The Great Star Trek TNG Rewatch: Ensign Ro

When Bajoran terrorists attack a Federation colony, the Enterprise is sent to investigate. For the duration of the mission, they are assigned a Bajoran ensign, Ro Laren – a former Starfleet officer who was court-martialled and imprisoned following an away mission where several crew members died. Despite Picard’s reluctance to have Ro aboard the Enterprise, and Ro’s reluctance to be there in the first place, they must work together to uncover the truth behind the attack.

This in an important episode in the continuity of Star Trek, introducing yet another alien race, and yet, for all that, it feels quite rough around the edges. Maybe it’s because I know how the Bajorans will be developed in DS9, but here their story is still settling into place. Meanwhile, Ro is very much a typical “conflict provoker” character; unlike the human characters, who are intended to always be perfect, Ro is allowed to be the one who disobeys orders and makes trouble, but is good and honourable at heart.

As for the plot itself, it’s very much drawn from the usual Star Trek narrative conventions, so, without further ado, I present:

Star Trek Bingo

  • Yet another Starfleet admiral is revealed to be working against Federation goals and generally being a bit of a prick. Competent admirals are few and far between.
  • Guinan provides narrative guidance by turning up and telling Picard what to do.
  • Ro, like everyone else who comes to Ten Forward, can’t get away without being approached by Guinan for conversation.
  • The fact that Ro didn’t speak up in her own defence at her own court-martial implies that either she was covering for a senior officer, or she was so genuinely contrite about her actions that she didn’t want to defend herself. Either way, the actions of A Good Person.
  • The Federation stood idly by and let the occupation of Bajor happen because of course they don’t interfere in the internal affairs of another race. Prime Directive ftw!

The Bajorans

  • This is the only episode in which the Bajorans are often (but not always) referred to as the Bajora.
  • Ro wears the traditional Bajoran earring, which is meant to be a cultural and religious item.
  • The Bajoran homeworld was annexed by the Cardassian forty years previously. It is said in this episode that this makes the Bajorans a homeless people as they all scattered across the galaxy, even though we later find out in DS9 that many did remain behind on their homeworld. The start of DS9 would also mark the end of the Cardassian occupation.
  • Bajoran names start family name first.
  • Even though they are not Federation members, there are a number of Bajorans serving in Starfleet.

Enlightened humans?

As soon as Ro comes aboard, everyone except Guinan seems keen to be as mean to her as possible. I can understand their wariness at taking on someone who disgraced their beloved Starfleet and everything it stands for, but aren’t these supposed to be enlightened 24th century people?

  • Riker makes a point of having Ro take her earring off to comply with regulations, even though he has no problem with Worf wearing his Klingon sash. Troi doesn’t wear a uniform at all, of course, but this might be a perk of being ship’s counsellor.
  • Geordi, who in the last season became a bit of a jerk, is found in Ten Forward unprofessionally gossiping about how he would watch his back when Ro was around.
  • Why is Ro even brought aboard as a Starfleet member anyway? She could have been civilian observer – after all, she didn’t want to be there, so restoring her rank and uniform was hardly a motivator for her to come along. Getting her out of prison would probably have been enough.

Other points

  • Even though we’ve seen Bolian barbers before, this is apparently the first appearance of Mr Mot, the overly talkative barber. Riker calls him “the best barber in Starfleet”, even though Mot is a civilian.

Summary – Ensign Ro: “That was a phoned-in performance.”

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