"Face of the Enemy"

Season Six, Episode 14
Teleplay by Naren Shankar
Story by Rene Echevarria
Directed by Gabrielle Beaumount
Main Cast:
Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard
Jonathan Frakes as Commander William Riker
LeVar Burton as Lt Geordi LaForge
Michael Dorn as Lt Worf
Gates McFadden as Dr Beverly Crusher
Marina Sirtis as Counsellor Deanna Troi
Brent Spiner as Lt Cmdr Data

Guest Cast:
Carolyn Seymour as Commander Toreth
Scott MacDonald as Sub-Commander N'Vek
Barry Lynch as Ensign DeSeve
Robertson Dean as Khazara Pilot
Dennis Cockrum as Corvallen Captain
Pamela Winslow as Ensign McKnight

Troi awakens to find herself kidnapped and surgically-altered to appear Romulan. She is aboard the Romulan warbird Khazara and is told she must pose as "Major Rakal", an operative of the Romulan Tal Shiar. The ship's second-in-command, N'Vek is part of Ambassador's Spock's underground dissident movement and their secret mission is to smuggle three important defectors to the Federation under the nose of the ship's Commander, Toreth. Troi reluctantly plays along with N'Vek, assuming the guise of a Romulan intelligence agent and having to play a battle of wits with Toreth, who is deeply suspicious of the Tal Shiar.

Their plan is to rendezvous with a Corvallen freighter which will take the "cargo" to the Federation, but Troi senses deception on the part of the Corvallens and N'Vek destroys them. Meanwhile, the Enterprise hosts a defector from Romulus who leads them to the wreckage of the Corvallen ship and then to the Khazara. As Toreth begins to suspect "Toreth" of duplicity, N'Vek beams the ambassadors aboard the Enterprise, which promptly rescues Troi once Toreth regains control of her ship.


Well, what do we have here? A Troi story. A good Troi story. A very good Troi story. Spooky, huh? :-)

Yeah, I'm very impressed with it, because right from the off-set it had two immediate handicaps -- 1. It was a Troi story (and let's face it, there aren't many half-way decent Troi stories, are there?) and 2. It was a Romulan story (a race which, most the time, I find exceptionally boring). But Face of the Enemy pulled through despite those odds and is an engaging, taut and intriguing episode that benefits from a first-rate plot, some strong performances and tight directing. A definite season highlight.

The writers deserve an award for simply making the Romulans interesting for once and the well-crafted plot serves as an excellent follow-up to the tale of Spock's underground dissident movement on Romulus (as chronicled in the considerably less than excellent Unification last season). While it's true to say that Troi's starring role could have gone to any of the cast, and I did muse that the dear Counsellor was perhaps not the most useful of Starfleet officers N'Vek could have picked (how the hell she knew those sensor net access codes I'll never know) but Marina Sirtis pulls through, delivering what could well be her best performance. As Troi throws herself into the role of a Tal Shiar operative and gets to show some balls for once (eww, that's a horrible, sexist expression, I know! Sorry.) Sirtis gets to display a range of emotions and she does so quite well. Even better is Carolyn Seymour whose Romulan Commander Toreth absolutely steals the show, remaining one of the damned few Romulan characters that actually had genuine depth and complexity. Scott MacDonald also did a good job as the sympathetic dissident N'Vek.

A great show that's beautifully-executed on just about every level. Aside from the acting, the directing and music were particularly strong, making the episode atmospheric and well-paced. Everything comes together beautifully to boost an episode that's well above average for a show that is often somewhat...relaxed in terms of dramatic execution. Great stuff. 

Rating: 9

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