Fri
Jun 15 2012 2:00pm

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Disaster”

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Disaster“Disaster”
Written by Ron Jarvis & Philip A. Scorza and Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Gabrielle Beaumont
Season 5, Episode 5
Production episode 40275-205
Original air date: October 21, 1991
Stardate: 45156.1

Captain’s log: The Enterprise’s previous mission was done early, so they’re just hanging out. In Ten-Forward, we see Riker, Data, and Worf, hanging out with the O’Briens. Keiko is exceedingly pregnant, and the O’Briens have been arguing over what to name the child if it’s a boy. (Apparently, in the 24th century, parents still like to be kept in suspense as to the sex of their child until it’s born.) Riker suggests “William” as a fine, fine name. O’Brien goes off to do a transporter simulation on the bridge (which makes no sense, but he needs to be on the bridge for that part of the plot).

In a cargo bay, Crusher is inexplicably trying to convince La Forge to be Major-General Stanley in a production of The Pirates of Penzance. On the bridge, Troi introduces Picard to Marissa, Jay Gordon, and Patterson, the children who won a science fair, and therefore get a tour of the ship with Picard. (O’Brien arrives on the bridge as they leave, and wonders who to feel sorrier for, the captain or the kids.) Picard asks them about their projects, and Patterson speaks first: he grew special radishes that grew all weird!

The ship then starts shaking as if they’ve hit something. There are power fluctuations all over the ship, and when it finally settles, they’re only on emergency power. Lieutenant Monroe is in charge of the bridge, and she theorizes that they hit a quantum filament. Pretty much everything is offline, and then Ensign Mandel detects another filament. Monroe tells all hands to brace for impact—and then that impact causes her console to explode and everyone on the bridge to fall down. Troi, O’Brien, and Mandel recover, but Monroe is killed. Mandel checks the turbolifts, but they’re not working. Neither is anything else, including communications.

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Disaster

On the turbolift, Picard appears to have a broken leg and is trapped with three crying children. Jay Gordon, the most serious of the three, is convinced that they’re all going to die, and Picard can do little to calm them.

On the bridge, O’Brien tries to send a distress call, but he has no idea if they’re even transmitting. Ro shows up, yanking the turbolift doors apart from the inside, having been in a ’lift that was almost at the bridge. She announces that emergency bulkheads were shut beneath the ’lift, so getting out that way isn’t happening. It also means the bridge has been physically cut off from the rest of the ship by those bulkheads—probably lowered due to a hull breach.

Mandel has gotten partial sensors back, and is picking up life signs in the saucer section. He’s not reading anything in the drive section, but that doesn’t prove anything, as sensors could be malfunctioning. Troi can sense people alive and in pain, but that’s about it.

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Disaster

O’Brien points out that Troi is the senior officer on the deck, with Monroe dead—the other three are a noncom and two ensigns, while Troi is a lieutenant commander—and Troi very quietly and nervously asks for suggestions. O’Brien recommends an emergency protocol that puts all systems on manual, bypassing the non-working computer. Ro and Mandel work on getting life support stabilized and communications working.

Riker, Worf, and Data have set up Ten-Forward as a triage center. Access to the bridge and sickbay is cut off, so Data has ordered casualties to be brought to Ten-Forward. Riker decides to proceed as if everyone on the bridge is dead and no one’s in control of the ship. Leaving Worf in charge of Ten-Forward, Riker and Data head toward engineering, using service crawlways.

La Forge and Crusher are trapped in the cargo bay. A plasma fire starts when a shattered energy conduit ignites the compounds in the bulkhead. The fire’s putting out radiation that will affect La Forge and Crusher, but also eventually ignite the quaratum in the barrels in the cargo bay. They are, in a word, screwed.

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Disaster

Picard, with the help of Marissa, sees that the external power to the turbolift has been cut off. The ’lift shifts position momentarily, but Picard can’t reach the ceiling on one good leg. He looks at Marissa, and tells her that he needs a first officer to help him get out of this situation, giving her two of his pips. Then he says to “Number One,” that he needs a crew to help get that hatch open. Jay Gordon gets a pip and is made science officer, while Patterson, in light of his particular science project, gets the final pip, and is made executive officer in charge of radishes.

Riker and Data crawl through the bowels of the ship. A coolant leak behind them forces them to lower a bulkhead—but the way in front of them is blocked by an arc of electricity.

Crusher and La Forge move the barrels of quaratum to the other side of the cargo bay to buy them more time, as the radiation levels are lower farther from the plasma fire. But they’re just delaying the inevitable.

