The Good: Well acted, EXCELLENT character development, Good plot
The Bad: None really
The Basics: In a perfect episode, Picard returns to his "Family," Worf's parents visit, Wesley puts his father's death to rest and O'Brien gets a name.
Following "The Best of Both Worlds, Part 2," (reviewed here!) Star Trek The Next Generation needed to give the opportunity to deal with the consequences of those events. Unfortunately, the producers of Star Trek The Next Generation took a little while to realize this. That's why there were two episodes of the series between "The Best of Both Worlds, Part 2" (Episode 75) and "Family" (Episode 78).
"Family" is a three-pronged plot story. First, the main plot involves Picard returning to his family's vineyards in LeBarre, France to recover from the Borg Incident. Second, Worf's human parents visit to check up with him following his discommendation from the Klingon Empire in "Sins of the Father." The last plot involves Wesley Crusher. His father apparently left a message for him to view when he was older and Dr. Crusher believes the time is now. While Picard struggles with his older brother, Robert, Worf comes to terms with his adopted parents' presence in his life and Wesley Crusher finally buries his father. And O'Brien finally gets a first name!
More impressive than coming up with "Miles Edward" O'Brien, is that this episode has some significant character work. Picard actually deals with the consequences of unwittingly aiding the Borg in killing thousands of people. Even better, it does it in an interesting way. Considering resigning from StarFleet to go work in the oceans on the Atlantis Project, Picard is tempted and to make his decision he actually has to confront his actions in the recent past. It's genius. It's also a necessary thing. It's been tiring watching character after character on Star Trek The Next Generation have incredible experiences, then never suffer consequences of those actions.
But that's what "Family" is about. In addition to Picard, Worf deals with his discommendation since he was first exiled from the Klingons. As well, we see that his family is wonderfully supportive and they care so much about Worf and his status.
Add to that, Wesley Crusher's part in the story seems to fit the motif, even if it does not completely fit his character arc. Crusher's character seemed to make peace with his father's death back in "The Bonding" in the third season, but here the issue comes back up, though it is finally put to rest once and for all.
Even better than the character work and the plot is the acting. The plot is well constructed and the character work is necessary, but the actors all give the episode their best shot and it pays off quite obviously. First, Marina Sirtis introduces the Picard plot very well by giving Troi a very emotive professionalism. She abandons the cold facade Troi has had for the first few seasons.
Patrick Stewart plays Picard as wounded. Here Stewart is vulnerable, agitated, and confused. He plays them off perfectly. Picard's facial expressions and body language supplement the quiet, subdued way Stewart has his character grow through the experience. Dorn is uncomfortable as Worf, playing that wonderfully in every scene he has with his parents.
But Wil Wheaton again rises to the occasion as Wesley Crusher. It's impossible to see the young boy Wheaton was at the series' outset. Here, he's mature and his body language is confident, powerful. He works very well at advancing his character and putting the central internal conflict of his character to rest.
More than anything, "Family" is a chance to see the emotional consequences of the series' best conflicts thus far. It's a must for anyone who is a fan of Star Trek The Next Generation. It's liable not to be as enjoyable by those who are not fans of the series as it makes allusions that need to be seen to understand the significance of. But for the casual viewer who watched "The Best of Both Worlds," this is the necessary, humanistic conclusion.
[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Complete Fourth Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the fourth season by clicking here!
For other Star Trek episode and DVD set reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!
© 2011, 2007, 2002 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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