Star Trek: The Next Generation
Air date: 10/7/1991
Teleplay by Michael Piller
Story by Rick Berman & Michael Piller
Directed by Les Landau
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
When Rick Berman takes a story credit in the TNG era, you might assume something major is afoot (see the forthcoming "Unification"). And yet "Ensign Ro" wasn't originally conceived as the backstory it ultimately would provide for Deep Space Nine. A cornerstone of DS9's development would ultimately grow from the pieces put in place in this episode — and the new series would be in full-scale production less than a year later — but there apparently was no master plan at the time "Ensign Ro" was written.
A terrorist attack on a Federation colony is said to have been committed by a group of Bajorans (frequently and inconsistently referred to as "Bajora" in this episode). Admiral Kennelly (Cliff Potts) orders Picard to track down the perpetrators amid a politically sensitive situation, and forces Picard to take with him as a special adviser the confrontational Ensign Ro Laren (Michelle Forbes in a memorably abrasive and yet still sympathetic performance), released from prison specifically to help Picard navigate these tricky waters. (She was sent to prison after being court-martialed for disobeying orders that resulted in the deaths of several fellow Starfleet officers.)
Aboard the Enterprise, Ro has a rare electrifying presence. Most of the crew wants nothing to do with her based on her tarnished reputation alone, and Ro projects the very public position of wanting nothing to do with any of them. She's blunt and tells it like it is. TNG is famous for its general lack of interpersonal conflict — a rule that "Ensign Ro" is willing to suspend. Watching this, you can see the dramatic benefits of conflict (and why the no-conflict rule would be dropped for DS9).
One person who sees through Ro's leave-me-alone persona is the seen-it-all Guinan, who opts for a kill-her-with-kindness approach, and ultimately declares Ro her friend. This will ultimately be Ro's salvation, as being friends with Guinan means Picard will be more apt to listen to you, which proves important when it's revealed that Ro has a very unique problem: She was put on this assignment to deliver the Bajoran terrorists to the Cardassians on behalf of Admiral Kennelly and is caught as a pawn in the middle of a web of political intrigue.
The plot execution is nothing to write home about. The Enterprise tracks down the Bajoran cell leader and it turns out he didn't attack the Federation colony at all; the Cardassians attacked the colony and framed the Bajorans in the hopes of provoking the Federation to do their dirty work in finding the Bajorans for them. Kennelly is the patsy who buys into the plot and conspires with the Cardassians to deliver the Bajorans. These plot details play out with fairly low wattage (in stark contrast to the energy that Ro herself brings to the Enterprise).
Of more value is the character of Ro herself, who ultimately joins the Enterprise crew and promises to be an interesting addition. And it's always nice to add a little more complexity in near orbit of the paradise that is the Federation. The creation of the Bajorans as galactic ethnic nomads that have been destroyed and scattered as the result of a brutal Cardassian occupation — well, I wonder what might come of that?
Previous episode: Darmok
Next episode: Silicon Avatar
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129 comments on this post
Fri, Apr 8, 2011, 1:19pm (UTC -5)
I will freely admit I cannot stand Michele Forbes. Add to that the role of Laren, who although everyone seems to think having a baddass chick is cool, we have one now on everything, and we did way back in 1991 also. The problem I have with these terminator type chicks is that they are so unrealistic. I have never met a female human who in any way acted like this outside of maury povich. Maybe Doctor Crusher doesn't do it for feminists, but the vast majority of women I know do act like that.
Anyways, enough comlaining. I will finish with some food for thought. Everytime I read about this episode, everyone loves the new "conflict" this character brings, and how it is a "breath of fresh air for the paradise that is the federation", but the other thing I know about this period of star trek is that this is when the episode rating start dropping a little bit. I won't say that Laren caused the decline of Star Trek, but maybe Roddenberry knew something we didn't?
Sat, Apr 9, 2011, 4:46am (UTC -5)
But that's just my opinion--you are certainly welcome to yours. I can totally see how if you didn't like Ro, all her storylines would be tedious.
What I REALLY love about this episode is how Ro makes Beverly look like such an idiot. I hated that they brought Gates McFadden's simpering idiocy back after getting rid of the practical and abrasive Pulaski. Any episode that focuses on Dr. Beverly is some of the worst of TNG.
Sat, Apr 9, 2011, 12:06pm (UTC -5)
I also think the fact that Nick doesn't know any "human females" who have an attitude says far more about his interactions with "human females" than it does about "human females" themselves.
Sat, Apr 9, 2011, 1:04pm (UTC -5)
And like I said, find me someone who doesn't like this dumb character, I can't. I am in a small minority here.
I also don't think not choosing to be around "women with attitude" makes me a caveman as your implying, I prefer women who are caring, maternal, thoughtful, and don't want to phaser every Cardassian that walks by. I actually find Kira quite enjoyable, and I think part of it is the recognizance that all though she has been throguh tough spots, she is still a women. I don't like the Laren characters because they are essentially male Zorro characters who happen to played be females. Maybe that does make me sexist, whatever that is how I feel.
Sun, Apr 10, 2011, 6:02am (UTC -5)
Fri, Apr 15, 2011, 6:12pm (UTC -5)
Pardon me, Nick, if what I said is not what you meant.
Mon, Apr 18, 2011, 5:15am (UTC -5)
Wed, Apr 20, 2011, 12:50pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Apr 20, 2011, 1:26pm (UTC -5)
And to clarify, Kara, I was not condemning all muslims, however, Grumpy, while not all muslims are terrorists, I will freely admit that if I had a choice of 2 planes, and one had only muslims and jews, and the other had only christians and jews. I am going with the jesus drinkers all the way!!!
Fri, Apr 22, 2011, 1:43pm (UTC -5)
However, strong female characters who are depicted as being special/different *because* they are strong, have the opposite effect. The message delivered by such characters is basically "I am strong/bold/badass/whatever; I am also a woman. This is relevant because women are generally not strong/bold/badass/whatever." I don't think that that message is one that should be delivered to an audience.
Sat, Apr 23, 2011, 4:21pm (UTC -5)
So you're saying Ro Laren is a badass, "Terminator-type chick"?! Based on what? Getting snippy about her name? Sitting nursing a drink alone? Sitting in her quarters thinking? Being on the verge of tears as she describes seeing her father tortured to death? Considering that her character is a deeply screwed-up refugee from an enslaved society, who has spent a long time in prison because she messed up and people died as a result, what exactly is so unrealistic about her?
Seriously, man...I have no idea what you're basing that comment on at all.
Mon, Apr 25, 2011, 2:55pm (UTC -5)
Bonus terror points for this scary non-woman maintaining her abrasiveness towards her male human superiors.
Mon, Apr 25, 2011, 3:36pm (UTC -5)
But there is not one thing in the way the character is written that is gender specific, so therefore saying the character is somehow bad just BECAUSE she's a woman and thus a cliche strikes me as silly. What's wrong with a badass chick who gets in people's faces? Unless you have something against a badass chick from the get-go?
Mon, Apr 25, 2011, 3:46pm (UTC -5)
And to Lenore's point, whether or not she did "bad-ass" things, she absolutely was "meant" to portray that kick-ass chick stereotype, and we know that because Berman and Co. have said this, repeatedly, in multiple interviews, then and now. Worf was also supposed to be "kick-ass Klingon", yet in 90% of episodes he is getting beaten up by alien of the week, or changing alexanders diapers. But we all still remember him as "kick-ass Klingon"!!!!
Fri, May 13, 2011, 6:17pm (UTC -5)
"Watching this, you can see the dramatic benefits of conflict (and why the no-conflict rule would be dropped for DS9)."
Um, no. Conflict is great if there's a believable reason for it. The senior staff appear lobotomised in this episode just so they don't get along with Ro. Starfleet officers value loyalty to PRINCIPLES not THE UNIFORM. Of course they can't approve of Ro's past, but it's totally against Federation values for them to ostracise her the way they do. It gives Guinan a chance to show they really should have given her Troi's job, sure, but the whole enterprise seems really phoned in.
Interesting to see that the seeds of self-righteous annoyance which would ultimately characterise Bajor and Kira especially are clearly present here.
2.5 stars maybe? I dunno.
Sat, May 28, 2011, 9:51pm (UTC -5)
Perhaps the fact that Ro isn't human is what makes her character believable. Not every race encountered in Star Trek has to act exactly like 21st Century humans.
And I couldn't agree more about the refreshing addition of conflict. The reason I always liked DS9 so much more than TNG was the three dimensional characters on DS9 as compared to the all-too-often 2 dimensional cardboard cutout characters on TNG.
