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 cliché. 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.
Previous episode: The Best of Both Worlds, Part II
Next episode: Brothers
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98 comments on this post
Fri, Mar 7, 2008, 4:46pm (UTC -5)
Family: One thing I would like to note that I was almost sure you would have mentioned is the lost art of closure. Half of the fleet has just been destroyed, Picard has just been pulled from the brink of being turned into a cyborg, and the ship has been heavily damaged; If this were Voyager, the next episode would have been a comedy. I'm surprised you didn't mention how TNG not only mentions this major life-altering episode in Family, but actually spends a whole episode dealing with the consequences (the ship is in spacedock being repaired for the entire episode - can't imagine seeing that these days on a Trek series). In addition, Best of Both Worlds didn't just end with Family, but actually was brought up over and over again. Good continuity.
Brothers: The best praise I can give for Spiner's performance is that I never new until I read it that Soong was played by Spiner (granted, I was less than ten years old when the episode first aired, but I still don't look at Soong and see Spiner when I watch this episode).
The Loss: One point to add to this: Troi has commonly said she is "unable" to read certain people, such as Ferengi... does that freak her out as much as not being able to read humans in this episode? And I'm ignoring the non-continuity of Farpoint and early episode where she could turn her senses off.
Clues: In, let's say, 99% of cases, you must remember that these aliens come across all-organic crews. The crew is knocked asleep, way up a day later and assume they are in a wormhole. They presumably have no experience in what to do when they are actually discovered. They were PLANNING to kill them all, but Picard convinced them to just wipe the memories. Frankly, I think that for a race that went instantly to "let's kill them all", they agreed far too easily to this plan not only once, but a second time after it had already failed.
Devil's Due: I think it should be noted that this episode, and The Child, were Trek Phase II scrips that were reworked into TNG; The Child because of the '88 writers strike... This episode for reasons that are beyond me (though I'm guessing they must have had one). That said, Pretend this was a TNG episode with Kirk and crew, and I think you'll see that this episode fits perfectly into the TOS style. It's a testament to the evolution in story of TNG over TOS. I still think it's a bit better than you rated it though. It's lightweight, but that's not always bad. It's no "The Game", but if Reunion and Suddenly Human get higher ratings than this one? I dunno about that.
Fri, Mar 7, 2008, 7:10pm (UTC -5)
I'm one of those who would put "Family" in my top 10, but otherwise I usually agree with your takes. Lots of good stuff on this site.
I've seen you mention "Homicide: Life on the Streets" on occassion - any chance you'd ever recap my favorite show of all time? JK
Fri, Feb 6, 2009, 3:10pm (UTC -5)
Tue, May 3, 2011, 9:41am (UTC -5)
Thu, Mar 15, 2012, 10:24pm (UTC -5)
Then the fight occurs, and we see him broken. Robert pushes him to breaking point, gets him to push down his barriers, and when its over says, "you needed that".
The stuff with Wesley should not have happened, or been dealt with at another point, it was pointless and added nothing, I'll concede that Worfs parents were necessary, they were based around a previous plot piece and it was something light to contrast the Picard plot.
This is definitely a top TNG episode, it deserves 4 stars, its very well acted..and gives insight to two main characters..its so well written that I cried a little at the end..
Sun, Jul 15, 2012, 1:16pm (UTC -5)
The first two are subjective evaluations (and I would argue this episode is both)... but the last two... boy... looking at the Trek canon up to this point, "Family" is quite original and groundbreaking. No episode before this showed such direct follow-up and consequence to the immediately prior two episodes. And no episode before this focused so much on characters versus plot. In many ways, this episode sowed seeds that in time would alter the franchise--particularly giving rise to the great show that was DS9.
In other words--knocking this show for not being "original or groundbreaking" seems to me like knocking Yesterday's Enterprise for being so much like other (later) time travel episodes.
Sun, Sep 16, 2012, 3:16am (UTC -5)
Otherwise very good episode but not great. 3 stars sound right - maybe high end of 3.
Sat, Dec 8, 2012, 4:22pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Feb 10, 2013, 10:45am (UTC -5)
Picard has a choice to make: whether to stay on Earth or take up the offer in some hope of escaping his pain from the Borg experience, or return to the Enterprise despite it all. He decides to return to the Enterprise.
Worf's parents are trying to mulling over to reach out to their son who's in pain. In the end, they decide to.
Those are both *plots*. Not earth-shattering, but plots nonetheless.
I also agree with Tornado. "Family" and TNG season 4 in general is where the groundwork for Deep Space Nine truly begins.
Episodes like "The Measure of a Man" and "Family" are what elevated Star Trek: The Next Generation from being a simple SF action/adventure show.
(NOTE: Season 2's "The Icarus Factor" is constantly ignored as the first true non-SF/non-jeoprady character piece of TNG. It's usually overlooked, because it's really not that good and "Family" beats the pants off it.)
Fri, Mar 15, 2013, 11:57am (UTC -5)
Wed, Jun 19, 2013, 5:16pm (UTC -5)
What's really interesting about Robert in this context is how anti-technology he is. Jean-Luc defends technology fairly half-heartedly here, but we can imagine him defending it with much greater force in the past. Robert respects tradition, and the tradition is almost anti-technological, unchanging, as far from transhumanism as he can get. This is what Jean-Luc reaches for after he's been made one with the Borg, which are the most nightmarish version within the TV series of transhumanism*, of what technology and progress and "the future" might be: improvement and collectivism to the point where individual values and histories are eradicated. Picard has impulses to both the future and the past -- his love of archaeology and literature and history is a real reaching for the past -- but the side of him which looks to the future is part of what has just been shattered badly by the Borg, who are the scariest, worst version of the possibility of Better Living Through Technology he can imagine. In the end, Picard doesn't want to give up life on the Enterprise, which represents (still) the future, and the hope that technology and the possibility of change and growth can make life better, because the fact that the Borg exist as the most frightening of cautionary tales for these doesn't render the impulse itself wrong. In seeing Rene's enthusiasm about starships he can recapture some of what inspired him to go out to the stars in the first place, untainted by the experiences out there. Picard's change is internal: on some level Picard *knows* with a greater certainty how fallible he is and how important it is for that fallibility to be a part of his conception of humanity, both for himself and to protect against being like the Borg, and while the change doesn't manifest obviously I do think there's a change here.
