"I never lie when I've got sand in my shoes."
This excellent episode gives us arguably the most intense Geordi since the show's inception, as he and the Enterprise crew discover Romulans far from the Neutral Zone, on the surface of Galorndon Core - just when a natural accident causes our erstwhile Engineer to be completely cut off from the ship.
If Data is the Pinocchio of this show, what is Geordi? They named the Engineer LaForge, perhaps a hint. Hephaestus was the Lord of the Forge in Greek mythology, the mis-made man who nonetheless is the perfect maker. Beyond his role on the ship, though, there's more - because Geordi has a specific mind-set defined by boundless optimism and willingness to try new things. Geordi, of George: Saint George, he who kills dragons. Who tilts at windmills. No, if we have to identify Geordi as some sort of archetype, he's got to be the Don Quixote of the ship. Where Data seeks innocence and humanity, Geordi seeks an ideal.
His questing is tested in this episode. I found myself throughout increasingly impressed by Geordi's ability to shrug off negativity and channel his concern and frustration into positive action. He's down a hole? He'll climb out. He's knocked out by aliens? He'll joke about sandy footwear. His tricorder goes dead? Rewire the VISOR. It's a unique approach nobody else has, except maybe Miles O'Brien.
The approach is tested when one of those barriers turns out to be an angry Romulan who isn't supposed to be on the planet. How do you reach someone who's determined to be an enemy? For LaForge, the answer is to try and be a friend, but this can't work for everyone. Worf as a counterpoint was fascinating. If the people who killed my parents came begging me for a kidney, would I help? Probably, but I might drink a lot of vodka first. I thought Picard was insensitive at several points during their discussion; I don't think he fully acknowledged the depth of Worf's pain. I understand the potential political benefit of saving the life of a Romulan, but if it was your mom and dad, what would you do?
The off-note in this episode were the Romulans themselves, who seemed extremely stiff at times, and the rest of the Enterprise crew. Picard gave so many dire warnings I was ready to call him Giles. We all get the Romulans are antagonistic. You don't have a neutral zone unless someone is decidedly not neutral! He was more Picard when trying to talk to Worf. His expression when Beverly Crusher announced the death of the Romulan was fascinating to examine.
While the ending was fairly happy - war averted, the Federation crew safe, Geordi returned - this does set the stage for potential more intergalactic drama with the Romulans. Looking forward to it!
Bits and Pieces
Geordi's expression when he realizes the Romulans put "defective" children to death. Throughout the cultural gulf is palpable!
Wesley inventing the beacon that saves Geordi, and Geordi recognizing it was Wesley's invention.
I'm inclined to think ten more minutes would have seen Worf capitulate and let Patahk have his ribosomes.
Patahk: Come close to me, Klingon. Let me die with my hands at your throat.
Worf: There is a substance within my cells which you need to survive.
Patahk: Then you've come to hear me beg for my life?
Patahk: I would rather die than pollute my body with Klingon filth!
Picard: Commander, both our ships are ready to fight. We have two extremely powerful and destructive arsenals at our command. Our next actions will have serious repercussions. We have good reason to mistrust one another, but we have better reasons to set our differences aside. Now, of course, the question is, who will take the initiative? Who will make the first gesture of trust? The answer is, I will.
A fantastic episode, and one I think will wear well. Four out of four neutrino transmission machines.