Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Preemptive Strike"

3.5 stars

Air date: 5/16/1994
Teleplay by Rene Echevarria
Story by Naren Shankar
Directed by Patrick Stewart

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

The last regular episode before the finale follows the template of the other episodes in the season's home stretch by providing a character story that plays like an epilogue. "Preemptive Strike" is by far the most successful of these episodes, providing the swan song for Ro Laren, a character who never fit the mold of the traditional TNG Starfleet type and who here chooses a path, like Wesley Crusher in "Journey's End," that does not include Starfleet.

Unlike "Journey's End," however, this is a story that grows organically from the character's backstory and benefits from a much better narrative engine (although, notably, the plot involving the Maquis grows directly from what was set up in "Journey's End" as well as DS9's "The Maquis"). Indeed, one of the selling points here is the straightforwardness, even familiarity, of the premise: Ro returns to the Enterprise and is immediately assigned to an undercover mission to infiltrate the Maquis. The story's complexity comes through the choices Ro must make when thrust into a difficult situation where her loyalties become torn. She accepts the mission, uncomfortably, out of loyalty to Picard.

This is a TNG episode that plays on what already at the time had become primarily DS9's turf — with moral ambiguity and political situations involving the Federation/Bajoran/Cardassian demilitarized zone and the Maquis' acts of terrorism. Ro infiltrates a Maquis cell with the perfect cover story, one that speaks to both the appropriateness of Starfleet selecting her for the mission and also the aptness of the script. The truth here is in the details: Ro is infiltrating an organization that includes a good number of Bajorans, and the leader of the cell, a man named Macias (John Franklyn-Robbins), takes Ro under his wing and forms a close paternal bond with her.

The mechanics of the plot are well-oiled and credible without drawing undue attention to themselves: Ro's cleverly covert raid on the Enterprise for the medical supplies allows her to prove her loyalty and usefulness to the Maquis while showing us that Picard understands her tactics in trying to gain the Maquis' trust. But along the way, there's a gradual yet unmistakable shift; Ro becomes so sympathetic to the people she's infiltrating that she realizes her mission, in her own heart, will require her to betray them. (Perhaps the point here is that it would feel like less of a betrayal if she believed in what she's doing.) Michelle Forbes draws us into Ro's plight with a performance that conveys below-the-surface agony in every scene where she has to deceive someone.

Meanwhile, Picard sees an opportunity to cripple the entire Maquis movement when Ro discloses that the Maquis are particularly afraid of the Cardassians developing biogenic weapons. He uses this information to set a trap with the perfect bait, and he uses Ro to plant the false intelligence. But for Ro the situation becomes untenable after Macias is killed in a Cardassian assault. Picard (and by extension, the script) is smart; he realizes that Ro has been emotionally compromised and sends Riker in with her to make sure she carries out her mission, along with a stern warning not to betray her uniform. (He can't pull Ro out of the field now because he needs her relationship with the Maquis to make the plan work.)

Ultimately, "Preemptive Strike" is about Ro's decision at the end, where she torpedoes the undercover mission, betrays Starfleet and Picard, and joins the Maquis. For TNG, it's a fairly radical development (such things would become more commonplace on DS9). It's enough to make you re-examine the episode's gray areas and see that with the Maquis situation the Federation has a complicated quagmire on its hands rather than an easily solvable problem where everyone can be appeased or an enemy can be confronted head-on.

The episode's final shot, after Riker briefs Picard on Ro's betrayal, is one of the most memorable shots in the series. Patrick Stewart's grim-faced silence is more effective than any dialogue possibly could be.

Previous episode: Emergence
Next episode: All Good Things...

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96 comments on this post

Sun, Mar 10, 2013, 11:44pm (UTC -6)
With this one single episode TNG did more dramatically with the Maquis than Star Trek: Voyager did in its whole 7 year run. (Also: Ro mentions a lieutenant commander from tactical training who left Starfleet to join the Maquis. That's Chakotay she's talking about. That's from the TNG Companion book by Larry Nemecek)

Also also: there's got to be fan fiction somewhere of Ro Laren and a rescued Tom Riker hooking up in a Maquis cell while escaping the Jem'hadar extermination of the Maquis. There has to be...
Mon, Mar 11, 2013, 6:25am (UTC -6)
Well, I haven't seen the fanfic you talk about, but Ro is a major character in the DS9 relaunch books - Odo's replacement, actually. There is a beautiful scene in one of the books that serves as an extension to the final scene in this episode between Ro and Picard, even though they don't actually interact in that scene. I liked it.
Shawn Davis
Mon, Mar 11, 2013, 6:59am (UTC -6)
I agree with what Patrick said about this episode doing more dramatically with the Maquis than ST: Voyager did in it's entire 7 year run.

The episode was awesome indeed. The only big letdown is that Michelle Forbes chose not to reprise her role as Ensign Ro for Star Trek DS9 because the actor didn't want to commit to being an actor on the T.V. series that long. Of course Nana Visitor's character "Major/Coronal (sp?) Kira Nerys replaced here.

I think that Kira is a much better character for DS9, but Ms. Forbes still could of at least starred as "Ensign Ro" in a least 1 episode of DS9 so make some stories about Bajor, the Maquis, and the Cardassion occupation interesting.
Latex Zebra
Mon, Mar 11, 2013, 7:27am (UTC -6)
Great episode. I knew the minute Ro went on the mission that she would join the Maquis but the story of her getting there and the betrayal that Picard feels at the end is well worth it.
Mon, Mar 11, 2013, 10:17am (UTC -6)
Curiously, Michelle chose not to get bogged down on TV, hoping to break into movies instead.

End result, she never broke into movies but remained a TV regular (24, Homicide, Lost, The Killing), without ever returning to Trek.

Preemptive Strike is definitely one of Trek's better hours. Patrick nailed this episode, both wearing the uniform and sitting on the director's chair.
Mon, Mar 11, 2013, 3:05pm (UTC -6)
Great episode - it's only too bad we had to be subjected to "Firstborn", "Bloodlines", and "Emergence" to get here. It's really too bad that Ro never returned as a character on DS9. On the other hand, she did play a major role in one of the best BSG episodes.
Tue, Mar 12, 2013, 8:13pm (UTC -6)
@Jammer -- one nitpick, Macias wasn't a Bajoran. He appeared to be a human.

Speaking of Tom Riker ...

I kind of find it dubious that the Maquis would accept Tom into a cell after a guy (Will) who looked just like him turned out to be a Starfleet spy in this episode. And it's pretty clear that it is the same cell, because Kaleeta is in both episodes.
Tue, Mar 12, 2013, 9:42pm (UTC -6)
@Patrick: I'm sure that was the intent when they wrote the line, unfortunately it was contradicted later in Voyager where Chakotay says he resigned his commission in March 2368 (i.e. around TNG's fifth season).

Not much to add. Great episode, great review, perfect rating.
Nick P.
Wed, Mar 13, 2013, 7:44am (UTC -6)
I agree this was a very good episode, my critique is more that I never liked how the Maquis-bajoran stuff slid us further and further away from Genes' vision of Starfleet. The central rule for gene was that Starfleet will always be the good guys, EVEN IF you have to make the plot convuluted.

Maybe this is a better episode than Gene ever could have made, but this crappy, stuck in the mud bureaucratic wishy-washy federation that gets worse in DS9 is NOT what I wish the future to be like. I really do miss Genes optimistic Star Trek where the Federation is not just better, but more righteous than other groups/civilizations. It is interesting how we make fun of Genes utopianism, but it sure is obvious when it is gone. He would have HATED this episode.

I hate the respect for Bajoran religion, I hate the maquis plots, I hate the stupid federation now. Again, I do enjoy this episode, but where was the positive future to look forward too Roddenberry was such a fan of.
Wed, Mar 13, 2013, 12:24pm (UTC -6)
Excellent point, Paul. Most likely, Tom Riker had the Maquis watch "Second Chances," much as Odo did during his briefing in "Defiant."
Wed, Mar 13, 2013, 12:49pm (UTC -6)
I'm with Paul, I don't think Macias is a Bajoran. He's wrinkly sure, including his face, but he talks about his "Bajoran friend". I don't think Bajorans use that kind of qualifier when talking about each other.

It's also weird that this episode doesn't briefly mention what the Maquis are in a captain's log and just assumes the TNG audience was aware of the events of the DS9 two-parter. This is before the internet as we know it and also gliding on the assumption that people watching this show had access to DS9 in whatever area they were living as well. It's a minor nitpick.

Also @ Nick P--I miss Gene's utopian vision in Trek too. Whether it was a realistic or dramatically viable, or not, it was so amazing for a tv series to have a far reaching ideal. You don't have that anymore...
Thu, Mar 14, 2013, 12:53pm (UTC -6)
Great episode. Ro was such a strong character. I believe her choice here, but I wish we had seen more of her, before and after. She puts the other women in the show to shame, sorry to say. My idealism takes issue with the depiction of the Federation, but I'm torn by the needs of the writers to construct compelling scenarios. The Maquis storyline is a good attempt to have an issue with no easy answers, but the problem I run into with it is that it always seems like one side or the other is going a little bit too far. I understand the general notion of having an investment in the life you build, but personally I'd rather move to a safer planet than live under a totalitarian regime or join a guerrilla army, no matter how much I like my backyard. Maybe I'm just lazy that way.
Nick P.
Sat, Mar 16, 2013, 1:01pm (UTC -6)
Not to get into an argument, but to everyone that seems to think you need to make starfleet be stupid in order to be dramatic. I think the obvious counterexample is Star Trek itself. Star Trek went 24 years doing it Genes way, and it was pretty successful.

I think it is more interesting that somewhere around mid-season 5 is when people seem to agree TNG starting sliding even if just a bit, is the SAME PERIOD we starting getting the Ro Laren plots, and federation-Maquis non-sense. I won't go as far as saying it killed trek, but I do think the correlation is interesting.
Sun, Mar 17, 2013, 9:14pm (UTC -6)
When Ro Laren says she has never felt like she belonged anywhere until she met the Maquis--I believed her. Her character has been so consistent throughout, with no crazy inexplicable behaviors (as every other main character has experienced), that it made me realize what Star Trek could have been.

Yeah, it's been great--it has also been abysmal at times. This episode is, for me--even more than the finale, the culmination of the entire series.

The scene where she covertly meets Picard while pretending to be a hooker is the hottest moment in the whole series. It is commander-subordinate, proud father-adoring daughter, potential lovers, and stern parent-recalcitrant teen all wrapped up into one tense and passionate scene--without being creepy.

Almost to the end, and I imagine everyone is going to praise the final outing. I'll be throwing a few bombs. :-)
Sun, Mar 17, 2013, 9:43pm (UTC -6)
Picard really went on to make himself a hypocrite of the highest order the film "Insurrection" he was essentially precisely what Ensign Ro is here. Every time I rewatch this episode, particularly the last scene with his indignant glare, I recall that film and can think of nothing other than what a fraud his self-righteousness is here.
Sun, Mar 17, 2013, 9:55pm (UTC -6)
I'd sooner forget that Insurrection exists...
Mon, Mar 18, 2013, 6:01pm (UTC -6)
I'm with Josh on this one. Outside of "First Contact," I wasn't much thrilled with the TNG movies for the way they often flew in the face of earlier character development. (Even "FC" was a bit iffy.)

