Star Trek: The Next Generation: Face of the Enemy   Rewatch 
August 2, 2021 10:05 AM - Season 6, Episode 14 - Subscribe

Troi is captured and forced to masquerade as a Romulan intelligence officer in a plot to aid the defection of several high-ranking Romulan officials.

At one time I found Memory Alpha's sense of purpose, its passion and commitment, to be very compelling.

Story and script
  • Originally, Doctor Crusher was to be the crewmember kidnapped, but this was changed when the staff realized that Troi's empathic abilities would be more suitable for espionage. A similar The Hunt for Red October-style premise had been previously rejected before the staff convinced Rick Berman to give it a try. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 234))
  • Robert Hewitt Wolfe had pitched an episode featuring Q in which Q sent Picard, Data and Troi onto a Romulan starship, where they would be seen as Romulans by the crew. The pitch was used as part of "Face of the Enemy". (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p 45)
  • Wolfe explained why the pitch was unsuccessful: "The reason it didn't go is the way I had them do it; there was no Romulan make-up involved, they weren't possessing their bodies. The visual gag was the same as Quantum Leap, where we would look at them and see them as themselves and maybe in a reverse shot we might see them as other people completely, but they didn't want to step on Quantum Leap's toes". (The Deep Space Log Book: A First Season Companion, p. 63)
Production
  • This episode marked the debut of Worf's ponytail. He would retain this look for the rest of the series, throughout his tenure on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and all four Next Generation films. Hairstylist Joy Zapata and Michael Dorn had both lobbied for the change for some time. Zapata explained, "[Worf's hair] used to remind me of a Klingon that had gone to the beauty salon; it looked like Donna Reed!" (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., pp. 234-235))
  • Set designer Richard James was responsible for creating the D'deridex-class interiors seen in this episode. He explained, "We played off of Romulans having a motif represented by certain colors. We do that for identification so that certainly the Romulans would not have everything that would look just like Earth society. For us to graphically sell the idea of it being Romulan, we need to do it well with the sets, make-up and costumes which are Romulan colors. It helps to reinforce the idea that this is Romulan territory and it was not that much of a challenge because we played off of what's been established for Romulan ships… We had rooms that we'd never been into before for the Romulans and we said what would the Romulan plates and silverware look like? You get into all of that – and even simple things like chairs, which you had to design. It's not as though you could go out to the rental store. All these factors come into play." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, pp. 270-271)
  • Shankar, however, was not pleased with the result. "What we ended up with was Romulan Pizza Kitchen. If you read my first draft, I was very specific about what the Romulan bridge should look like. I thought we were going to build an entirely new set. And the bridge I described was in an elongated room much like the nose of the Romulan ship. I wanted it to look alien and have the Commander standing at a rail in the back of the room. She always stands, there's no seat for her and the room ends with her back at the wall so there's no one behind her. The idea is they're so suspicious that the commander would never let anybody behind her. The entire cabin is forward of the command position and there's just one pilot and stations around that. To me that would have been cooler." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 271)
Cast and characters
  • At one point, Naren Shankar suggested casting Joanne Linville to reprise her role as the Romulan Commander from TOS: "The Enterprise Incident". However, Linville was not available. (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 270)
  • Carolyn Seymour had previously played another Romulan commander, Sub-Commander Taris in "Contagion". The staff decided not to reuse Taris because it was initially assumed that the character had been killed. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 234))
Continuity
  • In this episode, it is revealed that Romulan cloaking devices, when operational, leave standard defensive shields off-line. Before, it was only known that a cloaked vessel could not fire its offensive weaponry. This would be an essential element to the Enterprise crew defeating Lursa and B'Etor in the Battle of Veridian III in Star Trek Generations.
  • This is the first episode in which Romulan officers wear insignia on their uniform collars.
  • Deanna Troi is the second Starfleet officer to be surgically altered to appear as a Romulan but the first to be altered by Romulans to appear as one of them. The first was James T. Kirk in TOS: "The Enterprise Incident". Jean-Luc Picard and Data in TNG: "Unification I" and TNG: "Unification II" also appeared to be Romulan, but they used prosthetics rather than surgery.
  • When Ensign DeSeve beams on board, he tells Commander Riker he needs to speak to "Captain Picard" urgently. However, when Picard enters his quarters, he immediately addresses him as Commander.
  • It is revealed in this episode that the Romulans use an artificial quantum singularity as a power source on their starships in the 24th century. This would explain why the warp core of the Romulan science ship featured in the episode "The Next Phase" imploded as opposed to exploded. This would also be a crucial plot point in "Timescape", later in the season.
Poster's Log:

Does Troi speak Romulan? Does no-one noticed her Betazoid accent?

