Sunday, May 14, 2017

Star Trek The Next Generation - Episode 103 (Ensign Ro)

There are some problems that no one wants to really acknowledge, even in the Star Trek universe.  The Bajorans, for instance, were displaced when the Cardassians annexed Bajor.  When a Federation colony is attacked and the attackers claim to be Bajoran, the U.S.S. Enterprise is sent in to Get Orta, who seems to be the guy responsible.

Normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal.  You go in, this Orta guy and hope he agrees to go back to a settlement camp.  Picard is authorized to use any diplomatic tool at his disposal.  The bridge crew takes exception to the fact that an Ensign Ro is being transferred to the Enterprise, as per Admiral Kennelly’s orders. 

What’s the big deal, you might ask?  It turns out that Ensign Ro was ostensibly responsible for an incident on the U.S.S. Wellington.  Eight people died and she didn’t contest responsibility at her court martial.  Thus, she was sent to prison; Kennelly got her out and reinstated her for this mission, as having a Bajoran along would seem like a good idea.  Ro isn’t that keen on being there, herself, but her alternative was staying in prison.

Ro butts heads with the rest of the crew.  The good news is that she befriends the ship’s bartender, Guinan.  The bad news is that she beams down to a planet without running it through the ship’s chain of command first.  This gets her confined to quarters, at least until Guinan comes to her aid.

Guinan is very good when it comes to judging people.  She can tell that Ro is in the middle of a personal crisis.  You see,  Ro did have authorization to go down…from Admiral Kennelly.  She wasn’t circumventing chain of command at all.  What she was doing was offering to supply Orta.  At least, that’s what her mission was.  She never made the offer as Orta looks suspiciously innocent in all of this.  There’s no way any of his ships could have reached the Federation colony.  So, what’s really going on here and who can Ro trust?

Some episodes of Star Trek were subtle.  You had to work out the meaning, but it was there.  Some were more obvious.  Here, we have the Bajorans representing displaced cultures.  There seem to be two main theories on how to deal with the issue.  The United Federation of Planets officially keeps the Bajorans at arms length.  Some have been admitted to Starfleet, but it’s not really any of their business.  Whatever happens is between the Cardassians and the Bajorans.

Unofficially, there are those in Starfleet that would have no problem arming one side under the table.  This is part of what conflicts Ro.  She had to watch her people suffer at the hands of the Cardassians.  Who wouldn’t want to help get weapons into their hands?  Then again, she knows that what she’s doing is less than morally or legally right if she has to go sneaking around to do it.

On the other hand, if Ro is the unwilling puppet of Kennelly, then Kennelly is the unwitting puppet of the Cardassians.  They staged the whole thing to get the Federation involved and he fell for it.  He knew it was wrong.  He even pulled someone out of prison who had the right history rather than go with another Bajoran who hadn’t been court-martialed.  Both Kennelly and Ro were the perfect people to have their strings pulled.

This episode would go on to serve as the basis for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.  Some of the facts would change, but Michelle Forbes was approached to reprise her role and become the stations executive officer.  She turned the role down, claiming she didn’t want to commit to a television role at the time.  A few years later, she joined the cast of Homicide: Life on the Street.  I found it odd at the time, but it’s possible that the timing wasn’t right.

One thing I noticed in this episode is that all of the men in this episode seem to be against Ro.  Only Dr. Crusher, Troi and Guinan, all women, seem to be willing to approach her.  All of the male officers go on about how she has no right to wear the uniform. Coincidence?  Maybe.  It was just something that I noticed.

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