ST:TNG Treadmill Review #21: The Enemy

The Enemy
Season 3 Episode 7
Original airdate: November 4, 1989

Netflix Synopsis

La Forge gets left behind on a storm-plagued planet when the rest of his team encounters a Romulan warrior.

My Brief Review

Funny… here’s a case where the Netflix and IMDb synopses are word-for-word identical. I’m still trying to figure out the mystery of where Netflix sources these.

Two days ago I decided not to watch any TNG on the treadmill when I read the previews for five episodes and was not interested in any of them. This was the first of the five. Today I went back and gave it a chance, and I’m glad I did! It was a very good episode. (With a couple of major flaws.)

Riker, Geordi and Worf are on an away mission to a planet full of heavy electrical storms. They come upon an injured Romulan — who has no business being on a Federation planet half a light year from the edge of the Neutral Zone! Meanwhile, Geordi falls in a hole and is lost. Their window in the storm closing, Riker and Worf beam back with the Romulan and leave Geordi behind.

Back on the planet, down the hole, Geordi finds (thanks to his visor) some metallic ore that he melts with a phaser to turn into a couple of climbing spikes he uses to get back to the surface. (Clever!) Only, he stumbles upon… a second Romulan!

I won’t spoil the rest of the story, but there are some heavy themes dealing with the limits of trust and the willingness we have to die for principles — or to let others die for them. Surprisingly, the writers left this difficult issue hanging in the air for us to struggle with, as the story does not provide a tidy resolution of the matter. (This is uncommonly “deep” writing for ’80s television.)

This episode features a special appearance by one of my favorite character actors as the Romulan Commander of the ship that comes to answer the distress call — Andreas Katsulas, perhaps best known as… well, the fugitive in the movie version of The Fugitive. (OK, he’s probably best known to a lot of sci-fi fans as G’Kar from Babylon 5, but I never got into that show.) His character here, Tomalak, is probably the most well-known Romulan face on TNG, making three subsequent appearances after this episode, including the series finale.

The only real problems I have with this episode are right at the beginning and end. First, I find it highly improbable that a planet whose surface is so “storm-plagued” would be a place humans could survive on for even a few seconds, despite whatever invisible technology these guys are supposed to have. And then, right at the end, after Picard says he will be escorting Tomalak’s ship back to Romulan space, we see the two ships leaving orbit of the planet in opposite directions. I recognize that they had a limited number of stock shots of the ship models in motion to work with, but surely they could have either made something work or skipped the obligatory final exterior shot of the ship this time.

Memorable Moment

Picard’s deft brinksmanship in his negotiations with the duplicitous (he’s Romulan, after all) Tomalak is some classic TNG.

Crew Rando

There are so many people working in sickbay in this episode! Where did they all come from, and why do we so rarely see anyone in there besides Dr. Crusher? If she’s in charge of the whole thing, wouldn’t she actually be the one least involved in all of the day-to-day caregiving? (This is one of my big complaints with Star Trek in general. If they have a crew of hundreds, you know every last person sent on an away mission to a barely-habitable planet would be a red shirt, not the second, fourth and fifth in command!

Distance Rating: 5K

IMDb score: 7.9/10