Star Trek: The Next Generation – Family [4.2]

Recovering from his violation by the Borg, Picard takes a short vacation in his hometown in France for the first time in years, where he faces tension with his older brother Robert.  Meanwhile, Worf is uncomfortable to receive a visit from his adopted human parents who are concerned about his discommendation, and Wesley views a holographic message made for him by his father years earlier.  Picard finds himself actually considering options in life aside from continuing with Starfleet, but a talk, and a fistfight, with his brother helps him to once again see his way forward.

Written by Ronald D. Moore. Based in part on a premise by Susanne Lambdin and Bryan Stewart. Directed by Les Landau.

Previous Episode: The Best of Both Worlds, Part 2Next Episode: Brothers

Comments:
Family is one of Next Generation’s finest hours, and an incredibly fitting response to the Best of Both Worlds epic.  It is notable as one of the few episodes of Next Generation, or any of the Star Trek series, to really have absolutely no action-plot or science fiction-driven storyline.  The entire segment is a series of encounters built around the theme of family – specifically for Picard, Worf, and Wesley Crusher.

Worf’s story helps to reconnect the audience to the one of the primary unresolved plotlines of the third season – the political drama of the Klingons and the shame of Worf’s discommendation.  But it also helps keep alive Worf’s human heritage.  A lot of the stories that focus on the character emphasize the importance of his Klingon culture, but it’s good to recognize that Worf’s human upbringing is more, story-wise, than just an excuse to have him serving on a Starfleet ship.  Introducing the Rozhenko’s and their very human way of responding to his disgrace is a great way of doing that.

Wesley’s story is interesting as he is hardly in it!  Beverly has more to do (and Gates McFadden is very good here) but it still keeps the focus on how Wesley has been impacted by growing up without his father.  It’s a simple story – just three scenes, but memorable, and an effective rounding off the episode, structurally.

But the highlight of course is Picard’s return to his hometown in France.  There is not a story beat wasted as he relates to his family and friend, and discovers to his own surprise how impacted he’s been by what happened to him with the Borg.  Never before in the history of Star Trek has so much time been given to the emotional ramifications of one of the action storylines, and it is a very welcome step of maturity for the series.  Not that we want to take a whole episode to deal with everybody’s trauma’s every time something bad happens, but when it’s Picard and it’s something like his ordeal with the Borg, it’s worthwhile.  It emphasizes just how terrible a thing it is to be assimilated (and thus be used as an enemy to Starfleet) and helps, as much as any other story does, to cement the Borg in their role of the greatest enemy that the Federation has ever faced.

As usual, it’s Patrick Stewart who really sells it, particularly in his fist fight / breakdown scene with his brother, but Jeremy Kemp as Robert more than holds his own, as do the rest of the notable guest cast.  Overall, it’s a terrific episode, demonstrating just how far the series has come since its shaky first season days, and its a strong indication that the fourth season of the series is off to a great start.

Shout Out to the Past:
Of course, the main plot of the episode is a follow up to the Borg story in the Best of Both Worlds two-parter.

And Worf’s story is a follow up to the events of Sins of the Father.

Sergey Rozhenko was a crewman on an Excelsior-class Starship, which is named, I believe, after a ship that debuted in Star Trek III:  The Search for Spock.

Setting up the Future:
It’s a bit sad watching this episode in hindsight, knowing that little Rene Picard will never fulfill his dreams to go the stars, as both he and Robert are the unceremonious victims of an offscreen Death by Plot Device in the miserable Star Trek Generations.

Guest Cast:
• Jeremy Kemp, who guest stars as Robert Picard, was a regular in the British TV series, Z-Cars, and played General Armin Von Roon in The Winds of War and War and Remembrance.

• Samantha Eggar, who plays Marie Picard, has had piles of acting roles, including a regular part on The Legend of Prince Valiant.

