Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 6, Episode 14 – “Face of the Enemy” – Romulan Politics and Troi’s Potential

Face of the Enemy

       Counselor Troi was really shafted throughout the entire run of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” When she was wrote it was largely romance plots or her stating the obvious on the bridge. She has extra-sensory empathy, but that is never really used in any interesting ways most of the time. This episode is an exception in regards to that. It is a good episode and a great Troi episode as we see her under pressure from being undercover and also how committed she is to her role as a Starfleet officer. This is an episode that gives us great exploration of the tension between the Tal Shiar and military and is well worth checking out for any fan of the Romulans on “Star Trek.”

The episode’s story was by René Echevarria with teleplay by Naren Shankar and directed by Gabrielle Beaumont.

The story follows Counselor Troi who has been surgically altered into Tal Shiar Agent Major Rakal. She must figure out the reasons why while facing a crew that distrusts her very presence on the ship.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Mystery and Trust – The main mystery of why Troi was turned into a Romulan by Commander N’Vek and The Enterprise-D as they work with a former Federation Ensign DeSeve who defected to the Romulan Star Empire, returning to help them find a ship going at the fastest speed. Both Picard and the crew don’t know whether they can trust the defector and Troi is in the same situation, even as she sees that the cargo they are transporting are government officials trying to get safely over to the Federation. It is powerfully done as both N’Vek and Ensign DeSeve slowly reveal more of the truth and have to give more and go against the distrusting nature instilled in them by the Empire. It is powerfully done and through it you get to see Troi come into her element as a leader.

Relationship Between Tal Shiar and Romulan Military – In this episode we get the military perspective (and from it the view of the Romulan populace) of the Tal Shiar. Everyone fears them. Commander Toreth mentions how every person on her crew has lost someone to the Tal Shiar, but in the end they still follow orders. The fear is so great that the most that can be done is verbal protest.

Commander Toreth – Commander Toreth’s father was a man who spoke up for freedom for Romulans and was killed by the Tal Shiar for it. This in many ways makes her sympathetic to N’Vek’s plot but her duty overrides all else and because of how Troi is being used, Troi can’t sympathize or help. She was a moral commander and anytime N’Vek or Troi did something she disagreed with, she’d document it and she was not afraid to confront the Tal Shiar with her disagreement over their actions, even as she continued serving the Empire. Carolyn Seymour was amazing in the role.

Counselor Troi – This is an episode where Troi gets to shine. She has to play the role of the enemy to both the Romulans on the ship and later towards her own crew in order to save innocents. The entire episode is a tightrope walk for her and Marina Sirtis does a fantastic job acting that walk. Troi’s arc in the episode involves her speaking up for herself and taking charge. First against Commander Toreth and later against N’Vek when his plans fail.

The Cons:

The Ending Actions of the Romulans – Commander Toreth’s original plan was to destroy The Enterprise-D after they learn how to track their cloak, but after getting command back from Troi she completly forgets her original aim and instead thinks that she’ll just bring Troi in for questioning. It isn’t handled well and feels rushed and sudden. The Romulans just leave and the Federation gets the escapees and no knows another way to track cloaks. Given how effective we see Commander Toreth is, this made no sense and felt like they just wanted to end the episode.

This is a good episode and one I’d recommend to any Romulan fan. You get to see how complicated relationships are between the Tal Shiar and military, Toreth is a wonderfully compelling character and the mystery plot is strong enough to keep one engaged. Marina Sirtis has to carry this episode and she succeeds in doing so. Her Troi is vulnerable but firm and adapts to the predicament she is in. I wish she had gotten more episodes like this.

Final Score: 8.6 / 10

Star Trek: Picard – Season 1, Episode 2 – “Maps and Legends” – Exploring Romulan Secrets

Image result for Maps and Legends Picard

   “Maps and Legends” is an episode that feels like a part of a whole more than a single story far more than the pilot “Remembrance.” We are introduced to more characters and the plot moves forward but it doesn’t feel as complete as the pilot. I still enjoyed the episode, especially the lore we get on the Romulans but I would have preferred a more whole story, though I know with the format of the show this is going to be less common. Taking that into account, this is an enjoyable continuation that shows more of the show’s potential.

The episode was written by Akiva Goldsman and Michael Chabon and directed by Hanelle Culpepper.

Picard seeks out knowledge behind who Dahj was and those who destroyed her, as well as seeking support from Starfleet on his investigation.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Attack on Mars – The episode begins showing us a flashback to the attack on Mars. It is hear it is established that the Synthetics are looked on with fear by most of the humans they work with and that they were hacked to cause the attack. It is very well shot and shows that the Synthetics had no intention of living beyond the attack.

A Retreating Starfleet – Picard talks to the Commander-in-Chief of Starfleet, Fleet Admiral Clancy. It is hear we get Starfleet’s perspective and learn that member states within the Federation were threatening to leave if the Romulans were helped (showing how deep the fear of them still was, even with being allies during the Dominion War). You can see her predicament and Picard denouncing the Federation response had probably lead to her putting out even more fires. It is great getting the perspective and her voicing sorrow at the great man Picard once was shows that she doesn’t hate him, she just represents a very scared Starfleet trying to hold all the member states together.

Layers of Romulan Plots – One of the first things we learn in the episode is that the Romulan Tal Shiar had horror stories about an organization called the Zhat Vash. During this we learn Laris and Zhaban are former Tal Shiar operatives and that it is believed that Zhat Vash want to destroy all synthetic life and that is why Romulans don’t use A.I.

After Admiral Clancy talks to Picard she calls Commander Oh who we discover is most likely an undercover Romulan operative as she calls out “Lt. Rizzo” for her actions of killing Dahj, saying that they need to find out where the rest of the Synths are and that it was brutal and sloppy. Seeing how deeply the Romulans are in Starfleet and no Section 31 to be seen makes me wonder who these different factions are. Is this Tal Shiar vs Zhat Vash? What is their relationship? Rizzo and Oh clearly don’t get along so maybe they aren’t part of the same faction? This was intriguing and I can’t wait to learn more.

The Cons:

The Writing on the Borg “Artifact” – The writing on the Borg cube is very tell and not as much show. From the Romulan agent Narek saying he can go anywhere to himself (but more to us) and Soji telling us how much she cares about the “nameless” drones. There are interesting things happening and it is compelling but I wish the writing had much more show. We don’t need to be told everything that is happening.

This was an enjoyable but outing that didn’t reach the levels of good or great. Most of it was fleshing out the lore so we don’t get that compelling of the story. I would have liked Picard to have at least one ally in Starfleet he could have turned to (ideally one we’ve met prior) before asking to be a member of Starfleet again. I liked being in San Francisco again but we don’t meet anyone there who isn’t antagonistic to Picard in some way, so that was a major missed opportunity. Laris and Zhaban continue to be one of the strongest parts of the show as well as anything having to do with the Romulans.

Final Score: 7.5 / 10