Picard has been "compromised" before BOBW. He was, um, the energy cloud in "Lonely Among Us," but really it's hard to take that episode seriously. He saw an alternate version of himself in "Time Squared" who was a babbling lunatic who may have been responsible for the Enterprise's destruction, and he immediately hated him ("I see nothing in him that I recognize!" or something to that effect) and eventually destroyed that Picard in a way that exorcised his fears about being the man who destroyed the ship. In "Sarek," he totally lost emotional control after the mindmeld with Sarek and he held Sarek's emotions -- but that was something he *chose* to do for the greater good and still kept almost entirely private. Picard has always disliked weakness in himself -- he regards his artificial heart in "Samaritan Snare" with some shame, though he eventually loosens up when he starts talking about the Nausicaan incident at length with Wesley; it seems that not wanting to let sentimentality control him is part of the reason he left Janice later-to-be-Manheim; he hates children because they make him look like an ass. I think that BOBW is the first time in the series in which Picard fully comes down to Earth, and I think that it's a major change in the series for the better. Picard is the series' primary representation of the Enlightened 24th Century Human that we should strive for, and what these episodes -- BOBW and Family -- indicate is a way to show that that man is still a person and that that is okay.
The Worf plotline works well in parallel to this -- Worf wants to hide his shame from his family, and he believes he needs to insulate them from his dishonour. His annoyance that his family hangs off him and is proud of him is I think partly because the mere *fact* that they are proud of him when they "should" reject him for his dishonour proves that they don't understand the Klingon way. More than that, Worf, more than even Picard, values his control, because it is very hard for him to keep a lid on his feelings (c.f., for example, "The Emissary" and the ice man discussions there) which, being a Klingon, are intense. His family catering to him runs the opposite of how we saw Klingons behave in "A Matter of Honour" -- Klag has no idea how to talk to his dishonoured father, for example -- and embarrasses him further and makes him feel weak and un-Klingon. But he recognizes value in their love and really does, in spite of himself, like the life that they have given him and that they represent. If Worf really wanted to be a Klingon before anything else, he could have attempted to rejoin the Klingon Empire when he came of age rather than entering Starfleet (though that possibility is cut off from him now, since the discommendation); he values being Klingon, but there is something in the human/Federation/starfleet values that he connects to even more fundamentally. His concept of honour might be Klingon, but his concept of familial love -- not just for his parents, but for the Enterprise too -- is more Federation. Their love for him gives him a bit more ability to accept himself.
The Wesley story is the slightest of the three and is mostly just a single scene, though it's also nice to hear a little about Beverly and Jack's relationship and how he proposed marriage early on. Wesley, like Picard, is reconnecting in some way with his dead father -- Picard does so through Robert, who we are told again and again is much like their father was, and Wesley does so through the holo-image. Maybe because Picard had his father to rebel against as a kid, Picard chose Starfleet in a way that goes against his father's wishes, whereas Wesley, in the absence of his father, chose to follow in his footsteps as best he could. (Jack mentions that Wesley would probably become a doctor like his mother, and it's a bit of a shame that it's only in passing that the possibility that a person will be inspired by their mother's career -- either to follow in or to rebel against -- is raised.) While "Journey's End" isn't really very good an episode, it does make some sense that Wesley's real career choice in the end isn't Starfleet, because some of his idolization of Starfleet is a way for him to feel connected to his father (and to Picard, who is a representative of his father), and at some point he needs to grow out of following in a dead man's footsteps and be his own person.
So, I think I'd go with 4 stars.
Mon, Aug 19, 2013, 4:30am (UTC -5)
The scene in which Picard and his brother say goodbye and hugging each other is very touching and well acted.
I felt it unneccesary that Picard lost his brother and nephew in 'Generations'. It was only used for drama and the main theme of the movie. I really felt for him (I've lost my younger sister 13 years ago). Picard was a man who has been through a lot and having a close family (yet no wife and children) of his own would have been nice.
Wed, Aug 21, 2013, 12:21pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Oct 16, 2013, 5:33am (UTC -5)
Considering his initial displeasure at them visiting he always has a little smile when in their company and in the end did everything he could to make them enjoy their stay.
The Picard stuff was handled well and the scene with Crusher and his Dad was good as well. The moment at the end when he goes to touch the fading image is a throat lumper.
Easy 4 star episode this.
Sun, Oct 20, 2013, 9:41pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Oct 21, 2013, 10:34am (UTC -5)
Great Britain conquered France, once and for all, during World War 3.
Sat, Oct 26, 2013, 12:07pm (UTC -5)
Just one thing. Sometimes it's a little disappointing to see how little fantasy TNG (and TOS) writers had when it came to describing the future when they were NOT dealing with star ships and aliens and conflict in space. Here was a chance to show us what Earth is like in the 24th century, and what do we get? Earth in the 20th century. I am always surprised by the lack of imagination in those kind of episodes. I can sort of understand why womens' roles were still mostly traditional in TOS, but TNG season 4 was made in the 90s... yet here we still have an episode where wives are homemakers. I just can't get over how old-fashioned the whole setting was. Back to space, please.
Tue, Nov 5, 2013, 10:43pm (UTC -5)
To Moonie- what a wonderful thing it is to make a home, make beautiful meals, and overall to be able to dedicate one's life to family! Solid people usually come from the love and sacrifice built in solid families. And what could be more important in influencing the future than building the very life, character and morals of what is LITERALLY "The Next Generation"! We think with our arrogance that a "career" is so critical, when in reality the sum of years of work turns out to be quite trivial and to someone else's benefit, while we outsource the _truly_ critical work of raising children to someone else, or no one at all.
I hope and pray that any future wife of mine not only has the smarts, drive and initiative to do anything she wants in the world, but also that she's wise enough to be willing to sacrifice work-oriented "glories" for the beyond critical task of raising our children. (As should I, as well.)
Never give the raising of children short shrift!
Mon, Feb 24, 2014, 4:44pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Apr 12, 2014, 7:39pm (UTC -5)
I found it strange that Picard would confide in his brother who he has not seen in years. Picard's brother is extremely unsympathetic. He bullies Picard heavily. He's rude and bigoted. I don't buy Picard's sudden breaking down into tears after a mud fight. He should still have been angry after what his brother had said to him. You don't just forget those things after a little fight. I agree with William that it did bring Picard down to Earth, which is a good thing, but I don't like how it was done.
It's also strange that the 24th century French have gone back to living like in the 20th century, except that they have forgotten how to speak French.
Wesley's father's speech was pretty horrible. "You're only a baby, but you'll probably be a doctor." This could have been a very moving scene. Wesley's "goodbye dad" was a lot more moving than his father's speech.
It was nice to see Worf's parents. They reminded me of Bashir's parents. Except they had better luck than the latter when visiting their son.
Wed, Aug 27, 2014, 1:37am (UTC -5)
Wed, Mar 4, 2015, 7:25am (UTC -5)
No fire suppression system there at Chateau Picard, I see.
I'm surprised they even had electricity or running water.
A glaring inconsistency.
Also, as I'm typing here I've got Nth Degree on and as much as I may like some aspects of it, it clearly is the episode that signaled the beginning of the end for the Will Riker character AND so begins here the era of the audio wallpaper soundtrack.
