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Recap / Star Trek: The Next Generation S4E2 "Family"

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Original air date: October 1, 1990

With the Enterprise drydocked at Earth Station McKinley following the recent Borg incursion, the crew takes the opportunity for some downtime. Worf is not happy that his adoptive human parents are on the list of visitors coming aboard. Picard takes the opportunity to go home to France, much to Troi's surprise due to effort it took to pry him out of the command chair to take vacation in the past. Additionally Troi is concerned Picard hasn't fully recovered from the trauma of being assimilated by the Borg. Picard assures Troi that he's better now, and he's simply availing himself of the opportunity to go home.

As Worf waits in the transporter room for his parents, Chief O'Brien tries to sympathize with him regarding embarrassing parents. Worf's parents, Sergey and Helena Rozhenko, beam aboard, and Sergey (a retired Starfleet enlisted man) immediately wants to take a tour of the ship before being reminded by Helena that they're on board to see Worf. Meanwhile, Picard has decided to walk to his family home when he's accosted by a young boy, who we quickly learn is Picard's nephew René. René tells Jean-Luc that his first impression of his uncle doesn't quite match up with what his father has said about him. The two arrive at the house and are greeted by Jean-Luc's sister-in-law, Marie. After exchanging pleasantries, Jean-Luc goes out to the vineyard, where he finds his brother Robert tending a sick vine. It's fairly clear from their small talk that the brothers don't get along, and though Jean-Luc is hoping to mend that fence, Robert is still clearly resentful, so Jean-Luc leaves him to tend the vine.

Back on the ship, Dr. Crusher receives a case containing some of her late husband Jack's personal belongings, including a holographic message he'd recorded for Wesley when he was a baby, intended as the first of a series of recordings to be viewed when Wesley grew up. She's hesitant to give it to Wesley, but Troi suggests the recording might provide answers to some questions Wesley still has about his father. In engineering, La Forge is giving the Rozhenkos the nickel tour, and they relate a story about how a seven-year-old Worf beat up five teenage boys. When Sergey asks Geordi about the warp core, Helena asks Worf to show her the arboretum so the boys can talk shop. When they leave, however, Sergey asks Geordi about Worf, showing parental concern.

Marie tells Jean-Luc about recent developments—that his old friend Louis is supervising a project to create a new subcontinent on Earth (an idea that Jean-Luc finds intriguing, but Robert scoffs at), and that the mayor wants to throw a parade (which Jean-Luc refuses, as he's home solely to rest and spend time with his family). When Jean-Luc can't quite identify the vintage of the wine they're drinking, Robert chides him and suggests that the synthehol served on the Enterprise has ruined his palate, though Jean-Luc counters that it's raised his appreciation for the real thing. The conversation turns into a clash of ideologies: Robert prefers the traditional ways of life, as their father did, and he sees Jean-Luc's Starfleet career as an affront to everything he stands for. Moreover, Robert is concerned about his brother's influence on his son, who is aspiring to enter the Academy himself.

The next day, Jean-Luc is meeting with Louis, telling him that although he appreciates his family's winemaking heritage, he never felt personally bound by it. As they talk about the Atlantis Project, Louis is impressed with how much Jean-Luc has kept up on it, and Jean-Luc even offers insights from a previous mission that could prove helpful. Louis is eager to hear Jean-Luc's thoughts and offers to send some project details over for him to review.

In Ten Forward, Worf is still uneasy with his parents, and they recognize that they do come off as a little eager. When Worf is called away, Guinan takes the opportunity to introduce herself to them, and asks them why they never introduced Worf to prune juice. They're surprised, since Worf had always insisted on Klingon food growing up. She goes on to praise them for the job they've done in raising Worf, despite the difficulties and the lack of Klingons for him to relate to growing up, and she points out that when he's looking out the window toward home, he's not looking to the Klingon Empire, but to Earth.

Jean-Luc tells Marie that he's intrigued by Louis's project, and Marie thinks that if he did choose to stay on Earth, it might give the brothers a chance to grow to like each other. Louis shows up and says that the project team is excited at the idea of Jean-Luc joining them, although Jean-Luc never made any commitment; he does take Louis up on the offer to listen to their proposal.

