Star Trek The Next Generation: The Child

This was a lackluster episode with a decent emotional arc and some heavy handed symbolism. For me, the changes to the cast and characters were far more interesting.

The most problematic part of the episode was Troi's pregnancy. She was invaded and violated, but then almost immediately she accepted that invasion and wanted to have the baby. The birth was miraculous and then she was a mother to a child who was clearly more than just a child. I liked that Ian was basically just a benevolent being that was curious about humanity and wanted an intimate understanding of us as a species. But it was like the three hundredth time we've had a god-like alien being who was supposed to impart some kind of moral lesson.

Unfortunately, the other plot had almost no connective tissue with the pregnancy. It was as if the writers had two ideas and forced them together just so they could get them both in an episode. The only way they fit together was by making the miraculous alien child give off a rare radiation that super stimulated one of the mutant plague samples, the least dangerous of which could wipe out the entire ship in hours. That's nasty stuff, but the danger felt more than manufactured.

Far more interesting was the new season two stuff. Lots of smaller things have changed. Worf has new makeup and hair. Wesley got a grey uniform that is still a bit odd, but way better than what they had him wearing in season one. Troi looks better with her hair in a loose ponytail and that uniform is about a hundred times better than the outfit she wore in season one. She is also paler and slightly more alien-like than last season, and her eyes are somehow more pronounced.

Yet none of those alterations compare to the most important small change of all: Riker's beard. Somehow the simple addition of facial fur seems to impart maturity and thoughtfulness to his character. He no longer seems like the young first officer to Picard. He now feels like an important and influential member of the crew.

Then there are the three massive changes.

First we have Dr. Katharine Pulaski, who feels a lot like a female version of Bones. She's older than Beverly, a bit adversarial, and states her opinions in a dry, almost negative way starting with her very first scene. She's clearly compassionate, but the professional logic she uses is a bit suspect. She objects to armed guards when the baby is going to be born, and then only gets truly worried when the child grows four years in a day. She treats Data as a thing instead of a full member of the crew for reasons that are unstated. I get what they are trying to do with her, but the character feels shoe-horned in, and doesn't work for me.

Secondly we have Guinan in a new bar setting (Ten-Forward). Unlike Pulaski, this is such a departure from the first season that it is surprising how easily the setting and character fits into the show. Especially Guinan herself, who has my second favorite scene in the episode about the tertiary plot: Wesley's decision to stay or leave. Even though she does convince Wesley to stay (much to the chagrin of the audience), I couldn't help liking her immediately. Her way of giving advice is kind of wonderful. My only problem with Guinan is that she's taking on the role that Troi is supposed to fill.

Lastly we have Geordi, who also had a uniform change, but it's his promotion to Chief Engineer that is far more important. Not only do we finally have a continuing presence in Engineering, but he almost immediately feels like a better fit than anyone else we've had so far. The whole plague thing was supposed to highlight his new role, but instead he ended up standing next to a prop for a majority of the episode. Yet the way he strutted across the Engineering set felt right, like he was comfortable there in his new home.

Bits:

Stardate: 42073.1. Locations: The planet where the plasma plague specimens are retrieved is called 'audet IX. There is also Space Station Tango Sierra, and references to the Rachelis system.

There was an opening scene with another ship, the USS Repulse: NCC-2544. I wonder if they really thought that ship name through. I know it is in reference to the Repulsor technology in the show, but I could only think about calling it the USS Repulsive.

The containment modules required so much power to replicate that Geordi had to divert power from the warp drive. That seemed inconsistent to me.

Pulaski saying Data's name wrong was a nice little scene.

As the alien light fairy dot initially moved through the ship, it passed a woman walking away from it. I guess she just missed being impregnated. Then we got that totally creepy scene where the light went under Troi's sheets and disappeared in a kind of obvious way.

I liked the various reactions to Troi's pregnancy. Worf looked very upset about the violation. Riker was more vocal but also very upset. Data seemed more concerned about the new kind of life it represented.

What a strange detail that Troi's body reset afterward, as though the pregnancy and birth never happened.

The kids that played Ian looked very alike, good casting.

Troi's father was named Ian Andrew, and judging by Riker's reaction, he knew him.

Beverly Crusher has left to become the head of Starfleet Medical. Picard was not pleased about Beverly leaving. He was stiff, quiet, and upset during that first conversation with Wesley.

I know there are families on the ship, but puppies? Weird.

Hester Dealt (what a name) was a relatively pointless character, but he was at least interesting.

I loved that Data was the one to help Troi give birth. He claimed he wasn't nervous, but asked nervous questions and then when she said it was time, he anxiously called for the Doctor. So human, and so not human. Then he was awed and utterly fascinated by the process.

