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THE NEXT GENERATION:
- TNG Season One
- TNG Season Two
- TNG Season Three
- TNG Season Four
- TNG Season Five
- TNG Season Six
- TNG Season Seven

Season Four:
-174-175: "The Best of Both Worlds"
-178: "Family"
-179: "Remember Me"
-188: "Clues"
-189: "First Contact"
-195: "The Drumhead"
-196: "Half a Life"
-200-201: "Redemption"


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Family

(Star Trek - The Next Generation episode positioned as 176,
but with production code 178)
  • written by Ronald D. Moore
  • based in part on a
    story premise by Susanne Lambdin and Bryan Stewart
  • directed by Les Landau
  • music by Dennis McCarthy
  • 45 minutes

Family

Truthfully, I've always had my misgivings about this episode. I think Gene Roddenberry's concerns about it were correctly justified, when he worried that people would tune in for sci-fi adventure and find only a quiet character story at work. I certainly found it to be a dull instalment back when I first saw it. In retrospect, I've mellowed considerably towards the intention of it. With the Enterprise finding itself orbiting Earth at the end of the big Borg adventure, it seems natural and logical for them to rest and recuperate, engage in shore leave activities, and explore family and heritage. In Picard's case, it makes extra sense to process whatever it was that happened to him, and find out if the old character we loved is still in there somewhere.

However, I still don't think this episode is good. Very little drive or sense of anticipation is built up around the ideas that it tackles, and many of the turning points that characters take regarding their issues turn out to be quite inorganic and clumsy.


Picard's earliest scene on the ship with Troi is a bit of a pain, as it echoes a problem often seen with psychiatry and self-help material. In searching keenly for a problem or issue which may not exist, one could inadvertently create one out of thin air, or strengthen one that previously had little power. As we watch this dynamic play out, it feels kind of creepy and icky, instead of the "profoundly wise" that it was probably aiming for.

The exteriors of the vineyard in France are one of the highlights of the episode, particularly as many beautiful matte shots update the scenery for the 24th century. The final shot is particularly exquisite, as we get not a random starscape, but one which prominently features the Orion constellation. Sweet! I also like the subplot with Picard's old friend Louis sounding him out on a new career possibility. It brings up a neat futuristic sci-fi idea - that of raising the ocean floor and creating more land, while also pressing Picard with a choice - to continue in Starfleet or move on to other projects. This gives Picard's part of the story some much needed structure and backbone, plus a bit of time pressure.

The sentiments of Picard's brother Robert were fairly oblique to me when I first saw this, but make a bit more sense now in retrospect. It is additionally interesting how this story complements the previous one - as Picard, Riker and crew struggle to find some technological advantage so fresh that it will be beyond the Borg's ability to adapt quickly enough, there are people on the Earth that they are protecting who swear by the old ways of the past, shunning all those new, not-yet-properly-tested-and-proven advances. For sure there are a few good moments when the two philosophies clash, and Patrick Stewart and Jeremy Kemp can more subtly chew the scenery over it.

All that said, it remains hard to believe that Robert is a sentient adult of the 24th century, so keen to blame others for the bizarre bug he wedged up his own butt. But what really fails is the contrast between how entrenched he is in these ways and the subsequent ease with which he lets these views collapse after the vaguest of triggers.

In fact, it feels to me like the critical sequence resolving this story strand is far too inorganic to be believable. It has instead been contrived to meet standard scripting requirements and timing. Were the brothers' arguments really so entrenched that they would resort to a mud-wrestling fight over it all? (And the tiny patch of really thin mud feels extremely fake as well.) Would Picard really break down and bawl over his own Borg victimhood at that moment? Would it really be a bout of wallowing in that victimhood that puts his head back together so he can reassert his captaincy? (I'm thinking it would more likely reinforce his phobias, and that he needs instead to discover his capacity to decisively help others and feel his own worth to get to the place that this script wants to leave him in.) And how does this display of "Humanness" transform Robert's attitudes with such a clean 180 degree turn? Or was he faking his pigheadedness all along to trigger Picard's outburst, believing it was the best way to cure his brother? This story just didn't feel all that real to me on its main dramatic turns.


Worf also has a subplot here, which does feel to be conjured out of the air as a thin excuse for some drama. As much as it is nice to finally see his parents, and get some insight into his adopted background in Russia, the bug up Worf's butt doesn't feel quite justified either in its existence, or in its sudden vanishing at the end.

And very, very easily forgotten is this episode's third plot strand, concerning Wesley's father. It's just sort of there, with no real dramatic drive to it... a few neat lines buried in a sea of bland ones. Ho hum.

Perhaps one of the most curious questions about season four first shows itself at the very beginning of this episode, and it concern's Riker's rank. We know Starfleet has plenty of reason to believe that Riker is qualified to be a captain, and we see him promoted to "the field rank of captain" in the opening episode, complete with the four pips on his uniform collar.

Then without any due process, he is suddenly back down to three pips in his first scene for this story, indicating a rank of commander, and no mention of how all this was arrived at. Weird..... I'd certainly have preferred some discussion of this over and above Wesley's plot strand any day.

Well, this episode isn't too bad, but was far from a great instalment of Star Trek. The thing is, this is about the only time an idea like this could be attempted with some feeling of continuity, so I don't mind that they tried it. It's just too bad it didn't get pulled off in ways that really drew the audience in better and satisfied them.



This Next Generation Season Four story is available on DVD and Blu-ray:

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Season Four (1990-1991):

Includes 26 episodes @ 45 minutes each.
Click on the Amazon symbol for the desired disc format and location nearest you for more information:
DVD U.S.

DVD Canada

DVD U.K.
(regular)
7-disc DVD set
DVD U.S.

DVD Canada

DVD U.K.
slimline

DVD Extras include 5 featurettes:

  • Mission Overview (16 min.)
  • Selected Crew Analysis (17 min.)
  • Departmental Briefing: Production (16 min.)
  • New Life and New Civilizations (13 min.)
  • Chronicles From the Final Frontier (18 min.)
Blu-ray U.S.


NEW for
July 30, 2013.
Blu-ray Canada


NEW for
July 30, 2013.
Blu-ray U.K.


NEW for
July 29, 2013.

Blu-ray features add:

  • 2 Audio Commentaries:
    • "Brothers" by director Rob Bowman and scenic/graphic artists Mike and Denise Okuda.
    • "Reunion" by writers Ronald D. Moore and
      Brannon Braga, and the Okudas.
  • Multi-part documentary "Relativity: The Family Saga of ST:TNG" (HD, 60 min.) with Patrick Stewart (Picard), Jonathan Frakes (Riker), Brent Spiner (Data), Michael Dorn (Worf), Gates McFadden (Dr. Crusher), Wil Wheaton (Wes), Ron Moore, and make-up artist Michael Westmore.
  • In Conversation: The Art Department (HD, 65 min.) with designer Hermann Zimmerman, the Okudas, make-up artist Doug Drexler, and visual effects supervisor Dan Curry.
  • Gag Reel (HD)
  • Deleted Scenes (HD)
  • Archival Mission Log: Select Historical Data
  • Archival Mission Log: Inside the Star Trek Archives
  • Episodic Promos
  • plus, all featurettes from the DVD version.


Article & reviews written by Martin Izsak. Comments are welcome. You may contact the author from this page:

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Read our next Star Trek review: "Remember Me"



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