This episode was a nice way to wrap up Ro's story, and a strong lead-in to the finale. A rare bright spot this season.
Fabian B
Sat, Mar 23, 2013, 12:07am (UTC -6)
I agree fully with Jammer's reviews of Journey's End, Firstborn, Bloodlines, Emergence and Preemptive Strike.

Just one comment. In Preemptive Strike, one gets the impression that the reason Picard is putting so much pressure on Ro to betray her Bajoran compatriots in the Maquis and fulfill her mission is because Admiral Nechayev made him promise her to make Ro do it. So, having made this promise, Picard can't back off and let Ro to quit the mission. The Federation's Admirals are just as stubborn and scheming as its Captains sometimes.
Tue, Mar 26, 2013, 11:11pm (UTC -6)
@Paul, yes, that appears to be my mistake. I've removed the reference to Macias being a Bajoran.
Wed, May 8, 2013, 10:45pm (UTC -6)
Good episode with strong characterization and development.

@ Nick: As for Star Trek and Optimism, the world has moved on. The future is today, we have achieved things that Star Trek had predicted back in the 70's-80's-90's. However, we are no closer to a Utopia than we were during Gene's heyday as showrunner in the 60's-70's. Sure the cold war is over, but terrorism has now taken center stage.

Can anyone argue that uninhibited optimism is even remotely possible in a world, where a bomber could kill innocent civilians for no reason other than an act of vengeance.

The Maquis and the later years of Star Trek TNG-DS9 gave us that warning about the nature of mankind and our delusion that technology will allow us to be evolved and civilized. It warned us about the war on terror and its excesses with DS9 "Paradise lost", the ambiguity of sides with TNG "Preemptive Strike", and the tragedy of terrorist vengeance/counter in DS9 "Darkness and Light".

Our world reflected Star Trek and still is, but we are now reflecting the reality that the later years revealed. Gene's vision was a dream that the world of fact and fiction awoke from nearly 12 years ago.

Gene's dream was and is commendable, but it was a dream not a reality.
Thu, May 9, 2013, 12:20am (UTC -6)
So what if Gene's dream is not wholly grounded in reality? Just because 9/11 happened 12 years ago, should Superman no longer fight for truth, justice, and the American Way? Should Luke Skywalker turn his back on the Force because terrorism exists in the real world? Should the residents of Hogwarts be hole up in a bunker because of the various calamities that exist in the global sphere?

Star Trek is escapism to be sure. But, it has an intrinsic goodness that has been known to carry into the real world. It inspires. I'm reminded of a scene in "The Offspring" where Data tells his daughter, Lal, that even if never he truly becomes human--the important part was his working towards his dream.

We can't toss away a hopeful vision, just because so many want to wallow in a sewer. Oscar Wilde said: "We're all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars."
Fri, May 17, 2013, 4:47am (UTC -6)
Call me naive if you will, but I believe in Gene's vision. I think the biggest problem is that too many people get bitter and cynical and end up saying "welp, humanity sucks, no point in trying".

We didn't put people on the moon by saying that we're never going to be capable of it - it was a dream until, eventually, we achieved it.

I think humanity deserves a little credit - yes we still have considerable problems and plenty of conflicts we shouldn't be having.. but I think we have made good progress. Not so long ago our own countries were lopping people's heads off every 5 minutes and burning people at the stake. Just a generation ago we were treating females as lesser beings, criminalising homosexuals and inflicting brutal physical punishments in schools that caused our children to scream and bleed. I know some countries and even some states of America are still lagging behind and still do some of these things, but I really think we're getting somewhere.

It won't happen overnight, but the visions showed to us by Gene (and some other positive shows and communities I follow) can inspire us to do our best as individuals. And ultimately, "humanity" is a sum of its parts. I'd love to see more shows like TNG.
Fri, May 17, 2013, 7:18am (UTC -6)
One thing I wanted to add, I don't think it has to be an either/or situation. I believe humanity could reach Gene's vision, but we don't all improve at the same speed, there are always outliers. I don't think the Maquis or Section 31 or any of those themes necessarily have to trash humanity as a whole.

Also I think the worst thing you could do is portray the paradise of the Federation as being easy, or even the inherent goodness of humans in the future as being easy. It's hard work, it's important to put those ideals under pressure. Your characters need to be able to make mistakes.
Sun, May 19, 2013, 2:42pm (UTC -6)
The warning is from Trek itself that we took as mere storytelling rather than mankind's own issues. Exploration is not merely about exploring new star and nebulas, it's about exploring the uncharted possibilities of existence as Q had pointed out at the end of TNG's All Good Things....

Who among us that lived in the 90's could deny that we were overly hopeful. That we held too much heart with our technological progress creating a world that may resemble Star Trek. Yet, the dream ended, futurist like Fukyama and others forgot one important truth, mankind is not merely just a species, a nation, or a group, we are individual people making choices that affected everyone around us.

We need a new way to create the vision, because unless we have a bloody World War based on ideologies as Gene predicted, we would not have peace. Don't forget that Gene's vision of mankind's future also included a decmiation of half the world population.
Sun, Jun 16, 2013, 10:21pm (UTC -6)
Television not only reflects reality but it legitimizes behavior. As television has become coarser and coarser, society, people, have become less civil. Television (not movies) is/was always trying to, "push the envelope" ie.

1950: Married couple enters home (a real nice one, worth coming home to), toss off hats, he picks her up and carries her upstairs. Fade to black.
1970: Married couple make it to bedroom door (inside a posh apartment.) Fade to black.
1990: Married couple fall back on the bed (In a shabby suburban home.) Fade to black.
1995: Unmarried couple fall back on the bed (In a neatly decorated apartment.) Fade to black.
2000: Unmarried couple rustle under the sheets (In a frat house.) No Fading.

A reality show a few years back had cameras in the bedrooms to watch the actors "get it on."

More violence on TV. More cursing on TV. Less hope or people trying to better themselves. A little push here a nudge there.

Imagine falling asleep in 1955 in front of the TV and waking up today with it still on. Your mind would be blown. You would be shocked. Imagine if Two and a Half Men is on, talking about Charlie's ex-lover having a sex change and now having sex with his mom. You're done, your cerebellum is fused.

As TV legitimizes behavior, behavior that YES already does exist, that behavior becomes slightly more acceptable, then more and more, the more often it is portrayed.

Star Trek, especially the original series, always had a grand vision for the future and Humanity's conduct in it. Star Trek's characters took a fierce pride in the Federation's ideals and - prime directive issues aside - always tried to live up to them.

We need more shows with happy families, with fathers who take care of their children, where people don't treat eat other like garbage, don't swear like sailors, work to better themselves, harbor no hate in their hearts, don't steal, don't do drugs, don't cheat on their wives etc etc

Let television legitimize THAT behavior. Shows with hope for the future, with people who don't fight over their petty personal conflicts and work together to achieve something for all and sundry!

But no, we get inter-personal relationship troubles and love triangles and back stabbing even in the face of annihilation.

ranting. So... yeah we need more shows like Star Trek :)
Tue, Jun 18, 2013, 8:11am (UTC -6)

"The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise."

For some reason your comment brought this quote to mind.
Wed, Jun 19, 2013, 8:14am (UTC -6)

The only fear I have is that fiction ends up becoming this sort of global delusion that we all tell each other to convince ourselves everything is going to turn out all right in the end. That, more than anything, scares the hell out of me, the idea of us turning our backs and pretending to erase unpleasant truths from existence rather than using fiction as a medium to examine and reflect.

I'm not saying we have to wallow, just that there's room for a balance. You can't have every story reward goodness, it's condescending and a bit insulting. Insulting for everyone who's lost someone who, for example, died randomly despite being a loving, caring person. Insulting maybe even for anyone who has robbed a bank and gone on to live a long, fulfilling life, because sometimes crime does pay and you can't lie about that *all the time* without your audience getting a pretty good vibe of untruth about the whole thing (or worse, they don't get a vibe of untruth about it, only to get slapped in the face by reality when they leave their lounge room).

Also the problem with creating characters that are happy, caring, don't swear, everything on your list, is that they become so superhuman as to be completely unrelatable. To err is human and all that, it's the flaws that make characters who they are.

Now, that said, it's possible none of that relates to Star Trek at all as it's speculative fiction about the future rather than the present...but I stand by it as a general rule, hehe, false sense of security = bad (although I could probably be talked into the idea that the pendulum has swung too far in one direction. Like I said, balance).
Wed, Jun 19, 2013, 10:41pm (UTC -6)

More or less agreed, I wouldn't want a uniformity of "wholesome" entertainment. I certainly wouldn't want to go after Hollywood or HBO/Encore/Starz etc. As to superhuman, I'll have to disagree. Watch more movies from the 30s and 40s. There are a great deal of "dark" heroes though they usually end up turning to good to protect the innocent and eventually they will die but a heroic death against what they previously stood for.

As lame as it sounds, I'll cast out Mr. Belvedere as an example of a good role-model on television. He was calm, polite, well-mannered, he was always reading a book and he always had the answers to whatever the moral of the episode was. He was cast as a mere servant but a kindly and benevolent one that was a font of good common sense. He could also make excellent PB&Js. I wouldn't say the show was entertaining but he was a good role model.

You can also have a good man have bad people be inflicted on him and he honestly gets himself out of situations. To take your bank example there are numerous old films that start with a horrible crime and over the course of the movie is the hunt for the wrong-doers by the good guys - and no, they didn't always get their man. I'm not sure there is a false sense of security when a film/show shows that bad things happen to good people but that good people can overcome without succumbing to the bad. That just seems like a positive overall message to me. Crimes in most old movies are brutal, the movie wants you to be appalled, it makes you root for the good guys and maybe, want to be one.

I would also posit that the pendulum *has* swung too far and we *are* wallowing.
Wed, Jun 19, 2013, 11:22pm (UTC -6)
going off on a tangent...

I can also envision a Battlestar Galactica without interpersonal conflicts. Written by someone with actual knowledge of warfare, strategy and tactics who doesn't use... "idiot" methods to get his characters into trouble.

You know, "idiot" plot, like two characters are fighting with each other so they don't hear cylons sneaking up, or a guard isn't set on a camp for no other reason than that the writers want it to be attacked and can't be bothered to make their characters intelligent enough to set a guard in which case the cylons would have to actually be clever to launch a sneak attack.

Instead of characters fighting all.the.time. you could have them working together to achieve the goal of throwing off their pursuers and finding a new home. Adama could have given rousing speeches on why we fight and tear-jerking eulogys at the funerals of characters because people do die. Instead of scene after scene of Starbuck oozing teenage-angst we could have scene after scene of her out-stripping cylon fighters because she's supposed to be a great fighter pilot, right? I saw more of her "acclimating" to being a CAG than I ever did of her actually fighting Cylons.

