Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Hunted   Rewatch 
October 23, 2020 7:51 AM - Season 3, Episode 11 - Subscribe

At Angosia III, a world applying for Federation membership, the Enterprise encounters a dark secret that the Angosians have tried to sweep under the Roga.

There is no place for Memory Alpha in a civilized society:

• This episode was an allegory for US veterans of the Vietnam War integrating back into American society. Michael Piller remarked, "The whole theme of the show was let's look at how society treats its returning veterans. I thought from a conceptual level we handled that well, and we came up with good science fiction to make it interesting. There's some argument that the best soldier ever created bringing the Enterprise to its knees is a little hard to believe, and that might have been the weakness of the show. I enjoyed it, and was not ashamed of the show."

• During his first day as a staff writer on the show, Ira Steven Behr performed a major, uncredited rewrite (at Piller's request) on this episode, in particular expanding Danar's escape from the Enterprise, which was only briefly shown in Robin Bernheim's original draft, into an action sequence that took up most of the third act.

• James Cromwell, who starred as Prime Minister Nayrok, later starred as Jaglom Shrek in the TNG episodes "Birthright, Part I" and "Birthright, Part II", Minister Hanok in DS9: "Starship Down", and most notably as Zefram Cochrane in Star Trek: First Contact and ENT: "Broken Bow".

• Jeff McCarthy, who starred as Roga Danar, made a second Star Trek appearance by playing the ill-fated original chief medical officer of the USS Voyager in Star Trek: Voyager's pilot episode, "Caretaker".

• Roga Danar's reputation is referenced in the Lower Decks episode "Veritas".

"He's intelligent, thoughtful… typically Angosian. I know what he's done, but when I'm with him, I cannot believe that he is randomly and deliberately violent. In fact, inherently he has a non-violent personality."
"Counselor, it took five men to restrain him! And he took about half the transporter room in the process!"
- Deanna Troi and Picard, about Danar

"Prime Minister, even the most comfortable prison is still a prison."
- Picard, to Nayrok

"'A matter of internal security' – the age-old cry of the oppressor."
- Picard

Poster's Log:
Another one that I'd call better than I remember. I think for a long time I dismissed it as the Trek folks trying to do Die Hard (which they will actually do in "Starship Mine," an episode I enjoy more than maybe it deserves), but there's more meat and subtext here than that, and moreover, this is one of the pre-ENT era's better on-foot-action episodes. One real issue, though, is that this is the point at which the Stuffies-Versus-Scruffies story trend starts to become impossible to ignore. (It's not the worst possible well to keep going back to, to be sure.) Great ending, nevertheless, which helps lift up whatever is generic and anemic here.

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
Fans of the "discarded warrior" type of story in a sci-fi milieu may enjoy the overlooked Kurt Russell film Soldier, which intriguingly takes place on a "garbage planet." Content warning: Kurt Russell's acting in Soldier seems like he's doing an impression of Kevin Costner, but, eh, it's still Kurt Russell.

Good goddamn James Cromwell is tall.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (12 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Cards of the episode from the Star Trek CCG:
Premiere('94): Escape Pod; Scan; Roga Danar. Escape Pods and Scans are both useful for protecting your crew from the odd Borg Ship Or trigger happy Klingon opponent.

As mentioned in the Lower Decks discussion, Roga Danar is the only rare gold-bordered personnel in Premiere, and his unique skill set and decent stats made him an absolute staple for most of the game's existence. Who'da thought, right? When I said there were key episodes in season 3, this is one of them.

Energize('03): Roga Danar, Decorated Subhadar. Essentially the same skills, but lower stats overall because 2E considers 5 to be 'average' instead of 7-8. He's no longer as strong as Data but whatcha gonna do. The cost of 4 is fair, but makes the card less OP than the 1E version, when there was no cost mechanic. The Genetically Enhanced keyword allows you to take advantage of support cards like We're Mutants.

Reflections 2.0('04): Full Security Alert. Filter out your opponent's guards and give them a Telepathic Deception or something.

• Jeff McCarthy, who starred as Roga Danar, made a second Star Trek appearance by playing the ill-fated original chief medical officer of the USS Voyager in Star Trek: Voyager's pilot episode, "Caretaker".

