Episode #103: Ensign Ro

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Episode #103: Ensign Ro

Post  BoG on Mon Mar 15, 2010 9:26 pm

ENSIGN RO - episode #3 of 5th season / Air Date: 10/7/91
Directed by Les Landau; written by Michael Piller
Ro wears non-regulation earrings>
Her name is Ro Laren. She is properly addressed as "Ensign Ro" NOT "Ensign Laren" as Picard makes the mistake of doing. She makes sure he knows the right way. Ro has attitude to spare and represents a rare attempt by the writers to introduce a character with some edge on TNG, someone who doesn't indulge in the 'pleasant civilized talk' which dominated the series. It worked well in this case, helped in no small way by the performance of Michelle Forbes, making the first of several appearances on the show as Ro (check that: she had a small role as a different character in an earlier episode). She is also the first of the angry Bajorans we meet, later represented by Kira Nerys, a regular on DS9. Bajorans have strange ribbed noses but are essentially just like humans. This was also the episode which introduced the entire Bajoran-Cardassian conflict which, again, would continue to be on display all throughout the DS9 series.

The story of Bajor & Bajorans on TNG & DS9 can be distilled into this: about 60 years ago, their civilization was conquered and occupied by the nasty Cardassians, who are similar to TOS Klingons, being a military dictatorship. Many Bajorans were enslaved and/or placed in concentration camps. The Federation chose not to interfere in all this, as it was considered an internal matter. Only recently had the Cardassians decided to withdraw, leaving behind a devastated planet & people. Many Bajorans, like Ro, understandably have a lot of repressed anger. Ro, for example, watched her father get tortured to death when she was a young girl. Ro joined Starfleet but her career quickly took a nosedive when she was blamed for the deaths of several fellow crew members on an away mission. Ro has a reputation for insubordination - like disobeying orders. She was court-martialed and sent to prison.

The story picks up just after Ro's release; Admiral Kennelly (Cliff Potts) offered her a pardon in exchange for her help in tracking down Bajoran terrorists who have apparently attacked a Federation colony. Kennelly forces her on the crew of the Enterprise, none of whom wish to associate with someone they consider to be a disgrace. Ro truly seems to have been born under some unlucky star; she seems cursed to always find herself in awkward & tricky situations, usually gaining the enmity of all involved. However, she finds an unexpected friend on the Enterprise - Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg), the resident bartender. Guinan happens to be a close friend of Captain Picard; with such a connection, maybe Ro's fortunes will finally change for the better. But, don't bet on it.

Some of the mission involves visiting a Bajoran settlement, a taste of poverty and hopelessness in the 24th century. Much of this story and backdrop has parallels to the Nazi persecution of the Jews during WWII and before; the Cardassians resemble the Nazi while the Bajorans are much like the Jews. In our actual history, for example, many turned a blind eye to or made a cautious decision to ignore what was going on in Germany - that it was not the business of other nations. Likewise, the Federation, years back, reasoned that what was going on was happening within Cardassian borders and that there could be no interference. Many Bajorans feel that this is a convenient rationalization.

As already inferred, the strength of this episode is just watching Forbes as Ro develop into one of the most interesting characters on TNG, in a relatively short span of time. We find out that there's a lot of sadness and hardship in Ro's background and Forbes manages to convey a fully-rounded character, in deceptively simple scenes such as where she stares at a small Bajoran girl - herself about 20 years earlier. Starfleet represents hope for her, of a sort, but she just can't let go of all the rage; we don't blame her. There was also some interesting politicking and intrigue informing the episode's plot, but it's the story of Ro that really holds our attention. She next appeared in the episode Disaster. BoG's Score: 8 out of 10

TNG Trivia: Michelle Forbes previously played another minor character in the episode Half a Life; the producers were impressed with her performance in that episode and offered her the role of Ro. Scenes of the Bajoran encampment were filmed in Bronson Canyon, also used in the episode Darmok.

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