It could have been a sci-fi military classic, with strong commanding roles and gripping, intelligent battles that don't depend on one side being incompetent. Sure it would have been a little more talkie but hey, I'm only filling in scenes that consist of characters just posturing at each other, exchanging glares, not dialogue. Something has to fill that void. It would also have had better and longer battles - that always helps especially with dialogue running throughout with the ship-to-ship communications.

Instead we got a dysfunctional group that is at each others throats almost every minute of every day unless a cylon raid shows up in which they throw aside all conflict and team up together to fend off the threat. Then they go right back at each others throats. That is a bleak, hopeless vision for mankind, whether they win through in the end or not. Whether they have moments of friendship or not. The over-arcing theme of BSG is that humans do not like each other and even being pushed to the brink of utter annihilation won't change that. That we are petty, self-serving cretins.

That is bleak and hopeless, dark, bitter view of the world and its people. Diseased minds wrote that show, week after week. All over it is praised, this site included. How folks who love Star Trek with its intrinsically positive view for the future can love BSG as much - if not more - absolutely astounds my mind. Even DS9, lauded and beloved for its darker view of the Trekkian universe still portrayed more often than not, folks coming together and working together towards common goals. A brighter future.

I'm NOT saying that people like this don't exist but why is every one of them on the crew of Galactica? Behavior like this is aberrant and should be considered aberrant. No real military would tolerate Starbuck's constant "bucking." It's inconceivable that a soldier who shows that sort of rogue behavior is promoted and put in charge over young people's lives. She's a great pilot with a good tactical instinct. Great, let her fly and ask for her advice and listen when she offers it. Don't put her in charge of people's lives.

I could rant at BSG forever so I'll just stop here. Tangent ceased!
Nick P.
Fri, Sep 20, 2013, 9:06am (UTC -6)
@WL123 & Cloudane

WL123 point about living in a world with terrorism is absurd in the greatest degree, and in some ways illuminates the point I (and Rosario to some degree) am trying to make. In the late 60's we lived under the REAL existential threat of nuclear devastation from the Russians. Right now, terrorism, I guess, but even the twin towers is a pin-prick compared to what the russians could have done to us. My dad had nuclear "alarms" at his school. We factually live in a much better, safer world than the 60's.

And I frankly think Roddenberry was wrong in lot of ways, you can have a young russian pilot and visions of peace until the cows come home, but all Kruchshev had to do was push a button and bye bye NY or DC or both....Seriously, we could have lost millions of people.

But that is exactly WHY we need people like Gene and show like ST, to show us there "might" be a better future for us. Not DS9 or BSG that shows the worst of us, we need SF that shows the best of us. People always say they would have loved to live on the the original or TNG Enterprise, and that is exactly the crux, NO ONE wants to live on DS9, even the people on the show don't want to live there!

I personally do not believe we will ever live in a star trek Utopia, but that is EXACTLY WHY we need to dream of the Star Trek utopia.
Nick P.
Fri, Sep 20, 2013, 9:09am (UTC -6)
@Rosario, I love BSG, but you do illuminate the biggest problem, and that is Moores need to have conflict, just for the sake of itself. The greatest weakness of the show was how trained military officers would pull guns on each other at the drop of a hat every other episode.
Fri, Dec 27, 2013, 12:18pm (UTC -6)
Ro seems to have skipped the JG Lt. rank and jumped right to two full pips.

It was harder to see to be sure, but the same thing seemed to happen for Lavelle in "Lower Decks".
Thu, Jan 2, 2014, 9:56am (UTC -6)
@Jack: Lavelle went to JG. You can tell when he puts the pip on the table.

Also, it's possible that Ro was promoted twice since we last saw her. Riker received that kind of fast track after the incident that created Tom Riker. Riker went on to be lieutenant commander and first officer on the Hood and then full commander and first officer on the Enterprise in less than two years. Heck, Riker could have been a captain by then, if he'd accepted command of the Drake.
Sat, Feb 1, 2014, 7:04pm (UTC -6)
Great episode. Poor Picard felt stung by the 'betrayal' but he sort of sent a kid into a candy shop with orders not to eat anything. At her core, Ro has always been a rebel without a cause. Picard gave her a cause and nature took over from there.
Picard knew that the Cardassians were instigating some of these skirmishes. Given Laren history he also knew he was taking a huge risk. No matter his true intentions, he set Ro Laren up to fail.
4 stars
Sun, Feb 23, 2014, 1:34pm (UTC -6)
As a casual viewer of TNG, i must admit i fell in love with Ro watching this remarkable character episode. There's something so raw about her. To me, her beauty, her wits, her talent as an actor, all of that combined... she's up there with Seven of Nine, period.
Mon, Jan 5, 2015, 6:50am (UTC -6)
Am I the only one that doesn't like the ending of this episode? I REALLY think that most of the episode was really well done, but I'm just not sold with Ro going off to the Maquis. I'm not convinced she belonged there (although truth be told I was never that convinced that Chakotay or Torres would have joined either).

Is it possible for an undercover officer to sympathize with the people under their watch? Of course. I could even see that happening to Ro. I wasn't shocked when she made the choice to reveal the trap (at that point the buildup to it just wouldn't have made sense otherwise). But leaving with them smacks of a cowardice that I could never have imagined in Ro.

I really liked the ending of "For The Cause" when Kasidy (another person who sympathized with and helped the maquis but wasn't one) came back to face the music because she owed it to her relationship with Ben. Ro "belonged" with the maquis because one old man who liked Bajoran food died in front of her? Really? And then we're a terrorist just like that?

Because I didn't totally buy her defecting the ending scene seemed like running away. "Now that I've ruined my Starfleet career because I couldn't go through with this trap I might as well hang out with these guys because where else can I go?" Ro Laren wasn't that much of a coward. She should have gone back to face Picard and own up to her choice. And the fact that she didn't was a plot contrivance to make sure she was in the Maquis in case the fan favorite agreed to do Voyager.

After Wesley's crappy ending and now this I sort of wish they had not bothered to try to give their side characters a second off.
Mon, Jan 5, 2015, 7:00am (UTC -6)
That should read "send off". Must not post before coffee.
Andy's Friend
Mon, Jan 5, 2015, 8:55am (UTC -6)

I agree with you on Ro not really being a Maquis. But I believe that's not the point: the point is that Ro is a deeply insecure individual, who just doesn't know where she belongs. Sometime in the future, she'll most likely abandon the Maquis in order to try to "belong" somewhere else.

I believe that Ro is basically that poor kid who wants badly to belong with somebody, but has authority issues, has identity issues, has self-esteem issues, has all kinds of issues and all sorts of questions, and eventually drifts from one social grouping to another, until he or she finally, normally at a much more mature age than Ro is here, finds him or herself and finally settles down.

Sometimes this never happens. I hope it does for Ro :)
Mon, Jan 5, 2015, 5:15pm (UTC -6)
She isn't insecure at all at the end of the episode. She realizes her people need help and that the Federation is not doing anything about the real issue unfolding on the ground. The whole point of the episode was to show how she had to turn her back on the Federation for the greater good. It's that simple.
Mon, Jan 5, 2015, 10:10pm (UTC -6)
Interesting thoughts, but I'm going to disagree Robert and agree with Andy's Friend. I think this is a logical step in Ro's character growth. If you'll bear with me, I'm going to play armchair psychologist for a moment. I think there are two important aspects to Ro's character:

1) She has problems with authority. This is pretty obvious from the first episode; it's obvious from her first appearance. As soon as she appears, Riker dresses her down and demands she remove her earring, and she reacts with disgust. Yet another authority figure she hates. To her, all authority figures are at best useless and at worst tyrants.

Presumably, this stems from Daddy issues. After all, her father should have been the proper and positive authority figure. And by her account he was... until he was killed by the other authority: the Cardassian government. Given that, why wouldn't she distrust all authorities? They either did the deed personally, or just stood by and let it happen. Where was Starfleet when this was happening? Where was the Bajoran resistance? Where was anyone to protect her and stand up for what was right? Where was anyone she could trust?

This is why she bonded so much with Picard. He was the FIRST authority figure since her father that she could trust. He was the first one that stood up for what was right, not just went along with the crowd or manipulated events for his own agenda. He was the first one that actually listened to what she had to say and valued her as a person. At best, she was just a tool for anyone else. Despite his distance from her, Picard became her surrogate father. Because he was the only positive authority figure she knew since her father.

2) She is emotionally immature and uncomfortable with herself. This one is not quite as obvious, but I think it's there anyway. Basically, what I mean is that she presents herself as a detached, tough gal loner, but she is actually someone who wants to be involved and wants to care. Or, y'know, what Andy's Friend said. She simply has lost faith in humanity (Bajoranity?) and is trying to run away by retreating inside herself, but there is still a part of her that wants to belong to a community. People like to compare Ro and Kira and say they are clones, but the difference is that Kira responded to oppression by forming her own moral code of justice and fighting for it, while Ro responded by rejecting the world and retreating from it. Kira always seemed comfortable in her role, but Ro didn't. My evidence:

- When she lost her memory (Conundrum), she became outgoing, friendly, and personable. That is who she wants to be. After all, that's what Troi said to Riker is that he acted in a way that he wanted to deep down (and knowing Riker, hitting on the hot girl makes perfect sense for him). But the same holds true for Ro: she wanted to be that type of person, smiling, friendly, a lover. She wants to belong.
- My impression is that she has a love-hate relationship with the Bajoran religion. On the one hand, it's just another authority figure that failed her (where were the prophets during the occupation?). She roles her eyes at the Bajoran death chant and originally didn't believe in an afterlife. On the other hand, she still wears the earring, and she was very quick to accept the possibility of being dead in The Next Phase. Consciously, she shunned her religion, even if accepting some of the trappings, but unconsciously she still clings to it to some extent.
- Her relationship with Guinan also seems to indicate this. Guinan is a great listener, and has picked up quite a strong understanding of humanity in her centuries of living. She can probably psychoanalyze anyone in about 2 seconds. And what does she pick up from Ro? That she needs a friend. That deep down, having a friend is what she wants, despite all evidence to the contrary. This is reinforced (however poorly) in Rascals. Guinan spends the entire time convincing Ro that she can drop her tough girl attitude and just be herself. And being herself is having fun with a friend. Drawing pictures of people she cares about. Belonging. And yet she refuses to acknowledge this until it is forced out of her. She is uncomfortable with these desires she has.

OK, so that's the idea. Ro has authority issues, but is also emotionally immature and uncomfortable with herself. Thanks to Picard giving her a positive role model, she is able to start growing and moving past these issues. But they aren't going to go away overnight. She is still not grown up, emotionally. Despite taking advanced tactical training and moving her career along, she still seems to be doing it for Picard, to please him. She is still uncomfortable with the idea that SHE should want this, that SHE is becoming part of a community for herself. She's better, but still not quite right in the head.

So she goes on this undercover mission, and she meets another possible positive authority figure. It's not just that he likes Bajoran food; it's her father! Not literally, but remember, her authority issues stem from the loss of her father. And this person reminds her soo much of her father. Given that, it's not surprising that she falls so hard for him. And since her tough gal act is just that (an act), she starts to get the feeling of community that she secretly craves. And since this guy is not just the distant authority figure (like Picard is) but a close one, she lets her guard down. And when she does, she falls hard for this community.

