Season Three - TNG

Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Defector

Written by Ronald D. Moore and Richard Danus
Directed by Robert Scheerer

The Romulans are familiar to every Star Trek fan. In The Next Generation, with the Federation having negotiated a peace with the Klingons, they are the only villain carry-over from the original series.

Only a few episodes prior we were treated to a tense encounter between the Enterprise and the Romulan Commander Tomalak (portrayed by Andreas Katsulas) in the episode The Enemy. It is giving away no key plot point to state that Tomalak and Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) will have another pivotal confrontation here.

The Enterprise tracks a Romulan Scout Ship being pursued by a Romulan Warbird as it crosses The Neutral Zone – an area of space that acts as a buffer between the Federation and the Romulan Empire. Captain Picard orders the Enterprise to use its shields to protect the scout ship, then beam the defector over.

The Romulan in question introduces himself as Setol and he reveals that the Romulans are planning an attack on the Federation from a newly established base within The Neutral Zone. This goes against all of the treaties between the Federation and Romulans.

The crew of the Enterprise as well as the higher brass in Starfleet doubt his story since he seems to know a great deal for someone who claims to be a lowly logistics clerk. If the Enterprise crosses into The Neutral Zone to investigate, it will also be in violation of the treaties. This could also be considered a potential act of war, but what if Setol is telling the truth? The Romulans would indeed have the upper hand.

Setol is given quarters aboard the Enterprise while everyone tries to sort out his story. The viewer sees him take out what would initially appear to be a computer chip – perhaps a listening device or a tracking device?

This theory is given more credence when Geordi LaForge and the android Data (LeVar Burton and Brent Spiner) display a visual recreation of the pursuit. It seems almost as if the warbird did not want to catch the scout ship as it adjusted speed three times.

All this keeps the viewer tuned to sort out the clues as to who “Setol” really is and what he wants. Is his story true? What is the deception?

There is some excellent acting here on the part of James Sloyan who portrays “Setol”. He really is the center of this episode – moreso than any of the regular Enterprise crew. He is recycled a few more times in the Star Trek universe as other characters, and rightly so. He has a fantastic ability to convince the viewer of Setol’s motives as well as giving the bit of intrigue needed to keep everyone guessing.

At the same time, the crew is involved enough in the story that we are not completely disconnected from the regular cast. Picard is the go-between with Setol and Starfleet, trying to sort out exactly what is going on and “playing poker” with “Setol” when he has to, getting the answers that he needs from the man. The two actors together create a very tense atmosphere. Add Tomalak into the mix, and it gets quite interesting.

In the end, Setol’s real identity and motives are revealed. What is intriguing is the fact that he gives Picard a letter that Picard knows he cannot deliver, but talks of a time when there is peace so he can deliver it.

Star Trek fans are presented here with a wonderfully written episode full of political intrigue worth of a Tom Clancy novel. Though probably confusing to non-fans who don’t realize the relationship between the Federation and the Romulans, regular fans of the series will love it!

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