Aug 11 2011 1:00pm

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

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: “The Child”

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: “The Child”

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: “The Child”

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: “The Child”

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.

David Levinson
1. DemetriosX
I hated Pulaski so much. She never really fit in with the crew, from her constant mispronunciation of Data's name (and how many episodes did it take for him to finally correct her?) to just the general aura of coldness that Diana Muldaur almost always projects (even when she's the love interest). I was so glad when Gates McFadden returned.

Riker's beard also made a big difference. Frakes was really baby-faced and it wasn't easy to take him seriously. It also put an end to all the Potsy Weber jokes (ask your parents). They also moved away from trying to make him the new Kirk/man of action and let the character develop in his own direction.
Keith DeCandido
2. krad
Actually the DAH-ta/DAY-ta thing only lasted as long as this episode.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
John R. Ellis
3. John R. Ellis
You might want to change the UPN and Voyager premiere dates.
Keith DeCandido
4. krad
John: I have no idea what you're talking about. It's perfectly accurate. *glances around furtively and thanks every deity he can think of for the edit function*

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Rich Bennett
5. Neuralnet
Great review

At the time I dont remember liking this episode since there were so many changes from season 1 (and without the internet I had no clue why the changes occured)... but in hindsight it is great. You can really see the characters starting to develop even if the story is mediocre.

I never caught the crazy glue reference before now... funny
John R. Ellis
6. Jeff R.
"One of them is my name; the other is not."

Which was the best moment of an otherwise abysnmal episode.

When O'Brien gets a name, will he also get a Category in these reviews?
John R. Ellis
7. kimu
I'm probably in the minority, but I actually liked Pulaski. I felt like, especially after Denise Crosby left, the Enterprise needed more strong female characters. I was never a fan of Dr Crusher.

This episode though? Not a fan of it. The whole super fast pregnancy, accelerated growth business? Interacting with the plague samples? And being unable to destroy the samples somehow? Really???
John R. Ellis
8. critter42
Could you rename the Pulaski category "I'm a Doctor not an Elevator" - this would be a nod to her not-so-tragic demise on LA Law after her TNG run?
Jay Hash
I always thought of Pulaski as an aberration. She was the replacement that came in, for a half explained reason, and then disappeared without so much as a good-bye after " Shades of Gray". I know that the season ender was right in the midst of the writer's strike as well, so that gave little opportunity to give a farewell, but I think they could've at least given it a nod if not a scene at the beginning of Season 3.

As for Diana Muldar, her portrayal of Pulaski was an interesting choice, and I think (should she have been given more time to work with the character) she could have molded it into something deeper (as opposed to a McCoy-esque copy), like the rest of the cast was able to with their characters after a few seasons. She had some good development in later books ( Such as "SCE: What's Past - 'Progress' " I'm currently reading), but a guest appearance later on would ahve been even better.

And what can we say that hasn't already been said about Guinan? She's one of the best mysterious characters I've ever seen, and knowing more about her only reveals more enigmas which is the hallmark of a great character. I loved her future interactions with Q and her mysterious knowledge of The Borg, and was afraid when they almost neutered her mysteriousness in Star Trek: Generations, and have always been pleased with her portrayal in the Stargazer & The Lost Era series. Though I'd still like to see (at least vingettes of) her planet's destruction at the hands of the Borg.

Second season was great for the character development aspect, even if the scripts were a bit lacking due to the strike, or the fact that it was "the early seasons of TNG" (which to me is akin to an awkward silence at a party) . Luckily, Paramount wasn't gunshy about renewing for a 3rd season, and things took a turn for the better.
John R. Ellis
10. Mike S.

I second that.