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Disaster

On the bridge, Ro has dumped phaser power into the engineering terminal to get it working, which O’Brien decries as an improper procedure, but Ro snaps that they won’t survive by playing it safe. Readings indicate that the containment field around the antimatter was damaged by the filament, and the field strength is falling, and when it gets below a certain threshold, the field collapses, the antimatter collides with matter, and everything goes boom.

Data can’t shut down the electrical arc. The only option is to interrupt the flow with a non-conductive material—but the only non-conductive material they have is Data’s body. He can shield his positronic brain from the surge of the arc, and then Riker can remove Data’s cranial unit and bring it to engineering. So, yeah, Riker gets to carry Data’s head to engineering, because THEY SAVED DATA’S BRAIN!!!!!

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Disaster

On the turbolift, Jay Gordon gets on Picard’s shoulders and gets the hatch open—just as the ’lift shifts again. He climbs onto the top of the ’lift and reports that one of the emergency clamps holding them in place is broken. Sooner or later, the ’lift is going to fall, so Picard informs his Number One that she needs to get her crew out of the ’lift—but his ankle’s broken, so he can’t go with them. Marissa, however, announces that the crew has decided to stick together. Picard dryly points out that this is mutiny, and then instructs Marissa on how to get some optical cable out of the panel.

La Forge figures out the best way to put out the plasma fire: starve it. They’re in a cargo bay, they can just open the door, the fire will go out, and the quaratum will be blown out into space. The trick works, and they’re safe.

In Ten-Forward, Keiko and Worf are helping treat the injured. Then Keiko starts going into the world’s most ill-timed labor. Worf, armed only with a tricorder and a long-ago Academy emergency first-aid course that included a computer-simulated birth, has to serve as Keiko’s midwife.

Ro and O’Brien argue about how to proceed. Ro wants to separate the saucer, but O’Brien thinks that’s cold-blooded, as there might be people down there. Worse, there’s no power to engineering, so if anybody is down there, they have no way to even know there’s a problem—which is unfortunate, as the problem can only be fixed from engineering. Troi orders O’Brien to transfer power to a monitor down there so they can be told of the problem. Troi also orders Ro to get the ship ready to separate. At one point, the power coupling overheats—as Ro feared it would—but O’Brien is able to keep the field from collapsing. But it could happen again, and Ro insists that they separate the saucer immediately. Troi, in no uncertain terms, says that they’ll separate when she says so and not a moment before. After that, she, for the first time, sits in the command chair.

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Disaster

Picard and the kids climb up the service ladder (Picard hopping), all of them tied together by the optical cable. As they climb, the ’lift they were in plummets and crashes. Picard leads them in a singalong of “Frère Jacques” to keep their spirits up as they proceed up the ladder, eventually making it to a clear deck.

Riker and Data’s head arrive at engineering, where the blast doors have lowered. Riker hooks Data’s head up to a console, and he’s able to open the doors. They see that the containment field is almost down, thanks to the power transfer from the bridge, and—once Riker makes a few new connections on Data’s head—they’re able to stabilize the containment field.

Keiko gives birth to a baby girl while Worf struggles through it as best he can. (“The computer simulation was not like this—that delivery was very orderly.” “Well, I’m sorry!”)

Eventually, the ship is back in order. Marissa, Jay Gordon, and Patterson present Picard with a commemorative plaque by way of a thank-you for keeping them from staying scared. (They’re all still wearing their pips, too.)

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Disaster

Can’t we just reverse the polarity?: A quantum filament is hundreds of meters long, has no mass, and can apparently break everything on a starship. Also, if the strength of the containment field around the antimatter goes below 15% it collapses. So that probably shouldn’t happen. In addition, quaratum explodes when exposed to radiation, which makes you wonder why they don’t store it in lead barrels (or some other radiation-proof substance).

It’s never explained why the combadges don’t work, since they obviously have their own independent power source, else they wouldn’t work off-ship. (Maybe the filament overloaded them?)

Thank you, Counselor Obvious: Troi gets her first command experience rather by accident, as she’s the only ranking officer left alive on the bridge when the filament hits. Her struggles with keeping up with the technobabble are amusing, in particular when she tries to analogize a quantum filament to a cosmic string, because she knows that one (following the events of “The Loss”). She’s crestfallen when O’Brien tells her that that’s a totally different phenomenon.

There is no honor in being pummeled: Worf gets to play midwife, and he doesn’t suck too badly at it, mostly following the steps in the textbook (and reading those steps out in his stentorian voice, adding to the hilarity). On the Deep Space Nine episode “Accession,” when Keiko reveals that she’s pregnant again, Worf panics and announces that he’ll be on vacation on Earth when she’s due. (He isn’t, as it happens, but neither is he put in a position to midwife the O’Briens’ second child in “The Begotten,” which always struck me as a missed opportunity.)

