Tue
Feb 21 2012 2:00pm

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Family”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Family”“Family”
Written by Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Les Landau
Season 4, Episode 2
Production episode 40274-178
Original air date: October 1, 1990
Stardate: 44012.3

Captain’s Log: The Enterprise is undergoing repairs at McKinley Station. Worf’s human parents are on the visitor’s list, to the security chief’s surprise and consternation, and Picard is taking a trip to his home village — the first time he’s been back at the house where he grew up in twenty years.

Sergey and Helena Rozhenko beam on board — late, to Worf’s loudly expressed and long-suffering annoyance — and they immediately start fussing over him. Sergey thinks he’s put on weight (perhaps a commentary on the new uniforms?) and also bonds with O’Brien, as Sergey is a retired chief petty officer. Helena notices that he’s grown his hair. Sergey also wants to see the ship, and when Worf tries to caution him that a full tour may not be possible, Sergey pushes until Helena slaps him down.

Picard arrives in LaBarre, where he’s met by a young boy who says, “You’re my nephew, Jean-Luc!” Picard wryly observes that the boy, René, must be his uncle. René escorts Picard to the house, where he finally meets his brother Robert’s wife, Marie. Picard, who is very obviously melancholy and a bit choked with nostalgia, is overwhelmed by how little the house has changed.

He goes out to the vineyard that has been the family business for many generations to see his older brother Robert. The reunion is spectacularly awkward, and Robert’s disdain for his younger sibling is palpable.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Family”

Back on the Enterprise, Crusher receives a container that she’d left in storage of her late husband’s Jack’s things. She rediscovers a recording Jack had made for Wes when he was an infant — intended to be the first of many, he only did the one, and Crusher debates whether or not to show it to Wes, but ultimately decides to give it to him.

Elsewhere, Worf brings Sergey and Helena to engineering, and they tell La Forge embarrassing stories from Worf’s youth. Worf takes Helena off to the arboretum leaving La Forge to show Sergey — who was a warp-field specialist on the Intrepid — the engine room. After Worf and Helena leave, Sergey grows serious, wanting to ask La Forge some questions about Worf.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Family”

Back on the surface, the Picard family dinner is an awkward affair, despite the best efforts of Marie to broker peace between two brothers who don’t agree on much of anything. It comes out that Picard’s father was something of a Luddite, viewing advanced technology as something that is taking away from the core values of humanity — an attitude Robert inherited, and Jean-Luc, obviously, did not. Several arguments almost start about it before Marie defuses it.

The next day, Picard talks with his old friend Louis, who is a supervisor on the Atlantis Project, which is trying to raise the ocean floor, forming a new sub-continent. (Picard, in a moment of whimsy we’d never see on the Enterprise, but is to be expected with a childhood friend, jokes that the aspect of the project that confuses him the most is what a rotten swimmer Louis always was.) Louis tries to recruit Picard, as they are looking for a new project leader, and he’d be perfect for it.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Family”

Back on the Enterprise in Ten-Forward, Worf comments that he wishes Sergey and Helena would be more reserved, and they apologize, saying that they’re just excited to be on board with him. Worf is called to duty, and Guinan introduces herself. She asks them why they never gave Worf prune juice, which he now can’t get enough of after Guinan introduced him to it. But when he was a boy, all he would eat was Klingon food. Helena boasts that she even learned how to make rokeg blood pie, though Sergey adds with a smile that they never quite learned how to eat it.

Sergey and Helena visit Worf in his quarters, and for the first time they talk about Worf’s discommendation from the Klingon Empire. Helena admits that they didn’t entirely understand it all, but Sergey firmly says that they didn’t have to. Worf, typically, insists he must bear the dishonor alone, but his parents decry that as a fallacy — he’s their son, and they’re proud of him and they love him.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Family”

On the surface, Picard is drowning his sorrows in wine, and Robert starts provoking him, asking him pointed questions about what happened with the Borg, peppering it with insults. “I gather you were hurt — humiliated. I always thought you needed a little humiliation. Or was it humility? Either would do.” Picard leaves the house, and Robert goes after him, continuing to poke at him, complaining that Picard got all the glory and the accolades while breaking every one of their father’s rules, while Robert had to be the responsible one, and the one to look after Jean-Luc.

Picard finally hauls off and belts him. The fight starts out nasty, with the two of them falling into the vines and the mud, but quickly dissolves into ridiculousness, and the brothers are laughing and throwing mud at each other before too long. Picard finally opens up to Robert, telling him how helpless he was as the Borg forced him to kill and destroy, and he wasn’t strong enough to stop them.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Family”

The brothers reach an understanding, as Picard realizes that he came back to LaBarre so that Robert could look after him one more time. They return home and clean up a bit, sharing some wine while singing “Auprès de ma Blonde,” when Marie walks in. Her outrage at the muddy floor modulates to laughter at the brothers’ rather pathetic attempts to explain what happened. (“Well, er, uhm, he fell down and then I fell down and then we both fell down…”) Picard, however, has realized that his place is on the Enterprise, and he must return. If he ever forgets that again, he now knows where to go.