Nick thinks 'badass chicks' are not believable because he doesn't see them in real life. Well, I don't believe the crew of the Enterprise never have interpersonal conflict being trapped on a starship together 24/7.
I do agree that Michelle Forbes is not my favorite. So glad she passed on DS9 and allowed Nana Visitor to breathe life into Kira. What a gift.
Sun, Jun 5, 2011, 3:54pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Jun 12, 2011, 10:48am (UTC -5)
Did we watch the same show? :)
Whatever your opinion of DS9 may be, I find it very hard to see its characters as 2-D. That's just strange.
Wed, Jun 29, 2011, 12:31pm (UTC -5)
It's no more strange than seeing TNG's characters as 2-D
Fri, Jul 1, 2011, 4:09am (UTC -5)
Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, of course; it was just odd for me to see that someone would think of Niners as cardboard cutouts. You can hate them, be annoyed at the acting etc, but 2D? Kira, Odo, O'Brien, Bashir? Not to mention the largest supporting cast Trek has ever seen. In my opinion, if there's one thing DS9 stands supreme in Trek pantheon, it's the cast&characters.
Wed, Jul 27, 2011, 7:46am (UTC -5)
Err, Paul, you are basically involving yourself in someone else's spat here. Laurelgirl has just taken offence at someone else describing the Star Trek TNG characters as 2-d, and has copied their sentence switching the words "DS9" and "TNG"
She doesn't REALLY think that DS9 has 2-d characters. She's just reacting as if personally offended to someone who could dare say that TNG's characters are "all-too-often" 2-d.
Wed, Jul 27, 2011, 10:40am (UTC -5)
I think the DS9 cast was farily 2D, Sisko was fairly cardboard cutout, Kira, Odo, Quark, all of them except Bashir, O'brien, and some supporting cast were fairly cardboard.
To back up Laurelgirls point, I think Picard had more depth, complexity, and interest as a character by himself, that probably trumps DS9's entire cast. Not to mention Worf, Data, Guinan. Just because the show wasn't as serialized doesn't mean the characters are less 3-d. I am one of the few that think serialization aside, TNG was a far better and deeper show.
Wed, Jul 27, 2011, 11:24am (UTC -5)
You're absolutely right. Serialisation is fine, but it doesn't automatically deepen a character or better a TV show. It is perhaps a means to an end, but DS9's supporters seem to think because the plots become so complex from the layers of serialised recurrences, the characters and mythos can somehow be saturated with meaning from that complexity. It is simply a charade. DS9's characters were for the most part predictable and 2D--what throws a cloak over that fact is that their 2-dimensionality does not make them necessarily GOOD people all the time, which is somehow shocking for a Trek cast; but that shock value wares itself thin very quickly.
Wed, Sep 21, 2011, 11:34am (UTC -5)
She doesn't REALLY think that DS9 has 2-d characters. She's just reacting as if personally offended to someone who could dare say that TNG's characters are "all-too-often" 2-d.
This is just like DS9 fans who go apeshit if you dare point out any flaws about their show. They basically say, "The other Treks suck in comparison, but don't you dare say anything's wrong with DS9, or we'll get The Sisko on your ass!"
Which is one problem with the show: the fact that, over the seasons, it took pains to make Sisko (the show's main character) a freaking god. This silly mentality led to an unsatisfying end for the character (which apologists excuse by saying people should read the subsequent books). This(coincidentally) was also a big problem for the Star Wars prequels, in that George said that Darth Vader was basically Jesus. That did even more damage to Star Wars than Jar Jar, IMO.
Sat, Oct 1, 2011, 10:35am (UTC -5)
I don't see DS9 fans going apeshit, I see TNG fans being overly defensive. I also notice than DS9 comes up and dominates the topics here, which just smacks of insecurity.
For the record, having known various young women in the military, Ensign Ro's character is wholly believable. Some do it just to fit in, or give off that tough persona (which is not that different from what some men do) so they don't get messed with, others, that's just their personality and why they're in the armed forces to begin with. I imagine you'd see something similar among female cops.
Sat, Oct 1, 2011, 10:40am (UTC -5)
Sun, Oct 9, 2011, 9:40pm (UTC -5)
Oh, let's see, how about when he disappears into obilivion & returns in some bullshit spiritual form to tell his pregnant wife that he'll be back maybe tomorrow, maybe yesterday, maybe in two weeks, or some such bullshit like that, while she just has to raise their child by herself & (doubtlessly) tell that kid that Daddy just disappeared one day & who knows when he'll be back.
If any of the other series had done this, people like you would be saying how much it lacked creativity, but, if DS9 pulls shit like this, then the show must have its reasons.
Sat, Oct 15, 2011, 11:18pm (UTC -5)
Trek admirals have always been just terrible. It took until Ross to get one that seemed worthy of the job.
Tue, Jan 17, 2012, 6:25am (UTC -5)
Haven't seen this one for years.
Does it explain how a girl/lady from an occupied planet was able to escape and sign up for Starfleet and move up the ranks?
How long before DS9 did the Cardasians leave Bajor?
Thu, Apr 26, 2012, 4:33am (UTC -5)
Fri, May 11, 2012, 8:54am (UTC -5)
Sat, Sep 22, 2012, 1:11pm (UTC -5)
TNG - middle school graduates.
DS9 - college graduates.
VOY - clown school graduates.
ENT - repeatedly dropped on head as a child.
Sat, Sep 22, 2012, 5:51pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Sep 22, 2012, 9:06pm (UTC -5)
TNG-The parent that busted their hump to give sustenance and impart knowledge to its offspring. He's become a respected, legendary figure in his community.
DS9-The kid who worked hard in school, *but* looks down his nose at the parent that paid for his schooling. However, he ultimately never gets out of his parent's shadow.
VOY and ENT-the two kids who screwed around and didn't amount to anything.
Wed, Oct 24, 2012, 1:42pm (UTC -5)
In the 80's, there was a war between Star Wars and Star Trek Fans. Of course, it made no sense at all, because they are so different in concept (and target)... but People like to bicker, do they not ?
Now, we get fans who feel the need to undermine, belittle other Treks series to claim their preferred one is the best.
Couldn't we agree that there is something good to take - and bad to accept - in each and everyone of them for different reasons ? There are 2d and 3d characters in each. Some have emphazised the plots, some the morality, some the continuity and/or the characterization.
That was my post for peace :-D
Wed, Oct 24, 2012, 7:31pm (UTC -5)
I appreciate the sentiment and wish it could be so, but unfortunately, one of the series chose to demonstrate open hostility and/or mockery of its predecessors. With that kind of animosity built in to the very dialogue, in-fighting is inevitable and will always continue, at least with respect to that series. THat show primarily succeeded in areas where Star Trek has never striven to, and frequently failed where Star Trek offered its unique take on fiction. One of the shows failed in just about every imaginable way. One of the series failed at what the first I mentioned succeeded, namely in the un-Star-Trek arena.
So, it comes down to a question of principles. Is Star Trek's identity of greater concern than what was at the time clinching the trend of current television? Is making entertaining TV more important than enlightening TV? I offer no concrete answers, but I believe it is the difference in opinion regarding these sorts of questions which lead to the disparity between Trek fans you see here.
Thu, Oct 25, 2012, 4:43am (UTC -5)
I totally see your point and I have no problem with a good post with argumentation, something constructive. Actually, I very much like to read other opinions and I have my owns, although I don't post a lot because of my bad english.
But in this particular thread, there are posts that got me angry because they don't give any argument, just low bickering.
I appreciate your answer and I also regret that we don't have any new complex show to watch. Perhaps, in time, we'll get quality again.
Thu, Nov 1, 2012, 6:09am (UTC -5)
"How is it 3D? I think it goes by demographics:
TNG - middle school graduates.
DS9 - college graduates.
VOY - clown school graduates.
ENT - repeatedly dropped on head as a child. "
Oh, is that why TNG (like TOS) has 2 Hugo Awards to its name while the little piggy that was DS9 has no such roast beef to speak of? (And don't give me that 'awards mean nothing' crap when you know that you'd be citing it yourself if it was working more in your favor)
Sat, Nov 24, 2012, 11:57pm (UTC -5)
TNG ended before I was 12, but I grew up with it in repeats nonetheless and it was an important part of my childhood. There are only a few episodes that I would avoid entirely, and for the most part I can still watch most of them over and over. I don't know that any of the TNG characters are "less complex" than DS9, though I'd be hard pressed to call Geordi, Crusher, or Riker anything but bland.
"I don't know, I think you could make a strong argument that TNG has deeper characters. Just because someone wasn't an abused prisoner earlier in their life or had a borg ship kill their wife doesn't make them less deep or less of a character. I have never been abused, raped, maimed, tortured, or anything, and I consider myself a deep person."
I don't think TNG had deeper characters by any stretch. Patrick Stewart was probably the finest actor to appear on any Trek show, and his performances are what gave his character such depth rather than the writing per se. Traumatic backstories are standard TV tropes - on TNG that meant the death of Jack Crusher, Riker's abandonment by his father, Tasha's escape from her anarchic planet, Worf's adoption by human parents, the death of Troi's father. What gave the DS9 characters "depth" was not their backstories but the writing which allowed them to form more believable relationships based sometimes on conflict but also understanding. O'Brien and Worf were both great characters before coming to DS9; the show just took them ever farther.
On TNG, the main cast all seemed to become friends as a matter of course - yet, other than Picard in the first season, no one ever found Wesley as annoying as the audience did or took Troi to task for her blubbery psychobabble (except Q). On DS9, the relationship between Jadzia and Sisko is awkward at first. O'Brien hated Bashir until later in the 2nd season. Odo was aloof. It's not that TNG never allowed for longitudinal character arcs - it did - but it could have and probably should have been much much more. Arguably that was simply because it was a product of its time.
(And I cannot imagine how anyone could call Guinan a "three-dimensional character. I like her, but she was an enigmatic cypher who got some good dialogue now and then, and that was about it.)
Anyway, regarding the Hugos, "The Inner Light" won against such triumphs of storytelling as Aladdin, Alien 3, Batman Returns, and Bram Stoker's Dracula, while "All Good Things" beat out acclaimed films like Interview with the Vampire, The Mask, Stargate, and Star Trek: Generations. Impressive competition, those...
In contrast, "The Visitor" lost to Babylon 5's "The Coming of Shadows". On the subject of "The Visitor" - one of the finest episodes of DS9 along with "Duet", "Far Beyond the Stars", "Rocks and Shoals", and "In the Pale Moonlight" - it is surely one of the best examples of pure storytelling in all of Trek. I suppose it doesn't apply to the Star Trek "myth" that much, but then neither does "The inner Light". Comparing the two, in the latter Picard experiences the family life he never had in an affecting yet purely wistful and nostalgic flight of memory. In "The Visitor", Jake spends his life searching for his father and eventually abandons everything - up to his own life - to get him back. As ever, tragedy has the greater resonance, not unlike the end of a Wagner opera.
Mon, Dec 17, 2012, 7:28am (UTC -5)
Mon, Dec 17, 2012, 7:29am (UTC -5)
I'd say TNG did this, too.
Mon, Dec 17, 2012, 10:15am (UTC -5)
The show earned its accolades, its ratings and its place in television history. Deal with it.
Mon, Dec 17, 2012, 7:44pm (UTC -5)
@Jake: TNG did, but not as consistently across the cast. Riker, Geordi, Crusher, and Troi pretty much lacked any kind of narrative arcs, even if they individually had some good stories. I suppose with TNG I wish there'd been more "Lower Decks" and fewer "Sub Rosa". But they still did a better job than Voyager...
Anyway, I don't want to come across as "anti-TNG" or something because it's really not true. I'm actually pretty stoked that it's now been added to (Canadian) Netflix...
Mon, Jan 7, 2013, 5:42am (UTC -5)
The show earned its accolades, its ratings and its place in television history. Deal with it."
I couldn't have said that better myself, Patrick!
Fri, Jul 5, 2013, 3:20am (UTC -5)
Unless someone wants to argue that Days of Our Lives has the deepest characters of all time. Because, ya know, conflict, and consequences...and melodrama. Darkness! It all equals DEPTH. I swear...
There's a reason that TNG is still regularly syndicated on cable, and DS9 is nowhere to be found (except now on Netflix).
Fri, Sep 6, 2013, 9:01pm (UTC -5)
Also, it seems as if Data was giving his emotion chip another whirl in this episode...he seemed downright annoyed when he tossed his phaser on the ground when the Bajora captured him.
Mon, Oct 28, 2013, 11:21am (UTC -5)
Well, the stranger thing about that cave scene is that, while Troi can apparent sense emotions through starship viewscreens, she couldn't sense that Picard's team had been captured a few meters away.
Sat, Dec 7, 2013, 6:32pm (UTC -5)
Aside from that, pretty good episode.
Sun, Dec 8, 2013, 12:26am (UTC -5)
Ro Laren had been in prison for years before she was assigned to the Enterprise D. It's wholly realistic for her to have a chip on her shoulder. Her character was in part for not being a model officer that led to the deaths of crew members. In fact the evolution of her character in this single episode is bloody brilliant from beginning to end. Even the part with Geordi expressing his misgivings towards her was a subtle jumping off point for Guinan to be worked into the narrative--since she was the one Geordi was expressing his misgivings to.
And I refer you to DS9's pilot episode, "Emissary" with Kira behaving like an "ANGRY WOMAN" on steroids chewing out everyone around her and shouting every other line. Thankfully, they made her more three dimensional as the series progressed.
Wed, Dec 25, 2013, 1:28pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Mar 7, 2014, 6:09pm (UTC -5)
I liked this episode and liked the character of Ensign Ro because the story lines are relevant in our world. One thing that ENT did better than any of the other shows was to show women as fully functional officers. They were fit and they knew how to fight. It is what makes the show seem so disconnected at times because you have these realistic characters and then you introduce the whole rubbing gel in the decon chamber scenes. And if one wants to look for people disobeying orders, most ST characters do that.
Sat, Aug 9, 2014, 7:17pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Aug 9, 2014, 7:20pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Aug 11, 2014, 9:36am (UTC -5)
While I don't really agree with this comment.... why would you meet any woman on Earth that's like a Bajoran? I feel like the Bajorans probably leaned matriarchal... most of the Bajoran women you meet on the show are very strong, leader types.
Complaining that Kira behaves too much like a human man is just odd..... And Nana adds a real feminine touch to her, to soften Kira up around the edges. I feel like especially after S1 the character (the combination of the actress/writing) really became something special.
Sat, Aug 16, 2014, 7:01pm (UTC -5)
I'm one of the people who enjoys TNG but didn't really like DS9. For me, the most serious problem was the actor playing Sisko - he enunciates every syllable like he's on a stage, and I can't stand it. Every time he speaks takes me out of the show (okay not EVERY time, but it's pretty bad). Picard was theatrical, but only rarely crossed the line and took me out of the show.
For what it's worth, I think Kira was the best thing about DS9. Someone else already said it best - she acts like an adult. She has a feisty side but also a caring side, and she usually at least TRIES to act rationally. She also doesn't have much patience for bs and likes to get stuff done. I appreciate all of these traits.
In contrast to her, Ensign Ro here really does come off as a child. But the episode gets her past that stage quick enough for me that she doesn't become annoying, thanks to Guinan. Having her as a regular who causes conflict with her crewmates would have become tiresome really quickly for me.
It's true that conflict drives and almost defines progression of plot. But internal conflict is tedious for some of us. Seeing characters get along despite their differences is more interesting than spending time showcasing their differences. Especially if their differences feel childish, superficial, etc. The good episodes of the original series and TNG showed that there are more than enough potential conflicts inherent in exploring the galaxy and in trying to be good people without fighting amongst your own crew hindering the resolution of such conflicts. Imagine how tedious and counter-productive it would have been to have Troi speak against Data in Measure of a Man (pointing out that she can sense nothing within him), because she didn't like having an emotionless android on board.
In my limited experience, DS9's characters don't feel any more 'deep' than TNG's. However, they DO feel more realistic in a lot of ways, as do many of the conflicts. But I don't think that that makes DS9 'better'. In the above scenario, a Troi who doesn't like Data could have been very realistic, but still would have sounded like a brat to me.
Tue, Sep 2, 2014, 12:55pm (UTC -5)
If the writers were trying to make a distinction between humans and Bajorans then they did a terrible job.
Sun, Feb 1, 2015, 5:08am (UTC -5)
The question the story poses is: Are the possible benefits from this policy worth that price? Picard and Ro give opposing answers on this question.
For Ro, the Federation's non-interference and respect for Cardassian borders is what led to the displacement of her people, who are now living in poverty, scattered across other planets in refugee camps. She and the Bajoran terrorist leader have a good point there: The Federation is essentially turning its eyes away from a grave injustice, hides behind the formalities of treaties and even presents its own refusal to help as a sign of enlightenment. The non-interference policy, intended out of respect for other cultures, here serves to legitimate the destruction of one culture by another.
