Poor old Geordi LaForge. Having been through seven seasons on TV and four films, it still feels as though we are no nearer to truly knowing who he is as a person. His is perhaps one of the most thinly-drawn of all the lead characters from Star Trek: The Next Generation, so it remains a true mystery as to why he has never been explored in more detail.
The fault lies squarely with the writing, not the performance. Anyone who has seen LeVar Burton in Roots knows that the man can act, but in the case of Geordi LaForge, Burton is only as good as the material that he is given, which is thin to non-existent, to be fair. It seems a genuine pity Burton has never really had the chance to get his teeth into something more substantial when it comes to paying Geordi, especially as the character has been given short shrift in the romantic stakes; heck, even Data has had more of a successful love life.
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It seems far overdue, then, that Geordi‘s finally getting some much-needed development; however, the real kicker here is that it only applies to his ‘Mirror Universe’ counterpart, who – in just a single issue of Star Trek: The Mirror War – comes away feeling more rounded and fleshed out in comparison. In a similar cutaway to the single issue about Data, here we have a one-shot focusing on the Chief Engineer’s ‘evil twin’, giving us a look behind what made him who he is, thanks to some strong writing by J. Holtham.
In his appearances so far, ‘Mirror Universe’ Geordi has come over as at best ineffectual, and at worst incompetent. Here, however, he gets the spotlight, giving him a chance to shine, plus the focus in a way which never quite seemed to happen on TV for ‘Prime’ Geordi. Holtham gives Geordi a real fire and drive, as well as an unexpected tenderness and vulnerability, all of which would have clearly been so much meat and drink to Burton if he had been given anything even close to this in any of the TNG scripts.
Holtham’s story finally buries the old notion that Geordi is always unlucky in love and incapable of actually forming a meaningful attachment to someone, by giving him a real – as opposed to purely Holodeck-based – attachment, which really does go a long way towards correcting one of the most egregious errors of TNG, although it does seem a shame our Geordi seems to lack the same opportunity for growth; if he follows some of his shipmates, and eventually gets to make an appearance in Star Trek: Picard, perhaps that wrong will be righted for him.
Given Geordi’s blindness is shared in both realities, Holtham takes this to make a point of emphasising how different the ‘Mirror Universe’ is, by showing how any disability is seen as a sign of weakness there, and the prejudice which still exists to anyone with an impairment. Given the intolerance and injustice, we see a Geordi who has taken a far darker path in his life than our hero, driven out of pure necessity in order to survive; as a result, we have a far more complex and fascinating take on the character.
These sidesteps away from the main narrative of The Mirror War help to provide some depth and complexity to the crew of the alternate Enterprise-D, something which is lacking – no doubt out of sheer necessity, due to the pace and focus of the story – from the regular issues. More of these diversions would definitely go a long way towards making up for some of the absence of real characterisation, and make The Mirror War a far more satisfying experience.
Star Trek: The Mirror War – Geordi is out now from IDW Publishing.