Written by Jill Sherman Donner and Michael Piller
Directed by Corey Allen
Season 1, Episode 5
Production episode 40511-406
Original air date: January 31, 1993
Station log: A dabo girl brings a complaint to Sisko about Quark sexually harassing her, though she also admits that said harassment is actually part of her employment contract with Quark. Sisko promises to deal with it, but before he can do so, an unidentified ship comes through the wormhole. It’s a single-person vessel, which is badly damaged. The occupant refuses to abandon his ship, but O’Brien is able to tow him in (and talk him through it). Given how skittish the guy is, Sisko suggests O’Brien meet him alone at the airlock.
O’Brien boards the ship. Once the occupant comes out of hiding—he has a personal cloak—he identifies himself as Tosk, which is apparently both his name and his species. O’Brien promises to fix the ship, assuming Tosk will help him figure out how it all works.
Tosk very reluctantly follows O’Brien onto the station—they can’t start repairs until the reactor cools down. O’Brien explains about the station and the wormhole and Starfleet’s mission to seek out new life and new civilizations. He also shows him around the Promenade (including watching Quark throw a cheating gambler out), and then brings him to quarters. Tosk wants to get started on repairs, and O’Brien promises they will soon. Tosk only requires seventeen minutes of rest per day, and his sustenance is built into him. After O’Brien leaves, Tosk calls up station schematics to find out where the weapons are stored.
O’Brien reports to Sisko that Tosk is obviously on the run, and his ship was definitely fired on. Sisko tells O’Brien to stay close, and he’ll also order Odo to keep an eye on him.
Tosk talks O’Brien through the repairs to his ship. O’Brien figures it’ll be ready to go in a couple of days, but Tosk needs to leave sooner than that. While O’Brien’s staff works on the ship, O’Brien takes Tosk to Quark’s. The Ferengi tries to entice Tosk with a holosuite adventure, but Tosk says he lives the greatest adventure imaginable—but he won’t give specifics about it.
Odo catches Tosk messing with a security junction. Tosk refuses to explain what he’s doing beyond, “I must prepare.” Odo takes him into custody, and O’Brien determines that he was trying to break the security on the weapons locker. Tosk insists that he has committed no crime—in fact, he’s appalled by the notion—and he begs Sisko and O’Brien to let him die with honor.
Another ship comes through the wormhole with the same energy signature as Tosk’s ship. They scan the station and then attack the station’s shields, bringing them down as a prelude to boarding. A firefight breaks out on the Promenade as a bunch of red-suited, helmeted hunters go after Tosk. Most of them go down, but one hunter is able to break into Odo’s brig and find Tosk in his cell. The hunter is greatly disappointed that Tosk allowed himself to be caged, saying it’s the most disappointing hunt in history. He will be brought back alive, the greatest dishonor for any Tosk.
Sisko, however, is more than a little pissed off that the hunter has disrupted the station, damaged property, and is now ordering Sisko to release Tosk into his custody, an order Sisko is not at all inclined to follow.
The hunter explains to Sisko that Tosk has been bred specifically for the hunt, and that they are considered honorable and noble, training all their lives for the hunt. However, the hunter will make sure that travel through the wormhole is henceforth off limits to the hunt. Sisko agrees to return Tosk to the hunters’ custody. However, after O’Brien pleads his case, Sisko is willing to grant Tosk asylum—if he asks for it.
But he won’t ask for it. To hide behind the Federation would be an even greater dishonor than being brought home alive. He lives for the sole purpose of outwitting the hunters another day. He appreciates O’Brien’s offer, and thanks him for it, but to accept it would go against everything he believes.
O’Brien goes to Quark’s in a cranky mood. Quark tries to talk to him, but O’Brien won’t have any of it—but Quark persists, and O’Brien, in the midst of chatting with him, has an epiphany. After a stop at a security station, O’Brien takes over the prisoner transport from Odo, saying it’s on orders from Sisko. Odo angrily goes to Sisko to complain, while O’Brien escorts the hunter and Tosk—leaving his combadge behind. He takes the hunter through a security field which goes off at the hunter’s weapon—O’Brien having previously increased the field’s output by 200%. O’Brien socks the hunter in the jaw and then runs off with Tosk to the latter’s ship.
The hunter contacts his people: “The hunt is back on.” He actually sounds happy about it.
On ops, they figure out what’s happening in about half a second. Odo says he can seal off the access tunnel where Dax’s sensors have found O’Brien and Tosk, but Sisko tells him there’s no hurry. Tosk and O’Brien make it to the ship, Tosk taking care of any hunters in their way. Tosk leaves, wishing O’Brien well (his version of it, anyhow: “Die with honor,” which is probably not on the chief’s agenda).
O’Brien reports to Sisko, who gives the chief a major ass-chewing for the stunt he pulled, particularly the part where he took off his combadge so he could ignore Sisko. O’Brien then expresses confusion as to how they got as far as they did, and Sisko blithely says that one got by ’em. O’Brien thanks him and leaves, and only then does Sisko smile.