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Disaster

If I only had a brain...: So it turns out that Data’s head can function independently of his body, leading to one of the most hilarious visuals in the show’s history. (Not to mention Riker’s grumbling that Data needs a bigger head as he tries to plug the ship into his cranium.) We’ll see this a few more times, most notably in “Time’s Arrow.”

In the driver’s seat: Poor Lieutenant Monroe. She probably figured she had light duty, running the bridge with a skeleton crew during downtime. Instead, she got herself crispy fried, just so Troi could have some command experience. (Also: what happened to her body? The bridge was cut off, so what did they do with it? Stick it in Picard’s ready room?) When it’s all over, Ro’s back at conn.

I believe I said that: “Your contractions are now only thirty seconds apart. Dilation has increased to seven centimeters since the onset of labor. That did not take long.”

“That’s easy for you to say.”

One of many hilarious exchanges between Worf and Keiko when the latter gives birth.

Welcome aboard: The main guest stars are Erika Flores (two years prior to her regular role as Colleen Cooper on the first three seasons of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman), John Christian Graas, and Max Supera as the three children stuck in a turbolift with Picard. Jana Marie Hupp gets to be blown up as Monroe, and Cameron Arnett gets to spout technobabble as Mandel. The remaining guests are recurring: Colm Meaney as O’Brien, Rosalind Chao as Keiko, and Michelle Forbes as Ro.

Trivial matters: This is the last episode of TNG that aired before Gene Roddenberry’s death on October 24, 1991.

Ro Laren’s appearance in this episode establishes her as a recurring character rather than a one-off guest star. She’ll next show up in “Conundrum.”

This is also, obviously, the first appearance of Molly Miyaki Worf O’Brien (full name from, of all places, the novelization of “Unification” by Jeri Taylor). Molly will continue to appear on both TNG and DS9, though her age will be, er, variable.

Crusher tells La Forge that their radiation exposure will require hyronalin treatments. That drug was first mentioned way back in “The Deadly Years” on the original series as the main treatment for radiation. Crusher also used it in “Final Mission.”

With the command itch having been scratched in this episode, Troi will eventually take the bridge officer’s test in “Thine Own Self” so she can command the bridge for realsies.

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Disaster

Of the three child actors in this episode, only one—Erika Flores—is still acting. Max Supera pursued a career in music, and John Christian Graas joined the U.S. Marine Corps.

The character of Marissa Flores became the subject of legendarily awful fanfiction.

Your humble rewatcher told this story from the POV of Sonya Gomez and Kieran Duffy (who wound up trapped in a corridor) in the Starfleet Corps of Engineers novella Many Splendors (collected in the What’s Past trade paperback).

From 1990-1994, your humble rewatcher was a cohost and coproducer of a public access TV show in New York City called The Chronic Rift (revived in 2008 as a podcast that’s still going strong). We had an annual “Roundtable Awards,” where we gave out awards for various aspects of the genre, and in 1992, Ronald D. Moore won for Best Writer of a TV Show or Movie, in part due to this episode. We had no budget, so the “award” was the plastic thing they use to hold up the middle of the pizza box spray-painted gold and mounted on a piece of styrofoam that we spray-painted black. In 2010, Ron and I were both guests at the I-Con convention, and we did a radio show together (Destinies: The Voice of Science Fiction), where he informed me that he still had that award two decades later. It was the first one he’d ever won for his writing.

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Disaster

Make it so: “You may now give birth.” This episode is, on the one hand, totally predictable, full of clichés, and a very paint-by-numbers disaster movie scenario. You get folks put in situations they’re not ideally suited for—Picard with children, Troi in command, Worf as a midwife—and coming through in the end.

And you know what? I don’t care, as it’s a very good example of the cliché. All the character notes work, and it’s got some of the absolute funniest moments in the show’s history (Picard trying to get the kids to stop crying, which only makes them cry more; Riker’s response to Data’s suggestion of his decapitation; pretty much every scene with Worf and Keiko). Troi gets some character growth, Ro’s acerbic style gets its first practical workout, we get a precursor of O’Brien’s upcoming tenure as Deep Space 9’s main engineer, Rosalind Chao gets a rare opportunity to show off her comic chops, Data gets to be a disembodied head for a scene (which never gets old), and Sir Patrick Stewart develops a lovely rapport with the three kids. Those kids are also well played, as they actually act and sound like kids. (I particularly like Jay Gordon’s never-ending fatalism.)

The only real weak spot is the La Forge/Crusher portion, which is uninteresting, uneventful, and uninspired, and felt like they couldn’t figure out what to do with those two. (Also, what was Crusher thinking asking the tone-deaf La Forge to play Major-General Stanley? That was the worst rendition of “Model of a Modern Major-General” ever.)

Still a very enjoyable episode, one that never fails to entertain even with repeated rewatches.

