Star Trek: The Next Generation: Family   Rewatch 
December 21, 2020 8:10 AM - Season 4, Episode 2 - Subscribe

Captain Picard takes leave on Earth and visits his family while recovering from his assimilation into the Borg. Worf's Human parents visit the Enterprise and help him deal with his discommendation.

Memory Alpha has all the specs and diagrams at home.

Story and script
  • While not written or filmed until well after the completion of "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II", "Family" became the unofficial third installment of the Borg trilogy. While no Borg actually appeared and no action took place in the episode, the story served as a fitting resolution to the action- and drama-heavy two parter. It was "The Best of Both Worlds" writer Michael Piller who suggested the quiet episode to heal Picard's wounds on-camera. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, 2nd ed., p. 143) Piller did so in a note at the end of an early story outline for "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II", in which he wrote, "I can't help feeling that after what Picard has been through that being 'back to normal' is simplistic and incredible especially for a show that takes such a realistic look at humanity and life. I must reiterate my feeling that there is a hell of an episode to be explored here. Why not use the next episode to explore Picard's recovery – bandaged, his face is healing, but there is more than just physical healing to be done here... it is uncertain if he can ever fully recover from the nightmares of his captivity to resume command ... and as the Enterprise orbits earth undergoing repairs, Picard returns to his roots to find himself. There is an interesting echo of the Beirut hostages returning home to be found here. Good episode!"
  • Piller recalled, "The normal objections were that we were not serialized. We try to tell stories that can be told in one hour and that's what we do very well. When I got to the end of Part II, we made the decision not to extend it and I called up Rick and said, 'Hey, listen. Next week Picard can be fine, but for a show that prides itself on its realistic approach to storytelling, how can you have a guy who's basically been raped be fine next week? There's a story in a man like Picard who's lost control. Delving into the psychological crisis that a man like that has to face, and what does he have to do?' Finally, I was persuasive enough to talk Gene and Rick into taking the chance, and I think everyone is glad we did." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 208)
  • Conditional to Berman's acceptance was that a sci-fi storyline be added. Various plots were tried but rejected, including one with a child stowaway and another in which crewmembers disappeared. (The latter plot would be recycled to form the basis of "Remember Me") Berman relented when it became clear that the plots would not work well together, and the show's family-themed subplots were added to fill the hour. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, 2nd ed., p. 143)
  • Ronald D. Moore commented, "We decided as long as we were there at Earth, let's make it a show about people's families and do some other characters' on the ship and explore their backgrounds. It became a very off-concept show, [looking] at the characters and how they got to be who and what they are." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 208)
  • According to Moore, Gene Roddenberry hated the script of the episode. He recalled that at a meeting, "Gene goes through this whole thing about how much he hates this script. 'It says terrible things about Picard’s parents; these brothers don’t exist in the twenty-fourth century; they have such profound personal animosities; this would never happen. I don’t buy any of this, this is not a Star Trek episode. There’s no action in this; there’s no jeopardy. We can’t do this show.'" After the meeting, Piller and Berman advised a dejected Moore to finish the script anyway, and that they would deal with Roddenberry. Moore concluded, "I went off and wrote it, and never heard another word. Somehow, they were then dealing with Gene in a different way and that script just went through after that point. He just stopped kind of throwing out scripts and changing things from that point forward, and just started slowly to change."
  • The exterior shots of the Picard family's home in La Barre was actually filmed at two locations. The house itself was a private residence in Encino, California, and a dryland near Lancaster stood in for the vineyards, which were then digitally inserted into a matte painting that shows the surrounding village and hills. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, 2nd ed., p. 143) The interior shots were taken on a soundstage.
  • The song sung by Robert and Jean-Luc after their fight in the mud is "Auprès de ma Blonde", an old and well-known French folk song.
Cast and characters
  • Theodore Bikel and Georgia Brown were both well known in Yiddish theater, initially causing some studio concern that Worf's parents might appear comically "Jewish". Piller dismissed these concerns, noting that the finished episode "treads the line" of universal humor. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, 2nd ed., p. 143)
  • Along with Star Trek: First Contact, this episode is one of the two Star Trek productions to feature two Academy Award-nominated performers, namely Theodore Bikel and Samantha Eggar. Bikel and Eggar previously worked together on Columbo: The Bye-Bye Sky High I.Q. Murder Case, which also featured Kenneth Mars.
  • Brent Spiner (Data) does not appear in this episode, the only one of the entire series in which he is absent, though Spiner more than makes up for this in the following episode, in which Data has a family reunion of his own.
  • In this episode, Chief O'Brien gained a full name, Miles Edward O'Brien, as well as a more defined rank, chief petty officer, though his rank insignia continued to change. In his scene in "Family", O'Brien continued to wear the two pips of lieutenant. On the discrepancy, Ron Moore commented, "O'Brien was originally just a day player on TNG and very little, if any, thought went into his rank or background for quite a while. He officially became a chief petty officer in "Family" when I wanted he and Worf's adoptive father to both be non-coms in contrast to Worf. Making him an enlisted man seemed to give us another color in the show and to open up another window into Starfleet that we hadn't explored before." (AOL chat, 1998)
  • René tells Jean-Luc that he will someday leave the family home to go to his own starship. Later, David Tristan Birkin, the child actor who played René, reappeared in the sixth season episode "Rascals" as Young Jean-Luc Picard.
  • "Family" is the first TNG episode in which no scene is set on the Enterprise's bridge (except for stock footage seen in "Shades of Gray"). Other episodes of this sort include "Liaisons" and "Dark Page".
  • Rozhenko asks Worf if he still works out fighting holodeck monsters, referring to the Klingon calisthenics program seen in "Where Silence Has Lease".
  • Picard mentions to Louis how they changed the geology of Drema IV, referring to the events of "Pen Pals".
  • Guinan tells Worf's parents about his affection for prune juice, something established in "Yesterday's Enterprise".
  • Jack Crusher appears in the hologram wearing a Starfleet uniform from the TOS films but without the undershirt that had trapunto collar and cuffs and with a TNG-era combadge. This might have been intended to show a transition period in the Starfleet uniforms, as the crew of the USS Enterprise-C had also appeared in trapunto-less movie uniforms but with a combadge based on the movie insignia.
Poster's Log:
We don't get many episodes with A, B, and C storylines. It's small, but I think the Wesley/Jack storyline is pretty important.