Can’t we just reverse the polarity?: O’Brien gets to learn about Gamma Quadrant engineering—for example, an arva node is the equivalent of a ramscoop.
Rules of Acquisition: Quark takes his role as a barkeep seriously—for all that he prefers that O’Brien not call him that (which, of course, only makes O’Brien use the term more)—and tries to get O’Brien to open up. After that’s a huge success, he goes to talk to another customer (who seems to be half-asleep, half-drunk, or both).
Quark also has a sexual harassment policy in his employment contract, but in his case it’s a policy that allows him to sexually harass his employees. On the one hand, this is revolting. On the other hand, Sarda, the dabo girl who complains to Sisko in the opening, signed the contract without reading it, which is spectacularly stupid, and makes it very hard to sympathize with her. (Her defense that she’s not a legal expert is thin—she can obviously read...)
Preservation of mass and energy is for wimps: Odo disguises himself as an abstract painting on a corridor bulkhead near a security junction that Tosk messes with.
It was already established that Odo doesn’t allow weapons on the Promenade; this episode firmly establishes that Odo himself never uses a weapon, either. (Leaving aside any other considerations, it would get in the way of his shapeshifting...)
For Cardassia!: O’Brien blithely refers to the Cardassians as “Cardies” at one point, a racial slur that you don’t usually hear from Starfleet personnel.
Keep your ears open: “Glass jaw. No wonder you wear a helmet.”
O’Brien to the hunter after he drops him with one punch.
Welcome aboard: Scott MacDonald makes his first TV appearance here as Tosk; he’ll be back in a week on TNG’s “Face of the Enemy” as Sub-commander N’Vek, and also appear again on DS9 (as Goran’agar in “Hippocratic Oath”), on Voyager (as Ensign Rollins in “Caretaker”), and on Enterprise (in the recurring role of the Xindi Dolim). Gerrit Graham plays the First Hunter; he’ll be back on Voyager’s “Death Wish” as a member of the Q-Continuum. Kelly Curtis plays Sarda the dabo girl.
Trivial matters: Makeup designer Michael Westmore based his design for Tosk’s makeup on an alligator. This episode garnered DS9 an Emmy nomination for makeup.
A major inspiration for the Tosk-hunter setup is the seminal (and oft-adapted) 1924 short story “The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell.
The hunter refers to the wormhole as “the anomaly,” which will be how Gamma Quadrant natives continue to refer to the wormhole throughout the series.
Tosk and the hunters (which totally needs to be a band name) are the first known Gamma Quadrant species to appear on the show (we only later find out that Odo is). Tosk’s cloaking technology is very similar to that of the Jem’Hadar (not to mention the method by which the hunters breed them for a particular purpose), and it’s likely that the Hunters are part of the Dominion, though that’s never mentioned, since the characters never appear again onscreen.
We do see another Tosk in the novel Rising Son by S.D. Perry, which features Jake Sisko traveling through the Gamma Quadrant.
The episode’s co-writer Jill Sherman Donner has an impressive resumé, having served on the production/writing staff for The Incredible Hulk, Baywatch, Magnum P.I., Freddy’s Nightmares, and Voyagers! She appears to have retired from the TV business, as she has no IMDB credits in this century.
Walk with the Prophets: “I am Tosk.” Just last night, I was having a conversation among myself, Tor.com’s Ryan Britt, fellow Trek novelist David Mack, and editor Marco Palmieri on the subject of DS9’s first season and how generally weak it is. One of the others commented that “Duet” was really when the show came into its own and that prior to that the show hadn’t found its voice.
I cited “Progress” as an episode that did so prior to “Duet,” for many of the same reasons, in fact, but I realized watching this today that this should’ve been what I cited, because, damn, this is a good episode. It’s a good Star Trek episode, it’s a good Prime Directive story, it’s a good creation of an alien culture, and it’s a strong DS9 episode.
Honestly, I can’t point to a significant flaw in the episode, and only one or two insignificant ones (the opening with the dabo girl falls flat, e.g., especially since Sarda is never seen or mentioned again). It’s a great vehicle for the always-magnificent Colm Meaney, who turned a transporter button-pusher on TNG into a significant recurring role, and then a starring role on the spinoff from the sheer power of his awesomeness. O’Brien’s easygoing style goes beautifully with a superb performance by Scott MacDonald (in his first TV role!) as a character O’Brien himself perfectly describes as the galaxy’s greatest straight man.
The script takes the hunter/Tosk dynamic seriously as a cultural thing, doesn’t judge either the hunters or Tosk for what they do—only how they go about it, mostly in terms of dragging DS9 into their hunt. (Also Gerrit Graham’s hunter really is a dick, which I suspect is half the reason why Sisko let O’Brien get away with what he did.)
A good, solid, well-put-together episode anchored by two excellent performances.
Warp factor rating: 7
Keith R.A. DeCandido writes books and stuff.