*** (3 stars out of 5)
Science ship Raman is trapped in the thick, deadly atmosphere of gas giant Marijne VII. They're sending in the Geordi Bot when Picard delivers sad news. U.S.S. Hera is missing: over 300 people, mainly Vulcans, and with Captain Geordi's Mom in the center seat. She must come from a long line of leaders- she's the spitting image of the Saratoga's Captain from Star Trek IV.
Geordi refuses to take time off, what with the Raman at stake, and also the dangerous probe is something of a thrill ride. He's lifting things with a tractor beam, and firing phasers from his hand. It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye... oh, sorry, my bad.
The seven crew are already dead, and Geordi somehow gets real burns from a fire the probe encounters.
Commander Geordi's Dad of the xenobiology station Zoobilee Zoo is already in mourning. He and Geordi's sister Ariana are planning a service. Geordi feels they're leaping to conclusions. Missing isn't dead. But he's in the minority with that attitude. (Starfleet really did give up fast, didn't they? Enterprise has gone missing longer than a week. Did the La Forges have a funeral for Geordi back in 2368 during 'Cause & Effect'? And heaven forbid some little starship with a female captain goes missing for seven years.)
Data offers to comfort Geordi, inviting him to read Doosodarian poetry with him. It contains lengthy 'lacuna': blank gaps in which to acknowledge the emptiness of the experience. Like watching 'Smallville' together.
During a probe interface, Geordi's mom appears, begging for help. The probe recorded no human down there, and Crusher orders him to lay off. Geordi spins a theory of the Hera caught in warp bubbles and subspace funnels so far-fetched that Data can't even back them up to Picard. (Even though both of those things DO happen. To the people at this very conference table, in fact.)
But when Geordi goes back in the interface anyway, Data helps. That's what BFFs are for, after all. Even though it wasn't his mom, just some kind of intelligent subspace fire beings. Ifrits or genies maybe.
"Interface" is the script where the writers admitted to themselves they were winding down. Just the disbelieving words 'Geordi's mom?' were enough to make them crestfallen. But, here's the thing, for a run-of-the-mill episode it's very worthy. High time we did see Geordi's clan. TNG, for my money, was usually at its best when telling stories about families.