Raising a Family in a Science Fiction Television Series
Created | Updated Dec 11, 2017
Baby | Child | Family
in a Science Fiction Television Series
In television science fiction, space is the final frontier. Those found pushing the boundaries along its borders are not by nature the sort of people who want nothing more than to settle down surrounded by a fulfilling family life. Our heroes who spend their lives going boldly where no one has gone before are often heading that way just to get as far away from their families as they can. They know the terrible truth; interstellar invasion and galactic war are insignificant in comparison to a modest family squabble and no slimy alien parasite can be as horrific as the in-laws unexpectedly inviting themselves round for Sunday lunch.
My Family and Other Animals
Almost every character in the Star Trek universe seems unable to get on with their families. You would think that a society of logical beings would be beyond mere family squabbles, but Spock's are perhaps the most prominent. He has severe father issues that are only rectified in the episode 'Journey to Babel'. In this episode the 18-year gulf between himself and his father, Sarek, ends when Sarek needs a vital blood transfusion. Despite being able to control his emotions, the first time Spock mentions his family he associates it with irritation:
Kirk: Certain you don't know what irritation is?
Spock: The fact one of my ancestors married a human female...
This shows it is not just his father who has annoyed him, as he describes his own mother, Amanda Grayson, as 'a human female'.
The Generation Gap continues in The Next Generation. Captain Jean-Luc Picard did not get on with his father Maurice, who tried to discourage him from exploring space, wanting him to be a vintner instead. But as a child Picard was more interested in putting model spaceships in bottles than wine. He also does not get on with his brother Robert, and actually engages in fisticuffs with him. Sadly Picard's 'Number One' William T Riker's mother died when he was two and 'little Will' was raised by his father Kyle. They too had a falling out, and did not speak to each other for 15 years, because Will felt abandoned at the age of 15.
Family's Always Embarrassing, Isn't It?
Not talking to your parents for a decade or so was a luxury that Deanna Troi often wished that she have could enjoyed, as her mother Lwaxana Troi was a severely domineering character. Deanna too had lost a parent, in her case her father, at a young age.
Worf is severely embarrassed by his adopted family, having been raised by human couple Sergey and Helena Rozhenko, and considering their son Nikolai to be a brother. In turn, following his banishment from Klingon society, Worf's own true brother, Kurn, wishes to die. Fortunately he is merely brainwashed and given a new memory, identity and family instead.
But perhaps the most twisted family drama is reserved for the Cardassian tailor Garak. Elim Garak was the son of Obsidian Order chief Enabran Tain and also a member of that security police organisation. When Garak made a mistake, Tain exiled him to Terok Nor1 and later tried to have him assassinated. After Tain was captured by the Dominion Garak tried to rescue him, only for Tain to die telling his son how proud he was of him.
Sadly in science fiction, when popping home to visit your relatives, you inevitably realise that someone in your family is up to no good. In Primeval, Abby's brother Jack secretly gambles away her beloved flying-lizard Rex. In The New Adventures of Superman, when Lois catches up with her dad Dr Sam Lane, she discovers he is creating an army of cybernetic boxing athletes. In Andromeda, Beka Valentine learns that her dear, departed father was a drug-runner and her long-lost brother is a con artist. In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode 'Prodigal Daughter', Ezri Dax learns that her family business is engaged in some corrupt corporate goings-on involving criminal organisation the Orion Syndicate.
In Star Trek: The Next Generation Security Chief Tasha Yar was orphaned at 15, and had spent her childhood helping her sister Ishara evade the rape gangs on turbulent Turkana IV. After Tasha's death, the Enterprise-D crew meet Ishara when they visit Turkana IV in the episode 'Legacy'. Her mannerisms reminded them of their much-missed security officer and they welcomed Ishara with open arms and hearts. But Ishara's first loyalty was to her gang, and she manipulated her late sister's crewmates into aiding the Coalition cadre in their defeat of the rival Alliance cadre.
