Star Trek: The Next Generation Re-Watch: “The Hunted”

thehunted137“The Hunted”
Written by Robin Bernheim
Directed by Cliff Bole

Season 3, Episode 11
Original air date: January 8, 1990
Star date: 43489.2

Mission summary

Picard and company pay a visit to Angosia III to evaluate its people for exclusive membership in the Federation. Things seem to be going swimmingly; Picard and Zefram Cochrane Prime Minister Nayrok are bonding over their moral superiority, and it’s all but a done deal when they receive word that a prisoner has escaped from a maximum security penal colony on Lunar V and stolen a transport vessel. The Angosians are strangely ill-equipped to take care of their own, so Picard offers the services of Enterprise to recapture the escapee. It should be a simple matter, but the pilot is devious and somehow they lose track of him around an asteroid, to Picard’s utter shock and dismay.

They eventually figure out how the prisoner managed to trick the ship’s sensors and flush him out, but he makes a suicide run for Enterprise–and bounces harmlessly off the shields. But this too is a ploy, used to distract from his attempted escape in a  pod. They’re unable to pick up any life signs from him at all, but Picard is tired of these games and orders anything large enough to be a humanoid adult beamed directly to the ship.

Chief O’Brien neutralizes the prisoner’s weapon in the transport matrix and brings him aboard, into the waiting arms of Enterprise security. Even unarmed, the prisoner easily subdues the transporter chief and the security officers, then tosses around their backup–Riker and Worf–until he is finally recaptured.

Roga Danar captures the interest of Deanna Troi, and ultimately the rest of the crew, which learns that he is the product of Angosian psychological conditioning and physiological modification to create a super soldier–including drug treatment to mask his electrical impulses and hide him from sensors. As unsettling as the evidence is that the Angosians are not as upstanding as they seem, Enterprise is unable to interfere in what Nayrok calls “matters of internal security,” and Picard is left to moralize on his own. “Matter of internal security. The age-old cry of the oppressor,” he tells his fish.

Nayrok sends a transport vehicle to pick up Danar, but as he is being beamed over from his cell, he somehow resists the transporter beam and escapes again with a phaser. He leads the crew on a merry chase through the ship, evading all attempts to intercept him while laying traps and leaving breadcrumbs to divert them from his true destination: a deactivated transporter pad in the cargo hold that he powers using a phaser.

Just go with it, it’s almost over.

Danar beams over to the transport ship, armed, and seizes control. Then he attacks the Lunar V colony and leads his fellow soldiers toward the capital city. Nayrok again asks for help, so Picard leads a small away team into the thick of danger, seemingly just to say good-bye. With the prime minister and Angosian leaders held at gunpoint by the very soldiers they engineered to protect them, the Starfleet captain fires a parting shot:

I have all the information I need for our report. Your prisoner has been returned to you and you have a decision to make. Whether to try to force them back or welcome them home. In your own words, this is not our affair. We cannot interfere in the natural course of your society’s development, and I’d say it’s likely to develop significantly in the next several minutes. It’s been an interesting visit. When you’re ready for membership, the Federation will be pleased to reconsider your application. Mister Riker, four to beam up.

Enterprise leaves, promising to help the Angosians deprogram their soldiers if they make the right decision and the government remains intact.



This episode is about as poorly engineered as Captain Angosia and his super soldier friends, and no amount of psychological reprogramming can make me enjoy it. The plot is utterly contrived every step of the way, which might have been passable if we had something to make us care about Danar, but the only interesting and sympathetic detail we get is this:

ROGA: My improved reflexes have allowed me to kill eighty four times. And my improved memory lets me remember each of those eighty four faces. Can you understand how that feels?

There’s no room for moral debate here: It’s obvious that the Angosians are evil cowards, Picard and the others loathe them (Riker even says it’s “a little stuffy” for his taste, and that’s when they were on friendly terms), and Danar and the other prisoners have been wronged. The only conflict arises from the perception that the Federation is completely powerless to do anything about the situation, because this week we’re going to adhere to the Prime Directive. Politics, red tape, blah blah blah.