Picards off-duty clothes look SO COMFORTABLE.

When we first meet Robert, he looks completely insane, crouching in a vineyard, crushing grapes in his hand and smashing them into his mouth.

As a grandchild of Russian (well, Ukrainian) Jews, Worf's parents came off very true to life, not comically over-the-top.

There's a musical sting, heard as Picard is walking away from the chalet and the shot transitions to the Enterprise in dock, that sounds a lot like the Deep Space 9 theme song.

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
I enjoyed this one much more this time than on original watch. When it first aired, I didn't really understand the feelings Robert was struggling with, and the whole fight sequence felt shoddily prompted and rushed. Now, thirty years later, I have a much better understanding of long-running family resentments and the kind of preparatory emotions they bring with them when you know you're going to see that person again.
posted by hanov3r (22 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I also have the same sort of changed perspective on this ep; Robert seems a lot less mean, although even then I think that I knew that Jean-Luc had to get past all the decades of resentments that both of them had in order to process what had happened to him. The fight kind of worked for me as it was, since it comes across as the sort of fight that people have when they're not really trying to hurt each other. The last shot, of René gazing up at the night sky, is positively lovely (and bittersweet, given what happens to him and Robert in Generations).

The rest of the episode was also very sweet. Being embarrassed by your parents is a venerable human tradition, and Theodore Bikel and Georgia Brown were great. (I got to see Bikel in Fiddler on the Roof, kind of a signature role for him, although the theater seats were so steeply raked, and I was so far back, that I felt like I was mostly looking at the tops of the actors' heads. Interesting perspective, though, since I could also see the marks on the stage.) And what I wouldn't give to have a letter or something from my father like the one that Jack Crusher made for Wesley.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:22 AM on December 21, 2020 [3 favorites]

Agreed with both of you w/r/t the viewer's maturity correlating with the impact of this one. When it first aired, I was young enough to only register its emotional depth at a sort of speculative remove. The last time I saw "Family" prior to this rewatch was probably seven or eight years ago, and it was the first time I felt like I wasn't just watching it to get through it; this time, I may actually have gotten more into (and out of) it than BoBW.

Another possible variable: I referenced the vast gulf of culture between us and TNG's airing in my "The Bonding" post, and I think it applies here w/r/t how affecting one finds the Picard and Worf material, moreso the latter.

Like, I can't imagine this episode being made now, for any show—maybe not even PIC. And even back in 1990, this had to have felt risky in the writers' room. Now, of course, we can call out Patrick Stewart's on-point acting in the crying-in-the-mud scene, but when does he not nail it? Particularly when it counts? No, I think the big long-lasting impact of this episode (which stretches all the way to PIC, of course) is perhaps more due to the show simply having the nerve to do this episode. But the nerve is earned: like Stuka mentioned in the last thread, the show is mature now.

