Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"The Enemy"

***1/2

Air date: 11/6/1989.Written by David Kemper and Michael Piller
Directed by David Carson

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

An Enterprise away team investigates the crash of a Romulan vessel just inside Federation territory along the Neutral Zone. They discover an injured survivor (Steven Rankin) from the crash on the surface of the hellhole planet. A mishap causes Geordi to go missing on the mission, and the Enterprise is unable to locate him due to the violent electromagnetic storms. The heat is turned up under the entire situation when a Romulan Warbird commanded by Tomalak (Andreas Katsulas in what would become a semi-recurring role) ventures into the Neutral Zone and demands that Picard return the injured Romulan prisoner.

"The Enemy" is a perfect combination of multiple plot lines that come together to form a single coherent story. There are three interesting threads, which give the ensemble plenty to do, and all of which forward the overall plot. On the planet surface we've got Geordi stranded in a survival situation, which forces him to be innovative; there's a refreshingly dialog-free scene where Geordi must escape a pit by cleverly creating climbing spikes out of metallic ore fragments. Later, when Geordi is taken prisoner by Bochra (John Snyder), another Romulan crash survivor, their conversations provide a window into the Romulan mind. Ultimately, they must work together to survive and escape the planet surface — a TNG solution, to be sure. Their method of escape involves typical TNG tech made interesting by the uneasy symbiotic relationship that Geordi and Bochra find themselves in.

Meanwhile, Riker gets refreshingly riled up over the mission going bad, and he doesn't want to take crap from the Romulans. Worf finds himself in a position where he is the only possible donor who can save the injured Romulan's life. The dilemma shows how bitter hatred can persist for generations, and I especially like how the story doesn't go all sentimental and give Worf a last-second change of heart. His refusal adds an interesting wrinkle to an already delicate situation. Picard stops short of ordering Worf to cooperate, which is an intriguing choice. Picard lets the cards fall where they may, and the Romulan dies.

With the diplomatic situation quickly deteriorating (including some effective tough-talk by Picard), Tomalak enters Federation space. The showdown between Picard and Tomalak generates true suspense; "The Enemy" deals with the issue of cold-war-style brinkmanship better than any TNG story I can immediately recall. Picard's risky gesture of trust to defuse the situation is a memorable one. The final solution is perhaps a bit pat, but the story earns its peaceful payoff by bringing together all the plot threads with commendable precision.

Previous episode: Booby Trap
Next episode: The Price

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20 comments on this review

AJ Koravkrian - Sun, Mar 9, 2008 - 12:41am (USA Central)
alright, so I love The Enemy, but I just thought about this - how come a romulan needs a klingon to be a donor ? I thought that romulans are most similar to the vulcans...both sharing samr ancestors.
Dimitris Kiminas - Sun, Mar 9, 2008 - 9:49am (USA Central)
I suppose the plot needed a Romulan who needed a Klingon to be a donor, so no need to question it any further!
Dimitris Kiminas - Sun, Mar 9, 2008 - 9:49am (USA Central)
I suppose the plot needed a Romulan who needed a Klingon to be a donor, so no need to question it any further!
xaaos - Sun, Nov 25, 2012 - 5:24am (USA Central)
I loved the scene where Picards actually begged Worf to be a donor. And when Worf refused, for a moment I thought Picard would coldheartedly order him to do so. But he didn't, letting instead Worf decide for himself and that's what makes him a great captain.
Jay - Mon, Jan 14, 2013 - 1:35pm (USA Central)
Yeah, the most obvious donor on board would seem to be the oft mentioned, but only once seen Dr. Solar...
PeteTongLaw - Thu, Mar 14, 2013 - 4:38pm (USA Central)
Just watched this episode now and I was really impressed by the camera work for the bridge scenes. There are interesting angles and continuous moving shots used which is a break a from the 3 camera format we so often saw in this series.
Patrick - Thu, Apr 18, 2013 - 11:44am (USA Central)
Much hay has been made over the years over this episode in regards to Worf refusing to donate blood and what a shocking thing for Star Trek. However, what is often overlooked in this episode, is the dying Romulan *refuses* to let Worf's "Klingon filth pollute his body". So, if Worf agreed, would they have forced the blood transfusion on the Romulan against his will? Would that not be a breach of medical ethics?

