Mar 29 2013 3:00pm

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Preemptive Strike”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch  on Preemptive Strike“Preemptive Strike”
Written by Naren Shankar and Rene Echevarria
Directed by Patrick Stewart
Season 7, Episode 24
Production episode 40276-276
Original air date: May 16, 1994
Stardate: 47941.7

Captain’s Log: The Enterprise is headed to a briefing on the situation in the Demilitarized Zone and also welcomes Ro back on board, as she has just completed Starfleet Advanced Tactical Training and been promoted to a full lieutenant. She’s a bit overwhelmed by the welcome-home party.

Upon receiving a distress call from a Cardassian ship, the Enterprise diverts and has to rescue the Cardassians from the Maquis. (Riker comments on the ridiculousness of firing on Federation ships to defend a Cardassian ship.) They’re able to drive the Maquis off and provide medical assistance to Gul Evek and his crew. Picard and Evek trade frustrations over the situation in sickbay, and then Picard meets with Admiral Nechayev. The Maquis’ ranks are growing, and they seem to be preparing for a military posture rather than simple self-defense against Cardassians who’ve harassed them in the DMZ.

They also don’t know where the Maquis actually are, and they need an undercover operative. Conveniently, they have the perfect person on board: Ro, who has just completed tac training, is Bajoran, and has a rough enough history that her cover story will be convincing. Ro accepts the assignment, mainly to validate Picard’s faith in her.

Ro shows up at a bar in the DMZ, followed shortly by Worf and Data who claim to be looking for her, saying she’s responsible for the death of a Cardassian soldier. A human says that she was there, but she just left. Worf and Data leave and Ro thanks the man, whose name is Santos. Santos then stuns her and brings her to a Maquis camp. Santos, along with two others, Macias and Kalita, interrogate her. The story is a mix of truth (her childhood, her prison sentence) and fiction (that she killed a Cardassian soldier, that she’s AWOL from Starfleet). Kalita and Santos check her story out while Macias shows her the camp and tells his story. He lived on Juhraya where Cardassian soldiers dragged him from his bed and beat him.

Her story checks out, and they welcome her to the ranks.

After a few days, they hear that the Cardassians are supplying Pendi II with biogenic weapons to be used on the Maquis. They need to make a strike, but they need medical supplies to treat the wounded following the strike. Ro offers to steal supplies from the Enterprise, which Macias agrees to, but Kalita insists on accompanying her, as she doesn’t entirely trust their new recruit yet.

Ro is able to spoof the sensor buoys on the border so they can traverse the border to Federation space without being searched. Then they go to the Topin system, which is filled with various bits of interference that make communications and sensors all but useless, and send out a distress call, claiming to be a science vessel. The Enterprise responds to the call, as Ro expected, and she’s able to penetrate the ship’s shields and beam the medical supplies from Cargo Bay 7. A piggybacked comm signal alerts Worf that she’s on board, so Picard has them play along to let them take the supplies and escape.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch  on Preemptive Strike

That mission gives Ro the Maquis’ trust, so she’s able to meet with Picard. They plan to give the Maquis a target: supply false evidence of those biogenic weapons they’re worried about and lead them into a trap. Ro is having a bit of trouble with betraying people she’s come to care about, especially Macias.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch  on Preemptive Strike

Three Cardassians ambush the camp and just start shooting indiscriminately. Macias is among those killed, and Ro is devastated. She later meets with Picard at the same bar where she was recruited insisting he cancel the mission. She’s getting cold feet, but Picard makes it clear that the mission needs to be completed. He sends Riker back with her to make sure she carries it out. (Riker is given Bajoran nose ridges and an earring, and poses as a relative of Ro’s. This is hilarious given what happened in “Conundrum”...)

The convoy goes into position and the Maquis move to attack it as expected. Ro, however, pulls a phaser on Riker and exposes the Starfleet task force hiding out in a nearby nebula. The Maquis pull out and Ro beams away to stay with them, telling Riker that she’s sorry she let Picard down.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch  on Preemptive Strike

Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity?: The Topin system is full of plot-convenient interference that makes it easy for Ro and Kalita to be all covert and stuff. Though the plan would never have worked without Picard and the gang’s cooperation.