On rewatch, the Worf storyline felt no less inert to me than ever, but, well, we love Worf, so we're OK with spending time with him in a leisurely fashion—kinda like how I don't mind the Yosemite scenes in Final Frontier as much as maybe I should.

Jeremy Kemp (Robert) memorably played the villainous Dr. Grimesby Roylott of Stoke Moran in the Granada TV adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes story "The Adventure of the Speckled Band." Here is perhaps his best scene from the episode; Jeremy Brett's reactions to him are likewise priceless.

There's a musical sting, heard as Picard is walking away from the chalet and the shot transitions to the Enterprise in dock, that sounds a lot like the Deep Space 9 theme song.

I didn't catch that, but it could be related to the fact that late TNG, DS9, and VOY all share a certain style of incidental music that starts to get almost as irritatingly repetitive as some of the specific TOS and TAS music cues did. DS9's theme is pretty similar to the thing I'm thinking of.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 9:37 AM on December 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

For those who don't want to dig for it, the musical sting I mentioned starts at 1:10 in this YouTube clip and continues through the transition to Helena asking Worf if there's anything they can send him.

we can call out Patrick Stewart's on-point acting in the crying-in-the-mud scene, but when does he not nail it? Particularly when it counts?

The Picard-shows-emotion bit that hit me hardest on this rewatch was his hand fluttering around his mouth as he talks about how little things have changed: "The house, the hills, every tree, every bush seems untouched by the passage of time."
posted by hanov3r at 9:55 AM on December 21, 2020 [4 favorites]

I love this episode, and this sort of extended dig into a character and a personal reckoning with your actions and their consequences was so much what I was hoping for from Picard.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 11:06 AM on December 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

The Picard side of this episode is a favorite. Besides the excellent storyline and acting, it's one of the few non-Starfleet glimpses of Earth society (Sisko's in New Orleans being the other, I'm thinking). The Picards and their homestead is super charming. And though Berman Trek is a post-scarcity world, the Picards, out of the billions and billions of humans by the 24th Century, have something you can't replicate: a plot on Earth; must to be worth a fortune.

Also, making O'Brien a CPO... I wish they hadn't have done that. Not just because the whole enlisted side of Berman Trek's Starfleet is half-baked. But also because it diminished the character. After he's "demoted," does O'Brien ever again take part in the senior staff's poker game? RDM said, Colm Meany was just a day player. But O'Brien was still a pretty senior officer aboard the Enterprise who worked and socialized alongside the senior staff until he became a lowly non-com.
posted by Stuka at 11:14 AM on December 21, 2020

I'm not a huge fan of "aw, those two big men just need to punch it out" storylines, but this one worked okay, I guess. I didn't mind the Wesley subplot, and Worf's parents were adorable. It's hard to for me to focus too much on the substance of the episode, though, because my brain is screaming, still screaming, in fact, since that one moment where René leaps out of the bushes, fresh from whatever production of Oliver Twist he was abducted from, urchining it up and all but asking for a tuppence, guv'nor, and THEY ARE FRENCH my brain is screaming, gears twisting and shearing off, AREN'T THEY ALL SUPPOSED TO BE FRENCH, as they delightfully Dickens along the path, accents merrily a-blazing, and I just couldn't.

I know, it's unfair. It's really hard to find a good child actor, anyway, and it's not something Star Trek does particularly well. Ah, well, [he says, breezily riffling through his episode guide] I suppose it's unlikely that there will be many other child guest stars in upcoming episodes, anyway.
posted by phooky at 6:12 PM on December 21, 2020 [3 favorites]

phooky, imagine if all three French Picards had played the roles with outrrrageous accents.
posted by zadcat at 6:24 PM on December 21, 2020 [3 favorites]

That would have been amazing.
posted by phooky at 6:35 PM on December 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

[ROBERT, DRUNK]: No, mon capitaine, go back to your Enterprise, your holodecks, your torpilles à photons! Perhaps you have not been assimilated so much by le borg as by la bourgoisie, no? [Smashes bottle, glowers] Vive la révolution!

and I am only just now drawing parallels between stardates and the French Republican calendar
posted by phooky at 6:52 PM on December 21, 2020 [13 favorites]

Posting in the proper place this time:

The Star Trek CCG touched this episode just once. It's an action oriented game, so this decidedly un-action-oriented episode just happens to just be the source for this card for playing holographic personnel on your ship in Second Edition. Go fig.
posted by StarkRoads at 9:55 PM on December 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

this card for playing holographic personnel on your ship

I haven't paid quite enough attention to the cards to see how common this is, but why does a card with a screencap from "Family" have a quote from "The Big Goodbye"?
posted by hanov3r at 7:21 AM on December 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

posted by Huffy Puffy at 8:10 AM on December 22, 2020 [2 favorites]

why does a card with a screencap from "Family" have a quote from "The Big Goodbye"?

