Captive Pursuit (***½)
After two or three months exploring the Gamma Quadrant, the first alien from that part of the galaxy shows up. What, are they all hiding, or something? Tosk can make himself invisible, I suppose.
Anyway, Tosk shows up and he's all like "I am Tosk", which is strangely endearing. He's like a cross between a talking crocodile and a puppy, which is important as you've got to like Tosk if the episode is to work, and I like Tosk. He's pretty good as far as aliens go, he seems genuinely different and he's confused by all the things that we find normal, such as sleep and bars.
But Tosk isn't a normal alien, he's a Tosk, the prey in the most dangerous game of all; Catch the Tosk. Now here's a sci-fi concept that I don't remember seeing on TNG, an alien whose sole purpose for existing is to be chased and killed. As someone that's opposed to blood sports and finds them distasteful in the extreme, the idea of hunting and killing a sentient being for fun goes against everything I believe. Which is why Tosk is so interesting as he doesn't see it that way, all he wants is to be a good Tosk and to have the tale of his hunt be remembered for generations. It's tragic, but that's the order of things. All that can be done for Tosk is to free him and let the hunt continue as that's the only life he understands.
The episode presents an interesting issue and doesn't get preachy with it, it just tells the story in a way that's true to the characters. O'Brien and Tosk work well together, and this is the earliest relationship I remember from watching the show as a child. But the most memorable moment of the episode for me was from a different relationship, the one between O'Brien and Bashir. As Bashir offers his help during a staff meeting, O'Brien rudely cuts him off to show his distaste at the good doctor. Silly O'Brien, you know you love him really.
Form of... a Painting: 5