Sarda, a dabo girl, complains to Commander Sisko in his office that Quark has made repeated sexual advances toward her. His claim that sex is part of her job appears valid since the provision is buried within the contract she signed, but Sisko reassures her that the provision will not stand and sends her on her way. As Sarda leaves his office, Major Kira informs him that something is coming through the wormhole.
In Ops, he learns that a small starship has emerged so he has Chief O’Brien hail the ship. The sole passenger is a reptilian humanoid who appears nervous and is extremely suspicious of Sisko and the rest of the crew. However, as the alien‘s ship is in danger of exploding, the alien reluctantly agrees to allow O’Brien to bring his ship to a docking bay with a tractor beam, using the graviton field in the beam to reinforce the vessel’s structural integrity. Dispensing with first contact procedures for the moment, Sisko tells O’Brien to greet the new arrival alone so as to ease their guest’s fears and to find out what the alien is so nervous about.
O’Brien finds the ship deserted when he enters, although sensors indicate the alien is still present. He goes about inspecting the ship when the alien materializes behind him. The alien is Tosk, although Tosk doesn’t tell O’Brien if this is his name or his species; he is simply Tosk. Although Tosk seems impatient and in a hurry, he allows O’Brien to help fix the ship.
As the two of them exit the ship and walk toward the Promenade, O’Brien casually attempts to find out about how Tosk’s ship was attacked, but he ultimately gets nowhere. The two of them seem to develop an unspoken bond on the Promenade. Tosk observes everything, even Doctor Bashir as they pass him near the infirmary, with great interest.
He also takes a particular interest in a diagram of Deep Space 9 on a wall panel. When Tosk observes that others will detect the wormhole and come to Deep Space 9, O’Brien seems enthusiastic, explaining that Starfleet‘s mission is to seek out new life and new civilizations.
There is an awkward moment while Tosk and O’Brien observe Quark escorting a Bolian woman out of his bar. Quark promises to return the woman’s money but forbids her from returning to his establishment, as she has cheated at dabo. O’Brien casually explains that some aspects of his culture can be explained later.
They reach Tosk’s temporary quarters and O’Brien escorts him in. Curiously, Tosk requires only seventeen minutes of sleep and has no use for food replicators as liquid nutrients are stored throughout his body.
In any case, O’Brien says they can begin work on Tosk’s ship tomorrow. Tosk turns to a terminal on the wall as soon as O’Brien is gone and tells the computer to show him where on the station weapons are stored. He studies a schematic of the station as the computer informs access to the specified section is restricted to security clearance seven and above.
In Sisko’s office, O’Brien informs the commander that, while Tosk seems amicable, O’Brien knows Tosk’s ship was damaged by weapons fire. Sisko says he will tell Odo to keep an eye on Tosk.
Back aboard Tosk’s ship, he and O’Brien go about repairing the damage and continue to bond as they teach each other new things, including the phrase “piece of cake.”
There are some areas where they are unable to find commonalities, such as O’Brien’s sense of humor. He suggests that he buy Tosk a drink and exits the ship, which intrigues Tosk.
The two of them go to Quark’s where Tosk observes that Humans and species like them have too much “downtime.” He notes how very different he and O’Brien are. Quark attempts to find a way to make a profit off of Tosk, offering him a visit to a holosuite, but Tosk claims to live the greatest adventure of all, which greatly impresses Quark. He continues to resist O’Brien’s attempts to find out about his past.
O’Brien speaks with Commander Sisko and Lieutenant Dax in Ops, where it becomes obvious that O’Brien is attached to Tosk. While Sisko is somewhat suspicious of their guest, he believes it is Tosk’s option not to divulge the truth of his mission.
Meanwhile, Tosk tampers with an access terminal in a corridor elsewhere on DS9, attempting to access a weapons locker. A painting on the wall turns out to be Odo, who interrupts Tosk’s work. Tosk becomes invisible but is stopped when Odo activates security force fields in the hallway. Trapped, Tosk assures Odo that he will not put up a fight. Tosk is led away to a holding cell.
With Tosk in a holding cell, Sisko, O’Brien and Odo meet him in the brig, where Sisko attempts to find out from whom Tosk is running. Tosk seems to think that the fact that he is Tosk explains everything, and he claims he can’t tell them any more. Even with the others gone, Tosk is unable to tell O’Brien his predicament. He asks O’Brien to let him die with honor.
O’Brien is perplexed and admits to Odo that he feels partially responsible, being that he was the one who talked Tosk into coming aboard DS9.
Another, larger starship with ion signatures matching those of Tosk’s ship comes through the wormhole. However, its occupants do not respond to hails and use alien technology to scan and beam aboard DS9. They board the Promenade, headed for Tosk’s cell.
Civilians scatter when three armored Hunters materialize on the Promenade. Sisko, Kira, and O’Brien arrive to join Odo and several deputies, and there is a stand-off feeling as the three officers approach the trio of Hunters. The Hunters appear to ready their weapons. As it is apparent that peaceable actions will not work, Sisko tells his officers to ready their phasers.
Sisko instructs the Hunters to put down their weapons, and they refuse to do so. Odo heads forward to confront them, but is struck by one of the Hunters. A brief firefight ensues, with several direct hits against the Hunters, who apparently have a special armor that absorbs phaser energy. Odo comments that they’re after his prisoner, Tosk, and vows that no one will abduct a prisoner from his brig while he’s alive.
Major Kira offers a phaser to Odo to help defend himself, but Odo declines, commenting that she knows he never uses them. Eventually the Hunters blast open the doors to Security in a fiery explosion with their weapons, and they make their way into the brig.