This is a very good episode, but this dramatic controversy to me is not there.
William B - Mon, May 6, 2013 - 2:32am (USA Central)
“Contagion” did interesting things with the Romulans (and we shan’t speak of “The Neutral Zone”), but I think it’s fair to say this is the first real Romulan story in TNG. The Federation/Romulan conflict plays throughout TNG as a Cold War story, in which it’s always possible for the war to become hot if not handled delicately, but for the most part war is something that neither power actually wants. The Romulans and the Federation both (though the Romulans are more duplicitous about it) want to gain in power and control and to avoid the possibility of attack, but the full-out war is something that both sides know they need to protect. Threading through the next several seasons, there’s “The Defector,” the Klingon civil war arc, “Unification,” “Face of the Enemy,” and “The Pegasus” (in addition to episodes like “Data’s Day,” “The Next Phase,” “Timescape” and “All Good Things…” in which the Romulan presence adds flavour to an episode but is not as necessary), most of which are very good, all of which play off the pattern that is set off here, in which Picard and company have to measure their responses very carefully, neither letting the Romulans trample over them and begin believing that they can get away with anything, nor provoking them into an assault that could end with thousands or millions of lives lost on either side.

There’s a three-tiered plot structure here, in which three members of the main cast are paired with a Romulan “enemy” and their choices can mean life or death. We have Geordi and Bochra on the planet, Worf and the sick Romulan within the ship, and Picard and Tomalak facing off at each other over the viewscreens. Geordi’s trust and open-heartedness with his adversary, even when Bochra is in a stronger position much of the time, is one extreme and Worf’s total unwillingness to help a dying Romulan continue living on the other. I expected the Geordi-Bochra plotline to bore me a little upon rewatch, because it is a fairly standard issue story, but it is executed very well. Geordi is friendly and saves Bochra’s life long before it’s clear this will be necessary to his own survival, but he also is smart enough (or deceptive enough, I suppose) to lie and say that there are Starfleet ships in orbit. I appreciate, too, that while the sequence mostly shows Romulans in a typically negative light (they kill disabled babies!), Geordi does seem a little ashamed at the thought that he wouldn’t make a good Romulan officer and admits that he doesn’t know whether he would have Bochra’s bravery in the face of capture and possible death. (That Geordi’s VISOR provides the key to their salvation and would never have been created in a society that rejects weakness is a point reiterated more explicitly in “The Masterpiece Society.”) LeVar Burton compared this to the movie The Defiant Ones, which sort of fits, though that was about race relations rather than international distrust, which is different though not wholly so. I like Geordi’s sense of humour throughout (“another victory for the Romulan Empire”); how rare is it to have two Geordi vehicles in a row, let alone two good ones? The atmospheric direction on the planet is particularly praiseworthy. (It occurs to me that it would be interesting to see how Geordi would feel about being trapped with a Romulan after “The Mind’s Eye.”)

