’t test it and it breaks down, Tosk will blame him and he’ll get a bad reputation in the Gamma Quadrant. ‘I would not blame you,’ Tosk says, quite nicely, and O’Brien says he was joking. ‘I cannot tell,’ says Tosk, and you know, considering O’Brien’s used to talking to Data, you’d think he’d adapt to this more readily. He says it’s in his nature, though, and Tosk is ‘the most natural straight man’ he’s met in ages. I may be being unreasonable, but I’d have liked it if he’d had a line like ‘Yeah, like someone else I know.’ While his crew work on the ship, he invites Tosk for a drink and a chinwag.
I thought not.
Anyway, O’Brien gives the winners a clap, and tries to explain the concept of R&R to the puzzled Tosk, who thinks the Alpha Quadrant has too much downtime. O’Brien says his wife would laugh at that, since she’s barely seen him in the last three weeks. Eh, she’s only complaining about that for something to complain about, she doesn’t like you that much any more. Tosk says they’re very different, and O’Brien kindly says ‘I’ve noticed.’
We now learn that Quark objects to being addressed as ‘barkeep’ – he is your host or proprietor, ‘sympathetic ear to the wretched souls who pass through these portals.’ Tosk stares in awe at Quark’s sympathetic ears. O’Brien adds that he’ll exploit any vice you happen to have, and Tosk apologises for having no vices for Quark to exploit. Quark considers this a challenge. He warms up by offering Tosk a visit to the holosuites, which he describes as ‘a fantasy encounter with danger. Romance. Thrills. Created for your personal entertainment by the Brothers Quark.’ This interests me because I’d always assumed Quark just bought holodeck programs based on the requests he gets from customers. Are he and Rom sitting up late into the night lovingly crafting intricate fantasy worlds? No, I think he buys them. Either that or there’s a program that generates scenarios based on a sort of tick-the-box form; okay, you want pirates, a volcano, and some kissing. Boop beep, here you go.
Tosk, though, says that his real life is the greatest adventure anyone could desire. Quark gasps delightedly and says ‘Then I envy you, Mr Tosk!’ then goes off, presumably to get their drinks. They’re having shitty Bajoran synthale; I’m having gin and tonic, but it’s not that great because I had to finish off a bottle of tonic that’s gone flat, and I have no lemons, so I’m not much better off. I was at the shop today! Why didn’t I remember lemons? O’Brien asks Tosk what he meant about his adventure, but Tosk says he can’t discuss it. I think Quark’s ears pulled it out of him before. Quark brings the drinks and O’Brien sups thoughtfully, while Tosk peers into his mug inquisitively.
In Ops, Kira says it sounds like O’Brien’s changed his mind about Tosk. She says this in an oddly triumphant tone, as if she had a bet with Dax that he would. O’Brien says not exactly – Tosk is on the run, from something bad, and can’t or won’t talk about it. Julian suggests that people tell doctors things they wouldn’t tell anyone else, so if O’Brien gets Tosk to go to him for an examination –
Julian. People tell doctors things they wouldn’t tell anyone else because doctors are sworn to confidentiality. This and your tendency to patient-fucking suggest that your professional ethics are really horrible. All right, I know there are exceptions like ‘if you think a crime is going to be committed,’ but you needn’t seem so eager to pump the poor man for his secrets and then blab them to others. No I didn’t mean ‘pump’ like that. Go and sit down. Hurry up and grow into the character I get to love.
O’Brien cuts Julian off, though, just like I did there, and tells Sisko, the thing is, he likes Tosk, though he’s not sure why. He seems sort of naïve in his alien environment. He doesn’t think Tosk is a criminal or dishonest. Sisko and Dax point out that he didn’t exactly lie about his ship, but he didn’t really tell the truth. Sisko says they have no justification for detaining Tosk, so if he wants to tell O’Brien the truth, okay, but if not, send him on his way. O’Brien looks thoughtful, because it’s the last shot of the scene, and because he’s a bit worried about whether Tosk will be all right on his own.
In a corridor somewhere, Tosk’s doing something to a computer panel inside a little cabinet he’s opened (maybe the entry keypad for the weapons bunker?) An extremely ugly painting on the wall gloops into Odo and asks ‘Just what do you think you’re doing?’ Now you can get away with that with Tosk, who doesn’t know his way around, but any of the locals would say ‘What the fuck’s a big ugly oil painting doing on this wall? Quick, pinch it.’ Tosk whirls round, holds up his hands defensively, and disappears. Calmly, Odo tells the computer to seal off the corridor, then summons security.
