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‘Star Trek: Picard’ Just Delivered a Reunion 20+ Years in the Making

*"At Last" by Etta James playing in the background.*

Brent Spiner as Data, LeVar Burton as Geordi La Forge and Mica Burton as Ensign Alandra La Forge in "Dominion" Episode 307, Star Trek: Picard on Paramount+.  Photo Credit: Trae Patton/Paramount+. ©2021 Viacom, International Inc.  All Rights Reserved.

It’s been nearly 36 years since Star Trek: The Next Generation first aired, but the ever-expanding Star Trek universe is not only still going strong—it’s still bringing us new and exiting stories about the crew of Captain Picard’s USS-Enterprise. After two seasons of dabbling with a cameo every now and again, Picard season three finally reunites the full bridge crew of The Next Generation as series regulars, continuing their stories from TNG while diving into darker, more complex interpersonal relationships that the series’ more somber tone allows for.

But while Picard may have a sharper edge than the primary color-clad Next Generation ’80s fans may remember, there’s one beloved relationship that Star Trek: Picard has preserved in all its wholesome, joyful glory—at long last, we get to see Brent Spiner’s Data and LeVar Burton’s Geordi La Forge property reunite.

Since the early days of The Next Generation, the Geordi/Data friendship has been a key emotional core in the Trek franchise, as well as a fan-favorite dynamic duo: the emotionless but oh-so-earnest android Data longing to become human, and Geordi, the shy but witty and endlessly loyal engineer who’s not just Data’s caretaker, but his best friend. They seem like an odd couple on paper, but anyone who’s caught an episode of The Next Generation can attest to the effortless chemistry between the duo. Geordi’s sense of humor and enduring fondness for Data plays perfectly on the latter’s curiosity and fascination with humans, a winning combination that’s yielded a number of classic episodes and franchise moments built on their bond.

So, with the news that Burton would at long last return to the Star Trek universe for Picard season three, it was only a matter of time until fans finally got what we’ve been waiting since Star Trek: Nemesis for: another glimpse at the Data/Geordi relationship. Unluckily for us, Picard has (thus far) been relatively Data-lite. Though Spiner has appeared in all three seasons, he’s only previously played non-Data Soong androids or scientists, never the famous yellow-eyed lieutenant commander himself. But after Riker discovered that Data’s body and program were being held in the Starfleet museum, the crew of the Enterprise-D was able to find him and bring him home, reuniting us and Geordi with Data proper for the first time in more than 20 years.

But, of course, it just couldn’t be that simple. Data is also sharing his physical shell with his evil brother Lore, and last week’s Picard ended with a cliffhanger: Lore stirring up trouble and taking control of the Titan’s security systems, leaving the crew vulnerable to attack from the mysterious Vadic. While most of the crew spends this week’s episode in a frantic cat-and-mouse game for survival, we’re also treated to a virtually episode-long homage to Data and Geordi’s friendship, anchored by a beautiful performance from LeVar Burton and pitch-perfect music supervision that blends the Next Generation score, Data’s leitmotif from the Star Trek films, and the Picard score to create a musical ode to Geordi and Data.

Though a tense race against time to regain control of their starship hardly seems like the best setting for a long-awaited reunion of two best friends, Geordi reuniting with Data isn’t as simple as catching up with an old friend. Instead, he spends the entire episode pleading for Data to push through Lore’s control over their shared body, and to latch onto his love for Geordi as a way to overcome his brother’s might. On the outside, it looks as if Data is barely fighting back, and we (like Geordi) spend the entire episode in dismay as it seems like Data is simply content to die once again (like he did at the end of Nemesis) and let Lore take over.

But where the episode truly blossoms is in Data beginning to hand Lore possessions that he associates with fond memories of Geordi: trinkets like his Sherlock Holmes pipe and a deck of poker cards. Data explains that they’re his most beautiful, cherished memories, and that if Lore is going to assume control of their body, he wants Lore to know the joy and love the he felt from Geordi.

Geordi, for his part, is left entirely unaware of what’s going on, and it’s heartbreaking to watch him go through tremendous grief as he prepares to mourn his best friend yet again. During his turn on The Next Generation, Geordi tended to serve as a warm, steady, witty presence on the Enterprise, not exactly the type prone to intense displays of emotion.

To see him fall apart at the idea of having to witness Data’s death feels all the more devastating for how calm and composed he tended to be on TNG, but there’s an honesty and vulnerability in Burton’s performance that makes us feel as if we’re getting a rare, true glimpse at Geordi’s most close-guarded emotions. Geordi tells Picard himself, “I don’t know if I can go through losing him again,” and the episode does a terrific job of demonstrating the depth of Geordi’s affection and care for Data, thanks mostly to the incredible talent of LeVar Burton.

Of course, though, this is Star Trek, and good triumphs over evil. The beauty of Data’s memories with Geordi and the rest of the crew overwhelm Lore, and Data is able to once again assume control of his body, reuniting properly, and at long last, with Geordi in a tearful moment that’s more than a long time coming. Their last scene of the episode (and their first proper conversation together) is a classic hallway walk-and-talk that feels straight out of a Next Generation episode, another subtle but deliberate way Picard emotionally and thematically ties itself to TNG without simply rehashing the past.

Though the tense, high-stakes action with Jack and Sidney may be some fans’ most memorable takeaway from this week’s Picard, I won’t soon forget their beautiful tribute to Data and Geordi’s friendship. From the visual of Data giving Lore his fondest memories to Data and Geordi’s first real conversation post-reunion, “Surrender” is a grand-slam of an episode that shines a much-deserved spotlight on one of Star Trek‘s best relationships.

(featured image: Paramount+)

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Lauren Coates (she/her)is a freelance film/tv critic and entertainment journalist, who has been working in digital media since 2019. In addition to her writing at The Mary Sue, her other bylines include Nerdist, Paste, The A.V. Club, and The Playlist. In addition to all things sci-fi and horror, she has particular interest in queer and female-led stories. When she's not writing, she's exploring Chicago, binge-watching Star Trek, or planning her next trip to the Disney parks. You can follow her on twitter @laurenjcoates.