Styled in the Voyager('01) set as Dr. Fitzgerald. In both editions of the game, the Voyager crew that get murked in Caretaker are present and accounted for.
posted by StarkRoads at 8:33 AM on October 23, 2020

Another one that I'd call better than I remember.

This is one that I always mentally pair with "The Outrageous Okona" - is it some of the costuming choices? I can't say for sure - and then when I see it I always remember that it's actually pretty good, as long as I can suspend disbelief in a super soldier not named Data outmaneuvering the entire crew of the Enterprise D.

And frankly, when I'm watching this in the moment, it never occurs to me to doubt what's going on. I know I'm way more forgiving of the narratives and characters than a lot of my fellow re-watchers, but one of the themes of this show and this ship is a certain arrogance and tendency to underestimate the opposition, at least at first glance.

I think the pacing and direction of the action while Danar works his escape is really well handled, especially for a TV-show in the early-90s, before shaky hand-held camerawork dominated all action scenes.
posted by rocketman at 8:51 AM on October 23, 2020 [2 favorites]

The stuffies-vs-scruffies thing has come up before in this rewatch, and another trend has been the sexy-stubble rogue, someone who comes to YOUR starship to kick ass and break hearts. It's happened enough in the show so far that I wonder if some of the writers really want to be writing another show entirely. But this ep has enough integrity and insufficient interest in making Roga sexy-stubbly, despite his name, to avoid that. Instead of being dressed in something dark, leathery, or both--why, yes, I am looking at the Gatherers from "The Vengeance Factor"--he's got on some kind of stained off-white prison jumpsuit that you can practically smell over the TV. And it's not that Jeff McCarthy isn't a good-looking man, obviously--and I totally missed his being "Fitzgerald" or whomever Voyager's original CMO was--but it's not that artful scruffiness of Okona or the other sexy-stubblers. (Or, for that matter, John Rambo, the non-SF model for the character; I actually liked First Blood a lot at the time, but I also have to agree with the snarker who observed that, for someone who's allegedly been a homeless drifter for years, Rambo never missed time at the gym or in a tanning bed.) His own competence porn is a nice contrast/counterpart to the usual Starfleet thing of reversing polarity on the plasma injectors or whatever, and they also resist what must have been some temptation to either give Troi a Hannibal Lecture [TVTropes] or try a seduction or something. James Cromwell is also really good as the sort of stuffy, fussy bureaucrat who would have no qualms about trying to cram all the vets onto this moon so that they won't bother the shiny happy people of MallWorld. (Rudyard Kipling, that old imperialist, had some bitter things to say about that.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:29 AM on October 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

Roga is great. The crew's responses to his actions do have some arrogance about them, like they just can't imagine this guy can do what he is doing. The best part for me though is the end. I like the fact that Picard is willing to forgive the Angosian government's sins and back their application for Fed membership if it survives the night.

I recommend Soldier as well. It is supposed to take place in the Blade Runner universe. Kurt's lack of emoting in that movie is part of the character! Private Todd is a soldier!
posted by Fukiyama at 11:41 AM on October 23, 2020

That one fight in the corridor utterly cracks me up. I know it's the era and everything, but I can't help laughing at the fight blocking. "MallWorld" is such a great term for these sets!

I like all the emotional beats and the basic storyline, and Cromwell is so great at being deceptive and superior, but for me there's such a sour note in the way Troi frames her defense of Roga that I had a hard time getting it out of my mouth. She sounds like some kind of boy band stan in her first descriptions of him, and it doesn't get much better, which I found really ookie because they would never have had a male character say things like "when I'm with him" and such.

It's a subtle thing that male showrunners would never hear, but it kind of dovetails with one of the issues I've always had with the whole character Troi was given: someone who senses emotions, who's always talking about feelings and doing the emotional work on the ship as a counselor. The two primary female roles are both, essentially, a sort of caretaker, one more scientific and one more emotional, in a way the guys never have to be, and the language they use really makes a difference. Don't get me wrong--I came to love Deanna, but it's irritating in the way these aggressions always are, and it gets under my skin a lot. I really wish they'd have couched the clinical aspects of what she was saying about the dude in slightly less breathless terms.