There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: When rescuing Evek’s ship, Picard asks Worf if he can detonate torpedoes between the Maquis ships and the Cardassian ship—which he does, a rather fine piece of needle-threading with high explosives. Because he’s just that awesome.

No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: Ro grabs a random stranger and kisses him in the bar so Worf and Data won’t notice her when she starts her mission. Later, she and Picard pretend to be making out in a corner of the bar while having a clandestine meeting. (Which means Sir Patrick Stewart got to direct himself making pretend nookie with a hot chick. It’s good to be king...)

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch  on Preemptive Strike

In the Driver’s Seat: Ro relieves Ensign Gates at conn during the rescue of Evek’s ship.

I Believe I Said That: “When an old fighter like me dies, someone always steps forward to take his place.”

Macias’s last words.

Welcome Aboard: Michelle Forbes returns as Ro for the first time since the sixth season’s “Rascals,” and we find out what the character’s been doing all this time.

Richard Poe and Natalija Nogulich return as Evek and Nechayev, respectively—those two were also in “Journey’s End” and “The Maquis” on Deep Space Nine. Both actors will appear again in the same roles on DS9, Poe in “Tribunal,” Nogulich in “The Search Part 2.”

Shannon Cochran makes the first of two appearances as Kalita; she’ll play the role again in DS9’s “Defiant.” Cochran will also play Martok’s wife Sirella in DS9’s “You Are Cordially Invited...” and Romulan Senator Tal’Aura in Star Trek Nemesis.

William Thomas Jr. gets to be mildly slimy as Santos, John Franklyn-Robbins gets to be paternal as Macias, and Sam Alejan gets to be kissed by Michelle Forbes as the guy the in the bar.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch  on Preemptive Strike

Trivial Matters: Ro’s career in the Maquis will be chronicled in various novels and comics: Rogue Saucer and the Dominion War novels Behind Enemy Lines and Tunnel Through the Stars, all by John Vornholt; Wrath of the Prophets by Peter David, Robert Greenberger, & Michael Jan Friedman; and Marvel’s Star Trek: The Next Generation Special #1 by Dan Abnett & Ian Edginton and Andrew Currie. After the Dominion War, Ro would wind up joining the Bajoran Militia and serving as Odo’s replacement as security chief on Deep Space 9 starting in the novel Avatar by S.D. Perry and continuing in the assorted DS9 post-finale novels that have been published since 2001. Ro has, over the course of several novels, rejoined Starfleet when Bajor became part of the Federation (Unity, also by Perry), and became executive officer and then commanding officer of DS9 (Rough Beasts of Empire by David R. George III). She currently holds the rank of captain.

This episode continues the storyline begun in “Journey’s End” and continued in “The Maquis” two-parter on DS9, intended to set up the Maquis and the upcoming spinoff series Voyager. The lieutenant commander Ro refers to who joined the Maquis was intended to be a reference to Chakotay, the eventual first officer on Voyager.

In the bar, we see a human of Native ancestry, a Klingon, and a dark-skinned Vulcan all near each other, a nice little preview of the bridge crew of Chakotay’s Maquis cell (Chakotay, Torres, and Tuvok) in the Voyager premiere episode “Caretaker.”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch  on Preemptive Strike

Nechayev makes reference to Picard providing her with canapés in “Journey’s End.”

This is Sir Patrick Stewart’s last time in the director’s chair, and the only one of his five directorial endeavors that did not have a heavy focus on the character of Data.

Make it So: “Goodbye, Will.” The last regular episode gives us the last of the recurring character sendoffs (Barclay in “Genesis,” Wes in “Journey’s End,” and Alexander in “Firstborn”), as Ro returns and immediately defects. Oopsie.

