58 – The Defector

Grade: B+

The Defector (1990) on IMDb


A Romulan officer contacts the Enterprise and asks for assistance. He is apparently a defector with information that could be vital to the Federation. However, things are not always as they seem.


In the early seasons of this series, the very best episodes are the ones dealing with the Romulans. This one is certainly not as good as The Enemy (episode #55), but it is definitely among the top 4 or 5 episodes in the first three seasons of the series. James Sloyan does a fantastic job playing the Romulan defector, and Andreas Katsulas returns as Admiral Tomalak. There are good performances from everyone in this episode.

The writing is a definite improvement over the last fiasco (Vengeance Factor), and it’s better than most of the episodes in this season. The script is much better than usual, and I can easily imagine that each of these characters would have said what the writer had written.

But there are a couple of strange scenes. First of all, there is a scene in Engineering when LaForge and Data are talking about facts vs intuition. It’s a strange discussion. I get it that Data wants to become more human, but there just are some things you can’t understand unless you have feelings. Data will never have feelings in this series, so it’s just a strange scene.

Another bit of awkwardness is when Picard discusses with Data the possibility of war against the Romulans. He tells him that he wants Data to keep a dispassionate record of all the events. Since he doesn’t have any feelings, how else could Data record the events? Besides, wouldn’t the ship’s computer keep these records? Something else that was weird was that Picard asked Data “how are the spirits of the crew?” I found this really odd, since Data has no intuition or feelings, and Troi has more than she knows what to do with. Why not ask her instead?

Well, there are a few other areas of strange writing, but these oddities don’t ruin the episode for me at all. The rest of the story is very powerful and the acting is very strong, and the ending is so impressive (except for Picard’s last line) that I have to rate the entire episode very high.

I love how it ends when Captain Picard and Tomalak are discussing their positions in the Neutral Zone. You have to see it to believe it. And this is one episode that is definitely worth watching.

Of Note

This episode opens with Data and Picard on the Holodeck, where the android is trying to recite some Shakespeare. Patrick Stewart also plays one of the Holodeck characters, but you may have a hard time recognizing him. It’s a nice touch, but a bit of a stretch. It’s nice that Data wants to become more human, but in watching this series one episode at a time, I’ve seen that Data actually seemed less like an android in the first season than he does now. Anyway, it’s an interesting scene to start out with.