Picard can not take this stance, though. He has to look at the bigger picture, which makes him seem cold and unempathic at first. For him, the treaty with the Cardassian Empire, which ensured both sides' recognition of each other's legitimacy, is the necessary basis for helping the Bajorans through diplomacy - because every other form of help and the disregard for the Empire's national interests would have led to war.
The Federation prides itself in representing truth and justice, even if it often violates its own virtues (they seem to be especially unpopular among the ranks of Starfleet admirals). In previous episodes like "Justice" and "The Measure of a Man", Picard has shown himself to be a champion of these virtues, but as we know from "The Wounded", he takes a more pragmatic approach when defending truth and justice would lead to the death of innocents.
By TNG season 5, the Federation's state of peace is fragile. The UFP has just recovered from the Borg's attack and Wolf 359, the Romulan Empire is getting increasingly aggressive after a long period of absence, and the Klingon Empire has just come out of a civil war where one powerful faction (whose exponents are still around) was aiming at ending the alliance with the UFP and siding with the Romulans instead. On top of that, "The Wounded" told us that until a few years ago, the UFP was still at war with the Cardassian Empire (which makes Ro's accusation of the UFP as "innocent bystanders" rather unfair).
I think that Picard understands clearly how wrong the Cardassians' treatment of the Bajorans is, and he has a lot of empathy for them. But he is also wise enough to know that starting another war with the Cardassians would not help the Bajorans, but instead risk the lives of thousands of Federation citizens (and be a welcome opportunity for the Romulans to make a move on the Federation while it is engaged in a conflict with the Cardassians). So by discussing these two views of the conflict, the episode arrives at the conclusion that Picard is right.
This is what I value most about TNG. I'd certainly call the series propaganda. I don't use the term in a derogatory sense here, but simply as an objective description of what this show does: openly advocating specific political ideas. The problem with propagandistic works of art is that they usually fail at convincing anyone of their positions. Depending on the recipient, they usually only work as either entertainment or as a confirmation of ideas that the recipient already had. For example, I do not agree with the political message of "Iron Man 2", but I still enjoy the film as entertainment because it has an engaging story, an amusing protagonist and good action sequences. On the other hand, I can not imagine anybody enjoying a boring and self-righteous work like Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged", unless they completely agreed with its message (which is basically the same as in Iron Man 2) and did not care for characterization or story, as long as they can have their views confirmed without any challenge (sorry for the rant, but I really hate this book).
What sets TNG apart from these other propagandistic works of art is that it (usually) does not simply state its message, but discusses it, and (in its better episodes) the other party of the discussion is not simply a strawman villain, but has valid points themselves. This is why the show is so "talky", and why the conference room meetings are such an integral part of the show. Here, we are shown how hard it is to arrive at Picard's conclusion that the Bajorans' cause has to be helped by diplomacy, but that from the Federation's perspective there really is no alternative to it. We are also shown that for the Bajorans, this is a cold comfort, and that their terrorist faction has merits to their position, too.
That's what makes TNG great propaganda: Even if you don't agree with its messages, you will often (granted, there are more than enough exceptions, like the scolding of Dr. Marr in "Silicon Avatar") find other positions presented as valid in their own right and not simply turned down as obviously false. Apart from the interesting science fiction concepts, engaging stories and relatable (well, some of them...) characters, I think that this is what makes TNG popular even with people who do not agree with its main messages.
Sat, Jul 25, 2015, 11:30pm (UTC -5)
While I appreciate the fact that it lays a lot of groundwork for DS9 (as a huge DS9 fan, how could I not enjoy that?) and while I absolutely adore Ro as a character, Jammer is absolutely right that the plot is nothing special. I also don't care for the way the Bajorans are portrayed here. The Cardassian Occupation of Bajor is shown in several different styles before the writers finally settled on a more Nazi style occupation. Here, it's clear that they're using the Cardassians and Bajorans as an Israeli-Palestinian allegory. I don't like that symbolism because it really paints Israel in a rather unfavorable light. Now, I'm not one of those guys who support Israel come hell or high water. They've done their fair share of bad stuff, but comparing them with fictional oppressors who torture people to death in front of their seven-year-old children is going too far. I also didn't care for the fact that the writers went for the cliche of the "evil admiral" (a tired Trek device). But, at least here he's more of a naive dope and not outright evil. Finally, what is up with the crew's reactions to Ro? Okay, she refused to follow orders and some people died. Well, didn't Data refuse to follow orders just two episodes ago? I guess that's okay because everything worked out in the end that time and.... the ends justify the means?
But, all that being said, "Ensign Ro" is definitely an above average episode. And the reason for that is, obviously, Ro herself. Whether you agree that she brings some much needed interpersonal conflict to the show or not, I don't see how anybody could argue that Michelle Forbes doesn't steal this entire episode. Ro is electrifying whenever she's on screen. I love the fact that she isn't willing to take any shit from anybody, either the Enterprise crew or the Bajoran leader in the camp. She's acerbic but likeable. I can see why Forbes was offered the role that would later become Kira because she literally lights up the screen here. Take the scene where Ro tells Picard about her father. As I was watching it I was thinking "damn, this woman is tearing this shit up!; why can't we have more scenes like this instead of the plodding "find the terrorists" plot."
All in all, an integral component for the larger Star Trek landscape and mythos, but not a classic.
Mon, Sep 21, 2015, 9:16am (UTC -5)
The back plot itself is predictable enough, but we'll get to see much greater explorations of dispossessed peoples, terrorism and its consequences later on and this lays the groundwork nicely. I suppose the Starfleet Admiral as naive dupe is a telegraphed plot device, but nevertheless the double dealings work well. 3 stars.
Sun, Aug 14, 2016, 3:53am (UTC -5)
Except numerous human right's groups, and UN watchdogs, have documented Israel literally torturing Palestinian children and even putting them in cages.
Wed, Aug 17, 2016, 9:04am (UTC -5)
Fri, Jan 20, 2017, 8:42pm (UTC -5)
Some priceless exchanges: Ro telling Crusher and Troi to eff off at the bar; Guinan telling Ro she's full of crap; Ro calling her peers morons with the classic line, "He has no diplomatic experience- - and he won't ask you to dance." Gossipy Geordi "I won't turn my back on her!" Laforge. Riker's puffed-up jerkiness: "Take off that earring! Ignore Troi's non regulation cleavage and Worf's non regulation sash!" Basically, all the crew acting kinda like jerkwads.
Ro Laren is like Barclay - though she is used much better throughout the series. They are the two characters who don't fit into the perfect Starfleet world. At the Academy, they both ate lunch alone: Barclay next to the potted plant, and Ro at the center table, pretending not to care that she was a lonely outcast who everyone shied away from.
I'm laughing at those who pretend to object to Ro because she's a "stock character." I actually can't think of another similar character on TNG - unlike the brilliant scientist or manipulative diplomat or arrogant alien or devoted wife - who are all shown again and again. . "Terminator chick"." Seriously?? As I remember, Ro doesn't so much as throw a punch, (unlike Linda Hamilton in T2, say) and is pretty obviously driven by emotion and PTSD and guilt and honor, very different from the cyborg Terminator itself.
Oh, and her awkward confession to a stern, frowning Picard was awesome. In a later episode when she says, "I can't believe it - I'm dead and I'm still intimidated by you!" it's an earned moment. And their relationship in "Preemptive Strike" and its ending - pure heartbreak.
Those are the character dynamics that make TNG wonderful.
Sat, Jan 21, 2017, 6:04pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Feb 8, 2017, 11:30pm (UTC -5)
Ro is being sprung from prison to go on this mission. She knows she's a screwup. She expects to be hated and ostracized. I would guess she has a tiny flame of hope that she'll get decent treatment on the Enterprise. But all hope is extinguised when she comes aboard.
The instant her molecules come together in the transporter bay, she meets her new boss - and the first words out of his mouth are a bellowed command: Take off that earring!
Now, Riker is within his rights to bellow at her in lieu of a hello... but it's hardly the way to establish rapport with the new ensign under your command. It's his way of making his stance obvious: he despises her sight unseen, and means to bully her. So she lifts her chin a notch in a "fuck you" pose, because that's what you do when you're being bullied and shouted at by a superior.
