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22 July 2014
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The Next Generation
Geordi LaForge

Geordi La Forge Arguably one of Star Trek: TNG's most under-used central characters, Geordi La Forge was originally conceived by Trek creator Gene Roddenberry as a wise-cracking foil to the serious and stoic Captain Picard.

Starting life on the Enterprise-D as an officer on the bridge, after a year La Forge found his niche after being promoted to Chief Engineer. LeVar Burton plays La Forge as a gregarious innocent, and a man shown quiet respect from his crew-mates both for his skills in Engineering and for the unselfconscious way he carries his handicap.

Born blind, La Forge was fitted with a special visor which approximated human sight and also allowed him to see ultraviolet and infrared light, thermal patterns and magnetic fields. The visor - in reality a hair grip sprayed gold (the budget for TNG's first season was only $1.5million per episode, after all) - has been used in a slew of episodes as a handy plot device, but often to the detriment of fleshing out La Forge's real character.

During TNG's seven-year run too few episodes focussed solely on La Forge: The Mind's Eye (Season 4) and Interface (Season 7) stand out as strong plots given momentum by Burton's performance. Interface in particular, with its belated and intriguing insight into La Forge's family, and evidence of real personal conflict on board the Enterprise, gives Geordi a much-needed lift onto more complex and sophisticated ground.

As La Forge matured, the homespun glibness of the first season gave way to technobabble and bouts of visor-related anxiety, and there is still a feeling that the character's potential remains untapped. Perhaps with the final jettisoning of the visor/electronic eyes gimmick, (see Star Trek: Insurrection) the character can be allowed some more substantial and rewarding screen time - but Burton has probably already been pencilled in for his 150 seconds of Star Trek X.

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