As part of the ongoing efforts of the writing staffs of both TNG and DS9 to give us the Maquis conflict that provides the spine of Voyager’s setup, this works nicely. Seeing a character we actually know and care about being seduced to the Maquis is an even more effective stratagem than some guy we’ve never met but who we’re told is an old friend of the lead (the Cal Hudson character in “The Maquis” on DS9, who’s a buddy of Sisko’s; it doesn’t help that the ever-mediocre Bernie Casey played Hudson). Ro’s the perfect character for this, too, as she’s never been entirely comfortable as a Starfleet officer, and as a refugee from the Bajoran camps, she’s got plenty of animus against the Cardassians.

But the story itself plods a bit. The beats are all depressingly predictable and obvious. Santos and Kalita are ciphers, Macias practically wears a neon sign that says “FATHER FIGURE” on his forehead, and everything proceeds exactly as you’d expect, particularly Macias’s oh-so-telegraphed death. It doesn’t help that Echevarria’s script is uncharacteristically clunky (much of the dialogue is flat and expository rather than conversational, even more so than is usual for TNG), and Stewart’s direction remains as lifeless as ever.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch  on Preemptive Strike

What makes the episode work are two performances. One is by the venerable John Franklyn-Robbins, who takes the walking talking cliché of Macias and makes him warm and convincing. Yes, he’s a bog-standard character whose dialogue can be seen a mile off, but Franklyn-Robbins’s warm smile and avuncular mien are eminently likable.

The other is by Michelle Forbes, who ends a nifty little character arc that began with her eponymous episode in season 5 and progressed nicely to this, where she comes full circle: once again making a decision that puts her on the outs with Starfleet. Forbes inhabits the character so completely, from her awkwardness at the reception in her honor to her playing the role of rebel, to her pain at thinking about her father (though that scene is one of the worst in the script, as just the mention of a musical instrument sends her into a tear-filled reminisce), to her decision to betray Starfleet and the Enterprise.

My main disappointment with the episode is that it focuses so much on Ro’s relationship with Picard that it ignores her relationship with Riker—though at least those two are paired up for Ro’s final scene. I love how Jonathan Frakes plays it—he doesn’t make any kind of effort to stop her, or even talk her out of it. He knows better than to try.

It’s a good sendoff for a character who deserved a great one.


Warp factor rating: 6

Keith R.A. DeCandido wishes them that celebrate a fine Passover or a good Easter. For the rest of us, well, we can just enjoy our weekend....

Mike Kelmachter
1. MikeKelm
I'd think you summed it up well.. it's a good, but not a great send off for Ro Laren. I like that they retconned where she's been for the last year since she sort of just vanished, but the episode just sort of clunked along. It's one of those episodes (Like Descent for example) that some outside group has some plot going on that unless the Enterprise is involved probably wouldn't work.

I do in general like the Maquis episodes though- I always have had issues with the "Federation is paradise" notion that seems rampant in earlier seasons and that there are in fact people who are just marginally (or not) getting by or who are dissatisfied. However, the Maquis here are a little too trusting. Woman walks into a bar and tells a story and voila, she's immediately 100% trusting? Sounds like just about anyone with nose ridges could join this organization- why is Starfleet having so much trouble infiltrating them?

Overall though, Michelle Forbes is awesome as Ro (as always) and makes me wish we had seen far more of her. She is so unlike the rest of the cast that it makes things far more interesting.
2. Don3Comp
@ MikeKelm: I find your "federation is paradise" comment interesting when one notices that two of the send-off episodes--"Journey's End" and this one--end with a character rejecting Starfleet, with neither Picard nor Riker putting up much argument.

@ KRAD: As amusing as I always find your "because he's/she's just that awesome" line whenever a character accomplishes an allegedly improbable feat, I also take some issue with it, at least in this instance: Worf is a Starfleet-trained tactical officer on the flagship of the fleet, and he's had nearly seven years on the job. I don't find his level of skill with the torpedoes implausible. To paraphrase a song from "Camelot," "impossible deeds should be (a Starfleet Officer's) daily fare."