The most interesting part of the episode is the Worf story, in which his Klingon-ness comes to the surface and we get to see that however much good may be associated with Worf’s conception of honour, on a few points he is totally alien to the values that the show generally espouses. The Romulan is helpless; it is to the advantage of the Federation if he can continue living in that they may interrogate him; it is to the advantage of the Federation that he continue living so that a war doesn’t break out, which despite Worf’s warrior instincts he recognizes is undesirable; the Romulan is helpless and his life is in Worf’s hands; it is to the Romulan’s advantage to continue living; this Romulan is not the one who killed his family. Everything says that Worf should donate blood, both for the Romulan’s sake and for the Federation, at least before the sickbay conversation where the Romulan indicates that he would not want his body polluted with Klingon filth (more later). But up against that is the fact that Worf’s body is sacred to him, his blood and genetic code are all his entire connection to his parents (and he has no other Klingons on the ship, so there are no others with whom he even shares a more distant family blood connection), and he will not give it up. Worf is wrong, but he’s wrong in a way totally consistent with his Klingon-ness and formative traumas; and while Picard asks, nay, begs Worf to do what is obviously the right thing, he stops short of ordering him. I love it because it’s just right: Worf is wrong, but there is on some level a right to be wrong when it comes to matters of one’s own body and blood, and Picard is not going to deny Worf autonomy over his insides even when Worf is using that autonomy counter to Federation values.

I agree, incidentally, that it’s not as extreme as all that because the Romulan seemingly was refusing Worf’s blood, too—and the fact that the episode doesn’t really acknowledge this or have any dialogue suggesting that Crusher or Picard were thinking about the Romulan’s wishes bothers me a little, though it’s not unreasonable for Crusher and Picard to believe while the guy’s unconscious that his first choice would be to live. Still, I think it works in part because of the contrast with Geordi/Bochra on the surface. Bochra responds to Geordi with suspicion and dislike almost immediately, and it takes Geordi making the first steps to cooperation for Bochra to respond; the same happens with Picard and Tomalak. The Romulan soldier hates Klingons and would rather die than cooperate—but we also don’t know that if Worf were willing to consider donating blood to him rather than standing above him, coolly suggesting he will refuse to give the Romulan his blood, the soldier would not feel differently. We don’t know that the soldier would come around, either, and there’s also the problem that he’s unconscious most/all of the time, but I think it doesn’t let Worf off the hook that the Romulan responds to the possibility of Worf donating ribosomes to him, since much of the episode is about how adversarial relationships work by each side’s distrust heightening the other’s.

Of course, Worf *does* eventually get to the point of seeing Romulans as people rather than merely as enemies, though unfortunately it only happens in *bad* stories—“Birthright, Part 2” has the poorly written and performed romance with the half-Klingon/half-Romulan woman, and Nemesis, a failure in most respects, does have a single line where Worf says to Riker of the Romulans who helped the Enterprise fight against Shinzon, “The Romulans fought with honour.” (“Yes they did, Mr. Worf,” Riker responds, which I suppose mirrors Riker’s role here as the one to try to convince Worf to put his hatred aside.) My tendency is to ignore Insurrection and Nemesis (and, for that matter, the developments in the future in Star Trek (2009) where apparently Romulus gets destroyed) entirely, but there are a handful of moments that I guess I’m glad happened, and Worf’s movement on the Romulans was one of them.

Between the ultimately fully generative Geordi/Bochra “first joint Federation/Romulan project” and the Worf/sick Romulan subplot which can only end in death is the Picard/Tomalak stalemate. He’s not quite as green and trusting as Geordi, nor as unforgiving and unmoving as Worf, but he essentially wins the day by following the Geordi model rather than the Worf one. Staying behind on Galorndon Core to rescue Geordi (who may or may not still be alive and may or may not be possible to rescue even if he is) rather than rushing the dying Romulan to the Neutral Zone is a move that could reasonably antagonize Tomalak and may not be worth it. Picard’s instincts to protect his own over a Romulan soldier who probably did not merely “get lost” as Tomalak suggests are probably justified and ones I share, and indeed he ends up saving Bochra, who would have died, anyway, but his refusal to offer Tomalak simple trust or to risk one of hiw own crew members to ensure the protection of one of the Romulans show that Picard has limits to what he will do to protect the peace. And yet, ultimately, Picard knows how, as he says to Riker, to measure his response. The speech Picard makes at the end is essentially what this show is about. In TOS, Kirk and Kor had the Organians sit them down like children and tell them to stop fighting; in TNG, Picard makes the choice to be the adult in the room and trust that at his core, Tomalak no more wants war than Picard does, but that on some level it is necessary for one party or the other to be clear-eyed and power down first, and it is worth taking that risk. For his part, Tomalak’s genuine-seeming concern for whether Bochra had been mistreated plays out nicely against his obvious deceptions (not even particularly meant to convince Picard, let alone the audience) about the ship’s presence on Galordon Core, and I very much like that the episode does not supply an explanation.

