Star Trek: The Next Generation – Interface [7.3]

Geordi learns that his mother, a Starship captain, has disappeared along with her ship.  At the same time, he is on a mission in which he is assisting with a rescue mission via a drone that he can see and hear through via virtual reality.  Geordi begins to experience visions of his mother asking him for help, though he has difficulty convincing the rest of the crew of what he is seeing.  In the end, it turns out not to be his mother, but an alien that lives in a planetary atmosphere asking him for help.

Written by Joe Menosky.  Directed by Robert Wiemer.

Previous Episode: Liaisons • Next Episode: Gambit

Comments:
Interface is an odd fish of an episode in that so much of the run-time is focused on the character story of Geordi dealing with his mother’s disappearance.  Her apparent death, treated as the result of a random and unknown hazard, and not the sign of some darker menace approaching, or the precursor to some intergalactic threat, is exactly the sort of tragic event that you’d think would be happening all the time in the Star Trek universe, but that we almost never get to see.  So it’s nice that we have one episode that deals with the idea, even for a little while.

Unfortunately, the episode doesn’t really know where to take the concept.  As the episode moves along more firmly into standard Trek fare, with Geordi’s “visions” of his mother and the eventual reveal of the generic alien attempting to ask for help, it gets less and less interesting.  Somewhere along the way we realize that we’re not watching anything special, but rather that we’re in the midst of something kind of forgettable and bland.

I’m not sure how I would have made it any better, how the emotional beat of Geordi and his mother could have been made to fit more strongly into the Star Trek format.  Perhaps if the ending of that aspect of the story had been stronger, the episode would have been more satisfying.  Geordi’s perfunctory comment in the epilogue about having had some closure with his mother thanks to the interference of the alien isn’t really supported by anything that we saw.  I wouldn’t normally feel like a plot like Goerdi’s missing mother absolutely requires a clear explanation, but in this case a little touch of resolution might have helped to bring the episode the closure it needed.

On the positive note, LeVar Burton does a great job with the story, and I enjoyed his persistent refusal to be comforted by his friends.  It’s good to see Geordi be so human in all his responses, and his scene with Data in his quarters is a good one.

Guest Cast:
• Walter Munson plays Admiral Holt.  He also originally played Admiral Paris – Tom Paris’ father – on Voyager, before Richard Herd took over the part.

• Ben Vereen played Geordi’s father Dr. Edward La Forge.  He is an accomplished singer, dancer and actor.  I remember him from an episode of The Muppet Show where he sang a song called “Mr. Cellophane”, but he is better known for appearing in Roots along with LeVar Burton.

• Madge Sinclair, who plays Geordi’s mother, was a regular on Trapper John MD.  She also played the voice of Simba’s mother in The Lion King, and played a Captain in Star Trek IV: The Undiscovered Country.  She also appeared in Roots, along with LeVar Burton.

Shout out to the Past:
• There is an extended reference to Riker’s father as he explains his sad backstory.

Observations:
• Interesting opening, with Geordi climbing around sans Visor and in the middle of fire, with no explanation

• We learn that Geordi has a sister, and no brothers.  We also learn about Riker’s mother.

•  Cute:  “My mother’s always trying to find me a wife.”

• It’s strange when Geordi finds the dead body in the corridor.  First, he could could have checked for the guy’s pulse without moving the heavy conduit.  Second, surely there would be another way for him to know if the guy was dead without just checking for a pulse.  He can detect gasses, etc, just by looking.

• I like the fact that Geordi is pacing around during the counseling session.  I think it’s one of the better “Troi couselling” scenes the show has had.  I like her response about why Geordi’s “fantasy” isn’t about his mother being safe and sound.

• It’s the two-thirds point of the episode–certainly Geordi is going to do something crazy.

• I also like Geordi’s response to Riker:  “You didn’t come all the way down here to tell me that.”

Dialogue High Point
Probably the best scene is the one between Geordi and Data, where Data was reciting an alien poem full of silence and Geordi was looking for comfort.   “Do you need to be comforted,” Data asks at one point.  And then later, talking about the blank screen Data is staring at, we get this exchange:

Data: While it is true the display is currently blank, this emptiness has poetic meaning.  Therefore it cannot be considered nothing as such.
Geordi:  Says who?
Data: The ancient Doosidarians.  Much of their poetry contained such lacunae or empty spaces.  Often these pauses measured several days in length, during which poet and audience were encouraged to fully acknowledge the emptiness of the experience.
Geordi:  I remember a few lectures from Starfleet Academy that seemed like that.

Previous Episode: Liaisons • Next Episode: Gambit

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