The Hunter scans the empty holding cell with his helmet to find Tosk, who has become invisible. Tosk reveals himself. O’Brien, Odo, and Sisko run into the room as the Hunter tells his two partners that he has found the Tosk alive. The Hunter removes his helmet, then criticizes Tosk for such “a disappointment” for having been caged and caught. It is realized by Sisko that Tosk is prey for the Hunters. The Hunter announces that Tosk will be captured and brought home alive (“the greatest humiliation Tosk can know”). Tosk hangs his head in shame. The Hunter commands Tosk’s release, but Sisko does not allow it.
Sisko and the Hunter debate over the morality of hunting another, even if he was bred specifically to be hunted. The Hunter states that the wormhole will be out of bounds for the hunt in the future, then once again demands the release of Tosk to him.
In the operations center, Sisko announces that Tosk will be released to the Hunters. Kira asks about asylum for Tosk. Sisko states it will be granted only if Tosk asks. O’Brien runs to Tosk in the holding cell telling him to request asylum, but even though Tosk does appreciate their efforts to help him, he refuses because it goes against everything that he believes in.
Quark complains about the lack of tourism from the Gamma Quadrant while O’Brien drinks a raktajino. The chief tells Quark to be quiet, which piques the Ferengi‘s interest in whatever has upset O’Brien. Despite O’Brien’s apparent annoyance with Quark, the fact that he stays put through Quark’s provocative inquiries indicates he wishes to talk about something. Finally, he explains the situation with Tosk and the Hunters’ game and observes that the Ferengi don’t like playing by the rules. Undeterred by O’Brien’s belief the rules are stopping him for accomplishing his desires Quark speaks of the rules and just inquires about them on a conceptual level – if they can be changed or altered within the context of the game and O’Brien suddenly has an epiphany and leaves shouting his thanks. Quark shrugs at his own skills of a bartender tending to his client’s needs/concerns.
Odo arrives in Sisko’s office to complain about the matter, but Sisko does not know what the constable is talking about. When Odo reveals the “order” that Sisko gave to Chief O’Brien, Sisko denies ever making such an order, and immediately tries to contact O’Brien. Having left his combadge back in Security, O’Brien does not receive Sisko’s repeated calls.
Meanwhile, O’Brien, the Hunter, and Tosk, wearing a ceremonial collar and hanging his head dejectedly, reach the airlock entrance. As the Hunter enters the airlock, the power grid overloads, knocking him off his feet. Downing the Hunter with a punch to the jaw, O’Brien leads Tosk to escape to the second level of the Promenade and enter a corridor as the Hunter informs his colleagues that the hunt has resumed.
Sisko, Odo, and the rest of the crew are in Ops when Dax informs them that internal sensors have located O’Brien and Tosk. Odo immediately heads off to find them, but Sisko tells Odo not to hurry. After a confused moment and a nod, Odo continues on at an almost leisurely pace towards the turbolift.
O’Brien uses a phaser to remove the collar from Tosk’s neck. Tosk fends off several attempts by the Hunters to capture him, securing one of their energy crossbows for himself as he and O’Brien make their way to Tosk’s ship.
Nearly there, the lead Hunter beams in the way with two others, but is determined to be the one that does the deed and fires. Tosk dodges and fires back, killing the Hunter and possibly the other two.
In his ship, Tosk stores the crossbow above the pilot’s seat and asks O’Brien if he was looking to become a Tosk, which O’Brien declines, explaining that among other things, he has a wife and daughter that would not fit well into this lifestyle. The bond between the two of them is stronger than ever as O’Brien wishes Tosk good luck and Tosk tells O’Brien to die with honor, which the officer returns.
As Tosk’s ship departs DS9, the Hunter ship follows, continuing the hunt.
Once the ordeal is over, O’Brien arrives in Sisko’s office, where he attempts to make a feeble explanation for what transpired. Sisko appears furious with O’Brien as he scolds the chief and warns him not to pull a similar stunt again. Before O’Brien leaves, however, he wonders how it was that he was able to escape. He had figured that Sisko and Odo would be able to apprehend him and Tosk almost immediately. “I guess that one got by us,” Sisko observes dryly. He has a satisfied grin on his face when O’Brien leaves.
- “Captive Pursuit” is Colm Meaney‘s favorite episode from the first season. Meaney commented, “Scott MacDonald who played Tosk, was tremendous. He gave a great performance. We had a lot of fun doing it. We were on the edge there. Were we interfering with these people, their philosophy, their society? At the same time, what has happening there wasn’t fair. It was a classic Star Trek story.” (“Colm Meaney – Miles O’Brien”, The Official Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Magazine issue 5, p. 8)
- Being genetically engineered for one purpose makes Tosk a similar species to the Jem’Hadar (whom we first meet in the season 2 finale, which plays a very important role in the later seasons of the series. Also, the cloaking ability used by Tosk is similar to that used by the Jem’Hadar. This suggests the possibility of a relationship between the two. In fact, the script for “The Jem’Hadar” stated that the cloak was to be identical to the one in this episode. Indeed, Robert Hewitt Wolfe himself stated that “the same people who breed the Tosks as gifts to the hunters, breed the Jem’Hadar as well.” (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. ?))
- The Tosk and the Hunters are the first known Gamma Quadrant species seen in Star Trek. Technically, Odo is the first, but his origin wasn’t revealed until “The Search, Part I“, the third season premiere.
- It is in this episode where we learn that Odo never carries a weapon, something which holds true for the entire run of the series (with the exception of “Heart of Stone“).