20 Star Trek Women You Should Know

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Michelle Forbes as Ro Laren in Star Trek: The Next Generation (Image via Paramount/CBS)

9. Ro Laren (The Next Generation)

You don’t have to be likable to be important. You don’t have to be sweet or nice or deferential to matter. That is one of the lessons presented by character Ro Laren.

Like Kira Nerys, Ro Laren is a Bajoran who has suffered greatly under the Cardassian occupation. She, too, had grown up in forced labor camps on her homeworld and had even been forced to watch the torturous death of her own father. Ro would later say that her childhood as “a long, depressing period of my life, [and] I was grateful when it was finally over.”

She first appeared in the fifth season of The Next Generation as a disgraced Starfleet cadet. Ro had been a member of an away team mission where, thanks to her decision to disobey direct orders, eight of her colleagues died. She was court-martialled and sentenced to imprisonment. Ro was only released under orders of a Starfleet Admiral, with whom she struck a bargain: Ro would be reinstated into Starfleet, in exchange for helping to locate a Bajoran terrorist.

Given that she was then assigned to the Enterprise, Ro Laren eventually encountered Captain Picard, his crew, and all of their semi-utopian views of cooperation and ethics eventually reneges on her agreement. Picard arranges for her to stay, and so Ro becomes a semi-regular on the series.

While she slowly learns to trust her fellow officers, Ro never quite becomes comfortable or entirely cuddly. Why should she? After all, she was still dealing with a lifetime of trauma. In that sense, it was satisfying to see the writers offering no easy solution. Peace and self-acceptance are hard-won in even the best of circumstances, and Ro had a harder road to travel than many others.

Ro Laren was the inspiration for Deep Space Nine’s Kira Nerys. Michelle Forbes, who played Ro, was initially going to continue on to that series after her time on The Next Generation. However, it was not to be. Kira was then created as a direct response to the issues of colonialism, genocide, and resistance that Ro’s character raised.