If she was comfortable with herself, if she accepted her role in the world, maybe she could have squared the circle she was facing. She now had two positive authority figures in her life, but they are on opposite sides. Now that she is close to Macias, Picard is starting to look like those other authority figures: people who don't listen to her, who only want to use her, who manipulate others for their own ends. The bar scene really reinforces this idea. Again, if she was more emotionally mature, she could have seen both sides. She might have understood why Picard was doing what he did, and that Macias' position as a Maquis is possible while still being a warm and charming person. But she isn't.

She might have been able to deal with it, but then Macias was killed. By a Cardassian. Once again, her father was taken from her. You can see that that is the moment she loses her Starfleet persona. She was purposefully missing the Cardassians before then, but afterwards had perfect aim. Again, she fell hard for these people because she isn't used to relationships, and so now she doesn't know what to think. Once again, authority people are hurting her, and while she may intellectually understand the Maquis issue, emotionally she is still a child. Emotionally, she is acting in the same way that she does as a child. She follows in Macias' footsteps because, as usual, she's retreating from a world that only exists to hurt her. In this case, it's the world of Starfleet. It brought her a new daddy and then took him away from her. So she retreats.

But this episode isn't entirely depressing. Yes, Ro is making the same mistakes, but she's still growing. For one, she's recognizing her desire for belonging and community. Before, she retreated by being a loner. Now, she's retreating by rebelling against her former trusted authority figure and former life. But also, she hasn't fully rejected her past authority figure. She still cares very much for Picard's blessing and craves deeply for Picard's approval. She hasn't consciously rejected him. There is still a conflict within her about this event. That's better than before, when she would just reject authority out of hand. She rejected Picard's idea, but didn't reject the man. That's an improvement for her.

So I agree with Andy's Friend, I don't think this is the end of Ro's story, but rather just a continuation. It's too bad DS9 didn't continue her story, it'd be interesting to see how she would have reacted to Eddington's WMD philosophy. Would she reject that as well? Or better yet, it's too bad that Michelle Forbes wasn't up for pulling a Colm Meaney and joining the Voyager cast (I believe part of the reason for this episode was to set up the possibility). Sure, Tom Paris has the "redemption" arc in that series, but I think she could have had one too.
Tue, Jan 6, 2015, 6:43am (UTC -6)
@DLPB - I will take minor issue with "She realizes her people..." they are not her people. She may, as Skeptical said, fall for them very fast... but HER people needed her to stay in Starfleet and take the job on DS9 to help rebuild from the occupation!

@Andy's Friend & Skeptical - What's interesting about your analyses is that it lets me be "right" and "wrong". You both think she doesn't belong with the maquis but she "falls in". I can see that... I just....

To be honest I always had issues with most people who are not from the DMZ joining the maquis. I may not have been totally sold on Chakotay being a maquis, but it's more his personality than his story. His father died so he goes off to free his people in his father's name. It makes enough sense.

Kasidy was good enough for me too. A sympathizer delivering medical supplies is about as lightweight as it gets. There's no meat there, so there's very little to take issue with...

But Eddington, Ro and Torres always struck me as off. It's interesting you say that people say Ro and Kira are clones, I actually see Ro in Torres instead. The authority bucking rebel with daddy issues and a want to belong somewhere....

I guess we do have people randomly going off to Israel or whatever to join the army because they feel like a part of that, but when a Bajoran joins the Maquis I just feel like it's because they still need to kill more Cardassians. The guy from the end of Duet would be a good candidate. Ro wasn't like that. The maquis may have a sympathetic cause, but I can't see her finding any peace there (or Torres in the long run either).

To end my little tangent there, I think my problem with the episode is wrapped up in "So I agree with Andy's Friend, I don't think this is the end of Ro's story, but rather just a continuation." This WAS the end to Ro's story, and it was a lousy one :)

It might have been a good episode, but it's an unsatisfying ending to a character arc I was enjoying. And I do agree with you that it was done to set her up to be on Voyager (just as I know she was invited to be on DS9). I really like Torres and Kira, so I guess in retrospect I'm glad she didn't go.... but I still think I'd have liked to see what happened to her in a DS9 coda (and I really hope it wasn't "she died fighting the Dominion in a few years".
Tue, Jan 6, 2015, 11:48am (UTC -6)
She is a Bajoran, and the Bajorans needed her given the silly Starfleet treaty with Cardsassia.
Tue, Jan 6, 2015, 11:49am (UTC -6)

She had finally found a people that she could truly identify with, and she makes that point herself. She's fighting for something that she believes in.
Tue, Jan 6, 2015, 12:44pm (UTC -6)
What Bajorans? Santos, Macia and Kalita are all humans that live in the DMZ. When the treaty was signed Starfleet didn't own any Bajoran colonies, so they couldn't have given away Bajoran land.

These people might need her, and she may have found a people she identifies with and feels is worth fighting for. But they are NOT Bajorans. For the most part, Bajoran maquis are people who are sad the occupation ended and they can't kill spoonheads anymore....
Tue, Jan 13, 2015, 9:20am (UTC -6)
The first time I saw Preemptive Strike, I had the same impression of that last shot on Picard's face as I did today, seeing it again just now... anger, yes, at the mission's failure and Ro's betrayal; but anger at himself for losing her. For throwing her away, really. She wasn't capable of doing what Starfleet asked, and he should have known that. Riker in makeup and earring was readily accepted by the Maquis. Surely, Starfleet could have used a similar decoy for this mission?
Thu, Jan 22, 2015, 9:04am (UTC -6)
This is one of TNG's best, it really stands up and Michelle Forbes's performance is great - there's a maturity, depth and roundedness to it that perhaps was less visible back in "Ensign Ro". Great script by Rene Echevarria. As much as I love it, it's not without its niggles and problems though - firstly, not only does the way Ro is so easily accepted by the Maquis cell strain credulity, their later off-camera acceptance of Riker(!) as a Bajoran relative of hers is downright ridiculous. And the cell members don't really seem like credible terrorists/resistance fighters; Macias (as written) seems to exists only as a father figure for Ro and isn't otherwise fleshed out as a character.

Finally, how does Ro explain herself to her Maquis colleagues at the end? How does she explain how she knew about the Starfleet armada in the nebula? How does she explain the disappearance of her "Bajoran relative" and the loss of her ship? Non-credible details like this do harm an overall excellent episode...
Thu, Jan 22, 2015, 7:20pm (UTC -6)
But also I want to comment on how sensual and heartfelt this episode is, and how the line between father and lover is blurred in the form of Picard. It's an episode of goodbyes for Ro - goodbye to her father figure Macias, goodbye to her one-time lover Riker (their relationship only being possible under the circumstances of the episode Conundrum, but a tenderness and connection nevertheless remaining between them), and goodbye to Picard, the person who meant most to Ro in the world and who in turn cared tremendously about her and was truly proud of and invested in her. The scene where Ro and Picard have their final conversation while posing as sex worker and client, as they touch each other tenderly and whisper in each other's ear, is phenomenally directed and acted - there a breathtaking sensuality and deep sadness to it. Zack Handlen was right when he wrote that it came over like a break-up; they're both solitary people who forged an unexpected but deeply meaningful connection with each other in the face of barriers and who mean a tremendous amount to each other, more than is verbalized by either, but are both bound by their moral code and sense of duty, with the result that their paths are destined to diverge. That scene and a couple of others in this episode (like the final shot, and "Goodbye Will") feel kind of iconic and it's a shame that moments this truly deep and sensual are so rare on Trek; the intimate personal aspects and subtext of Pre-emptive Strike do remind me of Echevarria's Chimera in the final season of DS9, and the actors make just as much out of them.
Thu, Aug 20, 2015, 12:17pm (UTC -6)
I didn't remember this episode at all from seeing it back in 1994, so it was a pleasant surprise especially in the doldroms of season 7. I'd give it 3-1/4 stars. I especially like when an episode pulls the audience in for the same ride as the protagonist and this one does it very well. I even wanted to go online and find a recipee for Hasperat (of course they are out there!) It is well acted and well written. I'm not sure Ro would have been able to infiltrate the cell as easily as she did, I suppose a nod to the absurdity of this was her lack of invitation to the tactical meeting.
While this episode was just a launching point for the maquis conflict to make deep space 9 more interesting and give it a premise, it still is a very good episode. Creating an enemy for the sake of fodder for writers was a poor choice as it doesn't reflect the passions or interests of the writers, it is merely a device to create more Trek episodes.
As for the debate in this thread of comments about Roddenberry's utopian future. I think Roddenberry's vision (or the best of his vision anyway) was that the crew should be like a family, and family do have squabbles.
As for Rosario's original comment. I personally think televsion is (and always has been) 1too santitized. Case in point, viewers of the HBO show Game of Thrones have zero immunity to shocking deaths and rapes because of television having been traditionally written that the good guy always keeps his head. That's why GOT is so refreashing. Even after you've seen a few tragic deaths your little voice in your head keeps cheering for the good guy and you don't see it coming.
Thu, Sep 3, 2015, 3:12am (UTC -6)
Such a deep episode. As an audience, we KNOW this "traitor". We've seen her jump on the bed as a child! Many (myself included) agree with her choice to join the Maquis. While many (myself included) also respect the hell out of the Federation and what it stands for.

It's a tough call for Ro. But what is not a tough call is rating this episode four out of four stars. I am currently binge watching "Next Generation" in chronological order and as a first time viewer. This one hit me like a tidal wave in comparison to other great episodes of this amazing series.
Fri, Sep 25, 2015, 6:07pm (UTC -6)
Just finished watching this episode, and have to commend (as Jammer does) that final shot of Picard. So much emotion, so much conveyed without a single word being spoken. Compelling.
Sat, Nov 7, 2015, 12:55am (UTC -6)
It's amazing, it feels like it was just yesterday when I reviewed Ro's first appearance in the episode named after her and yet that was three months ago. It was almost six months ago that I first started. Writing these reviews and coming to the end of TNG makes me feel kind of like what it felt like when TNG actually came to an end back in the day - bittersweet. I almost don't want it to end. :-(

"Ensign Ro" was an amazing introduction for the character of Ro Laren and "Preemptive Strike" is an even more amazing exit. It has wonderful world-building (the very first comment here says - "With this one single episode TNG did more dramatically with the Maquis than Star Trek: Voyager did in its whole 7 year run" - I'm having trouble arguing with that), amazing character work, a smoothly flowing script/action and (yes) that stunningly evocative final shot of Picard ("one of the most memorable shots in the series"? - absolutely!).