 

Warp factor rating: 7


Keith R.A. DeCandido was amused to discover that, when he completes the Leverage novel he’s currently writing (The Zoo Job, due out either in later 2012 or early 2013), he’ll have written for exactly 20 different licensed universes. Because he’s just that awesome. Or something...

42 comments
jmd
1. jmd
I also thought this was a great episode. I remember the girl at the end answering to "Number One" when Picard was talking to Riker and thought that was a great little throwaway moment.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
2. Lisamarie
This one was fun, although as soon as I saw pregnant Keiko I was like..."Oh brother, you KNOW she's going to give birth at some inpportune time". Although the newborn was actually pretty newborn-looking, as far as TV babies go. It was actually kind of messy and slimy looking.

A few random, very small nits:
Why do people still wear jumpsuits in the future? WHY??? And what WAS the girl's science project????

I actually found the depressurization scene pretty ridiculous - the vaccuum would be a lot stronger than a human's ability to hold on to ladder (at least I would think, given how easily it sucks out these massive tubs).

I've noticed TV has a hard time portraying couples - I feel like they always have to be portrayed as bickering, and rather immaturely at that. It was as if they had never actually discussed the child's name until that moment.
jmd
3. Sean O'Hara
This is hte episode in which Troi doesn't know what a containment breach is.

Let's repeat that: she doesn't know what a warp core containment breach is.

In the immortal words of Guy Fleegman, "Did you guys ever watch the show?" How can anyone on the Enterprise not know what a containment breach is? That's like somebody on a nuclear submarine not knowing what a "meltdown" is.


The interesting thing about O'Brien's role is how it gives him a taste of life on DS9 where Ro's way of handling engineering problems is SOP. Would've made Ro's presence on the series a lot more interesting.
jmd
4. John R. Ellis
I always thought the cliches were the point of this story. They wanted to take the most stereotypical, hackneyed disaster film plot points ever, then filter that through a Next Generation lens!

Yup, the sole reason this episode exists is just for the fun of seeing our Beloved Characters react to that sort of ridiculous situation.

And it totally works. Truth be told, I often find these "And now for something completely different!" episodes, whether serious or comedic, often have the most re-watch value!
jmd
5. Lsana
This is one of those episodes that really sounds awful when you summerize, but somehow, it worked on screen. Not a great, philosophical, makes-you-ponder-the-meaning-of-life episode, but a good, solid hour of entertainment. I'd happily watch it again if I came across it in reruns.

@2,

It bothered me too that we never found out what Marissa's science fair project was. I was about her age when I first saw this episode, and was completing in the science fair, and darn it, I wanted to know what her project was.
Philippe D. Andrecheck
6. pda
@krad
You know, the LaForge and Crusher part was my very favourite! Funny how one person likes and another hates.
jmd
7. Mike Kelm
I agree with Lsana @5... it sounds awful when you recap it, but it was a really fun episode to watch. Ro is perfect as the counter to Troi's hope and naivete, as she just wants to cut the rest of the ship loose and save herself. Riker and Data's head make a good comic team, as does Worf and Keiko (love the nod to this episode in DS9 when Worf hear's she's pregnant and immediately schedules leave for her delivery date). Even Picard and the kids work as we get to see how he functions as a fish out of the water.

That being said... I have some nitpicks to do. Thank you to our recapper for pointing out that Lt. Monroe disappears faster than a Jedi after she's flash fried. I'm curious as to why nobody seems to be on the bridge though... I get that there is not much going on, but I don't think that the entire shift except for two ensigns, the completely unqualified counselor and the only NCO on the ship get to take a powder. Speaking of taking a powder, this was apparently the day the entire Engineering crew decided to steal a shuttle and play hookie, because none of them are there when Riker and Data Headroom show up. At least get 6 crew members in uniform to lay around on the ground and pretend to be unconcious. And speaking of Data and Riker, why do they decide to walk from Deck 10 all the way in front of the ship down to Deck 36 aft? Why not go two decks up and amidship to reach the battle bridge, where presumably they could get control of the ship as well?

Don't get me wrong, I like the episode and love the disaster cliches, just wanted to point out some of the wierd logical flaws we have to accept to get to the premise of the episode.
Rob Rater
8. Quasarmodo
Keith, great story about Ron Moore! How many awards did you guys give out anyway (per year and in total)?
Keith DeCandido
9. krad
Mike: when I did Gomez & Duffy's experience of this episode in Many Splendors, I addressed some of your concerns -- because the ship was on a bit of downtime, the stations were running with a skeleton crew. Hence only four people on the bridge (Ro was on her way, so presumably she was supposed to be at conn with Monroe in command), and I also established a skeleton crew in engineering, who evacuated when the blast doors went down and then got trapped.

