10/11/14

Star Trek: Asterisk "Ensign Ro"

Vital Information
Series: The Next Generation
Episode: S05E03
Air Date: October 7, 1991
Written by: Rick Berman & Michael Piller
Directed by: Les Landau

Premise
A strong-willed Bajoran ensign is taken out of jail to help complete a mission, but not the one Picard thinks they're completing.

Recap
The day starts with a haircut. You don't normally think about Picard needing a haircut, but there he is, with what little hair he has, getting it cut by Mot, the barber. Mot is very talkative and very opinionated when it comes to Starfleet tactics. Picard just wants it to be over with. He seems to be more uncomfortable with Mot than he is with children. Finally, Riker calls in with an emergency. A distress call from a Solarion IV. Mot knew they shouldn't have colonized that planet. It's so close to the Cardassian border.

Before they get to the planet, a Bajoran terrorist group sends a message in audio only claiming responsibility for the attack. The Cardassians annexed the Bajoran about forty years ago, and they've been having problems with Bajoran terrorists ever since, but this would be the first time Bajorans have attacked a Federation colony. So Picard meets with Admiral Kennelly who's sniffing up a storm from a cold he caught from a Cardassian earlier. Kennelly orders Picard to take Ro Laren along with him on the mission to find Orta, the leader of the Bajoran terrorists, even though the ensign had to be taken out of prison to help. Kennelly thinks she'll be a good asset.
The resting bitchface is strong with this one.
Ensign Ro seems unhappy about her plight even though she's out of prison. She reveals rather curtly that Bajoran names have the family name ahead of the birth name, therefore Ro Laren is properly addressed as Ensign Ro. In a staff meeting, she says their plan to contact Jas Holza to find out where Orta is is stupid, and they should, instead, look up Keeve Falor. When they find him on Valo II, they find exactly how devastated the Cardassians have left the Bajorans. The colony there is like a third world country with children starving and cold and people just barely eeking out a living. Keeve says he won't help Picard because while the Cardassians were bringing Bajor to their knees, Starfleet just stood by and watched. Because Prime Directive. But when Picard orders his crew to help the colony with supplies and food, Keeve is a little more helpful.

Back on the Enterprise, Laren drinks alone in 10-Forward. After learning about Laren from Geordi, Guinan goes to her table intent on making a new friend. Laren pushes back at first, but Guinan has a way of getting into people's business. Later, in her quarters, Laren receives a transmission from Admiral Kennelly. It reminds me of Vader talking to the Emperor. "All is going according to plan!" When it's time to transport to Keeve's coordinates to meet with Orta, Picard finds that Ensign Ro has already gone six hours ago. They go down to find her, and discover she is with Keeve and Orta already. Orta reveals heavy scarring on his face and vocal cords given to him by Cardassians. He says his terrorist group is not responsible for the attack on the Federation colony and lets everyone go... but Laren is still in deep trouble.
"What's the matter? All I did was disobey orders!"
Picard sends Ensign Ro to her room because she left the ship without authorization. While she's there, Guinan comes back to talk to her. Guinan observes that Ro doesn't know who to trust. And through the course of conversation, convinces her that Picard, who is the one man who came to her aid in the past, is someone Ro could trust now. Guinan escorts Ensign Ro to the ready room despite orders that she stay in her quarters, and insists that she needs to talk with Picard. Picard doesn't like his orders being broken, but when Guinan refers to Ro as a "friend," he understands the urgency. Guinan is very selective about who she calls a friend. They talk and Ro reveals that Admiral Kennelly sent her on a mission separate from Picard's mission. When she went to meet Orta, it wasn't without authorization, it was with Kennelly's authorization. He wanted to make a deal with Orta; if he stopped attacking the Federation, Kennelly would send him supplies for their war against the Cardassians. Which is completely against the Prime Directive.

This changes things. Orta was clearly incapable of carrying out these attacks. So Picard decides to use him to find who the real attackers were. He escorts one of his ships transporting his guys to another planet. While doing this, two Cardassian ships show up and demand to be able to destroy the "terrorist" ship. Picard denies that there will be any terrorist action today, and requests that they be allowed to carry out their escort mission. Unfortunately, Admiral Kennelly shows up in a private transmission and tells Picard to hand the terrorists over to the Cardassians. Under direct orders, Picard moves aside, and the ship is blown to bits by the Cardassians. Kennelly calls back and asks if all hands were lost. Picard says no. Survivors? No, there wasn't anyone on that ship at all!
You just got Picardded!
Picard reveals the Cardassian plot to Kennelly, saying they were the ones who attacked the Federation colony, hoping that someone gullible enough, someone like him, would bring the Federation to their side. And now that Kennelly has broken the Prime Directive, he'll probably be court martialed. Meanwhile, back on the surface of Valo II, Picard tries to convince Ro Laren to join back up with Starfleet. Laren is hesitant, she thinks she has more to teach Starfleet than Starfleet has to teach her, but Picard insists that some of the best officers he'd worked with thought the same thing. Ro agrees to join, but under one condition: that she wear her Bajoran ceremonial earring. Picard smiles in agreement, and orders that the two of them be beamed up.

Review
Oh, what a tangled web Kennelly was attempting to weave. Too bad about that whole going-up-against-the-Enterprise thing which never works. This was a pretty great episode, and I like to think that Ensign Ro could be a fine replacement for both Wesley and Tasha. To be honest, though, I don't remember a whole lot about her. Apparently she stays on the ship for at least this season... this must have been a season I missed most of. She isn't my favorite character, to be honest, but she has what it takes to be part of the beloved crew. This also establishes an important dynamic between the Cardassians and the Bajorans which will be critical in Deep Space Nine, so this is definitely not an episode to skip. Thumbs up!