The Great Star Trek TNG Rewatch: Pre-emptive Strike

With the Maquis mounting attacks against the Cardassians, Starfleet decides to send in an undercover agent to infiltrate this dissident splinter group. The freshly promoted Lieutenant Ro is chosen, but will her loyalty to Picard and the Enterprise outweigh her feelings of kinship with a group struggling against a familiar oppressor?

I was a bit worried about watching this episode – I loved it as a teen, and I was afraid that, as with several other episodes this season, my adult eyes would find it wanting. So I’m delighted to report that, whilst this episode is hardly perfect, I still enjoyed it very much this time around.

I can’t deny that Michelle Forbes has phoned it in a little as Ro in the past, but here it felt like she owned the part much more, bringing Ro’s shyness at her grand welcoming party, her torn loyalties, and ultimately her search for a father figure. After a rocky start, it looks as if Picard and Starfleet have finally become her family, but ultimately it is Macias and the Maquis who really stike a chord with her heart. This is a cause she can believe in, a lifestyle she can understand. For Ro, it is about finding a new family. For Picard, it is about losing a protégée.

Of course, the limitations of fitting everything into a single episode means that everything has to clip along at a fast pace – there’s no time for a gradual build-up of trust between Ro and the Maquis, for example – but within these limits Pre-Emptive Strike is still a great episode. And I was surprised to realise just how much of the dialogue I still remembered word-for-word – just how many times did I watch this episode back in the day?

Bits and pieces

  • We’ll be revisiting the Maquis a lot in DS9, so I’ll save the moral debate about their actions for the two-parter “The Maquis”.
  • It’s amazing that Riker infiltrated the Maquis so easily, when, as first officer of the Enterprise, he’s presumably quite the celebrity. Similarly for Picard when he pays Ro a visit – no one says “hey, aren’t you the famous Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Enterprise?”.
  • Ro claims she is able to hack the Federation border sensors because she knows the encryption algorithm. Knowing the encryption algorithm used will tell you how easy it is to break the encryption, but it doesn’t mean that you can definitely break it. Maybe she meant that she knows the Federation uses shoddy encryption – as we have reason to suspect from many previous episodes.
  • Similarly, if knowing the algorithm is all Ro needs in order to crack Federation encryption, why would it matter if they update their passcodes later? Presumably she didn’t have any knowledge of the passcodes the first time around, unless she actually got the codes from Picard before leaving, and was just bullshitting Kalita about how she managed to break the encryption.

Summary – Pre-emptive Strike: Ro must choose between two father figures.

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