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The Enemy

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at April 25, 2008 - 10:23 PM GMT

See Also: 'The Enemy' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: A distress signal summons the Enterprise to Galorndon Core, where Riker's away team discovers a downed Romulan vessel and its pilot, Patahk. The team can only beam out when the planet's deadly electrical storms abate, and LaForge falls into a pit that prevents him from returning to the ship to the others. Patakh is dying not from his crash but from neurological damage caused by the planet's magnetic storms. Crusher determines that she can save him with a transfusion from Worf, but because Romulans slaughtered his parents, Worf refuses to give consent to the procedure. Meanwhile, a Romulan warship contacts the Enterprise from the Neutral Zone, claiming that the ship on Galorndon Core suffered a navigational error and demanding the right to enter Federation territory on a rescue mission. The Romulan captain, Tomalak, says that only one man was in the damaged ship, but on the planet, LaForge is attacked by a second Romulan survivor named Bochra. When Wesley rigs a neutrino beam as a homing beacon for LaForge's visor, LaForge picks up the signal and convinces Bochra to help him reach it so that they may both be rescued. Despite the risk of war over Patakh's treatment, Picard is unable to convince Worf to help save the Romulan and must tell Tomalak that Patakh has died. Tomalak prepares to attack the Enterprise in retaliation, but when Picard discovers the second Romulan on the surface, he convinces Tomalak to avert a Federation-Romulan war and beams LaForge and Bochra aboard the Enterprise. Both recover from their injuries and Bochra returns to the Romulans.

Analysis: "The Enemy" is a tightly scripted drama in which what could be a throwaway B plot provides the real drama for the episode while the action storyline keeps the pace taut. It's a terrific drama that could have been a mediocre action story involving the crash and standoff with the Romulan warship. But instead of concentrating on the obvious questions of how Picard will deal with an apparent Romulan incursion into Federation space, whether his actions will lead to war with the Romulan Empire and whether LaForge can come up with a separate peace with his unlikely ally on Galorndon Core, the writers throw in an unexpected wrench: Worf could save the Romulan crash victim on the Enterprise and give the Romulans a reason to rethink their opinions about Starfleet and the Klingons both, but Worf refuses to do so, because Romulans killed his parents. I imagine we knew that detail about Worf before but it never fully sunk in what it meant - that Worf was raised by humans because of a wartime atrocity that he witnessed as a very young child, that he accepted humans as peers and allies not only because they cared for him but because they shared his common enemy.

The first time I saw the episode, way back when it was new, I was certain that Crusher and Picard would convince Worf to change his mind, let bygones by bygones and choose peace because that's what Star Trek has traditionally been about...IDIC and all that, sure, but there's a lot less respect for diversity when it involves holding onto what have been deemed outmoded ideas, whether those ideas are theological or based in old prejudices and resentments. Kirk would have worn down any crewmember with talk of what another Romulan war would mean, how stubbornness here would leave more orphaned children. Picard instead realizes that he's up against a great Klingon wall. He could order Worf to submit to the procedure, and Worf would do so as a Starfleet officer, but Picard won't violate Worf's rights as an individual in that manner. And Worf, who is capable of swallowing Klingon pride when directed to do so by a superior officer, won't make the personal decision to betray what he feels is a matter of family honor. Crusher's feeble humanitarian (well, Romulanitarian) plea doesn't make a dent. I find myself wondering what argument Pulaski might have tried; she knew Klingon culture far better than Crusher does, possibly as well as Worf does considering he was raised outside it too. But no one on the Enterprise at present - not even Riker, who was deemed worthy to serve on a Klingon vessel, and chose Worf as first officer for his own first command - is able to come up with an argument that can change Worf's mind in time.

It's an exceptional moment for Star Trek, the acknowledgment that tolerance and forgiveness have limits. Kirk's angry, bitter "Let them die!" when Spock told him that the Klingon homeworld was under a threat that offered an opportunity for peace was notable in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country in large part because we knew he didn't mean it...or at least, no matter how much he might have meant it at that moment, thinking of his own dead son, we knew that Spock would make him see both the logic and compassion of saving the Klingons, setting the past aside and accepting peace as the only way forward. Which is exactly what happened in that previous generation. But neither the Federation nor the Klingons had such a moment with the Romulans, who seem to have become less like the Vulcans and more vicious in the interim. Naturally, Picard is inclined to look for ways to keep the peace, even though he twice has evidence that the Romulans have violated the treaty with the Federation - crossing the Neutral Zone and lying about how many officers were involved. But Worf isn't the captain, and doesn't feel the same obligations. He's not giving up his ribosomes, or his bitterness.

The fact that LaForge is able to form a bond with another Romulan ends up being less interesting, though it provides the resolution to the episode. Bochra is surprised that Geordi's parents let him live with such a tremendous flaw as blindness, yet Bochra comes to see the advantages of wearing a visor when it leads the two of them to the neutrino beam and saves both their lives. There are several lovely LaForge scenes - groping blindly for his visor when it falls off as he drops into the pit, scaling the walls by honing spikes from fragments of ore, recognizing immediately that the neutrino beam is meant for him to spot and guessing that Wesley Crusher came up with the idea, though you'd think Data would contribute to such scientific cleverness every once in a while. LaForge's meeting of the minds with Bochra involves a lot of scientific and technical theory, proving that, while technobabble may not have helped him get dates, it's still a lifesaver. And that particular coming together of enemies is very Star Trek, a contrast if not a balance to Worf's perspective.

Still, what's most memorable about "The Enemy" is not Geordi's convincing Bochra to trust him or Picard's trumping Tomalak (a terrific character played by the terrific Andreas Katsulas of later Babylon 5 fame), but Worf's staring down at Patakh, unable to come up with a reason to save the Romulan's life. Picard is worried that Galorndon Core will be remembered longer than Pearl Harbor if makes the wrong decisions, and tells Worf so; Crusher says that this isn't the time and place for Worf's prejudices, since this particular Romulan didn't kill Worf's parents; Riker asks how long the bitterness must go on, whether the Klingons will reject any peace the Federation might make with the Romulans; all Worf can say is that everything he is tells him not to save Balakh. Beverly insists that in that case, he should watch Balakh die, apparently hoping to play on Worf's pity. Yet Bakalk gets the last word. He wishes only to die with his hands at Worf's throat, declaring that he would rather die than pollute his body with Klingon filth. That much, Worf is willing to grant him.

It's thankfully obvious we haven't heard the last of this.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Michelle Erica Green is a former news writer for the Trek Nation. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.

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