Say what you may about Night Terrors (one of my top 10, actually), the musical soundtrack is magnificent. The music in Identity Crisis was a transition...a hodgepodge with elements of the prior and the next episodes providing a bridge over the chasm between the 2 disparate styles involved. And then Nth Degree....and except for very few exceptions (The Inner Light being the prime exception), the aural tenor of the show would never be the same. And with it went a chunk of the show's heart. And boy, is Riker dumb in Nth Degree!
Wed, Mar 4, 2015, 8:56am (UTC -5)
The producers' decision to go for incredibly bland atonal background music was the wrong choice. Imagine if Ron Jones had scored Gambit I and II!
Honestly, I think the change in soundtrack style is when TNG went from being cinematic to just another TV show.
Mon, Apr 6, 2015, 2:59pm (UTC -5)
Fri, May 15, 2015, 6:37am (UTC -5)
The previous 3 seasons have shown us Jean-Luc as a reserved man, capable of great emotion, but usually keeping it locked behind a wall of reserve. Occasionally he is outright cold, even if his care for his crew is obvious in his actions.
Robert comes across as similar. He felt he had to care for his younger brother, but apparently was incapable of showing Jean-Luc that he actually cared. Their parents have a lot to answer for, it appears.
Likewise I don't read his comments as a command: 'deal with it'. They sound more like an observation: 'whatever you do, you are going to have to deal with your trauma'. Completely in character as factual observation, but unhelpful on an interpersonal emotional level.
The brother-brother dynamic reads true, which makes this a highlight of the episode, and raises it to the 'great episodes' list in my opinion.
Thu, Jun 18, 2015, 5:22am (UTC -5)
Compare this with something from TOS. In "The Paradise Syndrome" Kirk loses his memory, spends a month on an alien planet, meets and falls in love with a local woman, marries her and almost has a child with her before her death. By the time the very next episode comes around, Kirk has apparently completely forgotten about her. Within two episodes, he's flirting heavily with another woman. Within ten episodes, they did another episode where Kirk has completely fallen in love with someone else. There's no attempt made what-so-ever to deal with the emotional impact this must have had on Kirk. But here, TNG very much puts a spotlight on Picard's emotional turmoil. Getting assimilated probably isn't something you could just shrug off. I give this episode massive credit for finally doing this for a Trek character.
The use of Picard's family to showcase his emotional distress is wonderful as well. His problems with his brother and his rather chilly relationship with his dead father do more to humanize him and show his softer side than "Captain's Holiday" could have ever hoped to do.
The other two sub-plots with Worf and Wesley are also pleasantly enjoyable. It's nice to see that they are already spending time setting up Worf's eventual restoration in "Redemption." And, the Wesley plot, is pleasant enough for what it is.
My only problem with "Family" is the same problem I have with "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II." We're so focused on our main characters that we still don't see the larger picture of how the Borg Incident effected life on Earth. For all intents and purposes it looks like it had no impact what-so-ever. Aside from the mayor of Labarre wanting to give Picard a parade, there's not even a mention of how the rest of the population is dealing with what just happened.
Wed, Sep 9, 2015, 2:46pm (UTC -5)
To me this is full of wonderful little moments - and it's in the little things that the episode shines. Even the brother's fist fight and Picard's subsequent emotional outburst feels organic to the story. It's a wonderful episode. 3.5 stars.
Mon, Apr 11, 2016, 7:36am (UTC -5)
Why does Riker lose his promotion after Best of Both Worlds? Obviously, if he chooses not to take a command on another starship and remain first officer of the Enterprise, then that's fine, but it seems a bit unfair that he doesn't get to keep the earned Captain rank. After all, Captain Spock was Captain Kirk's first officer for a long while there...
Mon, Apr 11, 2016, 7:42am (UTC -5)
It's actually kind of insulting to the audience's intelligence, if you ask me.
Mon, Apr 11, 2016, 8:37am (UTC -5)
Out of universe I'm sure Luke is 100% correct and it is kind of insulting. If a COMMANDER can run a space station why can't the FLAG SHIP have a Captain as a first officer.
They don't even have to call him Captain either. Sir and Number One would suffice in 99.999999% of situations. He could just have the 4th pip. Picard would still outrank him because of his role. It's the same way that when Dax was in command of the Defiant she'd outrank anybody who wasn't in command... even if they held the same rank. She doesn't need a 4th pip for that.
Mon, Apr 11, 2016, 11:35am (UTC -5)
Also, maybe Picard dislikes having to share the title on his ship? As long as Picard commands the Enterprise, there shall not be other captains roaming around confusing the command structure. That sounds in-character with Picard to me.
Mon, Apr 11, 2016, 11:55am (UTC -5)
I don't care for that idea. In real life most aircraft carriers in the U.S. Navy (the closest equivalent to Starfleet's Galaxy class ships) have multiple captains on their crews. I remember someone (it may have been here on Jammer's site, or somewhere else, I can't remember exactly) pointing out how he was a Navy veteran who had served on an aircraft carrier. The commanding officer, the first officer, the chief engineering officer and the chief medical officer were all captains and yet there was no confusion about the chain of command.
Mon, Apr 11, 2016, 1:56pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Apr 24, 2016, 7:26pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Apr 24, 2016, 7:29pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Aug 10, 2016, 9:47pm (UTC -5)
The scenes with Worf and his parents were great. It's so nice that Worf is finally getting more and more attention/screen-time. Clearly we can see how much his parents love him and distressed to see him in such pain (as only loving parents can do).
The fact that Riker is now a commander again is because I figured it was a field promotion done during a state of emergency. Also, there is now a massive lack of operable starships.
I have to say that this is perhaps the first episode that I haven't wanted to slap Wesley Crusher. As annoying as he is, at least he has a degree of closure over his father's death.
Fri, Oct 14, 2016, 1:47am (UTC -5)
With regards to the accents, I made a comment about this in the Generations review - they might actually be speaking in French, and what we are hearing is the universal translator, which presumably removes foreign language accents and makes everyone sound either American or British (Worf's parents still having their native accent due to them speaking in English). Or by the 24th century, France might have embraced the English language to a point where it might be as widely spoken as French itself.
As for the village looking too 20th century - I'm not sure what this means, as it looks much older than that to me. It is a village after all, not a city. Most rural areas in Europe haven't changed much in appearance in the last few hundred years, and probably won't in the next few hundred either. We do see some modern touches such as communication towers, etc.
Thu, Oct 20, 2016, 1:29pm (UTC -5)
I liked that Worf's parents were plainly Jewish. They would naturally sympathize with Worf's "outsider" status. I thought their family scenes together were quite touching. His request for some of Mom's Pie was a "humanizing" touch, sweet.
