Picard’s assimilation saga, in my mind, is not restricted to “The Best of Both Worlds”. It continues into the eighth film, Star Trek: First Contact, but in-between there are two fundamental episodes that deal with Picard’s experience, “I, Borg”, which will be explored elsewhere, and “Family”.
If “The Best of Both Worlds” is a Riker story about Picard, “Family” is undoubtedly the story of Picard’s experience from his own perspective. Here, the Enterprise, is in space dock to undergo repairs inflicted from the Battle of Wolf 359. It’s a smaller episode, and as the title indicates, deals with the family relations of some of our main characters. Picard takes the opportunity to return to his family home and vineyard in France, to spend time with his brother’s family. Prior to his departure, Counselor Troi rightly implores him to seek healing, calling his experience with the Borg a trauma that violated the very core of Picard’s humanity. Picard is guarded. He unsuccessfully attempts to convince Troi that he has recovered from his experience with the Borg. Picard may have well convinced himself, but Troi knows all-too-well that her captain has a recovery to undergo.
In France on the Picard vineyard, you can see the lifelong strife that has existed between Picard and his brother, Rene. They are two fundamentally different people, Jean-Luc the explorer and adventurer of the stars, Rene the homebody determined to carry on the family’s name and trade. Through the episode they quarrel. The tension mounts.
In their bickering, Rene asks Jean-Luc what occurred to him with the Borg. Picard deflects, snapping that Rene should know from the reports of the incident. Here we see the brotherly relationship truly unfold in a caring way. Rene has read the report. But he wants to know, know deeply what happened to his brother.
And for the only time in the entire run of The Next Generation, we see Picard break down.
Our captain cries.
Vulnerable and wounded, Jean-Luc tells his brother how his individuality was violated. He was turned into a weapon of mass destruction that resulted in the death of countless lives. We see Jean-Luc wrestle with himself, searching for any remaining strength trying to convince his brother that he should have done more. He is the decorated Starfleet captain, after all.
Until Rene reminds him here, that he is only human.
“Family” shows Picard at his lowest, his most vulnerable and disturbed. It’s a position in which he might consider himself at his weakest. Yet we as his viewer see a transparency that is seldom offered, and it is here I see Picard at his strongest and most resolute, grappling with his trauma and determined not to let it overtake him.