Quote: Naren Shankar on “Face of the Enemy”

We talked a lot about whether the character of the Romulan commander [in TNG’s “Face of the Enemy”] would be a man or a woman. We finally decided on a woman, but we had also talked about there being a bit of a feel of Hunt for Red October in the show. When I was writing it I just had this strong image of Sean Connery, so all the dialogue I wrote for the show was with Sean Connery’s voice in my mind, and then I just changed the name. The interesting thing is there’s a line ‘The Federation are neither stupid nor foolish,’ and I was going off like that. And then to see the same words – with not even a punctuation mark changed – played by a woman was a very interesitng thing…it was the ultimate gender-blind writing.

“Face of the Enemy” teleplay writer Naren Shankar, quoted in Captains Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages by Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman, 1995.

“Face of the Enemy” is probably my favourite Troi-centred episode ever (read my full review here) and no small part of that are the scenes between Troi and the tough but principled Romulan Commander Toreth. The fact that Toreth’s lines were written with a male in mind but totally worked for a female character is, I think, a good lesson for writers. It says there are big possibilities that open up when you don’t let your characters be limited by stereotypes of how one gender behaves or communicates. 

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