I imagine vineyards will look pretty much the same in a couple hundred years as they do now. Bottles? Maybe not. Corks or screw tops?
Wed, Jan 11, 2017, 6:51pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Jan 22, 2017, 7:01am (UTC -5)
And I did. 3 stars? Are you smoking pot, Jamahl? This is a 4 star - or definitely a 3 and a half star episode. We're not used to seeing the human side of Picard - and after what happened with the Borg, this was a wonderful way of addressing the long term effects he will face from his ordeal. The whole storyline with his brother was well acted, well scripted, and had a genuineness that craps all over the "shields at 22%" waffle that plagues too many scenes in Trek. Even the B stories were important and gave some depth to the characters. And it's always a pleasure to see Whoopi playing Guinan.
It was a stroke of genius to portray his brother a jealous, bitter, older polar opposite character. Instead of a silly episode where Picard has a sentimental heart to heart, we get a believable breakdown. And it's all set up properly. I've seen this episode a few times, and I always doubt whether it's the same show that gives us so much treknobabble. After the silly unrealistic "Shelby" character in the previous episode, it was great to see a believable and flawed character - and the real Picard behind the mask of captain.
It was a lovely episode.
Sun, Jan 22, 2017, 7:06am (UTC -5)
It's more to do with the fact everyone would then call Riker captain from time to time and this is confusing in a TV show. Nah, it would be too silly to try to pull off.
Fri, Jan 27, 2017, 7:48pm (UTC -5)
Some people never cry. Never even flinch. Not even when they get stabbed in the heart by a Nausicaan or are put on trial by an omniscient being or face risk and death and the frightening unknown every day, while shouldering a vast responsibility they can't truly share with anyone else.
So when someone that controlled and stoic breaks down finally - just for a moment - you know exactly how much emotional devastation it's taken to bring them to that point.
Picard's crying scene.
Mon, May 15, 2017, 2:18pm (UTC -5)
I am one of those viewers.
"Family" was early in the 1990 seasons, just after BOBW II. Without getting too soapy here, 1989-1990 was a high point in my life; a period of "rest" that came after some very tough years. That's what this episode was for Picard in many senses, so it grabbed me up by the heart strings.
One of those specific heart strings for me is found in community. "Family" is largely about community for many of our main characters (Picard, Worf, and others), sometimes beyond relatives. Picard's welcome home, the instant job offer, etc. all catalyzed by people he had relationships with even though he was very much the stoic loner on the surface.
In both 1989 and 1990 I attended a couple of very warm and very emotional informal reunions with old friends from college, so in that same context, this episode resonates heavily with me. The straw that breaks the camel's back, for me, is always the parting scene between the Picard brothers: Robert-- "This is a little of the '47. Do not drink it all in one place. And try not to drink it alone." It's not uncommon for me to quote along with Robert, and if I'm not crying already, the "try not to drink it alone" finishes me off, without fail. Even in current years, the nostalgia of those two years still empowers this episode to draw blood.
Another tender spot for me is during Guinan's little chat with the Rozhenkos in Ten Forward. I always thought this exchange mildly sweet / touching through the years, since Worf always kept his adoptive parents at a distance (due to his discommendation, supposedly). Later in life, I would BECOME an adoptive parent myself...Guinan's words took on a whole new meaning, and a much sharper set of teeth. That's the experiential factor I'm talking about. I've got the bite marks to prove it.
I would never call the production or plot or whatever outstanding in its own cinematic right, but the experiential buttons in me that it always pushes without fail get it four stars from me.
Mon, May 15, 2017, 9:06pm (UTC -5)
In addition to the great acting by the leads and guests, I'd like to add that I thought Marina Sirtis was absolutely wonderful in her scenes with Picard and B. Crusher. So much warmth and genuine caring... a long way from the earlier 'Counselor' in Season One who would stand on the bridge and give vague pronouncements about the motivation of every alien race encountered.
Tue, May 16, 2017, 8:56pm (UTC -5)
Yes, Troi was one of those non-family elements of community that stands out to me. One expects family members (Robert, Worf's parents, etc.) to stand up and defend/support their own, but it's even healthier when the circle gets wider than family -- Louis for one example, and his opportunity for Picard to step outside Star Fleet should he desire (yeah, right). Troi was another; she reached out to Picard as you so aptly point out, and to Beverly. Guinan really scores points with the Rozhenkos, and with Worf himself. I'm a big Community guy, and this episode nails it.
It's interesting the Ronald D. Moore wrote this episode... I'm reminded of BSG's "Flight of the Phoenix". that episode follows the same "community" theme and drew tears from me the first time I saw it. (Okay, the first several dozen times...) Moore didn't write it, but still, I wonder whether there was influence of this sort.
Tue, Jul 11, 2017, 3:06pm (UTC -5)
A change of pace to see all the filming in the vineyards was nice. But the fight in the mud and then laughing about it is a bigtime cliche -- didn't seem very genuine to me.
Not much of a plot here and a little bit of character examination -- but nothing really notable for me. No issue with throwing in an episode like this now and then -- at least there's nothing ridiculous here. On the contrary, it does give a chance to
see Worf, Picard, and a bit of Wes in a different light.
Good thing also is it reinforces Picard's belief that his place is as captain of the Enterprise.
Not too much to say here, 2.5 stars for me. Some decent guest actors with Picard's older bro and Worf's parents made the episode enjoyable, but there's definitely nothing of excellent caliber or particularly touching here.
Fri, Sep 29, 2017, 1:55am (UTC -5)
4 stars from me.
Thu, Jan 4, 2018, 3:16pm (UTC -5)
The entirety of Picard's visit with his older brother's family.
One of the main reasons this works is the use of Jeremy Kemp against whom Stewart is superb.
The climax of the mud fight may seem simplistic to our informed eyes-today's audience would say -'Jean Luc -you have years of therapy ahead of you to address your PTSD and you can forget about returning to duty ' but back in 1990 I think it would have worked.
Worf's visit with his parents-homely yes but enjoyable
Not so good
The late Jack Crusher's inane and schmalzy holomessage .BTW what happened to the undersweater for his tunic?
Sat, Jan 6, 2018, 1:35pm (UTC -5)
The events of the Best of Worlds provided a rare opportunity to see another side of these characters. Their homes back on Earth, their families and an opportunity to see what they are like when they are on their own, away from Starfleet.
This should have been at least a two part episode. Picard's issues with his brother were wrapped up a bit too quickly. It would have been nice to learn more about other characters and their connections to Earth. Does Riker have a home in Alaska? What was he doing during this time? Does Data have any connection to Earth or to anyone there? It would have been interesting to see Data visiting Earth and to see how he interacts with people when not on duty. What about Geordi?
