Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 27 (The Child)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

I know that I complained a lot in my reviews of the first-season episodes. The first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation suffered from some bad writing. The second season wasn’t much better. It’s a little more complex and I don’t want to get into it here. (I’ll save it for the review of the entire season.) However, “The Child” does tend to epitomize what went wrong.

This is the first episode of the second season. There are a lot of changes. It starts out with the new chief medical officer, Dr. Kate Pulaski, coming to the Enterprise by shuttlecraft. Dr. Crusher has been promoted to head of Starfleet Medical. Worf is now wearing a yellow uniform and is officially Chief of Security. Geordi La Forge has a yellow uniform of his own and has been promoted to chief of engineering. Riker has also grown a beard. And, uh…oh, yeah! Counselor Troi is pregnant.

Actually, she becomes pregnant in this episode. This mysterious blue dot of energy floats through the ship until it finds Troi. It then works its way up her bed and impregnates her. At first, it’s simply odd. It’s clear that there’s definitely no father, at least in the conventional sense. However, it’s not clear if the child is a threat. So far as anyone can tell, Troi is simply pregnant. There’s no immediate threat to the ship.

Troi makes it clear that she is going to have the child, despite the fact that the pregnancy, which should take ten months, will take just 36 hours. Troi decides to name the boy Ian after her father. Once born, it takes him just one day to age four years. His cognitive skills appear to be normal for a child of his apparent age. He’s aging very rapidly, but no one can explain why.

Of more immediate concern is a batch of various strains of the same plague that the Enterprise is transporting. Each strain is in a container that should hold it, but even the least deadly of the strains will kill everyone on the ship in a matter of hours. Everything has been checked, rechecked and then checked and rechecked by someone else. In theory, nothing should go wrong. However, in the grand tradition of foreshadowing, something goes wrong.

One of the strains starts to grow. The only thing that it’s uniquely susceptible to is a particular form of radiation, but there’s nothing on the Enterprise that would emit it. Just then, Ian tells his mother that he knows that he’s the source of the concern and that he has to leave her. Troi understands this to mean that he is going to die. Alas, there’s nothing that anyone can do. After ‘dying’, Ian reverts to his energy state and conveys to Troi that he was just passing through and wanted to see what life was like for us by living as one of us. It was never his intent to harm anyone. After he leaves, the strain stops growing.

The story was interesting, but did have its problems. There were really three main stories in this episode. I’ve mentioned Troi’s son and the plague strains. Along with that is the issue of whether Wesley Crusher should follow his mother to Starfleet medical. None of the stories had any real emotional pull.

Yes, the plague could have killed everyone, but it didn’t seem like a problem because you knew the writers wouldn’t kill off all of the characters at once. However, the plague samples wouldn’t have been a problem if not for Ian.

Wesley’s dilemma seemed pointless. Why should an officer follow his mother, even if he is under age? No one wanted to see Dr. Crusher gone. I think that a lot of people at the time would have been just as happy to see Wesley go off to Starfleet headquarters. Ultimately, Wesley’s problem is simply something that he has to decide.

I really didn’t like Pulaski. I’ve seen Diana Muldaur in other things and she was fine. She just wasn’t able to pull off Dr. Pulaski. I think a good deal of it for a lot of fans is that they couldn’t understand why Dr. Crusher had to leave. The show was set up with that character in mind. I don’t think that Pulaski ever really fit in. The writers seemed to want to try for another Bones-like character, even trying to have some tension between Pulaski and Data similar to what McCoy had with Spock. The trouble is that her treatment of Data comes off as condescending and mean.

This is the first appearance of Guinan, who is played by Whoopi Goldberg. Her character would appear throughout the rest of the series. Goldberg is able to play the character with a calmness that was perfect. I think that her presence may be the only thing that saves the episode.

This episode is worth only two stars. The writers tried to do something with the episode and it almost worked, but it fell flat. I think that all three of the stories could have been developed more and might have done better if one of them had been removed and given its own episode. However, as it stands, the episode stunk. I can’t recommend this to anyone except the most diehard fan. 

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

interesting review. thanks. i found your review from links via IMDB, which lined to a listing of the ratings of all Next Gen episodes. this ep 'The Child' was rated very low, near the bottom of the list of eps. i just it again the other day and i agree it was poor. main reason for me: Dr Pulaski, who i hated because she hated Data. her constant insults of Data, in various eps, irked me to no end. And i was upset that they replaced a good character (Dr Crusher) with a much worse character. this serious flaw ruined many eps of sea 2.