Written by Michael Piller and Rick Berman
Directed by Les Landau
Holtza is nobody. He’s the token Bajoran that respectable people invite to symposiums and diplomatic soirees. But he has no real influence among my people. Don’t you understand? These are desperate people ready to martyr themselves. They don’t want to talk. – Ensign Ro
This episode introduces the Bajorans, a culture whose homeworld has been occupied by the Cardassians for quite some time. When it appears that a rebellious group of Bajorans has attacked a Federation vessel, a Starfleet Admiral transfers Ensign Ro Laren (portrayed by Michelle Forbes) on board the Enterprise as they attempt to negotiate and capture the leader of a cell of the Bajoran resistance.
Ensign Ro has a long history within Starfleet, and she is released from prison after having been court-martialed to serve on this mission aboard the Enterprise. She is in a state of flux between two worlds, much the way the Klingon Worf (Michael Dorn) has been for years with his fellow Klingons. On a visit to a Bajoran resettlement camp, she talks of why she ran away from the camps and left the people, not willing to accept the defeat that came with living in these camps.
Ro is different than most other Starfleet officers viewers have been in contact with – including Worf. She is belligerent and has a problem with obeying orders. Only Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) seems to see that there is more beneath the surface of her personality. She also reflects her fellow crewmates feelings. Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) reacts quite emphatically against her presence on the Enterprise, not willing to give her any real chance to prove herself. While he has never seemed to have a problem with Worf’s additions to his Starfleet uniform which pay tribute to his Klingon heritage, Riker immediately challenges Ro for wearing an earclip and earring, symbolic of her Bajoran heritage.
The Bajorans were created to be synonymous with some modern-day terrorists. This is evident in Ro’s speech while in conference with the other senior officers on board the Enterprise, which paints a picture of Bajorans that is reminiscent of the situation as it has been in the Middle East for years. Much of the Bajoran settlement that Picard, Worf, Data, and Ro visit is reminiscent of the Palestinian resettlement camps.
Ro’s character was another that was supposed to spin-off onto Deep Space Nine, but it didn’t work out that way. Instead, Deep Space Nine got the character of Kira Nerys. It’s a shame because Michelle Forbes is a fine actress. She holds her own admirably in scenes with the rest of the crew, who are much more familiar with their roles now in the fifth season. More than anything, she holds her own in the scenes with Whoopi Goldberg’s Guinan as she tries to figure out exactly what to do in a situation that is more than what it appears to be.
The scenes between Forbes and Patrick Stewart’s Captain Picard are also very meaningful. Picard has always been the thoughtful Captain, managing to think a situation through thoroughly and always being able to rely on and trust in his crew. Now, however, he is faced with a situation where he must choose whether or not to challenge his Starfleet orders and put his trust in the wayward Ensign.
The story itself is more impressive now and somewhat more relevant now than it did all those years ago. At the time this was aired in October of 1991, this country still felt that it was immune from terrorist attacks, as well as often feeling like outsiders observing the Middle East conflict. How many people truly want to have some understanding of what fuels a terrorist’s hatred? It doesn’t excuse the action, but knowing what motivated the action in the first place could go a long way to solving it, as Captain Picard learns on his visit to the resettlement camp.
The episode opens with a bit of humor with Captain Picard at the barber. The barber is a Bolian – a blue skinned, bald culture making the fact that he is a barber ironic. It was a small, throwaway piece that gives a bit of levity to an episode with much deeper meaning.
Introducing a new character makes the episode a fairly easy one to watch, even for the casual viewer. Since there has not yet been much history between the Federation, the Cardassians, and the Bajorans, there is no need to know a great history here.
If you caught Forbes’ appearance on the series 24, you’ll see a performance at least as good – if not better – in this episode. It’s definitely worth a look.
Previous episode (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – Redemption Part II
Next episode (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – Darmok
The dynamic between the Cardassians and the Bajorans was even more violent than between the Romulans and the Klingons. I always wondered why with all the technology and other advancements that they couldn’t work out some sort of treaty… Instead the oppression and violence continued unabated.
I would say that’s human nature, but these are not humans. Maybe it’s in the nature of many intelligent species to subjugate people they can consider “lesser”.