The Great Star Trek TNG Rewatch: The Defector

When the Enterprise rescues a Romulan defector who claims to have vital intelligence about a planned attack on the Federation, Picard has an important decision to make. Should he trust the Romulan and make haste to prevent a war – or is he just being led into a trap?

The “is this person really a defector?” story is a pretty standard one, and it lives or dies on characterisation. Luckily, TNG succeeds here, and I’m not just saying that because I enjoy Romulan episodes. Setal, or rather Admiral Jarok starts out in a properly ambiguous fashion, and by the time we realise that he’s been played by the Romulan government, we understand what motivated him to betray his beloved home. Also, Romulus sounds like a great place to visit – who doesn’t want to see the Fire Falls of Gal Gath’Thong?

The episode is of course spoiled a little by the Klingon deus ex machina saving the day at the end, but it’s almost worth it for the decent character moments building up to the end.

Enterprise life

  • Apparently the replicator cannot produce something without first having the item’s molecular structure in its computer banks – hence why Jarok cannot have Romulan ale. But in the last episode it was able to make Acamarian parthas from a mere description – either that, or Yuta just picked the closest vegetable she could find and pretended they were parthas.
  • Data is learning about human interactions and emotions by studying Shakespeare, and the actors who brought the plays to life. We see him participating in Henry V, and he appears to be studying the work of the great actor Patrick Stewart.
  • There is sufficient data on Romulus in the Enterprise computer banks to be able to recreate the Valley of Chula.
  • Crusher is able to use the medical knowledge she gained about Romulans from The Enemy to adminster to Jarok’s wounds.
  • Riker is well versed in Klingon curses after his tour on a Klingon ship.
  • Jarok is of course allowed to wander freely about the Enterprise without any kind of restrictions or supervision.

Summary – The Defector: I’m enjoying these Romulan stories.

Bonus feature: does Star Trek overuse its adversaries?

I like the Klingons and Borg as much as the next person, but does Star Trek have a tendency to overuse its major alien races until we get fed up with them? If it does, then I think the Romulans are the least affected, as they remain mysterious and intriguing right up until Nemesis. I was greatly looking forward to Nemesis giving us some more insight into the Romulans, but I didn’t really care for the storyline about the previously unmentioned Remans, or Shinzon.

When other races jumped the shark:

  • Klingons: I love the modern Klingons in TNG and early DS9, but by late DS9 there was a bit too much Klingon politics for me. What did the mad Gowron storyline add to anything?
  • Borg: Brilliant in TNG, but by the era of Voyager they’re just easily defeated monsters of the week.
  • Cardassians: I think we were all fed up with them after the Dominion War. DS9 season seven just couldn’t leave well enough alone.
  • Ferengi: Similarly done to death in DS9, and much as I think Quark and Rom get some good lines, the Ferengi never really floated my boat in the first place.
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