Worf escorts Sergey and Helena to the transporter room — Worf requesting that she send him one of her homemade rokeg blood pies — just as Picard beams back. Their meeting is brief and hilarious.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Family”

Thank You, Counselor Obvious: Troi has a conversation with Picard at the beginning of the episode that has overtones of a counselor-patient talk, but is far more two close friends bantering. (Picard mutters, “I hate it when you do that,” when she pulls a standard psychological question-with-a-question ploy.) She supports the captain’s decision to visit home, but tries (with some success) to get him to examine the choice. She also prophetically cautions that, just because the nightmares have stopped, he’s not fully recovered.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Family”

Troi also says that she and Riker are talking about visiting Angel Falls in Venezuela for shore leave. (And Crusher was absolutely right, it’s gorgeous there. Your humble rewatcher visited the falls the summer before this episode aired, and it was amazing.)

There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: Worf doesn’t want Sergey and Helena on board at first, and he bitches about them at great length to O’Brien before they beam up. But the moment they materialize, Worf’s joy in palpable. He is obviously embarrassed by his parents’ excessiveness, but it’s tempered by fierce love for them. The scene in his quarters, where he admits that he didn’t want them to come at first, but is glad they’re there, and when they remind him that they love him, is just touching as all heck.

The Boy!?: Wes gets to see what his father looked like when Wes himself was ten weeks old, as Jack Crusher recorded a holographic message that Wes watches on the holodeck. It’s a nice quiet family moment in an episode that has its share of bombast.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Family”

Syntheholics Anonymous: Guinan talks to Sergey and Helena, showing them what a good job they did with Worf, refusing to accept their modest insistence that they did nothing special. They let Worf find his own path, and encouraged him as best they could — a lot of parents, Guinan says, could learn from their example.

I Believe I Said That: “I have all the specs and diagrams!”

Sergey Rozhenko on no less than three occasions.

Welcome Aboard: This episode may have the most impressive collection of guest stars of any episode of Star Trek. First off, you’ve got solid performances by Doug Wert as the image of Jack Crusher — he actually looks like he could be related to Wil Wheaton — and Dennis Creaghan, who has an easy banter with Sir Patrick Stewart in his two scenes as Louis. David Tristan Birkin does such a good job as René that he’ll be brought back to play Jean-Luc Picard as a child in “Rascals” in the sixth season.

But one of the many reasons why this episode shines is in the letter-perfect casting of Picard’s brother and sister-in-law and of Worf’s parents.

As Robert, Jeremy Kemp does an amazing job of radiating powerful emotion with what is a fairly stony face, modulating from Robert’s utter contempt for Jean-Luc to his deep affection for his wife to his sage advice while covered in mud at the end. Samantha Eggar is simply radiant as Marie, trying desperately to keep the peace between the contentious brothers and even occasionally succeeding.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Family”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Family”

And Theodore Bikel and Georgia Brown are magnificently delightful as the Rozhenkos. I was married to a Russian Jewish woman during my twenties (this episode first aired about two months before we got engaged, in fact), and those two reminded me so much of my in-laws. That’s not a bad thing, by the way, I love my ex-in-laws. In particular, Bikel’s Sergey was almost a perfect melding of my ex’s father and grandfather. Their chemistry was also superb, acting pretty much exactly like an old married couple. Best of all, despite getting ample opportunities to do so, they never bled over into parody, especially as they leavened the performance with genuine emotion.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Family”

Trivial Matters: This episode, obviously, picks up where “The Best of Both Worlds, Part II” left off, a rare instance of TNG diverting from the episodic structure that was its hallmark by doing a story that deals with the aftermath of a major event. In particular, Michael Piller felt that just having Picard be all better again the following week defied credulity just a bit.

Rick Berman originally agreed to do this follow-up only if a science fiction plot could be inserted, but it quickly became clear that that wasn’t going to work. However, one of the plots that was considered was expanded out into the episode “Remember Me.”

This is the first episode of TNG not to have a single scene on the bridge. (“Shades of Gray” came close, as all the new scenes were either in sickbay, the transporter room, or on the planet, but there were bridge scenes in the clips.)

Much is revealed about Worf’s and Picard’s families. We are introduced to the Picard family business of winemaking, one that Picard rejected in favor of a Starfleet career, and are told of his old-fashioned father and meet his similarly old-fashioned older brother. Meantime, we meet the human parents whom we were told raised Worf back in “Heart of Glory,” and learn a bit about his sometimes-difficult upbringing.

The Worf subplot also serves as a sequel of sorts to “Sins of the Father,” as Worf’s discommendation is a cloud that hangs over Sergey and Helena’s visit to the ship before they finally address it in Worf’s quarters.

Where “Heart of Glory” established that Worf was raised by someone in Starfleet who rescued him from Khitomer, and “Sins of the Father” established that the Intrepid was the first ship on the scene at Khitomer, this episode puts it all together, as Sergey introduces himself as a former chief petty officer on the Intrepid.

Heart of Glory” also mentioned that the Rozhenkos had another child who was born to them, but he’s not mentioned in this episode. We’ll meet him in “Homeward.”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Family”Your humble rewatcher showed Sergey’s meeting Worf following the Khitomer massacre and his and Helena’s decision to adopt him in the Lost Era novel The Art of the Impossible.

