Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Hunted [3.11]

Evaluating a civilization’s application to join the Federation, the Enterprise is called to assist when a violent prisoner escapes from the local penal colony.  He proves difficult to apprehend, but eventually the Enterprise captures Roga Danar.  Awaiting their opportunity to return him, the crew discover that Danar is not a criminal but rather a chemically modified soldier who was placed in a prison colony with his colleagues after they were not able to adjust to peacetime.  Danar escapes as he is being returned to the planet, and eventually leads his fellow soldiers in a revolution.  Realizing that the world’s people have treated these soldiers unjustly, Picard refused to help the government put down the revolution, presumably forcing them to negotiate with their soldiers.

Written by Robin Bernheim. Directed by Cliff Bole.

Previous Episode: The Defector • Next Episode: The High Ground

 

Comments:
The Hunted is a fairly ambitious story, but not an entirely successful one.  It attempts to deal with some fairly grand ideas:  Picard and the crew slowly realize that a promising world owes a lot of its good qualities to a deep injustice that has never owned up to.  Frankly, that’s a great premise, and it’s been turned here into an action-packed tale, as Roga Danar flees his way past Enterprise security around the ship, sets off booby-traps and engages in hand-to-hand combat with Worf (who, of course, loses).  Those scene are fairly exciting and well done – unfortunately, though, they aren’t very interesting.

That may seem like a contradiction but what I mean is that overall, all that action business of Roga escaping custody is fairly irrelevant to the plot.  In the end, after maybe 15 or 20 minutes of the story, he finally tricks and eludes his pursuers, and only then does the story get on with things.  The whole story beat could have been covered in one short scene without altering anything before or after at all.  So it’s kind of fun, but feels pointless.

When the story finally does get going, it has the potential to be very interesting.  The real story here is about what this world has done to their soldiers – both in creating them and then abandoning them – and how those soldiers respond when they finally get the chance.  We haven’t really seen a lot of revolutions on Star Trek before, but sadly here it looks thin and budget straining.  There are reports of this band of unbeatable soldiers running amok through the streets, but no shots of this.  All we see is a bunch of guys break into an unguarded government office, and then everyone pointing guns at each other.

Picard leaves in the middle of this standoff, which is consistent with his annoyance and his Prime Directive-driven ethos, but it’s also a bit unsatisfying, and a little out of character–you feel like if he wasn’t so annoyed he might have tried a little harder to negotiate a peace.  His confidence that somehow these people will sort it all out seems a little premature, and his departure seems based in irritation more than anything else.  I don’t know, maybe it is justified – the Angosians are pretty reprehensible, at least in this one category.

I suppose the story is meant to be an indictment of sorts at the treatment of veterans from the Vietnam War and other conflicts by the United States and other nations.  As such, it’s a bit blunt and very comfortably seated on its high horse, with all of Picard’s indignant platitudes (“A matter of internal security.  The age-old cry of the oppressor.”)  It would have made an extremely bold statement if it was made during the original series, but coming as it did in the late 1980’s, it represents a “social statement” that had by then achieved popular agreement, robbing it of any real power along those lines.

Guest Cast:
Jeff McCarthy, who plays Danar, also plays the doomed Chief Medical Officer in the first episode of Voyager.

J. Michael Flynn plays Zayner.  He appeared in a few episodes of Enterprise, mostly as Nijil.

James Cromwell, who played the Prime Minister, is probably the most famous (certainly best known to me) guest actor to appear on the show so far.  I recognize him from roles in Babe (and its sequel), LA ConfidentialDeep ImpactI Robot,  and Star Trek First Contact, where he played Zefram Cochrane.

Observations
• I think this is the first time I’ve seen this episode.  As I was watching, and we first heard about an escaped prisoner, I wrote down, “If the story turns out that to be about someone escaping from the controlling culture of this would-be Federation member, than it seems a bit obvious.”

• Troi has some good input, but it’s a bit odd that Picard doesn’t really listen to her.

• The fight scene in the transporter room is pretty good – the two security officers acquit themselves well.  The only thing that’s not ideal is that you’d think the transporter room should be locked from the inside when beaming aboard someone like this guy.

• I like his Danar’s obviously fake backstory, and how he responds to someone like Troi.

• Good exchange with Data and Danar:  “Am I disturbing you.” “Yes.”  “Than I will leave.”

• Nice touch having Data and Troi agreeing with each other – show the strong argument whether by logic or by  emotion

• That’s a pretty worthless security guard on Deck 36.

• At one point Worf says he’s “on his way,” but is moving very slowly given the circumstances.

• Worf pretty rough with the injured engineer

• Nice subterfuge by Worf in the cargo bay, but a bit foolish he didn’t just shoot the guy.

• Worf warns the bridge of Danar’s location before the explosion goes off and cuts off communications.  But the Bridge never seems to pick this up.

• I like Danar’s line, “No.  Shoot us.  Destroy us.  Do what you have to.  But you will not ignore us.”  It was almost my favorite line of dialogue in the show.

• As uncertain as I am about Picard’s actions, I like his closing line to the Angosians, “We can interfere with the natural course of your society’s natural development.  And I’d say it’s going to develop considerably in the next few minutes.”

Dialogue High Point
My favorite line of dialogue, the one that came back to me as I was writing this up, is a throwaway line from one of the government ministers, talking about why they never worked on “curing” the soldiers of the their condition.  It’s also the most damning indication of what is really wrong with this society:

Besides, we may need them again some day.

Previous Episode: The Defector • Next Episode: The High Ground

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