Minor, silly observation: seriously, Geordi’s VISOR lets him see *neutrinos*? To be clear, neutrinos are extremely hard to detect, because they are uncharged and so are unaffected by electromagnetic fields. In fact, this is the reason that Wesley suggests the neutrino beacon in the first place—that neutrinos aren’t going to be affected by the ion storm the way most other signals would be. Given that we’re usually told Geordi’s VISOR picks up EM spectrum it’s pretty surprising that they’d somehow have neutrino detectors in them (which are…not on the EM spectrum). I’ll also note that if you are giving someone a replacement for human vision, I can’t imagine something less necessary than a neutrino detector. Good VISOR. In the next episode, Geordi says that he’s seeing mesons from the wormhole, which are also uncharged subatomic particles, so they are consistent on this point—it’s just really bizarre that a VISOR would do that, except of course insofar as they needed something that Geordi could see but that wouldn’t be affected by the storm or be within humanoid visual range.

Anyway, the episode has a few pat moments but overall is a strong entry which sets the tone for all Romulan stories to follow throughout the series. I agree on the 3.5 star rating.
Josh - Mon, May 6, 2013 - 1:48pm (USA Central)
@Patrick: What I find all the more bizarre is that Crusher and Picard persist in trying to get Worf to donate *after* the Romulan has said he'd rather die than "pollute his body with Klingon filth". I can't think of any clearer way of declining consent. And it would most certainly be unethical to proceed with the transfusion, and, if there are still civil lawyers in the 24th century, the Romulan could sue Crusher for battery.

Having said that, we've seen more than a few examples of questionable medical ethics in Star Trek. Bashir, for example gets involved with Melora and then with Serena in "Chrysalis", each time with only the most minimal separation between personal and professional relationships.

And Janeway killed Tuvix!
William B - Mon, May 6, 2013 - 2:05pm (USA Central)
I actually don't think Crusher or Picard are aware of what the Romulan said, and, further, I don't think Worf shared it. I think it might genuinely not have even occurred to Crusher or Picard that someone might refuse a life-saving transfusion for interspecies hatred grounds, which is a flaw. I think Worf kept it to himself because something about the way he responded to the scene with the Romulan felt weirdly intimate/private.
Josh - Mon, May 6, 2013 - 5:39pm (USA Central)
Weren't there a whole bunch of other people in sickbay when the exchange occurred, though? I'll have to watch the scene again.

Btw, William, very nice job on the reviews!!
William B - Mon, May 6, 2013 - 6:56pm (USA Central)
I believe the Romulan grabbed Worf's sash and whispered to him -- granted, a stage whisper, but I think we're meant to understand it was a private exchange.

Thanks very much!
Dom - Thu, Jun 13, 2013 - 5:26pm (USA Central)
Man, this episode reminds me of how much I miss Commander Tomalak. It's too bad he only appears twice in TNG (there are two other times, but they're fake or alternate timeline versions).
Moonie - Thu, Oct 3, 2013 - 4:18am (USA Central)
Wonderful episode. For once, the alien planet didn't look like cheap stage decoration. Three story lines that all were connected and came together. And Geordie in the spotlight in a good story. *like*
SkepticalMI - Mon, Oct 14, 2013 - 7:37pm (USA Central)
The Vulcan ribosome issue was handwaved in the episode, albeit not explained. Dr. Crusher did mention that there were subtle differences in Vulcan/Romulan anatomy, and then handwaved away the Vulcan connection by specifically mentioning that none of the Vulcans tested matched. Still rather implausible though. And how the heck do you do a ribosome transplant anyway? You have to inject them in each individual cell or something? Oh well... Actually, I think there's a bigger plot hole. So the problem was that the Enterprise couldn't leave the planet to rendezvous with Tomalak until LaForge was beamed back. Why not just separate the ship? Picard could deliver the Romulan on board safe and sound and prevent Tomalak from entering Federation space, Riker could have stomped around the bridge until LaForge and Bochra found the beacon, and everyone's happy. Except perhaps Bochra.

