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Recap / Star Trek: The Next Generation S5E3 "Ensign Ro"

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The first appearance of Ro Laren, seen here making a "bitch please" face at Guinan.

Original air date: October 7, 1991

Picard is getting his hair trimmed by Mr. Mot, a Bolian Chatty Hairdresser who prattles about how best to deal with the Romulans. To Picard's relief, he's soon called to the bridge after they've received a distress call from a Federation outpost. It seems they were attacked, and a Bajoran terrorist group is claiming responsibility.

The Enterprise arrives at the starbase for some exposition: forty years ago, the Cardassian Empire annexed the home system of the Bajorans, and have subjected them to a brutal occupation. Now, the Bajorans are rebelling to drive the Cardassians away. In all that time, though, they've never attacked the Federation, which remained neutral due to its doctrine of noninterference. The new Cardassian treaty gives the Federation the ability to act on behalf of the Bajoran people, however, and this attack gives them reason to begin doing so quickly. Admiral Kennelly tells Picard to find the Bajoran resistance leader who attacked them. To aid in the end, he's assigned a new crewman to the Enterprise: Ensign Ro Laren, a court-martialed Bajoran officer recently plucked out of prison. Picard is upset at this transfer without his consent, but Admiral Kennelly is insistent. With no choice but to follow orders, Picard agrees.


Ensign Ro is beamed aboard, and Riker immediately orders her to remove her Bajoran earring. There's more hostility to come from the rest of the crew. However, Ro does have insight into the Bajoran refugee situation. She directs them to Keeve, a man who has more influence over the displaced Baorans than their original contact. Picard tries to negotiate for Keeve's help, but the man has no love for the Federation due to its history of apathy toward Bajoran suffering. Ro barks at the man to listen to what Picard has to say, and the captain offers supplies to the refugees, which goes a long way toward establishing trust.

In Ten Forward, Ro drinks by herself, refusing all offers of conversation, and the other officers gossip about her. Guinan takes an interest in the new ensign and tries to get her to open up. In spite of Ro's attempts to be stand-offish, she finds herself talking about how she refused a direct order during an away mission, resulting in her court-martial and imprisonment. Guinan leaves proclaiming that she's made a friend. Ro then gets a message from Admiral Kennelly and informs him that "everything is going according to plan."


The crew soon find the location of the resistance cell, but Ro beams down well before the other officers without permission. Picard leads an away team that immediately gets ambushed by the terrorist leader Orta and his men, with Ro in tow. Orta claims that he was not behind the attack on the Federation. After being let go, Troi notes that Orta was telling the truth.

Picard has Ro confined to quarters as he tries to figure out what is going on. Guinan convinces Ro to come clean with what she knows and for Picard to listen to her. She admits that Admiral Kennelly arranged for her release on the condition that she would negotiate with the Bajoran terrorists to return to their camps in exchange for weapons and ships in their fight against the Cardassians. She also opens up, revealing how she watched her father get tortured to death and it made her ashamed to be Bajoran. Since the Bajorans aren't behind the attack, she didn't go through with the admiral's plan.

To determine the truth, Picard arranges for a transport ship filled with the resistance fighters to travel close to the Cardassian border. Sure enough, a Galor-class warship arrives, and Admiral Kennely orders Picard to leave the area. As Picard expected, the Cardassians destroy the transport. However, no one was on board: it was controlled from the ground, and Kennelly has just been exposed for manipulating events to start a war, a colossal breach of the Prime Directive. With the current matter resolved, Picard offers Ro to stay aboard as a member of his crew. Ro accepts as long as she is allowed to wear her Bajoran earring, which Picard immediately approves.

Tropes featured in this episode include:

