Season 3, Episode 5: ‘Imposters’
I am rarely truly surprised when it comes to television, but my jaw literally dropped when Ro Laren, played by Michelle Forbes, appeared as one of the Federation officers sent to upbraid Jean-Luc and Riker for their antics.
A genuinely stunning callback. The last time we saw Ro, she had become a traitor to the Federation by joining the Maquis in their fight against the Cardassians. This was a betrayal so cutting that it left Captain Picard speechless in one of Patrick Stewart’s stronger acting moments. That wasn’t supposed to be the last we saw of Ro, one of the more storied occasional characters in Trek lore. “Deep Space Nine” wanted Forbes to resurrect Ro as part of the cast, but she turned it down.
What made Ro a brilliant character is that she was one of the rare figures in “Next Generation” who didn’t automatically buy the righteousness of Starfleet hook, line and sinker.
She notes to Jean-Luc during their tense reunion: “Blind faith in any institution does not make one honorable.”
Ro questioned the status quo and valued her personal identity — as was signified by her insisting on wearing her Bajoran earring, which Jean-Luc astutely notes is missing when we see her again. This makes her the perfect person to tell the captain she once turned on that Starfleet is compromised at the highest level. Ro, on some level, has always believed that Starfleet is corrupt — just not as blatantly as it is now.
It falls somewhere between appropriate and ironic that Ro wants to question her former commanding officers about committing treason. Jean-Luc, understandably, is still enraged that Ro betrayed him all those years ago, though it’s a bit rich at the moment, given why he is in trouble.
“Empathy is one thing; betraying a commanding officer is another,” Jean-Luc rages, though we should remember that Jean-Luc just stole a shuttle from the Titan and put the entire crew in danger. But let’s move past that.
In the “Picard” version of Ro, she is a commander now, not an ensign. I was mostly fine with the story of how she got there. She was court-martialed, did some time and was recruited to Starfleet Intelligence, which included an “arduous rehabilitation program.” One small quibble: At no point during this process did Starfleet let Jean-Luc know that Ro had turned herself in.
Jean-Luc is able to vent his frustrations to Ro directly, though he does it at gunpoint in the holodeck. Historically, Jean-Luc’s family has always been his crew, not his actual family. So to be betrayed by someone he took under his wing is the deepest shiv someone could stick in him, especially on a Starfleet mission. But he has always fundamentally misread Ro: Jean-Luc wanted Ro to be Starfleet’s finest — as she notes — whereas Ro just wanted to be Ro.
But even so, Picard’s crew is still family. So when Ro asks Jean-Luc if he trusts her, he immediately says yes. Changelings are everywhere within Starfleet, Ro tells Jean-Luc; and as it turns out, they are right next to her, planting a bomb on her shuttle and thus bringing a closure to Ro’s character that she never properly received on “Next Generation.”
That Ro was the behind-the-scenes handler of Worf and Raffi was a nice touch. The three of them have much in common as outsiders who never quite fit the Starfleet mold. Using Ro’s earring as a data chip that could reunite Worf with Riker and Jean-Luc was innovative — and it tells us something else about Ro: She knew she was going to die when she handed the earring to Jean-Luc.
This was the best episode in what is turning out to be a strong season for “Picard.”
Odds and Ends
Genuinely loved the shots showing the Titan being repaired in space. Good example of how much the visuals of Trek have advanced over the decades.
Even after all this, Jean-Luc still insists on trying to get his Jack to join Starfleet. “Perhaps you might consider choosing a more honest vocation,” Jean-Luc says. The elder Picard, at his core, is a company man through and through, and even in trying to guide Jack, all roads lead back to Starfleet, despite its being obviously not a good fit. And as we find out later in the episode, the honesty of that vocation is up for debate at the moment.
The ship that Starfleet uses to bring its investigators is the U.S.S. Intrepid, a descendant of a ship that appeared on the original series.
Ro tells Jean-Luc that she has transferred most of the Titan crew to the Intrepid. Why would they need to be reassigned? If Ro didn’t trust anybody on her own ship or in the rest of Starfleet, wouldn’t she be putting those crew members in danger? This is borne out when Ro crashes her shuttle into the Intrepid to give the Titan time to run, but that also presumably hurt the Titan crew members that were beamed to the Intrepid.
I was also surprised that Jean-Luc and Riker encouraged Shaw to take the Titan and run so quickly with Titan crew members on board the Intrepid. Let’s assume the corrupted Starfleet ship wants to frame the Titan for Ro’s death. And lets assume that everyone knows the changelings aren’t afraid to murder. It stands to reason that Picard, Riker and Shaw would want to take their crew with them.
I’m enjoying the show’s willingness to offer fresh takes on members of certain species, like Krinn, a villainous Vulcan, or Sneed, the gangster Vulcan. But this story line is turning out to be unintentionally hilarious. How exactly did Worf and Raffi come up with their plan to capture Krinn?
Worf: “OK, Raffi. You set up with your rifle up top while a hologram version of you stands next to me on the ground. Then they’ll discover that. Then Krinn will make us fight each other. Then you stab me, but not too hard. Then when they think I’m dying, I’ll surprise them.”
Raffi: “That seems complicated. What if they shoot us on sight?"
Worf: “Trust me.”
A mea culpa: Last week, I wrote that Picard, while having his haddock, “blithely discusses the accident” that killed Jack Crusher Sr. Multiple readers noted that Picard was talking about a different incident, not the one that killed his old friend. My apologies, a changeling took over my body.