Carolyn Seymour makes a great Romulan commander, but I will always think of her as Mirasta Yale, first and foremost.

I really expected Toreth's speech about her dad to end up revealing that she's a dissident sympathizer.

They beamed over the Romulans, in stasis, but not the cargo pods. I understand the suspicion, but Toreth's immediate deduction that the Tal Shiar cargo is what was sent over, without having someone open the crates, is a huge leap.
posted by hanov3r (25 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
I liked this episode very much, and so did the showrunners--so much so that they reused the premise in DS9's "Second Skin", and arguably even improved on it, by having Kira Nerys, who hates Cardassians and had killed a bunch while in the resistance, being involuntarily given the appearance of a Cardassian. There are a bunch of differences in the plots of the two episodes that made it less of a direct steal, but still. The main impetus here is that Troi's experience is part of the general improvement and overall badassification [TVTropes] of the character as seen previously in "Power Play"; it's great to see her warm up to the role, and even better to see her do so as part of her power struggle with Toreth. Carolyn Seymour is just fantastic as Toreth, all wounded pride and justifiable anger, and their verbal dueling is just great. Also very good was N'Vek, knowing just how dangerous his game was.

The B-plot was OK, although I wasn't sure if the guy playing DeSeve wasn't bringing much to the role or if the role itself was just underwritten. It's an interesting concept, mirroring real-life examples such as this guy who defected to North Korea (although he didn't come back). The call-back to "Unification" was a nice touch.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:55 AM on August 2 [2 favorites]


I keep reading "DeSeve" as "deceive", as if he's named in the Sith manner.
posted by hanov3r at 10:57 AM on August 2 [3 favorites]


Yeah, it felt like an odd casting choice to me to use the same actor who'd appeared so recently and so memorably--not that she's not fantastic here, as she always is, but she'll always be Mirasta to me!

Once again, they've put someone in the wildly unflattering and impractical jumpsuit d'jour. It's like some cruel joke: you got a role on this super popular show! But you have to wear this horrific jumpsuit, sorry. Also we're giving you a little Dutch boy haircut.

I always have a bit of a problem with these episodes, the way they handwave not being a native speaker of a language yet no one notices, not knowing subtle customs, etc., and then you throw in nonconsensual surgery on top of it...bleh. And I've had surgery on my face many times (for skin cancer)--even with all their advances in medicine, work on your face is super complicated, especially when it involves cutting away parts and stretching skin to cover that, and I just can never get past the fact that they're doing it. You'd have to have really, really magical science to make that one work for me and they just...don't even try. I'd probably have been more on board with this episode if it hadn't been nonconsensual and Troi's appearance was altered with prosthetics, because it's interesting otherwise.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 11:18 AM on August 2 [3 favorites]


Cards of the episode in the Star Trek CCG:

A major source for Romulan cards (and ONLY Romulan cards), mostly before they seriously tried to make the green affiliation any good in First Edition. Premiere features N'Vek, Palteth, Toreth, and her ship Khazara. The first expansion, Alternate Universe, included the first dual-affiliation personnel in the game, Stefan DeSeve and Major Rakal, which both have the red Alternate Universe icon cuz they really didn't have many 'real' AU Romulan candidates to staff the Decius. The Major could also solve the valuable Quash Conspiracy, which calls for personnel with a SMALL amount of an attribute rather than a large amount, for a change. She was the ONLY Tal Shiar personnel at this point, so high risk, high reward.

Second Edition went to this episode for Romulan cards (and ONLY Romulan cards) as well, including the Romulan Disruptor Pistol, Protection of the Tal Shiar, Twist of Fate, and N'Vek, Soldier of the Underground in the first set, Palteth(who has 3 more skills than in 1E!), Toraan, Toreth, Cautious Commander, and the returning Khazara in the second set, Insult in the third set, Escaping Detection and Outlining the Stakes in the fourth set, and Deanna Troi, Major Rakal in the seventh set. Whew!
posted by StarkRoads at 11:25 AM on August 2


Does Troi speak Romulan? Does no-one noticed her Betazoid accent?

