The Enterprise picks a low-ranking Romulan defector, claiming to have information regarding an imminent Romulan attack. Picard and the crew wrestle with whether to believe him or not. Eventually, the defector is revealed to be a Romulan admiral, who is sincerely attempting to prevent a war. Picard acts upon his information and enters the Neutral Zone, but can find no evidence of any Romulan incursion. It is revealed that the Admiral is sincere, but being tricked by the Romulans to lure the Enterprise into a trap. Picard escapes with the help of some Klingon allies, but the Admiral commits suicide after realizing he has betrayed his people for no reason.
Written by Ronald D. Moore. Directed by Robert Scheerer.
Not long ago I told someone who disagreed with me how boring and tedious the Romulans were in Next Generation-era Star Trek. At that point, I’d only watched up to the first two years of the series. However, I’m finding I’m having to re-evaluate that opinion after seeing both The Enemy a few episodes ago, and now, The Defector. In spite of another fairly boring title, it’s another great episode.
The Shakespearean opening on the holodeck is a bit self-indulgent, feeling like it’s there mainly to give Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner a chance to indulge in some high-brow acting. But still, the scene fits in well, nicely anticipating the themes of the episodes, both with the threat of war, and the idea of a commanding officer disguising himself as a “commoner”.
James Sloyan does an excellent job as Setol aka Admiral Jarok, beautifully bringing to life the pathos, drama, and nobility of the character. He represents what has always been the best features of the Romulans, ever since their debut in Balance of Terror of the Original Series: an insular warrior species that is wrestling with the loss of nobility inherent in their military ambitions. The story of the crew’s responses to the question of whether he is genuine or not is well done, and nearly pitch perfect. I think it’s a little odd that he’s allowed to just sit around Ten Forward and potentially hang out in the holodeck all day if he wanted to, but these are minor quibbles.
Patrick Stewart is always good (well, almost always), but the extended private conversation between Picard and Jarok is especially riveting. It’s arguably the first of the series’ many strong “duet” scenes, where Patrick Stewart is given the chance to act opposite another strong performer to make some knock-out moments. I also like Jonathan Frakes in this episode. He doesn’t have a large part, but his suspicions over the Romulan’s story are well played, and he does a good job with the interrogation scene.
Also making the story strong is the threat of war that looms over everything. It feels very real – the Romulans haven’t been around enough in the new series to make this threat old. The mounting pressure to enter the Neutral Zone is effective. The climax, where the Enterprise comes face to face with a bunch of Warbirds at close range, is especially tense. Picard’s strategem of organizing some Klingon allies to secretly follow them around could have been developed more (how does Worf have contacts with any high-ranking Klingons anyway?) but makes for an effective turn-around at the end.
At the end, you have Tomalok (again played well by Andreas Katsulas) saying he’s looking forward to his next meeting with Picard. Sadly, though Tomalok makes two more appearances in the series, this next meeting never really happens. I know there are a bunch more Romulan stories (including the introduction of Sela, one of the series most annoying characters), but my feeling is that the promise that this story holds are never really full followed up upon well. We’ll see, I guess.
James Sloyan, who plays Setol aka Admiral Jarok, has had roles in lots of TV shows, including Deep Space Nine as Dr. Mora, a recurring part in Murder, She Wrote, and later in Next Generation as Alexander as an adult. He also had a part in The Sting.
John Hancock plays Admiral Haden again in another episode, The Wounded.
This is Andreas Katsulas’ second appearance as Tomalok.
Shout Out to the Past
There is direct reference to the events of The Enemy with Dr. Crusher’s knowledge of Romulan physiology.
• That’s Patrick Stewart playing the holographic Shakespearean character Michael Williams. There is no particular reason for this other than for Patrick Stewart to have a chance to play Shakespeare. Though there has been a few Shakespearean quotes prior to this, but this is the first time we see an actual Shakespearean scene in the show.
• Wesley does not appear in this episode
• The sudden destruction of Romulan ship is an effective surprise.
• Admiral Haden says that all Federation starships are on Yellow Alert. Is the Enterprise? How can one tell?
• It’s an ironic comment: Picard states it’s not easy for him to disguise himself, but in fact, Patrick Stewart has (in the opening scene).
• Nice comment from Jarok when he says, “Oh, what a fool I’ve been – to coming looking for courage in a lair of cowards.”
• It’s a funny moment where Data hears about “being caught with your pants down,” but it perhaps goes on for a bit long.
• Pressure mounts for the Enterprise to cross the Neutral Zone.
• If the Federation knows so little about Romulus, how are they able to recreate it on the holodeck so effectively?
• Another good line from Jarok about his daughter: “She will grow up believing that her father is a traitor. But she will grow up.”
• Awesome act ending, “Number One, set course for Nelvana III.”
• It’s odd that we randomly go to Data’s log (as opposed to Picard’s or even Riker’s)
• Great line from Picard echoing the Henry V scene earlier: “If the cause is just and honorable, they are prepared to give their lives. Are you prepared to die today?”
• The Klingon warships show up…awesome!
• Admiral Jarok ends up as quite the tragic figure.
Dialogue High Point
Picard’s whole scene with Jarok at around the 3/4 mark is great. One of the best lines is when Picard says he’d believe Jarok…
If I had irrefutable evidence. You did not bring irrefutable evidence. You brought no evidence at all.