Ro, now a lieutenant with advanced tactical training, is tasked to infiltrate the Maquis, whose aggressive actions are threatening to plunge the Federation and the Cardassians back into war. However, Ro grows sympathetic to the Maquis cause–attempting to protect their way of life from Cardassian harassment after their colony was relegated by treaty to the demilitarized zone. Ro grows particularly close to a Maquis leader called Macius, and after he is killed she betrays the Enterprise and warns the Maquis of an operation to capture them.
Teleplay by Rene Echevarria. Story by Naren Shankar. Directed by Patrick Stewart.
Preemptive Strike is a pretty solid episode of Next Generation, and certainly holds its head up high in the wake of lot of the subpar material that preceded it. Michelle Forbes makes a welcome return to the series, and delivers a good performance, effectively bringing her character’s emotional conflicts to life. The script and the guest characters do a good job supporting this drama. It’s interesting to watch Ro in the midst of her relationship with two potential father-figures: Captain Picard and Macius.
Picard has never really related to Ro as a father-figure before, but it makes sense considering their history. Here, Picard is cast as stern but caring authority who ultimately fails to understand his “daughter”. Macius, on the other hand, while not understanding the truth of Ro ironically “gets” who she really is. His relationship with Ro is slightly contrived but still sympathetic and engaging, and it’s easy to see how Ro is impacted so deeply. It’s not my favorite episode that Ro is in, but it is arguably the most revealing use of the character since her debut.
And yet, in spite of all these good points, Preemptive Strikes is a little bit disappointing and feels a bit empty. I didn’t really enjoy it when I first saw it back in 1994, and I won’t remember it after this re-watch as a favorite. I think the reasons for this can be summarized as “too much history, not enough future.”
What do I mean by that? Well, with “not enough future,” I simply mean that the ending of the story is a bit abrupt. I can understand Ro’s decision, and I feel Picard’s disappointment, but I definitely want to see more of the emotional fallout of what happens. I want to see what this means for Picard and how he deals with it. And I want to see Ro come to terms with the consequences of her choice. But of course none of this was to be, at least not on TV. I gather the intention was to set up Ro as a regular on the forthcoming Star Trek Voyager series, but alas this was not to be. And so as far as TV was concerned, this was the end of Ro’s character.
And by “too much history,” really I just mean that this episode comes not too long after Journey’s End, which dealt with many similar themes. Now, Preemptive Strike is vastly superior to Journey’s End, but the story beats it offers are all just a bit too familiar. Ro’s choices echo Wesley Crusher’s, another familiar face who returned just to be positioned in a sort of moral high ground against the Federation and Picard. How many times can we watch this and still have it be enjoyable? I’d argue that the answer is one, at best. If Journey’s End hadn’t used up a bunch of the show’s credit on the concept, Preemptive Strike might have been more purely engaging.
• John Franklyn-Robbins plays Macius. He had a small role as Mr. Cole in the 1994 film Emma, which I quite like, and also played the Time Lord who sends the Doctor on his mission to defeat the Daleks before they were created in the classic Doctor Who serial, Genesis of the Daleks.
• William Thomas jr., who plays Santos, had small roles in Bruce Almighty and The West Wing, and was apparently originally cast and filmed as Newman in Seinfeld, before being replaced by Wayne Knight.
• Shannon Cochrane plays Kalita. She appeared in a couple of episodes of Deep Space Nine, and in the film Star Trek Nemesis as a Romulan.
• This the last appearance in the series by Natalija Nogulich as Admiral Nechayev and by Richard Poe as Gul Evek. And for Michelle Forbes as Ensign Ro for the entire franchise.
Shout Out to the Past:
• There is reference to Troi’s recent promotion to Commander.
• This is the first appearance to the Maquis in Next Generation, but the concept was introduced in Deep Space Nine, and set up in the Next Generation episode Journey’s End.
• Picard’s conversation with Admiral Nechayev also references their meeting in Journey’s End.
• There seem to be a lot of the extras at the start who don’t really know who they are having that party for–they don’t move to greet Ro or anything.
• Michelle Forbes does a good job looking awkward at the party
• That odd woman with the fancy dress at the party shows up in a lot of shots!
• Ensign Gates gets booted from the Conn for Lt. Ro.
• Good little use of semi-regular Gul Evek. Picard tells him that they’re doing everything in their power to control the Maquis. Evek replies, “The fact that my ship was attacked suggests that your efforts have met with limited success.”
• Little cantina scene, Star Trek style
• Ro engages in a little feminine wiles
• Apparently, in the Maquis, if you want to invite someone over, you just shoot them.
• Good line from Riker: “Now we know what they mean by Advanced Tactical Training.” Although of course, Ro’s little plan would have failed except that the Enterprise didn’t really want to capture her.
• Reference to Deep Space Nine
• These Maquis have their noble goals, but they don’t know that in a few years the Dominion will enter the picture and make the current Cardassian aggression look like kittens in comparison. It’s implied later that basically all the Maquis are killed, aside from those who wound up on the Voyager. So, since Ro didn’t go on to be on Voyager as was apparently hoped, that means as far as we know, Ro was killed by the Dominion.
• It’s not my favorite dialogue, but I have to appreciate Ro’s speech: “My father played the klavion. When I was very young and afraid of monsters under my bed, he’d play for me. He said that the klavion had special powers. Monsters were afraid of it and when they heard it they would disappear. When I listened to that music he played for me I was never afraid to go to sleep. When he died, I realized even he couldn’t make all the monsters go away.”
• Sort of a nice scene between Ro and Macius which gets curtailed by the attack.
• Um, if the Cardassians didn’t like the Maquis being there, why attack with only three guys?
• Funny moment with the alien dude Ro kissed when she comes to the bar the second time
• Interesting last scene with Picard and Ro – Ro’s conflicted emotions, Picard’s determination, which turns out to be at the expense of his relationship with her.
• And the last scene on the shuttlecraft is well played between Jonathan Frakes and Michelle Forbes
• Riker wrote his report without changing out of his spy clothes.
• The last shot of Picard isn’t as telling or meaningful as its supposed to be, I think.
Dialogue High Point
After some consideration, I’ll go with Macius’ very portentous last line to Ro:
When an old fighter like me dies someone always steps forward to take his place.