Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Next Generation, Season 7: Preemptive Strike

The Next Generation, Season 7
"Preemptive Strike"
Airdate: May 16, 1994
175 of 176 produced
175 of 176 aired


Ro Laren has returned to the Enterprise, fresh from a course in advanced tactics and a promotion to Lieutenant. But she is quickly put to the test, as Maquis renegades fighting against the Cardassian treaty stir up old resentments in her heart.

Originally, I  was going to be the cake. But then I heard Data was invited...


Matthew: This episode might be the most emblematic of the "problem" that Season 7 has. To me, this is a certain perfunctory "Well, time to close story threads for character X" feel to many of the episodes. What makes this the worst of the bunch in that respect is that it's a character who hasn't been on the show for nearly two seasons (her last appearance being "Rascals" at the beginning of Season 6). So while the stories addressing Worf and Picard and Crusher might feel a bit labored, this one really comes out of left field. We never really knew she left and no ceremony was made of it for two years, so this episode is answering questions that no one really asked.

Kevin: I give a little more leeway for trying to tie up so many stories in a season, but overall, I agree. If nothing else, I think Ro's conflict would have had more punch if she were continually present on the show for the last season. It would have given her ultimate betrayal some bite.

Matthew: The other artificial feeling aspect of this show is the sort of expository heavy lifting it seems to be asked to do, to set up Maquis story lines in DS9 and Voyager (which would premiere soon after TNG's end). We get yet another iteration on "people don't like the Cardassian treaty very much," having already seen it with Starfleet captains and Native Americans (!). If this had been the first or second such story, it might be pretty good. Now it just seems gratuitous. There is no sci-fi to speak of, either (and no, biogenic weapons don't count, since they could just as well have been flaming arrows or poison smoke bombs).

Kevin: I actually think this episode could have been transplanted whole to DS9 and it would have been an awesome episode. If the pointof the episode is the ambiguity of the Maquis and their tactics, then making Sisko face that works better since that's a whole arc of DS9. Then there would have been added tension of someone who knows Ro's record but no Ro herself, and Ro interacting with other Bajorans on the station. It may have felt like stunt casting, but it might have succeeded better than, say, DeLancie's appearance.

Matthew: Now, criticism aside, it is an interesting character story essentially speaking. Will the bad kid made good be tempted by other bad kids? Are those kids really bad, anyway? The first of these is an interesting character angle, except that Ro has been MIA for so long. The latter has been asked and answered by two previous episodes. There were some well written scenes, especially between Picard and Ro, looking at their relationships as mentor and reclamation project. Overall, though, the impact was blunted - just as if the episode had focused on, say, Ensign Sonya Gomez or Nurse Ogawa. 

Kevin: I liked the scene with Riker in the Maquis shuttle, and the last scene between Picard and Riker. There was a lot of layers there, particularly for Riker, who doesn't quite have the baggage of "mentor" but someone who ultimately became genuinely fond of her. I think this episode is one rewrite away from being really good, and not to lean too hard on my senioritis theory, but I can't but imagine that the writers firing on all cylinders in seasons 3, 4, or 5 couldn't have polished it a little more.


Matthew: Writing aside, this episode was pretty well acted. Michelle Forbes is quite capable, and it's too bad she was only in 8 episodes. Her scene in the bar with Stewart was excellent. The subtle shades of meaning and emotion, reflecting her character's inner turmoil, were great. I liked Frakes and Forbes together, too. I feel like Frakes was playing it as if their sexual fling was in his mind, and I loved it. It's too bad there wasn't more of it - the Riker/Ro thing could have anchored the second half of the episode, and would have been a good counterpoint to Troi/Worf.

Kevin: Agreed on all counts. The scene in the bar between Stewart and Forbes was really well done as it both dramatic and creepy, seeing them have to pretend to have a sexual relationship that they don't have. Forbes really nailed portraying her conflict over her decision, even at the last second.

Matthew: John Franklyn-Robbins was a little bit on the nose for me as the wise old Maquis leader competing for Ro's affections. He played it in such a way that it was hard to believe him as a leader of a terrorist cell. Certainly the script bore some blame for this, but the actor didn't really bring an edge to it, either. It's really too bad that the Santos role filled by William Thomas Jr. wasn't played instead by Tim Russ in the Tuvok role. That's not to say he wasn't perfectly fine in the role. Speaking of guest stars, it's always good to see Natalija Nogulich in the Nechayev role. She should have been more heavily used in DS9. She's really good, every time.

Kevin: I would have liked to see a bit more of the Maquis we saw in DS9, basically decent people driven to more extreme measures. It would have helped the characterizations for the Maquis and made Ro's choice more complicated and therefore more interesting. But still, the actors all did a fine job.

Production Values

Matthew: The space battle scenes are a definite high water mark for the series. The level of detail, the number of ships, the camera moves, and the use of effects are all excellent. They're better, in fact, than much of the early DS9 space shots. The planets looked really nice, too. We also got a nice view of the Enterprise model when the small ship flew behind the nacelles.

Kevin: I love the shot of the Maquis raider slipping in between the nacelles. It's great model work, and novel work too. The scene in the nebula is also pretty awesome.

Matthew: The bar set was really nice looking bar, with lots of extras, and pretty good casual clothes. I will say that Ro's odd purple ensemble with butterfly belt buckle was a little kooky for my tastes.

Kevin: I liked the costuming choices overall. I've always been a fan of the chunky, granola, Bajoran aesthetic and these all have the benefit of looking like actual clothes.


Matthew: I'm vacillating between a 2 and a 3 for this. I'm going to go with a 3, because this is an entertaining show in principle, it's just out of step with what I wish Season 7 were doing instead. The character conflicts are interesting enough, and there is a good smattering of action scenes. This episode can't really be faulted for the underuse of Ro generally, which might be at the behest of the actress, anyway. But it's not a great show. It's merely adequate, and only just so.

Kevin: This more easily a 3 for me. There are a lot of missed opportunities, but the core of the story is interesting and well acted between two characters I care about it. I tend to skip over it to get right to All Good Things... when I am watching season 7, but taken on its own, it's certainly not bad. That's a total of 6 for us.

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