By Robert Ring, Tue, 11/02/2010 – 08:45
“Learning to Love Star Trek”
is a weekly blog series by Sci-Fi Block Editor in Chief Robert Ring, begun January 1, 2010. In this series of blog posts, Robert is endeavoring to determine whether he can make a Star Trek
fan out of himself through an exposure to a combination of episodes from Star Trek
the Original Series and Star Trek: The Next Generation
has now been replaced with Deep Space Nine
). Click here
to read his introduction to the experiment.
Another below-par episode for Deep Space Nine. However, this one’s not as bad as “Babel,” and, to be fair, the first few episodes set the bar pretty high. This one examines the Prime Directive under a unique and challenging set of circumstances, but it spends too much time on stuff that just isn’t interesting. On paper, its plot sounds like the premise for a solid episode, but it wasn’t pulled off as well as it could have been.
When the first life form from the Gamma Quadrant comes through the wormhole by Deep Space Nine, O’Brien befriends the visitor, named Tosk. Or he’s a Tosk. Or the word “Tosk” describes him in some other manner. He never fully explains. Anyway, this Tosk seems a little too secretive and on-edge. His arrival is a great occasion for the Federation, but unfortunately he is uninterested in chatter and seeks only to get his ship up and running as quickly as possible. Eventually, we learn why: he comes from a culture in which his race is bred and trained for hunting by those in power, and it was during this hunt that his ship was damaged and he ended up on DS9. Though he could seek asylum on the station if he wanted to do so, he views such action as an abandonment of his life purpose. All he wants to do is continue the hunt as prey. As much as Sisko and the others don’t like the idea, the Prime Directive demands that in these conditions they allow the hunt to continue. Queue a heroic action sequence, and curtain.
Hey Tosk, do you happen to know a guy named Bossk?
While the Prime Directive bit is interesting here, it comprises a small portion of the episode. Still, it’s absolutely worth looking at. We’ve had a difficult call in The Next Generation, where following the Prime Directive would have meant allowing someone to die, but here we have to bring an entire culture’s way of life into question. No doubt, to us this custom is deplorable. However, even Tosk is fully given to the morality of the hunt. He believes he’s fulfilling his life’s goal. There hardly seems a way to justify this on the part of those who arrange the hunt system, but if everyone’s happy with it, what are we to do? Tell them they’re wrong? Good luck with that. So, because of the Prime Directive, we have to allow the culture to keep doing its thing.
I like this in part because it forces us to acknowledge a seemingly universally heinous custom as possibly morally acceptable from a certain perspective. To me what’s even more interesting about it, though, is the idea of actually finding meaning in a life in which one is bred only to serve as the prey in a hunt. It is as if these people have to create their own meaning in life, and they do so without apology and without reservation. They just need a purpose, and they’re happy to serve that purpose even if it means their death. After all, who needs life if it’s meaningless? I would like to learn more about this society. Is it totally absent of religion? Their need to create purpose in life would suggest that it is.
So, there’s some good stuff here, but I remain disappointed that so much of it consists of establishing the mystery of what Tosk is running from, why he’s in such a hurry, and, eventually, why aliens in space suits are trying to capture him. We don’t actually learn what’s going on until over halfway through the episode, as if the mystery is somehow more rewarding than the pondering of the morals of the situation. Then we learn what’s going on and get to watch the characters talk and think about the problem for about ten minutes, at which point we get an “O’Brien saves the day” escape scene that lasts pretty much the rest of the episode. Yawn.
At the least, I can say that DS9 still seems to know what it’s doing a lot more than what I’ve seen of TNG. Plus, at this point the series is still very young. Every good show has its missteps. Right now I’m just hoping these indeed are its missteps. From what I can tell based on the first three episodes, I’m still in safe territory