Everywhere she goes after that, she hears the whispers and sees the nasty looks. (On Ten Forward Guinan confirms it: "Everyone's talking about you.") It's pretty unprofessional that all her colleagues are gossiping about her out in the open a few feet from her. They may not like it, but she's been assigned to the ship and they're supposed to work with her in a way that's constructive.
To top things off, she is forced to listen to the senior staff being stupid and patronizing and ignorant about Bajor's deep and tragic problems. Her dad was tortured to death... and Beverly titters about dancing with some lightweight Bajoran politician.
She was braced for everyone to treat her like dirt, and that's what they did. She was hostile largely because they were hostile first. Not terribly mature of her, but understandable. It also wasn't terribly mature of Riker and Geordi etc to start off by bullying her and gossiping against her - and unlike Ro, they didn't have the excuse of being just out of the pokey.
Did I mention I love this episode?
Wed, Feb 8, 2017, 11:42pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Feb 9, 2017, 10:58am (UTC -5)
Yeah but it made for such damn good drama.
And I kinda like seeing a different facet of Riker. We know him as a big bluff relaxed guy among his peers - the poker, the skirt-chasing, the joking around - but he's also a leader and he has a certain command style and certain opinions about what Starfleet means. How does he view a Starfleet screwup who's gone to prison for disobeying orders and getting eight people killed? Well, not kindly. He's angry she wears the same uniform he does. And if he has to put up with her, he's going to take this golden opportunity to show her exactly how despicable he finds her.
Two strong characters striking sparks off each other. Plus Picard being Picard and Guinan being Guinan. Adding up to one great episode.
Fri, Feb 10, 2017, 4:33pm (UTC -5)
I am frankly puzzled at the complaints about Ro being some kind of "badass" or "terminator". She didn't so much as throw a punch the whole episode.
The two things that keep me from loving this episode were Guinan and the Admiral. Regarding the Admiral, I thought the performance was just off kilter - very inconsistent. His motivation was not clear or convincing and he just came across as a dunce to me
Regarding Guinan, I just did not buy the ease with which she befriended Ro. Yes, she had something in common with Ro being an exile too, but it just seemed forced to me. I felt like Guinan was just using voodoo or something on her. It was almost meta how Guinan could just get to her with instant success. Who is this sorceress? Maybe they should fire Troi at this point and let Guinan take over.
By the way, one little tidbit I noticed was how the Bajorans were showed to be exiles and wanderers. The implication is that the Bajoran home world was empty of Bajorans.
Fri, Feb 10, 2017, 5:34pm (UTC -5)
I think the point is just that their homeland isn't a good place to go back to right then.
Sat, Feb 11, 2017, 10:13am (UTC -5)
Sat, Feb 11, 2017, 11:17am (UTC -5)
Yes, as far as I can tell the backstory of the Bajorans was changed when DS9 went into production. In 'Ensign Ro' they are stateless people, impoverished and exiled from their homeland and scattered in refugee camps - I took them to be something like the Jews of the diaspora. I think the DS9 writers realized that if they were going to have a space station orbiting Bajor, and conflict between Bajorans and Cardassians, it would be a much richer set-up to imagine Bajorans on Bajor suffering occupation and cruelty, being freedom fighters like Kira, etc.
I agree that the admiral's motivation is badly written. The Gul is also too talky. I used to have the episode on VHS and I always FF'd through their scenes.
As for Guinan getting under Ro's skin so easily: I was fine with it. I saw Ro as having a shell of defensive hostility because of her past and because she knew everyone in Starfleet despised her... but under that shell, she was pretty desperate to give her own side of the story and explain that she wasn't the treacherous villain everyone took her for. Her motives were honorable.
(Her honorable soul is shown in the exchange with Guinan: "They say you didn't defend yourself at your court martial.".... "What was to defend? I didn't follow orders. Eight people died." We don't know if she was even fully culpable for the disaster; we do that she blamed herself and fell on her sword.)
Guinan was outside of Starfleet; she showed a deep interest in Ro and touched her by seeing through her crap ("If you'd wanted to be alone, you would have stayed in your quarters"). Most of all, she made it clear she believed Ro was a decent person. With everyone else on the ship despising her and believing the worst of her when she was just trying to do the right thing, Ro reached out to Guinan like a drowning woman clutching a life preserver.
Sat, Feb 11, 2017, 1:53pm (UTC -5)
Maybe her commanding officer gave an unclear order, then after the tragedy he put all the blame on her. It would have been her nature to take responsibility rather than trying to make excuses or point the finger back at him. Plus she would have had no one in her corner: she's simply the kind of person who always gets crucified in the court of public opinion because she's an unpopular loner.
Or: the away team was under orders to do covert reconnaissance on a hostile planet and not engage the enemy, but when a sudden threat arose, Ro's instinct was to react fast with a daring move intended to protect everyone. It went terribly wrong.
I like to think she would have drawn a lighter sentence and be viewed more charitably if she *had* been willing to defend herself. But she was too upright and noble to offer excuses or plead for leniency. So rumors flew and, people being people (even in the 24th century and even in Starfleet), everyone eagerly believed the worst of her and gossipped with delight.
Sat, Feb 11, 2017, 3:21pm (UTC -5)
Regarding Guinan, I guess my beef is more with her in general than in this one instance. I mean is there the slightest doubt that she is going to be Ro's instant friend though barely trying? She isn't a telepath or empath (see how Troi gets rebuffed almost immediately) yet she can just magically become whatever the story needs - it's almost meta. Even Picard is powerless before her spell.
Sat, Feb 11, 2017, 4:00pm (UTC -5)
Maybe because she has a fairly loose relationship with linear time ("Yesterday's Enterprise" and "Time's Arrow") she has a feel for the fact that what is seen and known and viewed as 'true' today, will be revealed in a different light tomorrow. And this lets her psychologize her way into the hearts and minds of people like Ro and Picard in the midst of their crises.
(Though interestingly, in Ensign Ro she says it was she who once turned to Picard for help. I've never been able to come with even a theory as to what those circumstances might have been. Maybe she was a homeless beggar and he rescued her by offering her a job in his ship's bar? Best not to think about it too much, I think.)
Now that you bring it up, it is a trifle convenient to create a character with mystical intuition who can then be called upon to propel plots in whatever direction the script demands.
Sat, Feb 11, 2017, 6:25pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Feb 12, 2017, 12:46pm (UTC -5)
To move it to the male sphere: According to Nick P, the mercenary Jayne from 'Firefly' (for those who sadly missed the show: he's male; he beds hookers and names his fave gun 'Vera' and doesn't have an honorable bone in his body) and the Klingon Worf are the identical 'stock badass male character'. Oh gosh, how can TV audiences be presented with these two identical characters? What a cliche!
In reality, Worf and Jayne (yay Jayne!) are a million miles apart. They both serve as muscle on a starship. Aside from that you'll be hard pressed to find similarities.
Comparably: Ro and the other 'stock female bad-asses' that Nick P seems to object to (let me guess: River Tam and Buffy and the Terminator 2 female lead and Kira Nerys and Ellen Ripley in "Aliens" - gee that's five! - are all vastly different from each other. Reducing them down to "they aren't demure, therefore they are all the same stock character" is Nick P's problem.
As for "I've never met a woman like that" -- well, you've probably never met a guy as urbane and commanding and Renaissance as Picard or as physically heroic as Jack Bauer. Part of what TV does is reflect back at us our idealized wishes for the dramatic, exciting, way-cooler selves we could be, and the much more thrilling lives we could be living.
Ro Laren is me, if my common earthwoman problems (taking the fall for a mistake my boss made; being hated and gossiped about at certain points in my life, preferring athletics and toughness to knitting and Barbies, having trouble with authority, having a somewhat crappy upbringing, having a chip on my shoulder) were transposed into a much more glamorous and universe-shaking context.
Sun, Feb 12, 2017, 9:02pm (UTC -5)
I also think that most of us, including Jammer and for that matter Memory Alpha, have failed to appreciate the nuance of the usage of "Bajora." It is *not* a randomly-applied synonym for "Bajoran." The latter term clearly applies to any members of the race, but the former is used in such a way as to suggest a distinction. Orta uses both terms in the same dialogue scene. I submit that "Bajora" refers to a subset of Bajorans--either to that portion which was caught, or forced, off their world at the time of annexation, or to a further subset of a radical political faction within the exiles.
Sun, Mar 5, 2017, 1:26pm (UTC -5)
René Auberjonois is just off putting.