But really, why am I wasting time complaining about these plot holes when the episode was so great? TNG needed this episode. The first 6 episodes of the exaulted Season 3 were simply good. They were well directed, well plotted, and well executed. They explored moral themes and the depths of the main characters. They presented interesting problems for the crew to solve. All very nice and wonderful. But they were also slow moving, talky, and presented little in the way of drama, suspense, and tension. They were fairly sterile, something some people tend to dismiss the entire series for. There's a time and place for these types of episodes, of course, but too many of them can get rather boring. The name of this episode is perfect. What TNG really needed was an enemy.

Q? Good antagonist, but his powers and entirely different mindset make him impossible to be a true enemy. The Borg? Chilling and deadly, but due to their nature could only be used sparingly. Klingons? Their appearance lends a sense of danger and excitement, but they are the somewhat untrustworthy allies, not enemies. Ferengi? Heh, yeah... TNG desperately needed the Romulans to fill the void. A power roughly on par with the Federation. A people who are close enough to human to have dialogue (unlike the completely alien Borg), but different enough to know they can't be trusted. And a people and technology that are instantly notable and recognizable, enough to make sure that any mention of them is enough to perk the viewer's interest (I can't mention it enough; the warbird design is beautifully awesome). We recieved hints of them through the first two seasons, now it's time to see them in action.

(As an aside, the quality of Romulan episodes seemed to parallel the quality of TNG as a whole. They really were at their best in seasons 3 and 4, mysterious, always plotting, and always dangerous. After that, their stories became weaker. They seemed to be used more as "color" to use William's term. Still interesting to watch, but not as suspenseful and scary as Defector and The Mind's Eye).

While all three Romulans were necessary for the story (and all three subplots well done and expertly intertwined), it was Tomalak that, quite naturally, had the most dramatic impact. By representing the Empire as a whole, he represented the biggest threat to peace, and was the most difficult intellectually to deal with. I loved every moment of him on the viewscreen, particularly his blatant lies. The line accusing Picard of caring more about territories than a life was particularly great. It was obvious he didn't believe a word of it. But it was to try to throw Picard off his game and make him blink, or perhaps to just start writing the propaganda going on back at Romulus. It's so realistic, something I've seen quite often even today, and it doesn't surprise me in the least to see this rather annoying tactic as part of the Romulan character. But Picard's responses were equally well written and acted. Picard got to be both good cop and bad cop here; the magnanimous diplomat and the hardened warrior. And wow, the nerves of steel he showed here. His blunt responses to everything Tomalak said goes completely against the caricature of him as a wussy diplomat (and thus showing why it is a caricature and not reality). And they were incredibly effective. It was a true battle of brinksmanship, and it was heartening to see the solution require not some touchy feelydiplomatic answer, but an equally bold yet equally magnanimous move by Picard. Very well done.

The other two Romulan stories were good too. It was interesting to see the characters were, to some extent, mirrors of their main cast counterparts. Worf's Romulan was just as hate filled as he was (at least the few lines he spoke; perhaps he wasn't actually this intransigent). And Bochra was a problem solver much like LaForge. It was interesting to see him take the initiative in figuring out how to find the neutrino pulse when Geordi gave up. And, of course, Tomalak mirroring Picard in the battle of brinksmanship. Whether that was the intent or not, it definitely worked.