At the beginning of the episode, Riker is seen to be a commander again, and is acting like a first officer, indicating that he has accepted a demotion following his field commission to captain in “The Best of Both Worlds, Part II.”

The holographic image of Jack Crusher wears a version of the Starfleet uniform that resembles those that debuted in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, but without the turtleneck and with a combadge rather than a simple insignia, similar to those worn by the Enterprise-C crew in “Yesterday’s Enterprise.”

When talking with Louis about the Atlantis Project, Picard mentions the solution to the tectonic stresses on Drema IV that they came up with in “Pen Pals.”

The bottle of Château Picard that Robert gives Jean-Luc at the end of the episode will be opened and shared with Chancellor Durken in the episode “First Contact.”

Picard will look at pictures of Robert and René in Star Trek Generations, but those images will be of different actors.

This is the only episode of the series that Data does not appear in. (Brent Spiner will make up for this next episode.) We also finally learn O’Brien’s full name, as he introduces himself as Miles Edward O’Brien to Sergey, and he’s established as being enlisted rather than an officer (despite having two pips on his uniform; this would be changed in the sixth season to another symbol, which he would keep when he moved over to Deep Space Nine).

Make it So: “Don’t call me ‘sir,’ I used to work for a living!” Something you all should know about me as both a writer and a consumer of fiction: I’m far more interested in the “what happened after that?” story. When there’s been a crisis, I want to know how people deal with it and recover from it and put themselves back together. That’s why, after the Starfleet Corps of Engineers story Wildfire — in which half the crew of the U.S.S. da Vinci was killed, including one of the main characters — the story I wanted to write was Breakdowns, which dealt with the characters’ recovery. (Indeed, I often called it the “Family” to Wildfire’s “Best of Both Worlds.”) It’s also why I wrote A Singular Destiny after the devastation of the Destiny trilogy.

And it’s why I think this is an absolute high point of TNG and one of the best episodes they ever did. This episode reminds us that these are people and that they have lives — and that the actions they take do have consequences. Picard was assimilated by the Borg and forced to lead a massacre. Worf was exiled from his own people as a pariah and traitor. These aren’t things that you just recover from in time for your next adventure.

For one week, we get to see the characters that we’ve come to know and enjoy for three years actually be people. Picard returns to the life he abandoned. Worf visits with his parents. Wes gets to learn a bit more about the father he never really knew. Riker and Troi plan a vacation to Venezuela. La Forge gets to hear embarrassing stories about a crewmate’s childhood. Heck, we even learn a bit about O’Brien — not just his name and full rank, but also that his father’s a lecherous old bastard.

On top of that, the acting is simply phenomenal. Michael Dorn simply beams every time he’s with Bikel and Brown, Worf’s love shining through the “Klingon glacier” façade he always wears. Wil Wheaton does a nice job playing both the joy and regret Wes feels upon seeing the message from his father. Sir Patrick Stewart is simply amazing (again), so obviously haunted by his experiences, and then having a desperately needed emotional catharsis, made no less powerful by having the actor delivering it covered head to toe in mud. (I have no idea if this was deliberate, but while the mud covers most of his head, the parts of his flesh that can be seen are all the parts that were replaced by Borg implants.)

It is a testament to the strength of the characters and of the actors that an episode like this could be done at all without a science fiction plot grafted onto it as originally required, and it’s a testament to scripter Ronald D. Moore, who made the episode work and cemented his place as one of the top writers of the franchise.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Family”

 

Warp factor rating: 10


Keith R.A. DeCandido is amused that both times he wrote an “aftermath” story — both Breakdowns and A Singular Destiny — it was to deal with a mess left by a story by his dear friend David Mack.

44 comments
Michael E. Rubin
1. Michael E. Rubin
It has always puzzled me to see this episode not only snubbed in fan favorite polls, but actively disliked. There may not be any hard core sci-first, but this episode has something even better for the devoted fan: character development.

I have to admit, I remember crying like a baby when Picard finally broke down to Robert. Just thinking about it now gives me chills and goosebumps: "I wasn't good enough! I wasn't strong enough!" Anyone who has ever been the eldest child, or had a falling out with a sibling, should watch this episode.
Michael Burstein
2. mabfan
I agree that this is one of the greatest episodes they ever did, and as far as I'm concerned, its position in the framework qualifies it as science fiction.

Oddly enough, though, from a ratings standpoint it may have been one of the least watched episodes. I seem to recall reading that the producers were puzzled when its ratings came in low, but attributed that to a football game on a competing channel. But then in reruns, it scored low again. The assumption is that the typical television viewer of ST: TNG at the the time didn't know what to make of an episode without space battles or some sort of major exterior conflict.

