Ro Laren is back (for a little bit)! While the final season of Star Trek: Picard has announced the return of the majority of the main cast from Star Trek: The Next Generation, the return of Michelle Forbes was kept close to the chest as a secret from fans. The last time we saw her was in The Next Generation Season 7 episode, “Preemptive Strike,” where she decides to sabotage a Starfleet operation against the Maquis, a group of former-Federation citizens resisting Cardassian oppression, and subsequently defects to the organization. This was considered a massive betrayal by Picard, leading to the tension caused by her return in Picard‘s fifth episode of the season, “Imposters.”
Additionally, Ro Laren was one of the intended leads for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, but the role was retasked as Kira Nerys (Nana Visitor) when Forbes declined. So, let’s take a look at Laren’s past for those new-age Trek fans or anyone with a short memory. After all, 29 years is a long time.
Who is Ro Laren?
Ro Laren, with Ro as her surname, first appeared in the Season 5 episode, “Ensign Ro.” As a Bajoran, she grew up under the Cardassian Occupation, having caused her people to scatter among refugee camps. Eventually, she witnessed Cardassians interrogate, torture, and murder her father. The shame she initially experienced due to this and the poor quality of life at the camps pushed her to run away, but she would later overcome that shame to appreciate her heritage. After graduating from Starfleet Academy, one of Ro’s posts was aboard the USS Wellington. While on an away mission, her rebellious nature cost the away team their lives. She was subsequently court-martialed and imprisoned.
Ro is released, however, and reinstated (but demoted) to Starfleet as an Ensign in exchange for locating a Bajoran terrorist in a star system she was familiar with. When they reach the location of the terrorist, Ro disappears. Picard (Patrick Stewart) beams down with an away team anyway and finds Ro with a group of armed Bajorans, who let Picard know that they did not commit the act of terrorism against a Federation colony that they were wanted for.
Later, it is revealed that Ro was actually sent on this mission to negotiate a deal with the resistance fighters that went against the Prime Directive — a supply of guns and ships in exchange for a cease in attacks against the Federation. This allows the Enterprise to work with the resistance fighters to expose the true terrorists, the Cardassians. It’s at this point, Picard begins to take Ro under his wing and requests that she transfer to the Enterprise, and she agrees, with the condition that she is permitted to wear her Bajoran earring, which will become important in her appearance on Picard.
Ro’s History Aboard the Enterprise
Ro faced several unusual situations while she was onboard the Enterprise as an Ensign. She struggled with solving a failure in the Enterprise’s containment fields due to a quantum filament, contended with criminals-turned-energy-beings taking over the bodies of the crew, became stuck in a time loop, got caught in a different phase state due to a transponder accident, and was temporarily transformed into a child. She doesn’t appear for 42 episodes after these adventures, and when Ro returns in Season 7, Episode 24, “Preemptive Strike,” it’s explained that she was completing an Advanced Tactical Training course at Starfleet on Picard’s recommendation. This further cements the bond between the two, making their upcoming falling out even more tragic.
Upon graduation, she is once again assigned to the Enterprise as a newly promoted lieutenant and assigned to infiltrate the Maquis, a task she wasn’t certain about. After a manufactured chase, Ro meets a Maquis leader and piques his interest. He later kidnaps her, and she is able to gain the trust of him and the other members of this cell by stealing medical supplies from the Enterprise under fake pretenses. With their trust earned, she is able to convince them to use considerable resources to launch an attack on a convoy, which in reality was a Federation trap.
After one of the Maquis members dies in a Cardassian attack, Ro begins to question her loyalties due to his final words, “When an old fighter like me dies, someone always steps forward to take his place.” While she wants validation from Picard, but she also feels belonging to the resistance group. Ro tries to lie to try to cancel the attack, but Picard sees through this causing her to reassure him that she would carry out her duties. When it was time for the attack, the Captain sends Riker (Jonathan Frakes) on the mission with her to ensure its success, but Ro still fires a particle beam to reveal the Starfleet forces hidden nearby, revealing them to the Maquis. She allows Riker to return to the Enterprise on the shuttlecraft, but not before she asks him to tell Picard that she was sorry and beams to a Maquis ship. Considering Picard’s faith in the officer and Ro’s need for Picard’s approval, this is quite a blow that Picard hasn’t managed to let go of, even decades later.