Saturday, October 22, 2011

Classics: TNG 4:2 - Family (Cheers)

Overall Rating: 9.3

A heart-warming and, frankly, crucial episode for the true development of two of the Enterprise's crew members.  The things we learned in "Family" will hit home in "First Contact" for Picard and "Reunion" and many DS9 episodes for Worf.

Plot Synopsis:

Wikipedia has a quick summary.

The Skinny:

In the main plot, the essential facts regarding Picard's upbringing, his one great character flaw, and the effect this flaw has on him in the wake of his encounter with the Borg are revealed.  Jean-Luc and his brother Robert, you see, were raised by a typical Englishman - thus explaining their out of place British accents.  (kidding :) )  No...the sons Picard were raised by someone who was a traditionalist in the best AND worst sense of the word.  He wanted to hang onto the simple joys of life (which is why he chose to grow wine grapes) and he wanted his sons to appreciate this perspective as well.  Robert did - though he grew up resenting the fact that he had to look after his younger brother and take the heat whenever Jean-Luc - a brash and more adventurous sort - would get himself into trouble.  The Picard we know and love found this life regressive and dull and chose to join Star Fleet.  But a life of trying to make your father proud of you while doing something he inherently thinks is evil and embracing the wonders of technology and exploration has made Picard a cripplingly difficult self-critic and perfectionist.  When he got too wound around the axle, it used to help him (though he resented it) to get a kick in the ass from his big brother.  There's nothing like a swift kick to make you stop second-guessing yourself or seeking outside approval for the life you choose.

And here, after what he perceives as a truly embarrassing failure of his own will - allowing the Borg to use him to assimilate and to kill his fellow men and women of the fleet - he has come home to get another swift kick in the ass before he throws himself into the deepest hole he can find to hide from this black mark on his good name.  Picard actually believes that if he'd fought the Borg harder...he could have prevented all of those deaths - that's one HELL of a neurosis!  What he DID do - as we the observant viewers are well aware - is fight the Borg collective as soon as he had even the tiniest chance to do so and give the Enterprise a way to destroy the Borg before they assimilated Earth.  Holy Crap!  What more could you have done, Johnny?!  Of course, Robert reminds him of this and allows him to accept his own humanity enough to live with the (mostly personally inflicted) consequences of TBoBW, but this issue will resurface in "First Contact" and cause him to nearly lose all perspective and sacrifice any hope of saving Earth in the personal quest to make the Borg pay for what they've done.  But that's for a later review. :)

Meanwhile, in the not insignificant second plot - after some cute and humorous moments involving Worf's father making a bit of an ass of himself around Engineering - Worf must discuss his Discommendation with his folks.  Although he feels that human sympathy is not the Klingon way and that he should bear this burden alone (lest his adoptive parents feel the shame as well), he comes to realize that the human way is perhaps not entirely wrong after his folks make an impassioned plea on Worf's behalf - saying that no matter what he did to deserve his dishonor, they love him and will always be there for him if he needs them.  Not too many of us believe that our folks will damned to hell if they share our dishonors, as is the Klingon custom, but it does reflect a very common occurrence in human families that a child might feel too ashamed to confide his misfortunes or his supposed sins to his parents and that generally speaking, parents would rather know the truth and play the loving and supportive role than be kept in the dark.

Oh yeah...and there's a crappy third plot that no one cares about involving Wesley - I'm not entire sure what it was supposed to accomplish since it doesn't seem to have the lasting effect on Wesley that the other plots had on their main characters, but oh well.  It all comes together and results in the general better welfare of all involved...and I think it flows so smoothly that any weaknesses are unimportant.

Writing: 9.0

The third plot should have given way to more time on the first and second plots, but other than that, no lines or scenes were wasted and real character development occurred...something that will happen more often under Berman's administration than any other Trek boss.

Acting: 10.0 with a BULLET

Patrick Stewart and Jeremy Kemp were positively magnetic this week - I mean seriously - BRAVISIMO!  As well, Theodore Bikel and Georgia Brown were just perfect in their guest appearance.  Worf's parents absolutely NEEDED to be adorable and deeply humane and we got that in spades.  "I have all the specs and diagrams at home!"  Priceless!

Message: 9.0

The message that when we are most in need of direction - whether it be through tough love, a gentle embrace, or a firm reminder of what's important to us - we should be able to go home again to find it resonates with anyone whose parents were as loving as supportive as mine were.

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