That's a great catch, hanov3r!

I am delighted to discover that Memory Alpha has developed a catalog of quotes as well as image sources. They attribute the quote to "Code of Honor" - off the top of my head, I'm not entirely sure which is right. It's certainly more of a 'first season holodeck exposition' type of line than what comes later.

It seems somewhat unusual for the quote to come from a different source than the image on a given card, but there are probably more.
posted by StarkRoads at 9:21 AM on December 22, 2020

Nope, it’s definitely from The Big Goodbye.
posted by hanov3r at 5:55 PM on December 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

I haven't seen this episode for a few years. Now that I have kids, Worf's storyline really hit me pretty hard, I felt bad for the Rozhenkos, I can now imagine having grown kids who don't really have much space for me in their life.

Picard's brother gets some great moments here:

Robert to Jean-Luc: "I always thought you needed a little humiliation. Or was it humility? Either would do." That's just a great line.

Robert calling bullshit on Jean-Luc -- "I don't find your modesty very convincing, brother. Of course you won the ribbon, you always did." Very efficient bit of story-telling and character building.
posted by skewed at 8:22 PM on December 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

Definitely able to appreciate this one a lot more now. Totally relate to everyone in this episode’s family feelings (well, almost, I haven’t been discommendated yet), especially at this time of year, this year of all years.
posted by rodlymight at 7:52 PM on December 23, 2020

Obligatory Metafilter thread: Agrarianism in the United Federation of Planets.

On the one hand, Dr. Taber I think underestimated the capabilities as far as recycling. On the other hand, this really does bring up issues of land use and classicism.

Picard"s family is, in this supposedly utopian society, landowners. Picard's alcoholic, abusive brother is entitled to plant hundreds, maybe thousands of acres of a luxury crop, using antiquated methods. It's like a medieval demonstration village, where the actors actually shit in their water supply in the name of tradition.

Who decides who gets a huge rambling estate, who has a restaurant in New Orleans, and who lives in a small cottage in the woods? There's major elements of wealth and land usage brought up here that Star Trek never addresses
posted by happyroach at 10:22 PM on December 23, 2020 [2 favorites]

Maybe in a post-scarcity world, land ownership isn't that appealing. It's a lot of work, for one thing, and if financial security and food production is no longer a problem, maybe only a few weirdos want to run vineyards or restaurants. Land no longer equals wealth no longer equals power.

Also if you want a farm life, you can join a colony group.

Also also, birth control is a solved problem so overpopulation is not an issue. Women tend to have none or one or two babies when allowed to choose family size, so between that and people living off planet, it's very possible Earth's overall population is lower, maybe much lower.
posted by emjaybee at 11:43 AM on December 25, 2020 [3 favorites]

So, what is sythehol, anyway? As a kid who had never drank alcohol before I just accepted that it tasted like alcohol without any of the effects, but as an adult who knows how poorly non-alcoholic beer sells that doesn't make sense. So I figure it has to do SOMETHING, like maybe you can get tipsy but just never drunk enough to fistfight your brother in a mud puddle.
posted by ckape at 11:53 AM on December 27, 2020

IIRC there was once a reference to synthehol having an effect (a buzz, I suppose) but you "never lose control."
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 12:44 PM on December 27, 2020 [2 favorites]

Guinan headwear watch: Blue teardrop.
posted by Kyol at 6:41 PM on January 29, 2021

Well I really liked the B-plot in this one. It explained a lot about Worf that I had always wondered, like how he had managed to be such an ur-Klingon for someone raised by humans. I loved his parents. And I especially loved that we FINALLY got a fat character who was a nice person rather than a villain/asshole/butt of everyone's jokes/all of the above.

Stray observations: Picard slips up and calls his brother "Rahbert" (English pronunciation) instead of "Robair" (French pronunciation) at one point during their fight. Also they have both clearly drunk too much wine to remember the lyrics of "Auprès de ma blonde".

And it's all very well for Robert to get on his high horse about not having a replicator, he's evidently not the one who has to cook or clean up. Surprise surprise, the 24th century looks a lot like the 20th.
posted by Athanassiel at 4:37 AM on December 30, 2021 [1 favorite]

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