Just down the corridor from Odo, Tosk runs into the forcefield, reappears briefly, then disappears again. A moment later, the same happens at the other end of this bit of corridor. Odo firmly, but not unkindly, says that when he’s tired of bouncing off forcefields, they can talk. I note that Odo’s face makeup has been smoothed out a bit, so he looks more rubbery, less leathery. This pleases me. I always enjoy how purely authoritative Odo is in situations like this – you know he will not compromise on any of his principles, but also that he won’t do anything just to be a dick. That’s the sort of person I’d like to be arrested by, if any.
Tosk points out – in a tone that I would describe as calm with underlying urgency, rather than defensive, indignant or angry – that he’s done nothing to Odo, who says that it’s the security junction he’s concerned about. Tosk says he needs to prepare, as if this is perfectly reasonable. ‘For what?’ He cannot discuss it – he is Tosk. ‘I’m sure you are,’ Odo says. He’s going to take Tosk to his office while ‘your friend Chief O’Brien’ sees what he’s been doing to the computer. Tosk repeats ‘O’Brien?’ Odo continues with his good cop role, telling Tosk that he’s going to release the forcefield now, and he doesn’t need a fight. Tosk says he will not fight him – again, as if all this is reasonable and he’s behaving according to a code of conduct that Odo just doesn’t know about. One of Odo’s deputies takes Tosk’s arm and leads him along, and Tosk gives Odo an odd, reproachful look as he passes him. Odo gazes after him, and the low lighting in the corridor does awesome things with shadows in his deep eye-sockets.
In the brig, Tosk paces from side to side of his cell, and ‘like a caged animal’ is so cliché, but yes, like that – except that when you see caged animals pacing it’s often a repetitive activity done out of boredom (this is one of the key signs of a shitty zoo), whereas Tosk looks fiercely alert. He’s glaring out at Sisko, who’s watching him with his typical Season 1 moai impassivity. We have a clash of perspectives here; Tosk feels that he’s done nothing to Sisko, Sisko feels that messing with the security system is a threat. O’Brien thinks he was trying to access the weapons locker. Odo asks Tosk if he’s wanted by authorities in the Gamma Quadrant, and when Tosk is confused by the word ‘wanted,’ rephrases ‘Have you committed crimes?’ (Which I could point out is really not the same thing – if Tosk had been framed, the answers to Odo’s questions might be ‘yes’ and ‘no.’)
‘Never. I am Tosk.’ Sisko asks if that’s supposed to explain all this, and Tosk says it’s all he can say. O’Brien tries to appeal to Tosk, asking if they don’t deserve some answers, but Tosk just looks at him. Sisko decides to hold Tosk for now and see if anyone shows up looking for him. As Sisko leaves, O’Brien gives Odo a look, and Odo goes too, leaving him to have one more go as a friend. He asks Tosk to level with him, and Tosk asks to be let out. O’Brien insists, ‘Tell me.’ Tosk says ‘Allow me to die with honour.’ O’Brien can’t understand who would want to kill him. Tosk just repeats his mysterious, and vaguely Klingonese request.
In Odo’s office on the prom, O’Brien sighs that Tosk is ‘climbing the walls like a trapped animal,’ so he and I share clichés. Odo snarks that he’s sorry the cells aren’t to his liking. O’Brien feels responsible, as if he adopted Tosk and talked him into coming on board. He didn’t talk him into messing with security, Odo points out, but O’Brien just can’t believe that Tosk is a baddie. He sighs and asks ‘What the hell is his secret?’ as he leaves. Odo keeps calmly working on his pad. I like how he’s always quietly busy; he must incur a considerable amount of paperwork.
The wormhole dilates and another GQ ship comes through. Dax recognises its… exhaust or something as matching Tosk’s ship. They try to hail it, get ignored, and then get scanned by a white beamy thing. Sisko begins his address to them, but the station wobbles and there are loud noises and O’Brien reports that they’re being ‘bombarded with some kind of radiation I’ve never seen before.’ Or to put it another way, a purple zap beam, as we see in an exterior shot. The station’s shields are fucked and the aliens are beaming into the promenade.
