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The Hunted

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at May 23, 2008 - 9:42 PM GMT

See Also: 'The Hunted' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: On a trip to the newly peaceful world of Angosia, which has applied for membership in the Federation, the Enterprise offers assistance in tracking down a dangerous prisoner who has escaped from a lunar penal colony. It takes several men to restrain the violent Danar, but once he has been secured in the brig while the Angosian prison is repaired, Troi senses his pain and finds that he is inherently non-violent and rational. Meanwhile, Crusher tries to figure out why Danar does not register as a life form and discovers that his body has been extensively modified to make him a stronger soldier. Data checks the Angosian records and discovers that he served Angosia with distinction during the planet's recent war, but once the war was over, he and other soldiers who had undergone modifications were deemed to be a danger to the society they were programmed to protect, and the lot of them were exiled to the lunar colony. Picard confronts Prime Minister Nayrok but is told that this is not the Federation's concern and that the Angosians will retrieve Danar from the Enterprise as soon as they can do so securely. When Picard tells Danar that the latter must be taken back to prison, Danar warns Picard that he will do whatever is necessary to escape that fate. Following a chase through the Enterprise after Danar escapes from a transporter beam, the prisoner returns to the penal colony and leads a revolt, bringing his fellow inmates to Nayrok's seat of power. Picard refuses to help Nayrok recapture the soldiers and insists that the Angosian government has an obligation to reverse the programming that made the prisoners dangerous - only if the Angosians can resolve the situation on their own will they be worthy Federation members.

Analysis: "The Hunted" is a predictable episode, but no less enjoyable to watch for that. It's also one of the few instances I can think of where Picard does exactly what I would have expected Kirk to do in the same situation. He and Riker beam down for what's supposed to be a happy occasion, a meet-and-greet with prospective Federation members who've just pulled themselves out of a war, yet things go wrong almost immediately: an escaped prisoner, a chase in space, a fight in the transporter room, and Picard finds himself with a dangerous man on his hands. Danar isn't dangerous because he's a threat to the crew, as Troi quickly ascertains; as long as no one is threatening him, he's calm, rational, sorry for his violent tendencies and miserable that his enhanced mind can recall the faces of all the people his genetically enhanced body killed during the war. Rather, Danar is dangerous because once Picard is aware of his existence, the attractive front the Angosians have put on for their Federation visitors begins to disintegrate. Picard is left with a volatile situation on his ship and potential catastrophe in the society he has come to observe.

As victims go, Danar is perhaps a bit too perfect; he doesn't kill or seriously injure a single crewmember in his attempts to escape, he doesn't try to use the Enterprise as a weapon against the Angosians, and because he's programmed to be an efficient fighter, he doesn't land any more punches than necessary. And as villains go, the Angosians are a bit too cliched; as soon as Nayrok (played by the always-entertaining James Cromwell) utters the line about the prisoners being an internal security matter, Picard mutters that the age-old cry of the oppressor is "internal security" - wow, these episodes really are still relevant, aren't they - and we know that the Angosians are going to have to be taught a lesson. Probably with a speech. What holds the story together is that it's genuinely impossible to predict what Danar will do. I'd seen it before and I still wasn't sure whether Danar killed anyone in engineering or where he went while trying to distract Data into thinking he was headed for a shuttle. It's exciting to have a killing machine with a heart of gold loose on the Enterprise.

As for those relevant political and philosophical issues, maybe the subject of right and wrong seemed even more clear at the time it was written, but this storyline has gained relevance over time. The Angosians are certain that they've defended their society properly, that they deserve to be in the Federation because they've mastered peacetime freedoms; so far as they're concerned, their "internal security" issues shouldn't count. They haven't yet stopped to ponder the ethics of creating super-soldiers to win a war, let alone the social obligations to those soldiers once they come home. It takes Picard to remind the Angosians that these are their brothers and sisters, their sons and daughters. It's not one of his more profound or original speeches, yet it seems particularly relevant at this moment when young Americans are dying in a war most Americans think should have ended many months ago (if indeed American troops should have been involved to begin with) while their benefits are being cut, their medical care being neglected, with record high numbers of homeless and suicidal veterans. Danar tells Troi that the soldiers were not informed beforehand of what would be done to their bodies or what they should expect in battle. He admits that their mental institution-penal colony is comfortable, yet it is still a cage. He doesn't understand how his own people can fail to see the wrongheadedness of their choice to neglect the soldiers who protected their way of life.

It's nice to see an episode where both Troi and Data are on top of their games, though, with Troi deflecting questions when Danar accuses her of studying him like a specimen and Data suggesting that since he can alter his own programming, perhaps Danar can as well (though Data nearly makes a tactical error by telling Danar that he cannot kill - perhaps it's a test, since Danar doesn't try to take advantage of that knowledge). Because Danar is supposed to be smarter and stronger than the average human, it's possible to excuse silliness like Worf disarming an overloading phaser instead of beaming it off the ship and an entire engineering team being overwhelmed and rendered unconscious by a single humanoid. We're allowed as viewers to admire Danar and scoff at the Angosians, though Picard's joking that the Federation might return to help if Nayrok survives the night is rather on the nasty side. It's balanced a bit by Picard's scoffing "We're not here to fight your war for you" and his admission that he wishes he could help Danar despite regulations.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Michelle Erica Green is a former news writer for TrekToday. An archive of her reviews can be found at The Little Review.

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