Back in Worf's quarters, his parents reveal that they had to see him after hearing about his discommendation. Worf insists he must bear his dishonor alone, but they insist that, no matter what, he will always be their son, and as human an attitude though it may be, they will always be there for him. Worf accepts this.

Jean-Luc has been drinking and considering Louis's proposal when Robert shows up. Robert reminds him that the effects of real alcohol can't be shrugged off like synthehol, and amuses himself at the idea of his brother being out of control. Jean-Luc evades Robert's line of questioning about the Borg incident, and storms out of the house, but Robert follows to press the issue. The resentment comes out in full force—Robert hated that Jean-Luc was the favored son, the one who won all the awards, the one who could break their father's rules and get away with it, while as the older brother he had to be the responsible one; Jean-Luc, meanwhile, always perceived his brother as a bully. When Robert suggests that Jean-Luc came home so that his brother could take care of him, a fistfight erupts that leaves the two covered in mud, and laughing at the end. Robert suggests that Jean-Luc has been too hard on himself, and it's at that point that the captain breaks down, revealing how the Borg had stripped him of his humanity and used him against Starfleet, and how he couldn't stop them. Robert tells him that he'll have to live with that for a long time, but it's up to him whether or not it will be under the sea with Louis, or back aboard the Enterprise. As the two make their way back to the house, Robert reminds Jean-Luc that he still doesn't like him, but the two chuckle their way back. When Marie returns to the house, she's astonished to find them, still covered in mud, and getting along for once. Jean-Luc decides his place is on the Enterprise, and that if he ever doubts that again, he knows where to come.

Wesley plays the message from his father. Jack explains that he made the recording because the man he was at that moment, when Wes was still an infant, would be a much different man by the time Wes would be viewing it, and he apologizes for the mistakes he expects to make. He hopes Wes isn't upset about how much he was gone because of his Starfleet career, and hopes the kid will understand, and possibly consider trying on the uniform himself some day (as Wes views the recording wearing his uniform). Jack then suggests that Wes might instead end up a doctor like his mother. As the recording ends, Wes bids his father goodbye.

Captain Picard, back in uniform, prepares to leave his family home. René tells him he's going to be leaving for his own starship some day, but Jean-Luc tells him he might change his mind when he gets older. Robert gives Jean-Luc a bottle of the '47 wine, and asks him not to drink it all at once, and if possible, not to drink it alone. The brothers finally share a hug.

As the Rozhenkos prepare to depart, Helena asks Worf if there's anything he wants from home; he asks for some of her homemade Rokeg blood pie. They meet the captain as he returns, and Picard asks if they've had a tour of the ship. Sergey expresses his disappointment that they weren't able to see all of it due to the repairs, but Helena and Worf drag Sergey into the transporter room.

Back home, René watches the stars and dreams of starships. Robert agrees to let him dream.

Tropes featured in this episode include:

  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents:
    • Worf's foster parents, especially his father Sergey.
    • Chief O'Brien's father seems to be also a great candidate.
    O'Brien: Last time my old man was on board, I found him chasing Nurse Stanton around a biobed in Sickbay.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: Worf's foster parents Sergey and Helena Rozhenko seem to be this, given that they are both played by Jewish actors, Theodore Bikel and Georgia Brown, and how they worry and care so much about Worf similar to how Jewish parents would. Makes you wonder if Worf went to Synagogue with his parents and foster brother Nikolai and had a Bar Mitzvah while growing up on Earth. Word of God according to Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion states that production staff were worried that Worf's parents might come across as comically "Jewish", but Michael Pillar stated that the finished episode seemed to have the right balance in place for those characters. Also noteworthy is that Bikel didn't even bother hiding his Yiddish accent as Sergey.
  • Big Brother Bully: Robert, resentful of Jean-Luc's success, bullied him growing up. Robert admits it, then goads Jean-Luc by saying he enjoyed bullying him, which causes Jean-Luc to finally snap and attack him.
  • Blatant Lies: Jean-Luc and Robert both initially try to deny they got into a fight despite being covered in mud and Robert has a open cut above his eye from where Jean-Luc punched him. Marie dosen't believe them for a second.
  • Breather Episode: After the intensity of "The Best of Both Worlds," Ron Moore gives us a firmly character-based episode without any external conflict. In fact, this is the first episode of the show to not feature any scenes on the bridge.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Worf's foster parents tell Geordi a story of five teenaged human males attempting to bully a seven year old Worf in school.
  • Call-Back: Picard mentions the incident on Drema IV to provide inspiration for a project to raise a new subcontinent on Earth.
  • Continuity Nod: Worf's parents comment that he's wearing his hair longer. This refers back to Worf's shorter hair in the first season.
  • Covered in Mud: Picard and his brother brawl in a mud puddle in the climax of the episode and track it into the house when it's all over.
  • Cry Laughing: After Picard's tussle in the mud with Robert, his laughs become anguished sobs.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Part of Worf's backstory—at seven years old, he left five teenaged boys with bloody noses.
  • Curse Cut Short: When Picard first meets René, the kid innocently confirms that Jean-Luc's brother still harbors significant resentment towards him.
    René: What does it mean, anyway, "arrogant son of a—"
    Picard: Let's talk about that later, shall we?
  • Don't Call Me "Sir":
    • Retired Chief Petty Officer Sergey admonishes O'Brien (also a CPO) not to call him "sir," complete with "I used to work for a living."
    • Alluded to when Picard tells Renee he likes the idea of Picard being Renee's nephew.
  • Drama-Preserving Handicap: After suffering Mind Rape by the Borg and being used to destroy thousands of his fellow Starfleeters, Picard is not going to be just fine in time for the next episode. (Neither is the battle-damaged Enterprise.) This was, in fact, Enforced by Michael Piller.
  • Enforced Trope: This episode was inserted deliberately to avert immediately hitting the Reset Button at the end of the previous episode, figuring that Picard shouldn't just instantly be able to dismiss the traumatic events of his assimilation and move on to the next adventure. Star Trek: First Contact and Star Trek: Picard proves Robert was right when he says Jean-Luc will have to deal with it for a very long time.
  • Following in Relative's Footsteps: René Picard is determined to follow in his uncle's footsteps and pursue a life in Starfleet. Tragically, he never gets the chance.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Robert sees Jean-Luc and himself, respectively, as this, and resents the fact that Jean-Luc broke all their father's rules and was praised for it, while he was The Dutiful Son. He claims that as the responsible one it was his job to look after his brother, but Jean-Luc snaps back that his idea of looking after him amounted to nothing more than bullying.
  • Foreshadowing: A meta example. René Picard declares that he will be a starship captain someday. Two years later, David Tristan Birkin, the actor who plays René, will play a de-aged Captain Picard in Rascals.
  • French Accordion: An accordion plays in the soundtrack when Picard arrives in France.
  • Given Name Reveal: Chief O'Brien gains not only a first name but a middle name in this episode. His full name is Miles Edward O'Brien.
  • Glory Seeker: When Jean-Luc indignantly rejects the idea of a Ticker Tape Parade and the idea that he's sought the public praise, Robert calls him out.
    Robert: Never sought? Never sought President of the school, valedictorian, athletic hero with your arms raised in victory?
  • Happily Adopted: Though they have their differences, Worf is clearly this with his human parents. A great Freeze-Frame Bonus example of this is that as they finally beam onboard, despite having been just complaining about them, Worf get a short but uncharacteristically big smile at seeing them materialize on the transporter pad.