Odo and his guys run onto the prom to see some Stigs appearing, just as the Ops team run out too. They’re wearing red jumpsuits and silver helmets with blue neon glowy visors. Honestly, apart from the neon, they could be from TOS, so I suppose the lion’s share of the budget went to making Tosk look good. I do, however, like the detail that they have their own distinctive transporter beam animation, which looks like glass tubes and rainbows. The different-looking beam animations seem to imply that there are lots of different ways of achieving the same result, which is sort of encouraging. If there was only one way in all the universe we might never get it, you know?
The Stigs walk towards them and Sisko says ‘Ready phasers.’ DA-DUM!
Sisko tells them he’s commander of the station, and tells them to put down their weapons; they ignore him, and when Odo approaches them, punch him! I object! A small firefight ensues. Odo twigs that they’re after Tosk. Kira says maybe they have a right to him, but Odo says nobody’s abducting a prisoner out of his brig as long as he’s alive. Kira offers him a phaser, but he says he never uses them. A Stig shoots at the main door of the brig, blowing it open; people fall over from the shock, Kira falling against Odo, and as he catches her he completely and totally grabs her boobs. I do not believe this is intentional or significant, just very, very amusing.
The Stig goes into the brig. (It pleased me to write that.) He stalks around looking for Tosk, whose cell looks empty, then scans around with a red glowy light, which reveals Tosk standing poised on the bunk. Realising the jig is up, he revisibles and slowly rises out of his crouch. The Feds arrive, and Sisko signs to O’Brien to put away his weapon.
The Stig announces to his companions ‘I have Tosk. Alive. It is over’ and they beam out. Now he removes his helmet, so I have to stop calling him Stig, revealing that he is also sort of reptilian-looking but less scaly than Tosk, and has hair. He somewhat resembles Viggo the Carpathian from Ghostbusters II, so his new name is Viggo.
‘What a disappointment, after such an entertaining beginning,’ Viggo snots. ‘Entertaining!’ exclaims Sisko in the background. Viggo wants to know how Tosk got the aliens to fight for him without violating his oath of silence. Tosk protests that he told them nothing.
‘But to see you here, caged, helpless – how could you allow this? It is a disgrace to all Tosk, and the most disappointing hunt in memory!’
Sisko finally twigs that this is a hunt and Tosk is the prey. Viggo says he’s unworthy of such a noble description. For this dishonour he will endure the greatest humiliation a Tosk can know – to be captured and brought home alive, then put on public display. I imagine in a shitty zoo, like I was talking about earlier. Tosk looks really stricken. Viggo gives a weird harrumph and tells Sisko to release him, but now Sisko is peeved that these guys tramped through his station firing guns for their hunt. He’s disinclined to acquiesce to their request. Viggo can’t understand why he’d make a fuss ‘over this Tosk?’ He turns and looks at Odo and O’Brien, who stare him down, then goes ‘hmph!’ and flounces out.
O’Brien slowly steps forward, giving Tosk a sad, kicked-puppy look, and Tosk hangs his head and turns away.
Viggo, in the office, asks if there’s no equivalent of Tosk-hunting in Sisko’s culture, and Sisko admits that humans used to hunt animals, but never sentient species. Viggo says that Tosk is only sentient because he was made so – he was bred for hunting, to make it as exciting as possible. He thinks Sisko doesn’t understand, but Sisko says he understands just fine and will not stand for this kind of abuse. Viggo disagrees that it’s abuse – he says they honour Tosk as noble and courageous and they train all their lives for this, taking pride in it. Sisko, looking and sounding properly angry for once, says that he can’t judge what’s right or wrong for Viggo’s world, but he won’t have it on this station.
Viggo – dismissively, with the air of one making a concession – offers to make the wormhole out of bounds for the hunt. ‘Will that satisfy you?’ Sisko gives him a filthy look, but apparently Viggo takes it for agreement, saying that Sisko will now release the Tosk and beaming out.
At no point in this conversation does Sisko use the word slavery, but given the opinions he later expresses about racial issues, he had to be thinking it.
Out in Ops, Sisko confirms that he’s agreed to hand Tosk over. O’Brien objects that Tosk is an intelligent being. Sisko says that, as it’s their custom, under the Prime Directive they have no right to interfere (another example of the Prime Directive being kind of a shitty rule that ties people’s hands more than it enables them to do the right thing). Kira pipes up ‘What if Tosk were to ask for asylum?’ O’Brien, standing at the foot of the office steps and looking up at Sisko, gives him a full-wattage Beseeching Look. Sisko says all right, if he asks for it.
