Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Next Generation, Season 4: Galaxy's Child

The Next Generation, Season 4
"Galaxy's Child"
Airdate: March 11, 1991
89 of 176 produced
89 of 176 aired


Geordi learns an uncomfortable lesson in distinguishing between expectation and reality when Dr. Leah Brahms, a woman he has secretly and anonymously admired for over a year, visits the Enterprise in person. He finds out that not only is a holodeck simulation a poor substitute for the real thing, but that when you idealize someone else, you rarely see things about them that are out of touch with your own desires. They must overcome their differences, however, to save the Enterprise from a space-borne organism with designs on the ship's power.

Geordi has always dreamed of pushing in Dr. Brahms' stool.

Matthew: This episode is a little schizophrenic. The teaser and thus the A story focus on Geordi and his crush on a holographic representation of Leah Brahms. Then, gears shift, and the B story ends up being a "Tin Man" rehash in which the Enterprise inadvertently kills the mother of a space-borne organism. While it can be said that the stories relate to one another, inasmuch as Geordi and the real Dr. Brahms must find a way to wean the offspring off the ship's power and get it to take to open space, the marriage is a bit unconventional. The science fiction aspects of the A story are left untouched for the most part - namely the ethics and effects on society of a machine with the ability to create sex partners patterned after real persons, without their consent. This is a really interesting notion that is dispensed with by a line of dialogue from Brahms, about her feeling "outraged, invaded, [and] violated." The sci-fi ends up having to rest on the B story, and it's a bit flaccid, being so reminiscent of "Tin Man," and not really delving into the realities of a space-dwelling animal.

Kevin: I liked that they brought back the Dr. Brahams story. I liked that they didn't conveniently forget the events of Booby Trap. But I agree, they leave the really juicy parts of the Brahms story untouched. I would have loved a cameo by Barclay. He could have just stood in the background of Engineering with an arched eyebrow.

Matthew: So - the A story. It is certainly gratifying to revisit the Brahms story. The chemistry that was evident in "Booby Trap" was too much fun to ignore. The writers wisely turn the tables on Geordi, with a teaser that sets up the conflict between the real Brahms and La Forge, owing to his modifications to her engine specs. That said, I think the writers put themselves in corners they can't elegantly escape from. Brahms stars out SO cold and brusque, then flips out to such a high degree when she discovers Geordi's past dalliance with her replica, that her eventual warming to Geordi seems unnatural. I like how the writing didn't shy away from portraying Geordi as kind of creepy and stalker-ish. When he kept finishing her sentences, indicating personal knowledge of her, and talked about how he makes a great fungilli, my skin kind of crawled. What I don't like is that the turnaround in Brahms' feelings was so quick, and that Geordi doesn't seem to learn a lesson about not being creepy - he just learns not to idealize and project the qualities of his realistic simulacra onto real persons. Why did she end up warming to him? Was she flattered by the notion of someone wanking over her image?

Kevin: The pasta line creeps me out, too. Even beyond the science fiction elements of the holo-Brahms story, there's a great but missed opportunity to explore "The Nice Guy" trope. I went to the University of Chicago for undergrad, and Matt and Kelly live and/or work in Hyde Park, and we can tell you, the place is overrun with "The Nice Guy," the guy who seems decent but can never seal the deal. The flip side is the sense of entitlement the Nice Guy seems to feel toward getting the girl because he's a Nice Guy, and the resentment that occurs when he doesn't. Even if we hadn't explored the ethics of holographic masturbatory fantasy, it would have been an interesting look into sexual mores of the 24th centruy and Geordi's character to follow that story a little longer. I will say while her outrage did subside quickly, I am happy the story did not reward Geordi with an actual romance. There's a thing our society does, particularly in its visual media that treats borderline stalking behavior as "romantic" and it makes my job and by association my life much more difficult. Boys get told just keep increasingly aggressively pursuing her and eventually she'll realize you're the one for her, cause obviously she's too dumb for her initial (several) refusals to be treated as valid. (See: Steve Urkel)

Matthew: The B story, while it provided the opportunity for some nice special effects, was really kind of ho hum. It did provide a few nice acting moments, as well. It just wasn't very interesting, or original. It was especially irritating when several characters express that "this has never been seen before," or "how wondrous and new" things are. It's hard for any fan to stomach this, given another story about an unpredictable space-borne organism that puts the ship in danger.

Kevin: This was an episode looking for some danger to propel the drama. Unlike Booby Trap, with a fun and well integrated danger, this one falls flat. I would not have minded jettisoning the whole plot and focusing more on Brahms and LaForge. Their scenes crawling around the ship acting mostly like professionals were quite good. The technobabble felt credible and internally consistent, and the sparring played well, portraying both Geordi's personal and professional disappointment.

Matthew: I don't have questions about how an organism could evolve to survive in near-vacuum microgravity. What I do question is the utility of the evolution of a tractor-beam dampening field as a defensive weapon. Why would you want to keep your attacker close to you? The highest survival value would seem to be in a mechanism that pushes an attacker away, scares it, or whatnot. Anyway, speaking of logic questions, the A story contains a whopper - Geordi is portrayed as so interested in Brahms that he's memorized her... specs. But not the information about her marriage? Come ON. It could have been easily fixed if it had been made a fiancee - perhaps it wouldn't be in her records yet. And speaking of logic issues, are the Enterprise's power systems somehow compatible with energy that is out of sync with the energy vibration frequency of the entire universe? How can they alter this vibration by touching a button?


