The Federation’s complicated relationship with the Romulan Star Empire changes frequently, between eras open hostility and espionage, to periods of diplomatic detente and tenuous alliances. Just as Starfleet’s history is peppered with esteemed figures who exerted extensive influence on the organization’s course, Romulus’s political and military arms have produced their own share of prominent leaders who helped guide the government’s interaction with the other major powers. Regardless of whether the Empire honors them as heroes or perceives them as traitors, these prominent Romulans made noteworthy contributions to their society’s ongoing dealings with the Federation.
8. Commander Tomalak, Star Trek: The Next Generation
First encountered by Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the U.S.S. Enterprise-D above Galorndon Core, Tomalak nearly initiated a conflict with Starfleet on two separate occasions. In the episode “The Enemy,” the commander violated Federation space and risked starting a war when a wounded Romulan perished in Picard’s custody. An uneasy truce between Geordi La Forge and a second Romulan survivor forced Tomalak into displaying restraint, but the tenacious commander threatened the Enterprise-D again after the Federation starship was tricked into making its own unauthorized excursion into the Neutral Zone in “The Defector.” While neither event provoked a battle, Tomalak’s belligerent disposition and unnecessary brinkmanship could have easily shattered the fragile peace that existed at the time.
7. Commander Rekar, “Message in a Bottle,” Star Trek: Voyager
Rekar led a dangerous mission to hijack the U.S.S. Prometheus with the intention of delivering the tactically advanced vessel into the ruthless hands of the Tal Shiar. Ultimately foiled by The Doctor and Prometheus’s own Emergency Medical Hologram, Rekar nevertheless jeopardized the balance of power in the quadrant. Already at war with the Dominion, the Federation would have been at a severe disadvantage if Rekar’s actions had provided his government with classified technology and opened a second front involving the Romulan Star Empire. Despite the deaths of numerous officers aboard the Prometheus, Starfleet elected against pursuing a retaliatory strike. The decision proved wise, as the Romulans eventually aided the Federation and Klingon Empire in overcoming the Dominion.
6. Nero, Star Trek (2009)
The Narada’s accidental trip through the black hole ended up sending Nero and his crew back in time to the year 2233. Coupled with his order to destroy the U.S.S. Kelvin, Nero’s presence in the past created the alternate reality known as the Kelvin Timeline. The former miner’s rage over Spock’s failure to save Romulus in the Prime Universe manifested in a plan to destroy Vulcan and the rest of the Federation’s member worlds with confiscated red matter. In addition to establishing a divergent reality, Nero irreparably shaped the future of the new realm when he successfully eradicated Vulcan and virtually wiped out the logic-embracing species. The U.S.S. Enterprise’s Kelvin counterpart prevented Nero and his crew from inflicting the same fate upon Earth and other planets, but the Romulan left a horrible scar upon the timeline before his defeat.
5. Admiral Valdore, Star Trek: Enterprise
In an effort to destabilize peace talks in the Alpha Quadrant, Valdore employed deceptive drones to attack starships and stoke distrust among the humans, Andorians, Tellarites, Vulcans, and Rigelians that resided in the region. The plan showed promise, but Captain Jonathan Archer managed to bring the local powers together to search for the elusive drones. Over the course of the episodes “Babel One,” “United,” and “The Aenar,” Valdore’s ambitious attempt to halt the formation of any alliances capable of challenging Romulus failed in spectacular fashion, as the mysterious threat brought unity to a typically volatile group of species and set the stage for the coalition that gave birth to the United Federation of Planets.
4. Romulan Commander, “Balance of Terror,” Star Trek: The Original Series
The unnamed Romulan commander that engaged in a thrilling chase with Captain Kirk and the U.S.S. Enterprise supplied the Federation with their first look at a Romulan’s face. The species’ revelation even allowed Spock to hypothesize about the potential connection between Vulcans and their Romulan cousins. Focused on revealing Starfleet’s weakness so as to give the Empire cause to instigate another war, the clever commander sought refuge in the Neutral Zone as the Enterprise closed in on the vessel. Fortunately, Kirk’s tactics proved superior and resulted in the enemy starship’s destruction. “Balance of Terror” served up two major firsts for the Star Trek franchise, as the episode introduced fans to the Romulan species and actor Mark Lenard, who later portrayed Spock’s father Sarek.
3. Admiral Jarok, “The Defector,” Star Trek: The Next Generation
Following a daring escape from Romulan space, Jarok posed as an asylum-seeking junior officer who hoped to warn the Federation about an impending Romulan invasion. Starfleet’s skepticism about the legitimacy of his defection prompted the Romulan to reveal his true identity, an act that convinced Picard to cross into the Neutral Zone in an effort to confirm Jarok’s intelligence. Unfortunately, the Romulans had purposely presented Jarok with false data that was intended to expose the admiral’s political misgivings and lure the Enterprise into a trap. Picard managed to outwit Tomalak by bringing along cloaked Klingon starships as backup, but Jarok committed suicide once he realized that he had sacrificed any chance of seeing his family again for nothing. The admiral’s life ended tragically, but the existence of a Romulan willing to risk everything to avoid a conflict offered a glimmer of hope for the future of Federation-Romulan relations.
2. Senator Vreenak, “In The Pale Moonlight,” Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Aside from his fan-favorite declaration that the evidence regarding a planned Dominion invasion of Romulus was fake, Vreenak’s primary contribution to Star Trek lore came in the form of his death. With Starfleet Command’s approval, Captain Sisko and Garak manufactured a holorecording to convince Vreenak that the Romulans needed to reinforce the Federation and Klingons in their desperate plight against the Dominion. Unbeknownst to Sisko, Garak anticipated Vreenak’s reaction to the forged data and sabotaged the senator’s shuttle to cause its destruction once it left Deep Space 9. The Cardassian tailor correctly theorized that the Romulans would discover the faked recording in the wreckage, attribute any imperfections to the explosion, blame the Dominion for Vreenak’s murder, and ally themselves with the Federation. Consumed by guilt, Sisko himself even acknowledged that Romulus’s intervention might one day be remembered as the war’s pivotal turning point.
1. Commander Sela, Star Trek: The Next Generation
Sela tops the rankings of influential Romulans because, quite frankly, the commander involved herself in numerous plots of interstellar importance. Tasha Yar’s half-Romulan daughter masterminded Geordi La Forge’s brainwashing in “The Mind’s Eye,” a ploy that sought to undermine the Federation-Klingon alliance by causing La Forge to assassinate a Klingon governor against the chief engineer’s will. Sela also instigated the Klingon Civil War and secretly offered Romulan support to the Duras sisters’ forces in the two-parter “Redemption,” but Captain Picard and his crew foiled the plan. Sela’s final ruse fooled Picard and Ambassador Spock into believing that Senator Pardek and Proconsul Neral held an interest in exploring the possibility of reunification with Vulcan. Of course, Sela’s actual intention was to dispatch an invasion force under the guise of a peace envoy and annex Vulcan. Fortunately, a message from Spock warned the Enterprise-D before any Romulan troops could land in “Unification II.” While each of Sela’s deceptions proved to be failures, her role in so many significant schemes has earned her a placement at the forefront of our list.
Jay Stobie (he/him) is a freelance science fiction writer who contributes articles to the official Star Trek website and Star Trek Magazine. He can be found on Twitter at @CaptStobie and Instagram at @StobiesGalaxy.