Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Next Generation, Season 7: Interface

The Next Generation, Season 7
Airdate: October 4, 1993
154 of 176 aired
154 of 176 produced


Commander LaForge is testing a new remote interface that sends sensory inputs directly to his brain via the impants for his VISOR. The probe will be used to rescue a trapped science vessel, caught low in the atmosphere in the gas giant. Before he can begin, he receives startling news: the USS Hera, commanded by his mother, has gone missing. Attempting to use work to distract himself while he waits for news, he makes a shocking discovery. His mother, apparently alive and well, trapped on the science vessel, asks Geordi for his help in saving her and her ship.

Geordi tries out the new Nintendo Wii controller. Verdict: Real gamers still prefer buttons.


Kevin: This episode is not without its problems, but it's still the best in the season so far, and there's a lot to recommend it. We get to explore the life a sadly underutilized main character, and for once it is completely outside the realm of romantic relationships. He's mentioned before he is the child of career Starfleet officers, so it was nice that they remembered that. It's also a nice touch to show that his parents' work physically separated them. With all the families on the Enterprise, it's nice to show that that is the exception not the rule. I thought they did a good job of showing Geordi's family working as a real family. He loves his family, but they're not terribly close. It's nice to have an option other than the Waltons or a dysfunctional mess.

Matthew: I too thought the family scenes were among the best in the episode. I do have questions about when the "Geordi blind in house on fire" incident occurred in the timeline. From all we've seen, rising up the ranks to the captaincy is a full time occupation. Did dad stay at home with the kids while mom was away on mission? Anyway, as you say, it's nice to see Geordi fleshed out, and it's nice to see an aspect of "life in the 24th century" fleshed out, however briefly.

Kevin: The interface is a neat idea, but it always had the touch of a technology in need of a problem. Wouldn't it be a lot easier and safer to just send this data to two-dimensional screens, or even a real time holodeck simulation? I suppose the presence of a human mind to process that much data and be able to make sense of it could be useful, particularly for someone with Geordi's VISOR-related skills. It just seems like a lot to risk for something that could be comparably accomplished with a less immersive experience.

Matthew: This was the sci-fi element to the story (the currently non-existent technology and its effects on people) but I don't think it was explored particularly well. It was really only used as a source of peril and a means of communicating plot information. I would have liked to see its effects psychologically and emotionally on a human user. Not addiction necessarily (since we've done that on the show now), but something else, maybe even physical after-effects. It might have been nice if Geordi were to have hallucinations outside the suit, too, and to press skeptical questions about how we are to judge whether anything is real, given our being locked into a flawed frame of reference. The difference between human and machine perception could have been interesting.

Kevin: The character drama was pretty good. Geordi in denial and his friends and colleagues having to push gently but firmly against that was nice to see. I like the subtlety of the interplay in scenes like Picard shutting down Geordi's plan. I do think this was another example of the "I understand why you refused to follow orders, so I won't punish you." It was interesting seeing Data choose to help Geordi. It was fun watching him work out why helping Geordi was the best option.

Matthew: I agree on the drama. I loved the counseling scene yet again. But the lack of consequences, and Data's willingness to help Geordi disobey a direct order TWO EPISODES after having plotted the downfall of the Federation, really bugged me. Are we sure Data's ethical subroutines have been turned back on yet? This should not be a case where Picard lets it slide with a slap on the wrist. This should be a case where an officer is punished for letting his emotions cloud his judgment, and for disobeying direct orders from superiors who are not similarly clouded. If stuff like this doesn't get punished, what does?

Kevin: I think the aliens got short shrift in this one. We've done the "aliens communicate in a way deadly to the last people they tried with" scenario before, and it felt a little flat here. The episode seems to make it clear that Geordi was the one responsible for seeing his mother, that it was not a conscious attempt at deception, but I think that killed a little of the interest. Faux-Captain LaForge didn't quite seem developed enough to have credibly convinced Geordi of what was going on.

Matthew: I liked the generally creepy feel of the mother parroting Geordi's statements. But sadly I am in agreement over the general lack of oomph in the alien story. Yet another "subspace lifeform" that has trouble communicating. Yawn. It did not lend itself to any tension or viewer interest. I would have preferred it if Geordi's hallucinations were a product of his emotional state combined with the technology of the interface.


Kevin: We've said it before and we'll say it again. LeVar Burton is a really good actor. He portrayed a range of emotions with skill and subtlety and no shouting. His scenes of watching his mother and talking with his father were really good, especially given he had to act that to a blank screen. Data got a nice turn as Geordi's friend. Usually Data is the one going for some out there idea. It was nice to see Data reciprocate. It does a nice job of showing his growth.

Matthew: LeVar Burton had the challenge of walking around empty sets and narrating his actions in a way that maintains our interest. He achieved his goal. He has proven himself time and again with technobabble scenes, so it was nice to see him flex his emotional muscles a bit. I really believed his desperation and self-delusion. The other standout for me was Marina Sirtis. She was given a counseling scene with Geordi that was right in her wheelhouse, and she delivered a solid double to the wall.

Kevin: I liked Ben Vereen as Geordi's father. He gave off a vibe of career officer who was a little distant from his family. Madge Sinclair did an okay job for me as Silva LaForge. I thought he messages to Geordi were nice and felt very warm and natural and slightly pushy in a way that read as real. I thought her scenes on the Raman were somewhat flat, though that may have been the lack of any real character for the character in those scenes.

Matthew: See, to me, Madge Sinclair's flat affect in the interface scenes really worked. It gave the scenes a creepy, dream-like vibe, where you're seeing your parent but they're acting like a zombie or something. I liked both of the actors' portrayals of communications scenes. It's a tough job, to ask someone to emote while sitting in a chair without another actor to bounce off of, but they both did it well. I sort of couldn't get over the fact that I was listening to the captain of the Saratoga in Star Trek Iv. "Come in... please. Come in... please."

Production Values

Kevin: The cuts of Geordi sans VISOR and the probe interacting with the enviorment were fun, and the visual effects to enhance or blur the view were pretty effective in telegraphing Geordi's experience. I thought it was odd we never actually got to see the Raman, even as an Oberth re-use. According to Memory Alpha, the producers intended a new model, but scrapped it for budget reasons. The interiors were a nice mashup of other Federation sets, I thought.

Matthew: I thought the "fire" effect of the subspace alien was lame. Like, really lame. Like, TOS has better effects lame. But beyond that miss, everything else was more than adequate. As you say, it was nice seeing Burton out of the visor. The atmosphere on the shipwreck sets was really good, and the video effects (blurring, black and white, etc.) on the interface scenes was effective.


Kevin: This is a solid 3 for me. The character moments are there, but the plot with the aliens never quite gels, and it drags the pacing of the episode for me. Still, there's some ambition here, and that's nice. The episode remains sufficiently focused on Geordi in an interesting way for me to comfortably put this in average territory.

Matthew: I'm vacillating between a 2 and a 3. The character stuff is solid. But the show is kind of a bore, and the science fiction is woefully under-developed. The tie breaker for me is going to be the unbelievability of Data disobeying Picard's orders so soon after "Descent." There is just no way in my mind that he wouldn't be shut down, have his head screwed off, and analyzed with a microscope, looking for what's still broken. So I'm going to go with a 2 for a total of 5.


  1. Picard and Riker are both Federation heroes. It seems unlikely to me that they wouldn't be recognized most places they go.

  2. Oops.. no clue how this posted to the wrong episode. Sorry, hehe.