Quasarmodo: We gave out about 15-20 awards a year, if I remember right. And we revived the awards for the podcast. :)

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
David Goldfarb
10. David_Goldfarb
This episode aired just days after the hills of Oakland and Berkeley suffered a huge fire. I remember being very much in the mood to empathize with people coping with disaster.
jmd
11. Brian Rubin
Maybe it's my love for corny disaster flicks that makes this my favorite episodes. It just works, and works REALLY well. I'll also admit the Geordi/Bev part was the weakest, but it's such a strong episode overall I don't really mind. Worf/Keiko is indeed the best part though. SO. DAMNED. FUNNY.

Thanks for the article!
jmd
12. RSeavey2387
One of my favorites. Two things, though, that always bother me:

1)OK, I get that Troi isn't exactly an engineer or anything, but she doesn’t know what a loss of antimatter containment means? Really?

2)Wouldn't one think that the button to close the space doors would be next to the one that opens them, rather than on the other side of the room?

For all that, it really is a fun, enjoyable episode. One other thing: fan-fiction jokes aside, it would actually be pretty neat to see one (or more) of the kids show up in a tie-in novel. By the timeframe they’re up to now, they’d easily be adults. Even a little cameo would be fun.
Keith DeCandido
13. krad
RSeavey2387: It was the same button that opened and closed the doors. What was on the other side of the room was the button to repressurize the room.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
jmd
14. RSeavey2387
Ah, that's right. Still seems like those two things would be closer together, though. Although I suppose that could just be related to the systems not working properly.
jmd
15. Christopher L. Bennett
A fun episode, but kind of insubstantial, like most disaster movies. Although I did love "You may now give birth."

@2: You're right, the way depressurization was portrayed here -- and just about everywhere else in TV and movies -- was very inaccurate. The reason it's called explosive decompression (a term that's often misunderstood to mean people blowing up in vacuum as in Outland or Total Recall) is because the air erupts outward almost instantly and with great force. It wouldn't be an extended gale, it would be BAM! and you're in vacuum.

Not to mention that Crusher's inept advice should've gotten Geordi killed. You don't hold your breath in vacuum; that'll rupture the alveoli in your lungs. You hyperventilate beforehand to superoxygenate your bloodstream and then exhale at the moment you enter vacuum. Though you still probably won't have more than 15-20 seconds of consciousness.

@3 & 12: Deanna may have been aware of what a containment breach was, but may have wanted them to rephrase it just to make absolutely sure they were on the same page. After all, science and engineering aren't her specialties. Heck, when it comes to something in an area I'm not skilled with, like computer science or economics, I often need to be reminded what a bit of jargon means even if I've heard it multiple times before, because it just doesn't stick as well as something from a field of knowledge my mind is more suited to handling. Even if I have an idea what it means, having it explained in more familiar terms can give me more of a handle on it.
Michael Burstein
16. mabfan
Here's what I always loved about this episode. We know that Picard is not comfortable with children, as he told Riker in the first episode of the series. So what does he do when he has to help out the three children? He turns them into officers! That, he knows how to work with. A brilliant use of the old adage to probe at a character's weakness, and a brillaint perfect and expected response from Picard.

-- Michael A. Burstein
Joseph Newton
17. crzydroid
Once again, the prop makers have no idea what a human umbilical cord looks like.

Mike Kelm @7: I was also wondering what happened to the Engineering crew. I hope they didn't all die, because lack of specifics on that would seriously mess up my spreadsheet of dead Enterprise crewmembers.
Bob Weld
18. WaitingShadows
Thank you for mentioning Data's visual, that is one of my favorite lines in any of the episodes, and I believe it's all thanks to Data's face and the deadpan delivery: "That is not the correct port Sir." I was hoping you would have a picture of it posted, and I hope no one minds if I post one...


jmd
19. Mike Kelm
@ 9.... I swear Keith, the only reason you do these things is to shill yours and Chris' books :). Just kidding. I'm glad to see someone tackled the "where is everyone" question. I remember in season 1 they had tons of extras roaming around to make the ship feel crowded, but they dropped that pretty quickly.
jmd
20. DarthSkeptical
"Disaster" is one of my favorite episodes.  The plot is Really Damned Simple, which allows the characters to do interesting things.