  • As You Know: Kennelly and Picard discussing the Cardassian occupation of Bajor, something both of them are already familiar with.
  • Birds of a Feather: One reason Guinan takes a shine to Ro is because they've both suffered the loss of their homeworlds.
  • Brick Joke: At the end of the episode, Ro accepts a position on the Enterprise on one condition. When Picard asks what that is, she wordlessly replaces her earring.
  • Brutal Honesty: Ro. She tells the senior staff that the Bajoran 'leader' they suggest contacting is seen as a stuffed shirt and tells Keeve he's being a fool about the Federation.
  • Bystander Syndrome: Keeve accuses the Federation of using the Prime Directive as an excuse to ignore suffering outside their borders.
  • Character Title: And as a bonus, the Ensign explains how to properly address Bajorans—surname first. She's Ensign Ro, not Ensign Laren.
  • Chatty Hairdresser: Picard is glad of an excuse to escape the talkative Mr. Mott. Cutting the captain's hair seems to make Mott feel entitled to chatter about Romulan strategy.
  • Crystal Spires and Togas: From Picard's description of the Bajorans, they were this before the Cardassian occupation. They had developed space travel while humans were still hunter-gatherers. Now, the occupation has reverted them to refugees.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Particularly when Picard mentions "the camps."
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • This episode introduces the Bajorans and establishes their history with the Cardassians, which would become central to the plot of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. However, there are still details which would be ironed out later.
      • The extra ridge above their nose was later dropped
      • The term "Bajora" as a plural was used only twice more. Thereafter, people solidified on saying "Bajorans."
      • This episode establishes that the Cardassians have occupied Bajor for forty years, while DS9 would put that number closer to fifty or sixty years.
      • No Bajorans going forward do as Ro claims and have their surnames moved last to avoid Name Order Confusion. And, in fact, no one seems to be confused by it again.
      • Ensign Ro wears her Bajoran earring on her left ear, while all the men wear theirs on their right. DS9 would have the right ear be standard for both genders (with the left ear used by the Cult of the Pah Wraiths).
      • On a similar note, the earrings appear to only be a cultural affectation at this point - their use as markers of their d'jarra, or caste, would not be established until midway through DS9. Likewise, there's no mention of the Prophets, the central figures of Bajoran religion, which goes entirely unmentioned.
    • Gul Dolak gives his unit as "Cardassian Militia 41." DS9 would group the Cardassian military into "Orders."
    • It's hard to see, but the Cardassians are still wearing their boxy leather plate armor rather than the sculpted black uniforms they become known for.
  • Facial Horror: The right side of Orta's face is horribly scarred as a result of him having been tortured by the Cardassians.
  • False Flag Operation: Picard deduces that the Cardassians actually attacked the Federation outpost, pinning it on the Bajorans and hoping the Federation will find them so the Cardassians can destroy them.
  • Forced to Watch: When she was a little girl, the Cardassians made Ro come into a room and watch her father being tortured to death. In that case the goal was not to torment Ro, but to humiliate her father, as she witnessed his loss of dignity under the torture.
  • Ineffectual Loner: Guinan points out that Ro's misanthropy and cynicism is a little too showy, and suggests that she actually enjoys self-torment and putting herself in public to be an object of suspicion and dislike. Ro's reaction suggests that Guinan's hit rather close to the mark.
  • Insane Admiral: Kennelly gets involved in a conspiracy with the Cardassians, which involves the Cardies attacking a Federation colony and pinning it on Bajoran terrorists. Whether Kennelly actually knows the truth or is just far too trusting of what his Cardassian envoy told him is unclear.
  • Jerkass: Riker acts this way towards Ro because of her court-martial and imprisonment, but the highlight has to be when he orders her to remove a Bajoran earring despite the fact that Worf is allowed to wear his Klingon baldric, and Troi doesn't wear her uniform at all while on duty.
  • Name Order Confusion: Bajoran family names come first, followed by the given name. Riker, upon first meeting Ro Laren, addresses her as "Ensign Laren"; she is quick to point out his error. Picard gets it right when addressing the refugees, which impresses them. The entire issue could be seen as either an unintentional case of Creator Provincialism or intentional United Space of America, since an enormous chunk of Earth's population (mostly Asians) also uses the surname-first convention. Given how multicultural the Federation allegedly is, and how many alien species are members, you would think that their personnel records would be designed to accommodate alternate naming patterns.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • Ro's service on the Wellington, which led to her court-martial after she disobeyed orders and eight of her comrades died.
    • Guinan again obliquely references her history with Picard but gives no real details.
  • The One Who Made It Out: Ro hated the life of the refugee, with no home of her own and existing as part of a defeated people. That was why she joined Starfleet.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Orta's Resistance cell. In fact, this is what convinces Picard they couldn't have been involved in attacking the outpost—their equipment is far too broken-down to have been used.
  • Rubber-Forehead Alien: Bajorans looks almost entirely human except for ridges on their noses. Rick Berman specifically ordered the makeup designers to keep Michelle Forbes attractive.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Mr. Mot, the ship's barber, has a very high opinion of his own opinions. He has the temerity to lecture Picard on what he ought to be doing about galactic politics. Picard suffers through it because, after all, Mot is the best barber in the quadrant.
  • Smug Snake: Admiral Kennelly. Even after his scheme has been exposed, he still manages to look smug as hell.
  • Stock Footage: Footage of Starbase 74 from "11001001" (which was, itself, footage from Star Trek III: The Search for Spock) is re-used in this episode to represent Lya Station Alpha.
  • Sugar-and-Ice Personality: Guinan sees this in Ro.
    Guinan: Am I disturbing you?
    Ro: Yes.
    Guinan: Good. You look like someone who wants to be disturbed.
    Ro: I'd rather be alone.
    Guinan: Oh, no you wouldn't.
    Ro: I beg your pardon?
    Guinan: If you wanted to be alone, you would've stayed in your quarters. The only reason to come here [Ten Forward] is to be amongst people.
  • Trading Bars for Stripes: Ro was serving time in a Starfleet stockade when she was called into service again.
  • Trust Password: Picard has little interest in hearing anything Ro has to say until Guinan calls Ro her friend. The fact that Guinan considers her as such softens Picard's opinion of her enough to hear her out.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Admiral Kennelly is manipulated by the Cardassians in order to get the Federation involved in eradicating the Bajoran Resistance.
  • War Refugees: The Bajorans who escaped the occupation of Bajor and aren't actively involved in the Resistance live like this.
  • Whoopi Epiphany Speech: Guinan visits Ro's quarters and gives her a gentle push in the direction of Captain Picard. Ro decides to tell Picard the truth.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: The Bajorans seem to have crossed the line from "freedom fighters" to "terrorists" by attacking a neutral Federation target to get their attention. In actuality, the Cardassian occupiers are trying to pin the blame on them so the Federation will smoke them out.


Video Example(s):


"'Ensign Ro', sir."

Ensign Ro Laren explains to Captain Picard and Commander Riker after they mistakenly address her as "Ensign Laren" that Bajorans traditionally put their family name ahead of their given name.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / FantasticNamingConvention

Media sources: