Geordi uses a virtual reality probe to explore a wrecked ship inside a gas giant, but he's preoccupied by the disappearance of his mother's ship.
Geordi La Forge, Data, and Beverly Crusher are testing an interface which allows La Forge to use the VISOR circuitry in his brain, along with an interface suit, to control a probe by remote control. Via this connection, Geordi can use the probe to virtually enter areas that would be too dangerous for actual crew members to enter, and the probe transmits information directly into Geordi's cerebral cortex, providing the sensation that he is actually there.
As the crew prepare to use the probe to investigate the wreckage of the USS Raman, which became trapped in the atmosphere of Marijne VII, Captain Jean-Luc Picard learns from Admiral Marcus Holt that the USS Hera, under the command of Geordi's mother, Silva La Forge, was lost during a routine courier run operating out of Deep Space 3. A massive search mounted by the USS Excelsior and the USS Noble failed to discover any trace of the ship, and all hands were presumed lost. Geordi learns from his father that a memorial service has already been planned for the crew on the planet Vulcan, which seems premature to Geordi.
Despite the apparent loss of his mother, Geordi interfaces with the probe and goes to see if there are survivors on the Raman. He finds that there is no one left alive on the ship. However, Geordi believes that he encounters his mother on the ship, who states that she and the crew of the Hera are actually trapped on the planet's surface. Continued use of the probe soon exposes Geordi to unhealthy levels of neural stimulation, forcing his disconnection from the interface.
Geordi becomes convinced that his mother was on the Raman, and wants to use the probe to communicate with his mother. Dr. Crusher and Picard refuse to allow him to use the interface suit again, and attempt to explain that it is highly improbable that he actually communicated with his mother who was last seen over 300 light years away. Geordi decides to use the interface suit anyway and, with Data's reluctant assistance, returns to the Raman and again encounters the being who appears to be his mother. Geordi eventually learns that she is actually a subspace creature native to the gas giant's lower atmosphere who became trapped when the Raman entered, then left the atmosphere. These creatures inadvertently killed the crew of the Raman in their attempt to communicate, but were able to successfully read Geordi's mind via his interface with the probe. Geordi takes the ship closer to the planet so that she and others like her trapped on the ship can return home.
Finally, Geordi realizes that his mother is in fact most likely dead, and that his encounter with the subspace creature enabled him to, in some fashion, say goodbye to her.
"Geordi... your mother's gone."
"Yeah, well, you can think that if you want, but until I see some hard evidence I'm not going to give up hope."
- - Mr. LaForge and Geordi
"Do you need to be comforted?"
- - Data to Geordi, after learning that his mother on the Hera is missing
- 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. This was changed due to Riker having recently had a mind trip (in "Frame of Mind"), and the logic of using Geordi's VISOR implants. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion; Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
- The script received an uncredited polish by René Echevarria. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)
- The scene where Riker consoles Geordi of his loss was written by Jeri Taylor when it was discovered the show was running short. The scene was not filmed until after "Phantasms", three episodes later. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)
- Taylor commented, "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 [this episode] 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." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
- Visual effects supervisor Ronald B. Moore was disappointed that the elaborate probe miniature was only seen once. The episode instead uses the convention of Geordi 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 Geordi for reaction shots. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)
- 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." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
- Science adviser André Bormanis noted, "There are prototypes of that kind of thing already, although tying it straight to the brain will take much longer." (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)
- This episode contains the first 24th century reference to the USS Excelsior. The next such reference would be made in VOY: "Flashback".
- LeVar Burton and guest stars Ben Vereen and Madge Sinclair all appeared in the 1977 TV miniseries Roots. Vereen played Burton's character's grandson and Sinclair the wife of his character as an older man, played by John Amos.
- While they had not actually appeared together in Roots, this episode marked the fourth TV appearance of Sinclair and Burton as mother and son.
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 78, April 1994.
- As part of the TNG Season 7 DVD collection.
Links and References
- Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard
- Jonathan Frakes as Commander William T. Riker
- LeVar Burton as Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge
- Michael Dorn as Lieutenant Worf
- Gates McFadden as Doctor Beverly Crusher
- Marina Sirtis as Counselor Deanna Troi
- Brent Spiner as Lieutenant Commander Data
- Lena Banks as an operations division ensign
- Michael Braveheart as Ensign Martinez
- Joyce Robinson as Ensign Gates
47; ammonia; black cluster; Breen; cerebral cortex; Deep Space 3; Doosodarians; Excelsior, USS; Ferengi; God; Hera, USS; interface probe; inverse warp cascade; La Forge, Ariana; lacuna; low stationary orbit; Marijne VII; methane; nervous system; neural synapse; Noble, USS; palio; permanent record; poetry; psychosomatic response, Raman, USS; roller coaster; Starfleet Academy; subspace funnel; tractor beam; trionic initiator; troposphere; VISOR; Vulcan (planet); Vulcan; warp bubble; warp coil; warp field; warp funnel.
| Previous episode:|
| Star Trek: The Next Generation|
| Next episode:|
"Gambit, Part I"