Star Trek: The Next Generation: Interface   Rewatch 
September 24, 2021 3:48 AM - Season 7, Episode 3 - Subscribe

When Cmdr. La Forge struggles to accept the death of his mother, his dad gets real with him, but Geordi gets virtual.

Often, these Memory Alpha background details measured several days in length, during which poster and FanFare were encouraged to fully acknowledge the emptiness of the experience:

• Joe Menosky's initial story, pitched two seasons before, had Riker in the virtual-reality suit, troubled by the death of his father, and seeing scenes of his Alaska cabin.

• The story was not developed further, in part because Michael Piller felt it would be too similar to the proposed plot for the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine pilot "Emissary". On 3 March 1993, Jeri Taylor sent a memo to Piller, suggesting that the idea be revived for the seventh season.

• The main character was changed to La Forge due to Riker's recent mind trip in "Frame of Mind", and the logic of using the engineer's VISOR implants.

• Taylor recalled, "We've had the family of everybody else on board. Every other character has had their family dealt with except Geordi and probably the main reason for doing it was there was an order to finally flesh out his character more than it had been, and to show that he didn't spring isolated from Zeus' forehead."

• Visual effects supervisor Ronald B. Moore was disappointed that the elaborate probe miniature was only seen once. The episode instead uses the convention of La Forge in place of the probe. Director Robert Wiemer explained that it would have been "emotionally unrewarding" to film the probe with 'Silva' while cutting to La Forge for reaction shots.

• LeVar Burton and guest stars Ben Vereen and Madge Sinclair all appeared in the 1977 television miniseries Roots. Vereen played Burton's character's grandson and Sinclair the wife of his character as an older man, played by John Amos.

• It was during the production of this episode that Ronald D. Moore felt TNG had gone as far as it could be taken. "I think it was a point where we were in the room and we were talking about bringing Geordi's mother in, and we all kind of looked at each other and we were like, 'This is sad. This is the best we can do? Is this the best we can do, is Geordi's mother?' It was such a "who cares" idea that we were just sort of, 'Oh man… This show has got to end'."

• Naren Shankar questioned whether the story's premise was futuristic enough. "To me, it's not real interesting from a gee-whiz standpoint of technology, because we weren't looking at technology four hundred years in the future. I think it's more like forty years into the future. It's almost an overdone type of theme these days. The technology seems out of proportion to the other technologies that we use on the Enterprise."

"I decided I missed my favorite son."
"Your only son, Ma."
- Silva La Forge, from a video message sent to her son Geordi

"While you claim to be just passing by, that is most likely an excuse to start a conversation about this uncomfortable subject. Am I correct?"
"No, Data. Sometimes just passing by means, just passing by."
"Then I apologise for my premature assumption. This particular poem has a lacuna of forty seven minutes. You may experience the emptiness with me if you wish."
- Data and Geordi

Poster's Log:
Another one whose title was so vague that I had no freakin' idea which episode this was before I looked. Maybe that's because the telepresence gimmick was pretty dull even in 1993, and so it didn't stick in my memory at all.

This episode has two impressive acting moments: Ben Vereen's appeal to Geordi, and the scene where Data coaxes Geordi into talking. Not a bad Geordi development installment, really. But the rest of it is so thin, so been-there-done-that, that I feel like this is one of the most skippable TNGs—not "so awful you MUST skip it," but "you wanna rush through season 7? Then this is an easy vote to skip." Although I did like how much the probe looks like Tan Ru.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (7 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This was another first watch for me, and I have to admit that I liked it, although I'll also admit that a big part of that was that I have a weakness for episodes that feature children who have lost parents, even though La Forge is an adult here. It's interesting that this was originally pitched as a Riker episode; I think that it worked better for La Forge (because of the technical nature of the action), but I also think that the scene where Riker talks about how he pretended that his mother was still alive is not just better than most of his characterization in the series, but better than the entirety of "The Icarus Factor." I was also touched by Data being there for Geordi. A few other things:

- Ben Vereen being Geordi's father makes this ep a mini-Roots reunion of sorts, although they didn't have scenes together.

- The only real problem with the telepresence rig IMO is that it kind of pokes a hole in the necessity of away missions; if they can send drones into hazardous environments, especially drones with that many functions and capabilities, then sending people (especially usually without environmental/protective suits) seems kind of dumb. I did like the suit that Geordi wore, which seemed a bit like a cleaned-up Borg outfit.

- Anyone still being alive if their ship actually landed on the solid core of a gas giant seems super-unlikely, in any case.

