Star Trek: The Next Generation – Face of the Enemy [6.14]

Troi wakes up to discover she has been surgically altered to appear Romulan, and placed aboard a Romulan ship as a high ranking intelligence officer.  She is there to help facilitate the defection of several high ranking Romulan officials.  Troi must contend with the suspicious Commander of the ship, Toreth, but is eventually successful in getting the defectors beamed to the Enterprise.  The Romulan dissident who has been helping her is killed, but Troi herself is rescued by the Enterprise at the last minute.

Teleplay by Naren Shankar. Story by Rene Echevarria. Directed by Gabrielle Beaumont.

Previous Episode: Aquiel • Next Episode: Tapestry

Comments:
Face of the Enemy was a genuine surprise for me.  When the episode began (or maybe even earlier, when I read of the show’s premise) and revealed its hook, it made me groan:  Troi is turned into a Romulan.  How is this possibly going to be any good, I thought.  First of all, it’s about Troi – by a large stretch the least interesting character of the remaining regular cast of Next Generation (obviously, according to my subjective opinion – shared by many, but not all).  Secondly, the idea is a bit goofy.  I guess it hadn’t been so long since both Picard and Data were disguised as Romulans (although by their own choice in that case), and that episode turned out to be a bit disappointing – how is this going to be interesting?

But then, it turned out that the real premise of the episode is that Troi is forced against her will to go undercover amongst the Romulans, causing her to face genuine dangers and threats, and to deal with difficult moral situations. That sounds a lot more compelling.  And it turned out to be pretty awesome.  And it’s clear I’m not the only one who thought so, as for a while this episode was the poster child for the unexpectedly good episode of a series featuring a relatively unpopular character.  Because that’s what we get here – an episode about Troi that’s not about romance or some sort of empathy-based attack, but a butt-kicking intrigue / espionage plot.  And one in which Troi is played totally straight.  She is, as we would expect, extremely confused and a bit hapless at first–but she doesn’t stay that way.  She gets her act together and helps to drive the way forward to the show’s eventual resolution.  Marina Sirtis does a great job playing that entire progression, and has lots of great lines that showcase Troi’s strength and improvisation:  “And if you do not wish to undergo another personal experience with the Tal Shiar, I suggest you not question me again,” and “Your cowardice does not befit a Romulan soldier,” for example.

Another thing about the episode that’s great is Carolyn Seymour as Commander Toreth.  She delivers an excellent performance as a Romulan who is indeed a villain–warlike and an enemy of the federation–while at the same time creating a character is easy to relate to and even sympathetic…a little bit like the best Romulans from the Original Series, without being derivative.  The scenes between her and Sirtis are dynamite, with Scott MacDonald’s Subcommander N’vek providing the third point of the story’s main triangle, giving us a lot of dramatic variety.  Connecting the story into the Spock-storyline was a good move as well, and is only disappointing in hindsight since we know that we’ll never really hear of that story again.

The only real dramatic misstep in this episode is a minor one, and that’s that we don’t really get the time we’d like at the end to reflect on what’s happened.  That was a common problem for Next Generation (Family notwithstanding).  I don’t know exactly what should have been done, but another 30 seconds or minute of watching Troi process her experiences wouldn’t have hurt, especially since any potential character growth as a result of this story will be more-or-less dropped by the time the next episode roles around.

Guest Cast:
• Scott MacDonald plays Subcommander N’vek.  He has appeared all over the place in the Star Trek-verse, including as Commander Dolim in a bunch of episodes of Enterprise, as Tosk (“Die with honor, Tosk”) in one of the first good episodes of Deep Space Nine, as Rollins, an officer aboard Voyager in the series’ first episode.

• Carolyn Seymour (Commander Toreth) has already appeared on Next Generation in First Contact and Contagion.  She was the handler for the evil leaper in Quantum Leap and appeared as the holographic Mrs. Templeton in two episodes of Voyager.  She was also the voice of both Shmi Skywalker and Mon Mothma in a couple of Star Wars video games.

• This is the last of three episodes in which Pamela Winslow appears as Ensign McKnight.

Shout Out to the Past:
• There are a lot of references to Spock and his mission on Romulus that we learned about back in Unification II.

• There is a reference to the tachyon detection grid that Data first set up back in Redemption II.

Set Up for the Future:
• That’s pretty much it for Spock’s mission to help the Romulans, except for oblique references in the Star Trek reboot movie.  But this is the first time that the Tal Shiar – essentially the Romulan Gestapo – are mentioned.  We’ll hear a lot more of them on Deep Space Nine.

Observations:
• I like Riker’s cold comment to Deseve:  “Find some civilian clothes.  I don’t want to see you in that uniform.”

• Interesting bit of attention given to Deseve’s reasons for defecting.  “The Romulans are very moral, Captain.  They have an absolute certainty about what is right and what is wrong, who is a friend and who is an enemy, a strict moral compass which provides them with a clarity of purpose.  At one time I found their sense of purpose, their passion and commitment, to be very compelling.”  And then followed by, “As I’ve grown older, I realize that clarity of purpose is a more ambiguous matter than I had thought in my youth.”

• Picard orders they proceed at warp factor 8.  Why warp factor 8?  Why not factor 9?  Or factor 7?

• Pretty good that Troi orders they hail the ship before the commander does.

• Good line from Toreth:  “I will nonetheless make an entry in my log that I am not responsible for those eighteen lives and that I deplore their loss.”

• Troi has to facilitate the Romulan ship through Federation sensors.  Suddenly, it looks like an elaborate ruse to trick Troi into doing this.  I’m glad they didn’t go that route with the plot.

• More good Toreth lines:  “Contrary to the propaganda that your superiours would have us believe, Starfleet is neither weak nor foolish,” and “People blame the military for the wars that we are asked to fight, but I think it is your kind, Major, that will be the death of us all.”

• Pretty tense when the Romulan ship comes toward the Enterprise, and quite startling for the Enterprise when Troi appears on the screen.

• The death of the Subcommander is quite shocking

Dialogue High Point
The dialog is not brilliant but this example is definitely the most memorable due to Marina Sirtis’ delivery and the unexpectedness of hearing something like this being said by Troi:

We are not playing it your way any more, N’Vek.  I’ve been kidnapped, surgically altered, put in danger I’ve gone along with your plans.  Now you are going to listen to me.  You find a way to let the Enterprise track us or I will go to Toreth and tell her I’ve discovered you’re a traitor.  I’ll order you ejected into space.  Is that clear, Subcommander?

Previous Episode: Aquiel • Next Episode: Tapestry

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One thought on “Star Trek: The Next Generation – Face of the Enemy [6.14]

  1. This is easily the best Troi episode, and it’s a fantastic episode in general. I think the fact that it is a great Troi episode makes it even better, because she was generally pretty useless on the show. I think this might be one of my favourite episodes.

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