Wednesday, August 06, 2014

TNG Flashback: Galaxy's Child

When is a holodeck episode not really a holodeck episode? When it's the fourth season's "Galaxy's Child."

Dr. Leah Brahms, designer of the Enterprise's propulsion system, is coming aboard to inspect the engines. Geordi LaForge, having worked with a holographic version of her to solve a previous crisis, is now keen to meet her in person. But his expectations are thwarted, as Brahms proves to be a willful and prickly personality. She's upset at how he's messed up "her" engines -- and Geordi's past with her simulacrum threatens to sour their relationship even further. But soon the two are forced to work through their issues to solve a new problem: a newborn space-based life-form has taken the Enterprise as its "mother," and is rapidly draining the ship of power.

By this point, roughly halfway through the run of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the series had experimented a bit with continuity between episodes -- most notably in the ongoing storyline surrounding Worf. Still, this was far more the exception than the rule, with an episode like this still an anomaly for the largely episodic series. In particular, Geordi's past "holodeck romance" seems like an odd thing to revisit -- particularly when you consider that this script was turned in by Maurice Hurley, the show runner who left after season two, and who wasn't even around during the third season episode that introduced Leah Brahms. (An uncredited rewrite on this script was done by staff writers Jeri Taylor, who punched up the Geordi-Leah relationship, and Ronald Moore, who worked on the sci-fi half of the story.)

Still, it's a good thing they did decide to revisit that past episode, however it came about. LeVar Burton and guest star Susan Gibney had a great rapport in their previous episode. And they do again here, in a "reunion" that has some fun twists: the real Leah Brahms is married, and at first doesn't actually like Geordi very much.

All this story is really just scratching the surface on some very interesting questions about privacy and etiquette. Geordi has violated Brahms' privacy in a rather serious way by making a holographic recreation of her. Sure, it wasn't the sort of perverse X-rated fantasy you could buy in Quark's Bar (different series, after all), but neither was it a completely chaste, completely professional encounter. And speaking of privacy, Brahms is able to run Geordi's program without his permission. (Something we've seen before, when K'Ehleyr used Worf's exercise program.) And I couldn't even begin to count all the times we've seen someone just walk in on someone else's holodeck program. It seems there isn't much expectation of privacy in the future.

Which was perhaps prescient on the part of the writers. This episode, years before social media, online dating, employers researching prospective hires on the internet, and more... it all seems to touch on a lot of issues that are rather prominent today. But if you leave aside the (for the moment) science fiction element of this story, Geordi frankly comes off as a bit of a creepy stalker in this episode. He's offering to make Dr. Brahms her favorite dinner, calling her by her first name when she hasn't grown that friendly with him, and plotting a romance with a woman he's never actually met. And he deliberately hides from her the reason he knows so much about her.

Bottom line, I'm in Dr. Brahms' corner on this. She's rightly outraged when she discovers Geordi's program. And I think the writers just took it for granted that we'd be on his side here. Geordi fires off an indignant speech about how all he's guilty of is trying to be her friend, but in this century, I think she might have enough cause to secure a restraining order against him.

All that said, I still do generally like this episode. Geordi and Leah, Burton and Gibney, really do play well together as characters and actors. When they solve the conundrum-of-the-week in the final act, it's a refreshing reminder of what made their previous episode, "Booby Trap," so entertaining. Their character driven story gets far more coverage than the sci-fi jeopardy, and the episode is better for it.

Other observations:
  • The episode makes good use of Guinan, who tries to give Geordi advice he doesn't want to hear at first. Particularly memorable is when she updates the old rose-colored glasses analogy, referring to Geordi's "old VISOR."
  • This episode marked another of the occasional efforts to use CG for the visual effects. The still young technology yields rather unconvincing results here.
  • Totally nerdy, nitpicky point here, but ever since "Coming of Age" made such a memorable plot point out of telling us that the only matter/antimatter ratio that works is 1:1, it grates on me when -- as in this episode -- they talk about tweaking the mix. Boom!
  • While this was not the first Next Generation episode to feature the Jeffries tubes, it was the first time they showed up in their lasting design, a narrow duct-like space the characters have to crawl through.
  • The Blu-ray release of season 4 includes a brief deleted exchange from this episode. Picard quotes the beginning of a nursery rhyme, and Worf of all people is the one to finish the rhyme. (But then, he was raised by humans, after all.)
I might have preferred the version of this episode that truly examined what a creeper Geordi is being here, but what we got is still fairly entertaining. I give "Galaxy's Child" a B.


Jared said...

Leah & Geordi come up again in the alternate future timeline in All Good Things. Geordi says they have 3 children. Makes you wonder if Geordi married her after divorce or if he was "the other man" while she was married. Also, that means they were quite old when they had kids.

Francis K. Lalumiere said...

First Officer's Log:
- I don't remember seeing the second floor of engineering in a long time.
- When Troi first shows up on the bridge, she walks in Picard's direction until she comes into physical contact with him. I realize the framing of the shot made this necessary, but how often do you rub elbows with your boss during a standup meeting?
- Is this the first time we see Geordi in casual attire? I can't recall any previous instance of this.
- The whole notion of a space baby being "breast fed" by the Enterprise seems more and more ridiculous each time I rewatch this episode. Maybe it's time I stopped. :)