While I really don't care for how Picard, and by extension, the Federation are portrayed vis-à-vis the Maquis, Ro's character arc more than makes up for that. Seriously, the Federation's response to the Maquis makes next to no sense. Why are they so determined to end the Maquis uprising? Just to maintain the peace with Cardassia? That really smacks of "peace at any price" - something I just can't get behind. The Maquis have legitimate concerns and it's clear that Starfleet and the Federation simply aren't doing, and aren't going to do, anything about them. In fact, Starfleet seems to be actively siding with the Cardassians, even when they know the Cardassians are not adhering to their end of the treaty. Is peace really so paramount that they're willing to sell out their own people? Good grief, even the first Jem'Hadar character we meet points out that the treaty seems like a clear-cut tactical mistake on the Federation's part. Sometimes, sadly, war is necessary. The Maquis firmly have my sympathy! It's really a shame that VOY never really continued to expand on all this wonderful groundwork.

However, Ro's story more than heals any harm that may cause the episode. To have her betray Starfleet and Picard and join the Maquis is almost unprecedented by TNG standards. To have one of the good guys, and a fan favorite no less, defect to, what can only be called, the enemy is stunning for a show that for so long didn't like to rock the boat. TNG has definitely matured in its old age. And, it all feels so natural for this character. She's never really fit in in Starfleet, always had massive problems with authority, and always rankled under the rather strict guidelines imposed on her by a Starfleet lifestyle. Add to that the fact that she never fought in the Bajoran Underground but instead run as far away from the Occupation as she could (something she no doubt feels incredibly remorseful about) and it only makes sense for her to join another group of rebels, especially ones fighting Cardassians. Again add to that the fact that she watched Cardassians kill someone she had come to care about yet again (her father being the obvious other one) and it all makes perfect narrative sense. While it would have been nicer for her to not use her position as a Starfleet officer to aid the Maquis (I would have rather she resigned and then joined them, a la Chakotay and not like Eddington), not everything can be perfect.

I also loved both Riker and Picard's reactions to Ro's defection. Riker, even with Ro holding a phaser on him, clearly respects her and sees that this is the right move for her. Does that possibly mean that Riker, in some way, secretly sympathizes with the Maquis? Wonderfully played by Jonathan Frakes. And Picard's reaction is just superbly acted by Patrick Stewart - he's angry because the mission was a failure, angry at Ro for her betrayal, and also angry at himself for failing Ro. Masterfully done. And without any dialogue!

Wrapping up loose ends while simultaneously laying groundwork for two other series, "Preemptive Strike" is one of TNG's best hours. As the penultimate episode of a television science-fiction giant, it's about as good as you can get.

Diamond Dave
Sat, Nov 7, 2015, 11:10am (UTC -6)
A strong penultimate episode, and a ballsy move concentrating on a lesser member of the cast. Fortunately Ro's character is strong enough to be the backbone of the episode, and it sets in play a number of fairly un-TNG like issues that will eventually play out in DS9 and Voyager.

On the downside, the script telegraphs Ro's defection pretty much from the get go. From her natural sympathies and allegiances, to finding a father figure in Macias, to losing him in a suspiciously well-timed Cardassian raid, it all adds up to only one real conclusion.

The last shot, though, is a classic. 3 stars.
Mon, Nov 9, 2015, 1:44pm (UTC -6)
I loved that shot at the end, too. It really brought home the idea that the Maquis were not the type of opponent Picard had dealt with, and that his typical tactics and speeches wouldn't work on them. This is a great bridge to DS9, and perhaps some questionable tactics Sisko uses later on.
Paul Allen
Tue, Jul 26, 2016, 4:55pm (UTC -6)
Damn good episode, be missing the show....
Wed, Aug 17, 2016, 1:59pm (UTC -6)
I really liked the dialog between Captain Picard and Admiral Nechayev.
Tue, Nov 15, 2016, 11:42pm (UTC -6)
This is episode is why I love Michelle Forbes. Strong writing and acting. Creepiest Picard dialogue ever at the seedy bar with Ro.

More Ensign Ro please. Even if it's a crossover episode where she takes command of the Battlestar Pegasus and tortures Wesley Crusher to death.
Sat, Feb 11, 2017, 6:08pm (UTC -6)
One thing that blows me away about this episode is how Ro is essentially Picard's greatest love in all of TNG. That one episode where Picard has a relationship with the science lady doesn't even remotely stack up to the level of emotion presented in "Preemptive Strike."

That scene in 10 Forward in the beginning of the episode where Picard makes for the door and then hails her to the Bridge, only to surprise her in the hallway, is really intense. You would think it was a fluke, if it were not for the last scene of the two of them together, nudging foreheads in the bar, pretending to be romantically involved while Picard whispers that he will have her court-martialled for betraying the mission. An incredible double-entendre.

Riker has to put the report on the table for the final shot. The only other time I remember a camera swinging around a character like that was the cliffhanger in "Best of Both Worlds." In a way, it's really the end of the series. And it ends in tactical failure and heartbreak.

Just stunning. 2017 and I'm still watching.
Sat, Feb 11, 2017, 8:09pm (UTC -6)
Well, I don't think it's romantic love, but yes, Picard obviously cares a lot about Ro and obviously took this betrayal pretty hard.

It was mentioned a couple times that Picard cared a lot about the Bajorans in general (Ensign Ro and Emissary IIRC). Presumably, he wasn't very happy with the diplomatic situation that left them under control of the Cardassians and he wished he could do more to ease their suffering. Whether that played a part in his attachment to Ro is unclear, although I think it is a part of it. Likewise, the fact that Guinan cared about Ro may also have tipped the scales a bit, given how much respect Picard has for Guinan.

But going back to Picard's feelings about the Bajorans in general. I get the feeling that mentoring Ro was his way of doing something for the Bajorans as a whole. If he felt sympathy for the Bajorans, he felt some sort of guilt that he couldn't do more, even though intellectually he knew there was nothing he could do. So there may have been a subconscious transfer of his longing to help to trying to "fix" this emotionally broken refugee. It may have been why he cared so much about her.

He did everything he could to help her, and then she went and joined a criminal organization. And it was *his* fault. The guilt he felt for not helping the Bajoran refugees now crystallized into a specific action and loss. He tried to save one refugee, and instead he failed.

Keep in mind that a month or so ago he ordered Sito Jaxa to her death. So that's two Bajorans he not only failed to save, but instead did the opposite. No wonder he was so grim at the end.

When I watched this episode before, I was focusing mostly on Ro's character. But now that you mention it phaedon, I can see how this is, at least to some extent, a Picard story as well.
John TY
Sat, Jun 10, 2017, 8:34am (UTC -6)
I personally found Picard's dialogue in the seedy bar to be pretty ridiculous. I think it's out of character too. He should've been smart enough to see how problematic this mission would be for Ro and now if he's suspecting her resolve he should either offer her an out or otherwise have a better backup plan at the end, pre-empting her betrayal.

I also don't see what was so compelling about Michelle Forbes' performance. She mostly spent the episode looking bored, as though she was only there because she was contracted to be. Kinda like Wil Wheaton a few episodes earlier.

Not a terrible episode but not the masterpiece everyone seems to be raving about.
Andy in VA
Wed, Jun 28, 2017, 8:57pm (UTC -6)
I too was fascinated by the Picard/Ro relationship in this episode... somewhere between master and protege and something else burbling under the surface, from the moment he paged her out of Ten Forward, to the intimate bar scene and all the way to the end shot of the captain staring, grim-faced, jaw set.

Clearly the writers intended to convey that under-current of an unspoken love or at least attraction, perhaps one that blinded Picard to the obvious, that Ro was too raw, too vulnerable to send on mission like this one, given where she came from.

As noted above, her "good bye, Will" moment with Riker acknowledges their history and an intimacy and informality they'd never otherwise have permitted one another.

Something qualitatively changed about Michelle Forbes since her previous appearance (maybe it was Rascals, not sure). She seems more confident in her role, more sensuous, more tragically beautiful. Too bad it had to end that way.
Thu, Jun 29, 2017, 6:31am (UTC -6)
IRo had divided loyalties. The situation required her to betray either the Maquis or Starfleet. She had been portrayed previously as a person who tried hard to do the right thing: for example, at her court martial she didn't defend herself, and when sprung from prison in her intro episode, she didn't blindly do the admiral's bidding in exchange for her get-out-of-jail-free card.

She had sworn loyalty to Starfleet; and she is the kind of person who would take that seriously - more so I think than Tom Riker and Eddington. Even more than that, she took her promises to Picard seriously. How could she betray this man, of all men?

But the Maquis's hardscrabble struggle was similar to the Bajoran's struggle. She watched her father get tortured to death; then she was in a refugee camp like the one seen in "Ensign Ro" - but she didn't stay and fight for her people or her father's memory. She made her way to Starfleet academy where everything was shiny and the replicators gave you any food you dreamed of and you never had to be cold or hungry. She rejected her fellow Bajorans and their miserable lot, but she always felt guilty about it. That's why she was ethically torn in "Ensign Ro" and that's why she is torn here. (The Maguis are not the Bajorans, but their cause and their enemy are the same, and they live the same lifestyle that the Bajoran resistance did.)

In "Ensign Ro", all ended well because the anti-Bajoran mission that Admiral Kennelly sent her on, was illegal; the Bajorans had NOT attacked the Feseration outpost, and with Picard's help she was able to be both a good Starfleet officer and a good Bajoran. In "Preemptive Strike," she has to pick a side.

Someone above commented that her choice seemed like cowardice. I think to her, returning to Starfleet would have been cowardice. A cushy life on a fancy starship, obeying rules, "passing" as a member of the dominant mainstream class with its powerful uniform and all its easy privileges, concerning herself with her next performance review or what drink to order in Ten Forward? That's what she chose when she fled the refugee camp for Starfleet Academy. She abandoned her people once. She's justified it painfully but never forgiven herself for it. She won't do it again, to the Maquis - because that would prove all the worst things she suspects about herself: that at heart she's a weak and treacherous person who sells out her own kind.

("Ensign Ro" explains her reasons for leaving the refugee camp. She was ashamed of the degraded poverty and misery of her fellow Bakorans, just like she was ashamed of her father's weakness under torture. Picard says "I can't believe these people have to live like this" and Ro snaps "I couldn't. And I wouldn't! That's why I got out." But secretly she was really also ashamed of herself, because she'd achieved the good life by rejecting her people. So she flaunted her Bajoran earring and her last-name-first tradition, playing the 'proud indigenous Bajoran who rejects your Starfleet ways'....all ito cover up her secret sense that she's actually a pretty craven traitor of a Bajoran. Basically, Worf's conflict but with more angst and higher stakes.)

The Picard/Ro bar scene was amazing. The "Goodbye, Will" moment was amazing - credit to Frakes for the regret and respect he projects (showing the depth of their relationship, both personal and professional.). And the final Picard moment was amazing.
Peter G.
Thu, Jun 29, 2017, 8:18am (UTC -6)
Great write-up, Tara.