TNG writers had a good excuse to write a few episodes that would have focused on Earth as a setting. The Enterprise had to be repaired and probably upgraded. Picard needed to recover and Starfleet almost certainly would have wanted to debrief Picard and to have him examined to make sure he was no longer under the influence of the Borg. There could have been even an inquiry as to if Picard should even be allowed to command the Enterprise again.
Tue, Feb 13, 2018, 6:26pm (UTC -5)
Also, this story was fourth in production order because it was the younger staffers (led by Ron Moore) that felt that Picard needed to be shown recovering what what was basically the technological rape of his mind and body. Piller was convinced, but there was no way to write and prep a script in the time they had.
If he hadn't agreed, the next episode would have been that Jeri Taylor crapfest "Suddenly Human" where Picard gets to play daddy to a what-may-as-well-have-been feral child.
Wed, Feb 14, 2018, 5:30pm (UTC -5)
About the comments about France seeming too 20th century, actually the vineyard looks even older than that, but THAT's THE POINT! Have you been to Europe? A lot of the architecture hasn't changed since the US became a country! Now the cities should look modern, but a vineyard in a village? It actually goes along with what Dr Soong said in the next episode about humans being fascinated with old things and a Nuvian (sp?) would want something new and efficient
Wed, Apr 25, 2018, 2:34am (UTC -5)
Mon, Apr 30, 2018, 3:52pm (UTC -5)
Again, like so many above me, I thought this was a waste of an episode as a child, but as an adult it now it feels essential companion piece to Best Of Both Worlds.
Sat, Jun 2, 2018, 8:16am (UTC -5)
If I had a complaint, it's they didn't do enough of these kinds of episodes.
Thu, Jul 26, 2018, 1:27am (UTC -5)
It's not just because it's good in episode, but because of the exemplary writing of the Picard character as a whole. Knowing the whole series elevates this scene immensely. His central character conflict story arc for the entire series is summed up in his dealing with having been assimilated by the Borg. This man of exemplary character and supreme self-control and grace under every pressure has met his match; he has been deeply wounded and damaged by what has happened to him, and this breakdown scene reveals that.
The resolution of this wound does not occur until the First Contact movie when Picard loses control and yells at Lily. To see the high level struggle of such a noble well-written character is the height of drama, and add Patrick Stewart's acting on top of it and in my mind it becomes an immortal scene; it carries so much weight upon the whole series. This is Picard's emotional pinnacle.
(I also like Picard's "Death scene" speech in the episode "Final Mission." If Picard had died after this speech, I think it would have been a fitting end for his character.)
Thu, Jul 26, 2018, 2:40am (UTC -5)
Thu, Jul 26, 2018, 8:08am (UTC -5)
I just watched this one a couple days ago. I agree with everything you said but I'd like to add that IMO the biggest "thing" that the Borg took away from Picard was his liberty, freedom of thought and choice.
Thu, Jul 26, 2018, 9:42am (UTC -5)
One reason Robert comes across as so oppressive is his aggressive attitude towards not only technology but towards the conformity that often comes with new methods. Think about today and how much of a luddite someone seems who refuses to have a smart phone or mobile device. This sense of 'need' people have to adapt to the newest tech is precisely the uniformity the Borg represent, and Robert would rather remain in the 19th century than be swept up in the process of having his life assimilated. He knows that he would risk losing the simple pleasures of eating fresh food and taking the time to grow things. Of course we must also see in him the irony that if you resist change you, too, end up locked in to a sort of conformity - that of resistance. And as the Borg say, resistance is futile when it comes to changing society and lifestyle. It's usually just a question of when, not if.
I'd call this a top-tier Trek episode not just because of the colorful performances but because here we get the first true critique in TNG of celebrating technology in an unqualified manner. If left unchecked man can become a slave to it, unable to think for himself. Picard, I think, represents what humanity needs to retain - a sort of compromise between using technology while keeping fresh the old human interests like art, philosophy, poetry, and history. He might be called the best of both worlds, if you will.
Thu, Jul 26, 2018, 9:58am (UTC -5)
Viewing the Borg as an internal threat -- a preview of the future -- also makes Q Who even more resonant. Q explicitly frames the Borg as the type of threat humanity will encounter in the future, and which it will have to know how to defend itself against when the time comes, should humanity survive. Interpreting it as an internal threat, Q is partly showing Picard et al the possibility of a future fate they may be unable to avoid, or even survive -- and one of the trials that fits into the Q test of humanity of whether it ought to survive.
Thu, Jul 26, 2018, 10:09am (UTC -5)
Have you read Sawyer's "Calculating God"? It's a sci-fi novel involving advances alien societies mysteriously vanishing, and -
- it comes out late in the book that what happens is that when a society becomes sufficiently advanced technologically what usually happens is they construct a computer system simulating paradise, upload their brains into it, and their real-world society ends. The premise in the book is that if a society doesn't have a strong reason to stay vibrant it will always devolve into a sort of pleasure-seeking slavery. The Borg are a bit different in that they're outwardly aggressive, but I think the truth behind them is that it's the enslavement by technology that is aggressive and you have to actively resist it by maintaining the human side of the equation.
Thu, Jul 26, 2018, 4:13pm (UTC -5)
“Family doesn't just show a man coming to terms with assimilation, but in a way portrays the dangers in a people of becoming entwined with their technology and allowing it to change them. The lesson here is that the Borg aren't just a threat from outside, but from within. The Federation itself is in danger of becoming lifeless and dependent if it lets that happen going forward. ”
While I do agree there’s a message here about Picard getting back to simplicity away from technology in order to find himself, I think the message was more balanced about technology than you suggest.
For starters, there was a moment where Picard was considering abandoning space altogether and living a different, perhaps simpler life near his family helping Louis with his sea exploration project. Ultimately this plan was rejected by some gentle nudging by Robert, implying that Picard would be running away from his technological dreams in space.
Another, perhaps more important, point is that the episode shows that Picard’s visit also has an impact *on Robert*, who originally seemed bitter with Picard’s life decisions which abandoned family tradition. The ending sequence where we see René dreaming about adventures in stars, wanting to follow Picard’s path, shows Robert’s apparent change in attitude when he says “Let him dream.”
So while Picard may have been able to recover by shedding technology I think there’s also a message that Robert deep down does admire his brother’s life work, to the extent that he wouldn’t mind his son ending up like Picard.
Thu, Jul 26, 2018, 5:25pm (UTC -5)
That's more or less in keeping with what I meant. My 'resistance is futile' line isn't just meant to convey pessimism, but that the only way to look it forward. Robert's version of pretending to stay in the past is untenable in the long-run, but on the other hand racing towards the future with no thought to the destination is just as dangerous. The balanced message, as you put it, seems to say that the Robert side of the equation mustn't be lost if the Federation is to stay human and avoid becoming a technological terror. I think Picard is the exemplar of that balance, and it took spending time at home to remind him that despite the dangers posed by the future he actually is equipped to meet them.