-- Michael A. Burstein
David Stumme
3. grenadier
For the "Welcome Aboard" section: Doug Wert returns as Jack in "Violations" and "Journey's End." Georgia Brown comes back as Helana in "New Ground."
Risha Jorgensen
4. RishaBree
An amazing episode all around, but the image that lingers in my mind is that of Picard sobbing in the mud. His lingering trauma, dug up over and over again over the years, sets TNG apart from most of the other Star Treks in my mond. I hope that the producers always remember how lucky they were to get Patrick Stewart - without him, the show wouldn't have been half as iconic as it is.
Michael E. Rubin
5. Rootboy
I love Worf's parents. So. Much.

It's a very Ron Moore episode in that it's all about character, without any sci-fi beyond the shared setting of the show. (A good description of BSG). Plenty of room for some of that in the 170-odd episodes of TNG. Plus a unicorn chaser like this one is pretty much a requirement after the intensity of BOBW.
Michael E. Rubin
6. Eugene R.
A great review of a fantastic episode of TNG, the one that finally convinced me to like the series. I would conjecture that episodes with space battles and super-tech wizardry are the ones that impress us with the characters, while more intimate stories like this one are the ones that make us fall in love with those impressive characters.
Michael E. Rubin
7. Christopher L. Bennett
Definitely a high point in the series, and I'm so glad they talked Berman out of tacking on a danger subplot and allowed the episode to be pure drama. (Unfortunately they weren't able to do that again; "Cost of Living" is an excellent character-driven piece badly marred by a forced, over-the-top technobabble/danger plot.) Indeed, I submit that "The Best of Both Worlds" would be less powerful without this episode, because this episode showed its events' lasting impact on Picard and thus helped give them more weight with the audience.
Chris Chaplain
8. chaplainchris1
Great episode. Excellent commentary. I agree, the thing that stands out to me is Picard's break down in the mud. Very powerful, very true to life, and we were very lucky to have Patrick Stewart as Picard.
Michael E. Rubin
9. Nita999
This episode was beautifully done-- the quiet aftermath of a huge event. Aside from adding continuity, this episode stands out for allowing the characters to be regular humans (and Klingons) instead of idealized officers. To me, it has a similar tone as The Inner Light, which also relies more on the human story than sci fi. Wonderful guest stars and chemistry among the cast made this a joy to watch.
Michael E. Rubin
10. DanT
I was nine years old when this episode first aired. TNG was something of a Sunday evening tradition for my family, led by my oft-emotionless father.

We watched on in complete silence, as we always did, and I specifically remember being bored out of my mind. After all, what did this episode offer a nine year-old?

When Robert began provoking Jean Luc, my father, of all people, the man who insisted on silence during his stories like an old woman glued to Days of Our Lives, mumbled a little something under his breath. It was barely audible to me, the only adjacent attendee. "Now, that's a man who really loves his brother."

Imagine my shock when the Captain slugged him! I had taken swings at my older brothers and the accusation that we loved each other never passed my father's lips!

It wasn't until many years later that I finally understood what my father was talking about. Grasping the underpinnings of how overtly adversarial behavior can veil a love only brothers know really elevated this episode to my favorite hour of television, period.
Michael E. Rubin
11. Lsana
I'll have to be the dissenting voice here and admit that this episode is one I admire rather than like. I'm glad that they didn't try to brush the whole experience of BoBW under the rug and say "And then everything was back to normal." I thought the script was extremely well-written, and just about all of the actors knocked it out of the park. The episode is wonderful, both in and of itself, and in its place in the series.

And yet I don't want to watch it. I've never been able to watch it all the way through, though I think I've seen all of the scenes during my many attempts to sit through this episode. Every time I watch it, I get this uncomfortable feeling, like I'm spying on private moments that no one else was meant to see. Eventually, I just have to turn it off.

It's good, and I don't dispute the rating of 10/10, but I'm glad to be done with it and move back to fighting funny forehead aliens with lasers.
James Whitehead
12. KatoCrossesTheCourtyard
I always liked this episode & that that Stewart & Kemp worked so perfectly together. I agree that some slapped on technobabble 'emergency' would've taken away from the emotional impact of the episode.

I loved Worf's parents & thought they were hilarious and perfect. Who else to raise an orphaned Klingon but a couple from the 'old country?' episodes like this pay dividends down the road. They may not be ratings busters, especially when compared to the previous two, but are just important in that they make the viewer understand the characters more & care for them more.

Picard's rage in First Contact about falling back against the Borg is far more powerful emotionally for having watched this episode & 'seeing' the open wounds he's dealing with.

It was also well written & well acted which should always be appreciated in its own right.

Kato
Michael E. Rubin
13. Seryddwr
Brilliant. The bookend to the fight scene, of course, is that marvellous first meeting between Picard and Robert. Jeremy Kemp plays it so well - his coldness, his insistence on curing his 'poor, sick vine' to the detriment of properly greeting - or even turning round to look at - his brother. And then there are Picard's responses: the yearning for recognition, the olive branch, so awkwardly proffered ('it's... good to see you...'), and finally, the realisation that nothing between them has changed. It's pitch perfect.