(At this point I am tangentially reminded of a comment thread from ontd_tng, in which LJ user teh_will wrote:
Thus far in the series, it’s episodes like [‘The Offspring’] that convince me that, at the end of the day, Data can do whatever the fuck he wants on that ship and the captain’s gonna let him get away with it.
Data: I brought home 21st century people.
Data: They were going to die. Can I keep them? *innocent stare*
Picard: Ugh, fine, for now.
Data: I broke the Prime Directive.
Picard: The law that we hold above all others, yadda yadda?
Data: Yes. *innocent stare*
Picard: All right, let’s go fix it.
Data: I made a kid.
Picard: I am very disappointed in you.
Data: *innocent, confused stare*
Admiral Douchebag: I want the baby android.
Data: *sad face*
Face it, Picard, you can’t resist.
If this were happening on the Enterprise, and it were Data wanting to protect Tosk, Picard would crumble like a wet sandcastle. Unfortunately for O’Brien, either Sisko is less susceptible to this sort of thing [he does have a kid after all], or he’s just not as good at the getting-his-own-way face as Data.)
You can’t see because of the angle of the shot, but I believe O’Brien gives Kira a big smile on his way out.
Scurrying into the brig, he tells Tosk, ‘All right, I have a way out for you.’ Tosk is excited at first, but when O’Brien explains how asylum works, his face falls – he can’t hide behind Federation protection, because that’s against everything he believes, an even worse disgrace than the zoo. He says that his purpose is to outwit the hunters for another day, to survive, until he dies with honour. That’s no longer an option for him, but he won’t turn his back on being Tosk. He thanks O’Brien, and sits back down on his bed. O’Brien looks very glum and walks out.
To Quark’s, where the sympathetic ear is complaining that the GQ tourist trade sucks – they haven’t bought a single drink. O’Brien wearily tells him to shut up, and Quark asks if it’s trouble with ‘the little woman.’ O’Brien gets cross, and Quark says he just thought O’Brien wanted to talk. Taking hold of Quark’s lapel, O’Brien says there’s nothing wrong between him and his wife, and if there were, he wouldn’t talk to a barkeep about it. Quark just stares at him in apparent fascination and tells him his face gets very pink ‘when it gets aggravated, much more so than most other hew-mons!’ O’Brien remains grumpy and truculent, and Quark keeps trying to prompt him to talk, I suppose out of equal parts kindness and nosiness. (I’ve always thought it a bit interesting that no counselor was assigned to DS9. If you want someone to listen to your lame-o problems, Quark is genuinely your best option. It helps not to be female.)
O’Brien says the situation is just ‘the rules of the game,’ and with a bit more prodding, explains about the hunt, saying Viggo’s guys are playing by their rules, ‘we’re playing by ours’ and Tosk’s caught in the middle. ‘Course I suppose if the Ferengi don’t like the rules they just change them.’
Quark starts to say something about rules – which might actually be that certain Rules are kinda sacred in Ferengi culture – but O’Brien is busy having a brainwave. ‘Of course! Change the rules… why didn’t I think of it before?’ He looks quite awed by this idea, which is pretty bloody subversive by 24th Century Federation standards. (On the other hand, I think Kirk would approve of it entirely, albeit being disappointed that Tosk was not a pretty lady.) He thanks Quark, who is looking a bit bewildered, and gives him a hearty clap on the back. Quark, bucked up, moves on to some poor drunk slumped over the bar and asks cheerily ‘So! What’s bothering you today?’
O’Brien does something sneaky with the computer, to do with the ‘security grid.’
In the brig, Viggo is putting a collar and leash on Tosk. Odo asks if that’s really necessary – of course it’s the custom when dealing with a captured Tosk. O’Brien marches in and says he’ll escort the prisoner to the transport. Odo objects that this is a security matter, but O’Brien says it’s a Starfleet matter (and besides, I add, he worked security for a while on the Enterprise) – orders from Sisko. Odo snaps ‘We’ll see about THAT’ and takes off.
Viggo says that he can handle the transportation, but O’Brien, sounding very confident, gives him some bullshit about this arrangement being a show of courtesy and respect from Sisko. Viggo accepts it, and O’Brien follows them, first taking off his commbadge and flicking it onto Odo’s desk. Sneaky, sneaky O’Brien! (Nice and symbolic, too.)
The owner of which desk is now in Sisko’s office, complaining bitterly about the imposition. Sisko says he hasn’t given O’Brien any orders, and calls him, to no avail.