- Ron Moore's comments about "This show has got to end" struck me more as his being burnt out or at least less interested in strictly episodic TV. Even though we've still got a ways to go to "All Good Things...", we can reflect on how bumpy a ride it was to get this far, with all the changes in personnel (is there anyone left at this point, aside from strictly technical crew and most of the cast, who were there since S1?). And the show may be getting competition for story ideas at this point from other space operas that are starting to crop up.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:36 AM on September 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

What is it with these people and the La Forge family? Picard can disappear in a giant fireball and everyone's like "we're not giving up, we've got to save the captain, I just know he's still alive somehow" but a La Forge goes to the corner for cigarettes for five minutes and everyone's all "well, they're definitely dead, I hope we can all find the strength to move on". This whole episode was just:

PICARD: Geordi, your mother's ship is missing.
GEORDI: Oh no! We've got to find her!
PICARD: No, she's definitely dead.
GEORDI: Wait, what? But you just said--
RIKER: It's okay, Geordi. I had a dead mom too.
GEORDI: But she's just missing! It's only been a few days, and there's no sign of--
BEV: Geordi, as a doctor and a mother, your mom is super dead.
GEORDI: Ugh. Bev, remember when you wrote up Ensign Ro's death certificate? So does she. She was in the room.
TROI: It's okay to be upset with your dead mom's death, Geordi, since she died.
GEORDI: ARGH! [storms off to Data's quarters]
DATA: Geordi, do you need comforting because of your dead mo--
DATA: I apologize. Would you like to join me in my fun activity of staring at a blank screen for half an hour?
GEORDI: Sure, why not.
[They stare at a BLANK SCREEN for several seconds.]
posted by phooky at 7:37 AM on September 24, 2021 [11 favorites]

phooky, I get the point that you're making--that a lot of people who seemed to have died end up being not so dead--and the episode didn't go into a lot of detail as to what exactly happened to the Hera. On the other hand:

- Lots of people have died and stayed dead on the show. Resurrections aren't as inevitable as they are in, say, superhero comics.

- La Forge didn't just say that he thought that his mother might be alive, but that her ship magically jumped 300 light years and happened to be on the very same planet that they were investigating for the crash of another ship, because [a bunch of Treknobabble that was extraordinarily hand-wavey, even for Trek].

- They also had a memorial service within a few days for Ro and La Forge.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:58 AM on September 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

It's not that people don't die on this show; it's that usually they don't just disappear without explanation. Ro and Geordi were presumed lost in an explosion, for example. But a ship just up and vanishing without a trace? Maybe it was hijacked by Ferengi. Maybe some superintelligent floating heads teleported it to the galactic core. Maybe it was spirited away by a cloaked vessel. Maybe it went into a wormhole and ended up on the far side of the galaxy. This is all stuff that happens in TNG. "Believed dead, but actually secretly married a Romulan" is something that has happened not once, but twice. I am completely OK with Geordi taking more than a few hours to go from "can't find mom" to "mom is dead", because in the Star Trek universe, that's just object permanence. I think the episode could have been stronger if there'd been evidence that his mom was dead, because the rest of the crew's insistence that it was so would have felt less smug and weird. He could still believe that the alien impersonator was his mom even if her ship exploded, but everyone else's behavior wouldn't have seemed so, well, mean.
posted by phooky at 8:23 AM on September 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

Right--as previously stipulated, the ep didn't go into detail on what happened (or even likely happened) to the Hera.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:28 AM on September 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

Cards of the episode in the Star Trek CCG:
Dr. La Forge is one of those cards where your rare slot in the pack could be filled by a one-skill guy. Eh.

Incoming Message: Attack Authorization is an interesting idea: normally, Federation players couldn't attack in First Edition...this card got around that. Or, you could make your opponent go around it, and get pasted, if they have Treachery and no VIPs. Cute.
posted by StarkRoads at 11:29 AM on September 24, 2021

Yeah, this is an odd one. On one hand, I like a lot of it because it's got Madge Sinclair and Ben Vereen, both of whom I just love, and we get to see Geordi's parents, but on the other...well, you can see that no one on the crew had any commitment and left the actors hanging, and that's a really shitty thing to do. Plus they just handwave stuff, and we've never really even heard Geordi talk about his folks before, let alone seen them, so it feels like such a last-minute attempt to do right by a character they never did much right with before, and that makes me really irritated.

I had a really different reaction to Riker's speech--it reminded me of all the times people told me about their losses, unprompted, when I lost my twin sister, and just the...I don't know, unending litany of "my experience, which is so different from yours and the type of loss you're dealing with, should be a beacon of light in your darkness. Let me tell you all about meeeee." I don't know. Well-meant, I suppose, but just not what Geordi really needs to hear and maybe instead of giving him a wake-up call about wanting to believe his mom's alive, you could, you know, show some compassion for his individual emotional state and not tell stories about you. Maybe lend him a hand and see if you can figure out what's going on.

Also, that ending. Oof. "Hey I'm going to reprimand you and put it in your permanent record." "'kay thanks bye." THE END.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 12:54 PM on September 24, 2021 [4 favorites]

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