This has always been the weirdest and least-believable thing about the Universal Translator to me. Apparently it not only makes it so the person you're talking to hears you speak in their language, it also erases any evidence you're speaking any language other than their language. There's quite a few times where Star Trek characters go incognito and the fact they have to use a Universal Translator to communicate should have instantly unmasked them.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 12:55 PM on August 2 [1 favorite]


Great, tense, fun episode. Troi's best, maybe. Certainly it gives us Troi at her most badass. (Canonically, anyway; I'm slowly reading the TNG Mirror Universe novel Dark Mirror, and Troi is quite scary in it so far. It's kind of a tough novel to get through because it seems like you're spending days and days in the Mirror Universe, which is a pretty unpleasant place to spend days and days.)

Carolyn Seymour's got serious range! She was relatable and likeable in "First Contact" and she's scary yet plausible in this.

Interesting MA details about Corvallens:
• A Corvallen was briefly considered as a main character for Star Trek: Voyager.
• Following the initial appearance of Corvallens in "Face of the Enemy", they were regularly identified on call sheets by the production nickname with some variation of "Puzzle Piece Alien".

And you knew this was coming: "Fashion It So" on "Face" (well, clothes) "of the Enemy"
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 1:15 PM on August 2 [1 favorite]


(Canonically, anyway; I'm slowly reading the TNG Mirror Universe novel Dark Mirror, and Troi is quite scary in it so far. It's kind of a tough novel to get through because it seems like you're spending days and days in the Mirror Universe, which is a pretty unpleasant place to spend days and days.)

Has anything in Star Trek been beaten into the ground worse the MU?
posted by StarkRoads at 1:28 PM on August 2 [2 favorites]


Has anything in Star Trek been beaten into the ground worse the MU?

The NCC-1701, on several occasions.
posted by phooky at 6:20 PM on August 2 [4 favorites]


Has anything in Star Trek been beaten into the ground worse than the MU?

The Nazis and the Wild West have also been revived a bunch of times.
posted by zadcat at 8:21 PM on August 2


The only one of the shows that really leaned heavily into the MU was DS9, and then they took a different tack from TOS and just about every beta canon version by not having the crew (except for Kira) wearing sexy-evil versions of their regular uniforms.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:08 PM on August 2


Yeah, it's interesting that DS9's treatment of the MU wound up being less tedious than DISCO's even though DS9 had, like, six? MU episodes.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 4:36 AM on August 3 [1 favorite]


Originally, Doctor Crusher was to be the crewmember kidnapped, but this was changed when the staff realized that Troi's empathic abilities would be more suitable for espionage. A similar The Hunt for Red October-style premise had been previously rejected before the staff convinced Rick Berman to give it a try.

I found this interesting, considering that McFadden had like five minutes of screen time in the beginning of the film version of Hunt for Red October.
posted by radwolf76 at 5:07 AM on August 3


Has anything in Star Trek been beaten into the ground worse the MU?

I would put "time travel" forward as a contender.
posted by nubs at 10:49 AM on August 3


This one is just fine. Troi is great. Toreth is good. All the rest of the Romulans are nicely done.

One thing about the setting of the Romulan ship, I always hate how when they do other ships, the bridges are so ugh. Only the captain ever gets a chair and everyone else stands around their stations with their little control panels. I would have liked to have seen the Romulan commander all the way in the back if only because it would explain why when Picard talks to Romulans, there's no one in the background unlike the Enterprise.

But nothing will ever match the original Romulans from "The Neutral Zone." That pair of guys sitting on screen was so awesome.
posted by Fukiyama at 8:13 PM on August 3


One thing about the setting of the Romulan ship, I always hate how when they do other ships, the bridges are so ugh. Only the captain ever gets a chair and everyone else stands around their stations with their little control panels.

I always assumed that was done to make the difference between the Enterprise being, essentially, a luxury cruise ship with weapons, and everyone else in the galaxy being brutish militarists.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:25 AM on August 4


I always assumed that was done to make the difference between the Enterprise being, essentially, a luxury cruise ship with weapons, and everyone else in the galaxy being brutish militarists.

Certainly the "living room" of the Enterprise is special. Here is a stand out example of what I mean that I always think of because it is so absurd when I see it:

In the second episode of the Klingon Civil War two parter, Worf is serving aboard his brother's ship. They are in the middle of a fight and Worf's tactical station is a little screen and a panel on the wall behind Kurn's command chair. That's it. Worf is hunched over using phasers and launching torpedoes from a space that is not much bigger than a poster I have on my wall.