Mon, Mar 6, 2017, 9:28am (UTC -5)
Sat, Mar 18, 2017, 11:44pm (UTC -5)
It probably doesn't help that she was bitchy about her name (fuck off and learn English grammar, you don't see Keiko insisting on putting her family name first and then bitching about people getting her name wrong) and bitchy about wanting to violate uniform protocol (I'm sure Worf wasn't so rude about wanting a sash). I also never liked how she was obviously supposed to be "sexy" and got a special uniform in this episode with a removable top and short sleeves underneath. (Because tank tops are so sexy... Yeah, right, Star Trek. Wow, we got to see her boobs better and some bare skin, totally worth the special uniform. Not really.) We're also supposed to find her "tragic" but it's shoved down our throats just like with Yar. But Yar wasn't a crazy bitch with a petulant, childish attitude who deserved to be thrown in the brig for insubordination.
You can give a character a tragic backstory, that's fine, but don't present it to me as a sob story, like I should constantly be feeling sorry for them. Worf's backstory is arguable pretty traumatic but he's never presented to us in a "look how far he's come, the poor thing, you should really be amazed by the fact he's pulling it off at all, he's so strong but such a broken, fragile thing that needs protection because he's secretly so vulnerable" narrative like both Yar and Ro are. (I'd argue that Worf does have some of those traits, but the narrative never pushes us to see him through that lens, he's just that way.) If Ro were handled more like Worf, rather than being portrayed as a pushy wench who should get away with all the shit she pulls because the world feels bad for her, I probably wouldnt have much of a problem with her. I guess my issue with her is half how she acts and half how the universe reacts.
She also has too much unwarranted self-importance and is never shown to do or have done anything to earn it. Plus that wart on her chin grosses me out, but probably only because I hate her for other reasons.
Fri, Apr 14, 2017, 11:41pm (UTC -5)
Then again, when a man tries to claim that ALL women act a certain way, he doesn't exactly give off vibes of being a reliable judge of character.
Thu, Apr 27, 2017, 12:19am (UTC -5)
As for the bajorans... Maybe most did leave bajor but once the cardassians left, most went back to bajor. So tng and ds9 match up?
Tue, Aug 29, 2017, 3:52pm (UTC -5)
Of course, it's great to get the first look at the Bajor/Cardassian conflict knowing how central it is to DS9. I guess this episode starts out innocently enough but something special was started here.
I thought Picard was great in this episode -- he can be stern with Ro but also clever in dealing with the admiral. It's not clear what the payoff to the admiral is from the Cardassians, but certainly hard to believe he could get away with supplying arms and Picard just blindly following orders.
Good plot with the ruse to get the admiral to show his colors. Also thought the Cardassian captain's character (who wasn't Gul Dukat) gave the right performance.
3 stars for "Ensign Ro" and a small start to an interesting story arc in TNG and, of course, all of DS9. Good to see the Enterprise crew facing a new wrinkle in dealing with Ro. Interested to see how she'll develop as well as more Bajor/Cardassian stuff.
Wed, Nov 1, 2017, 10:18pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Dec 23, 2017, 11:51pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Apr 22, 2018, 4:55am (UTC -5)
Fri, Apr 27, 2018, 6:03am (UTC -5)
Wed, Jun 6, 2018, 5:55pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Jun 7, 2018, 6:00am (UTC -5)
It almost seems like you and others are reacting to your own head canon of what the Ro character is supposed to be rather than what is on the screen. Ro is tough but not in a cartoonish way that would be outlandish for a real person.
If I am wrong please point out the parts of this episode that are so unrealistic. I'm curious.
Thu, Jun 7, 2018, 10:11am (UTC -5)
Thu, Jun 7, 2018, 11:37am (UTC -5)
Thu, Jun 7, 2018, 11:52am (UTC -5)
Fri, Jun 8, 2018, 4:27pm (UTC -5)
The issue with Ro is more to do with the actress than anything on the page, imo. Katee Sackhoff and Nana Visitor bring more breadth and depth to similar characters than Forbes does. And I'd argue Forbes was better as Ro than she was on BSG as Cain, who was considerably more one-note. Her performance as Ro more or less works because Ro was young and finding her feet in Starfleet, but I find her portrayal of Cain too narrow when there were all kinds of colors she could have brought to the character.
Wed, Jul 18, 2018, 5:07pm (UTC -5)
Some time later a senior starfleet officer arranges her release and she is assigned to our heroes' ship where she is met with initial distrust and shunned except for one or two exceptions.
Later we discover that the starfleet officer behind her release has unscrupulous reasons for his actions.
No one yelled their hatred for this plot when TNG did it but when the character is Michael Burnham there was no end of an outcry.
Thu, Jul 19, 2018, 6:26am (UTC -5)
Mon, Jul 23, 2018, 1:58am (UTC -5)
About the very best you can hope from one is an insufferable attitude. It goes downhill from there. Many of them seem to be true menaces to society.
Mon, Aug 6, 2018, 5:21am (UTC -5)
Mon, Aug 6, 2018, 9:45am (UTC -5)
Where to begin...
1) This episode was written by a guy. (Michael Pillar, no less!)
2) Ro isn't supposed to be likeable. She's supposed to be damaged, broken and abrasive. (I feel Michelle Forbes overplays this in the episode's first half, but that's more an issue with her performance, not because the episode is "feminist rubbish".) Sure, she softens and integrates into the crew in later eps, but here her purpose is to introduce conflict. Whether this is effective is open to question, but even if it isn't, it doesn't make the episode "feminist rubbish". It could even be argued that the 90s trope of introducing a "bitch" character as an easy way of adding conflict to a show is sexist. I wouldn't say so. But Ro's character could have been written and played as a surly, attitudinal male "bad boy" character with hardly any changes to the script, and no-one would be calling the episode "meninist rubbish" if that had been the case.
3) Switching to playing games on your phone the moment you lose interest in an episode or it rubs you up the wrong way sounds like a great way to consume drama.
Mon, Aug 6, 2018, 12:05pm (UTC -5)
Michelle Forbes - what a great actress. If I remember correctly, she was offered the role of Kira in DS9 but turned it down. I'm certain she would have been fantastic.
She appeared 9 times in TNG. But I was watching 'Half a Life' and was taken completely off guard when she walked in the room to plead with her father.
#1. Suprised to see her in such a small role.
#2. That hair-do was something else! :-) An upsidedown Jeanie bottle on top of her head. :-) ... she still looked good!!
I've always liked this episode, primarily because of Forbes and Picard's interaction with her.
3 star ep IMO.
Mon, Aug 6, 2018, 12:23pm (UTC -5)
The distinction to be made is that DISC portrayed Michael as being heroic and more visionary than her captain, taking matters into her own hands and then being judged harshly by her inferiors. This was the tone throughout DISC, where Burnham is always right and everyone else is a chump until they realize they should be on her side. They paid a token amount of lip service to the idea that she did wrong, but mostly it was window dressing while the actual foundation was on her being the best thing ever.
In Ensign Ro it's completely the opposite, where even Ro is convinced she's hopeless and doesn't belong in Starfleet. The difference of most import as far as I can tell is Ro has actual humility, and the writers aren't out to show her off. She does the right thing in this episode primarily because Guinan and Picard are there to help her in the right direction. Without them she likely would have been too weak and confused to do the right thing. This is a real person, not an icon or a 'hero'. And yeah, although somewhat 2-dimensional I always liked Ro. That said I'm happier with Visitor playing Kira than I would have been with the typically humorless Forbes.
Tue, Aug 7, 2018, 11:51am (UTC -5)
Mon, Aug 6, 2018, 12:23pm (UTC -5)
"The distinction to be made is that DISC portrayed Michael as being heroic and more visionary than her captain, taking matters into her own hands and then being judged harshly by her inferiors."
Don't agree. She acted emotionally and irrationally when she took out her Captain. ... and she got court-martialed for it.
"This was the tone throughout DISC, where Burnham is always right and everyone else is a chump until they realize they should be on her side. They paid a token amount of lip service to the idea that she did wrong, but mostly it was window dressing while the actual foundation was on her being the best thing ever."
Well, the series IS centered on her. I think that was to be expected. As it turned out, Lorca (MU) was the biggest reason for her use (over use).
"In Ensign Ro it's completely the opposite"
Not entirely. We don't know her attitude/conduct before she arrived at the Enterprise other than being raised under Cardassian opression. We can summize that her actions resulted in a bunch of deaths and resulted in her being thrown in prison - for life. That's a pretty serious mis-conduct.
"where even Ro is convinced she's hopeless and doesn't belong in Starfleet. The difference of most import as far as I can tell is Ro has actual humility, and the writers aren't out to show her off."