I would add as well that because of her heritage Ro had a rebellious streak in her, flouting authority and not wanting to go with the flow like most other Bajorans. Ironically this would mean rejecting the Bajoran struggle, going instead to Starfleet as a sort of teenage 'acting out'. Once there, as you say, she probably recognized that continuing her headstrong ways would just get her in trouble. By the time of this episode I think she realized that not only is being rebellious not a cowardly vice, but among the Maquis - who seem to be very individualistic - it's a valued trait. So her 'weakness' is actually a strength among the Maquis, and her vice a virtue. It would be very alluring even putting aside the parallels with the Bajorans and finding a father-figure there.
Thu, Jun 29, 2017, 11:57am (UTC -6)
I’ve always felt Picard totally misjudged this situation. I think he should have known he was putting Ro in an impossible situation where she might question loyalties and ultimately join the Maquis. Not only does he do an injustice to Ro by helping to recruit her for this role, he also puts Starfleet’s efforts to get the Maquis in jeopardy. Then again, he was only following orders.

When Picard proposes to Ro the Federation plan to trap the Marquis, he threatens her with a court-martial if she doesn’t carry out her assigned orders. He should have known from his previous interactions with Ro that this threat would be useless on her. Insulting even. Ro had shown that she had her own values and personal codes that she honored above all else. On the prior occasion, Ro’s stance happened to coincide with Picard’s. It was because of that common ground that Picard decided to help Ro in her Starfleet career. And because of that developed relationship that Ro felt a debt to Picard.

It may seem not worth mentioning, but: That scene where Picard is telling Ro the plan to trap the Maquis: Picard and Ro, to camouflage their true conversation, playact that Picard is a john negotiating for Ro’s services. When their Starfleet business is done, Picard ends the playact by loudly rebuffing Ro, essentially publically humiliating her. Yes it was only play acting. But to someone like Ro, I think it would have hit too close to home. Might have shaken the connection she felt to Picard a bit.

Then again the writers were heavy handed. They showed ample valid reasons why the Marquis were going after the Cardassians. Rather than investigate the Marquis claims, Starfleet felt the best course of action was eliminate the Marquis. The writers stacked the deck for Ro to join the Maquis.
Thu, Jun 29, 2017, 12:07pm (UTC -6)
"The writers stacked the deck for Ro to join the Maquis."

I can't agree with that, because typically characters to do come to see that Picard is right on a TNG show. The audience's expectation is that Ro too would come to see the light, that no matter how much she sympathized with the Maquis, the Maquis leaders were putting their people in a situation that Bajor had just fought so hard to get out of.

It's really not black and white that joining the Maquis was the right thing for Ro to do. If Kira, for example, had been in Ro's position, Kira would've followed Picard's orders because she doesn't want to relive her years as a struggling freedom fighter. It's really just a measure of which character had "faith" in Starfleet as the moral authority here.
Fri, Jun 30, 2017, 9:09pm (UTC -6)
By saying I think the writers stack the deck, I don’t mean that as an insult. IMO, all writers stack the deck. Good writing is when the viewer or reader doesn’t see it as stacked. IMO, good writing is not cut and dried. It often leaves room for interpretation and discussion.

I’ve come to realize that I am of that subset of Star Trek viewers who doesn’t necessarily buy into “Gene Roddenberry’s vision.” And though I often agree with Picard, I don’t necessarily anticipate that he is going to be always right. Indeed, often in an episode, he seems to be learning about the topic, just as the viewer is.

Back in January of 2015 Niall asked: how does Ro explain herself to her Maquis colleagues at the end? How does she explain how she knew about the Starfleet armada in the nebula? How does she explain the disappearance of her "Bajoran relative" and the loss of her ship?

I wonder that too, especially the first time I saw this episode. I wonder if Ro can be honest with them and I hope she can because I think her own code of conduct requires it.
Sat, Jul 1, 2017, 1:49am (UTC -6)

That's fine if you personally disagree with Picard, but he's obviously the protagonist of this show, just as Kirk or Janeway are of their shows. The audience does not expect the protagonist to be dead wrong. It's a slap in the face because we've invested so much in this character's fortunes. That's why everyone compliments that final scene with Picard trying to come to terms with his mistake.
Sat, Jul 1, 2017, 1:56am (UTC -6)
Of course, if this were season one or two I could get behind the audience not quite believing in Picard, but this is nothing less than the final regular episode of the series.
Sat, Jul 1, 2017, 12:53pm (UTC -6)
Chrome, you said:
"That's fine if you personally disagree with Picard, but he's obviously the protagonist of this show, just as Kirk or Janeway are of their shows. The audience does not expect the protagonist to be dead wrong. "

I don’t know. A lot of people disagree with Janeway, wholeheartedly, all the time. And I have realized that a lot of people hold Picard in such high esteem, maybe more than I do. And yes this may seem like a slap in the face. It was a jarring moment, but Picard is human, and that’s not a crime. For me, the way the writers had written it, (stacked the deck, I called it) Ro being torn, I wasn’t surprised at the end. I thought the episode was done well.

On 6/29/17 you said: "because typically characters do come to see that Picard is right on a TNG show. The audience's expectation is that Ro too would come to see the light …"

And the very next TNG show I saw was Ethics, and it was exactly as you described, Picard was right and directed Crusher and Riker to his views.

For me, comparing your view of Preemptive Strike and mine, I see it mirrored in the comments all the time. An episode is what an episode is. But every viewer brings along their own unique perspective, so much that sometimes we can have very different opinions of the same episode. I understand your point and I respect it.
Sat, Jul 1, 2017, 4:17pm (UTC -6)

Basically, I'm not seeing how "stacking the deck", is bad as you describe it. Perhaps "foreshadowing defeat" is a more appropriate description. You say viewers shouldn't be able to see it what I'm getting at is that it doesn't hurt the story if it does. Let's use Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" as an example. Now, you may watch that play tell me how painfully obvious how bad the cards are stacked against Caesar. The Senate loathe Caesar, and Brutus is driven further and further to seeing that Caesar must be taken out. It's all painfully clear Caesar is not going to end well because various story elements foreshadow his defeat.

So why is Julius Caesar a great tragedy? Because, despite knowing the play will end in Caesar's demise, we also know Caesar was respected historically as a powerful and wise general. His heavily choreographed fall *is* what's compelling. Picard's the same here, we know from seven years of great deeds that Picard is legendary as a captain. Yet we see him fall into the same trappings of the everyman. It's painful to watch it unfold because we know how badly it will end.

"Preemptive Strike" is a tragedy. Obvious as it is, the stacking of the deck, the foreshadowing of defeat, is what makes the episode interesting.
Sat, Jul 1, 2017, 6:52pm (UTC -6)
When I first saw the episode, I understood Ro so well - could put myself in her place - and to me it was very clear that the Ro I knew would have to betray Starfleet because she could not bring herself to betray the Maquis.

But I was anxious,, because I was afraid the writers wouldn't be true to the character as I understood her: that they would twist her around and make her be a good loyal Starfleet officer who agrees with Picard in the end.

So I was delighted by the ending because it seemed so right, so totally Ro...and I hadn't really expected the show to let the character go there.
Sun, Nov 12, 2017, 11:56pm (UTC -6)
This was a really good episode

It’s unusual in that it being penultimate episode of series focuses on a recurring character with hardly of the main cast featured on the hour

It also had an epic scope demonstrating some very good inter-series synergy with DS9 and setting up more of Voyager.

The raid on the Enterprise was very exciting and fresh action. And the earlier maquis assault on the Cardassians warship was awfully beautifully rendered too

I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the Maquis colony and Bar

Glad Ro didn’t make it look to easy getting through the border series. Nice touch.
I could definitely understand Ro feeling torn between Oicard and her newfound Maquis friends. Ultimately I thought what she did was very true to her character.
Wed, Jan 10, 2018, 3:35pm (UTC -6)
The only things wrong with this episode is that Picard would never have asked Ro to do it!

Also this one action scenes are really pathetic - like most TNG.

Otherwise, great character development.

Certainly one of the best season 7, for sure.
Tue, Jan 16, 2018, 5:00pm (UTC -6)
Great episode watching Ro's character go through an obstacle course and ending with Picard's grim and silent stare after Riker submits his report. It does pack a punch but one issue for me is it is quite predictable. Ro never fit in with the Federation and she is the spitting image of Major Kira on DS9.

I think Ro might have carried out Picard's plan had she not teared up when Macias talked about playing that instrument that her father used to play -- and then the emotional bond is fortified after she witnesses the old man's death at the hand of the Cardassians. But I liked how the conclusion came about with her joining the Maquis (totally makes sense) and letting Riker go in the Maquis ship. I thought Riker should have been pissed at Ro for not following orders -- he can be more of a hard-ass than Picard, though that's not the case here.

Ro's character is a good one -- too bad she wasn't part of more TNG episodes. Liked her relationship with Picard, although I thought Picard was forced to push her between a rock and a hard place. But there's no way Ro could be allowed out of the mission at that point and remain in the Federation -- she'd want to join the Maquis and would then be a threat to the peace treaty. So Picard threatens Ro with a court martial etc. Really tough spot for Ro.

Interesting that "Preemptive Strike" aired the same date as DS9's "Crossover" (late in Season 2) -- a great day for Star Trek premiering 2 decent episodes (this one's better). But more importantly the Maquis/Cardassian/Bajoran story had been really fleshed out on DS9 (obviously the latter 2).

3 stars for "Preemptive Strike" -- the Ro character who I wish TNG had featured more has its arc (if you could call it that) resolved. The Maquis are alive and well and tensions between the Federation and Cardassia will continue -- all up to DS9 now. The 2nd last episode of TNG -- a great episode that did a good job wrapping up / setting up a few things.
Thu, Nov 22, 2018, 12:33am (UTC -6)
Others may have made the same observation (TL;DR), but I wasn't convinced of Picard's inaction at the defection of Ro. Starfleet invested a lot of time and money in her special tactical training and to just let her walk into the arms of the Marquis without so much as a threat of arrest and court-martial doesn't seem plausible.
Thu, Nov 22, 2018, 9:02am (UTC -6)

Inaction? He didn’t find out until the final scene and he looked pretty ticked off. It was the last regular episode of the series so it was up to DS9 to finish off the Maquis story.
Peter G.
Thu, Nov 22, 2018, 9:08am (UTC -6)
Yeah, there was literally nothing he could have done without simply calling attention to himself and probably getting in trouble.
Thu, Nov 22, 2018, 11:28am (UTC -6)
@Peter G.

Well, if Picard suspected Ro more sooner, he might’ve gone “For the Uniform” on her and had her beamed off the assignment and into the brig. Part of the real tragedy here is that he not only trusted Ro to do the right thing™, but he was confident that he could make anyone under his command believe in Starfleet.
Peter G.
Thu, Nov 22, 2018, 12:49pm (UTC -6)
@ Chrome,

"Well, if Picard suspected Ro more sooner, he might’ve gone “For the Uniform” on her and had her beamed off the assignment and into the brig. Part of the real tragedy here is that he not only trusted Ro to do the right thing™, but he was confident that he could make anyone under his command believe in Starfleet."

The crisis moment wasn't foreseeable as far as I can tell, and it's 'his own fault' that she defected (as he was the one to give her the orders). Asking someone to go undercover in an organization that you *already know* they'll sympathize with is asking for trouble, but of course her Bajoran background is exactly why she was suited to seem like a good candidate to them. So her job qualification here also made her a high-risk person to put in contact with the Maquis, and Starfleet (i.e. Picard) put her knowingly in that situation. The result is completely on them; they took a gamble and lost. And they had to know it was a gamble.

