Written by Rene Echevarria and Naren Shankar
Directed by Patrick Stewart
It was somewhat surprising that the second to last episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation focused not on a series regular, but on a character seen earlier in the series run who disappeared. The Bajoran Ro Laren was a unique Starfleet officer who had difficulty with authority but seemed to grow substantially under the guidance of Captain Picard.
Initially, she was to be the Bajoran on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. I don’t know the particulars, but for some reason the role ended up going to Nana Visitor who portrays Major Kira on that series. Fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation were left to wonder what had become of Ro, until Preemptive Strike.
There are already problems starting to be seen along the demilitarized zone with Cardassia. The Enterprise is going to a conference about the problems when the Bajoran Ro Laren (portrayed by Michelle Forbes), now a lieutenant, beams on board. It’s a homecoming of sorts for the former crewmember which is interrupted by a Maquis attack on a Cardassian vessel led by Gul Evek (portrayed by Richard Poe).
Ro is asked to infiltrate the Maquis. Picard makes the point that a few years ago no one would have asked her to do it. She responds that the reason she is going on the mission is to validate his faith in her.
After staging an escape from pursuit by the Klingon Worf (portrayed by Michael Dorn) and the android Data (portrayed by Brent Spiner), Ro is brought into a hideout of the Maquis. They believe she is being hunted for murdering a Cardassian. After her story checks out, she is brought into to group. When they need medical supplies, she goes on a mission with another member of the group and manages to steal them from the Enterprise.
Ro develops an almost father/daughter relationship with one of the Maquis, Macias (portrayed by John Franklyn-Robbins). The lines start to blur for her as Captain Picard asks her to lead them into a trap.
The Maquis suspect the Cardassians are bringing biogenic weaponry into the demilitarized zone for their colonists, all the while trying to placate the Federation and claim innocence. When the group is attacked by Cardassians in disguised, Macias is killed and begs Ro to take his place in the fight. Where will her loyalties fall when push comes to shove?
This is a story really for fans of the show. Someone new to the series won’t understand who Ro is or her background. She came onto the show as a potential new cast member and just grated everyone in the regular crew the wrong way. She spoke her mind without issue, even when it differed from what was the norm for the Starfleet mindset.
What really makes the story believable is of Ro’s background, which is stated here. She grew up in the Bajoran camps under Cardassian rule and watched her father murdered by them. However, her assimilation into the group does seem a little fast. It’s needed due to the fact this is a stand-alone episode that will last less than an hour, so it’s just something that has to do with suspending disbelief.
The acting by Michelle Forbes is terrific That she could go back into this role after her absence so easily and have people accept her back in the role is a testament to her abilities. She’s acerbic and uncomfortable, even now. Forbes plays her as a thinker who sees more areas of gray in the universe rather than accepting what’s “right” or “wrong” based on orders.
Patrick Stewart directed the episode, something hard to do when he does have a decent role in it. He is not quite the father figure to Ro that we see Macias become, and that’s really the differentiating factor. Picard is a respected superior where there is a breaking down of barriers and warmer relationship between the two. It’s that sense of belonging more than anything that seems to sway Ro toward defying Starfleet and Stewart plays it perfectly, both as an actor and a director. He captures the subtle difference for Ro very well, even if the situation feels forced.
There’s not much in the way of special effect, but what’s there is well done. The battle scenes between the Maquis and Cardassians are good.
Preemptive Strike also helps to give background to stories which will be further explored in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. It’s just a shame that the Ro character was never seen again. It would have been nice to see her turn up in some of the Maquis episodes that took place. Overall, this is a positive episode if a little surprising that it’s the second to last one for the series.