Ro wasn't the center of a series, she was the story for one episode. Michael repeated indicated she herself she thought she didn't belong or was worthy of wearing the uniform.
"She does the right thing in this episode primarily because Guinan and Picard are there to help her in the right direction. Without them she likely would have been too weak and confused to do the right thing."
Agree. Consitant with her past and being an Ensign and very similar to Michael getting her opportunity via Lorca and circumstances beyond her control.
"This is a real person, not an icon or a 'hero'. And yeah, although somewhat 2-dimensional I always liked Ro."
I got the same vibe. But Michael was pretty "real" too after she landed in prison.
"That said I'm happier with Visitor playing Kira than I would have been with the typically humorless Forbes."
I'm not unhappy she turned the role down because I like Nana as well, but I'm sure she would have nailed the part had she chosen to. I think you are labeling Forbes as humorless... that's ENS Ro.
Tue, Aug 7, 2018, 12:55pm (UTC -5)
It's of course only my opinion, but I got the distinct and repeated sense from DISC that Burnham wasn't just some weak person who needed help and was used by Lorca. True, he got her out of prison, but she was going to basically go on unrepentant unless she got some kind of rude awakening. It turns out she gets no such awakening because at the end of the season she's just as brash and 'visionary' as she was at the start, the only difference being that now Starfleet will give her full reigns and let her do whatever she wants with their blessing. They changed, not her.
In the case of Ro we don't exactly know her from before, but Picard makes it very clear at the end of this ep that she *will* have to change to be back in Starfleet, and the change will be for the better. He makes the excellent point that she'll come more into herself, and not lose herself, if this happens. The argument is poignant not only because it's true, but because Bajor itself needs to go through this same process. But in order for that to happen there needs to be acknowledgement that Ro is broken coming in and needs help to be fixed. Did you seriously get this vibe from DISC, that everyone (including Michael) agrees that she was a loose canon and needs to reform?
PS - no, I meant it when I called Forbes typically humorless. I've seen her do other roles and at least from what I saw she always has this business-like expression and not that much of a sense of humor. Not digging on her, mind you, I liked her as Ro, just saying Visitor brought a whole bunch of other stuff (including silliness and vulnerability) to the role that I don't believe Forbes could really have done. We would have gotten more of the anger, less of the other things.
Sat, Nov 10, 2018, 8:48am (UTC -5)
She always acts all high and mighty, with a high horse attitude. Ewwwww, excuse me why I vomit.
We already have Troi to deal with people's baggage, we don't need the all knowing annoying Guinan.
Mon, Apr 15, 2019, 9:47pm (UTC -5)
I thought that they wanted her to actually play Ro Laren as Sisko's first officer, and if she'd accepted the role on DS9, there'd have been no Kira.
Mon, Apr 15, 2019, 9:50pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Apr 15, 2019, 10:02pm (UTC -5)
A superior effort that included the socio-political environment as we know from Ds9 as well.
Ro Laren was an excellent character. I hadn't remembered how good. She plays the sullen outcast well. But really responsible for the death of 8. that is quite the burden.
Sun, Aug 11, 2019, 1:51pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Dec 5, 2019, 9:35pm (UTC -5)
I was struck by how good her introductiory episode was -- both for her and for the Bajorans as a whole. She's an interesting depiction of a member of a minority group -- her resistance to assimilation in "distorting" her name for Federation norms was an early standout moment, and her insistence on wearing her earring continues in that vein. And of course they've gone and laid the ongoing mystery of the eight deaths on that away team, which has sufficiently piqued my interest (I can't imagine it *not* coming up again).
But yes, consider me thoroughly interested by what we see of the Bajorans here. I do plan on watching DS9 when it "starts airing" on my TNG watchthrough, and I know there's a lot more going on with them there -- looking forward to it.
And I do think it's good to have another female member of the regular cast, one who isn't in a traditionally "caring" role. Tasha was basically their original attempt at that, but barely got any characterisation; Ro is well-characterised right off the bat. Promising start, and I'm looking forward to seeing more of her -- in the proper series context, this time!
Fri, May 29, 2020, 6:10am (UTC -5)
For me, the serialised stories and more conflict-heavy premise of DS9 edges it out, but this is almost for purely technical reasons: serials give writers more freedom in the kinds of stories they tell, and a backdrop of continuous conflict/unease raises the tension level throughout. This gives DS9 richer flavours and more options - a light-hearted episode can be played out against the background buzz of an oncoming storm and set up plot points for a more serious follow-up.
But that aside, the two series both have some exceptional stories and actors, and a lot of goofy plots and bad acting to balance it out. The idea that DS9 mocked TNG or went against the values of Star Trek up to that point is hugely overplayed (eg. by @Eliot, although I think his views have softened since 2012)? The premise of the universe permits multiple conflicting, reasonable accounts of humanity, and different characters and episodes took on different philosophies. Both series are guilty of drastically simplifying one view or another in order to make a point.
On the subject of Ensign Ro - the character is stiffly written in this episode in a way that is merely mediocre. But the same can be said for the majority of the guest characters in this series the majority of the time. Someone above observed, quite correctly, that fans seem to fly off the handle at female characters that don't act the way they expect 'women' to, and that certainly seems to be the case here. Ro isn't particularly unrealistic by the standard of characters generally in this series - she's just not one of the best.
I suppose a general problem with TNG is that while DS9's Kira and Dax had some good episodes, Crusher, Troi and Pulaski never really rise above being serviceable foils for the plot. In that context, Ro does feel like a bandaid - an attempt to quick-fix a problem that needn't exist.
Sun, Jun 21, 2020, 2:52pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Jul 14, 2020, 6:03am (UTC -5)
This was an episode I liked. Ro Laren added something which the Next Generation really needed. I'm one of those who much preferred Pulaski as ship's doctor. Crusher is a bit wet at times - I was glad to see Ro put her down over her trivialising contribution to the discussion. And Troi is a bit ineffectual. (Guynan is a far better counsellor.)
It's customary for TV series of all sorts that, when a new continuing character is introduced, they are going to be somewhat irritating to start with, to get noticed. If someone who is going to be a regular comes in all friendly and pleasant, there's a high chance they are going to turn out to be evil. Ro matched that, and it's clear she'll mellow over a few episodes - I hope not too much. I like a touch of temper on occasion - I was quite pleased to see Picard showing the harshier side at points in this episode, as well as his almost insulting meek and mild diplomatic face when dealing with the Cardassian captain.
Looking through the posts it was interesting to note that there were posts about how the Bajoran situation was seen as coded comments on either the Palestinians and the Israelis. As I read it, both are correct. After all there are aspects of both people's histories that slot them neatly enough into the role of Bajorans. Both sides share the common experience of exile from their homeland and a struggle to be able to return to it which has involved acts of terrorism.
Tue, Jul 28, 2020, 9:48pm (UTC -5)
What a miserable person. It is clear from the dialogue at the last scene of 'Ensign Ro' that Ro is completely untrustworthy and will enjoy doing precisely the opposite of what Picard wants her to do. Her arc is completely set from this moment. Why did I ever think that her character would be redeemed?
On a directorial note, the episode introduces the "conversation-between-two-persons-strolling" set-up which I find intensely annoying. It generally works like this ... two people look at the ground or straight ahead while they walk awkwardly forward at a snail's pace discussing some ultra-important matter. They ignore all that goes on around them like monks in a cloister entranced by theology.
Interestingly, the same set-up is used in the last episode with the soon-to-be treasonous Ro. She and Picard walk back and forth at 16 RPM in the Enterprise conference room. I couldn't wait for the scene to end. Thankfully she joined the Maquis so we could get our lives back.
Wed, Jul 29, 2020, 12:56pm (UTC -5)
TNG has quite a few resistance versus evil totalitarians stories, and the plot here is adequate, but not that interesting. I always like an episode where senior ranks at Starfleet are involved in some sort of dystopian, mutinuous conspiracy though. But that aspect could have played out in a darker, more dramatic way.
I never watched Deep Sleep 9 so I don't have the wider context to place this episode in. But how many hostile, devious alien empires does the Star Trek universe need? In a galaxy where there exist beings as powerful as the Q, The Traveller and immortal god-like people like Kevin from 'The Survivors', I have to doubt that they'd last very long, anyway.
Interesting to hear about Federation "prison". Ro even speaks of a stockade, where it gets hot in the afternoons. I'd expect a Federation prison, minimally, to have reasonable climate control.
Really enjoyed Guinan's part in this one, but that hat .. no rational person would wear something like that on their head indoors.