Perhaps you're right that Picard had such a presumption of loyalty that he didn't imagine this could happen, especially after taking Ro under his wing'to an extent. But I'd prefer to think of his as having been fully aware this could happen, but disappointed all the same. This was really just a delayed test going back to Ensign Ro to see whether Starfleet was really for her. She didn't have a real choice back then because it was like a Tom Paris situation: jail or Starfleet. When presented with two real options she was able to make her choice on her own terms, and this seems to me to have really been her answer all along. Starfleet probably was never for her.
Mon, May 20, 2019, 11:52am (UTC -6)
A good start but Ro's little fake bar scene seemed so contrived. how would they trust her? shouldn't she have a very public fallout with Star Fleet?

wow Picard shows poor judgement in threatening Ro. If she is already feeling conflicted but is in a good position in terms of gathering intelligence, do you threaten her and send her over to the other side? And who was the numb nuts attacking their cell?

Why did Picard make a show of asking Ro if she was willing but then be total hardass and not in a good way later on? What a pisspoor way to end the series...

8/10 for Picard the assalope.

Even Riker seemed to be more sympathetic. I wonder what Picard was thinking at the end? his part in pushing her over to the Maquis? His lack of finesse? His lack of judgement?
Sun, Sep 15, 2019, 10:25pm (UTC -6)
It is interesting that the Marquis episodes in the last season of TNG and the second season of DS9 were designed to set up Voyager, but are actually more interesting than any of the Voyager Maquis episodes, perhaps with the exception of Repression.

I thought it would have been interesting if Ro had become part of Chakotay’s crew and wound up as a regular on Voyager, (like O’Brien moving from TNG to DS9) but that likely would have taken B’Elanna’s place and they probably didn’t want a major Bajoran character on two series airing at the same time...
Sun, Sep 15, 2019, 10:28pm (UTC -6)
Two more things:

1) Will Riker's disguise as a Bajoran is far-fetched. As the First Officer of the Federation Flagship he would be very recognizable, even with nose ridges.

2) It would be cool if Ro turns up in the PICARD series!
Mon, Mar 16, 2020, 9:30am (UTC -6)
This is rare TNG episode that takes a page directly out of DS9's shades of gray handbook. It's shocking to see Starfleet take such a militaristic stance on the Maquis issue, planning to neutralize them with a fleet of starships. I'm also wondering if the Cardassians were actually developing biogenic weapons. They were painted as the clear villains throughout this extended plot line, so it wouldn't surprise me.

So much conflict and intrigue are developed across two series in a short amount of time. It's a damn shame they fell by the wayside after the 1993-1994 season. The Maquis plot is all but forgotten on DS9 by the third season, and it's a conflict on Voyager for approximately two episodes.
Sun, Apr 19, 2020, 9:18pm (UTC -6)
If they hadn't dumped Ro Laren in the pointless Maquis she could've been in the TNG films, it's probably for the best though because the TNG films were a mess.
Rick Berman and Brannon Braga have a lot to answer for.
Mon, May 25, 2020, 12:40pm (UTC -6)
Of all the characters I want to make an appearance in Picard season 2, Michelle Forbes as Ro Laren would be a real treat. She has fantastic chemistry with Patrick Stewart as evidenced by this episode. It would be nice to hear her story of how she survived the decimation of the Maquis by The Dominion and what she did afterwards. There’s a great story waiting to be told with Ro and her old Captain crossing paths in a mission they need each other to complete.
Tue, May 26, 2020, 4:16am (UTC -6)
I agree with many of the comments made on both sides of the Ro Laren aisle. It was an episode with some great acting by Forbes, Stewart and Frakes. The slow pan around Picard at the end is a Mt. Rushmore of sadness.... I always liked Ro, so when she defects, it hurts.

Still, Ro's turning coat was no surprise; a variant of the Stockholm Syndrome. Excruciating. I wanted to say to the character "Hey Ro, remember?, they're terrorists!" Good Ol' Macias (who you really don't know from Adam) would not have hesitated to post you back to the Federation in pieces if he had seen through you. Secondly, Stalin in a cardigan is still Stalin...and you really don't know that any of his stories ever happened. Don't be such a sap!"

But, sadly, she was a sap.... :(

Ro was from the get-go too damaged to have been a good candidate for the mission. (Davidw was right in Jan. 2018, when he opined: Picard would never have sent her in the first place). We have known all along that she hates authority and goes her own way constantly and at base doesn't love the Federation. We can add to her unsuitabilities that she has a soft spot for old musicians in cardigans.

1994 sweaters notwithstanding, I will admit that the Macias death scene was touching and well acted..... and further romanticized the Maquis. He got a glorious end for himself which he must have been hoping would happen since his actions pretty much courted a Cadassian counterstroke from the start. The die was then cast for Ro. But for me: a cardigan with disruptor burns is still a cardigan and I don't know Macias from Adam.

A good episode though, one exploring the perils of moral relativism and completing the tragic arc that is Ro. 6/9 and Recommended.
James G
Sun, Jan 10, 2021, 8:56am (UTC -6)
Didn't think I was going to like this one a lot - although I like Ro, I wasn't really that interested in the story. But as it unfolds .. the moral ambiguity is very well done. Are the Maquis really the bad guys? And the bond between Ro and the old man develops really nicely.

The attack by the Cardassians on the Maquis base, or settlement or whatever it is underlines this beautifully - it seems obvious that Ro should resist it the Cardassian attack with lethal force. Until you remember that they're supposed to be on the same side.

Criticisms? Well, Ro infiltrates the Maquis extremely successfully and very quickly. It's all a bit too easy. But I guess you only have 45 minutes to play with. And the notion of penetrating a Galaxy Class Starship's shields with another craft seems preposterous.

Still - slow to start but the drama intensifies quite substantially in the last 15 mins. A very good one.

Seems a fitting conclusion for the Ro character. I liked Riker's response to her, as well. I would have expected him to snarl "you won't get away with this, lieutenant!" but he knows she's chosen her destiny, and bids her a resigned farewell.

Picard's reaction too, at his desk, is priceless.
Thu, Jan 21, 2021, 8:11am (UTC -6)
Probably my second favorite episode of season 7 after Lower Decks , if Michelle Forbes stayed on board she could of easily had a cameo or two on DS9 , or as someone suggesting even getting a role on VOY (I think there is room for her and Torres, the key is getting rid of Neelix) but I guess she feared getting type casted in a role , I digress.

This episode felt like a space western , especially the bar scenes (reminiscent to some as the Mos Eisley bar scene) , the reasons for defecting are credible and of course the screw job on Picard hurts more then Eddington betraying Sisko, I guess it's because we all saw Ro grow as a characther...
Sun, Jan 24, 2021, 2:48am (UTC -6)
Finally! Two episodes from the end of the series they get it right. So right in fact, this episode could stand alone as a piece of TV, even for anyone not familiar with Ro's backstory and the whole Bajoran/Cardassian/Maquis context.

Brilliantly cohesive narratively and dramatically; great pace; Forbes is beyond stellar in the character; even Stewart manages a couple of genuinely emotional facial expressions, though Riker looks ludicrous in that earring.

What a pity they pretty much abandoned the Ro Laren character and the Maquis after this. She is one of the most individual, complex and exciting characters in the whole of ST. Better than all the crusty old male admirals put together.

Just like Nick Locarno, Starfleet's sanitised and arid militarism has no place for anyone who might rock the boat for the better. Ro would have suffocated under the likes of Picard despite his alleged fondness for and protectivess of her.

Fantastic episode, pulsing drama, scintillating viewing. Outstanding work from Michelle Forbes.
Pretty unforgettable stuff.
Thu, Mar 11, 2021, 2:32am (UTC -6)
Ro exemplifies the danger of the deep cover operative... to have a convincing story, they have to have the right background. And what happened here (Ro joining them for real) is always a potential risk.
Mon, May 24, 2021, 11:11am (UTC -6)

"I'm also wondering if the Cardassians were actually developing biogenic weapons. "

Good quistion. The Cardassioans were mean but ..

I think that is just the point. This rumor fits Starfleet or did the start spreading it.

"The first casuallty of war is truth" The lies from Bagdad Bob during Iraq war was wery obvious. But what about the coalition? They also lied but we very much was believed becaus Saddam and Bob was so bad.

I think its is similar here and that is what is very well described. This episode was made about 1993 . Gulf war (without Bob) was 1990.

And I do share the opinion that Ro Laren could have had a place in some DS9 episodes.

"Still, Ro's turning coat was no surprise; a variant of the Stockholm Syndrome. Excruciating."

Definetly not. This was a conflict between the big socity and those who have to pay a the price of a compromise. I believe Ro was able to see both sides but she had to make a choise.
Thu, May 27, 2021, 8:24am (UTC -6)
Preemptive Strike

TNG episode 24 season 7

"I have returned from Germany with peace for our time.”

- some Federation ambassador after signing the Cardassian peace treaty

4 stars (out of 4 stars)

The decades-long dirty war between the Federation and the Cardassian Empire saw so much death, so much misery, and so many atrocities. We know about the massacre at Setlik III. We know about the brutal occupation of Bajor.

It was a long and bloody chapter in Federation history. Many veterans, like Chief O’Brien, prefer not to talk about. Even Picard, he too has a story about his experience with the Cardassians. It is a funny story from the Stargazer, when he was forced to run for his life. It isn’t the harrowing story of torture and degradation. That one isn’t suited for polite tea-time conversation.

What the Federation wants is peace. Peace. Peace, it seems, at any cost. They are sick of fighting. And after the losses at Wolf 359, they probably can’t afford to fight much more anyway.

And so we have a messy ending to a dirty war. That messy ending is the so-called Demilitarized Zone (Gul Dukat, "Not so demilitarised, I'm afraid.”).

One by one, career Starfleet officers realize the injustice of it all. First Wesley Crusher (“Journey’s End”). And why not, he is a boy-genius after all. Makes sense he would figure it out first,

WESLEY: What you're doing down there is wrong. These people are not some random group of colonists. They're a unique culture with a history that predates the Federation and Starfleet.

PICARD: That does not alter the fact that my orders are to -

WESLEY: I know Admiral Necheyev gave you an order, and she was given an order from the Federation Council. But it's still wrong.

There is a simple strength of moral clarity in those lines.

No matter how many platitudes about the “good of the many outweighs the good of the few” you want to throw at us, it is hard not to see that the Federation citizens called upon to make the sacrifice for the “greater good” are the most underprivileged citizens of all. You don’t see the Scottish planet turned over to the bloody Cardassians. No, that particular privilege belongs to the Native Americans.

NECHEYEV: An Indian representative was included in the deliberations of the Federation Council. His objections were noted, discussed, but ultimately rejected.

How fucking convenient.

Ro mentions her instructor at the tactical training course - a lieutenant commander - resigned to take up the cause of Federation citizens in the DMZ,

RO: I've heard a lot about the Maquis. One of my instructors at Tactical Training, a Lieutenant Commander in Starfleet, a man I admired and respected, he was sympathetic to them. He resigned and left to join them.

