If Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s new mission is to explore utopian themes through the interiority of its characters, than it’s reasonable to expect one of the first things it would do with this new mandate is to try and clearly reaffirm and rearticulate who those characters and what their accompanying positionalities actually are.
“Booby Trap” then is a good example of Michael Piller’s philosophy is it pertains to the show going forward and is very indicative of the sorts of things that are going to define Star Trek: The Next Generation in general and the third season in particular. Although kickstarted under Michael Wagner’s tenure, it’s a script that Piller and his team comprehensively rewrote and it passed through an impressive number of hands before making it to screen which is going to be kind of the norm from here out. But because of this, it gives us a fairly clear look at the creative differences between the two third season teams: Wagner’s version of the story would have had Captain Picard be the one involved with the holographic woman, perhaps because in the Original Series it was always the leading man captain who would get the girl of the week. But the very first thing Micheal Piller did upon getting this script was nixing that idea outright, figuring that it should be Geordi instead and the real story should be about him. As Piller himself put it
“It just said to me, ‘Picard should be on the bridge, not chatting with some woman.’ I said to myself, ‘It should be Geordi, because Geordi is in love with the ship and this is a story about a guy in love with his ’57 Chevy.’ That played into Geordi’s character, who’s always been a fumbling guy around women, but if he could just marry his car, he’d live happily ever after. He gets to create the personification of the woman who created the engine he loves. It’s sort of a relationship between he and his Pontiac.”
This is interesting, and I’m going to extrapolate a bit from Piller’s explanation if for no other reason than “Booby Trap” has been the butt of a seemingly unending stream of unfunny mechanophile jokes because of this reading, not to mention the fact that the behaviour that tends to get projected onto Geordi here hedges uncomfortably close to that of a certain kind of broken male genre fiction fan that’s frankly unbecoming of any member of the Enterprise crew, especially him (indeed, Star Trek: The Next Generation will tackle the issue head-on in a story at the other end of the season). Also, one wonders if by the time of that interview Piller hadn’t gotten the chronology of his episodes confused, as it had never previously been established that Geordi was unlucky in love. Sure, the only person he’d ever been shown to be interested in before was Tasha Yar during his non-starter romance with her in the first season (which this team certainly knew about, as they give it a touching nod in “Yesterday’s Enterprise”), but that didn’t mean Geordi was awkward around women in general.…