Fri, Aug 28, 2020, 8:33am (UTC -5)
Tue, Nov 10, 2020, 6:47am (UTC -5)
Ro is true to herself and she does the right thing. What’s wrong with this exactly?
Wed, Mar 10, 2021, 6:19pm (UTC -5)
See, the best episodes of TOS were always the ones that had something to say about the state of human affairs at that time, and said it well, and presented a believable in-universe situation all at the same time.
This does all of that, and sort of slamdunks it. It's kinda not bad TV.
Mon, Apr 12, 2021, 5:55am (UTC -5)
There where a lott of nice sceens really brining the contrasts and then suddenly Guinan who refuses to accept this in her own way.
Guinan is a very intresting and useful character: I am though glad that she appars relatively rare and seldom gets really important in the plot. Here, as in "Yesterdays Enterprise" it works find and is one of the goodies.
Although curious , I am glad that the mystique around Guinan is alwasy there. You only get small hints and never a real presentation of her people.
Ro's similarities with Burnham are striking, with the big difference of class. Ro beeing a real refugee and Burnham some sort of adopted nobility almost.
I will be intresting to see the following episodes.
Tue, Jul 27, 2021, 3:16pm (UTC -5)
Oh, what qualifications do you have?
Well I'm a power mad egotist who is prepared to plunge the galaxy into total destruction to fulfil my own idiotic whims.
Hmm, not sure that's quite what we were looking for.
Did I mention I was human?
Ahh, that's quite different then. When can you start?
Sat, Aug 21, 2021, 9:22pm (UTC -5)
I loved the character of Ensign Ro. I especially liked how Picard takes her under his wing, believes in her, nurtures her talents, and is ultimately deeply hurt when she doesn't turn out as he'd hoped. That was such a real-life tragedy, however it might have been necessary for behind-the-camera reasons.
Wed, Sep 15, 2021, 2:47am (UTC -5)
Plus we have Ro… at last, a great female role model rather than the bland Dr Crusher. Snippy, independent minded, yet loyal to her own kind shown clearly when she did her “Francis of Assisi” bit by giving her Starfleet coat to the little Bajoran girl (yes, that was a slightly overcooked scene but it made the point that Ro had a gentle redeeming side to her).
Plus, too, we had the maverick Keneally. What is it about Starfleet admirals? There seems to be less care about their appointments than there is about Captains!
I thought the Cardassian makeup slipped in this episode, especially compared to the eventual ‘classic’ look we get with Gul Dukat in DS9. But that’s a trivial thing and doesn’t prevent me giving this 4 stars - TNG at its finest.
Wed, Sep 15, 2021, 9:56am (UTC -5)
Starfleet probably has some similar problems to modern day militaries, which is that certain people end up moving up through the ranks but are really bad commanders. Some guy ends up a Lt Cdr, finally a full Commander, and lo and behold he eventually gets command of some garbage scow somewhere. Meanwhile he has no leadership skills and is a jerk, but this has never been put to the test because it's peacetime. Finally they resort to the easiest way to get rid of him without firing him, which is to make him an Admiral and station him at a desk job somewhere out of harm's way. Sure, he can still make trouble there, but at least not put an entire ship's crew at risk every day.
Sun, Dec 5, 2021, 10:08pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Jan 16, 2022, 2:57pm (UTC -5)
Ro's arc in this episode reminds me of Jyn Erso from Rogue One, the finest Star Wars film to date. They've both seen atrocities, and they're resentful of the political entities claiming the moral high ground while tolerating injustice for convenience's sake. Both use that fierce cynicism to justify their aloofness, and both are only in it to get their paycheck and get out asap. Both are challenged by figures within the organizations who truly do embody the spirit the groups claim to represent, and both are given the opportunity to participate wholeheartedly. They each take up the mantle and make a difference. Rogue One could even go by the acronym "RO"...hmm...
This episode is a great counterpoint to all the TNG episodes in which right makes might. Ro rolls her eyes at the simple ethics presented in so many Star Trek episodes, which, much as I love them, treat human suffering as a plot device en route to a sci-fi solution. "Ensign Ro" presents its refugee crisis not as a simple mission to complete, but as a dance in which the maneuvering of political bodies yields a massive and morally outrageous human crisis. There's no easy solution for these people's displacement, not just because they're poor - witness Picard ordering supplies from Enterprise to meet their immediate material needs - but because powerful entities are using them as pawns. This is a story about the reins of power. The crew of the Enterprise want to see themselves as tools of justice, but their strings are pulled by people who are too far from the injustice to care.
To finish up, I'll get back to the comments here - I'm surprised at the animus some have expressed towards Crusher and Guinan. I like those two. Crusher is a technical expert who likes to have fun and is figuring out her path after family tragedy. She's a good balance of serious and fun. I loved her in the time loop episode. And Guinan is a great complement to Picard. "I tend bar, and I listen" - Guinan handles some of the messier aspects of human nature for which Starfleet regulations (and even Troi) are not well-equipped. That's why Picard, frustrated though he gets with her, respects her input. She's is used as a plot tool too often, where the writers solve messy problems by having her whip out a new power. But once you get past that, Guinan is a good character. I think Whoopi Goldberg plays her just right, too - sympathetic towards those with need, unyielding towards those with power, and any combination of the two as the situation demands.
Sun, Jan 16, 2022, 3:40pm (UTC -5)
Took the time to read some earlier comments, and I agree it's interesting that part of the defense of Ro offered up is that the "badass chick" thing is off-base because it's not that important that she's a woman. That's a funny defense, since I personally think it's integral to the story that intimidating male power figures are constantly trying to strongarm her and threaten here. Even Picard and Riker start off on the wrong side of that issue, using not only their rightful authority but also something of a masculine intimidation factor to try to put her in her place. It's super relevant that her escape from this has to come from a direction other than standing up to them, which under the circumstances she can't. So Guinan is her way out, having a friend who will listen. This isn't like Tam Elbrun in Tin Man, who Riker also didn't like but who they weren't trying to bully. They more or less let Tam alone even though they had every much as reason to mistrust him as they do Ro. So I think the man/woman dynamic here is not only relevant but maybe even central to the story. It's Guinan/Ro vs the male authority figures, and what makes this episode so great is that Guinan has such a way of talking that she actually overpowers Picard without needing to overpower him. And I think that fact is a stand-in for the Bajoran people, who are underdogs and can't win through force, but instead need a friend who will listen. It's a different sort of Trek message, and a really good one.
Sun, Jan 16, 2022, 8:31pm (UTC -5)
I really think she's a great character, especially this far into the show. By now we've become too comfortable with the normal crew, and we've started to understand what their culture does not address. Ro is a good shake-up.
Mon, Jan 17, 2022, 12:24am (UTC -5)
She could have been a star, I tell you, a star. Seriously, though, she's worked plenty but she's not celebrity status nearly to the extent she could have been by taking up a starring role on DS9. I just can't help but wonder if she made the right choice for her career.
Sat, May 7, 2022, 9:39am (UTC -5)
I know that today, unfortunately, two-bit losers who view everything in terms of oppressor-vs.-victim and harass everyone and their dog with it are in ascendancy, but I honestly didn't notice her being a woman as instrumental in any way. Maybe I missed something. She rubbed me the wrong way just by virtue of her salty attitude right from the first scene, but that would've been true of a male character, too. I had similar antipathy toward that Saved-By-The-Bell-esque dude a season or two back (don't ask me which episode - I have no idea) who came on board the Enterprise with a 'tude the size of Texas.
But she's kinda hot and has nice titties, so all is forgiven. I'm just surprised Riker kept his pecker in his pants and didn't try to make a move on her. VERY out of character!
Tue, Aug 16, 2022, 6:54pm (UTC -5)
The earring jewelry bothered me the most because unless I missed it, they never really explained that it was some religious thing. It just seemed like a vanity item.
Also the graphic talk about her father is something I can skip. This script felt uneven to me... Like they wanted it to be about a lot of things, but it turned out being about nothing much.
Thu, Nov 10, 2022, 6:40pm (UTC -5)
Life is complicated. People will general conform when they have to. Nonconforming people usually have a much harder way to go in life. So the question is this - What path would a woman chose if there were never absolutely any obstacles or consequences to just behaving in whatever way comes naturally?
Thu, Mar 9, 2023, 8:46am (UTC -5)
It was a little annoying to see Guinan presented again as great communicator and great generally but it was believable enough that she was uniquely able to connect with Ro and that her advocating Ro to Picard was able to get Picard to give her some extra chance.
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