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The Trek Nation - Family

Family

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at October 31, 2008 - 8:58 PM GMT

Plot Summary: Picard leaves the Enterprise under Riker's command during repairs and beams down to Earth to visit his family in France. He is charmed by his brother Robert's wife Marie and son Rene, but Robert still believes that Picard is arrogant and irresponsible; he does not want his son coming under Jean-Luc's influence. Meanwhile, the humans who raised Worf come aboard the Enterprise to visit him. Sergei and Helena Rozhenko are adoring parents and Worf is embarrassed by them. Elsewhere on the ship, Beverly Crusher sorts through a package she had left in storage and finds mementos from her late husband Jack, including a holographic message he recorded for Wesley before he died. As Picard comes to terms with his trauma from having been mutilated and used by the Borg, he considers taking an offer to head an ocean-bound scientific project on Earth, but a fight with his brother convinces him that he must be the starship captain spent so many years working to become. Worf ultimately appreciates his parents' unconditional love, even if they can't understand his Klingon sense of honor and the pain that his rejection by the Klingon council has caused. Beverly gives Wesley the recording of his father, who expresses his hope that his young son might someday follow in his footsteps to Starfleet. Picard returns to his ship in time to meet the departing Rozhenkos, who are effusive in their greeting and leave the captain smiling while Worf is once again mortified.


Analysis: Finally, entering The Next Generation's fourth season, we get some backstory on several of the characters who need it most. We know quite a bit at this point about Riker's father and Troi's mother, their romance before boarding the ship and their respective career goals, but we know next to nothing about the captain's family, the humans who raised Worf, and the man who was husband to Beverly, father to Wesley, and best friend to Picard. There isn't a moment of "Family" that could be described as science fiction, unless Picard's brief conversation with his old friend Louis about the undersea Atlantis project counts, but that doesn't stop it from being a wonderful episode - about brothers, about biological versus chosen families, about lost parents and their influence even on children who can't remember their faces. After the sci-fi spectacle of "The Best of Both Worlds," it's a perfect transition for the characters.

The Worf storyline was probably intended for comic relief, yet in many ways I found it the most moving of the three. The Rozhenkos are hopelessly out of place not only beside their disciplined Klingon son, but on the fleet's flagship in general; they're starstruck by the technology, even though Sergei was a chief petty officer on an Excelsior-class vessel, which was how he came to discover and adopt Worf. At first it seems as though their visit is motivated by their own needs - they want to be a part of Worf's life, even though he rarely writes and is horrified when he learns they plan to visit - indeed, his mother's first words are that he needs a haircut! But when they explain that they got Worf's letter explaining his discommendation by the Klingons and knew they had to come remind him that he still has a family who loves him, it's an embarrassingly moving scene even if one is not a Klingon. Sure, it's pure sentiment, but it's not something we get to see often on Star Trek and never before where a Klingon is involved. Worf has a mama who makes blood pie for him! It explains a very great deal about who Worf is and why he takes all people at face value without the need for false bravado or posturing. As Guinan intimates, the Rozhenkos did a wonderful job as parents.

The Wesley storyline has parallels, for while he's also grown up to be almost too good to be true - a gifted engineer, a model citizen, someone who helps other people pass their Starfleet exams when they're competing with him and harbors no resentment toward the captain who has seemingly replaced his father in his mother's affections - there's always been a hole where where Jack Crusher is concerned. He was Picard's best friend, yet we rarely hear either Jean-Luc or Beverly speak of him, even to Wesley, who is following in his footsteps. Beverly reveals to Counselor Troi the rather unusual way Jack proposed to her, sending her a book on how to get ahead through marriage, but she's ambivalent about giving Wesley the recording Jack made when he was not much older than Wesley is now. Troi reminds her that Wesley deserves this chance to know his father and Wesley watches the holographic recording of someone who looks not much older than he is, explaining that the infant Wesley reminded Jack of everyone Jack Crusher ever loved and expressing hope that one day Wesley might want to wear the Starfleet uniform just as Jack does. This isn't just a chance for Wesley to see his lost father, but for the audience to see the man the young Beverly married. It's too brief a glimpse, a bit cliched, but it's also overdue.

The bulk of the story, though, concerns Picard's issues - not just the never-healed rift with his older brother, but the fresh wounds inflicted upon him by the Borg. Somehow it comes as no surprise to learn that Picard's provincial-by-choice brother finds him arrogant and self-absorbed - Robert blames Jean-Luc for breaking rules and getting away with them while he, the older sibling, had to be the responsible one - though Jean-Luc's nephew and sister-in-law are charmed by him. Even with the barbs from his sibling, though, Picard is toying with the idea of remaining on Earth, establishing a terrestrial home once again, though in his case it will be at a scientific outpost at the bottom of the ocean...as far from space as one can get. When his brother taunts him, Jean-Luc tells Robert that he's tired of fighting with him, which leads Robert to ask why he's tired of the Enterprise as well, ready to fall back to Earth. Their fight becomes physical and Jean-Luc is forced to admit that he came back because he needed to be reminded by a resentful brother of who he is, after the Borg took everything from him. Then they get drunk, which circumvents the need for a more drawn-out process of dialogue and healing where either the family or the Borg are concerned. It's also a bit of a cliche, but given the time constraints, it works.

It's rare for us to see stories about the backgrounds and families of Trek characters - we only learned about Kirk's brother when he died, and though we saw Spock's parents a few times over the years, we're given the impression that for most command-level Starfleet officers on starships (as opposed to bases like Deep Space Nine), family is a secondary concern to career. It's particularly poignant to see young Rene and his father in "Family," knowing their fate from Generations...staying on Earth in an ancient village isn't necessarily safer than seeing the stars.


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Michelle Erica Green is a former news writer for the Trek Nation. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.