Quotes:

Riker: "And who will tuck him in at night?"
Wesley: "Come on, Commander."
Worf: "I will accept that responsibility."

Pulaski: "Dah-tah."
Data: "Day-tah."
Pulaski: "Excuse me?"
Data: "My name. You pronounced it 'Dah-tah'."
Pulaski: "What's the difference?"
Data: "One is my name. The other is not."
Pulaski: "With all your neural nets, algorithms and heuristics, is there some combination that makes up a circuit for bruised feelings?"

Overall, this was a dud of an episode, and didn't really explore the massive changes that happened between seasons.

2 out of 4 highly dangerous samples of plasma plague.

J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related. He reviews Arrow and Farscape and cool new movies that strike his fancy.

8 comments:

Billie Doux said...

I completely agree with all of your points, J.D. How Troi's pregnancy occurred was creepy, her acceptance of it was also creepy, and it bothered me that it was kinda sorta like parthenogenesis, but the child, of course, was male.

I don't like Dr. Pulaski. I never liked Dr. Pulaski. It's not like Beverly is wonderful or anything, but ... I don't like Dr. Pulaski.

However, I do love Guinan very, very much. So yay for Whoopi Goldberg.

Dustin said...

Actually, The Repulse is a British ship name, and there have been several HMS Repulses over the centuries.

This episode is another product of the writers guild strike. The script was reworked from a Star Trek Phase 2 script where Lt. Ilia (from Star Trek: The Motion Picture) was the one who became pregnant. Ilia was probably the basis for Deanna Troi, so there is some nice symmetry there.

The web series Star Trek: New Voyages has also reworked this script and made an episode out of it.

The thing that always bothered me the most about Dr. Pulaski was that she was TOO similar to McCoy, but in all the obnoxious ways. Cranky, hates transporters, fights constantly with Spock/Data, etc.

Anonymous said...

Hey!. Beverly IS wonderful.

Except when the stupid writers made her do stupid things like in Sub Rosa. But the rest of the time, she's wonderful!.

A bit of respect, please.

Billie Doux said...

Don't scold me, Anonymous! :) I do like Beverly, even though she's not my favorite character. And clearly, the Star Trek powers that be realized that replacing her was the wrong decision. Or whatever it was that happened.

Juliette said...

This is an odd episode anyway, but the thing I found oddest of all on re-watch was when I realised it was the first episode of season two. what a weird, weird season opener - a character piece focusing on a mystical pregnancy. And at least Beverley's leaving is addressed, albeit briefly, but Pulaski is just infuriating here, she's so rude (McCoy was rude to Spock, specifically, but I always felt like that was a long-running personal thing more than anything else, whereas Pulaski is just unpleasant to everyone, especially Data, who she's only just met).

I like Beverley and I miss her in this season, though I have to confess, on re-watching, her acting skills are, um, not quite up there with Patrick Stewart, shall we say. But I like her anyway.

Kathy said...

I always hated Pulaski. I get what they were trying to go for--another McCoy. But, I never felt that Pulaski had the same compassion or heart that McCoy had. I just thought she was just rude and mean.

I don't know if anyone goes to one of my favorite websites, which is TVTropes.org, but there is a trope which is named "Growing the Beard," which is named after Riker's beard. It refers to the point where a struggling series suddenly turns the corner and becomes really good. For TNG, it coincidentally happened in season 2, same year that Riker grew his beard.

Kat

drnanamom said...

Thanks for the review J.D. I didn't mind this episode but maybe that's because I was used to terrible episodes after season 1. I agree with almost all the comments on here except that i don't mind Pulaski. She is rude, etc. but it is/was refreshing to have a woman character who was as cantankerous as many male characters.

Monophylos Fortikos said...

Count me as a fan of Dr. Pulaski, or at least as someone who thought she was a refreshing change of pace. At last there was someone on the show who resembled an actual human being and not just a vehicle for awkward expository dialogue about 24th century moral superiority! It was fairly plain, though, that they were trying to force an arc on her where an initial antagonism toward Data would give way to an eventual rapport, as seen in later episodes such as "Peak Performance".

It failed, though, I think for two chief reasons. One is that the early TNG writing staff was incapable of writing the antagonism subtly, or indeed of writing anything subtly (compare the later episode "Redemption" in which we see a somewhat more understated example of an officer who doesn't trust taking orders from an android), so the antagonism is just written as plain scorn. More importantly, though, Data was such a dim bulb that he was never a good antagonist in the first place. When McCoy needled Spock you always knew that Spock could easily smack McCoy back even harder. Data, though, who throughout the show was written as though he'd just rolled off the back of a turnip truck even though he'd supposedly gone through Starfleet education and some years of service, wasn't a good foil.