This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe. An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here.
back to Character Insight! This week, we profile Ro Laren, a recurring character on TNG who almost became a major character on DS9.
("Nose ridges and earrings, yes indeed, it's a TNG era alien via forehead of the week")
Ro grew up during the Cardassian occupation of Bajor, which means she spent most of her childhood in internment and refugeee camps. Her most traumatic moment was being forced to watch Cardassians question and torture her father to death, an incident that taught her not even her father could protect her. She felt ashamed to be a Bajoran in view of this weakness, and she ran away from her culture for a time before coming back to embrace it, once she was done grieving her father.
Ro decided to serve in Starfleet, and despite good accolades at the Academy, her first assignment results in a court martial. Her decision to disobey orders on an away mission led to the deaths of 8 crew mates while serving on the USS Wellington. Thus, when she comes aboard the Enterprise to help with a Bajoran terrorist capture mission, she is only at the rank of ensign and has been just released from a prison sentence. Needless to say, Captain Picard and Commander Riker don't trust her initially.
However, Ro quickly showed her potential guiding the Enterprise through this terrorist capture mission. Captain Picard decides he cannot let this promising young officer go, so she appears in several other episodes in the final three seasons of TNG. The most notable of these is The Next Phase, an episode where Ro and Geordi La Forge get sent out of phase by new Romulan cloaking technology and they have to find a way to inform the rest of the crew that they are not dead and also about the Romulan threat.
Quote: Ro Laren: I
was raised with Bajoran beliefs. And I even followed some of the
practices. But I never really believed in a life after death. And then
suddenly I was dead... and there was this other life. And that made me
feel like I'd been pretty arrogant, to discount everything I'd been
taught, you know? Now I don't know what to believe.
Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge: Hmm... Well, maybe we should develop our own interphase device. If it can teach Ro Laren humility, it can do anything.
Ro is later assigned to infiltrate the Maquis. In the process of gaining the trust of the Maquis, she again found her loyalties torn because her heritage led her to be sympathetic to the Maquis cause, which is opposed by the Cardassians. She ends up defecting from the Enterprise, with an apology to Picard for betraying his trust.
Quote: Ro Laren: Could you tell Captain Picard something for me?
Commander William T. Riker: Of course, what is it?
Ro Laren: Tell him I'm sorry.
Ro Laren is a good late-season character because she was designed as a sharp-edged character to contrast from the well-known main characters. Her personal backstory lends itself to good stories about her path to redemption and acceptance of her cultural heritage, even when it doesn't align with her Starfleet mentors.
It is also interesting that the character of Ro Laren was slated to be a main character on DS9, but this role was turned down by actress Michelle Forbes. While it would have been fun to see another character from TNG develop more like Miles O'Brien did, we still received a compelling alternate character when Kira Nerys was plugged into the role Ro Laren was to be in.
Michelle Forbes played Ro, and she has had recent roles on television shows like 24, True Blood, and Battlestar Galactica. She can also be seen in the upcoming Hunger Games movie, The Mockingjay Part 1.
Until next time, live long and prosper...