“The Hunted” opens with the Enterprise in orbit around Angosia III and Picard and Riker on the surface meeting with Nayrok, James Cromwell with a truly unfortunate moustache. Everyone is content that the Angosians are an intellectual, peaceful people despite the recent Tarsian War. Note, nothing further about that conflict will be mentioned other than that it occurred and was bloody. Riker, however, finds the Angosians a bit on the boring side, but apparently, boring is not a bar to Federation membership. Picard and Riker prepare to beam up, but Nayrok, having received bad news, interrupts them and asks for help retrieving an escaped prisoner named Roga Danar. Picard and Riker agree, of course, and we’re off to the races. After a pretty clever series of feints, that almost but not quite, fool Data, they bring the prisoner on board, who manages to tear through a security team before being captured. Troi, intrigued by what she feels from the prisoner, deduces that something is not quite right with this situation. The crew discovers that the prison from which Danar escaped is a military facility and that there are no specific crimes of which Danar has been convicted. In fact, Danar and the rest of the prisoners are actually super soldiers developed by the Angosians to fight the Tarsian War and who, having survived the war’s brutalities, are no longer welcome on Angosia III. Despite Picard’s obvious disgust at how cavalierly the Angosians have treated their people, Nayrok demands the return of their prisoner; Danar escapes, and Picard, Troi, Data, and Worf all beam down to chat with the distressed Nayrok who worries that Danar and the other prisoners he has rallied to his cause are about to do something terrible and violent to the rest of the Angosians. Picard, however, rather coolly informs Nayrok that after their society has evolved sufficiently, they will be welcome to reapply for Federation membership.
“The Hunted” might as well be Star Trek does Rambo with Danar serving as the stand-in for Sylvester Stallone. The episode goes above and beyond to establish that Danar is smarter, stronger, and generally better at tactics than Starfleet’s finest, though credit where it’s due, this episode does give Worf credit with some tactical awareness. Danar wipes the floor with a Starfleet security team, finds relevant junction boxes in Jeffries tubes, and deduces how to use a phaser to power a cargo transporter with absolute ease. Let’s be honest here, Danar’s skills are nearly preternatural. Setting aside that ridiculousness, I want to talk a bit about violence. Danar, no matter that he has been wrongfully rejected by his culture, killed three guards in his initial escape attempt. When he beams aboard the Angosian prison ship, we have no guarantee that he plans to leave the two-man crew alive. Danar himself acknowledges the blood on his hands, and it is that conflict between the ruthlessness of his conditioning and his Angosian nature that first draws Troi’s attention.
The script does a phenomenal job of portraying Danar’s strategic abilities, enough so that Danar’s appearance in Engineering serves as a great moment of tension. We as viewers don’t know that Danar won’t kill Geordi because he seems that unstoppable. What the episode fails to engage is the moral conundrum that Danar poses. On the one hand, he’s guilty of extreme violence, but on the other, Angosia has greatly wronged him. Certainly, he pays lip service to the emotional ramifications of killing those three guards, but the episode more or less drops it because that’s not the point of the story. The point is that Danar and his fellow soldiers sacrificed everything to serve their society in the Tarsian War and become pariahs as a result. Like Rambo, the episode is meant as an allegory for the treatment of soldiers returning home from the Vietnam War. It does that fairly well, but like Rambo the film, the episode goes a little too far in excusing the soldier’s actions when faced with societal maltreatment. There’s almost a feeling that the Angosians are going get their just desserts, and I don’t think that sentiment belongs in Star Trek. The point being made is a valid one, especially as the story does not grapple with the comparative morality of the Tarsian War, but it’s a bit heavy-handed.
Beyond that issue, the episode does give us some great Picard moments. His quiet rage in the face of Nayrok’s repugnant assurance that banishing the surviving soldiers is for the greater good gives rise to one of my favorite lines in all of TNG: “A matter of internal security’ – the age-old cry of the oppressor.” This will be a sentiment that he revisits more in depth in season four’s “The Drumhead,” which I will certainly be covering here. Picard beams down to the surface just in time to see Danar and the others arrive to threaten Nayrok, and I think he’s there because he wants to see Nayrok’s face when he realizes not only that Picard will do nothing to help him but that Picard’s report will effectively deny Angosia entrance into the Federation based solely on its treatment of these veterans. Yes, I realize that we needed a Starfleet presence in order to see this resolution, but Stewart plays the scene with Picard’s satisfaction in mind.
All in all, “The Hunted” is a fun episode and one worth revisiting.
Rating: Three cups of Earl Grey Tea
Stray Thoughts from the Couch:
- I mention above that I’m glad Worf gets some credit for intelligence, and I am. Worf deduces Danar’s gambit, and while I know that the ease with which Danar renders Worf unconscious serves to highlight just how strong Danar actually is, I’m still always a little disappointed for Worf.
- Apparently, the episode’s original ending featured a bloody confrontation in the capitol. I’m glad the production ran out of time and resources for that. The existing ending is far better and more in-keeping with the spirit of TNG.
- James Cromwell makes the first of several Star Trek appearances. The most notable of which, of course, is his role as Zefram Cochrane in First Contact.