There is also that final shot of Rene, sitting under the stars, with Orion in the background. It's nice to think people will still be doing that in the 24th century.
Michael E. Rubin
14. Mike S.
Let me start with a statement that will probably get me villified on here, and then follow it with somewhat of a mea culpa:

This is not one of my favorite episodes, not because it's bad (on the contrary), there are just many more that I like better (including "The Inner Light", and especially "Tapestry", which are episodes that kind of fall into the same category). That being said, this rewatch was the third time I had ever watched this episode, and I've liked it better every time I watched it, so this episode has the "acquired taste" factor going for it, at least for me (and that's meant as a compliment).

I still have one major problem with it. I found the Wesley storyline totally unimportant, and wasen't nearly as captivated by it as our rewatcher was. I would have replaced that, and added at least one scene where Picard has a heart-to-heart talk with his nephew. Renee is a charming young man, but you can tell he's at that stage in life where he thinks being on a starship is all adventure, and nothing else. Picard is the one, IMO, that should tell him that there is another side to Starfleet, that he should have to work his way up, that there is a true danger element, etc. Even with that, I wouldn't change the last scene back on Earth one bit. In fact, I think it would improve it (if that's possible), since it would show that, after being told all that by Jean-luc, Renee still wants to be in Starfleet, now more then ever. The lack of that knocks the warp factor rating down 2 points, for me.

At least one of those points gets gained back by how extra-great I think the Worf story is. Georgia Brown may have reminded Keith of his Russian-Jewish mother-in-law, but she also reminded me of my Italian-American mother, with her loving, caring, nature. Worf's reaction to them is similar to how I reacted when one of my folks visited me in college. Contempt on the outside, but on the inside, loving every minute of it. That rang very true to me. Georgia Brown also made 2 hilarious guest appearences on "Cheers" (once before this episode aired, once after) as Carla's medium, if you want to check her out in something else.
Again, just because this episode is not on my list of favorites, doesn't mean I didn't like it. I did, and it gets better with each watching. I would tell someone new to TNG not to watch this episode first (since they basically can jump in at any time), and then I would tell them to watch this only after they watch "Best of Both Worlds", since it loses impact if you just jump into it, IMO.
Nathan Martin
15. lerris
I think the aftermath of the conflict, and the effect it has on the
people involved is too often neglected, particularly given that we're
already invested in the characters at this point. But I also think the Picard plot could have been too heavy were it not for the lighter counterpoint of meeting Worf's parents, so good balance on that one.

One novel that had a tremendous impact on my development as a reader was Timothy Zahn's Cobra. What particularly struck me, and cemented Zahn as one of my favortie sci-fi authors, was that the novel was about a cybernetic super-soldier, but the second half was after the war and dealt with the challenges of the character readjusting to civilian life.
And I was a little disappointed by Peter Jackson's dropping of the Scouring of the Shire, though I understand it from a run-time perspective.
rob mcCathy
16. roblewmac
This is my favorite TNG! Thodore bikel is always great and I like Picard so much better than any of the others.
Michael E. Rubin
17. John R. Ellis
Micheal E. Rubin: Here here! This was always one of my number one favorite episodes. When I grew older and became aware of the larger Trek fandom, I was surprised as heck to find out more than a few dismiss this one as fluff, sap, filler.

Heck no!

I love Worf's love for his parents proving far more formidable than his Klingon Dishonor Shame (tm). I loved Wes getting to know his father as a young, happy, hopeful, scared, anxious, meaningful man.

And yes, oh yes, the episode's exploration of Picard's pain and his estranged, bitter, but caring older brother is just brilliant.

The only thing I don't like is the knowledge that Generations will eventually spit up all over the happy ending. Harrumph.
Michael E. Rubin
18. Jaquandor
When we saw this in college, my friends and I all said afterwards, "That was amazing", and I was thinking about this episode for days after. The notion of ramifications, and that all those adventures on those 'strange new worlds' had effects on the Enterprise crew, was still pretty new at that point...I always wondered how James T. Kirk dealt with stopping McCoy from saving Edith Keeler, for example. And the aspect of Star Trek Generations that most infuriated me (out of many) was the offscreen killing of Robert and Rene. What the hell is that? They couldn't figure out another way to give Picard a mid-life crisis?!

One thing about the production of this episode that stands out like a sore thumb, though, is the way the wind machine kicks in as Picard and Robert start to fight. All of a sudden, it's all windy and the grape vines are getting whipped about! Oh well, you can't win them all.

(Oh, and Robert succintly delivers the most perfect advice about drinking I've ever heard, when he hands Picard the bottle: "Try not to drink it all at once, and don't drink it alone, either." I love that!)
Michael E. Rubin
19. Philip Raisor
Love this episode so much. Really makes the characters seem like actual people.

Only thing else I'll add is about Riker. We'll never know of course, but he probably wasn't actually demoted. His promotion to Captain was most likely a Brevet rank in a time of emergency and he went back to his actual rank once the emergency was over.
Michael E. Rubin
20. Gardner Dozois
In my opinion, this is the single best STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION episode ever made.
Jay Hash
21. JYHASH
Ah, yes "Family". Quite an excellent episode, and I love the back and forth between Jean-Luc and Robert.

It's good to know that you're one of those "Story after the crisis" people too. Love those stories, it's why I think I like DS9 slightly more than TNG. In TNG, status quo was returned to normal (most of the time) and then it was off to the next adventure. In DS9, after season 2, there were consequences.

