Sunday, July 24, 2011

Troi Undercover In "Face Of The Enemy!"

The Good: Clever plot, Excellent character development, Nice acting
The Bad: Villains fail to be truly intelligent
The Basics: When Troi is captured by Romulans and forced to help a leader defect, a web of deceit and subterfuge ensues in "Face Of The Enemy."

Star Trek The Next Generation managed to innovate in some clever storylines and even in its later seasons, it continued to tell some pretty clever stories that could not be done outside a science fiction setting. "Face Of The Enemy" is one of those episodes and it comes in the sixth season of the series.

When Counselor Troi wakes up on a Romulan ship disguised as a Romulan, she knows she's in the middle of something bad. A Romulan officer visits her immediately and tells her that she is Major Rakal of the Tal'Shiar. N'Vek tells her that she is now a part of an important, covert mission and her very life is in jeopardy if she does not do as he says. Troi squares off with Commander Toreth, the leader of the Romulan warbird and Troi orders Toreth to a different sector, near the Federation neutral zone. Later, N'Vek reveals to Troi that he is a member of Spock's dissident movement and they are helping a very power politician defect from the Romulan government to the Federation. N'Vek needs Troi to accomplish this and when Troi and Toreth square off throughout the mission, it seems like that may not actually occur.

First off, the make-up and costuming in "Face Of The Enemy" is astounding. Not only is Marina Sirtis's make-up great, which it is and it goes a long way to convincing us of her new persona, all of the Romulans in this episode are pretty incredible. The make-up on Carolyn Seymour and Scott MacDonald, who lay Toreth and N'Vek, is wonderful and it makes us believe they are actually Romulans. The sets complete the illusion and all of these elements are of such a quality that they make us believe in the place and time Troi finds herself in.

But more than that, "Face Of The Enemy" is a wonderful character story. Troi is one of the less used characters and having her put in a situation like this where she is forced to adapt or die, this gives her a chance to grow. The nice thing about this piece is that the consequences of episode are not lost on the character. Here, Troi takes direct control of a situation and shows her ability to adapt and in the following season, she will express an interest in commanding as a result. But here, Troi grows without seeming terribly far-fetched.

A lot of credit in selling the complex plot of subterfuge must go to the excellent acting in "Face Of The Enemy." The two primary guest stars are some of the best character actors out there. Scott MacDonald has an amazing control of his facial expressions, which makes him an ideal Romulan. He has wonderful vocal control as well and that type of reserved quality goes a long way toward being a Romulan. Similarly, Carolyn Seymour lends a dignity to the role of Toreth that would be nonexistent if the part was filled by someone else. She has a quiet fury she presents and portrays in a whispering nastiness that makes her an ideal Romulan. This is a great use of the actress; she had appeared in the second season's "Contagion" in a role that did not use her talents nearly as much.

Marina Sirtis here also stretches her acting wings. She has a difficult job; to portray a character acting without seeming like the actress simply acting. Sirtis plays Troi playing Major Rakal with a bit of discomfort. That awkwardness makes things seem very real for the Troi character. Sirtis' performance is a great stretch and she manages to make it seem real, making Troi grow without seeming like the initial character is lost.

The only real problem is that the villains start the episode as clever and dangerous. In the end, though, the solution allows Troi to get out of the situation alive and with relative ease. If the enemy was truly so villainous, this would have been the ideal way to kill off Troi and it would have made the villain so powerful. But these are not insurmountable complaints and ultimately, this is a decent hour of television that manages to keep us engaged the entire time.

This episode is remarkably accessible to those who are not fans of Star Trek The Next Generation. It is great for anyone who likes a good suspenseful political thriller or spy flick. That's what "Face Of The Enemy" is in the end. It's well-acted with great character development. It's a nice mix and it's something anyone may enjoy.

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Complete Sixth Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the penultimate season by clicking here!


For other Star Trek episode, movie and DVD set reviews, please visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!

© 2011, 2008, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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