The Classic Story That Inspired The Best Star Trek DS9 Season 1 Episode

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

captive pursuit

Sometimes, Star Trek wears its literary influences on its sleeve, like when Picard quotes Shakespeare or when Q forces the TNG crew to re-enact Robin Hood. By comparison, the Deep Space Nine crew wasn’t as explicitly literary, but that doesn’t mean their adventures were never inspired by some of the greatest stories in fiction. For example, the season one episode “Captive Pursuit” is based on the classic story “The Most Dangerous Game,” though this is used to disguise some very pointed social commentary about fox hunting.

The Most Dangerous Game

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In order to get you up to (light) speed on “Captive Pursuit,” we must first provide a quick refresher about “The Most Dangerous Game.” This is a short story by Richard Connell first published in 1924, and it’s about a big-game hunter who falls off a yacht and tries to find safety by swimming to a nearby Caribbean island.

He imagines the island to be deserted and is suitably horrified to find it inhabited by an evil Russian general who proceeds to turn this mighty hunter into the hunted.

The Prime Directive

captive pursuit

“The Most Dangerous Game” has captivated audiences for a century now thanks to its vivid descriptions of the hapless hunter trying to outwit and ultimately overcome his Plutocratic pursuer. The Deep Space Nine episode “Captive Pursuit” channels this story with a sci-fi tale about a Gamma Quadrant resident named Tosk who shows up on the station two steps ahead of alien hunters.

Chief O’Brien eventually tries to help Tosk avoid getting killed, which is particularly important because Commander Sisko believes the Prime Directive requires them to allow this barbaric hunt to continue.

Shootout On The Promenade

captive pursuit

The parallels between “Captive Pursuit” and “The Most Dangerous Game” are obvious, if a bit surface-level. Just as the original story featured a man trying to find safety aboard an island, the episode featured an alien trying to find safety aboard a station.

And just as the earlier tale featured the tranquility of that island ruined by an unexpected hunt, the peaceful life aboard Deep Space Nine is disrupted by a hunt that leads to a firefight right on the Promenade.

Fox Hunting

Obviously, “Captive Pursuit” owes a lot to this short story, but the show also used this episode’s premise as an allegory for what the writers saw as the evils of fox hunting. Odo actor Rene Auberjonois once said as much, claiming that the episode is “about a fox hunt in the future…and how it affects our lives.” Gerrit Graham, who played one of the alien Hunters, echoed this, saying the episode was “about the morality of fox hunting.”

A Preview Of Things To Come

A major fan of Star Trek, Graham pointed out that “Captive Pursuit” followed the classic tradition of The Original Series by using a futuristic story to make commentary on a modern issue.

He praised how this episode, like all his favorites, is about “a real issue…not just fluff.” He also noted how timely this episode was because, at the time, “people were making a big stink about fox hunting.”

In this way, Deep Space Nine established an early pattern of doing things differently than shows like The Original Series and The Next Generation. Instead of just doing a literary homage or just doing a commentary, they mixed these two concepts together into something that felt fresh and new.

The episode also laid the groundwork for the show’s serial storytelling, as Tosk himself was just a preview of how weird the visitors from the Gamma Quadrant were going to eventually get.