Season Four has so many great episodes, but “Galaxy’s Child” is very much not one of them. Remember when I promised that I wouldn’t restrict coverage to the better episodes? Well, buckle up because this one is a doozy of a stinker.
Plot Recap: Picard informs La Forge that Leah Brahms intends to examine his engine modifications in person, and La Forge can barely contain his excitement. In case you didn’t remember Brahms, he helpfully summarizes the relevant portions of “Booby Trap” to Guinan. During the events of that episode, La Forge found it necessary to use the holodeck to recreate both the base design schematics and their designer, who happens to be an attractive lady engineer. La Forge being La Forge, when the two hit it off, he becomes romantically interested in the holodeck character. However, we’re given to believe that unlike Reg Barclay, he does not revisit the holodeck program in question. Guinan warns La Forge not to let his feelings for the holodeck recreation impair his ability to see the real Leah Brahms for who she is, and predictably, La Forge ignores Guinan’s good advice.
Meanwhile on the bridge, the Enterprise encounters a space slug and goes up to investigate. The slug proceeds to attack the ship, and Picard orders the use of phasers to discourage the slug from continuing its onslaught. Unfortunately, the slug perishes during the counterattack, and the slug’s offspring starts to struggle to free itself from its mother’s corpse. Crusher comes to the bridge to perform a C-section by phaser, and as the Enterprise prepares to leave the slug hanging around in space, baby slug attaches itself to the ship, draining the ship’s energy reserves like milk from its mother. Data figures out where the mother slug was headed, so Picard decides to deliver the baby slug to the asteroid belt. Unfortunately, Junior refuses to relinquish its spot on the hull, forcing Brahms and La Forge to work together to convince Junior to let go of the ship and return to its own kind. Of course, they manage, and despite her initial coldness toward La Forge and her discovery of his holodeck recreation of her, Brahms and La Forge become friends. They can’t become anything more, obviously, because she’s married, much to La Forge’s disappointment.
“Galaxy’s Child” would be a fairly pedestrian episode of TNG but for the La Forge/Brahms issue, which transforms the episode from being simply meh to meh with a side of creepy. TNG simply could not manage to give La Forge a romantic interest without heading directly in to Nice Guy territory. In “Booby Trap,” his romantic interest is a hologram. In “Aquiel,” he becomes romantically interested in the eponymous woman when he’s assigned to watch her logs. He did manage to date Christy Henshaw, from both “Booby Trap” and “Transfigurations,” but if anyone remembers that holographic beach sequence, it demonstrated conclusively that La Forge simply had no game. In fact, Henshaw only become interested in La Forge once John Doe had increased La Forge’s confidence. Burton himself has said that the reason for La Forge’s continued romantic failures was because La Forge was the nerdy guy, and stereotypically, nerdy guys don’t get girls.
Regardless of the reason, “Galaxy’s Child” hits all the wrong notes. La Forge’s relationship with the holographic Brahms in “Booby Trap” differs only slightly from Barclay’s fantasies in “Hollow Pursuits,” but the two episodes take entirely different tonal approaches. La Forge’s interest is apparently fine, but Barclay’s is problematic. However, both episodes turn on the concept of using holographic representations of real people, but “Hollow Pursuits” at least makes an attempt to recognizes this use as a violation, which of course, it is.
When La Forge meets the real Brahms, she demonstrates from the moment she steps off the transporter pad that not only is she not interested in him romantically, she’s even less impressed with his modifications to her engine designs. Despite the very clear signals she gives him, La Forge insists on continuing to hit on her with a mallet. He invites her to his quarters to discuss engines, which is apparently the 24th Century version of “Netflix and chill,” and Brahms clearly wants nothing to do with La Forge’s blatant attempt at seduction and storms out of his quarters. Let me be clear here, she is perfectly right to do so because La Forge’s behavior is reprehensible.
Guinan takes a mopey La Forge to task for his ridiculously disrespectful behavior, reminding La Forge that this Brahms is not his holographic representation but rather a real person with her own preferences and autonomy, but La Forge shrugs off Guinan’s advice and renews his attempts to “get to know” Brahms, who despite all rationality, begins to warm up to La Forge. Just when she does, Brahms, of course, eventually discovers La Forge’s hologram of her, and she reacts as any normal human being would. She’s angry and expresses to La Forge that the holograph constitutes a violation.
Here’s where the episode goes utterly, completely wrong. Rather than recognizing how inappropriate his attempts to woo someone who is decidedly not reciprocating his interest are, La Forge accuses Brahms of cruelty. Specifically, he accuses her of rejecting his friendship, and that’s about the most dishonest take on the whole situation that could exist. Not only is it dishonest, it’s actually manipulative, shifting the discussion away from his own misdeeds and focusing instead on her alleged sins. La Forge clearly hasn’t been interested in friendship. He’s been interested in getting into her pants because he wants her to be the holographic version of her he created; Brahms has, in fact, done absolutely nothing wrong, but the episode treats her as if she has.
At this point, La Forge only needs a Fedora and a few “my lady’s” before he becomes the walking stereotype of the Nice Guy, and the absolutely worst thing about the whole episode is that we as the audience are meant to agree with him. We’re meant to take La Forge’s side over her completely rational anger not only at the gross violation that the holographic representation represents but at La Forge’s supposed overtures of friendship. We know this because Brahms eventually apologizes to La Forge for her behavior. Please note, La Forge doesn’t offer an apology for his own behavior. Really, the only thing he regrets here is that she’s married and therefore unavailable. The series will never get beyond Geordi La Forge as a creeper, much less acknowledging that he is, and more’s the pity.
Rating: Note quite Beverly-in-love-with-a-candle-bad but close.
Stray Thoughts from the Couch:
- I honestly wonder at Guinan’s patience. She lands a verbal smackdown on La Forge, and believe me, Goldberg treats it like a smackdown. La Forge just never gets it, and the show never does either.
- DS9 handles the issue of inappropriately used holographic images better; that show acknowledges that Quark’s attempts to get Kira’s likeness for his holosuites is creepy, but I honestly don’t think it goes far enough. There’s a certain, “Ah, that’s just Quark” flavor to it.
- Picard’s grief at killing the space slug should have been a more legitimate issue, but considering the space slug exists only to give Brahms a crisis in which to work with La Forge, even Sir Stewart can’t give the moment the gravitas it required.