One can almost look at it in larger terms, thinking back to Encounter at Farpoint, where Q ordered the Federation back to Earth. Family shows us that between hiding on Earth on going out there to perhaps become a terrible thing, there really is no option. One must both go out there, and also avoid becoming the terrible thing. I think the Trek message is that this can really be accomplished if we have a common goal to that effect.
Sat, Jul 28, 2018, 11:38pm (UTC -5)
"I just watched this one a couple days ago. I agree with everything you said but I'd like to add that IMO the biggest "thing" that the Borg took away from Picard was his liberty, freedom of thought and choice."
I totally agree, which is why that tear that Picard sheds while he's being assimilated in Best of Both World's Part 2 is so brilliant to me. That is the moment when he realizes he isn't strong enough; the moment he sorrows at having to lose the thing most precious to him; the moment his humanity dies. Assimilation is the antithesis of who Picard is, and I think that ties in well to what Peter, Chrome and William were saying above about becoming slaves to technology instead of embracing it in a way that helps us become more fully alive.
Wed, Aug 1, 2018, 11:32pm (UTC -5)
I agree. I am one of those "luddites" that doesn't have a smartphone. I own a business, so do have a cell phone, but it doesn't have texting. I do a lot of driving throughout North America, and don't have a GPS. A lot of people think I'm odd, *(and I guess I am). I actually call people who I see on their phones CONSTANTLY the Borg! (or the Cybermen) Some people get it
But, I do see these devices as good tools-in fact, I need some kind of device in my ministry, but all and all, I do not become a slave to it. In fact, I am trying to weed myself away from being on my desktop all the time (although I AM typing this at 12:30am!)
Fri, Aug 3, 2018, 11:59pm (UTC -5)
In this 'not quite serialized' era of trek, the fact that there even was this problem from the episode before that takes a whole other episode to resolve, was unique.
Unfortunately as the status quo is back to normal the following episode, I think that making the implications of Picard's torture at the hands of the Borg 'resolved' was the right decision.
Fri, Aug 10, 2018, 8:04am (UTC -5)
It's not a great episode for a 10 year old anyway, as it's a character piece rather than the all-action stuff I wanted, and it's certainly not the best episode to choose as your TNG starting point, as I had no idea what Picard was whinging about!
It's taken me 24 years to get around to watching it again, and I appreciated it much more, though I do agree with Jammer, I think, that it's good but not brilliant.
The bit I perhaps liked most was the opening scene with Picard and Troi; it felt like Ron Moore was poking fun at Troi's general uselessness!
Mon, Oct 1, 2018, 8:15pm (UTC -5)
Watch Sergey's reaction when Guinan asks them about prune juice. That makes me laugh every time.
Fri, Oct 12, 2018, 7:47am (UTC -5)
Robert telling Jean Luc that he enjoyed bullying him made me picture them as youngsters and made their mud fight all the more real so totally understood why Jean Luc felt safe enough to allow himself to let go.
Hopefully Jammer, with the passage of time that has passed, with yourself having an even more mature outlook on life, you could reconsider your 3 stars into a 4.
P.s thank you for this site. Love all you guys.
Wed, Nov 14, 2018, 1:32am (UTC -5)
Wed, Mar 20, 2019, 9:47am (UTC -5)
Sat, Apr 6, 2019, 8:56pm (UTC -5)
The depiction of the two brothers was a masterpiece portrayal. I am so sick of saccharine on TV with relationships - even conflict between siblings often ends with reconciliation which is bullshit. There can be good reason to hate or dislike your sibling, lets see it once in a while. …..and in the end, Robert provided some comfort or at least acknowledgement as to what Jean Luc was going through but it was still a chilly détente.
Everything else was fine. I like Worf and his family and the Wesley arc wasn't too annoying.
Thu, Nov 14, 2019, 10:09pm (UTC -5)
It was a departure from the standard ST fare, and a well done one. The bucolic, peaceful, sunny beauty of La Barre, Picard's hometown, was such a great contrast to their usual surroundings.
Everything is so . . . down to Earth. Soil, vines, grapes, wine, a child, a marriage, home cooking. Talk of the ocean. Of reclamation. You can almost smell the mud when Picard gets covered with it.
The performances were outstanding.
The Worf stuff was wonderful character development for Worf. The Wes stuff was less significant, but interesting nonetheless.
Roles, relationships, the way we build our lives, the paths we choose and the people along the way - the paths we don't choose, and the people we leave behind.
Just a beautiful little interlude before, like The Enterprise, we're all charged up and on our way.
Sun, Mar 15, 2020, 12:01pm (UTC -5)
One thing that I do find interesting about this episode, the thing I remember it for most, is the family home in France. There's absolutely nothing futuristic about it. It looks like the early part of the 20th Century. Picard's "laptop" stands out like a sore thumb there. It might have seemed appropriately 24th Century-ish when this episode was first screened, but it looks ridiculously dated now so even that's a bit anachronistic.
Nice to see Jeremy Kemp in TNG. Superb actor. Died in July last year, sadly.
Sun, May 17, 2020, 9:29pm (UTC -5)
Mon, May 18, 2020, 4:15am (UTC -5)
Most of us are too busy staring at that roaring fireplace as Robert and Marie discuss their son's future to notice the windows. ;-P
Sun, May 31, 2020, 4:29pm (UTC -5)
I can see how it would look that way, although what I took (and what I *think* they were going for) is more "You'll have to face it one way or the other - you can't just run from it."
Sat, Jul 18, 2020, 6:05am (UTC -5)
Tue, Sep 22, 2020, 6:25pm (UTC -5)
What an ignorant and ageist statement
There are parents who reproduce in their 40's and have young children in their 50's whether by adoption, IVF or natural means, plus its the 24th century, humans having kids after 40 or even 50 should be as normal as sleeping, after all they can live to 140 years
Tue, Sep 22, 2020, 8:08pm (UTC -5)
Jammer was wrong. Worf's father used to be a warp specialist on the previous generation of Starships. He had the schematics for the newer class because his son served on the newest class ship.
My nitpick is that Chief Petty Officer O'Brien is enlisted, but he wears Lt. Pips on his collar. Sergey even commented that he also was an enlisted Chief Petty Officer, and was proud that Worf was commissioned and a higher rank then he was.
I love the episode, but Picard's brother needed a beat down. Knowing how he was, I would never go back and visit him.
