Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “The Child”

“The Child”
Written by Jaron Summers & Jon Povill and Maurice Hurley
Directed by Rob Bowman
Season 2, Episode 1
Production episode 40272-127
Original air date: November 21, 1988
Stardate: 42073.1

With the advent of the second season, and the arrival of Diana Muldaur as Dr. Katherine Pulaski and Whoopi Goldberg as Guinan, we add two new categories: I’m a Doctor, Not an Escalator, for occasions when Pulaski acts a bit too much like a previous Enterprise CMO who thought of himself as an old country doctor; and Syntheholics Anonymous, for Guinan’s role in the episode.

Captain’s Log: The Enterprise rendezvous with the Repulse to pick up the ship’s new chief medical officer, Dr. Katherine Pulaski, who comes aboard by shuttlecraft, thus showing off the shiny shuttle bay. The camera then pans around the bridge, making sure we get to see Worf’s spiffy new gold uniform and shiny new metal baldric, Wes’s new gray uniform (and his new position at conn), and Riker’s new beard. Riker then meets with Picard and the ship’s new chief engineer, Geordi La Forge, now a full lieutenant with a spiffy new gold uniform of his own. He has created a containment unit that is needed to hold dangerous plague samples that are being transported to a science station.

As the Enterprise heads to pick up the samples, a ball of energy comes on the ship and zips around before basically inserting itself into Troi while she sleeps.

Picard wonders why Pulaski hasn’t reported in yet. He’s told that she’s in Ten-Forward, which annoys Picard, since she hasn’t even checked in yet, and she’s already found the bar. He heads down in the turbolift with Wes, who has the world’s most awkward conversation with the captain. His mother has transferred to head up Starfleet Medical, and he’s supposed to join her.

We then get our first look at Ten-Forward, the bar located at the foremost point of the saucer section, looking out at space — and we meet Guinan, the bartender, who points out where Pulaski is. Picard starts to upbraid her, but Pulaski interrupts, and only then does Picard realize that the doctor is sitting with a very freaked-out Troi.

It turns out that the counselor is pregnant, and the gestation is accelerated, to say the least. Troi insists that she will have the baby despite the risks, and she gives birth (pain-free, thus making her the envy of every woman who’s ever given birth in the history of the world) within 36 hours. The boy — whom she names Ian Andrew after her father — continues to grow at a ridiculous rate, becoming an 8-year-old equivalent in two days.

Meanwhile, the ship takes hundreds of samples of the plague on board. The Starfleet medical officer, Hester Dealt, wants to examine La Forge’s containment unit, and Picard wants Pulaski and Data to go over the manifest with a fine-tooth comb. Once everyone is happy with everything, the as-yet-unnamed Chief O’Brien starts beaming samples into the containment unit.

Picard and Pulaski visit Troi and the rapidly growing Ian, who sticks his finger in hot soup just to see what will happen. Ian isn’t ready to say why he’s here yet.

As the ship goes to warp, there’s a breach in containment. La Forge can’t isolate the cause. It’s only one module, but if the plague inside it breaks containment, it will get very bad. They can’t destroy it, and jettisoning it won’t help because sooner or later it will come in contact with something.

It turns out that the radiation that’s stimulating the plague is coming from Ian. Ian has realized this, and basically kills his human form, turning back into Tinkerbell long enough to sit in Troi’s hands and communicate telepathically before buggering off. He infodumps to Troi that he was a “life force entity” (yes, really) who was curious about humans, so became one through Troi.

After leaving, the plague stops expanding, and all is well. The Enterprise arrives and transfers the plagues off, and everyone lives happily ever after.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch:

Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity?: They can’t destroy the sample, and supposedly ejecting it is too dangerous. Apparently the notion of ejecting it and then blowing it up with phasers and photon torpedoes didn’t occur to anyone. Ditto transporting it and not rematerializing it.

Also the fake radiation of the week is eichner radiation, which apparently is emitted by subspace phase inverters and cyanocrylates. The latter is a particularly neat trick, since cyanocrylate is the chemical term for Krazy Glue (apparently a deliberate gag on the part of the writers).

Thank You, Counselor Obvious: Troi is surprisingly irrelevant in an episode that focuses on her. She decides to have the baby, and treats him like a normal kid even though he so totally isn’t, and basically stands around while things happen to her out of her control.

