Recalling her childhood as "a long, depressing period of [her] life, [she] was grateful when it was finally over." (TNG: "Rascals") Ro had grown up in the Bajoran diaspora, as one of the thousands displaced into refugee camps by the Cardassian occupation of her homeworld. During her youth, she spent some time in the camps on Valo II. (TNG: "Ensign Ro") In all, she spent ten years in the camps. (TNG: "Preemptive Strike")
Although most of the time she didn't even have a bed while living in the camps, there were times she did, when she was very young, and she would be afraid of the imaginary monsters that were under her bed. (TNG: "Rascals", "Preemptive Strike") To help ease her fears, Ro's father would play for her the belaklavion, which he told her had "special powers" and that "monsters were afraid of it, and they'd disappear whenever they heard it." She recalled that when she heard her father's music, she was never afraid to go to sleep. (TNG: "Preemptive Strike")
In 2347, Ro was shown the true nature of the occupation as she was given a piece of sugar candy by a Cardassian who led her to a room where she found her father sitting inside. For the next two hours, she was forced to sit and watch as a Cardassian questioned and tortured her father until he died.
Throughout the entire ordeal, Ro felt ashamed for being a Bajoran. She was ashamed for her father being so weak, as she watched him beg for mercy. Laren eventually found that she could not live in an environment where her people were unable to feed and clothe themselves. Because of this, she ran away. (TNG: "Ensign Ro") After his death, she finally realized that even her father could not make all the monsters in her life go away. (TNG: "Preemptive Strike")
Over time, Ro later began to understand how misguided her feelings of shame were and eventually chose to no longer be ashamed of her heritage, as she had been before. Ro decided to keep her name in traditional form: family name first, given name second. She did this despite the fact that most Bajorans accepted the distortion of their names in order to assimilate. She also strongly favored wearing the traditional Bajoran earring, albeit on the left ear as opposed to the traditional right ear. (TNG: "Ensign Ro")
Academy and early career
One of Ro's early assignments was aboard the USS Wellington. During that assignment in the mid-2360s, Ro was a member of the disastrous away team mission to Garon II. During the mission, Ro disobeyed direct orders, causing the eight other members of the away team to die. Ro was court martialed for her actions and refused to speak in her defense. With little alternative, the court found Ro guilty and sentenced her to imprisonment in the stockade on Jaros II. (TNG: "Ensign Ro") Jean-Luc Picard felt that, had Ro not lost her rank following her court martial, she could have been a lieutenant commander by late 2368. (TNG: "The Next Phase")
In 2368, Ro was released by Admiral Kennelly and reinstated into Starfleet in exchange for helping locate a Bajoran terrorist. While secretly conducting her mission, Ro was assigned to assist the USS Enterprise-D on stardate 45076.3. Due to her familiarity with the Valo system, she was initially assigned as flight controller. Upon reaching Valo II, she suggested the best route for them to take would be for them to go to the camp on the southern continent to find a man named Keeve Falor. Picard, reluctant to let go of an officer with Ro's potential, requested that Ro remain on board for the Enterprise's next scheduled mission to survey Sector 21305. (TNG: "Ensign Ro")
On stardate 45571.2, Ro Laren was at the helm of the Enterprise when one of the vessel's shuttlecraft crashed on the surface of a moon orbiting Mab-Bu VI. There, a number of the crew became possessed by anionic energy lifeforms superimposing neural patterns. During their attempted takeover of the bridge, Ro attempted to shoot the possessed Miles O'Brien, but missed. She was in turn stunned by O'Brien.
After the lifeform possessed crew members took over Ten Forward, Ro suggested giving the crew members a plasma shock, as a means of causing pain to the beings without causing any physical harm. If the plan was to work, and they were able to hit all three with a single discharge, they would cause the beings to evacuate the crew members.
Geordi La Forge and Ro Laren later attempted a rescue in the small access area between decks 10 and 11, above Ten Forward When they finally made their attempt, they were unable to get all three crew members in the beam, which eventually led to the abortion of their rescue attempt. (TNG: "Power Play").
On stardate 45652.1, Ro served on the bridge during an encounter with a temporal causality loop. She interrupted a staff meeting to report that sensors were getting unusual readings twenty thousand kilometers off the port bow. She noted that sensors did not detect the phenomenon until the ship was almost on top of it. As she attempted to back the Enterprise off from the phenomenon, she reported that the maneuvering thrusters were not responding, and as a ship emerged and she attempted to back the ship off, she reported that the helm was not responding.
