Revisiting Star Trek TNG: The Hunted

Review James Hunt 16 May 2014 - 10:44

After a run of must-watch episodes, TNG's third season reaches one that's best skipped...

This review contains spoilers.

3.11 The Hunted

The Enterprise arrives at Angosia III, a happy planet of perfectly normal people who aren't hiding any dark secrets. The Angosians are appealing to join the Federation, and Picard is mere seconds away from getting out his rubber stamp when there's a prison break on one of their penal colony moons.

The Enterprise attempts to subdue the escapee in his stolen ship, but he gives them the runaround. Eventually, they transport him onto the Enterprise and although he managed to beat up Chief O'Brien and two security nobodies, Worf and Riker are able to subdue him. (Yep, that's right. Worf actually won a fight!)

The man, Roga Danar (that's pronounced "Roh-gah", not "Roger"), is placed in the brig to await extradition to the surface. The case seems closed, until Troi goes to visit him. "I sensed his pain," she says, "and I also sensed his square jaw and dark brooding eyes."

Troi goes to Picard, but he's nonplussed by her appeals for leniency, not least because he beat the hell out of several crewmen (and SHOT O'Brien!). He tells her the order will stand. Rather than accept this, Troi goes to check his records, only to find that he's not a criminal – he's a veteran soldier.

Troi and Crusher assess Danar and find that he's an unstoppable killing machine who can't help himself – he was psychologically programmed and physically enhanced to fight in one of the Angosian wars. Now the wars are over, and he (and his people) were thrown into exile because they keep snapping and killing people. Unfortunately, they can never be cured of their brainwashing. Although he admits to his fellow programmee, Data, that the options have not been fully explored and the normal man he was is still inside, if only he could stop his indiscriminate killing.

Picard takes these findings to a phonecall with the Angosian Prime Minister who claims that this is all lies and that Danar and his people were "rehomed" on a "colony" where they could live in "complete comfort". Then he gets shirty and terminates the call, saying that it's a matter of internal security. Which I think we can agree is a guaranteed way to get people off your back. Picard clearly thinks so, because he starts musing aloud to himself, philosophically, in an empty room.

Despite this, Picard is forced to hand Danar back to the Angosians. As they try to beam him out, he manages to break out of the transporter beam mid-transport and escape, knocking Troi and Worf unconscious. When Troi and Worf wake up, Danar is gone. They then do an extended Benny Hill-style chase around the ship where he makes Starfleet's finest look like chimps and eventually escapes.

Everyone's a little flummoxed until the Prime Minister phones up and tells them that Danar has organised a "mass breakout" from their totally voluntary home. The wayward super-soldiers are now advancing on the Angosian government. Picard, Worf, Troi and Data beam to the surface, which upsets the Prime Minister because he specifically expected a useful group of people. Picard tells him that they won't help Angosia evade responsibility for their actions. The Prime Minister admits that they don't even want to, in case they need the soldiers again.

Danar and his followers arrive, and Picard warns everyone not to provoke the super-soldiers, because their programming only kicks in when they're attacked. With the help of Troi and Picard, Danar sets out his terms, and the Prime Minister claims he'll look at the problem. Danar doesn't believe him. The Prime Minister asks Picard to intervene, but he kind of shrugs his shoulders and says they should probably figure this out themselves. After all, it's a matter of "internal security". And if they want to re-apply to the Federation later, they're welcome to try. Then he beams away, leaving the planet's government at gunpoint.

Back on the Enterprise, Picard asks Riker to note in the report that the Federation will help the Angosian government cure their soldiers, assuming it still exists in the morning. And then he warp nines the hell out of there.

TNG WTF: It's slightly surprising that Picard, the king of diplomacy, decides to beat a hasty retreat just as a group of murderous rebels has taken over the government. Rebels with a point, admittedly, but also guns, a lot of anger, and a built-in knowledge of three hundred ways to kill a man with his own eyelids. Then he ends the episode by making a joke about whether the government will survive the night. Ha ha, people will probably die. Even if he agrees with the rebels, he could've stuck around to make sure they weren't simply subdued again, since the Angosians presumably managed it once. It's not the job of the Federation to police the galaxy, but this was shirking by any assessment.

TNG LOL: During Danar's chase, Worf encounters an overloading phaser left as a trap in a turbolift. Leaving aside the question of why you'd give your phaser a setting that made it explode dangerously (do pistols have a backfire setting?) his shout of "Phaser on Overload, seal this deck!" and the shot of his security team member literally burying his face in terror as Worf disarms it are amazing. They suggest something much more violent than what actually happens when one blows up later on.

Mistakes and Minutiae: TWO new phaser settings this week. "Overload", which makes them blow up in an incredibly dangerous manner, and "Quick Charge", which lets them power a deactivated transporter when plugged into a special USB-type port on a console.  The complete list is now Stun, Kill, Cut Through Door, Heat Up Rocks, Head Explodey, Aqueduct Demolition, Smelt Ore, Overkill, Overload and Quick Charge.

As for mistakes, when Danar breaks out of his transporter beam, even the most serene Star Trek nerd must surely be shouting "TRANSPORTERS DO NOT WORK THAT WAY." If you break out of your beam mid-transport, I don't care how much super-soldier engineering you've got, you're not going to survive if half of your particles are in a buffer somewhere. Considering how little it takes for them to go wrong, it's a miracle they didn't end up with one good Danar and one evil Danar or something.

Who's That Face?: The Angosian Prime Minister is James Cromwell, better known as Zefram Cochrane, the father of warp drive as seen in Star Trek: First Contact.

Time Until Meeting: 18:17. Troi explains Danar to the bridge crew. Surprisingly late in the episode!

Captain's Log: Some weeks you find a gem. Other weeks, you can't even remember the episode until Worf shouts "PHASER ON OVERLOAD! SEAL THIS DECK!". There's a point in here about the way society treats its veterans, but the Angosian government is so cartoonishly evil and Danar so clearly psychologically undamaged that it stops being a meaningful social metaphor very quickly.

Other than that, there's almost nothing interesting here. It's competent, but by-the-numbers. Enterprise arrives at a planet, discovers its dark secret, a handsome man/woman makes doe eyes at Riker/Troi, and the Enterprise imparts a moral lesson before leaving. And at some point in the episode, Data struggles to understand the nature of his robo-humanity. If you've seen it once, you've seen it a hundred times.

Watch or Skip? Skip. 

Read James' look-back at the previous episode, The Defector, here.

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