Written By Ashely Stevens
Oh Brien, looks like a Miles O’Brien-centric episode. The Chief of Operations, and our Star Trek: Next Generation holdover, was somewhat prominently featured in Babel. To recap, the station gets its first visitor from the Gamma Quadrant, a taciturn reptilian like species who identifies as Tosk. Is that his (or her) name or species? Who knows. Things get dicey when Tosk decides to raid the weapons closet. From there, we learn that Tosk is being hunted by members of his own species for sport.
This episode had potential but it’s largely squandered by making O’Brien, or Oh Brien as Tosk calls him, the center of the story. The story is more focused on how O’Brien feels about Tosk’s experience as “the hunted.” In this case, “the hunted” doesn’t get much of a voice. Tosk is the bit character in his own story. How does Tosk feel about his experience? To quote his pursuers, Tosk was bred to be hunted and he, like the other hunted, take pride in that. There are brief glimpses of this pride when Tosk explains to O’Brien the sense of accomplishment he feels when he lives to see another day. There is a tinge of sadness in Tosk’s voice for the dishonor of being captured alive. This is never adequately explored.
On that note, the show presents a conflicting image of Tosk. He seems to be whatever the person describing him wants him to be. The show presents Tosk as reasonably intelligent and not at all overwhelmed at being on a strange station with strange species. He locates and attempts to access a weapons locker and was only thwarted because he did not anticipate a shape-shifting Head of Security. Conversely, as described by O’Brien, Tosk is naïve. He does not fully grasp what is going on. He is someone that needs to be protected and offered asylum with the Federation. Yet according to Tosk’s pursuers, he is noble and courageous for being Tosk. It reminded me of the oft described account of Native Americans. They are either noble savages or hostile savages. Both descriptors view Native Americans as inferior and neither stops them from being slaughtered at the hands of European invaders.
I am inclined to believe Tosk is smarter than he is given credit, but not given, within the constraints of his society, the freedom to choose. The right of self-determination. It made me wonder: if Tosk had a choice would he choose this life? And if he did, would I (or Starfleet) be accepting of that choice? In the end, O’Brien and Sisko loosely interpret the Prime Directive of non-interference and assist Tosk’s escape. They’ve helped the hunted live to see another day without politically challenging the need for such an underclass in that society.
Ashley Stevens @k_bubbs | Archivist, History Nerd, Star Trek Yellow shirt, Sci-fi/fantasy writer.