Grumpy - Wed, Oct 16, 2013 - 4:22pm (USA Central)
Congratulations, SkepticalMI! You found a genuine plot hole in the only episode that Phil Farrand declared un-nitpickable!

Now, how many other times would saucer sep have solved the need-to-be-two-places-at-once dilemma? Bad enough that they kept using shuttles for interstellar jaunts that Big E could've traversed in a shorter time.
Carl - Mon, Oct 28, 2013 - 4:17pm (USA Central)
I think that saucer separation would have been inadvisable in this episode as the saucer section would have been vulnerable to a Romulan assault. The presence of a Romulan vessal on the planet suggests that there could be a cloaked warbird nearby and the risk, though small, is surely great enough to make separation inappropriate.

As a nurse I was pretty shocked by Picard's and, especially, Dr. Crusher's treatment of Worf in this episode. Respect for autonomy is a cornerstone of medical ethics. Besides which Crusher's antagonism of Worf (especially bringing him to witness the close-to-death Romulan's suffering) is very counterproductive. I'm thinking in terms of human psychology here, of course, but clearly Klingons find this approach even less endearing than we would. However I was pleasantly surprised that this plot thread ended the way it did.

I wouldn't take the Romulan's speech to Worf to be a refusal of the procedure, though. He was saying this for the Klingon's benefit and was in an aroused emotional state at the time. Any medical or healthcare professional who overheard this and withheld treatment on this basis, without discussing the operation calmly and privately with the patient, would be guilty of criminal negligence.

As a huge Babylon 5 fan I was thrilled to see Andreas in the guest star credit. He was excellent as Tomalak. I'm glad to read that he will return.
Rikko - Tue, Jan 21, 2014 - 10:04pm (USA Central)
I really liked this one!

Most of what I wanted to say was already said by William B (Great analysis, btw!). I particularly liked the contrast between the Geordi and Worf stories. While one group survived and moved forward by collaboration and trust, the other one ended badly because the hate got the better of them.

And Picard proved to be a fine diplomat.

Btw, as SkepticalIMI said, the Romulans are the "enemy" the series needed (for all the reasons he described and I agree) , specially considering the good bunch of episodes with Romulan material from now on. It's definitely much better than their S1 introduction and with episodes like this I can finally understand how much of a threat they are to the Federation.

"We are back" and then fade to black wasn't enough. On the other hand, this kind of cold-war tactics are just awesome.
Psteve - Mon, Feb 24, 2014 - 2:57pm (USA Central)

It wasn't a bad episode, but if the Federation are always this wimpy about violations of their territory, then no wonder the Romulans are always trying their luck and seeing what they can get away with.

If a Federation ship so much as looks at the neutral zone then the Romulans are out in force, but in this episode a Romulan ship waltzes straight through the neutral zone and INTO FEDERATION SPACE and Picard just meekly hands over a captured infiltrator and lets them go on their way.

Really, that Romulan should have gone straight to Guantanamo, and Tomalak should have been going home in an escape pod.

grumpy_otter - Mon, Aug 18, 2014 - 9:58am (USA Central)
There was something about this episode that always seemed familiar to me--and then I remembered the episode of "The Jeffersons," "Sorry, Wrong Meeting," where George saves a KKK leader's life by giving him CPR.

When the KKK leader discovers it was a black man who saved his life he says something like, "You should have let me die." But good came of it when the leader's son quits the KKK.

I cannot support Worf's choice. It was selfish and pigheaded. If someone murdered my children, then that individual needed my blood to stay alive, I think I'd have a problem. But a member of a race who personally had nothing to do with the crime? Ridiculous.

It is that kind of intransigence that caused, and is still causing, so many of the world's problems. If Worf had changed his mind in time, that seed of compassion might have grown among the Romulans and led to good things.

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