Preemptive Strike (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season 7, Episode 24) Lt. Ro’s loyalties are tested during an undercover mission

Rewatching ST:TNG

The newly promoted Lt. Ro, overwhelmed at a surprise “welcome back from tactical school” party, is disappointed when she sees Picard leaving. When it turns out he did so only so he could order her to report to him (and thus give her an excuse to leave the party), she’s grateful. 

After a brief action sequence introducing the Maquis raiders (Federation civilians and former Starfleet officers who oppose the recent armistice with the Cardassians), we get another visit from Nechayev, who Admiral-splains the context for this episode: Starfleet wants Ro to infiltrate a Maquis cell.

Picard expresses sympathy for the civilians in the Demilitarized Zone, but argues “the peace treaty isn’t just a piece of paper” (a surprisingly anachronistic figure of speech).

Ro, in civilian clothes, nervously enters a seedy dive bar. Data and Worf announce they are looking for a Bajoran woman who killed a Cardassian. This is enough for the local Maquis cell to bring Ro into their ranks.

The middle third of the episode follows Ro as she stages a raid against the Enterprise to steal medical supplies and earn the trust of the rebels. 

When Picard asks her to lead the rebels into a trap. She’s clearly torn between her sympathy with the rebel cause, and her respect for Picard. 

In the civilian settlement, Ro bonds with the fatherly Macias, talking about traditional Bajoran food and telling him stories about her father.  Can you guess what the three cloaked figures we see strolling through the settlement end up doing to Ro’s new mentor? How will that development affect Ro’s motivations?

Undercover, Picard shows up at the seedy bar, and pretends to negotiate for Ro’s companionship, while she tells him she wants to cancel the mission, and he gets suspicious. Picard is threatening to court martial her if she sabotages the mission, while they are holding hands and stroking each other’s faces, as part of their role-playing, I can see why the scene would look good in the script, but Ro and Picard are supposed to be military officers, not trained actors who know how to make their spoken words and their body language give wildly conflicting messages. I felt like I was watching an acting exercise.

These past few years I think I really appreciated the core optimism in Star Trek, and so I have mixed feelings about the less idealized, more pragmatic vision of Starfleet that TNG introduced as its final season winds down, as part of the setup for Deep Space Nine and Voyager. Nevertheless, I appreciate the continuity and the world-building, and Ro’s character arc was satisfying.