And don't forget one of your other post crisis novels (and my personal favorite), Keith: Articles of the Federation. Picking up those pieces after the fact and trying to sequester the truth about the Tezwa Incident was very much in this vein, and allowed for an excellent story.

It's always great to reach the top of that mountain after much hardship, but to be able to brag about it, you have to come back down the other side...
Jay Hash
22. JYHASH
@Jaquandor: Although there was a bit of a scuffle about them (canon0-wise and legality wise, as I recall), the "Crucible" series by David R. George III, which came out for the 40th anniversary of Star Trek, answers those post-"City on the Edge of Forever" questions quite nicely...
Michael E. Rubin
23. ChrisG
I agree with what so many have said: what a wonderful episode.
Certainly in my top three with BoBWI and Inner Light, and I don't
really try to rank them at that level. (Chain of Command II, Tapestry, and a few others are nipping at the heels of these three.) And krad is right about the quality of the guest stars, even for a show that managed to get a host of strong guest actors, this group just clicked.

The scenes with Renee, Marie, and Jean Luc are fabulous, of course,
but that moment where Picard laughs with Louis about swimming always amazes me for its natural, unforced authenticity. I thought the Wesley C story worked quite well -- just enough to be poignant but not too much. And of course, the Worf thread was very enjoyable. I enjoy it more every time I see it.

I agree with @18 about the wind during the fight scene; the only off touch of the episode. It's too bad they didn't see the potential for more stories like this.
john mullen
24. johntheirishmongol
This might have been a good episode in another show, but I frankly thought it was a total bore. I am a huge fan of Jeremy Kemp, and Theodore Bikel is always good to watch but this whole episode simply didn't work for me. But then, of all the ST series, I only rank ST:TNG 3rd best.
Michael E. Rubin
25. Terror and Love
This was a powerful episode. Definately a top ___ list material for me.

I did get very emotional! Star Trek needed episodes like this from time to time.

(And I really loved that it was a continous episode. Always loved seeing stuff that happened before matter in another episode. )
Michael Burke
26. Ludon
While there is so much to love in this episode, the moment that really stands out in my memory is when Guinan tells the Rozhenkos about Worf standing at the window in Ten Forward and where he looks when he does so. That one line and the non-spoken reaction to it said so much about Worf and his parents.
Michael E. Rubin
27. JasonD
I was 8 years old when this episode first aired, so I didn't really catch the significance until following along with this re-watch, since reruns don't make it very clear that this was the immedate follow up to Best Of Both Worlds. I have always preferred a continuous storyline to one-and-done shows, hence why my favorite series of all time are DS9 and Babylon 5. it's these "slice of life" episodes that really show off the quality of character development.

Also, because I was 8 years old and my father, though not dead, was still very absent, I related to Wes. Anyone who watches tv nowadays and complains that something is just pandering to a young audience, well, that young audience appreciates the attention.
Michael E. Rubin
28. Raita
A blast from the past. I absolutely love this episode!
Michael E. Rubin
29. Jarvisimo
17) I think the deaths of Picard's brother and nephew on Generations actually works - and is a brilliant reason for his feelings in the film. Death is often that thief in the night that comes unexpectedly and takes away our loved ones, colleagues and associates. It is all the more tragic when we learn after the fact, which is in effect what the audience (and Picard) experience in the film, and which only has power because of the profound emotional resonance of this episode.
Michael E. Rubin
30. John R. Ellis
There's nothing particularly brilliant about killing off a main character's loved ones just for a cheap and easy excuse to generate angst.

Basically, Robert and Rene were a male example of what's sometimes called "Women in Refridgerators"...if you're going to do that story, then it should be about the pain, grief, and difficult nature of such a loss.

In execution it was a poorly handled plot device that comes to a clumsy and ridiculous climax during the whole Ribbon/Nexus thing.
Michael E. Rubin
31. a-j
A favourite moment for me was when having looked into the Atlantis Project, Picard announces that he has found out something rather alarming. I was, of course, expecting the SF story to kick in here, but instead his fear is that he's interested and intrigued enough to be tempted to leave star fleet.

Was not looking forward to this episode as, iirc, here in the UK series 3 ended with BOBW part 2, so this episode launched series 4 and there had been much discussion in magazines and so on about how there wasn't a bridge scene and so on.
I need not have worried.

With those who disliked the killing off of Robert and Rene in Generations.
Michael E. Rubin
32. Mike Kelm
I agree that this is what helped make Ron Moore one of the top writers in the Trek universe and is pretty much a prototype for BSG. I've often said that the one thing that was always missing from Next Gen that we saw in DS9 and Voyager was the human side of the characters. It always peaks around the edges, but we never get to see Picard as Jean-Luc, he's always the Captain. Does Worf ever worry about his son being raised by his grandparents so far away? Does Dr. Crusher date? These characters get seen weekly, but they aren't quite human. In fact the most "human" of all might be Data, because his quest for humanity is a frequent B-story. That's what makes episodes like this and Captains Holiday such a treat- we get to see the man behind the uniform.

