Star Trek: Ronald D. Moore Recalls Fighting For TNG Episode "Family"

One of the most memorable episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation is the season four episode "Family." It has the distinction as one of the most grounded episodes of the science fiction series as it followed what many regard as its best in the season three cliffhanger "The Best of Both Worlds." Following the defeat of the Borg following the season four premiere, the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise came up on shore leave as Starfleet recovers from losses it suffered at the hands of the Borg. Ronald D. Moore, who wrote the episode with Les Landau directing, spoke to The Hollywood Reporter for its 30th anniversary about how the series' most influential executives in creator Gene Roddenberry and EP Rick Berman showed disdain for the episode.

Star Trek: Ronald D. Moore Recalls Fighting For TNG Episode
David Birkin as Rene, Jeremy Kemp as Robert, Samantha Eggar as Marie, and Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Family." Image courtesy of ViacomCBS

The focus of "Family" was Capt Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) who returned to the family vineyard in France following his traumatic experience from his assimilation by the Borg. The reunion dredged up skeletons with his obsession with work for the Federation and how it affected his relationship with his family namely his brother (Jeremy Kemp) Robert Picard, not to be confused with actor Robert Picardo from Voyager. The two became estranged and Jean-Luc buried himself in his work. Not everything was icy in the Picard vineyard as he got along fine with his sister-in-law Marie (Samantha Eggar) and his nephew Rene Picard (David Birkin).

"Gene really hated it," Moore recalled talking with Roddenberry, Berman, and showrunner Michael Pillar. "[He] just kind of went off on how bad the story was. He hated the concept, said 'I don't get this, this has no place in the 24th century.' He basically said, 'We can't do this show.'" Ironically, what Roddenberry hated about the episode, fans loved according to Moore, who also said the creator didn't like the way how the episode implied about the way Jean-Luc was raised by his parents and how his existing quarrel with his brother didn't represent what the series was about in his 24th-century utopia. He was however receptive about a fistfight between Jean-Luc and his father.

Internal Fight for the Classic Star Trek Episode

"We were like: 'Fight with his father? What?'", Moore says with a laugh. "You want him to fight with his 90-year-old father or something?'" Moore said he left the meeting a little demoralized. "That hurt," he recalled. "I was kind of stunned. I didn't understand how he couldn't see the potential for what could be a great episode. It was only my second year on the show, and the only creative meeting I ever had with Gene Roddenberry was on 'Family.' I just kind of kept my mouth shut for the most part, but I felt a little crushed. Michael fought really hard to convince Rick to go forward with it." Moore credited Piller for his part in fighting for the episode. "Michael felt that Picard couldn't go through an experience like that and just 'go back to work' the next week as if nothing happened," Moore said Piller championed the core idea for the episode up to Berman and got approval for Moore to write it.

The original plan for a follow-up episode, according to Moore, involved "Picard going home [to Earth] while the Enterprise is repaired in orbit, and then there was a B-story happening on the ship, where Beverly [Dr. Crusher, played by Gates McFadden] was seeing some kind of warp [engine] effects and things were disappearing or something. It was sort of the classic 'character story' down below and the [sci-fi] action plot upstairs." The originally conceived B-story ended up the episode "Remember Me" later in the season. Moore ended up re-exploring Picard's past trauma again in Star Trek: First Contact (1996), which most regard as the best TNG film.

Sadly, it would be the only time we see Picard's brother and nephew as they were killed off-screen due to a fire in the 1994 film Star Trek: Generations. "We were able to do a show like Star Trek, with sci-fi ideas, and still do a very character, intimate piece that had no action," he said. "I'm very proud of the fact that it's the only episode in the history of Star Trek to never go to the bridge once. The only threat was the character drama, and what was at stake for them as people." The Next Generation and the sequel series Star Trek: Picard are both available to stream on CBS All Access.

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About Tom Chang

I'm a follower of pop culture from gaming, comics, sci-fi, fantasy, film, and TV for over 30 years. I grew up reading magazines like Starlog, Mad, and Fangora. As a professional writer for over 10 years, Star Wars was the first sci-fi franchise I fell in love with. I'm a nerd-of-all-trades.
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