Mark Watches ‘The Next Generation’: S05E03 – Ensign Ro

In the third episode of the fifth season of The Next Generation, the Enterprise takes on a controversial new officer amidst a complicated political situation. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.

Trigger Warning: For discussion of terrorism, refugees, displacement.

Yes. YES. YES. I adore this episode so much, and I think an incredibly important set of new mythologies were introduced with “Ensign Ro.” I already want more, and I really hope we get more. LET’S DO THIS.

The Bajorans

I don’t think the show set out to introduce the Bajorans so that we’d think of a single real-world group. There are pieces of them that are borrowed from a number of cultures and races, and its through that amalgamation that we get something that’s both unique and familiar. You can easily see parallels between them and the Palestinians. The Roma. The Kurds. Haitian refugees. Syrian refugees. The Jews throughout history in a number of contexts. It’s unfortunate that there are so many parallels because terrorism, colonialism, and political violence are so ubiquitous in our world and our collective history.

So, once The Next Generation invoked this kind of dynamic, how did they deal with it? It’s not just good enough to make these kind of metaphors all on their own. How does the narrative treat them? What focus do they have within the story? I admit that I was surprised to see that the show more or less kept a sympathetic angle for the story. Granted, Picard had his orders, and he often tried to interpret this conflict through his own lens. In this case, he’s a member of Starfleet; he’s going to look after the interests of the Federation. But that’s not the best thing for the Bajorans, and I think this script does a fine job showing us why the Federation’s idea of charity and diplomacy does not work for them. After having been displaced violently by the Cardassians, they’re not interested in patient, slow-moving diplomacy. They want a permanent home and autonomy now.

Ensign Ro

I AM JUST SO DEEPLY IN LOVE WITH HER. I LOVE DIFFICULT CHARACTERS WHO FUSS AND COMPLAIN AND ARE THORNY AND WON’T ACCEPT ANYTHING BUT THE BEST FOR THEMSELVES AND WHO DISRUPT STUFFY ORDER AND ORGANIZATION. My god, I am so pleased that Picard invited her to stay aboard the Enterprise because she’s honestly the most exciting thing this show has introduced in a long time. And I’ve loved the last thirty episodes or so, so I’m not saying the show has been lacking in quality or ingenuity.

It’s just been lacking in Ensign Ro. I love that right as we’re introduced to the Bajoran-Cardassian conflict, we’re given the first Bajoran Starfleet member. Not only that, but she’s already complicated and layered. As far as I could gleam from the episode, she believes she’s responsible for the death of an eight-member away team, and she spent YEARS in jail prior to being broken out by Admiral Kennelly. In short? No one likes her. Most people don’t even think she should be in Starfleet. Hell, she doesn’t even think she should be either! So we’ve got a combination of self-hatred, guilt, and aggression wrapped up in one person, and that makes Ensign Ro the force of the story. The whole episode revolves around her, even when she isn’t on the screen.

It was an electrifying thing to witness, and I know it was one of the reasons I was drawn to her so quickly. I think part of it is that I loved seeing her openly talk down to Riker and Picard. I don’t like people being disrespected, but it felt so different from everything we’d seen before. On that same note, that’s why Ro’s interactions with Guinan were so fascinating. In hindsight, it’s not surprising at all that Guinan, of all people, would find common ground with Ensign Ro. Like the Bajorans, her people were also displaced in the galaxy, and she knows what it’s like to feel like the universe is pulling her in a hundred different directions. Ensign Ro wasn’t looking for help or support in Guinan, but she found it in her. Without Guinan, Ro never would have gone to Picard to tell the truth about what Admiral Kennelly had planned for her and the Bajorans.

God, I just want EVERY EPISODE about her. I want to know more about her past. I want to know EVERYTHING.


It’s not lost on me that yet again, the Bajorans are taken advantage of. The plot that Kennelly gets wrapped up in is so messed up because the Cardassians relied on Kennelly’s own bias so that he’d jump to conclusions, believing that the Bajorans had committed a terrorist attack against the Federation. I find the Cardassians to be even creepier than before because… well, their bigotry is so obvious now. It’s obvious, and they’re getting away with it. They have the power and they have the safety of a diplomatic arrangement with the Federation. While I’m certainly pleased that Picard played Kennelly and the Cardassians, I wonder how far they’ll go. How many other Bajorans will they terrorize? How long will the Bajorans have to wait before they’re finally able to have their own land?

Seriously, I want SO MUCH MORE OF THIS. Please? Please?

The video for “Ensign Ro” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

– The Mark Does Stuff Tour 2015 is now live and includes dates across the U.S. this summer and fall Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be the remainder of The Legend of Korra, series 8 of Doctor Who, and Kings. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
- Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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