In Red Dwarf it is revealed that Arnold Rimmer's family upbringing was sad, and consequently he always loathed his brothers John, Frank and Howard, who bullied him as a child. His relationship with his father was severely abnormal; his father often refused to feed him unless he answered difficult questions correctly, and would stretch him on a rack to ensure he was tall. It is later revealed that Rimmer's real father was Dungo, the family gardener.
In The Tomorrow People 21st-Century remake, Stephen discovers that his father was killed on his uncle's orders. Or was he? Caprica's Daniel and Amanda Greystone believe that their 15-year-old daughter, Zoe, was a suicide-bombing terrorist who killed herself and numerous others on board a busy mag-lev train carriage.
In Farscape Jothee had sex with his father D'Argo's girlfriend Chiana and cut off his own Tenkas as a rejection of the heritage that his father represented.
In Torchwood, Captain Jack Harkness lost his younger brother Gray to sadistic aliens when he was meant to be looking after him, and later killed his own grandson, Stephen, to defeat an alien incursion. Primeval's Danny Quinn, a man who dedicated his life to finding his brother Patrick, learns when he finally finds him that Patrick has become a sadistic serial-killer who changed his name to Ethan.
You aren't any better off if you are incapable of emotion. In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Data was the fifth android created by Noonien Soong. His 'mother' Juliana Soong had wanted Data to be a girl and had at some point been replaced by a robotic replica. Data's brother Lore was an evil and cruel machine. If even Data doesn't get on with his brother Lore, what chance have the rest of us got?
I Shall Avenge Thee
Disliking your family is a good way to ensure that they'll live long and happy lives, for if you like your family, chances are they will die. In Star Trek: Enterprise Trip Tucker's sister Elizabeth is slaughtered along with seven million other people during an alien attack upon Earth. Del Tarrant's brother Deeta is killed in Blake's 7. In Star Trek, Kirk's brother George Samuel 'Sam' Kirk and Sam's wife Aurelan were killed in the episode 'Operation: Annihilate!', although Kirk's nephew Peter survived. In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World Roxton accidentally shot his brother in a tragic hunting accident; the bullet not only killed the ape attacking his brother but also killed him too.
Perhaps the species that takes family relations to the extreme are the Nietzscheans from Andromeda. You would think that being one of the three galaxies' most numerous species, settled on an almost infinite number of planets, it would be difficult to memorise them all. Yet whenever Tyr mentions to another Nietzschean who his parents were, with the words 'out of Victoria by Barbarossa', they all know exactly who he is. Presumably Victoria and Barbarossa aren't particularly common names, especially as both Victoria and Barbarossa and much of his extended family, the Kodiak pride, were killed when Tyr was young, leading to his desire to seek retribution for their deaths.
It's a Bug Eyed Monster's Life in the Services
If there's one effect that the disappearance or death of a loved family member has time after time, it is encouraging the surviving member to sign up for the services. In The X-Files, the reason Mulder joined the FBI was to find out what had happened to his sister. Similarly, in Primeval Danny Quinn had joined the police and then became a member of the ARC team in order to learn the truth behind his brother's disappearance.
In Babylon 5 Susan joined Earth Force when her brother died in the Earth-Minbari war. Her mother had earlier committed suicide after taking psi-corps prescribed drugs. Much the same, when Marcus' brother died in the service of the Rangers it encouraged him to become a Ranger himself, to continue his brother's work.
Of course, your family member does not have to have died to inspire you to join up. It seems quite a normal thing to do if you do not get on well with a father figure and are hoping for a little respect. In Red Dwarf the reason Rimmer joined the Space Corps was due to a hope of impressing his father, Admiral Rimmer. However, he was the only member of the family not to make it as an officer. Star Trek: Voyager's helmsman Tom Paris also had a difficult-to-impress admiral for a father. Paris reacted by rebelling against authority and joining the rebel group known as the Maquis.
There's a common question most futuristic families experience now and then. Just how should you behave when your child has travelled back in time from an alternative future in order to kill themselves as a baby? This sort of scenario seems to particularly affect the families on board space station Deep Space Nine.