They made Pulaski afraid of the transporter on this series. Had she done L.A. Law first, it would have been somewhat cool to have made Pulaski afraid of the turbolift instead. Who knew, though, right?
John Fitzingo
11. Xandar01
Since I was in my teens when this season aired, I remember two things when this season started. "Where did the cute doctor go?" and "This lady is trying to act like McCoy... that ain't right." So I quickly passed judgement and did not like her and therefor most of season two. :(
John R. Ellis
12. ChrisG
I thought Pulaski had some potential, though sadly unrealized, especially in terms of having a contentious relationship with Picard. Most of the other relationships on the show were happy happy, so the possibility of internal conflict was welcome. And though Crusher had her moments, I felt throughout the series that she was one of the weaker points in the cast, giving an opportunity here.

But they shouldn't have done the transporter-fear thing. And Pulaski's whole "Data is just a machine" act really bothered me, both in its stridency and lack of subtlety. I find those parts of the Pulaski episodes almost unwatchable.
John R. Ellis
13. Pendard
Star Trek: Phase II's first season would have been a Spock-less version of the original series, and its first season would have included a low budget version of ST: The Motion Picture, plus "The Child" and "Devil's Due." Thank God they didn't go through with it -- it would have been the end of the Star Trek franchise! (Btw, I think 5/10 is a very generous rating for this episode.)

Also, in your "Pulaski acting like McCoy" category, you could add that she comes aboard on a shuttle instead of beaming over.
Keith DeCandido
14. krad
The writer's strike had been over for more than half a year by the time "Shades of Grey" rolled around. That was a budget-cutter, not a strike-necessitated script.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Keith DeCandido
15. krad
Pulaski's transporter-phobia wasn't explicitly stated in this episode. Worry not, it'll get plenty of play when we get to "Unnatural Selection"....

David Levinson
16. DemetriosX
Wow, in my memory she went on mispronouncing Data's name for like half the season. Obviously, that little bit of obnoxiousmess really rubbed me the wrong way. I did remember Data's line, though, and agree it was a good one. I still never warmed to her and never will.
John R. Ellis
17. Christopher L. Bennett
Keith's right -- the strike had nothing to do with "Shades of Gray." People just get the timing confused and assume that the bottle show had to be a response to the strike. But it wasn't. Even a bottle show needs writers to come up with the frame material and figure out how to justify working the clips in there.

As for Pulaski's McCoyness, I always kinda figured that she must've been McCoy's actual protegee and picked up the quirks from him. A bit too small-universe, true, but more plausible than having the similarities be coincidental. And while she may have been a derivative character, I appreciated the idea of adding a cast member who would be a source of friction and who wouldn't play by the same ultra-nice, ultra-civilized rules as the rest of the cast. Plus it was just cool having a TOS veteran in the cast.

As for "The Child," I really don't have much memory of it. I keep getting it confused with "Evolution," the third-season premiere.

Oh, another novelverse connection: the Star Trek: Destiny trilogy by David Mack reveals that Troi's accelerated pregnancy here had some rather disturbing long-term medical consequences.
Adrian J.
18. LightningStorm
I recall hating the Pulaski character back in the day. Today though, after many more years of Star Trek and a recent rewatch of my own of TNG (I'm up to season 3 now) I find that I wish Pulaski had stayed and Crusher never returned. I like Pulaski quite a bit now.

Though like DemetriosX, I also had thought the mispronounciation of Data's name lasted for a longer time than just this one episode.
Margot Virzana
19. LuvURphleb
I in between with pulaski.
Also second season wasnt great but it led the way for good plots thru out the series (and yes i did purposely misspell through)
Please dont forget alexanders rapid accelerated growth in season four
John R. Ellis
20. Ace Hamilton
I'll never forget the episode in which Pulaski fell down the turbolift shaft.
Andrew Love
21. AndyLove
And Pulaski's whole "Data is just a machine" act really bothered me,both in its stridency and lack of subtlety.

I found it particularly bad in the "Moriarty" episode, in which Pulaski treats a holographic character as human, even though its claim for humanity has less basis than Data's.
John R. Ellis
22. Peter Tupper
I agree this is when they ironed out a lot of the bugs of the first season, but a "5" is too generous for this episode. It's a classic case of "I can't
think of anything for this female character to do. I know! Let's get her
pregnant! Instant story arc."
Odette Mohammed
23. odettem
I didn't like Pulaski in the beginning but after a few episodes I really warmed to her. I like that she was confident enough to stand up for what she believed in but she wasn't inflexible - she got over her initial assumptions about Data.

