Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 176 (Preemptive Strike)

WARNING:  I’m going to give away the ending to this episode.  If you don’t like spoilers, you might want to hold off reading this review.

Life was never easy for Ro Laren.  She was a Bajoran born during the Cardassian occupation of her home planet.  She was kicked out of Starfleet for not following orders, then brought back in for a mission of questionable morality.  When she disobeyed orders again, she was kept on the Enterprise.  Just when things were going well, Ro Laren, now a lieutenant, is given a mission to infiltrate a Maquis cell.

Who are the Maquis, you ask?  They came about after the Cardassians annexed the planets they were on as a result of a peace treaty.  Their goal is to fight back to the mistreatment they receive from the Cardassian government.  They are still Federation citizens, but choose to live in what is now Cardassian territory.  The Cardassians claim that the Federation is arming them, which the Federation denies.  (The Federation makes similar claims against the Cardassians, which the Cardassians deny.)

Being that Lt. Ro doesn’t like the Cardassians, it’s going to be a difficult mission for her.  She’ll be working against people who share her interests.  She claims she can do it; she wants nothing more than to prove herself to Captain Picard.  She soon realizes that it’s not so easy.  The leader of the cell is a man named Macias.   The more she deals with him, the more she comes to like and respect him.  He eventually becomes a father figure.

The longer Ro stays, the more conflicted she becomes.  Picard eventually has to threaten her with another court martial to get her to complete the mission.  It doesn’t come as much of a surprise that Ro eventually defects to the Maquis, leaving Picard so mad that he can’t even talk to Riker in the final scene of the episode.

When I first saw the episode, I remember wondering why the writers would have a recurring character defect.  It kind of makes more sense now that I’ve had time to think about it.  We get the emotional impact of an established character leaving without having to sacrifice one of the main characters.

The writers would also have needed someone who is used to making tough choices.  On the one hand, the Maquis are getting more aggressive by this point.  So far, they’ve been taking defensive stances, warding off an aggressor.  Now, they’re looking to go on the offensive, possibly attacking the Cardassians.  On the other hand, it’s not so easy to be dispassionate about a group when you go to live with them.  It’s even harder when they agree with you from the onset.

Sure, any Bajoran could have been used.  However, useing a new character wouldn’t have had the same impact.  Her actual history keeps the lying to a minimum.  However, she owes Picard a lot.  This actually seems like the perfect story arc for Ro Laren.  If I had to write a way out for her myself, it probably would have looked something like this.

The Maquis was never really The Next Generation’s thing.  It was used more on Deep Space Nine, which dealt more with Bajorans and Cardassians.  The shame is that we never see Ro Laren again in any of the TV shows.  It would have been interesting to have heard from her on Deep Space Nine.  Instead, we’re left to assume.  Interestingly, the character of Ro Laren was supposed to be Deep Space Nine’s first officer.  When Michelle Forbes didn’t want to join the cast, the part was rewritten as Kira Nerys.

I do recommend watching the episode.  For those that are watching on Netflix or on the season sets, you’re going to want to wait to see this one.  There were so many things over the previous three seasons that led up to this.  You don’t necessarily have to have watched DS9 to understand the episode.  It’s fairly self-contained in that respect, but you probably should have some background with The Next Generation to fully understand what’s going on.

IMDb page

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