TNG’s Ro Quitting Star Trek Made DS9 Better
TNG star Michelle Forbes wasn’t interested in playing Ensign Ro Laren full-time on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, which paved the way for Kira Nerys.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was intended to feature the Star Trek: The Next Generation Bajoran officer Ro Laren, but that character’s absence ultimately made DS9 a better show. Played by Michelle Forbes, Ro was the first major Bajoran character in Star Trek. Introduced in the TNG season 5 episode “Ensign Ro,” the character was an immediate success; the fiery, rebellious young ensign bounced off the stolid TNG crew in interesting ways, and effectively introduced the Bajoran-Cardassian conflict that would serve as the primary backdrop for DS9.
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Ensign Ro was intended to be something of a replacement for Wil Wheaton’s Wesley Crusher in Star Trek, who departed the series during season 4; she even manned the same station on the Enterprise bridge. However, Forbes was reluctant to take on a full time television production schedule, choosing instead to be a recurring character. The creators of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine envisioned a much bigger role for Ro, which they hoped would entice Forbes to take on a larger workload.
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TNG’s Ro Passing On DS9 Improved DS9
Ro was originally intended to be Deep Space Nine’s first officer. It made a certain amount of sense; her debut episode had largely set the stage for the aftermath of Bajor’s Cardassian occupation, and Ro was already a popular character who would have generated some built-in goodwill for the ambitious spinoff. Despite the promise of a financial and creative step up, Forbes again declined to take on a regular television role, as she had her eye on a movie career at that point.
The role intended for Ro was reimagined as the Bajoran Major Kira Nerys, a member of the Bajoran Militia who had been a freedom fighter during the Cardassian occupation of her home planet. Played by Nana Visitor, Kira would become the face of post-war Bajor, a deeply angry woman who struggled to find a place even among her own people after the war. Her personal journey would become one of the most important stories told over DS9’s seven-year run.
Why Kira Nerys Is A Star Trek Icon
While Ro may have originated the Bajoran race on TNG, Kira perfected them on DS9. She initially harbored a deep distrust of Starfleet and the Federation, resenting their presence on the station. She would not only come to like and respect Captain Benjamin Sisko, but she also acknowledged him as an important religious figure in Bajoran society. Indeed, Kira is likely the most religiously expressive main character in all of Star Trek, as the Bajorans enjoyed a rich spiritual life that the Federation had largely jettisoned by the 24th century.
Kira’s moral struggle with the events of the Cardassian occupation would haunt her for years, sometimes painting the character in very unflattering ways. Conversely, her slow burn romance with the station’s shape-shifting security chief Odo is one of Star Trek’s most rewarding couplings. Her post-DS9 legacy endures, as Kira made a memorable appearance in Star Trek: Lower Decks season 3. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine may have initially been conceived as a vehicle for Ro Laren, but audiences are extremely lucky that they ended up with Kira Nerys instead.
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