The Romulans are becoming an even bigger threat for the Federation this season and with the event’s of The Enemy still fresh in their minds, The Enterprise runs into another situation in the Neutral Zone. This time, there may be a war.
Originally Airing on January 1, 1990, this is The Defector.
Stardate: 43462.5 The Defector
The Enterprise encounters a Romulan Scout Ship that is crossing the neutral Zone and being pursued by a Romulan Warbird. The commander of the Scout Ship requests asylum in Federation space, claiming to have information of a possible Romulan Offensive.
As they beam aboard the Romulan, the Warbird turns around and heads back to the Neutral Zone. Sub Lieutenant Setal beams aboard and, although wounded, insists on talking to the Captain of the ship. He warns Picard and the senior staff that the ROmulans are building a base on their side of the Neutral Zone and they are planning to take over the Neutral Zone once it is completed.
Unsure of Setal’s honesty but not taking anything at face value, Picard sends him to sickbay to be helped and then confines him to quarters until he can be questioned. In his room, Setal pulls a small disc from his boot. What could this be?
Meanwhile Starfleet contacts the Enterprise alerting them that although the Romulans have formally filed a complaint for the return of the defector, Starfleet is, ultimately, leaving the decision in Picard’s hands. Picard asks Data to document all of the events that transpire in case there is a war so that there is an impartial record of what has occured. Picard is clearly concerned about what might happen.
As Riker and Troi interrogate Setal, with little success, Geordi detects something that may be a Romulan base in the Neutral Zone but, the only way to find out if it is, is to go there. This would be an action that could start a war itself.
As Data and Setal talk, Data takes him to the holodeck to see Romulus again. There, he reveals that he is actually Admiral Jarok and he needs to speak to Picard immediately. Starfleet confirms Jarok’s identity and Picard doubts even more that this man is telling the truth about the hidden Romulan Base. Jarok explains that, although he has a history of war, he does not wish for the Federation and Romulan Empire to go to war. He knows that this defection will lead to his own daughter believing him to be a traitor but, if it prevents a war, he is okay with that fate. Jarok provides vital intel on the Romulan fleet and Picard takes the Enterprise to Nelvana III in the Neutral Zone.
They arrive at the planet to find nothing. It appears that Admiral Jarok has been fed false information and suddenly a pair of Romulan Warbirds appear. They are hailed by none other than Commander Tomalak who tells Picard that The Enterprise is now in violation of the treaty and the crew are now Romulan Prisoners of War.
Picard calls Tomalak’s bluff and asks Worf to contact their Klingon friends. Four Klingon war ships appear and Tomalak is trapped. Tomalak reluctantly accepts this stalemate and leaves.
In the end, realizing that he committed treason against the Romulan Empire for nothing, Jarok commits suicide with the small disc from his boot. He leaves a letter for his family with the hope that one day it can be delivered.
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
For me, yes, yes it is. On the opposite end of the spectrum of the exploration part of Star Trek, this hits home on the possibility of War in the Star Trek Universe. This is a threat that we have not really felt until now and the show does a wonderful job portraying the stress and anxiety an event like this would entail.
We get some good character development for Picard in seeing him try to determine the correct course to prevent a war. There are subtle things that he does that you don’t notice throughout the episode. One bit is when a Klingon ship signals the Enterprise and Picard asks Worf to talk with them. It seems like it is only a filler moment until they appear alongside the Enterprise to defend them against the Romulans. Picard had a plan that even the audience didn’t know about and it was genius. This man is a brilliant tactician. (note, there is even a flourish of the Klingon Theme Music from the Motion Picture! )
The writers also to a fine job with the continuity in this episode, see below in Gleanings and Cook Bits, This really shows that the writing team are planning ahead and developing loose story arcs to revisit, giving themselves plenty to play with should they need it. This makes the season and the world feel far more cohesive than the previous two seasons combined. We will see much more of this as we get deeper in the series. What is fantastic is that, even though there is a lot of connective tissue, each episode )with few exceptions) is a stand alone episode too. So, with that, long time viewers get a little bonus in these episodes while causal viewers can still enjoy the story!
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
We open the episode with Data on the holodeck performing Henry V. It is worth it to note that one of the soldiers he is talking with is none other than Patrick Stewart under heavy makeup. This is the first time on the series that he gets to play dual roles.
In the holographic simulation at the beginning, Data is working with Picard to study Shakespeare. This is more of Data’s attempt to learn more about being human.
We get to see Tomalak again and you can be sure he will return yet again!
There is some great world building with Jarok mentioning the defeat at the Battle of Cheron and the events at Galorndon Core from earlier this season in The Enemy. Doctor Crusher also references the death of a Romulan on board their ship, all with an unhappy look at Worf. If you’ve been following alone, you know why.
This is time we see the new Romulan Scout Ship.
We never find out in any series if Jaroks letter was ever delivered.
Thanks for reading the Retro TV Review, I look forward to discussing the rest of the series with you, one episode at a time every Monday, Wednesday and Friday! Next Review: The Hunted.
If you would like to read more reviews I have a weekly series called Key Movies Of My Life that comes out every Thursday and for more retro TV goodness check out the rest of the Retro TV Reviews here.
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Late To The Game 9/7/2019 (Originally published 5/11/2018)
Special Thanks to Memory Alpha as they are one of the best sources for details on Star Trek information available. Although I have a pretty deep knowledge on the subject, they have proven invaluable as a regular resource.
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