Sorry for the #grump. I will third Soldier: it's a huge fave for me and was actually a pretty big fandom when it came out. My friend and I went repeatedly to the theatre to watch it as many times as we could because we knew it wouldn't last long.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 12:01 PM on October 23, 2020 [7 favorites]

A fourth for Soldier - and I think it's a fine showcase of Kurt Russell's acting skills, considering he only has something like 100 words of dialogue in the whole movie and sells his character almost entirely via body language. I think there were a few other action-actors in the running for the part (Schwarzenegger? Stallone? VanDamme?) but I'm not sure anyone but Russell could have given the part as much pathos. (Very entertaining dvd commentary track too, as I recall -- he talked about how he coordinated with the director/cinematographer on how close the camera was in the take, keeping his expressions smaller the closer the close-up. Also, he managed to break his foot in the first or second week of the shoot, not dodging out of the way fast enough from that falling scaffolding-whatever in the big finale fight sequence, so they had to rearrange the whole shooting schedule to move all his "newly-arrived on planet and injured" sequences to the front, so he could act from bed while his foot healed.)

I enjoyed this episode. The Roga Danar actor kinda reminded me of Fred Gwynne - similarly giant heads maybe? Also, he kinda had resting-Grumpy-Cat-face, which amused me.
posted by oh yeah! at 1:12 PM on October 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

The two primary female roles are both, essentially, a sort of caretaker, one more scientific and one more emotional, in a way the guys never have to be, and the language they use really makes a difference.

Contrast that with DS9, where you have Kira, a soldier, and Jadzia Dax, a non-medical scientist. (The latter is somewhat lessened when Ezri, a counselor, replaces Jadzia, but Ezri's sole season has her doing a surprising amount of actiony stuff--confronting her space-Mafia family, picking up an actual rifle while tracking down a serial killer, and rescuing Worf--for a therapist.) VOY has Janeway and B'Elanna; they fumbled Kes' character and Seven was originally created as nearly-pure fanservice, but she ended up getting some action stuff, although it wouldn't be until PIC that that really gets amped up. And then there's Enterprise... well.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:27 PM on October 23, 2020 [2 favorites]

One of my first real attempts at writing fiction was a blatant rip-off of this episode.
posted by ckape at 5:22 PM on October 23, 2020

Yeah, this is a good’un.

Danar appears to have studied Kirk-fu, he employs the trademark double-fist punch at one point. Also, count me in the Soldier army as well. Russell’s great in it! That guy is great in everything,
posted by rodlymight at 7:02 PM on October 23, 2020

No one has touched upon the Prime Directive in this one.

What do we all think about the Federation getting involved or not getting involved? Are fact finding missions for applications to the Federation a carte blanche for a starship to poke around in a planet's business even if that planet is not yet a member?
posted by Fukiyama at 10:23 AM on October 24, 2020

Poking around would seem to be the whole point of a fact-finding mission though, no? I think the point where the Enterprise got into murky territory Prime Directive-wise was in actively pursuing Danar's ship. Also, what if Danar had requested asylum on the Enterprise? Picard behaved as if he had no choice but to turn him over to the Angosians, and I think the writers deliberately avoided Danar using the word "asylum" because it would have interfered with the whole escape/action-sequence structure of the show, but, we've seen the Federation act as mediators in non-Federation-planet conflicts before.

For me, the nail in the coffin of any good will towards the 'Stuffies' is that line about "we might need them again." Bad enough that they knew the damage they'd be inflicting on the solders' psyches, or that the society at large wanted to stuff them down the memory hole afterwards, but, I think that line shows really highlights that the society has no true remorse over the program yet. I think Picard knew how he was leaving things before he beamed the away team down, but, everything the Prime Minister & entourage said in the scene just made it clear that the Enterprise could wash their hands of the situation in clear conscience.
posted by oh yeah! at 2:52 PM on October 24, 2020 [3 favorites]

I was convinced by the reccos for Soldier, watched it, and thought that it was quite good; I even did a FanFare post for it. It hits a lot of the same beats as Universal Soldier, and I also wonder if James Cameron had one eye on it when he did Avatar.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:11 PM on October 24, 2020

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