Star Trek: The Next Generation: 3 small but significant roles
As it ran for seven years, Star Trek: The Next Generation had a significant number of guest stars
Many of those guest stars were seen once and never again, but their presence was so powerful that they changed one of the character’s lives. And while Star Trek: The Next Generation had many of those type of roles over its seven seasons, the ones I’m highlighting today are those that had a huge impact on the show and the viewers.
Season four’s second episode “Family” introduced Captain Picard’s brother, Robert. Although the brothers didn’t get along and there was obvious strife within the family, Picard chose to return home after his assimilation with the Borg. He needed a place to regroup, and he found it with his brother.
Though Robert (portrayed by Jeremy Kemp) had resentment towards Picard, his connection with his brother(and their subsequent fight) allowed Picard to expel the emotions he’d had about the assimilation and come to terms with the guilt Picard had over the death of his friend and the actions he’d taken while under Borg influence. I can’t imagine that Picard would have opened up to anyone else in this manner as he wouldn’t want to appear weak in front of his crew.
Half-human and half-Klingon, K’Ehleyr, (portrayed by Suzie Plakson who appeared more than once) challenged Worf and his traditional Klingon ways. They were both stubborn in their beliefs even though they clearly loved one another. They both wanted more than they could give one another. But she did give Worf a son whose later appearance in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine gives Worf the opportunity to learn from past mistakes.
Though K’Ehleyr was brutally murdered, she remained a part of Worf, and her death caused him to lay aside his duties to Starfleet so he could kill Dumas. She left an indelible mark on Worf and changed his life by giving him a son and memories he would never forget.
Data wanted to know what it felt like to be human, and a part of that desire was to leave a legacy behind. So he created Lal, an android daughter (portrayed by Hallie Tood) who exceeded his imagination as she was able to experience fear and love. Her presence brought Data a little closer to knowing what it was like to be human.
When faced with the possibility of having to leave her father, Lal’s fear resulted in a malfunction that destroyed her neural net. Though Data tried to save her, he was unsuccessful. Before losing her, he transferred her memories and experiences into this own brain so he would always remember her. Creating Lal changed Data even though at the time he wasn’t capable of emotion. Knowing what she knew and knowing what it felt like to be a father, Data understood his need for more in his life.
These three characters had a profound impact on Star Trek: The Next Generation’s main characters but on the viewers as well. Their emotional scenes were heartbreaking and created some of the best moments of Star Trek television.