• Theodore Bikel, who plays Worf’s father Sergey Rozhenko, has also had a long and distinguished career.  This includes the voice of Aragorn in the TV animated adaption of Return of the King.

• Georgia Brown plays Worf’s mother Helena.  She will appear again in the same role a couple of years later.

• Dennis Creaghan plays Louis.  He had a small part in the abysmal Superman IV:  The Quest for Peace.

• David Birkin, who plays Rene Picard, will later reappear as a de-aged Jean-Luc Picard in the episode Rascals.  He also plays Courfeyrac in the 1998 version Les Miserables.

• Doug Wert will reappear twice as Jack Crusher.

Observations:
• Brent Spiner does not appear in this episode.  It’s the only episode of the series that he’s absent from.

• Why does Troi seem opposed or suspicious of Picard going home?  Seems totally natural, given he’s on earth.

• Troi kisses Picard on the cheek.  That seems a bit odd.

• “I wish they would come so it would begin and end sooner!” complains Worf.  He really sounds like a child in that moment.

• O’Brien gets a full name – Miles Edward O’Brien.  It’s a cute moment with him talking about his parents.

• Funny debut scene with Rene, as he badly repeats Robert’s comments:  “Arrogant son of…”

• Robert seems sort of unfamiliar with Synthehol.  Maybe it’s really just something they have on starships.

• Nice exchange between Louis and Picard.  “You always reached for the future, and your brother for the past.”  “There should be room for both in this life.”

• Fun references to prune juice and Klingon food

• “You’re not like part of the family, you are part of the family…” says Marie.  Nice line.

• Jack Crusher never had a chance to make another message, but that wasn’t because he died right away.  He made the message when Wesley was ten weeks old, and he died when he was at least five.

What is that chair that Worf is sitting in in his quarters?!  Maybe it’s a special “Klingon discomfort chair” or something, because it doesn’t look remotely pleasant.

• Hilarious line from Worf’s mother: “We just came by to tuck you in.”

• Nice bit of final from Robert, about Picard’s Borg ordeal:  “You have to learn to live with it. You have a simple choice now.  Live with it below the sea with Louis.  Or above the clouds with the Enterprise.

• Picard and his brother drunk and covered with mud, singing – is a priceless scene

• Very good moment with Wesley and the recording of his father

• Nice bit of final advice from Robert to Picard, to not drink that special bottle of wine alone.

• The last image of Rene under the stars…is pretty cheesy looking

Dialogue High Point
The best line comes from Robert to Jean-Luc, helping to provoke their fight.

I gather you were hurt, humiliated.  I always thought you needed a little humiliation.  Or was it humility?  Either would do.

Previous Episode: The Best of Both Worlds, Part 2Next Episode: Brothers

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4 thoughts on “Star Trek: The Next Generation – Family [4.2]

  1. So the burning question. Do Picards age poorly or really poorly? One of the hardest buys for me was that Jean Luc is supposed to be earlyish forties or something (edit: I’m told this is wrong. He’s older). But his brother looks to be in his seventies… With a preteen son. It hurts the suspension of disbelief. Yeah yeah medical advances let you have kids in your fifties… I can’t do it. But I’ve been informed by my betters that this is simply the case. But thanks science for the healthy kids anyways! I feel like there would be some serious sociological impacts if that were the norm.

  2. A quick glance at IMDB tells us that Jeremy Kemp (the actor playing Robert) is only 5 1/2 years older than Patrick Stewart! It puts him at about 55 years old at the time the episode was made. So a pre-teen son is suddenly not so unbelievable, especially with the assumed scientific advancements. But I agree he looks a lot older. I guess it’s all that time in the sun, tending those vineyards.

  3. I couldn’t agree more with your comments on this episode. It’s very grounding, and I think ahead of its time, dedicating an entire episode to the aftermath of the near-destruction of Earth. It’s a natural time for reconnection, and Ronald Moore is typically excellent at writing character-driven stories. Not a single shot on the bridge either!

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