6/23/13

Star Trek: Asterisk "Family"

Vital Information
Series: The Next Generation
Episode: S04E02
Air Date: October 1, 1990
Written by: Ronald D. Moore
Directed by: Les Landau

Premise
Picard visits his brother, Worf visits with his parents, and Wesley gets a message from his dead father.

Review
As the episode opens, the Enterprise is docked at McKinley Station undergoing some repairs and refits after the incident with the Borg. Worf reports that these procedures are going very efficiently, and Riker tells the Klingon that he's excited to meet his adopted parents. Oh, you didn't know, Worf? Yeah, apparently while everyone is on leave, your parents will be visiting. They're aware of his discommendation from the Klingon Empire. No doubt they want to see if their boy is okay after that. Meanwhile, Picard discusses his plans to visit his brother with Troi who seems a bit reluctant to let him go to that particular area of Earth. But he needs the rest and relaxation, so, after a kiss on the cheek, Picard is off to France.

Worf receives his parents, Sergey and Helena Rozhenko, in the transporter room after being informed by O'Brien that they're taking their time getting ready. When they finally beam aboard, the Russian couple express the kind of excitement that only old Russian parents could, in stark contrast to Worf's Klingon composure. Sergey wants a tour, but most of the areas of the ship are closed for repairs. It doesn't really matter, though; he's got all the specs and diagrams at home. Meanwhile, Picard arrives in LaBarre France and there seems to be some confusion whether this 9-year-old boy, René, is Picard's uncle or nephew. This becomes a running joke and somehow illustrates how awkward Picard traditionally is around children?
"A child! No!"
While Picard settles into his brother Robert's house and greets his sister-in-law Marie, Dr. Crusher has a little girl time with Troi back on the ship. While they share drinks, a man arrives with a box for Crusher. They open it to find a bunch of stuff that was in storage from Jack, her husband who had died years earlier. Included is a small disk that Crusher says contains a message to Wesley. She had forgotten about it... or wanted to forget about it. Elsewhere on the ship, the Rozhenkos are touring engineering. After Helena wanders off with Worf, Sergey turns to Geordi to ask him an important question. It's about Worf.

At a nice family dinner, Marie informs Picard that his friend Louis was looking for him. He wants to talk about an underwater project he needs help with. This turns into an argument with Robert over whether technology is better than tradition. When Marie quiets the argument, René runs off to get his report on Starships for Picard to read and Robert chastises Picard for encouraging René to go to Starfleet like he did. Crotchety old Robert is into tradition and apparently holds a grudge against Jean-Luc.
Really, bro?
The next day, Louis comes around and tries to convince Jean-Luc to take a position with the Atlantis project. Jean-Luc says he'll consider it... which is surprising since he already has a position on the Enterprise. Speaking of which, the Rozhenkos start staring out the window in 10-Forward, leading Guinan to take notice of them. She does the best she can as secondary counselor to assuage their fears that Worf has been negatively affected by his discommendation. She says that when Worf looks out the window toward home, he's not looking toward the Klingon Empire... he's looking toward Sergey and Helena.

In France, Picard surprises himself by actually considering taking a job on Earth. Is it because of his experience with the Borg? He doesn't think so, but to be absolutely sure, his brother beats it out of him. After a wrestle through the mud of the vineyard, Picard first laughs, but then breaks down thinking about what the Borg had done to him. Robert has finally gotten through to him. And Jean-Luc comes out of the fight stronger than ever. He knows what to do. He's canceling his meeting with Project Atlantis.
Ya got mud on your face, you big disgrace.
On the Enterprise, Wesley plays the holographic message left by his father. It was something he recorded when Wesley was only ten weeks old. He planned on making more of them through Wesley's life, but that obviously never happened. He talks about a variety of things; plans he had made, expectations he had for Wesley; but then he tragically disappears as Wesley reaches out to him. Worf's meeting with his father is going a lot better. Sergey and Helena have really connected with Worf and let him know that he can turn to them whenever he needs to. They meet Picard briefly outside the transporter room as he's coming back aboard, but Helena makes sure Sergey doesn't inconvenience the captain with a full tour of the Enterprise. After all, he has all the specs and diagrams at home.

Back on France, René looks up into the sky dreaming of a future in Starfleet. A dream that will meet a tragic end...

Overall Thoughts
The decision to give Picard some time off after the Borg attack was a very good one. It's rare that we get to have a look at life on Earth in the Star Trek universe, and allowing Picard to work through his trauma represents a change in Star Trek's story writing from episodic to serial. Although as Trekkie's we're aware of what eventually happens to Robert and René, it's nice to see them here as Picard reconciles with Robert and René dreams of space.