I will give a thumbs up to whomever did the casting for this. Worf's parents are proper Russian Jewish parents (did Worf have a Bar Mitzvah?) who worry about their son but are mostly concerned that he's happy. Doug Wert as Jack Crusher is a fantastic young father who is so excited about his future with his son, and Wesley's simple "Good-bye Dad" encapsulated everything that needed to be said. And Picard's brother Robert is amazingly portrayed as someone who is both proud of what he has accomplished and yet jealous of his younger and more famous brother. He is written as a variation of Jean-Luc- the same pride, the same stubborness, but where the Captain flew off into the stars, Robert stayed rooted to the Earth; different yet the same.

This never makes it onto top 10 lists because it isn't exciting, it isn't amazing, it's just solid. It's one of the few episodes that makes you stop and think about these characters. I just wish more of Trek was like that.
Michael E. Rubin
33. Codefox
When I watched this originally, I remember not really being into the episode that much. Of course, I was only 10. I've always had vivid memories of some of the visuals. The Enterprise in space dock was pretty cool. Still is! I remembered the fight between Picard and his brother.

Watching it now as an adult, I really appreciate this story quite a bit. It shows how far the characters and show have come in 3 years since it started. Everything was just really well done.
Michael E. Rubin
34. Codefox
Gotta mention too that in Generations the impact of Robert and Rene dying off screen didn't hit me. But after watching this one again, all I could think was "who killed the writer's dog that morning they came up with that"? No reason for it.
Justin Devlin
35. EnsignJayburd
Theodore Bikel was actually an acquaintance of my father through his charity work, so this episode ranks as an 11 for me. I met him when I was very young, but I remember him well for being such an animated fellow. I believe he is also the only Star Trek guest star to appear on a Frank Zappa album (he sang "Strictly Genteel" on 200 Motels).
Carl Freire
36. ohpopshop
I loved this episode the first time I saw it, and I love it having rewatched it maybe a week or two before we came back to it in our rewatch extravaganza here. So well written, and well acted--all kudos to our five major guest actors, and our regularly appearing heroes with whom they interact. To say nothing of the writers! Picard's scene with his old friend ("you were always such a rotten swimmer, Louis!") is the minor little moment for me that seals the deal, but really, everything is just so well done. The "let's get to know who these people really are and show the effects of everything we've been putting them through" approach that informs the episode trumps any trivial whinging about its science fictioniness (that's an actual word! OK, that should be an actual word!). It is, I believe, the only episode of any Star Trek series that makes me tear up not just once, not just twice, but three times (hell, it's probably the only ST:TNG episode that makes me tear up even once, though "Sins of the Father," "Darmok," or possibly even "Tin Man" might have made that happen . . .). And the damn thing did it again a few weeks ago. Not a single wasted scene. Well done.
Michael E. Rubin
37. NullNix
Lovely episode. The Rozhenkos are absolutely pitch-perfect Jewish parents, exaggerated only slightly for dramatic effect: I kept on confusing Sergey with my grandpa, and not just because of the uncannily similar accent. The Picard family snapshot is similarly wonderfully crafted, with a simply superb mud-coated climax.

It says something about this episode that the most I can find to complain about is exterior sounds and hard-to-control things like accents. The night sounds in one exterior shot in the Picard sections are just wrong. Sorry, nowhere in France that I know of is the night remotely that loud: that's more like parts of the US (well, California, obviously). But then, this is clearly France as never was, populated entirely with English rural folk with French names, a nice trick to try to make Picard's extremely not-French accent at least approximately similar to his family's. One wonders if some bizarre variation on the Great Vowel Shift has interchanged English and French accents over the next 300 years...

It's also a tiny bit of a shame that that nice attempt at compatible accents fell down a bit for British viewers: yes, his family all have English accents, but they're accents from all over the country. As a relative by marriage, Marie's accent could be anything (so her near-RP is quite plausible). However, Robert and Jean-Luc are brothers and would normally be expected to share a similar accent, however diluted, but their accents are nothing alike. I suppose it's plausible to say that Jean-Luc grew up with a broad "rural Derbyshire French" accent and then dropped it for RP when he moved into environs in Starfleet where RP is more common -- only RP is fairly rare there, from what I can tell. Ah well, I'm surely overanalyzing this. They just looked for English actors and tried to get the brother's accent 'rural'.
Michael E. Rubin
38. pola
I hated this episode then and I still do. It's a sci-fi show for goodness' sake, not Days of Our Lives. I get that we needed to see what happened after, but in space please. Our mission: to seek out new life forms....and to hang around chatting with family members. Boooring.
Michael E. Rubin
39. Ingonyama
We are in complete agreement re: "after the crisis" stories. As an enormous fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the wake of this show's departure, the episodes that delighted and intrigued me were the aftermaths of the Obligatory Big Mid-Season Twist, where Our Heroes would pick up the pieces, rearrange their lives, cathart, and recover from the Great Big Happening the previous week.

"Family" was a classic how-to guide on those kinds of stories. Plus...and this was a real treat to me...we got to touch base with Earth, which at the time (TNG being my first experience with the Star Trek megalith), I'd never seen from a 24th-century perspective.