Re the line "when an old fighter like me dies, someone steps forward to take his place:" a nice metaphor for TNG ending and Voyager beginning a few months later?
3. Laura Matthews2
This first aired when my daughter was four. At the last moment, when Picard is speechlessly seething in his office as Riker gives him the final report, the camera focused on Picard's face. My little girl turned to me and said, "He angry, Mommy."

To me that remains one of the best Trek moments. Gave me chills, and even a four-year-old got it.
4. Jeremy Marr
I have not been able to find copies of most of the post-finale DS9 novels...if Ro Laren has command of DS9 now, what happened to Kira Nerys? (I have most of them up to and including David Mack's Warpath, with a few gaps here and there. I know she gets an artificial heart at some point...)
Christopher Bennett
5. ChristopherLBennett
Worth noting that John Franklyn-Robbins was one of the first actors to appear in both Star Trek and Doctor Who; he played a Time Lord in the classic "Genesis of the Daleks" in 1975. Apparently the first was Barrie Ingham, who was Danilo O'Dell in "Up the Long Ladder" after having played two characters in DW (including Paris of Troy); the second was Maurice Roëves, a Romulan captain in TNG: "The Chase" and Stotz in DW: "The Caves of Androzani"; and Franklyn-Robbins was third. There have been quite a few since, notably Simon Pegg. (Memory Alpha and the DW Wiki both claim that an actor named Gregg Palmer, who had an uncredited role in TOS: "Spectre of the Gun" in 1968, was the same person as the Gregg Palmer who appeared in a few DW episodes in 1966 & 1969, but that seems unlikely and DW isn't listed in Palmer's IMDb filmography, so I'd call that unconfirmed.)
6. RobinM
I figured this is where Ro would end up and soon as the writers created the Maquis to fight the Cardassians and sent Ro in undercover. It was practially tailor made for a rebellious Bajoran. Ro is the most rebellious contrary Bajoran we know. This episode works as a send off for the character as does the fact she ends up on DS9 in the tie-in fiction.
7. Renard
Geoffrey Palmer OBE ewas the actor in the two Dr. Who episodes attributed to American actor Gregg Palmer.
Keith DeCandido
8. krad
Jeremy: Kira left Starfleet to take Bajoran religious orders, becoming a Vedek.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
9. And Here The Wheel
It's funny, I have been wating for you to come to this episode for a while because its one I remember, yet when I read it the sequence of events wasn't quite what I remebered. For example I had always remembered that it was Picard's idea that Ro could sneak through the shields.

It was probably twenty years ago that I watched the episode though so that might explain a few things . . .
Christopher Bennett
10. ChristopherLBennett
By the way, for some reason this post isn't showing up on the site's "Latest Posts" listing on the right side of the screen, even though more recent posts are showing up there.
Dante Hopkins
11. DanteHopkins
I always thought the lieutenant commander Ro was referring to was Cal Hudson, but having the reference be Chakotay makes sense to set up the upcoming series Voyager. I always enjoyed this one, cliches and all. Macias was such a warm genuine character, and his interactions with Ro make you feel the warmth between them. Made me wonder how any other officer in Ro's place, seeing Macias brutallly murdered in front of their eyes, would have been willing to betray the Maquis group anymore than Ro was. For the penultimate episode of TNG, it had great unexpected, yet somewhat expected twists, given that Ro Laren was at the center. Thoroughly enjoyable, I'd give it a 7.
This is possibly the only season 7 episode that I remember hating when it first aired, and yet enjoyed quite a bit on this re-watch. I think a 6 is being a little harsh, I think this is strong 7, light 8-ish.

And I HATE the Maquis. I hate the bajorans. To counter the MikeKelms of the world, I love the TOS, early TNG federation that was likable and always the good guy, and something that I myself would like to join. Not the beaurocratic UN-style a-holes they become in late TNG-DS9. I will freely admit that it is more dramatic, but I really have a hard time watching this "more real" Star Trek.

Plus i have stated many times that I find the correlation intersting that when Trek started pulling away just a bit from that rosy-roddenberry esque federation (5th Season TNG), also seems to be when people generally feel trek started to lose a step.