During a family picnic in episode 'Time's Orphan', eight-year-old Molly O'Brien fell through a time-portal and survived for ten years before returning to the picnic as a feral 18-year-old teenager. Her father, Miles O'Brien, had also experienced something similar. On one occasion he was on board the USS Defiant when it was trapped by an energy barrier orbiting a planet inhabited by his and his crewmates' descendants. These included a Miranda O'Brien who informs him he will be sent back 200 years into their past, is destined to marry another woman and his great-great-great-great-great granddaughter will also be called Molly.
The O'Brien family does seem to jinx all its members. Kira Nerys was the surrogate mother of O'Brien's son Kirayoshi, which may explain why she ended up being sent back 30 years into the past by the Orb of Time, when her homeworld Bajor was subject to the Cardassian occupation. There she learns that her mother Kira Meru had not died of starvation as Nerys had thought, but instead became the collaborating comfort woman of the hated Cardassian occupying force's prefect, Gul Dukat. Nerys almost allowed her mother to die in an assassination attempt, but instead saved both Meru and Dukat's lives.
Also aboard Deep Space Nine are the Sisko family, and one day father and son Ben and Jake Sisko were involved in an accident on the Defiant in which Ben vanished, only to later reappear next to Jake for a few minutes at different stages in Jake's life. An older Jake, discovering that a subspace link had been created during the accident between him and his father, chose to commit suicide when his father was near to allow his father to return to the time of the accident.
Fortunately Worf wasn't around when that happened, as the older Jake Sisko looked remarkably similar to his brother, Kurn2. Yet Worf was around when his son Alexander Rozhenko returned from the future, disguised as K'mtar, in order to teach his younger self the ways of a Klingon warrior. Alexander had travelled through time hoping that his actions would stop Worf from being killed in the Klingon High Council Chamber in the future. Worf has never had much luck with family life. Not only were his family massacred by Romulans while he was still young, but K'Ehleyr, the mother of Alexander, was murdered soon after she had introduced Worf to his son. This murder was committed by corrupt Klingon council member Duras as his father was responsible for the massacre of Worf's family and was trying to cover this up, resulting in a family feud between Worf's family and the House of Duras.
Yet these sorts of relationship are not unique to the Star Trek universe. If a standard family unit is called a nuclear family, then the Connor family can only be described as apocalyptic. In Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, John Connor's father Kyle Reese had been sent back in time from the future by him to protect his mother Sarah, and had died before he was born. John knows he will one day meet his father and will have to send Kyle back in time to die, or otherwise he will never be born. John lives with an adopted 'sister' Cameron, in reality a reprogrammed Terminator killing machine disguised as a human, as well as his uncle, Derek Reese, who had also come back from the future in order to find his brother. John, however, is lucky compared to another character in the series that he met once or twice. Young Savannah Weaver's real mother died long ago and was replaced by a Terminator in disguise.
He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother
Despite all the rivalry, siblings sometimes share a bond that no-one else can understand. In Firefly Simon Tam abandons his promising career as a young doctor and risks everything for the sake of his often unhinged sister River Tam. In the Battlestar Galactica remake, the death of Apollo's brother Zak leads to an insurmountable rift with his father Adama.
The bond is no less strong even when it is non-existent. In Star Trek Pavel Chekov never had a brother, but that doesn't stop him from being brainwashed into believing he had one called Piotr by the Beta XII-A Entity in 'Day of the Dove'. Similarly the bond stretches across sentient machines, too. In Andromeda episode 'The Mathematics of Tears', the Andromeda Ascendant's sistership the Pax Magellanic is mad, the realisation of which causes Andromeda3 emotional pain.
In conclusion: no matter what, your family will always be there for you and you should always be there for your family. Except of course for your granddaughter – feel free to follow in the footsteps of the Doctor and abandon her on a post-apocalyptic planet, promising:
One day I shall come back. Yes, I shall come back. Until then, there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs, and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine.
... and then just not bother to return.