Written by Naren Shankar, Rene Echevarria, and Brannon Braga
Directed by Gabrielle Beaumont
Ship’s Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) wakes up, seemingly in pain, and looks in the mirror to see a Romulan looking back at her. The last thing she remembers was being at a neuro-psychology seminar and being attacked in her quarters.
The sub-commander, N’vek (portrayed by Scott McDonald), of the ship she has been abducted to greets her and tells her she is now Major Rakal of the Tal Shiar – the Romulan version of the CIA – and that she must do as he says if she wants to survive. He tells her she must order the Commander of the ship – Toreth (portrayed by Carolyn Seymour) – to certain coordinates, but doesn’t say why. Since Troi is empathic, she would be able to tell if he was deceiving her, and she can sense he is not lying.
The Enterprise, meanwhile, beams on board a Starfleet Ensign (portrayed by Barry Lunch) who defected to the Romulans twenty years before. After being placed under arrest, he asks to speak with Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart), stating it is of the utmost importance. As it turns out, the man bears a message from Admiral Spock (who was last seen trying to help the Romulans with their Unification movement in Unification Part II), telling the Enterprise to rendezvous with the freighter Troi is on.
As the story evolves, Troi learns that one of the top officials of the Romulan Senate is being carried in stasis in cargo containers, an act of defection. It is up to her and N’Vek to deliver him safely to the Federation.
If this sounds something like the plot of the John Travolta/Nicolas Cage Movie Face/Off, it does. However, Face/Off was released in 1997 and this episode was shown in 1993, so screenplay writer Rene Echevarria gets the credit for the original story.
The story is a good one, filled with suspense and exciting twists and turns. Though it’s expected that Troi will survive the situation, it’s quite interesting to see how the story plays itself out and how she manages to return to the Enterprise. What’s not a given is that the secret cargo will make it to its destination, adding a layer of suspense that doesn’t involve the peril of one of the regular Star Trek: The Next Generation characters.
Marina Sirtis does a terrific job on this episode. She’s buried under Romulan make-up and a Romulan uniform much different than the sleek Starfleet uniforms viewers have become used to seeing her in. This hampers her use of body language, but she manages to convey her hesitation and confusion at her situation mainly using her eyes and the way she carries herself. It’s interesting to watch her go from confusion and indecision when she’s alone with N’Vek to the self-assuredness and arrogance she displays to Toreth.
Both Seymour and McDonald are excellent compliments to Sirtis in this situation. N’Vek seems to be able to think on his feet, something that has surely come in handy before when around the distrustful Toreth, whose personality I can best describe here is that of a lioness toying with her prey. She is immediately suspicious of the cover story of Rakal being a member of the Tal Shiar, but that organization is so feared among the Romulans, that she is afraid to act, lest she is wrong.
If there’s one fault, it’s that the rest of the cast beyond Sirtis isn’t given that much to do, and what they are doing is secondary to her story. Over the course of a season, it’s perfectly acceptable to have episodes that center on one character or another with little for the rest of the cast to do. This is why it is a forgivable problem in this case. When it comes to films, however, it’s generally unacceptable to continually focus on two of the characters and ignore the rest of the cast. This has been a problem time and time again with recent Star Trek films.
This is a terrific episode that showcases what most people enjoy about the series. It’s got terrific suspense and plenty of intrigue while driven primarily by great performances. Even if you never heard of Deanna Troi before in your life, you could watch this episode and enjoy it.
Previous episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – Ship in a Bottle
Next episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – Tapestry