In an alternate version of events, when the Enterprise collided with the USS Bozeman, which had emerged from the phenomenon, Ro Laren reported that the Enterprise's inertial dampers were failing and that the ship was losing attitude control moments before it was destroyed and Ro died. (TNG: "Cause and Effect")
During a survey mission on stardate 46235.7, Ro, Picard, Guinan and Keiko O'Brien were briefly transformed into twelve-year-olds due to a transporter accident. Although Ro initially found the experience frustrating, when the ship was captured by a crew of rogue Ferengi, she took full advantage of her childish appearance to deal with the problem, such as slapping com badges onto the Ferengi to allow them to be transported while saying "Tag – you're it!" After a process was discovered to return everyone to their proper ages, Ro actually spent a few hours longer in her childhood body, drawing pictures of her mother – something she'd never done when she was actually a child. (TNG: "Rascals")
While investigating a damaged Romulan ship, Ro and Geordi La Forge were presumed dead in a transporter accident. Finding themselves freely walking around the ship, but passing through other objects, Ro suspected that they were dead and simply remaining behind to say their goodbyes to their former lives, but La Forge refused to accept that. Eventually, La Forge figured out that they had actually been sent out of phase with the rest of the ship due to a flawed Romulan attempt to create a new kind of cloaking device, a theory that was proved when they confronted a Romulan in the same position as them. Learning of a Romulan plot to sabotage the Enterprise, Ro and La Forge managed to work out a means of canceling out the phase and restoring themselves to normal, thus allowing them to warn their shipmates of the danger. (TNG: "The Next Phase")
On the recommendation of Captain Picard, Ro attended Starfleet's Advanced Tactical Training where she graduated in late 2370. Following her graduation, she was reassigned to the Enterprise with the rank of lieutenant, where she was given quarters on deck eight, section four. (TNG: "Preemptive Strike")
In 2370 Ro was assigned to infiltrate the Maquis. Although a bit reluctant she agreed, partially to validate Captain Jean-Luc Picard's belief in her. By having Lt. Commander Data and Lt. Worf faking pursuit on the pretext she had killed a Cardassian soldier, she gained the attention of the Maquis Santos in a DMZ settlement bar.
She was kidnapped by Santos and was briefly questioned by him, Kalita and Macias. Macias immediately took a liking to Ro and trusted her even before her alibi was verified by Santos. He eventually became a father-like figure.
She later gained the trust of the rest of the Maquis by "stealing" medical supplies from the Enterprise-D. After gaining the Maquis' trust, she had them plan to invest significant resources to attack a Yridian convoy, which in actuality was a Federation trap.
Soon after, three Cardassians attacked the area near the Maquis cell, and killed Macias who with his dying breath told Ro, "When an old fighter like me dies, someone always steps forward to take his place". She started questioning her loyalties, and tried to have the fake convoy trap canceled by claiming the Maquis would not invest resources to attack. However, Picard saw through her lies and questioned her resolve. She claimed she would carry out her duties but Picard had Commander Riker accompany her to the attack.
During the attack she drew a phaser on Riker, and fired a low-intensity particle beam from the shuttlecraft that revealed a Starfleet attack force hiding in a nebula near the bogus convoy. When the Maquis retreated, she had her ship move towards the Enterprise so Riker could leave. When asked why she was going with the Maquis, she claimed "It's been a long time since I really felt like I belonged somewhere." Just before she beamed to another Maquis ship, she asked Riker to tell Picard she was sorry for betraying his trust. (TNG: "Preemptive Strike")
Although initially opposing Ro's assignment aboard the Enterprise, Captain Picard was impressed with the way she handled the situation. Following the mission, he told her she was free to leave the ship, but as a personal request, he wanted her to consider remaining in Starfleet.
During their first mission together, he observed her potential and noticed a certain quality about her that could possibly be harnessed and molded. Although Ro was flattered, she didn't feel she belonged in the uniform. Picard believed that she had a lot to learn from Starfleet, and she retorted that she felt Starfleet had a lot to learn from her. Picard felt that attitude was common among the best officers he had served with, and that although she was not one of those officers, someday she could be one, if she decided to work at it.
Ro accepted Picard's "interesting challenge," something she rarely refused, and in return, at Ro's request, Picard allowed her to bend the Starfleet uniform code and wear her traditional Bajoran earring. (TNG: "Ensign Ro")
Picard later sponsored Ro's entrance into Starfleet's Advanced Tactical Training program. Although the program was exceptionally difficult Ro graduated and was re-posted to the Enterprise as a full lieutenant. When she betrayed Starfleet and permanently joined the Maquis, Picard felt betrayed. (TNG: "Preemptive Strike")
William T. Riker
Commander Riker was not thrilled with the assignment of Ro to the Enterprise, and demanded nothing but the highest standards of performance from her.