I think this is very simple, the reason roddenberry ST works is because it is a future you WANT to be in. I love DS9, but I would NEVER want to be on that terrible war torn space station for half a day! I am very serious in that critisicm of post-Roddenberry trek.
Dylan Maddalena
13. Thor-roboT
Ro Laren deserved a really good send off and I don't see why every one is so ready to pounce on this as a bad one. They play along like they've done so many times before (like with LaForge and the Pacleds {sp?}) when Ro tried to punch through the sheilds of the Enterprise. And having her make the deceision to leave with Riker riding shotgun is great! Particularly BECAUSE of their recent one-on-one history. I agree, the fact Riker doesn't put up a fight, mostly because he knows it would be pointless, is all I needed as far as a nod to their relationship.

There was a fair amount of telegraphing but a lot of good stuff too. I particularly LOVE that Picard walks out as soon as she walk into her party, then calls her into the hallway... Saving her from social anxiety. Man I wish I had more friends like that.
Is it me, or is Admiral Necheyev looking a lot better at this point? ..Or is it just that she's finally treating Picard with a little kindness? Like it would have killed her to go a little easier on the brotha sometime sooner...
And so I guess the Cardassians DID, in fact, make biogenic weapons after all. I have to admit, I'm a TNG superfan, but it doesn't extend past this and TOS. This means I'm not as versed in the plots and politics of the books, comics, DS9 or Voyager. This is the 1st mention of it I've heard since Picard was plucked out of his command and sent on that random mission (with 2 other main characters, instead of actual experts in espionage)
Its a tough thing for Picard. He spent a lot of time and energy advocating for Ro and for this "other" older guy steps in and in a week, has her wrapped around his finger, mostly by playing on that void that was created by the loss of her father. It is, after all, hard in space for a single girl. Once he's dead though, why doesn't she fall back on the only other person in the galaxy that's supported her? I realize she feels like she "belongs" with the fighters, but years of uphill climbing SHOULD be enough to rid her of the childish impulsivness she showed early on. But as Star Trek likes to remind us, we're only human.

I can't wait for the final eposides. I'm also bummed I stumbled onto this rewatch only weeks ago. Fortunately I've been wathching the show a lot anyway. Just because.
14. MDS
Certainly not one of TNG's best episodes, but I still enjoyed it and was glad to see Ro one final time in the series. Both Ro as a character and Forbes as an actress have always stood out for me. Ro was truly different from the rest of the TNG command staff. I always liked her abrasive and angry attitude. It created some good conflict in most of the stories she was in.

I also liked Ro's more militaristic style compared to the other TNG officers. In some ways, she's even more martial than Worf. That would make sense, given her harsh upbringing and watching her father tortured to death.

As for Forbes - she brought a great intensity and anger to the character that was believable and well-nuanced. I always regretted that Forbes didn't accept the spot on the DS9 series. Recently, I had also read that she was offered a spot on Voyager as well. I can see why the producers wanted her back - she's a competent actor.
15. Ginomo
Nooooo, it's almost over! What am I supposed to do with the next two years of my life??
Keith DeCandido
16. krad
Ginomo: follow my rewatch of Deep Space Nine? :)

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
17. Ashcom
Any TNG episode is instantly made 50% better by the incluion of Ro Laren.

It's a shame the send-off wasn't better, but it was still very good in my opinion. And it is more a symptom of the show format than any fault of the writers or producers. The story had to play out over 43 minutes, which kind of forces the writers back on situations people know and understand rather than having to provide reams and reams of exposition. It's a shame that the episodic nature of TNG means that this could not have been played out as a story arc over a number of shows, which would have allowed for much more depth to the story.
18. Bob A
Yep, right on the button, Krad... Forbes is the best reason for re-watching this episode. Was so glad they cast her in the BSG rework... although Admiral Cain was only in two episodes and later the mini-film "Razor" ... truly talented actor. Would have liked to have seen her on a more permanent role in the ST universe.
Joseph Newton
19. crzydroid
@17: I don't think leaving Ro out of "Rascals" could've made it any worse.
20. MDS
Yeah, Forbes as Cain on BSG. It gives me the chills just writing the Admiral's name.