Also, I liked her calmness. Crusher was often so emotional and that irritated me. Pulaski dealt with the facts, was compassionate without being over-emotional and she got on with her job. She also had a dry and somewhat acerbic sense of humour that I grew to enjoy very much.

I was sorry when Pulaski left. Crusher has never been one of my favourite characters.
John R. Ellis
24. Pendard
I don't recall disliking Pulaski. Actually, I don't think I ever formed an opinion of any kind about here. "Unnatural Selection" was the only episode where she even had anything to do, unless you count getting held hostage in "Elementary, Dear Data" or a coincidental history with Riker's dad in "The Icarus Factor." Basically, I felt like she was around because, well, they needed a doctor in the cast. She never fit into the group the way Dr. Crusher did.

Also, they passed up some opportunities to use her character. She spends several episodes early in the season doubting on whether Data is really alive, but nobody thought to bring it up in "Measure of a Man." She's in that episode at the poker game and the going away party but her opinion never comes up. Perhaps she was being purposefully quiet because she knew her new shipmates would be mad if she admitted she wanted a slave race of androids to do the dirty work for her. Robot slaves can be handy for making house calls on rapid aging planets, after all!
Lee VanDyke
25. Cloric
So I just rewatched this episode and, finding out it was lifted from an established Star Trek Phase II script, I'm mystified why the interpersonal dialogue works well for the most part, but the military lines sound stiff at best, and... well... wrong at worst. (e.g. Picard telling Riker that he would relieve him at zero-three-zero-zero instead of Oh-three-hundred )
John R. Ellis
26. Lore
So I've just recently been watching the entire show (on Season 5 as of right now), and I absolutely hated Pulaski. I thought Muldaur overacted her character: I get it, a doctor who obsesses over their work, but she didn't have quite the natural compassion that McFadden had with Crusher; she tried, but in my book, she failed....miserably.

And just on a side note, I love the category for Troi, rewatching this at Season 5 and still don't really see any point for her character other than to move the plot along or to take up space! I like her in the movies though...
John R. Ellis
27. Pah
I'd just like to point out that "basically stands around while things happen to her out of her control" is not a bad description of what parenthood is about!
Bob Weld
28. WaitingShadows
I skipped commenting on Season One, mostly because I won't really be thrilled with most of the episodes until Season Three. Season Two however, did have some fantastic episodes, Measure of a Man being one of my all time favorite TNG episodes.

Also, I always had a soft spot for Pulaski. IMHO, her character started a season later than everyone elses, but showed the same potential for character development, not just with Picard and Data, but with Worf as well (The Klingon Tea Ceremony comes to mind). I believe she could have continued until the end, and although the series would have been different, I don't think I can say it would have been worse. However, I always was a huge fan of Dr. Beverly :) and was glad she returned in Season Three.
Nicky Kay
29. NickyKV2
I don't agree with this Pulaski/McCoy idea. McCoy was irrascible, cantankerous and bad tempered, but he cared. Pulaski was a by-the-book sterility. Yes, I know a lot is often made of her not pronouncing Data's name when she first encounters him. Well, I think McCoy would have said "Sorry", grudgingly obviously.

As for Crusher? Well, this gets me to the heart of all that is wrong with Star Trek Next Gen as a concept. How can a state-of-the-art space ship be crewed by such a bunch of pillocks?
Nicky Kay
30. NickyKV2
Repulsive episode. Toy gets a boy, Data looks on, Work is Worf, Dickhead is Dickhead and Riker smirks a bit. And the kid is HORRIBLE.

"Oh, my way of investigating other species is via rape."? What were those writers thinking? Yes, I know it was a writer's strike episode, but surely some fan had sent in something a little less tasteless. I can't believe all of Phase 2 was full of this insulting garbage.