Upon her initial beam-in, Riker immediately reprimanded her for wearing her traditional Bajoran earring, which was not allowed according to the Starfleet uniform code. Riker later shared his concerns with Picard, stating that there would be members of the crew who would not want to serve with Ro.
Later, during a period in which the Enterprise crew were stripped of their memories, Riker and Ro had a brief sexual tryst. Set against their prior antagonistic relationship, this created an awkward situation when the crew's memories were restored, but Counselor Deanna Troi indicated that people in such a situation might likely act on what they would subconsciously wish to do. (TNG: "Conundrum")
Riker was set to deliver a eulogy for Ro at a memorial service for her and Geordi La Forge when they were believed to have been killed in a transporter accident. However, he never had an opportunity to deliver it as both Ro and La Forge were revealed to be alive. The mystery of what Riker would have said confounded Ro. (TNG: "The Next Phase")
Riker was the last Enterprise crewmember to see Ro when he joined her in an undercover effort to stave off a Maquis strike. Ro turned a phaser on him however, explaining her defection to the Maquis, and asked him to relay her apologies to Captain Picard. Riker wished her well before she escaped. (TNG: "Preemptive Strike")
Geordi La Forge
Geordi La Forge believed that the only reason she was on her initial mission was because of orders, as he believed that she didn't belong aboard the Enterprise, nor did she belong in a Starfleet uniform. The two later bonded, however when they were cloaked and phased by a Romulan interphase generator and forced to find a way to return to normal. (TNG: "Ensign Ro", "The Next Phase")
During the period when the Enterprise was damaged due to an encounter with a quantum filament, Ro was in conflict with Deanna Troi, who was the senior officer on the bridge, about whether or not to detach the saucer section, thereby saving the lives they could. Troi was opposed to the idea, even though Ro argued vehemently in favor of separating the ship.
After Commanders Riker and Data stabilized the ship, Ro admitted to Troi that she was wrong. Troi responded that she might as easily have been right.
Guinan became interested in Ro after learning a bit about her past from La Forge. Guinan defended Ro in front of Picard, and encouraged her to reveal the truth to him about the nature of her mission. Picard was willing to listen as he knew Guinan did not call someone a friend easily.
Ro and Guinan remained friends. When they were both transformed into children, Guinan helped Ro take the opportunity to experience the childhood she was denied as a Bajoran refugee. (TNG: "Ensign Ro", "Rascals")
- Ensign Ro was played by Michelle Forbes and first appeared in the fifth season TNG episode named for her, "Ensign Ro". Forbes was chosen for the role because the production staff were impressed with her performance as Dara in TNG: "Half a Life". (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)
- According to Rick Berman, Ro was introduced as a sharp-edged character to contrast against the TNG main cast. He explained, "The other characters in the cast are relatively homogeneous; some might even say bland. So we wanted a character with the strength and dignity of a Starfleet officer but with a troubled past, an edge." (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)
- During the production of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, it was intended that Ro Laren would be a member of the station's crew. Michelle Forbes turned it down. The character was modified and became the basis for Kira Nerys. (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
- Ro Laren appeared in the Deep Space Nine novel Wrath of the Prophets, where she teamed up with Kira Nerys to track down a black market dealer on Bajor.
- She also appeared in the Next Generation novel War Drums, as well as the Dominion War novels Behind Enemy Lines and Tunnel Through the Stars by John Vornholt, where she and Captain Picard led a team to destroy an artificial wormhole being constructed by the Dominion in Cardassian space.
- Ro Laren is a main character in the Deep Space Nine relaunch novels. The novels show that Ro survived the Dominion's extermination of the Maquis and joined with a few other Maquis survivors to fight their own war effort against the Dominion. After the Dominion War, Ro returns to Bajor and is commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Bajoran Militia, replacing Odo as Chief of Security on DS9 and eventually starting a relationship with Quark. Initially, Starfleet wanted her arrested, but behind the scenes Captain Picard quietly urged Starfleet to reconsider their decision. When Bajor joined the Federation, Ro considered leaving the station with Quark, but her old uniform was sent to her by Picard as encouragement to her to remain on the station. Ro remained with the Militia as it was absorbed into Starfleet and was given a Starfleet commission at the rank of Lieutenant.
- Ro wears her Bajoran earring on her left ear rather than her right ear like every other Bajoran seen on-screen, with the exception of those who worshipped the Pah-wraiths. In the aforementioned novels, it is explained that Ro did this because she did not believe in the Prophets, but still wished to acknowledge her heritage.
- The storyline of Star Trek Online says she became an officer in the militia and replaced Kira Nerys on DS9.