Matthew: There can be no doubt that this is a Geordi episode. LeVar Burton has the unenviable task of making an oogy, stalkery creep appealing. Well, he does it. That really says something about his personal charm and charisma. He was fun to watch when he was getting his quarters ready for his date. Despite all the creepiness that had transpired, his defense of the holodeck program was actually pretty convincing. It really is a fine performance, making the best of difficult material.

Kevin: Somewhere amongst Booby Trap, Transfigurations, and this episode, the writers as a collective decided making Geordi romantically disabled was a great idea. And that's sad. Burton is a gifted actor. He's warm and engaging, and clearly capable of holding an episode.Even when he was creepy, it was still hard not to identify with his disappointment and a tad of his desperation. It would have been awesome with a cleaner slate to let the amicable sparring be more fun and creep-free, like a Tracy/Hepburn comedy. But in the end, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, and he are just going to have to form a Facebook group for underutilized Star Trek characters, and we can show our love there.

Matthew: Susan Gibney is really, really good. She was good as friendly Brahms-o-gram, she was good as bitchy Brahms, and she was good in DS9's "Homefront" and "Paradise Lost." She read for the Janeway role in Voyager and - no knock on the wonderful Kate Mulgrew - I think she could have pulled it off. It's a real shame she didn't appear more in Trek as a regular. She portrays a good "inner life" to her characters, and she can deliver technobabble with actual feeling - her scene with technobabble expert LeVar Burton was a real tour de force. It almost made the B plot interesting.

Kevin: The scene in the Jeffries tube was awesome, and she pitched it perfectly to show she was finally beginning to genuinely warm to him. She was so defensive about her design, she would have needed to be really blown away to get around that, and she portrayed that perfectly. She has the same skill as the late, lamented K'Ehyler, to spit a technobabble line with absolutely sincerity. I believe Suzie Plakson's email password is pah dok cha, and I believe that Susan Gibney really heard a harmonic variation in that Jeffries tube.

Matthew: Patrick Stewart had a nice scene in which me mourned he death of the mother creature. He really seemed distraught and it brought a bit of emotional weight to an otherwise dull story.

Kevin: I like Gates McFadden during the cesarean scene as well. "I would like to announce the birth of a large baby...something," was charmingly delivered.

Production Values

Matthew: The CGI of the alien creatures was really, really good, especially for 1991. I'm not saying it looked 3 dimensional or real in terms of texture, but the design was sound, the textures were convincing enough, and it never took me out of the action. The phaser c-section looked good. Especially good was the integration of the CGI with the shuttle-bay set, a view of it covering the open door from the inside.

Kevin: My only concern is that it is designed to appear as if it moves by flagellating its tail. You can't flagellate in a vaccuum, but that's a tiny complaint. The textures are quite well done, and the view through the shuttle bay was awesome.

Matthew: I did think of the flagellation, but took it to be a muscular contraction that generated energy waves in some manner. It was nice to see parts of the Utopia Planitia shipyard set again. Dr. Brahms' outfits were, well, stuffy and severe. So I guess they fit her new characterization. But I wasn't a big fan. The doppelganger effects in the holodeck were decent but not great. They still haven't gotten the lighting of the opticals down, and the interplay of light and shadow between two people lit by the same source.

Kevin: The purple number was okay, and I love her taste in earrings. I'm a sucker for a good piece of statement jewelry. Her statement: "Bitch, stop fucking with my engines." That's not an easy for jewelry to say. You can't just get those at a Forever 21.


Matthew: In the end, although I enjoyed most of this show, the retread B plot and the under cooked A plot leave this in average territory for me. It's a 3 that could have been more, but for the writing. The other elements are there. Anyway, I still always watch it during a TNG run-through on DVD.

Kevin: Yeah, the B-plot was a snooze, and felt like it was added to create the drama they couldn't quite figure out how to make with the more promising A-plot. The acting was above average, and the effects good to above average, but the slower B plot, and the lack of some real teeth in the resolution of A plot keep this at a 3. That makes a total of 6 from the two of us.


  1. Somewhat unrelated but....listening to Guinan's little reality check about Geordi's VISOR I started wondering - how does Geordi see anything at all in the Holodeck? Would the people/sets show up as matter, would they have heat readings like a regular person (it seems like that is what Geordi might see when he looks at people)?

  2. Well, in "Farpoint," it's established that much of what is in the holodeck is "Real," that is, replicated in the same way that food or a guitar would be. So One would have to assume that Geordi sees those objects just like he would see real objects. This seems to be confirmed in "Elementary Dear Data" when Geordi can easily read the holodeck drawing of the Enterprise.

    Now, as for holodeck people, two episodes come to mind. "1001001" seems to establish that holodeck people "feel" real to Riker, which I have to assume means in terms of body temperature, simulated respiration, and the like. So on that account, it sounds like people would be similar. In "Heart of Glory," we get a view through Geordi's VISOR at both Riker and Data (well, Data's stand-in anyway...). And he does see them differently, Data exuding some sort of energetic aura. Would a replicated person exude such an aura? I have my doubts, because presumably any replicated object would also exude such an aura.

    So, accepting that it's not established in canon whether Geordi sees holodeck objects differently or not, I'm going to guess no. Perhaps he can see at a fine-grained level of detail that the objects or people are simulated, like maybe they'd be too perfect or smooth or something.

  3. Also, thanks for commenting! These sorts of musings are perfect excuses to be serious nerds! :)

  4. I think it's 'Heart of Glory' where Geordi's visor image is projected on the viewscreen and Picard is fascinated by all the things he can see. Picard then asks how he can make sense of all the information his visor takes in and Geordi makes an analogy to listening to conversation at a cocktail party, and how you kind of just focus on what's relevant and tune out the background noise. Presumably Geordi may see a lot of other stuff associated with the holoprojection but just sort of filter it out in his brain???