The technobabble is mercifully kept to a bare minimum.  Literally, O'Brien just says, "the computer is off".  That pretty much covers all problems in four words — even the non-functional combadges.  Indeed, the Treknobabble is at such a minimum that even casual fans can spot that Troi Really Doesn't Get It.  It's hugely refreshing that she doesn't understand the dangers of a faulty warp containment field.  It shows us, at last, that there is differentiation amongst Starfleet officers.  Do you really need to know what a warp containment field is to serve in Starfleet?  I can't think of one reason why you'd absolutely need to, especially if you're in the medical department.  Would Ogawa know the first thing about a warp engine?  Would that woman down in stellar cartography who had a thing with Picard?  Would the dude from geology who was on Wesley's first command assignment?  And what about that woman who married Khan? She was literally an historian.  Seriouly, what would she or any of these guys need to know about a warp containment field.  It's nice for a character to finally say, "Yanno, I might be a Commander, but I'm going to need the help of this NCO to make it through this one." 

I love how the episode attempts to do something unusual with TNG characters.  It's sometimes wrong in these attempts — as Keith rightly points out, the Crusher/La Forge bit is ill judged — but at least the emphasis is for once on character, rather than incident.  It's babysteps towards the character tapestry we'd get in DS9, but it's almost revolutionary for TNG.

My absolute favorite part of this episode is that almost all the segments has a woman thrown into a life or death struggle.  Sure, they had to create a brand new character (Marissa), and bring Keiko and Ro outta semi-retirement to do it, but it's nice to see a wide raange of women in key dramatic positions.  Even though the Crusher scene is the most nonsensical, it's certainly not the most boring to watch.  That particular no-prize goes to the only all-testosterone matchup.  The Riker/Data double act which somehow never rises above the turgid despite Data literally giving head.  

By far the coolest stories are of the two women gaining confidence.  There's something awesome about Troi and Marissa both finding their feet whilst they're facing what, to each of them, are probably (at least close to) the scariest moments of their lives.  You get plenty of these "first command" moments throughout Trek, but they're almost always of men finding out how to do things like the rest of the boys, from Spock trying to lead the humans on the ill-fated Galileo to Wesley attempting to lead a geological survey team.  It's much rarer to find an unsure woman in a leadership role.  And whether you're talking Marissa trying to keep two younger boys from flippin' the frak out, Troi living up to her responsibilities depiste a significant knowledge gap, Ezri standing up to Garak, or Hoshi finally planting her feet and making a live translation when everything is riding on it — they're truly among the best episodes in Trek history.
Keith DeCandido
21. krad
WaitingShadows: yeah, that Data bit was classic. Thanks for posting the picture -- I don't choose the pics, that's up to the code monkeys at Tor.com. *waves to the code monkeys*

DarthSkeptical: "semi-retirement"? Ro had only been in one episode prior to this, and Keiko appeared pretty regularly in the fourth season -- this was only the season's fifth episode. I like your wider point, but I don't get the "semi-retirement" line at all...

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Alan Courchene
22. Majicou
I'm glad Keith brought up the oeuvre of Mr. Stephen Ratliff. His stories were always a mess of spelling errors (but hey, his "spell checker was on the fritz") and colossal failures of logic. Sure, Stephen, the Kobayashi Maru scenario is a horde-mode videogame where survival time determines your score, just like they explain in the movie! Yes, the Enterprise-D would TOTALLY go back in time to bring the Enterprise-C into present-day Starfleet. Sure, it's plausible for there to be a weapon that only knocks out adults.

Still, Ratliff's disasters (ha ha) seem quaint and charming compared to a great deal of the soul-crushingly awful fanfic (ESPECIALLY the pornographic kind) that's out there. Those who have suffered through stories on the order of "My Immortal" will no doubt long for the hilariously stupid adventures of Grand Admiral Marissa Amber Flores Picard or whatever the hell.
jmd
23. DarthSkeptical
@krad - Yeah, I got my timing a little off on Ro.  Both she and Keiko are in less than 10 eps of TNG — though it feels like more — but their time is spread differently.   Season 5 is Ro's big season, and she had only just premiered two weeks prior to "Disaster".  Nevertheless, I tend to think of her — wrongly as it turns out — as a once-a-season guest star, just because that's what happens to her in seasons 6 and 7.   Without the benefit of hindsight, it would, as you suggest, be more accurate to think of her in "Disaster" as a brand new character making her second appearance.  Heck, I bet there were people in 1991 who thought that, with two appearances in three weeks, she might be headed towards the opening titles of season 6.  So, no, she's not "coming out of semi-retirement" when viewing the eps in broadcast order.  

In my mind — despite the fact that she almost starred in DS9, and the fact that she does effectively star in several books (maybe even yours?) — she comes across as the Failed Wesley Replacement with a Pinch of Yar.  She was the token Ensign, the more interesting face of all those extras who sat on Data's left.  I can never get that emotionally invested in her because her character as televised goes precisely nowhere in the end.  So although I've messed up the timing a bit, the character does quickly become one that's dragged out of semi-retirement.    