  • Heroic BSoD: Jean-Luc exposes the pain he endured at the hand of the Borg.
  • The Highwayman: Picard jokingly accuses René of being one when they meet outside La Barre.
  • Home Sweet Home: Guinan tells Worf's human parents that when Worf looks at the stars thinking of home, he's not looking toward the Klingon Empire, but Earth.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: There's nothing dignified about Picard's mud-covered breakdown. Which, of course, makes it such a powerful scene.
  • It's All My Fault: Picard blames himself for the slaughter at Wolf 359 because he wasn't "strong enough" to stop the Borg from using his mind.
    Jean-Luc: (laughing turns into sobbing) You don't know, Robert, you don't know. They took everything I was. They used me to kill and to destroy, and I couldn't stop them! I should have been able to stop them! I tried. I tried so hard. But I wasn't strong enough! I wasn't good enough! I should have been able to stop them. I should, I should....(trails off sobbing)
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Robert Picard, always jealous of his younger brother, who was The Ace growing up, nevertheless cares deeply for Jean-Luc. When Jean-Luc falls off his high horse in the aftermath of his Borg assimilation, Robert is there to help encourage him to get back on.
  • "Leave Your Quest" Test: Due to the trauma of assimilation, Picard seriously thinks about leaving Starfleet, before deciding against it.
  • Manly Tears:
    • Picard when he finally breaks down over what the Borg did to him.
    • Of all people, Worf actually tears up when his parents express their solidarity with him at the end of the episode.
  • Mind Rape: How Picard describes his experience with the Borg. Ron Moore convinced Michael Piller that these experiences don't just "go away" so simply. Piller told Rick Berman, "How can you have a guy who's basically been raped be fine next week?" when persuading him to include a follow-up to the two-parter.
  • Mood Whiplash: After whacking each other a few times in the mud, Robert and Jean-Luc have a good chuckle and playfully toss a few gobs of it at each other. Then Jean-Luc's laughter turns to sobbing as his memories of the Borg overwhelm him. Next we see of the duo, they're drunk as skunks and singing.
  • Not So Above It All: "So... my brother is human after all."
  • One-Steve Limit: Since René shares the name with Jean-Luc's actual uncle, they jokingly call each other "uncle" and "nephew" over the course of the episode, despite René only being 7 years old.
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: Robert's reason for bullying Jean-Luc as a teen.
  • Parenting the Husband: Marie comes back to the homestead to find Robert and Jean-Luc drunkenly singing, having tracked mud in from their mud puddle throwdown. When pressed by Marie, they both act like a pair of guilty boys, mumbling about what went down.
  • The Queen's Latin: British actors were cast as Picard's French relations (just like Jean-Luc himself).
  • The Resenter: Robert to his popular brother.
  • Space Amish: Played with. Robert Picard actually lives on Earth. But he insists on living an old-fashioned lifestyle, manually working on a vineyard, in the late 24th century, while his brother is the captain of a Cool Starship. Among other things, he refuses to use a replicator in his home and his wife cooks all their meals. However, Robert comes to accept the fact that his son René wants to be in Starfleet.
  • Space Travel Veto: Robert voices his opposition to René wanting to do like Jean-Luc and join Starfleet to go into outer space. This is more because Robert prefers an older, traditional lifestyle, eschewing technology such as food replicators. Ultimately downplayed as while Robert doesn't abandon his faith in older technology, he does relent on the possibility of René going to Starfleet Academy.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: The Enterprise-D can't just be quickly patched up and set on its way after the events of the last two episodes. The Federation Flagship suffered significant hull and system damage trying to stop the Borg incursion. As Riker noted last episode, the Federation Flagship will be parked in drydock for at least 5-6 weeks.
  • Third Line, Some Waiting: The A-Plot of Picard grappling with his trauma and the B-Plot of Worf and his parents are supplemented with a C-Plot of Wesley getting a "time-capsule" style message from his dad.
  • Translation Convention: The Picards speaking English on a farm in rural France can be viewed as this. Worf may be speaking Russian with his adopted parents, as well.
  • Tuckerization: This episode establishes that O'Brien's first name is Miles, being named after producer Rick Berman's nephew.
  • Unintentional Final Message: The message Jack Crusher recorded when Wesley was ten weeks old, to be given to him when he grew up. He intended to make more over time, but never got the chance. Some of what he had to say ended up proving all too prescient — he comments that the person he is won't exist by the time Wesley is grown up, and hopes that his son won't grow up resenting the fact that he was gone so much.
  • You Are Not Alone: When Worf's parents sit down and talk to him about his dis-commendation, Worf insists that the dishonor is his burden to bear and his alone. His father quite firmly tells him that no it is not, and even if they don't fully understand it, they are his family and they will be there for him however they can be.