O’Brien leads Viggo and a clearly miserable Tosk to the steampunk cogwheel. As it opens and Viggo steps in, the weapon-detecty thing from before (which I don’t recall seeing in any episode before or since) activates, but with such force as to throw Viggo back. O’Brien gives him a good hard punch, wastes time quipping ‘Glass jaw. Now I know why you wear a helmet,’ and hares away up the stairs with Tosk. Viggo presses a button on his sleeve and says ‘The hunt has resumed.’
On the upper walkway, O’Brien tells Tosk his ship’s ready, but they’re interrupted by a beaming-in Stig. This time Tosk isn’t locked up, and he actually fights back, leaping high in the air and knocking the Stig off the side of the walkway. O’Brien looks quite impressed.
In Ops, news of the fight has come through, and Dax has detected what is clearly O’Brien and Tosk moving through an access conduit above Quark’s. Odo says he’s going to seal off their access to the docking ring, but Sisko says, quite quietly and gently, that there’s no hurry. Odo thinks about it, then moves off slowly – then turns and gives Sisko a look, and steps even more slowly into the lift. That was a very nice touch.
In the conduit (a Cardassian Jeffries tube), O’Brien removes Tosk’s collar, and is told that now he is Tosk too, which makes him chuckle. There’s some crawling and some shooting and some pouncing on a Stig, whose weapon Tosk takes. O’Brien tells him ‘Nearly there,’ but they’re interrupted by Viggo and two more Stigs. ‘No,’ says Viggo, who recognises a feed line when he hears one, ‘he is mine.’ He shoots at Tosk, but he dodges and pushes O’Brien out of the way, then shoots Viggo and his goons. Viggo flops and emits smoke. The two fugitives proceed.
O’Brien lets Tosk into his ship and asks him ‘What now?’ The hunt, says Tosk, goes on. Does O’Brien want to come? Not very much, especially given his family. Tosk, intent on his control panels, asks if O’Brien will be punished for helping him. O’Brien says maybe, but after all, those guys wanted a hunt and he gave them one. He grins at Tosk, then tells him to get out while he can. Tosk, though, gets up, gives him a Meaningful Look of Cross-Species Brotherhood, pats his shoulders and tells him ‘Die with honour, O’Brien.’ O’Brien looks flummoxed at first, then replies in kind. He takes off. Tosk takes off.
Given his track record, it seems most likely that O’Brien will die horribly mangled, but I guess he can do that honourably.
Aww, no, I don’t want that, that was just a cheap shot. I want him to be a much-loved great-grandpa just quietly nodding off and checking out at the end of a good day.
Tosk flies out into the eternal night.
In Sisko’s office, O’Brien has his badge back on and is having to answer some questions. He claims that the weapons sensor must have overloaded because Viggo was so tooled-up. ‘Must have,’ Sisko repeats. O’Brien admits that yes, it must have, because he’d increased its output by ‘about’ 200%. Sisko growls at him for mucking up their first contact with GQ aliens by assaulting their leader; how would O’Brien like him to put this in his report to Starfleet? O’Brien humble-working-classes ‘Well sir, I’m not one to say, but…’ He suggests that he actually gave the hunters what they wanted, which could be good for their future relationship. Sisko is not having it, though, saying that O’Brien ignored his duty to Starfleet, took off his badge so he could ignore him, and ignored the Prime Directive. ‘Another stunt like this and your wife won’t have to complain about the conditions here any more.’ Clear? Clear.
The doors open behind O’Brien (does Sisko have a button on his desk for that?) and he starts to go, but turns back to say that he was surprised by one thing – he knew he couldn’t override all the security seals on the station, and expected Sisko and Odo to trap them with the forcefields. Sisko deadpans that that one got by them. O’Brien thanks him and leaves. Sisko turns away and has a little smile to himself. Wow, Sisko, today you did some real facial expressions!
Hang on. Did Tosk kill Viggo and his goons, or was that just a kind of stun weapon? I suppose from a Prime Directive point of view, it doesn’t matter if a member of their own culture killed them, but it’s a big problem that O’Brien, a Starfleet NCO, non-fatally assaulted one of them to save someone else’s life. One more reason why the Prime Directive is a really weird rule.
I hope you enjoyed that, as I mostly did – it’s always a pleasure to spend time with O’Brien, and this episode played to his strength of just generally embodying dogged humble human decency. Next time, we have ‘Q-Less,’ which is rather less successful, but does have this:<
Do I ever object to the mocking of early Bashir? Do I heck.