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Star Trek | Miles O’Brien Stopped Me From Taking My Life

When one fan felt like he couldn’t go on, he found solace in Miles O’Brien and the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode ‘Captive Pursuit’.

Warning: This article contains spoilers for the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode ‘Captive Pursuit’ (S1, Ep5). Proceed with caution.

Many fans can point to a moment when Star Trek helped them through a difficult time. For me, it was the Next Gen VHS tapes from my local Blockbuster Video that stopped me from going stir-crazy during three months off school with glandular fever.

But not many of us can honestly say that we wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for a Trek episode.

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Dan Davidson, though, is not your typical fan. Founder of the TrekGeeks podcast network, and co-host of its eponymous flagship show since 2015, Dan is now an established part of the Trek community. His interviews with stars including John Billingsley, Jeri Ryan, and Anthony Rapp have been enjoyed by fellow fans around the world.

Trek Geeks co-host and founder Dan Davidson. The network consists of an astonishing 12 podcasts and you can find out more at | Courtesy of Dan Davidson.

Twenty-two years ago, however, Dan was in a very dark place. And it was an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine that ultimately helped him pull through.

“I had lost my job, and my marriage was on the rocks,” he tells me. “If you can imagine when things are really, really bad, and you think they’re never going to get better. I was literally in a room with the shades closed all day long.”

If you’re affected by any of the subjects touched upon in this story, we’d encourage you to make use of some of the resources provided by the mental health charity Mind.

With his wife out at work during the daytime, Dan was spending a lot of time alone with his own thoughts. But one source of consolation was his collection of old Star Trek episodes. “I had several VHS tapes that I’d recorded as the shows had run,” he recalls. “This was before DVDs or anything like that. I would have them on in the background pretty much all the time.”

For Dan, those Star Trek episodes provided a glimmer of hope, and an opportunity to escape into another, more optimistic world.  But it wasn’t enough. “I got to a point where I decided I couldn’t take it anymore,” he remembers. “It was just unbearable.”

Over the course of a few days, Dan began making plans to end his life. He got hold of a gun, typed out a series of goodbye letters, and waited for his wife to go out to work. “I had everything planned,” he tells me. “I was going to do it. I just needed the pain to end.”

But at the crucial moment, he found himself pausing for a moment. “I was crying as I put the gun in my mouth,” he remembers. “I had the hammer pulled back. But as people who have got to this point will know, however certain you are that you’re going to do it, there is a hesitation, and I was having this hesitation moment. I looked up straight ahead to where the TV was, and the episode that was playing happened to be‘‘Captive Pursuit’ [S1, Ep5].”

The Surprising Lesson in ‘Captive Pursuit’

The first-season DS9 installment, in which Chief O’Brien (Colm Meaney) helps Gamma Quadrant alien Tosk evade the patrol who are hunting him, had never been one of Dan’s favorites. But now he found he couldn’t take his eyes of the screen.

“O’Brien hadn’t known Tosk for very long, but he was willing to end his career in Starfleet because he wanted to help someone,” he recalls.

“He was saying that every life is important.”
Tosk (Scott MacDonald) and Miles O’Brien (Colm Meaney) in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode ‘Captive Pursuit’ (S1, Ep5). The episode was inspired by the 1924 Richard Connell short story The Most Dangerous Game, where a shipwrecked big game hunter finds himself hunted in turn.| Paramount, 1995.

To Dan, it felt as if Chief O’Brien were speaking directly to him. ‘That was the moment that stopped me pulling the trigger,” he tells me. “I remember laying on the ground, curling up in a ball and just bawling for I don’t know how long. It was that moment in that episode that stopped me from doing it. Things didn’t get better right away, but at least I was still alive to allow them to get better.”

Discreetly, Dan returned the gun, burned the goodbye letters, and told no-one about how close he had come to ending it all. But the recovery period was tough. After his marriage collapsed completely, he moved in with his parents in New Hampshire. “That was a very low time,” he remembers. “I was literally – as they say – living in my parents’ basement. I still didn’t want to go anywhere or do anything.”

