Star Trek: Picard Season 3 Brings Back Fan-Favorite Next Generation Character, Finally Giving Them a Proper Ending

Star Trek: Picard Season 3 delighted Star Trek fans by bringing back the main cast from Star Trek: The Next Generation, but showrunner Terry Matalas has hinted that some other familiar faces could appear throughout the season. Star Trek: Picard Season 3, Episode 5, "Imposters," makes good on that promise, bringing back a fan-favorite Star Trek: The Next Generation recurring guest star who gets a proper ending after their character arc's unsatisfying conclusion in Star Trek: The Next Generation's final season, while also revealing that the Changeling conspiracy goes much deep than Picard and the rest of the crew suspected. SPOILERS for Star Trek: Picard Season 3, Episode 5, "Imposters" follow. 

Now that the USS Titan has escaped that strange nebula and the Vadic's pursuit in Shrike, a brief reprieve is granted. Soon, a Starfleet ship joins them. Someone familiar to the Next Generation crew comes aboard the Titan, taking a shuttle rather than transporting, an unusual move. That person is Ro Laren.

Who is Ro Laren in Star Trek: Picard Season 3?

Ro Laren, played by Michelle Forbes, debuted in the Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 5 episode "Ensign Ro." She proved popular enough with fans to become a recurring character.

As revealed in that episode, Ro had a troubled backstory compared to the other Starfleet officers serving aboard the Enterprise. Ro is a Bajoran (Forbes was the first person special effects legend Michael Westmore put Bajoran makeup on, and thus helped define their appearance), born on Bajor during the Cardassian occupation. She became part of the Bajoran diaspora, growing up in refugee camps for 10 years of her childhood. At seven years old, Cardassians forced her to watch as they interrogated her father and tortured him to death. Ro internalized misplaced rage and shame about her family and Bajoran heritage and eventually ran away. 

Ro landed at Starfleet academy. After graduation, Starfleet assigned her to the USS Wellington. She was part of an away team mission that went wrong. Eight people died because she disobeyed orders. Starfleet court martialed Ro, who refused to defend herself during her trial, stripping her of her rank and sentencing her to imprisonment.

Ro received a pardon from Starfleet eight years later when Starfleet Adm. Kennelly reinstated her so that she could aid the Enterprise in finding a Bajoran terrorist who had supposedly attacked a Federation colony. Ro's reputation preceded her, making Capt. Picard and Cmdr. Riker both reluctant to let her join the Enterprise's ranks. Ro made an instant first impression, being reprimanded for wearing a Bajoran earring, a breach of Starfleet's uniform code, and insisting that her commanding officers refer to her as "Ensign Ro" rather than "Ensign Laren" since Bajoran family names precede individual names and Ro isn't keen to assimilate.

Her mission with the Enterprise seemed to take a similar turn to what went wrong aboard the Wellington as Ro gets the ship's away team captured. However, this leads to the crew learning that the Bajorans are not responsible for the attack but that it is all part of a larger plot by the Cardassians, who are manipulating Adm. Kennelly. With those plans foiled, Picard offers Ro a permanent position on the Enterprise. Ro accepts.

During her time on the Enterprise (she appears in eight Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes), Picard took Ro under his wing. She learned from him, and Picard, in turn, discovered blind spots in his own perception of the world through her. She also bonded with Guinan, and an attraction built up between her and Riker. Eventually, she left the Enterprise and spent a year in advanced Starfleet training. She returned as a lieutenant on a mission to infiltrate the Maquis, a terrorist group undermining the Federation's treaty with the Cardassians. She became sympathetic to the Maquis' cause and defected, turning a phaser on Riker and abandoning the crew. 

What happened to Ro after Star Trek: The Next Generation?

That episode, "Preemptive Strike," was Ro's last appearance in Star Trek, but that wasn't always the plan. Star Trek's producers had hoped to have Ro move to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine to serve as Sisko's first officer. However, Forbes declined to take the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine role, forcing the writers to rework the character into Kira Nerys, played by Nana Visitor, instead. Thus, Star Trek's writers had to conceive of an alternative ending for Ro's arc, which became "Preemptive Strike," which many fans found to be unsatisfying since it seemed to undo any character development Ro experienced, rendering her time on the Enterprise pointless. 

Star Trek: Picard Season 3 goes a long way toward rectifying that. While there's a considerable gap in her life and career that "Imposters" only fills with a cursory summary, it's clear that Picard's teachings did change Ro. She made what she now considers mistakes but paid her penance. She's seemingly been a dependable and valiant Starfleet officer since, earning her way to the rank of commander, even serving as Worf's Starfleet Intelligence liaison. And in this episode, she sacrifices her life to aid the Enterprise crew in dealing with the new Changeling infiltration of Starfleet. 

Ro Laren's Star Trek story

While "Preemptive Strike" is Ro's final canon appearance, her story continued in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine relaunch novels that continued that show's narrative after its finale in the now defunct Star Trek novel timeline. Beginning with the two-part Star Trek: Deep Space Nine novel series Avatar, Ro enlists in the Bajoran militia and becomes Deep Space 9's new security officer under Kira's command. This background is also part of the Star Trek Online timeline.

While the novel line has ended, the new Star Trek: Defiant comic book series launched this week, continuing Ro's journey leaving the Enterprise. The series, part of a larger Star Trek comics initiative filling the gap in canon between Star Trek: Voyager's end and the film Star Trek: Nemesis, sees Ro becoming a part of Worf's rogue crew aboard the USS Defiant.

How to watch Star Trek: Picard

Star Trek: Picard Season 3 premieres new episodes on Thursdays on Paramount+Star Trek: Picard's first two seasons are already streaming on Paramount+, as are all seven seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Star Trek: Picard streams exclusively on Paramount+ in the U.S. and on Amazon Prime Video in over 200 countries and territories. In Canada, it airs on Bell Media's CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave.