Geordi La Forge’s VISOR eyepiece was an iconic part of the character’s signature look, and he wore it through seven seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation and into the first of that crew’s theatrical films, CBR reports. But then the character received a set of ocular implants in Star Trek: First Contact, and after that a pair of natural eyes in Star Trek: Insurrection.
The reasons for the change were practical. Although it worked for the character, the VISOR was uncomfortable for actor LeVar Burton. First Contact noted the differences in his new implants but didn’t specifically comment on it, leaving the change to be inferred. First Contact’s writers incorporated those changes without altering the important statement the VISOR made.
Screenwriter Gene Roddenberry wrote Geordi both as a refutation of ableism and a stand-in for visually impaired Star Trek fans. Born without functioning eyes, he used the VISOR to see in the EM and infrared spectrum, which gave him unique abilities that naturally sighted people lacked. It caused him pain, but he refused to part with it, and he wouldn’t he take painkillers that would affect its function. The show broke barriers, portraying Geordi not as handicapped but simply different. As The Next Generation went on, his eyesight became almost incidental — a unique part of who he was rather than a handicap or affliction.