What’s even more annoying is just how little thought went into the script. The super soldiers could have been deprogrammed, but the Angosians didn’t feel like it, or they thought it was better to lock them up on a moon in case they were needed again. Yeah, I’m sure they’d be real willing to help them out of their next pickle. Maybe the super soldiers couldn’t be deprogrammed, but the chemicals could have been removed from their bodies, thus rendering them not only visible to sensors but physically normal, so they’d pose less of a threat.

Then we have Danar touted as incredibly clever and powerful. It is pretty shocking that he was able to escape from Enterprise, since his trick isn’t all that impressive. For all their talk about him being able to hide from the ship’s sensors, couldn’t they, you know, see his transport ship? If they bothered to look at the viewscreen or out a window?

In fact, Danar is so skilled, he manages to overcome a transporter beam through sheer will, which no one ever even attempts to explain. “What the hell?” indeed, Mr. O’Brien. Danar moves through the ship’s corridors, tubes, and systems with the ease of a genetically enhanced mind who has one of those “So You Want to Take Over Enterprise” pamphlets they leave out for all new arrivals. I still can’t figure out how he got out of the turbolift while it was moving unless he went through the ceiling panel. And this is news to me, but phasers are not only weapons but battery packs that can be plugged into consoles with no extra modifications. I must have missed that post on Lifehacker.

Other “huh?!” moments:

  • Data says the ship can detect artificial lifeforms. Really?
  • O’Brien calls for backup–repeatedly–and all they send are Riker and Worf?
  • You can set a phaser to overload after a specified period of time has elapsed?
  • Picard beams down into the middle of a potential firefight, pretty much on the basis of, “Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.”
  • Riker tells Worf he’s “personally responsible for the Captain’s safety.” Isn’t that part of his job description? Isn’t that Riker’s job too? Come to think of it, aren’t they all responsible for his safety?

In short, this episode requires you to do more than suspend your disbelief, you have to expel it completely. But I think its worst failing is that it is just so inane. There’s no interesting conflict, the events don’t affect any of the Enterprise characters in any meaningful way, and ultimately, they don’t accomplish anything. At all.

Eugene’s Rating: Dead in Space (on a scale of 1-6)

thehunted266Thread Alert: I actually kind of like the Angosian suits. There’s something nicely totalitarian about them. They make me think of Orwell’s 1984. The soldiers’ uniforms, on the other hand, seem kind of generic. Were they forced them to wear them all the time, or did they change into their old uniforms because they look more rebellious than leisure suits?

Best Line: PICARD: Prime Minister, even the most comfortable prison is a prison.

Trivia/Other Notes: This episode was written as an allegory for the way U.S. veterans of the Vietnam War were treated when they returned to society. I see now that we never should have stuck them in that prison on the Moon.

The original ending with Danar and the soldiers’ violent attack on the capital was cut…because of a lack of budget and time. Talk is cheap.

The Angosian senators’ shirts were turtlenecks from Starfleet uniforms in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. No wonder I liked them!

This is the first mention of Jeffries tubes on TNG.

James Cromwell (Nayrok) returns to TNG in “Birthright” and also makes appearances in DS9, Enterprise, and, most notably, Star Trek: First Contact.

Jeff McCarthy (Danar) appears, briefly, in the pilot for Star Trek: Voyager as the original chief medical officer.

Previous episode: Season 3, Episode 10 – “The Defector.”

Next episode: Season 3, Episode 12 – “The High Ground.”

About Eugene Myers

E(ugene).C. Myers was assembled in the U.S. from Korean and German parts. He has published four novels and short stories in various magazines and anthologies, most recently 1985: Stori3s from SOS. His first novel, Fair Coin, won the 2012 Andre Norton Award for Young Adult SF and Fantasy. He currently writes for the science fiction serial ReMade from Serial Box Publishing.