If I Only Had a Brain…: Data gets to participate in Troi’s giving birth, by acting as the surrogate father. While he does not pace sickbay and smoke cigarettes, he does hold Troi’s hand and acts encouraging and stuff.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch:

There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: Worf insists the fetus be aborted for the safety of the ship. When Data points out that it would deny the possibility for study, Worf coldly points out that they can still study the aborted fetus. After Troi announces that she’s having the baby no matter what — which ends all discussion on the matter — Troi makes sure to give Worf a nasty look.

The Boy!?: Wes decides that he wants to stay on the Enterprise rather than go with his mother to Earth. Picard agrees only if Crusher also agrees, and only if Data will supervise his education, Riker supervises his growing up, and Worf tucks him in at night.

I’m a Doctor, Not an Escalator: Pulaski teases Data regarding having bruised feelings in much the same manner that McCoy did Spock about emotionalism — made all the more hypocritical by coming after she couldn’t be arsed to pronounce his name properly.

Syntheholics Anonymous. Guinan tells Wes that it’s okay to be selfish sometimes, to not do what’s expected. In other words, she tells him that the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch:

Welcome aboard. Diana Muldaur and Whoopi Goldberg join the cast as Dr. Pulaski and Guinan. Muldaur would remain as a “special guest appearance” character for much of the second season, while Guinan would continue to recur throughout the show’s run, and also appear in both Star Trek: Generations and Star Trek: Nemesis. Muldaur appeared twice on the original series, as Lt. Commander Ann Mulhall in “Return to Tomorrow” and Dr. Miranda Jones in “Is There in Truth No Beauty?” Goldberg is a longtime Star Trek fan, who often cited Nichelle Nichols’s portrayal of Uhura as an influence, and asked to be involved in TNG.

Also showing up here is one of the great character actors Seymour Cassel as Hester Dealt. The role didn’t really call for much, but Cassel gives Dealt a personality that adds a great deal.

Colm Meaney also appears for the third time, now in what will become a very familiar role: transporter chief. He has his position, and later this season, he’ll even get a name!

I Believe I Said That: “And who will tuck him in at night?”

“C’mon, Commander.”

“I will accept that responsibility.”

“Well, we know he’ll get his sleep.”

Riker speculating on Wes’s care, Wes giving him a hard time, Worf accepting the challenge of tucking in a sixteen-year-old, and Troi delivering the snarky punchline.

Trivial Matters: After four chief engineers during the first season, they finally made La Forge the chief engineer, a position he’d retain thenceforth, with Wes taking his place at conn. Worf is now the permanent security chief. Riker also now has a beard, which he would thankfully keep (Jonathan Frakes looks so much better with the facial fuzz), save for a moment of insanity in Star Trek: Insurrection.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch:

Worf’s calling for Troi’s pregnancy to be aborted never comes up again on screen — even when Troi and Worf start dating in the latter seasons. However, Peter David did pick up on it quite brilliantly in his novel A Rock and a Hard Place.

Guinan tells Wes that she never met the captain before reporting to the Enterprise, which is revealed to be a lie in “Time’s Arrow” (and even before that episode, many other references make it clear that Picard and Guinan’s relationship way predates his taking command of the Big E).

This story was originally a script that was written for the aborted Star Trek: Phase II series that instead mutated into Star Trek: The Motion Picture in the 1970s. The series was to launch a Paramount-based network that never got off the ground (though in 1995, Paramount would launch the United Paramount Network with Star Trek: Voyager as its flagship series). Several scripts were written for that series — another would be reworked into the TNG episode “Devil’s Due.”

One reason for using an already-written script as the basis was because the season was already delayed by the 1988 writers strike. This season would be a shortened 22 episodes.

Make it So: “It was… remarkable.” The episode does a good job of establishing the new status quo, but does so at the expense of actually telling an interesting story. Troi’s pregnancy is treated as a curiosity but with a surprising lack of urgency. The child’s purpose is provided in a clumsy expository lump by Troi at the last minute — prior to that, he’s a gimmick, and not a very interesting one.

More tension is provided by the worry about the plague samples and the concern shown by Picard and Riker over transporting it, and later by Data, Dealt, La Forge, and Pulaski when the plague starts to break containment. Seymour Cassel, LeVar Burton, and Diana Muldaur in particular sell the tension of the ship in danger, which is one of the few saving graces of the hour.

 

Warp factor rating: 5

 


Keith R.A. DeCandido really wants you all to buy SCPD: The Case of the Claw. Seriously, it’s good stuff — it’s about cops in a city filled with superheroes and it’s incredibly brilliant. Would I lie? There are ordering links at Keith’s web site, which is also a gateway to his blog, Facebook, and Twitter, not to mention his twice-monthly podcast Dead Kitchen Radio.

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