A truly evil character that Forbes played with such depth that, while I could never sympathize with someone that evil, I didn't end up hating her completely. As despicable as Cain got, Forbes was able to bring complexity to a role that could've easily been played as a cliche or stereotype.

Back to Ro - thanks to this Re-Watch, I'm now planning to acquire the Trek novels that follow Ro's career post-TNG. Ididn't know that she continues on in Trek novels, and I'm especially pleased that she eventually reconciles with Starfleet and becomes DS9's commander, years later.

Another source of interesting Ro stories, albeit FanFic, is Gina Dartt's take on Voyager. She surmises that one of the Maquis that boards Voyager right from the beginning is Ro with a pseudonym. Dartt is a superb writer and a published mystery novelist in her own right. She really captures Ro's voice and presence. Be warned that her FanFic can be adult in nature.
Christopher Bennett
21. ChristopherLBennett
@20: Ugh, I just hate what the BSG revival did with Cain, and Forbes couldn't save it. People say the new series was so much smarter than the original, but the original's Cain was a nuanced, complex, ambiguous character while the revival version was just a one-note psychopath. It's the one thing where the original show's version was just plain smarter and better than the remake's.

About the Ro novels and comics, be aware that the DS9 post-finale novels don't acknowledge any of the earlier ones and contradict several of them. So they don't offer a consistent version of her post-TNG career, but more like a variety of different possibilities.
22. MDS
It's true that the rebooted BSG Cain was pyschopathic! Especially in her three episode appearances ("Pegasus", "Resurrection Ship Pt I" & "PtII" during the Season 2.

There's quite a bit more depth to Cain's character that's revealed in the Razor movie though. Especially the extended DVD version. It certainly doesn't excuse Cain, but the viewer gets to see how a person travels down the path of evil.
Christopher Bennett
23. ChristopherLBennett
@22: I disagree -- Razor made Admiral Cain far less complex. It didn't show anything about "traveling down the path" -- she was a psychopath from the very beginning. At least before that damn movie came out, we could believe that Cain and her crew only gradually degenerated in their ethics due to months of horror and despair. But instead, in the movie, they were completely one-note characters. Cain was just as much a psychopath before the invasion as she was in "Pegasus." And her crew sank to the same brutal depths at the very first opportunity, quite soon after the invasion, rather than starting out better and only gradually descending to that level. It was one-dimensional writing that robbed the characters of any trace of complexity or depth. There was no explanation of why or how they came to be that way; they were just arbitrarily that awful at the first opportunity, for no other reason than shock value. Razor retroactively made the other Cain/Pegasus episodes even worse by stripping away any nuance they might otherwise have been believed to have.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
24. Lisamarie
I was all excited to get to this episode, but now I'm sad, because it means the re-watch is almost over :(

But...anyway...really liked the episode, it was a breath of fresh air after some of the others. And I was really half expecting Ro to stay with the Enterprise because that's how these kinds of shows usually work, so it was actually kind of a cool ending to me that she didn't.
Chin Bawambi
25. bawambi
I liked this one. Didn't love it though mainly due to the problems that Keith had with it. 6 or 7 seems about right.
26. Anthony Pirtle
I quite liked this episode, mostly for the performances by Forbes, Stewart, and Franklyn-Robbins. It may be predictably written, but it's a much better final episode for a recurring character than we got for most of the other returning characters this season (Lore, Hugh, Noonian Soong, Lwaxana Troi, Wesley Crusher, The Traveler, Alexander, DaiMon Bok). Only Q and Ensign Sito Jaxa have better sendoffs. I'd give it a 7.

I've always thought it would have been awesome to have Ro end up on Voyager as the Maquis leader rather than creating Chakotay, but I'm sure heads would have exploded if both the Captain AND first officer were women of the female persuasion.

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