(Of course, his tactical station on the Enterprise is pretty absurd as well, but that's a discussion for another day.)
posted by Fukiyama at 8:39 AM on August 4


So, there's a VR game called Star Trek: Bridge Crew where you get to tappity-tap-tap buttons on a virtual console to launch torpedos or reroute warp energy or whatnot. It's surprisingly fun! Anyway, all the bridge positions are seated, except for tactical on the Enterprise-D, where you're standing and instead reaching down towards the controls. It's always fun to start one of those scenarios and wait for the person playing tactical to curse as they accidentally punch their knuckles into their very real coffee table.
posted by phooky at 8:55 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]


Aliens bridges are in the same category as Troi's universal translator/Romulan fluency, the alien-of-the-week make-up, et al. They were the price of a show as good as BermanTrek tried to be. Those are things I've always ignored so that I can enjoy the rest.
posted by Stuka at 8:58 AM on August 4 [2 favorites]


Heck, even in TOS, this is the Romulan bridge: not much of a much for a ship that nearly destroyed the 1701. The thing with doing self-contained episodes is that you get sets built for that ep that reflect the amount that the show was willing to spend on something that would likely never be seen again. (At least the repeated use of the Klingon Bird of Prey meant that they had something that was reasonably consistent, at least after the fourth movie.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:33 AM on August 4


Heck, even in TOS, this is the Romulan bridge

That was very specifically designed to look small and cramped, bringing to mind the conditions on WWII submarines, echoing the "destroyer vs submarine" storyline of The Enemy Below.
posted by hanov3r at 11:06 AM on August 4 [2 favorites]


In the second episode of the Klingon Civil War two parter, Worf is serving aboard his brother's ship. They are in the middle of a fight and Worf's tactical station is a little screen and a panel on the wall behind Kurn's command chair. That's it. Worf is hunched over using phasers and launching torpedoes from a space that is not much bigger than a poster I have on my wall.

From my experience this is not dissimilar to the size of control panels for launching torpedoes in Control (about the size of a keyboard) or launching ballistic missiles from MCC (about the size of an old-timey switchboard operator's station) aboard an SSBN. There's a larger torpedo control panel in the torpedo room, but that includes status panels and controls for the tubes themselves, while the control panel in Control is basically a mini display of tube status and a button to initiate launch of the torpedo.

Klingon birds-of-prey only had a crew of 6-12, so there was probably at most one or two other Klingons assigned to weapons, probably stationed at the torpedo launch tube and/or disruptor power distribution panel. Their jobs would be to monitor the status of the systems and ensure they're ready to fire when Worf inputs the commands, and maybe even help with targeting.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 2:15 PM on August 4 [3 favorites]


Does Troi speak Romulan? Does no-one noticed her Betazoid accent?

In one of the DS9 time travel eps, when Quark, Rom & Nog go back to 1950s Area 51 ("Little Green Men"?), they have their universal translators deep in their ears, suggesting they were surgically implanted at an early age. Also, they work for the 1950s humans, even though they obviously don't have them. How do they do that? Who the hell knows!

But my favorite trait about the Universal Translators is that for whatever reason, they occasionally let a little Klingon through for the English speaking Federation officers.

I always love when they send members of the Enterprise (or DS9) on spy missions with some flimsy pretense (Picard wrote a paper on some rare type of technology when he was in Starfleet Academy), even though there's an acknowledged intelligence division in Starfleet. In "Chain of Command," Starfleet sends Picard, Worf, and Dr. Crusher to infiltrate a secret Cardassian military base. Sure, that makes sense: send in the most famous captain in the fleet, who also is a physically fit but slightly past middle-age man, the only Klingon in Starfleet, and their doctor, who is a physically fit but middle-aged woman without military training; that should go well.
posted by Saxon Kane at 6:43 PM on August 4 [1 favorite]


Re: the original Romulan bridge design...

Reminds me of the original Tardis. For whatever reason, an octagonal console with buttons and levers that everyone stands around seems to be a pretty common sci fi design -- I know I've seen it dozens of times in Star Trek, among others.
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:57 AM on August 5


Didn't make the connection with Mirasta Yale, I'm shocked and amazed to report,
but Commander Toreth was a great sympathetic antagonist. Carolyn Seymour has got the goods!
posted by rodlymight at 6:47 PM on August 5


> > Has anything in Star Trek been beaten into the ground worse the MU?

> I would put "time travel" forward as a contender.

Yes, but time travel has been a trope in wider science fiction for a century, and even to some extent in mainstream books and movies. You can't blame Star Trek for that.

The Wild West plots (from TOS onward) rely on the studio having a Wild West set on a backlot, so why not use it? And probably the Nazi plots rely on similar studio collections of uniforms and insignia, plus the fact that the (historical) Nazis are one of the few remaining groups we can all agree were evil and should be resisted.
posted by zadcat at 6:23 AM on August 6 [1 favorite]


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