Commander Commander Cal Hudson leaves Starfleet to join the fight. Chakotay. Tom Riker. Michael Eddington. The cause attracts people of all races, including logical Vulcans like Sakonna.

How Picard completely failed to understand his own officer is beyond me. How did he not understand that Ro was just as likely to join (h/t @John TY, @Linda, and others) the Maquis as to fight them?

KIRA: I know what those colonists are going through. Most of all, I know that the Cardassians can't be trusted to keep their side of the bargain in this treaty.

SISKO: So, you'd suggest the Federation not keep our side of the bargain either, perhaps by arming these colonists?

KIRA: I can tell you one thing for certain. The Cardassians are the enemy, not your own colonists, and if Starfleet can't understand that, then the Federation is even more naive than I already think it is.

Maybe it was Picard who was more naive than we already thought he was?

After the Federation ended the war with the Romulans, the neutral zone kept the peace for decades. The Treat of Algeron was the compromise, and if the price of peace was that the Federation couldn’t have a cloak, than dog-gonnit Picard was going to stick with it,

PICARD: In the Treaty of Algeron the Federation specifically agreed not to develop cloaking technology.

PRESSMAN: And that treaty is the biggest mistake we ever made. It's kept us from exploiting a vital area of defence.

PICARD: That treaty has kept us in peace for sixty years, and as a Starfleet officer, you're supposed to uphold it.

[It is worth noting that Kirk and Spock, in "The Enterprise Incident”, would not have been such push-overs.]

The Federation ended the war with the Klingons at Khitomer. The Klingons, like the Romulans, maintained a strategic cloaking advantage.

Such are compromises we are willing to make for peace.

So the logical next step in appeasement is to lure a bunch of your own citizens into a trap, and leave the remaining colonists in the DMZ defenseless against their Cardassians neighbors. If that’s what Queen Bitch Admiral Necheyev wants, then that’s what Picard is going to give her. Would you like canapés with that?

PICARD: We don't have to like her, Will, but we have to follow her orders, and maintaining this atmosphere of confrontation serves no purpose.

Which brings us back to Ro.

Just as in “Ensign Ro”, here too, she is just one small pawn in a much larger canvas. Starfleet seems to have a deep bench of young Bajoran women like Sito (“Lower Decks”) and Ro, who they are all too willing to ask to make the ultimate sacrifice. Another Bajoran woman we see in Starfleet is Seska, and it turns out that she’s really a Cardassian. Cause you have to be a fucking idiot to be a Bajoran woman and put on that uniform. The moment Major - or should I say Commander - Kira puts on the uniform, they send her behind enemy lines to Cardassia Prime! You can’t make this stuff up.

So yeah, back to Ro. While re-watching the episode, as soon as I came to this line, I really wanted to see what @Luke had to say,

RO: It's been a long time since I really felt like I really belonged somewhere.

And sure enough, @Luke’s review is worth reading. I would also recommend @Nick P.’s review, especially the fundamental question he asks and seems to answer,

"I agree this was a very good episode, my critique is more that I never liked how the Maquis-bajoran stuff slid us further and further away from Genes' vision of Starfleet. The central rule for gene was that Starfleet will always be the good guys, EVEN IF you have to make the plot convuluted.

Maybe this is a better episode than Gene ever could have made, but this crappy, stuck in the mud bureaucratic wishy-washy federation that gets worse in DS9 is NOT what I wish the future to be like. I really do miss Genes optimistic Star Trek where the Federation is not just better, but more righteous than other groups/civilizations. It is interesting how we make fun of Genes utopianism, but it sure is obvious when it is gone. He would have HATED this episode.”

I’m not so sure, @Nick P.

The last time we see a young woman betray her captain was Lieutenant Valeris (the gorgeous Kim Cattrall) in The Undiscovered Country. Like the other vulcan, Sakonna with the Maquis, vulcan Valeris cannot fathom making peace with the Klingons and betrays Kirk. But more than that, she betrays Captain Spock. Some might say the Gene died only days after seeing The Undiscovered Country, so maybe he hated it too - but that seems like a needlessly ghoulish argument.

Besides, a young woman abandoned her captain even back during the original series,

KIRK: Lieutenant Marla McGivers, given a choice of court martial or accompanying them there?

KHAN: It will be difficult. A struggle at first even to stay alive, to find food.

MARLA: I'll go with him, sir.

KHAN: A superior woman. I will take her.

So let’s not be so hasty to say Gene would hate this. He understood people better than you might imagine.

“Preemptive Strike” might come across as a bookend for Ro, but what it really is, is a bookend for Picard’s relationship with Admiral Necheyev.

She has him by the balls.

The first time we meet Necheyev, she relieves Picard of his command and sends him off on a mission with a very high chance he will die (JELLICO, “the chances are you won't be coming back from this mission of yours.”).

The second time we meet Necheyev, she gives Picard the dressing down of his life. This isn’t some sly investigator that brings up Picard’s record and tries to get him to admit he was wrong (as in “The Drumhead”). No, Necheyev just fucking orders him not to be such a whiny little bitch going forward,

NECHAYEV: Your priority is to safeguard the lives of Federation citizens, not to wrestle with your conscience. Now I want to make it clear that if you have a similar opportunity in the future, an opportunity to destroy the Borg, you are under orders to take advantage of it. Is that understood?

PICARD: Yes, sir.

By the third time we meet Necheyev, Picard is so brow-beaten, he figures his best bet is to make her tea and canapés. At first Picard baulks at forcing the Indians to undertake a renewed Trail of Tears. But Queen Bitch Admiral Necheyev puts Picard in his place by reminding him that she’s taken away his command before, and she can do it again,

NECHEYEV: Then your orders will be to remove them by whatever means are necessary. I understand your moral objections, Captain. If you wish, I can find someone else to command the Enterprise for this mission.

PICARD: That will not be necessary, Admiral.

And so we come to “Preemptive Strike,” in which Picard is finally her complete bitch. Nechayev comes on board to use Picard’s pet Bajoran for a dangerous mission ("We intend to infiltrate their organisation, and the person we want to do it is aboard your ship right now”). And Picard agrees.

As so many have already mentioned, Picard should have known better. But this is no longer a Picard at his prime. This is not the Picard who stood up to Admiral after Admiral, whether it was pushing back when an Admiral wanted to take Lal away from Data, or pushing back when an Admiral wanted to break the treaty with the Romulans, or pushing back when an Admiral wanted to burn witches.

That Picard is long gone.

@Justin says that "Of all the characters I want to make an appearance in Picard season 2, Michelle Forbes as Ro Laren would be a real treat.” How can I not agree? The only thing I would add is that along with everything else, “Preemptive Strike” also has a substandard Picard far closer to the Picard of the new Picard spin-off, than I am altogether comfortable with admitting.
Mon, Sep 6, 2021, 12:35am (UTC -6)
What makes this episode much more effective than it otherwise might have been, is how Stewart and Forbes subtly convey a personal relationship between their characters. And so the betrayal is personal. If Ro had been some rando who betrayed her oath/uniform/whatever, Picard might have found it upsetting, but nowhere near as upset as he is at the end of this episode. He's been gutted. He was personally invested in Ro, thought of her as a friend, perhaps a protege, and likely even harbored more complex, intimate - if platonic - feelings towards her.

As she did for him. This makes her choice all the more difficult for her, and painful for both. That she turned from her duty was relatively a small thing compared to turning from a friend/mentor for a greater cause. It is, to her way of thinking, the right thing to do. How many episodes have we seen a TNG character turn on an old friend, because that old friend had lost their way? From Ro's perspective, this was the agonizing position she was forced into. As for Picard, I always got from this episode that he thought - even should her loyalty to her uniform waver - her loyalty to *him* would prevent her from betrayal. Ro certainly gives him every reason to think so.

But in the end, her sense of obligation to him, her personal feelings toward him, the trust and support he showed, couldn't outweigh a just cause he was on the wrong side of. And so she did as she felt she must. And broke Picard's heart.
Fri, Nov 5, 2021, 8:10am (UTC -6)
This story reminds me of both the real life case of Anna Erelle (as depicted in the movie Profile) and of O'Brien in the DS9 episode Honor Among Thieves.

Entities should never send untrained operatives into situations where they can become either radicalized or sympathetic towards their targets. Ro was trained as a tactician, not as an operative. (Just as Erelle and O'Brien were not trained intelligence operatives.)
Sat, Dec 4, 2021, 2:23am (UTC -6)
This excellent episode makes me wish deeply that they’d made more of Ro throughout the series. She really is a superbly written character and some of Series 6 and 7’s throwaway stories could have been replaced entirely with episodes that dealt more with the Bajor / Cardassia / Federation situation. But then, unlike DS9, TNG tended to shy away from the political stories so I guess it’s a vain wish.

Anyway, I’m just glad that before the series closer, they decided to have a truly great episode - directed by Patrick Stewart no less! - which conveyed subtle politics, undercover ops (Picard as a ‘customer’ was a standout scene), and some realistic soul-searching.

One criticism and one puzzlement…

The scene where Worf and Data enter the bar announcing they were seeking out a renegade who had killed a Cardassian, was hamfisted - with Ro present in the bar, anyone would have realised the whole scene was ‘staged’ and that’s how it came across.

As for the end - surely Ro asking to be beamed out of her ship, leaving it and Riker to return to the Enterprise, must have been suspicious to her fellow Maquis; what possible reason for her transport out would have allayed doubts about her motives? The other Maquis ships would have seen Riker returning to the Enterprise and would have questioned Ro about what was going on, especially after the mission was aborted.

Anyway, the episode deserves its 3.5 stars.
Sun, Dec 5, 2021, 6:40am (UTC -6)
@Mal (May 27, 2021)
Excellent post. Really enjoyed your presentation and it is persuasive with regard to the meaning of the changes in Picard. His manipulation by Nechayev is upsetting...he's a shadow of himself by this point.

Once the removal of Picard's strength is seen for what it is (or signifies about Starfleet), Ro's actions become more understandable. Defection from the Federation in favor of the Maquis is a reasonable decision, not a symptom of psychological weakness. h/t @Maq (May 24, 2021) -- I think that you have that right.
Tue, Jul 5, 2022, 2:18pm (UTC -6)
This was an outstanding episode, certainly one that stick out as memorable for all the right reasons.

My one complaint, and it's a big 'un, is the Cardassian infiltration and raid on the colony. It made no sense from any tactical military perspective: It was a suicide mission that accomplished nothing. Attrition is not best generated through such means unless there is no other conceivable option.

Besides, you're in the middle of a war of sorts and are being harangued, and hunted, by two powerful enemies. You have no sentries or network of lookouts in your grade-school-prop town? Give me a break and make it a whole day off.

Most importantly though, having Macias killed (off) was a SUPREMELY LAZY launchpad for Ro's switch. I mean, come on now; did anyone doubt she was going to side with the Maquis after that!?! I would much have preferred to have seen the corollary without such a drastic watershed moment. Such laziness reduces my score to a three.

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