Again, he looked to Trek for support and encouragement. “It was integral to my coming back,” he remembers.

Star Trek was my place to go when I needed to get away from the real world, so it was extremely important to me during my recovery.”
Miles O’Brien (Colm Meaney) in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode ‘Captive Pursuit’ (S1, Ep5). The episode was Meaney’s favorite from the first season. | Paramount, 1995.

But Trek also offered another valuable lesson: that sometimes going out into the universe is how we discover who we’re really meant to be.  One day, about two years after the suicide attempt, Dan received a call from a friend in Rhode Island. Her laptop had stopped working and she was hoping he might come and take a look at it.

“I wasn’t really interested,” he remembers. “I didn’t have energy to do stuff like that at the time, so I said I’m going to pass. And she said, I really wish you’d reconsider. There’s a friend of mine visiting from Maine and I think you’d like to meet her.”

But Dan was resolute. By now, his life had become so diminished that the thought of the two-hour drive just felt impossible. “I said, ‘I appreciate it, but no thank you.’ And I hung up.”

Finding Hope

The next day, though, something caused him to reconsider. “I woke up and I thought, do you know what? I have no life, I have nothing to do,” he tells me. “What am I going to do? Sit here and feel sorry for myself? So I called her back and said, ‘I’m coming down.’ And the person who was visiting from Maine was the woman I ended up marrying. I knew the day I met her that I was going to fall in love with her.”

Twenty years on, Dan remains happily married. “I say this to everybody when I talk about what happened,” he tells me, “but I would go through it all again knowing what the end result was going to be.”

Tosk (Scott MacDonald) in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode ‘Captive Pursuit’ (S1, Ep5). The Tosk make-up effect was based on a photograph of an alligator.| Paramount, 1995.

Dan has never forgotten the critical role that Star Trek played in his own life, and a couple of years ago he was able to thank the actors whose performances brought him back from the brink two decades earlier. At the 2018 Star Trek convention in Las Vegas, he was granted a private audience with Colm Meaney. “They took me backstage and I shook his hand and said what an honor it was to meet him,” he tells me.

“And then I put my hand on his shoulder and said, ‘I’ve got a little story to tell you.’ When I told him what had happened to me, he didn’t know what to say. I just hugged him and said, ‘If it weren’t for you I would be dead.’”

The following year, Dan ran into Scott MacDonald, who played Tosk, in the vendors room and shared the story with him as well. “I think when someone comes and tells you that you’ve saved their life it’s hard to compute, but he was very gracious,” he recalls. “For me, it felt like coming full circle.”

Giving Back to Fandom

In recent years, Dan has begun sharing his story more widely, in the hopes that it might help other Trek fans who are struggling with their own mental health. “I went back and forth for months about whether to do an episode on my podcast about the story,” he tells me.

“Finally, I decided, you know what, it’s time to tell this story. If I’m able to help just one person get through a tough time then I can be Tosk. That’s what Scott MacDonald said to me: ‘You are now Tosk.’”

After the podcast went out, Dan was stunned to receive a message from a grateful listener.  “He sent me an email saying thank you for sharing your story,” he recalls, “because your podcast was my ‘Captive Pursuit’. He was about to commit suicide and he listened to the podcast and stopped. I couldn’t even fathom it. I guess now I know what Scott MacDonald and Colm Meaney were feeling when I told them my story.”

Looking back, Dan still can’t quite believe that a Star Trek episode turned his life around so dramatically. “When you’re feeling this stuff, you feel like you’re the only person in the world and there is nothing that can be done to help you,” he tells me.

“But now I have the best life I could hope for, and to think I was literally seconds away from ending it all. I’ll always say that Star Trek saved my life, because it quite literally did.”
If you need help, please reach out. In the United States, the National Suicide Prevention Line is on 1-800-273-8255. In the UK, you can contact the Samaritans on 116 123.