As for Keiko, I dunno what to call her TNG appearances.  She seems far too irregular to call "semi-regular" and yet, as you've pointed out, "semi-retired" doesn't seem right either, particularly because the majority of her overall Trek appearances remain to be seen at this point.  I suppose I was thinking strictly of her TNG appearances, which are all-but-concluded by "Disaster".  Though it feels like she was around more, she had actually only appeared in four episodes of season 4, which was her high-water mark.  So we're talking the summer break plus five or six weeks since she was last seen.  She's nothing like a regular, or even semi-regular, character, even in season 4.  Keiko tends to feel a lot more prominent than she actually ever was just because she gets mentioned a lot.  This is especially true on DS9 where you'd think she's in every other episode — when in fact she's only in a little over 10% — but the multiplicative effect of the actual regulars saying her name creates a serious illusion.

So I'm not sure what the better phrase would have been for these two.  "Very occasional characters", maybe? "Irregulars"?  "Characters with a lot of on-paper promise that the writers forgot about"?  "Characters played by women who weren't under contract but were able to find a decent amount of work outside Trek?" 

I dunno — point is that Trek could have used more regular female characters, and "Disaster" proved that these two were played by two great actors who should've been featured more.
Alice Arneson
25. Wetlandernw
DarthSkeptical - How about "recurring" or "occasionally recurring?"

Marcus Cole did a great "Model of a Modern Major General" on B5...
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
27. Lisamarie
@15 - THANK YOU! I was trying to visualize Crusher's advice and what that would do to the human lungs and it seemed to me like you would NOT WANT lungs full of air in a depressurized environment.

I do agree it's a fun episode, and a good example of when using tropes goes right.

@22 - My Immortal? The only My Immortal in fan fic I am aware of is an epicly awful/awesome Harry Potter fanfic that had me laughing so hard tears were coming out of my eyes. Are you referring to the same, or is there also a terrible Star Trek fan fic of the same name?
Alan Courchene
28. Majicou
@27: The same. And I'm aware that it's probably a troll-fic (of course, I seriously hope it is, since the alternative is that someone as apparently stupid as that "writer" exists.) However, I'd mention that different people have different standards for "hilariously awful" vs. "murderous-rage-inducingly awful."
jmd
29. critter42
@3: "That's like somebody on a nuclear submarine not knowing what a "meltdown" is." - I have to disagree. First a nuclear carrier would be a much better analog for your point - 6000+ crewmembers when the airwing is embarked vs ~150 on a submarine. In TNG terms - Enterprise-D=Carrier, USS Defiant=submarine :).

But the fact that someone who is essentiatly a psychologist not knowing what a containment breach is (even though she's a Lt Cmdr) is entirely believable to me. Taking your example - while the medical staff on a carrier probably knows how to treat for radiation poisoning and almost certainly understands that meltdown=bad (though in reality if the ship is in a position where a meltdown is occurring, there's probably a better than average chance that most of the crew is already kibbles n bits), they probably don't have a grasp on what a meltdown means on a practical level and needs an engineer to explain what is going on and what the options are in short syllables.

Even on a submarine, where a much greater percentage of personnel are nuclear-qualified, I'm sure there are people that would need an explanation of what a meltdown really is.

- former Navy nuclear-qualified Electrician's Mate
Keith DeCandido
30. krad
Administrative note: There will be no rewatch on Tuesday the 19th of June, as I am in Deadline Hell for my Leverage novel The Zoo Job. The rewatch will return with "The Game" on Friday.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
jmd
31. General Vagueness
I just figured O'Brien misspoke and meant to say he had to be in a drill (a drill is often a simulation of sorts).
jmd
32. Adam Goss
The irony of this episode is that while "LaForge" can't carry a tune, in real life apparently LeVar Burton can sing, having previously done so with a church choir before going full-time into acting.
NICKOLAS POLISKEY
33. jlpsquared
One of the few very enjoyable episodes of season stupid.
Ben McCardell
34. Thistlefizz
@2 While I agree that TV writers often seem to have trouble showing couples doing anything besides arguing, it didn't seem odd to me that Miles and Keiko would be arguing/bickering about their child's name, nor did it seem like it was the first time they were discussing it. My wife and I haven't even gotten pregnant yet and we disagree about our future children's names all the time--and many of the arguments are the same. (No, you can't name our kid Telmo. No, it's not a common name. Stop trying to give our kid a name that makes him sound like a sesame street character.)