Wed, Sep 23, 2020, 6:13am (UTC -5)
Thu, Nov 19, 2020, 5:16pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Mar 21, 2021, 3:46pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Apr 2, 2021, 5:04pm (UTC -5)
I thought the point of this episode is that big bro deliberately leaned into all of his luddite tendencies and jealousy of Jean Luc to elicit a response from him. Sure, he felt all of those things but I thought it was a brother's attempt to shake up his sibling to get them to start to face the trauma they had endured.
Love this episode, just wish we had gotten more from the brother before this episode because it would have made the brotherly bond and attempt to help land better.
Fri, Jun 18, 2021, 3:48pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Jun 18, 2021, 3:52pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Jun 18, 2021, 10:00pm (UTC -5)
Well, those 24th-century folks generally travel pretty light, probably because replicators can supply most of what they might want or need at their destination.
In fact, I kind of wonder why people need to pack anything for a relatively short trip. But given Robert's anti-replicator attitude, I guess Picard has to make sure he has enough changes of clothes, just in case any of them get, well, muddy.
Wed, Aug 18, 2021, 2:11am (UTC -5)
Wed, Aug 18, 2021, 2:51am (UTC -5)
Having said that, I was much more engaged in the Picard scenes than in the ship-based Worf scenes. The change of scene, and the fraternal conflict, gave us a sort of mini-play that although quite un-Trek like, we could sink into on its own terms and enjoy.
I also liked the moment of comedy:
TROI: (psycho babble , psycho babble, psycho babble)
PICARD: (long hard stare) I hate when you do that.
So do we, so do we!!
Sat, Aug 21, 2021, 2:21pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Nov 28, 2021, 8:10pm (UTC -5)
I did tear up at one point in the episode though. It was when Guinan was talking to Worf's parents. That was powerful stuff.
Sun, Apr 24, 2022, 10:30am (UTC -5)
Picard comes into a 24th-century rural France and the places looks like it "did" in the 20th century. The buildings, the roadways, the clothes, the language... - even a backwater village would have shown SOME modernity over the course of 3-1/2 centuries.
Give me a break.
Also, personal drama? No me interesa. That's what Maury Povich is for.
Mon, Oct 10, 2022, 2:30pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Jan 9, 2023, 3:19pm (UTC -5)
I am mesmerized by Jeremy Kemp's portrayal of Robert. Every eyebrow raise, every frown, every docile look to Marie...his control and understanding of who he is as an actor is amazing. From the first faraway look as he eats grape off the vine, he is a tough, old Frenchman with skin like knotted grapevines. His assessment: "This will stay with you a long time Jean-Luc...." cuts to the bone and carries all the gravitas of a caring, older brother.
....and maybe its because I'm French and I actually had a fight like this with my older brother in our garage with a similar result.
Picard is not wooden in past episodes, but he certainly plays "controlled" as a military figurehead. To see him let the mask of command drop for once was the best tear jerk ever so far.
Tue, Feb 7, 2023, 12:23pm (UTC -5)
Thu, May 4, 2023, 1:55am (UTC -5)
I agree that the world looks old-fashioned, but I read that as because Robert is old fashioned. They don't have a car. They don't have a replicator. They're practically Amish.
Every review I've read of this dislikes the Wesley storyline and I agree it's hard to care about the death of a man we've never met. But I don't think it's there because we're supposed to feel bad for Wesley. His dad has a line about family - something around how they're connected because they share the same genes, and I think that line is what that scene is about. It's a reminder that Wesley and Picard are connected to their families even though they haven't seen them in years. And Worf, in contrast, is connected to his through different bonds.
I adore the Worf scenes. It's an unusually perceptive look at older-child adoption in TV. Even when it works, it's hard, and something is lost for the adoptive child. Of course Worf had a difficult adolescence. And of course his parents are people like this, who find it easy to love in a way Robert didn't find it easy to love the young Picard.
The fight in the mud is ridiculous, but the scene where he cries is one of the most memorable Picard scenes ever. This would be a low 4 stars for me, maybe a 3.5.
Mon, Jun 5, 2023, 11:00pm (UTC -5)
TROI: Captain, you do need time. You cannot achieve complete recovery so quickly. And it's perfectly normal, after what you've been through, to spend a great deal of time trying to find yourself again.
PICARD: And what better place to find oneself than on the streets of one's home village.
This exchange becomes interesting only in hindsight, because we learn that Picard has been away for 20 years, and from the sound of it left as soon as he could to get away and explore the stars. Finding himself seemingly involved getting away from home, and in light of this I can see why Troi might find Picard's remark here dubious.
MARIE: I wouldn't hear of it. It's your home and it will always be your home. Do things look that different?
PICARD: No. In fact, it's amazing how little it has changed. Everything is exactly as I remember it. The house, the hills, every tree, every bush seems untouched by the passage of time.
This statement sounds like a distant echo of Worf's "I like my species the way it is". The Borg said they sought to improve the quality of life; they represented the unremitting advance forward, whether anyone agreed to it or not. We can almost see how Picard's reaction to the Borg might perhaps have an analogue among those who view the hyper-technocracy of the Federation as being an unstoppable force that changes everyone's way of life. It's not a moral question, but just a fact, that technology moving forward does appear to have a life of its own and often puts us in its service. Reminiscing about the lack of change here stands as stark contrast against the Borg, but even against the Enterprise.
Even a line like this has resonance:
ROBERT: You've shuttled in from the village?
PICARD: No I decided to walk.
Robert surely doesn't think Jean-Luc is out of shape or lazy. This is a question of whether technology ought to be used simply because it's there. Jean-Luc is trying a change of pace, so to speak.
Dialogue like this, which may sound like it's about Picard's ego or his brother's envy, is actually about much more:
MARIE: The Mayor wants to give you a parade.
PICARD: A parade?
MARIE: Give you the keys to the city.
PICARD: No. No, no, no, no.
This isn't false humility, it's Jean-Luc horrified that they would try to honor the murderer who nearly destroyed humanity. That they would actually think he wasn't responsible for what he did, when Jean-Luc believes he was. He is not here to be seen, but to be forgotten for a while.
MARIE: Robert and I have had more than a few discussions about getting a replicator in the house.
PICARD: I remember the same discussions between mother and father.
ROBERT: Father understood better than anybody else the danger of losing those values which we hold most precious.
PICARD: I don't see that you have to lose anything just by adding a convenience.
I'm not sure why, but when hearing Jean-Luc say this my thoughts immediately went to the Borg mind-link. In lieu of arguing with his brother about values, direct mental connection would be such an improvement, a much more convenient way of letting others know how you really feel without the imprecision of words. Convenience, such as Jean-Luc describes it, goes much further than just saving 30 min cooking dinner. It becomes a way of making everything easy, but then becoming dependent, and then not even realizing that one cannot live without the convenience. A mind-link might be convenient, but what happens to you once you're connected? Are you even you any more? And perhaps the same question can be asked about other technologies as well.
