Faces in the Dark
Counselor Deanna Troi's empathic abilities and talent for listening to patients bore little resemblance to Major Kira Nerys's hot-headed temperament and lack of patience. While the two women shared other traits, such as bravery and a sense of duty, each tended to call upon their respective trades of counselor and soldier in tense situations. Interestingly, both characters endured experiences where they awoke to see faces not quite their own. When combined with the unique personalities of Troi and Kira, the similar sets of circumstances produced an odd mixture of fascinating parallels and unique divergences.
In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Face of the Enemy," confusion overtook Counselor Troi when she found herself surgically altered to appear Romulan on board the D'deridex-class warbird Khazara. Subcommander N'Vek, a member of Ambassador Spock's Romulan underground movement, admitted that he abducted Troi from a conference on Bokara VI and needed her to pose as Major Rakal of the Tal Shiar in order to smuggle high-ranking Romulan defectors to the Federation. Major Kira's own ordeal took place in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Second Skin," when she set out to solve the mystery of Cardassian documents that recorded her imprisonment in a facility which she never visited. Unwillingly seized after arriving on Bajor, Nerys regained consciousness with the face of a Cardassian. Entek, an agent of the Obsidian Order, explained that Kira was actually Iliana Ghemor, an undercover operative whose memory and appearance had been altered in order to infiltrate the ranks of the Bajoran resistance.
The analogous details, from the kidnappings and surgical alterations to the bewilderment and involvement of foreign intelligence agencies, masked the underlying differences between the two events. Deanna's removal from an unrelated conference meant she landed in her predicament with no warning whatsoever, whereas the initial stage of Nerys's investigation preceded her own capture. Uncertain of her surroundings and pressured by N'Vek, Troi begrudgingly followed the subcommander's lead on the Khazara until an opportunity arose for the Romulan to flesh out more details of the plan. Kira's own confusion manifested itself as anger, but Entek expressed a relaxed demeanor and assured her that she could take time to recover her memories. The fact that Nerys lacked any trust in her captors exacerbated matters, while Deanna utilized her empathic senses to confirm the truth in N'Vek's words.
With a defined goal and a level of verity, Troi retained enough composure to slip into the role of Major Rakal and gained even more confidence as the ruse progressed. In contrast, Kira's certainty about her Bajoran identity gradually eroded as Entek presented her with the corpse of the allegedly original Nerys, she viewed a message recorded by Iliana Ghemor prior to her assignment, and Iliana's father Legate Tekeny Ghemor seemed to express genuine emotion toward her. Kira's mindstate became so fragile that she broke down in front of Tekeny, leading the older Ghemor to decide to help his "daughter" get away from Cardassia and reveal his part in a movement funneling dissidents off-planet. With this information, Kira's eyes opened to the true scope of Entek's deception, as she realized the entire charade centered on Entek's desire to expose Tekeny's ties to Cardassian defectors.
Troi often sparred verbally with Commander Toreth, the captain of the warbird, but only as much as her ploy warranted. Toreth, portrayed masterfully by Carolyn Seymour, perceived the Tal Shiar as an internal threat to Romulus, a notion with which Deanna and the secret passengers probably agreed. Toreth lost her father to a Tal Shiar investigation, but Troi herself lacked the emotional turmoil during her mission that plagued Kira throughout the ordeal at the Ghemor household. N'Vek, Deanna's handler on the Khazara, spoke the truth to Troi and intended to help the Romulan defectors. Entek, the subcommander's Cardassian counterpart, deceived Kira and Tekeny in order to cut off the escape route for dissidents. The straightforward nature of Troi's unsanctioned assignment and N'Vek's honesty provided the counselor with clarity, something that Kira lacked in her mentally rattled state.
Despite Deanna's initial trepidation and Nerys's psychological descent, both characters exhibited incredible strength when the time for action came. Unbeknownst to Captain Picard, the Enterprise-D crew sought the very cargo that Troi wished to smuggle, ultimately bringing the ship within range of the cloaked warbird. Deanna and N'Vek successfully sent Vice-Proconsul M'ret and his aides to Starfleet's flagship via a transporter signal hidden in a weakened disruptor burst, but the Khazara's pilot vaporized N'Vek after Toreth discovered the alterations to the weaponry. Fortunately, the Enterprise beamed Troi back before the warbird departed. Kira rebounded from her depression upon discerning that Entek's operation targeted Tekeny and his allies, but Entek's sudden appearance with armed guards prevented the Bajoran from taking control of the situation. Unlike Picard, Captain Sisko knew of his first officer's disappearance and enlisted Elim Garak to help find her. Sisko, Garak, and Odo arrived just in time, capturing Entek and rescuing Kira and Tekeny. Entek attempted to pull out a hidden weapon, providing Garak with an opening to incinerate the Obsidian Order agent with a disruptor.
Both operations proved fruitful for the Federation crews, with high-ranking officials from potentially hostile powers switching their allegiances and receiving asylum. Picard marked the establishment of a path to extract future members of the Romulan underground movement as a happy occasion, while Entek's death prevented the Obsidian Order from uncovering Tekeny's own secretive network of allies. Troi mourned for N'Vek, but easily moved forward with her life once Dr. Crusher restored Deanna's original appearance. However, Kira and Tekeny formed an unlikely bond, with Ghemor allowing Nerys to keep a bracelet previously owned by Iliana's mother and for all intents and purposes claiming the Bajoran woman as a family member. A dying Tekeny Ghemor even returned to see Kira in the DS9 episode "Ties of Blood and Water," after which Nerys even buried the Cardassian next to her own father upon his passing.
The trials faced by Counselor Troi and Major Kira encompassed superficial similarities and stark differences, with each officer's own personality heavily influencing how they handled their respective ordeals. The most significant contrasts proved to be the mental anguish Kira experienced and the long-term emotional commitment she made to Tekeny Ghemor. Regardless of the uniqueness of the two operations, the most telling takeaways from these episodes consisted of the resourcefulness displayed by both officers and their capability to rely on their crewmates to save them from dangerous dilemmas.
Jay Stobie is a science fiction writer who admits he has a perfectly normal obsession with Star Trek. He has also contributed to Star Trek Magazine and can be found on Twitter at @CaptStobie.