Written by Joe Menosky, Rene Echevarria, and Naren Shankar
Directed by Robert Wiemer
During the seven year run of Star Trek: The Next Generation, we learned about the backgrounds of many of the characters and even had the opportunity to meet various members of their family. There was Counselor Troi’s wacky and eccentric mother, the Klingon Worf’s foster-family, Captain Picard’s brother and nephew, Commander Riker’s father, and more. However, it took until the seventh season for us to learn more about one particular character.
Taking advantage of Geordi’s (LeVar Burton) ocular implants, which allow the blind Chief Engineer to see, he along with Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden) and the android, Data (Brent Spiner) develop a technology where he can “see” what a probe in another part of the ship entirely sees and is doing.
When the Hera, the ship Geordi’s mother is Captain of, goes missing and is given up for lost, Geordi’s resolve at completing the mission they were trying to carry out with the probe: to rescue a science vessel trapped in the atmosphere of a volatile planet.
As Geordi is experiencing walking through the trapped vessel, he encounters a fire on the ship which overloads the sensors in his hands and burns them. When the experiment is tried again, after Geordi has talked to his father and mourned his mother a bit, he encounters his mother in the smoky haze in the science vessel. She tells him “they” are on the surface and “they” are dying.
Geordi now believes his mother’s ship has somehow ended up on the surface of the planet below, despite the last position reported being far, far away. He is frantic to get down there, believing they will be abandoning her and those of her crew who have survived.
It’s nice to learn a bit about Geordi and that he has a sister as well. Ben Vereen guest stars as his father and Madge Sinclair as his mother. It’s a fine bit of guest-casting that is, unfortunately, underused. The story here is too schizophrenic to really work as well as it should have. If it had been a character piece, exclusively devoted to Geordi’s reconciling his and his family’s busy lives with the apparent death of his mother, that would have been fine. If it had been exclusively focused on the mystery of just who or what killed the entire crew of the science vessel and what exactly might be down on the planet, that would have worked fine too.
As it is, the story seems rushed and off-pace. There’s a big build-up in the mystery and the technical aspect, which is then lost somewhat when the loss of Geordi’s mother comes about. At that point, Geordi talks about his life before being assigned to the Enterprise and his family with a variety of people.
Not that there isn’t some terrific acting here. Jonathan Frakes as Commander Riker gives one of the best performances of the series when he is sharing with Geordi what it was like for him as a child accepting his mother’s death.
However, the opportunity for Burton to expand Geordi a bit and bring us into his world is lost. It’s not a horrible episode, but I’ve come to expect better from Star Trek: The Next Generation.