TNG: S5E03: “Ensign Ro”

In which Picard gets a haircut, a project, and a clue. 

"By the Great Bird of the Galaxy, why am I even here?"

“By the Great Bird of the Galaxy, why am I even here?”

Picard is getting a haircut.

With scissors.

His barber maybe discussing the ‘man in the corridor’ opinion on the whole Romulan/Klingon debacle, but he doesn’t believe his barber has the same depth of insight as his bartender. Picard is, however, called away to deal with an issue on the Cardassian border, which the barber also has… opinions… about.

As it turns out, it’s the Barjorans who claim responsibility for the Federation outpost being attacked. Sounds like a bunch of terrorists, although they claim their justification is that they are without their homeland, so I’m sure there’s some wiggle room on the terrorist/freedom fighter scale.

Also of note, I just noticed that the intro titles now have the spiffy warp lines. They were there on Darmok too, now that I go back and check. This is an unimportant observation, except in that it indicates a bigger syndication budget and thus more nuanced effects on a more regular basis.

I would like to live there please.

I would like to live there please.

Lya station is of the Earth Spacedock model – huge orbiting city with a mushroom cap that can fit dozens of starships. Evidently, this is a fairly important hub. The admiral in charge has picked up some kind of cross-species cold from a Cardassian liason and picard is treating with ginger tea, which is opaque for some reason. However, that is not actually as important as the cosmo-political history of the Cardassian/Bajoran conflict.

The Cardassians have annexed the Bajoral homeworld forty years ago, and have been dealing with terrorists ever since. A new Bajoran terrorist leader is upping their game by going after the Federation. The Bajorans are refugees, chased out of their own planets and the subjects of diaspora. Despite all the hand-wringing the Federation has done about their plight, though, ultimately it’s all about status quo, and Picard is tasked with chasing down the terrorist leader Orta, in exchange for using diplomatic channels to resolve the Bajoran occupation. Picard points out that since this has been going on for 40 years, a radical guerrilla fighter is unlikely to be swayed by platitudes, but you don’t get to sit in the big chair without admirals handing you stupid assignments.

Also, a new officer is about to beam aboard, an apparently notorious one with a sordid service record. In fact, so sordid that Picard tries to refuse to allow her to serve. The admiral insists, because if she doesn’t serve on the Enterprise for this mission then getting her out of prison was a waste of effort. I shouldn’t need to mention that this is relevant because she’s Bajoran, and also the Federation does, in fact, have prisons. I guess the research into the rehabilitation chair must have stalled out.

"Don't start with me, Beardy McDisapprovingGlare. I've seen things."

“Don’t start with me, Beardy McDisapprovingGlare. I’ve seen things.”

Ro Larren has been aboard the Enterprise for a quarter of a second and is already done with Riker’s attitude. Also he makes her remove her earrings because of Starfleet Uniform Code, which seems remarkably selective given what Troi gets away with wearing. Or Worf’s sash, for that matter. Or maybe Riker is just selectively applying it because she just got out of prison and hasn’t earned her Piece of Flair.

Ensign Ro is brusque when correcting Picard about how Bajoran names work (Ro is the family name, Larren is the given name) and is only here because it’s better than prison, and Riker is so pissed about this he forgets that he’s been a good XO for the past four years and acts like a bully. This is one of those times where I wish I could watch this for the first time again, because I can’t be objective about whether he’s actually acting like a jerk here or if she started it somehow.

In conference, Ro rolls her eyes when they discuss the regional leader they’re going to meet because they’re basically meeting a diplomatic figurehead nobody cares about. She does point them to someone who has standing in the community, Keeve, but she’s so dour about the chances of a happy outcome that she has Worf looking positively bubbly by comparison.

"Life sucks, kid."

“Life sucks, kid.”

The Bajoran civilization is so ancient that they had a utopia before Homo sapiens sapiens existed. Now, little children wander around in rags and Ro gives one of them her jacket. Her lesson in etiquette, brusque though it was, has helped Picard make a good first impression. But the local leader is not willing to help, since the Federation hasn’t lifted a finger to help for forty years ‘cuz principles. Of course, now that they’ve been attacked it becomes officially a Federation problem, now they can help. You can hardly blame Keeve for suddenly realizing they should have bombed the Federation ages ago.