RENE: Did you win a ribbon too?
PICARD: I don't recall.
ROBERT: And I don't find your modesty very convincing, brother. Of course you won the ribbon. You always did.
Here again we find that Picard always winning may perhaps be likened to technology always advancing; the force that is so superior there is no question it will win. And yet Picard's greatest moment is when, as Locutus, he lost, and Riker won.
PICARD: I am not encouraging him. If you weren't so narrow minded, if you allowed him to see the world as it really is
ROBERT: You raise your own sons as you would wish, and allow me to do the same with mine.
Even this line, brutal as it is, seems to resonate with the idea that Jean-Luc chose technology over children; chose reaching toward the future rather than continuing on his family's line through flesh and blood.
PICARD: It's only. There's just one thing I don't understand. You were such a rotten swimmer, Louis. Thinking of you working on the ocean floor.
LOUIS: I suppose we all find ways to confront our greatest fears.
Here again we have a line that echoes Picard's inner turmoil. I think Picard's greatest fear right now is himself, that he is a threat to the Federation that needs to be kept away from space, from everyone really. He is here not to find himself but to escape himself. Not just his pain, but his actual capabilities, his command abilities, his knowledge. All of those were used for killing.
MARIE: Besides, it would be wonderful to have you back home. Given a little time, maybe you and your brother might even get to like one another.
PICARD: Well, I already like his choice in wives.
This is just another reminder at how shockingly long Jean-Luc has stayed away from home. Robert is no spring chicken, and regardless of how illogically young Rene is, even so this line makes it clear that Jean-Luc neither attended the marriage nor has even met Marie until this trip. Can you imagine?
LOUIS: I'm interested to know what you thought about our plans.
PICARD: I've only had a chance to glance at them. I've a few ideas.
LOUIS: Wonderful. We should discuss them with the board of governors. I've set up a meeting.
LOUIS: Just a preliminary conversation. Tomorrow morning?
PICARD: Preliminary to what?
LOUIS: They want you. I mentioned your interest in the project, that's all. That's all I had to say. They jumped at the prospect.
Louis' last line is almost certainly intended to chill us with shades of the Borg. They want you. What you thought about our plans. It's like yet another force trying to use Picard's knowledge for its own purposes, to make him an instrument of a larger project and place him as its mouthpiece. Check out the musical cue at this point, it's meant to be chilling, and it is. And notice how innocently Louis looks, how there is no ill will. And yet the Borg didn't really have any ill will either. Locutus genuinely did not understand why anyone would resist the Borg.
And here it is again:
PICARD: I'm tired of fighting with you, Robert.
PICARD: That's right.
ROBERT: Yes. Tired of the Enterprise too? The great Captain Picard of Starfleet falls to Earth, ready to plunge into the water with Louis. That isn't the brother that I remember. Still, I suppose it must have seemed like the ideal situation, hmm? Local boy makes good. Returns home after twenty years to a hero's welcome.
PICARD: I'm not a hero.
I'm not a hero. And he really means it, too. This isn't a plea to treat him like an ordinary person. On the contrary, it's a protest that he's much more of a failure than that.
ROBERT: Because I was the elder brother, the responsible one. It was my job to look after you.
PICARD: Look after me? You? You were a bully.
ROBERT: Sometimes. Maybe. Sometimes I even enjoyed bullying you.
PICARD: All right. Try it now.
ROBERT: Did you come back, Jean-Luc? Did you come back because you wanted me to look after you again?
PICARD: Damn you!
We almost get the idea that Jean-Luc came back not to make amends with his brother, but to take revenge him the Borg through him. Robert's last line here is deliciously ironic, since what he really means is that Picard came here to be in the presence of his bully, to fight back, as he couldn't with the Borg. When I was younger I must admit I did see Robert as a misanthropic bully, but viewing the episode now I realize how much he's inspecting Jean-Luc from the moment he arrives. Like his brother, he knows how to size up a situation and confront it, even indirectly. And like his brother, he knows how to be diplomatic even if that means playing the part of the mean older brother if that's what Jean-Luc needs. But in other scenes we see a softer side to Robert, so we know he isn't just a brute. He's handling Jean-Luc in the way that's needed.
MARIE: What in the world? What happened here?
PICARD: It's entirely my fault, Marie.
ROBERT: Yes, I fell down, then he fell and then
PICARD: We both fell down.
ROBERT: We both fell down.
ROBERT: We both fell down together.
MARIE: Have you two been fighting?
ROBERT: Fighting? No, certainly not.
The script is brilliant is taking these lines and giving space for a director to play them as brotherly comraderies, even while the text itself plays as a direct summation of what Jean-Luc has realized, that what happened with the Borg was him falling down. Not failing as a human, not realizing he was always weak after all, and not becoming a pariah of the species. He just fell down, and got muddy. And in Robert saying they both fell down, there's perhaps a sharing of contrition at past wrongs done, while knowing that humanity has the capacity through a smile and a laugh to redeem even the worst mistakes and failures.
It's easy to allow these moments in the episode to pass by and feel mostly like nostalgic navel gazing, or even ruminating on the next step. But I feel like every scene is a strict treatment on all the various ways in which Picard's ego has been broken. He doesn't even know if he belongs in Starfleet anymore because of what he's done. And I think it's crucial to imagine how you the viewer would feel if you were responsible for killing or nearly killing everyone you care about through your own inadequacy. It must be almost unbearable, and it's good in a way they underplayed this aspect of it and showed us Jean-Luc's thought process through double-layered text rather than scene after scene of tormented living in hell. In this respect I think the episode's subtlety is underrated.
Tue, Jun 6, 2023, 12:08pm (UTC -5)
But ya, I always found it a little ridiculous that even someone like Picard would have missed his own brother's wedding and not even have met his sister in law! Given the age of their son and given that Robert looks about 60 I can only surmise this was a second marriage so that mitigates things a little, but not much.
Tue, Jun 6, 2023, 4:00pm (UTC -5)
I do like that Robert fesses up at the end.
PICARD: You were asking for it, you know.
ROBERT: Yes, but you needed it. You have been terribly hard on yourself.
PICARD: You don't know, Robert. You don't know. They took everything I was. They used me to kill and to destroy, and I couldn't stop them. I should have been able to stop them! I tried. I tried so hard, but I wasn't strong enough. I wasn't good enough. I should have been able to stop them. I should! I should!
ROBERT: So, my brother is a human being after all. This is going to be with you a long time, Jean-Luc. A long time. 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: You know, I think you were right after all. I think I did come back so that you could help me.
ROBERT: You know what? I still don't like you, Jean-Luc.
I read that last line as "I still don't like you, Jean-Luc, but I love you."
Robert gave Picard what he needed, and that's what family is for.
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