As for Dr Plastic's comment: It's like she had never given birth at all". Perfect escape for a rapist.

Hateful episode. Patroinizing, sanctimonious and insulting to women. Minus one million out of ten.
Justin Devlin
31. EnsignJayburd
I thought it was a hamhanded attempt at a pretty decent idea for a story.

But hey, at least Riker's got the beard and Worf had forehead corrective surgery so he could look more like his as yet unknown relatives.
John R. Ellis
32. RPD
Loved the beard. It made up for Frakes havng no discernible chin.
John R. Ellis
33. Big Joe S.
Star Trek Phase II reduxed this episode.
It's an interesting take on it. But that's all I will say.
Perhaps you could do a compare and contrast.
John R. Ellis
34. silhouettepoms
This is the first TNG episode I have any memory of watching. I would have been 5 if I saw it when it originally aired. I don't think I watched any others until the 3rd-4th season when I was 6 or 7, and I got very used to Dr. Crusher and being a little girl, she was "my hero" on the show, so when these seasons aired in reruns I always HATED Pulaski with a passion. What a cold b***.
John R. Ellis
36. Electone
Having read these comments, one thing is for certain - most people immediately hated Kate Pulaski. I was no different. I understand the concept of trying to emulate the McCoy character, but this woman gets on everyone's nerves in a nano-second and pisses off the viewing public along the way. It's too bad, because it's obvious the character does grow on you a little bit and by the time we get to Peak Performance, she's cheering on Data with the rest of the crew.

I enjoyed the way they introduced the changes from the off-season by scrolling around the bridge to reveal a now mustard-shirted Worf, Wes in his newer and better gray jumpsuit sitting at navigation, Riker's beard, Laforge's switch over to Engineering. Looking back, there were a LOT of changes made between season one and two and they had to cram it all into one episode from a rehashed 1970's script.
John R. Ellis
37. lorq
Just saw this episode for the first time and was struck by how much it resembled "Prometheus" in its particular brand of badness. Freakish alien birth occurs on the ship -- but even while everyone on board is hell-bent on containing the plague samples, the child is allowed to mingle freely with the crew. Why were Troi and the fetus not immediately sequestered as soon as she was impregnated, and kept that way right through the child's birth and growth? Answer: there is no answer. (Frankly, having Troi and the child isolated the whole time would have *added* to their drama. But that implies a commitment to good writing.)

And I'm with #30, above: The *only* time Troi expresses agency is in deciding to keep the child. The child's departure at the end is its own choice. Troi is physically uninjured at the end. And the child/entity's departure isn't even a death. (Whew! That makes things easier!) Basically the episode reads like a ham-handed, low-IQ, pro-life, anti-woman fable. This is a story in which Troi is raped -- but "Hey, it's all good!"
John R. Ellis
38. ellisk
What everyone has always missed about this show is it's parallel to the Jesus story. No one refers to the impregnation of the Virgin Mary as "rape", and this isn't "rape" either, in any way (as rape doesn't require impregnation or even ejaculation, and this doesn't involve penile penetration, which is, in fact, required for an act to be "rape.") This is as silly a story as any of the lesser first season stories. The one idea of interest is the idea that a cosmic energy being (a "spiritual" being?) wishes to become a human in order to participate with humanity--but, again, this idea was first explored in the Book of Matthew, so it's not exactly ground-breaking.
John R. Ellis
39. LadyGayle

The latter half of this quote is one of the more offensively ignorant statements I've ever read on this site.

And as for the rest - I seriously doubt that the TNG writers were trying to equate "Ian" with Jesus or Troi with the Virgin Mary. No, this was simply a poorly-thought-out, poorly-written, poorly-executed piece of drivel that refused to tackle any of the interesting questions that might have arisen from the premise, to say nothing of the infuriating lack of agency given to Troi at any point.
Melissa Petterson
40. LadyGayle
ARGH, the part I wanted to quote was:

" rape doesn't require impregnation or even ejaculation, and this doesn't involve penile penetration, which is, in fact, required for an act to be "rape"..."

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