Wesley got a wonderful story here. I've always been curious as to the kind of man Jack Crusher was, and seeing him in this episode was fascinating, touching, and a little tragic. Normally my opinion on Wesley Crusher vacillates from "largely inoffensive" to "DIAF YOU SNOT-NOSED LITTLE KNOW-IT-ALL", but every now and again...like here, and in "Remember Me", and "Where No One Has Gone Before"...he shines, and becomes an interesting, entertaining character with some real heart. I love Wil Wheaton as an actor nowadays, and even then he showed some acting chops now and again.
Dante Hopkins
40. DanteHopkins
As an elder brother, this episode had a particualr resonance for me. I am definitely Robert, the married, responsible homebody, while my brother is Jean-Luc, the single, explore-the-world guy. And we often fought as kids to boot. Watching this one as an adult just brought home that while my brother and I keep each other at arms length, and will probably never be best friends, we still love and respect each other. So cool to me that Star Trek could air such a human story, so touching, yet so powerful, simply and perfectly titled "Family." A wonderful hour of television start to finish.
Michael E. Rubin
41. Ellis K.
OK, I've said it before and I'll say it again: Picard would never have fully recovered from being assimilated by the Borg. He would never be the same Picard again. To allow him a full recovery cheapens the Borg threat, and the concept of assimilation, which is a fate worse that death. The ST:TNG writers understood this, but they simply couldn't resist the glorious moment in which Riker calmly says "Mr. Worf, fire" at the end of the third season cliffhanger while he beholds Picard as Locutus of Borg on the viewscreen. That's why this episode is necessary: to make it plain that Picard's recovery was harrowing and difficult, so as to get around cheapening the consequences of assimilation and the evil threat of the Borg. 99% of all fans accept this and continue to accept the notion that the Borg are the most evil adversaries imaginable. I'm the 1% that doesn't. If the Borg are that evil, and assimilation is that horrific, then Picard would never be able to completely recover, which he does in subsequent episodes. The writers could not resist the cliffhanger--understood--and they certainly didn't want to remove Patrick Stewart from the show--also understood--and they went to some lengths in this episode to underscore the difficulty Picard had in recovering from assimilation--still understood--and STILL, I don't buy it. Once assimilated, and once having led that Borg attack at Wolf 359, I believe the only internally consistent outcome is that Picard would NEVER be able to effectively command the flagship of the Federation again.
Michael E. Rubin
42. JohnC
I get the complaint from hard-core sci-fi fans that there were no flashing beeping lights in this one and that merits a downgrade, but I guess I'm less a sci-fi fan than a fan of great characters in whatever setting the writers put them in, and for my money this is one of the best hours of television programming -- of any genre -- ever. Jeremy Kemp as Picard's brother is the best guest star of the TNG years - so much chemistry (or should I say authentic anti-chemistry) between those two characters, I was riveted by every exchange between them. The writing is crisp; not a word wasted. Picard's breakdown after the fight scene hits the perfect note - you can hear the desperation that still lingers with Picard because he realizes there are forces that his will simply cannot successfully resist, and I think that revelation tortures him as much as his perceived guilt over taken part, however unwillingly, in a massacre of his own. But the best scene here is just before the fight scene when Picard walks out and Robert follows, somehow instinctively knowing that his brother needs an emotional cleansing that only a good fight will accomplish. Robert follows hovering over his brother's shoulder, needling, provoking, and the way the tension ramps up to the eventual right cross is as well-crafted a scene as I have watched in any movie or TV show. And the Picard storyline here is so strong, that I still consider this the best TNG ever despite the competent but not compelling scenes with Worf and his parents, and the hackneyed "dead parent leaves a message" throwaway filler of the Wesley scenes. So as for the purists, I agree: this isn't a great hour of sci-fi. Rather, it's a superlative hour of character-driven entertainment in what happens to be a sci-fi series.
Michael E. Rubin
43. JohnC
As a postscript to my last comment, I have to express real disappointment and dismay at the BBC America channel. I've been DVRing the series and watching them almost daily and I thought I had remembered a denouement scene between the fight/breakdown and Picard's goodbye. Seemed like there was something missing from when I had originally watched this episode years ago. Then I read the synopsis here and found that I was right - I guess for time purposes the BBC just completely omitted the scene where Robert and Picard get drunk, joyfully covered with mud, and get scolded by Robert's wife. I'm more than a bit annoyed that I now know I'm not rewatching the series, I'm rewatching those parts of it that the BBC deems allowable based on their advertising schedule. Grrrrr....
Michael E. Rubin
44. Random22
Riker's "demotion" is easy to explain away. A field promotion (or brevet) is not automatically permanent. It is a promotion based on running out of other officers who ought to have a certain rank that they need to get through a crisis or specific situation. Since they needed a full Captain on the Enterprise, since it was fleet flagship, for the Borg Emergency Riker was brevetted up for that. It can be made permanent or the officer can revert to their old rank once the crisis or event has passed. I'm guessing Riker didn't push to retain his captaincy and thus just reverted back to commander when Picard was pronounced still fit for command.

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