Episode five of Star Trek Picard, “Imposter,” saw the surprise return, and equally surprising death, of a beloved The Next Generation character. Many fans wondered if we’d say goodbye for good to one of the main returning TNG cast in Picard’s swan song season. But as of episode five, the one classic TNG character we lost was someone we didn’t even know was coming back. We’re talking about Michelle Forbes as Bajoran officer Ro Laren, who appeared in eight episodes of TNG over several seasons.
Many genre TV fans recognize Forbes from her roles on shows like Battlestar Galactica and True Blood. However, it was her time on TNG as Ro that made her a fan favorite. So her character’s return, and subsequent death, came as a great surprise. They introduced Ro Laren in the episode “Ensign Ro,” early in TNG’s fifth season. She appeared in eight episodes of the series total, and she introduced the Bajoran race to Star Trek lore.
Ensign Ro was a disgraced Starfleet officer, whose hasty actions had led to the accidental deaths of eight starship crew members. She was sprung from prison and they reinstated her Starfleet commission as part of a secret plot by a corrupt Admiral. But she turned against that Admiral, and gained the trust of Captain Picard. Jean Luc took a shine to her, and eventually offered her a position on board the Enterprise.
Over the course of the rest of TNG, Picard became both a mentor and a father figure. He saw a bit of his rebellious youthful self in her. But when he placed her on an undercover mission with the rebel group the Maquis, she betrayed Picard and joined the Maquis for real. This broke Picard’s heart, and the two didn’t see each other again until Picard season three’s fifth episode. This was some 29 years from their last encounter.
In the succeeding years, Ro Laren served prison time again for her Maquis activities but was able to join Starfleet once more. They recruited her into Starfleet intelligence, and she became aware of the infiltration of Starfleet by rogue Changelings. She ultimately came to believe that Picard was the real deal, and not a Changeling agent himself. Changeling agents then killed her, bombing her shuttle which exploded while leaving the Titan. Before that however, she finally made peace with her former Captain.
While she wasn’t a main character of the Enterprise-D crew for all seven seasons, she was nevertheless a fan favorite. And for years, these same fans have wanted some form of proper closure to her character since 1994. Thankfully, Picard just gave us the character resolution we all craved, even if it was a bittersweet one.