Star Trek: The Next Generation
Air date: 10/1/1990
Written by Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Les Landau
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
In the aftermath of the Borg incident, the Enterprise is docked for repairs in orbit around Earth, and members of the crew have the rare opportunity to deal with family matters. "Family" is unique in that it might be the only episode of TNG that is 100 percent character driven. This is an episode that has no plot whatsoever, and that's a rare and gutsy choice by the writing staff. A show like this would've been unheard of on the original series, but by TNG season four, a show like "Family" proves that Trek can be about characters as much as it can be about stories.
All that said, this is one of those episodes that I respect more for what it tries to be rather than for what it actually does. There are nice threads weaving throughout "Family," but that's the operative word: Nice. Not powerful or gripping or original or groundbreaking. Merely nice. Many fans rank this among TNG's finest hours. I cannot. It's a nice hour, but not a standout one.
Picard returns to the small French village where he grew up, where long-ago tensions with his older brother Robert (Jeremy Kemp) resume. The tension for years has been left to simmer on the back burner; Picard has not even met his sister-in-law (Samantha Eggar) or his nephew Rene (David Tristan Birkin). Robert is at first cold and standoffish, and later voices his displeasure over his long-held perception of Jean-Luc's arrogance. Meanwhile, Picard is offered a job on Earth, and even seriously considers taking it. The Borg incident has left him shaken, and he begins to take stock of his life as a starship captain, and the personal sacrifices it has imposed upon him.
Percolating tensions eventually boil over with a fight in the family vineyard where Picard and his brother come to blows before collapsing into laughter while covered in mud — which unfortunately is a hoary old sibling-brawl cliche. Picard's subsequent confession about his feelings of helplessness in being assimilated by the Borg is the episode's psychological highlight — but in the end this torment seems too simplistically depicted and the full weight of the matter is lost.
There are other palatable but lightweight threads here, including Crusher giving Wesley a long-ago recording of his father (Doug Wert) before he died, which again visits the subject of personal/family loss in the military. Also, Worf's adoptive parents — Sergey and Helena Rozhenko (Theodore Bikel and Georgia Brown) — come aboard the ship, revealing the cultural/emotional divide that has always existed between our resident Klingon and his adoptive parents. I found amusement in Sergey's enthusiasm for a tour of a real starship: "I have all the schematics at home," he brags. Even within Trek itself there are Trek nerds.