Time for some tough love, Picard!
I’m going through “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and reviewing every episode, complete with commentary and a grade from A-F. I’ve also included a score and comment from my wife, who has never seen the show before. There are SPOILERS for each episode below.
“The Best of Both Worlds Part II”
Picard remains a Borg as the Enterprise attempts to keep stride with the Borg cube heading towards Earth. The Borg use Picard’s knowledge as Locutus of Borg to massacre Starfleet at Wolf 359, but Riker formulates a plan to recapture Picard by sending an away team in under cover of sci-fi magic. Data integrates himself into the collective and discovers that he can input a code into the collective. The order to sleep is integrated into the Borg and the self-destruct, causing Picard to return to his humanity in the process.
Look, TNG can do two-part episodes that end well! Seriously, though, this is a phenomenal episode. There is all kinds of awesome action with the chase of the Borg Cube and the destruction of the (pathetic) Mars defense perimeter (seriously, we need better defense for Earth, people!). The action, however, really serves only as a drive for the drama, which is found throughout. The continued tension between Shelby and Riker is interesting, but the real star is once again Picard.
There are two scenes which really show how incredible Picard’s character is. There is a scene that shows Picard still on the Borg ship and they are adding components to him. A single tear goes down the side of his face. That tear does more emotionally than many speeches could have done. The investment that TNG has placed into its viewers through Picard’s continued characterization pays in dividends in scenes like this. We, as viewers, can intuitively sense what’s happening in Picard’s mind at this point, knowing that he is feeling great remorse but is being controlled.
The scene at the end also brings Picard’s character into focus powerfully. We leave him staring into the vastness of space, surely a man who has been changed forever.
This is a great episode, and one which deserves its place among the fan favorites. It’s a reminder of what makes Trek so great.
Grade: A “The episode has an incredible narrative with the right mix of action, drama, and characterization.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: A “It was a compelling conclusion to last season’s cliffhanger.”
The Enterprise is set for some maintenance and shore leave on Earth is granted. Picard goes to visit his family while Beverly Crusher recovers some items from her deceased husband. Worf’s family comes to the ship to visit. Picard and his brother don’t get along. One of his friends from Earth tries to get him to join a development project. Dr. Crusher finds a recording of her husband intended for Wesley, while Worf deals with balancing his shame from his Klingon lineage with his human lineage. Picard and his brother fight, leading to reconciliation.
Wow. I gotta say I’m blown away by how excellent this episode is. I always thought it was super boring, but I haven’t seen this one since I was probably around 13-14 years old and the impact of it didn’t have the force it does now. (Well, that makes me sound old!) This time watching “Family” was an just an incredibly impactful experience.
Worf’s family is delightful. His parents dote on him, which is just the opposite of what one may have expected for people who would adopt a Klingon. To see Worf’s father get so excited over the Enterprise and have him talk about how he read all the manuals is just a great touch, and his mother’s understanding alongside his father’s rambunctiousness is just a perfect balance. His interaction with them also brings in threads from earlier (like Sins of the Father) and provides viewers with reflection alongside great character development. I don’t honestly remember if his parents show up again in the series (I’m pretty sure they do), but I’m hopeful. They’re great.
Picard once more carries the episode, however, as his struggles with his brother, indecisiveness about his future, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (never called that) all come into play. The scene in which Picard finally snaps and starts beating down Robert after being pushed into it is one of the most amazing moments in the series so far, as he breaks down and cries; “I should have been stronger.” His brother’s reaction is unexpected, but perfect: he basically just says “Deal with it. It will be hard, but deal.” Although they are harsh words, the implication, however, is that Robert will be there for Picard. They don’t like each other, but they do love each other.
Wesley’s side plot is also worth a mention as he learns more about his father through a holo-recording. It’s a touching moment that stands on its own right.
“Family” is one of the best episodes so far in TNG. At this point, that’s really saying something. TNG shows, with this episode, that it is fully capable of standing purely on the strength of its characters’ stories.
Grade: A+ “A stunning achievement of a completely character-driven episode which remains utterly compelling throughout.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: A “It offered insights into the background of Picard, Worf, and Wesley.”
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