@3 With warp core breaches, warp field destabalizations, warp plasma conduit ruptures, warp field generator fluxes, and the like all sounding so similar, it may be hard for Troi to keep track. She knows that warp=related to engines, and that failure=bad, but with all the different types of problems that the warp engines can have, who can blame her for not being able to keep track.
jmd
35. Ashcom
Worf obviously gets all the best lines in TNG, but "Congratulations, you are now fully dilated to 10 centimetres, you may now give birth" is my personal favourite of them all.
Dante Hopkins
36. DanteHopkins
I was just gonna post the line @35 posted, as it is damn hilarious, and Worf says it so straightfaced it never gets old! I liked this episode, and enjoy it every time I happen to catch it.
Matthew Clark
37. clarkbhm
Pretty sure that it's spelled Paterson and not "Patterson." At least it's spelled that way in the card that the kids present to Picard.
jmd
38. Scott M
I remember really liking this episode when it first came on, and the rewatch does not disappoint. It's just full of fun and enjoyable moments. My favorite is one that isn't mentioned: When the kids want to tour all the cool places on the ship, and Picard bluntly refuses. Instead, they'll visit the lame places. Joy! It's a perfect little snippet that captures how completely out of touch he is with children.
jmd
39. 1337
Really wasn't a fan of this episode. Separating the characters out through the ship created a bunch of micro-plots where there was little conflict and no resolve for each character. One of the few episodes where by the end, I felt almost nothing happened. The entire episode also had painfully lazy writing. Absolutely no context regarding the disaster given at any point, nor do they even ever care, even though this put them through more random hell than almost any other problem they've had on the Enterprise lately).

Definitely a "skipper".
jmd
40. komradtombstone
I really enjoyed this episode too! I especially enjoyed Picard's interactions with the children: "Executive officer in charge of radishes," and Worf playing midwife was quite well done. One question: what happened to the commemorative plaque after this episode? I hoped that it would appear in his ready room after this, or maybe his quarters, but from what I can tell, he didn't even put it up. Prove me wrong please anyone. Oh well, at least the kids got to see the battle-bridge!
jmd
41. uv
It bothered me that all the science fair winners were white. Some people will think I'm being overly politically correct. But come on, it's supposed to be a future where Earth (if not the galaxy) is pretty utopian compare to today, with no racism. Come to think of it, the same goes with the Enterprise crew. Although it's multiracial by 1990s standards, not by 24th century standards. The crew should be mostly East and South Asian (if population proportions of the world's nations stay roughly the same). But not a single Asian among the main crew. Gender ratios. also needs improvement.

Ok, done with the rant.

7 is also what I had in mind for this episode. It's a fun episode with some great moments, but not great overall, IMO.

I agree with the fist comment that the "Aye, sir" from both Riker and the girl when Picard says "You have the bridge #1" was awesome - for me a favorite moment not just in this episode but in TNG.

:)
jmd
42. RudiMentry
Troi is still indecisive about separating the saucer section, even as we see Data telling Riker the containment field collapse is seconds away. She also has almost laughable technical knowledge, as many note here. Is it a stretch that in 2 short years she will attain bridge command status, with no real on the job training? In all fairness, someone has to make the "Duh" comments, to spell it out for newbie watchers.
jmd
43. Seth C
This is actually one of my more favorite episodes of TNG (there are a lot) in part b/c it's the cliched "disaster" episode. I agree with the nitpickers on a couple different points.
1) Everyone in Engineering decided to abandon it in case of a core breach I guess... YEAH RIGHT.
2) No one seems to remember that the battle bridge is on deck 8 of the secondary hull and would be a far more logical place for Riker and Data to go to regain control of the ship; it's only two decks away instead of 26. That's a nitpick I have of the entire series--I think we only see the battle bridge in "Encounter at Farpoint", "Arsenal of Freedom" and "The Best of Both Worlds Part II"-- not conicentially the three episodes where saucer separation is performed. In "Brothers", and "Power Play" they transfer (or attempt to) command to Engineering. The whole point of the battle bridge is to have a backup for the main bridge; though Engineering could have points for it as well.
3) I find it absurd that the COUNSELOR, with virtually no technical or command experience at all, is put in command of the ship in the midst of a dire crisis (though I actually like seeing Troi and Crusher in later episodes, in command). It was established by inference at that point, that a lower-ranking bridge officer like Worf, outranked a higher-ranked non-bridge officer like LaForge or Crusher. "Thine Own Self" is absurd in that to pass a Bridge Officer's Test for non-bridge officers, you have to attain the rank of commander first, but that's a point for another episode. How did O'Brien (who with his pips of full lieutenant at this pt should be in command) know Troi held the rank of lieutenant commnder when the only reference to that point, was her "skant" uniform and pips in the pilot, four and a half years earlier? And why would you put a psychologist with virtually no experience in engineering, sciences, command or tactical in command in a crisis situation? It would have been much more logic for Ro, as a command divison officer, to take command, or O'Brien as a quasi full lieutenant/non com (I am convinced the writers confused the position of Transporter Chief with the non com rank of "Chief").

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