Plot Synopsis: Captain Picard takes leave on Earth and visits his family while recovering from his assimilation into the Borg. Worf’s Human parents visit the Enterprise and help him deal with his discommendation. Beverly decides to show Wes a message from his long-deceased father.
Plot A and B Analysis: The teaser is longer than usual, and tells us quite a bit: Worf’s parents are visiting (and he doesn’t want to see them), Picard is heading to his home village of La Barre, France, and taking some vacation to recover from the Borg. Plot A is about Picard and his family, plot B is about Worf and his own. There’s even a plot C involving Wes and his father. Worf’s adoptive parents are Russian and it’s immediately apparent they love him to death, but they can be a bit much; Picard’s welcome home is much more reserved, at least from his distant brother. Wes’s father Jack has recorded a message that Beverly is unsure about showing to her son. All of the plot lines are great but Picard’s is the best, suffering from his brother’s endless needling, which leads to a confrontation and subsequent catharsis that’s among the best moments in the entire series. There are no holes or wasted time here, almost every moment is packed with pathos and meaning.
Favorite Scenes: This whole episode is excellent. Two scenes stand out for me, the first involves Picard having a powerful experience with his brother, which I won’t quote here as it wouldn’t do it justice. The second involves Worf sitting down with his parents, who he’s been uncomfortable with on the ship. They reference his Klingon discommendation and express confidence in his character, to which Worf protests:
Worf’s father: We know what kind of man you are.
Worf’s mother: Whatever you did, we know it was for a good reason.
Worf, looking away: I must bear my dishonor alone.
Father, raising a finger: That is not true!
Mother: I’m sorry if this is too human of us, but whatever you are suffering, you must remember, we are with you.
Father: And that we’re proud of you. And that we love you.
Mother, her eyes shining: You are our son!
You can see that what they say has an effect on Worf, and I can’t help but think everyone should have parents like that. So many TV shows today showcase dysfunctional families, it’s nice to see how families should work being represented.
Use of Cast/Characters: Picard is probably the primary center of this episode, though time is shared between two principals. This is perhaps the most vulnerable we’ve ever seen him. There’s a scene in which Patrick’s acting is so emotionally naked I still get affected by it all these years later. Riker is barely in this episode, he just has a few lines. Troi has more, and has a couple of scenes in which she really acts like something resembling the counselor she is. This is the only episode in which Brent Spiner does not appear. Beverly’s main job is to decide to show her husband’s video to her son, and if she wrestles with this decision we don’t see much of it. Geordi has one scene with Worf’s parents and it’s ok, but there’s not much for him here. Worf is the other center of this episode, and we get to see a side of him that we almost never see again: how he relates to his human family. It’s so brilliant of Gene Roddenberry to have the idea of a Klingon raised by humans, and to touch on that dynamic here is very satisfying. Wes actually gets a good scene here with his deceased father, and it’s nice to see. Guinan has a nice little scene with Worf’s parents. I won’t single out any of the guest stars here, because frankly they were all great.
Blu Ray Version: It continues to be wonderful to watch these episodes in HD. There’s a deleted scene that includes about 45 seconds of extra footage of Jack Crusher’s speech. It’s worth seeing if you’re interested in his family history. I don’t have a huge problem with it being cut, however.
Nitpicks: Hmm. I guess the speech from Jack Crusher could have been a bit better? I’m also not sure why there’s the scar/band-aid on Picard’s right temple in the teaser but it’s gone for the rest of the episode. IMO it should either be there for the whole episode, as a physical reminder of what he’s healing from. Finally, we’re never told what happens to Riker’s rank from the previous episode. Either he refused it, or Starfleet revoked the field commission after Picard’s return.
Overall Impression: It’s episodes like these that raise TNG far above standard science fiction. This episode isn’t about technology, villains, or action, it’s about what resonates most within us and means the most to us as human beings: family. It’s one of the best scripts Ron Moore ever wrote. This is so necessary, showing us that these are people, not comic book characters. The illustrious, seemingly invincible captain Picard, confronting his own limitations and mortality is a turning point for the character. And who would’ve guessed that Worf, the product of a cross-species adoption, would have the least dysfunctional family of all? The influence of this episode needs to be explicitly stated. This is where TNG first begins to tell serialized stories, and kicks off one of the major themes of season four, which is family. One could argue this was the first ever three-episode arc, as this episode continues telling the same story as the previous two episodes. I personally don’t know if I’d go that far, but certainly TNG starts telling serialized stories beginning with Family. I’m not sure I fully appreciated this episode at 15, but this one only gets better as you age, and I have no problem rating this episode 5 out of 5 stars.
Behind the Scenes/Trivia: Interestingly, this was not the second episode produced in season four. Suddenly Human and Brothers were both made before this episode, but it was Family that aired first. This was also the lowest-rated episode of season four by the Nielsens. The wine that Picard receives from his brother will later appear in the episodes Legacy, First Contact and the Nemesis film. Gene Roddenberry really did not want to do this episode according to Ron Moore, but Michael Piller and Rick Berman somehow got the show through the way it was written. According to Ron:
He particularly hated the fact that the brothers were in such conflict and had a fist fight. At that point Gene was really hanging on to this idea of the utopianism of the Federation and in Earth in particular. ‘We are past these sorts of things. We’re not petty. Picard and his brother would never have this kind of conflict in their family.’ It was antithetical to everything Michael’s [Piller] trying to do, which is about people and characters and our flaws and, you know, how that all makes us more human.”
This is known as the “only episode” in which no scenes of the Enterprise were shot, but I include also the episode Shades of Gray, in which it only appears as part of a flashback. In fact the episodes Liaisons and Dark Page are similar in that way. Chief O’Brien finally gets a first and middle name, as well as a rank. His rank will fluctuate wildly though, if you want the whole story click here. Picard’s mention of Drema IV is a reference to Pen Pals, and Worf’s relationship to prune juice was introduced in Yesterday’s Enterprise. Tristan Birkin, who plays Picard’s nephew, will later play Picard himself in the atrocious episode Rascals. This episode was nominated for an Emmy for cinematography. For those who liked Worf’s parents, we do get to see his mother appear one more time, in New Ground.
Missable/Unmissable? Unquestionably unmissable, for all the above-stated reasons. The next one is too.