Picards counter is that now that the Federation has a treaty with the Federation Cardassians, they’re finally in a position to do something, but Keeve isn’t at all impressed. He’s slightly more amenable when Picard bribes him with blankets and supplies. It perfectly illustrates the gulf between life on a Federation flagship and lief outside the Federation. The emergency needs of an entire refugee camp are two sentences for Picard and could have been met any time the Federation actually bothered to ask what was needed.

Keeve eventually gives Picard directions on how to find the terrorist Orta, and Larren rejects overtures from Beverly and Deanna. Also, Geordi is complaining about Ro to Guinan, who goes over to check out the only other person with sufficient quantities of attitude.

Her reputation is because at Garon II, she didn’t follow some orders and eight people died. She was court-martialed, didn’t defend herself, and went to prison. She refuses to elaborate, but given the guilt that she’s carrying around there’s probably more to that story. We might hear about it on this call she’s about to get. Or not – apparently she’s a spy for the admiral that assigned her here. Dun dun dunnnnnn.

Next day, Ro has beamed down ahead of the rest of the landing party and will wonders never cease, when Picard, Data, Worf, and Troi beam down after her, they have their phasers in hand. I wonder how many away teams got ambushed before they figured it out. It doesn’t stop Picard and Worf from getting captured by Bajorans with rifles, but at least when they dropped their phasers it was intentional.

"But Larren - fear can turn to love. You'll learn to see, to find the man behind the monster, this... repulsive carcass who seems a beast but secretly dreams of beauty secretly... secretly. Oh, Larren."

“But Larren – fear can turn to love. You’ll learn to see, to find the man behind the monster, this… repulsive carcass who seems a beast but secretly dreams of beauty secretly… secretly. Oh, Larren.”

Orta has also seen things. Half of his face is scar tissue. Odds on it being something the Cardassians did to him vs. an accident with one of his own bombs? Nope, definitely the Cardassians. Ro arrived early to try to convince Orta to even listen, but apparently he’s past that now, because apparently everyone thinks at a higher deviosity level than Picard. Orta also denies responsibility for the bombing, despite claiming credit for dozens of bombings on Cardassians.

Now the right questions are being asked. Someone wants to draw the Federation into the conflict. Since we have the weird plot thread about the admiral sending Ro still hanging, it seems reasonable to try to match those two up. Does the admiral have Bajoran sympathies? Regardless, Ro gets confined to quarters and Guinan comes to visit her and chat. Guinan obliquely references how Picard got her out of a pickle once. Well, not obliquely. More like hitting her over the head with her ‘trust the bald guy’ speech, and escorts Ro to Picard’s ready room to make sure the discussion happens.

Admial Kennely sent Ro to deliver a private incentive to Orta that Starfleet can’t officially offer. If Orta stops the attacks, Kennely authorized Ro to offer weapons and munitions. Picard is super pissed, but Ro kind of had to go along with it. Not just to get out of prison, but because the Cardassians tortured her father to death in front of her when she was seven. Because O’Brien was right. Cardassians are jerks. But since Orta didn’t actually do it, everything is weird and confusing now.

Picard reminds us that Kennely had a Cardassian cold. That’s probably going to become important. The Enterprise goes to escort the Bajoran terrorist group near Cardassian borders, and some picket ships come out to say hi. The Cardassians have gotten rid of the stupid-looking roll cage helmets. They get into an argument with knife-edged smiles over the Bajoran ship, and it’s truly a pleasure to watch Picard pretend to be innocent.

Pictured: Jerks firing their jerkbolts.

Pictured: Jerks firing their jerkbolts.

Picard tells the story of a Cardassian liason proposing that the Federation flush out Orta so that they can sacrifice him to the Cardassians. The very Cardassians who probably bombed the Federation facility for this very purpose. Kennely orders the Enterprise to let it happen and Picard does. Clearly, it is a ruse.

Kennely is super angry because the ship was remotely controlled on Ro’s suggestion, because Orta’s ships aren’t fast enough even to reach the colony they supposedly attacked. Hooray, Admiral Kennely is getting what’s due to him and Ro is going to stick around, and Picard has a new project. Riker’s gonna be piiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiissed.


One thought on “TNG: S5E03: “Ensign Ro”

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