Friday, August 5, 2011

Geordi's Family Crisis Fails To Inspire Repeated Viewings: "Interface"

The Good: Intriguing idea, Competent acting
The Bad: Pacing, Character work, Plot, Replayability
The Basics: When Geordi's mother goes missing, his experiences interfacing with a new probe design become confused by his emotions in "Interface."

One of the easiest ironies of Star Trek The Next Generation was that when the series began, the two biggest named actors on the regular cast were Levar Burton and Wil Wheaton and while Wheaton had plenty of airtime, Levar Burton was pretty much buried. Burton's character, Geordi LaForge, does not get his niche until the second season when he is promoted to Chief Engineer and when that occurs, it's just another reason not to keep him on camera as often. In short, Levar Burton pretty much got overlooked by the writers of the series and as a result, Geordi LaForge remains one of the least interesting, least defined characters in the Star Trek universe. In fact, it was not until the beginning of the seventh season of Star Trek The Next Generation that it occurred to the writers that they had presented nothing about Geordi's family. "Interface" seeks to reconcile that.

Geordi is experimenting with a technology that will allow him to interact with a probe in an alien environment. In the projections from the probe, LaForge is able to see what the probe sees and move around in alien environments doing things like opening doors, burning obstacles, etc. Suddenly his blindness is not a limitation and he can move around where no human could by personifying a probe that is actually in the alien environments. When Geordi's mother goes missing while LaForge is using the interface to look for clues involving the disturbance of another starship, the two accidents begin to blend together and LaForge's emotional issues begin to get the better of him.

The problem with "Interface" is twofold. The first is that as character work, this episode is "too little, too late." Geordi's whole family comes into play here when his mother's starship goes missing, but it's nearly impossible to care. By this point in the series, we're comfortable with Geordi being overlooked and it's awkward when he gets the center stage. The other problem is that the episode does not hold up especially well upon repeated viewings. Instead, this is an episode where once the surprise is known, it loses a lot of its edge. Watching it multiple times just classifies LaForge as more of a whiny officer who it is difficult to find engaging.

Part of the problem is certainly the pacing. The episode begins with an intriguing idea that is well-executed: seeing Geordi, without his VISOR, walking around an alien starship doing things. Then, the family drama takes over and the episode's momentum dies. Completely. It never recovers from that and when the two portions of the episode come together, the novelty of the first is lost and it is smothered by Geordi's unrelenting emotional baggage.

At best, the episode has Competent acting. Levar Burton does not burn up the screen portraying Geordi here, but at least he does the best he can with the weak script. He clearly infuses passion into the character and that has to be worth something.

Unfortunately, it is not enough to save the episode. This is one of Star Trek The Next Generation's duds and a one trick pony that quickly wears the viewer's patience out.

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Complete Seventh Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the final season by clicking here!


Want to see how this episode stacks up against the other episodes and movies in the Star Trek franchise? Click here to visit the index page with the episodes ordered by rating with clickable links back to the corresponding review!

© 2011, 2007, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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