The Enterprise picks up a distress call from inside the Romulan Neutral Zone and tracks the distressed ship as it crash-lands on the inhospitable planet Galorndon Core, just inside Federation space. Riker, La Forge, and Worf beam down to investigate and determine if there are any survivors.
In the midst of heavy electrical storms, which disrupt the tricorders and communicators and allow only limited periods to safely beam in and out, La Forge is separated from the group and falls down a deep hole. Riker and Worf find the wreckage of a small Romulan ship, and a wounded survivor. They beam back to the ship with the Romulan, but due to the storms they are unable to locate La Forge.
Wesley launches a neutrino beacon to the surface, the idea being La Forge's VISOR can pick up the signal, and when he reaches the beacon, he can modulate it to let the ship know where he is. Meanwhile, La Forge manages to fashion some crude spikes to help him climb out of the hole. When he sees the beacon signal, however, he's knocked out by another Romulan.
Back on the ship, the Romulan is dying, and the only way to save him is through a donation of healthy genetic material. The only compatible donor is Worf, who refuses to do so in light of the Romulans having killed his parents on Khitomer; the Romulan, in turn, states he'd rather die than have "Klingon filth" in his blood anyway. Meanwhile, Captain Picard makes contact with a Romulan commander, Tomalak, who insists the crashed ship was a one-man scout craft. Picard agrees to rendezvous in the Neutral Zone in six hours to return the Romulan officer.
On the surface, La Forge wakes up to find himself held at disruptor-point by Centurion Bochra (who refuses to give his name at first, leaving Geordi to refer to him as "Commodore"). Bochra is reluctant to trust that Geordi has a way off the planet, but as the two are suffering debilitating effects from the planet's electromagnetic radiation, they agree to work together. But, just as they set out for the beacon, Geordi's VISOR goes out, leaving him blind. It still works, but his own neural pathways are no longer processing the input. Bochra gets the idea of using La Forge's tricorder and VISOR together to make a "neutrino detector", and Geordi directs him on how to link the two.
Back on the ship, tensions increase as Tomalak has realized the Enterprise is still at Galorndon Core; he crosses the Neutral Zone to intercept them. Picard asks Worf once more to volunteer to help save the Romulan's life, hoping to avoid a major political incident, but when Worf respectfully refuses, Picard drops the matter. As it turns out, though, the Romulan has just died.
Tomalak's Warbird arrives, and he gives Picard one last chance to return his officer. Picard is forced to concede that he has died, and Tomalak orders his ship's weapons powered up. At that moment, the neutrino beacon begins modulating. The Enterprise is able to detect another life form with La Forge at the beacon, and Picard realizes what must have happened. To transport them up, however, they have to lower their shields, leaving the vulnerable to the Warbird.
Picard hails Tomalak again, and although the Romulan commander won't answer, Picard continues anyway—they've found an apparent second survivor of the "one-man" scout craft, and they're going to lower their shields to beam them up to the bridge, keeping the channel open. Picard acknowledges that he will be leaving himself open to Tomalak's attack, and that he is extending his trust to his foe (along with a reminder of the consequences should the Romulans violate the cease-fire with the Federation). With no acknowledgement from Tomalak, they proceed, and La Forge and Bochra materialize. At that point Tomalak chimes in. Bochra insists he has not given any information, but that it was La Forge who saved his life. Picard has La Forge (and Worf) escort Bochra to the transporter room so he can beam to the Warbird, and the Enterprise peacefully escorts the Warbird back to the Romulan side of the Zone.
Tropes featured in "The Enemy":
- AB Negative: Patahk's blood is only compatible with Worf, which causes problems since both despise each other.
- Blue and Orange Morality: Bochra is surprised that, being blind since birth, Geordi wasn't killed in infancy as a waste of resources.
- Death World: Compared with Ceti Alpha V, Galorndon Core is capable of supporting life, barely. Heavy electromagnetic storms disrupt the nervous systems of living beings after a short time, leaving Bochra partially paralyzed and Geordi unable to process input from his VISOR.
- Dramatic Irony: A human and a Romulan are able to put their differences aside in the interests of mutual survival, but elsewhere, a Klingon and another Romulan's hatred of each other causes one to die.
- Enemy Mine: Geordi and Bochra have to put aside their differences and work together, making up for the disabilities of each, to get off planet.
- Famous, Famous, Fictional: Picard worries that if they don't tread lightly in their dealings with the Romulans, Galorndon Core might come to be remembered alongside Pearl Harbor and Station Salem One as precursors to a bloody war.
- Fantastic Racism: Worf refuses to donate blood to the Romulan Patahk. Fortunately for him, Patahk refuses to take Klingon blood, anyway.
- Fire-Forged Friends: Geordi and Bochra, initially suspicious of each other, are forced to work together to survive on Galorndon Core. By the end, they are as close as you could expect a Human and a Romulan to be.
- Honor Before Reason:
- Worf refuses to give his blood to Patahk, believing he'd be helping those that killed his parents, even though the Romulan dying while in Federation custody could spark a war.
- Worf makes it clear to Picard that he would give his blood without question if Picard just ordered him to, but Picard can't bring himself to violate Worf's personal beliefs, even if it's Worf himself giving him the option.
- Patahk himself is an example, although more minor. He flat out says that he'd rather die than take Worf's blood.
- Humans Are Special: Averted. Geordi being able to work with a Romulan and Worf being unable to do so has nothing to do with their species; it's simply because of the differences in their characterizations and world views.
- Inspirational Insult: After Geordi's VISOR quits, he gives up hope of locating the beacon, leading Bochra to sneeringly ask him, "Do all humans give up so easily?" (The example is somewhat ambiguous; it's unclear whether Bochra was prodding Geordi to keep trying or just venting his own frustration.)
- No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Said verbatim by Geordi. Despite saving him from a rockfall, Bochra still views Geordi as a prisoner instead of a comrade.
- Perspective Flip: It's subtle, but in keeping with the theme of the episode, Picard's dialogue with Tomalak shows us what a Trek episode looks like from the opposite side of the viewscreen. Tomalak does exactly what Picard or Kirk would do in his place when he crosses the Neutral Zone to rescue a wounded crewman. This forces Picard into the role of the unreasonable alien seemingly more interested in protecting his territory than saving a life. Tomalak even attempts a Kirk Summation, which Picard shuts down with a dire threat:Tomalak: Territories? You would measure territories against a man's life?Picard: Commander, I am singularly impressed by your concern for a life. Do not risk any more lives by leaving the Neutral Zone. Picard out.
- Plot-Driven Breakdown: Geordi and Bochra both deteriorate physically in ways that necessitate the two working together in order to escape their predicament.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Though stressing the importance of keeping Patahk alive, Picard won't order Worf to give blood against his wishes, even though Worf himself makes it clear he would obey without question were Picard to do so.
- Shout-Out: According to LeVar Burton, this episode was Star Trek's homage to The Defiant Ones.
- Unfortunate Names: The first Romulan is named Patahk, which sounds similar to the Klingon insult "petaQ". Maybe that's why Worf wouldn't help him.
- You Have Got to Be Kidding Me!: Geordi has this exact reaction when Bochra still treats him like a prisoner after he rescues him.