As the Enterprise is tasked with the perilous task of delivering a series of highly virulent germs to a needy planet, Counselor Troi is impregnated by a disembodied energy creature. The pregnancy comes to term incredibly quickly and develops into a young boy in a matter of hours. The presence of the boy causes one of the germ cultures to grow uncontrollably and dangerously, so the boy ends his life and returns to existence as an energy being. Troi learns that he was simply wanting to understand the Enterprise crew by living life among them.
Written by Jaron Summers & Jon Povill and Maurice Hurley. Directed by Rob Bowman.
The Child is the opening episode of the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and is therefore tasked with introducing several changes to the status quo of the show. Some of these are cosmetic and are apparent instantly – namely Riker’s new beard and Worf’s now golden uniform (same colors as Tasha Yar). Counselor Troi has a new overall look, which is also an improvement, as is Wesley’s new uniform. We also learn very quickly that the role of Chief Engineer will no longer be a rotating door, as Geordi shifts into that position – a very wise move for the show.
The biggest change we see though is the debut of new Chief Medical Officer, Kathryn Pulaski. Now, I don’t know any real big Dr. Pulaski fans, but actually her initial appearance on the show is pretty successful. She immediately has a distinct personality very different than her predecessor (always a good thing), and her difficulty recognizing Data as a valid person is intriguing to say the least. Of course, she’s also sort of annoying, so some of my positive response is definitely taking into account he fact that we know that after this year, Dr. Crusher will be back.
The other major newcomer is Whoopi Goldberg as Guinan. Including Ten Forward to the ship is a good move and makes sense for the kind of vessel the Enterprise is, but Guinan seems a bit out of place. She is obviously a character that would not be included if it weren’t for the fact that Whoopi Goldberg was playing her. According to IMDB, she appears in 28 episodes of the series from here on in, and I’ll be definitely keeping an eye on the number of bits of sage advice that she gives in that time. Here, she counsels Wesley Crusher over a couple of scenes (one of them is actually very good, as they look out the window) and leads him to decide to stay on the ship even without his mother. So, if you’re wondering, we have Guinan to blame.
As for the episode itself, it’s not bad – better than I remember, actually. Overall, the pacing of the show is an improvement over the average story from the first season. The threat from the biological culture is reasonably well handled, and the main story of Troi’s bizarre pregnancy from a “life force entity” is told reasonably effectively. Some of the reactions, such as Riker’s, are pretty good, but others, such as Dr. Pulaski’s, seem a bit lacking in recognizing the unusual quality of what’s going on.
The place where the story really lacks is going into what the experience means for Troi. She has one moment where she seems to become aware of the baby inside of her, and then declares emphatically that she is keeping her baby. But for the most part, that’s basically all we get from her – at least until the end. The show could have really stood to have given us a scene or two where she confided in Picard or Riker why she made this decision – maybe something about her emotional connection with the baby. This would have been especially helpful on a show like this where we are all wondering if Deanna is being influenced by the alien baby inside of her. There was a real opportunity to develop Troi’s character in relationship to being a mother, dealing with this unusual situation, or something – but it’s more or less wasted. Probably too much time spent explaining why Wesley was sticking around on the ship.
Oh well. As far as the style and pacing of the show, it’s still a step in the right direction, with some good character touches (eg. Data attending Troi’s delivery, the conversation about who will look after Wesley at the end, etc.)
Shout Outs to the Past:
Nothing in particular, except for the entire script, I suppose. It was famously recycled from the scrapped Star Trek Phase Two series that eventually gave way to the first Star Trek movie. In the original story, it would have been Lt. Ilia that became pregnant first, followed by the Enterprise itself becoming pregnant second. Interesting to say the least.
Setting Up the Future
Ian Andrew Troi is named after Deana Troi’s father – a character we will eventually meet.
• Diana Muldaur debuts here as Dr. Kathryn Pulaski. She appeared twice in the original series of Star Trek as two different characters (one in Return to Tomorrow and the other in Is There In Truth No Beauty?). She also was a regular on LA Law (and famously died when she fell down an elevator shaft)
• Whoopi Goldberg debuts as Guinan. She is obviously a well known and extremely famous actress with many hit roles and an Oscar for Ghost.
• Colm Meaney is back, and working in the transporter room for the first time!
• R.J. Williams who plays Ian Andrew Troi, played young Thomas Magnum on a couple of episodes of Magnum, P.I.
• Riker amusingly steps over the chair in Picard’s ready room.
• Engineering now has people working in it! This helps the show immensely as far as giving the ship a naturalistic feel.
• Appropriately, Denise Crosby is no longer listed on the credits, and neither is Gates McFadden. Diana Muldua is listed as Special Guest Star, and Whoopi Goldberg as Special Guest Appearance.
• Pulaski says it’s strange to need armed guard in sick bay – but come on, it’s obvious, don’t you think? Pulaski acts like she’s oblivious to the fact that hey…something strange is happening. But maybe it’s just her bedside manner.
• Puppies! I’m not much of dog person, but they’re pretty cute. Apparently Picard has never played with puppies. Really? Not even growing up on a vineyard?
• It’ll be interesting to trace Guinan’s backstory as we go through this series. Here, we have acknowledgement of some mystery as to who she is. She claims to not have met Picard before she came on board, but that’s not the complete truth as we’ll see.
• When the culture is growing out of control, they wonder if it is a sensor malfunction, so Data asks the computer to confirm whether the growth is actually taking place. How is the computer meant to tell if there is growth taking place without using the sensors?
• Pretty chintzy special effect for when little Ian Andrew turns back into a “Life Force Entity” (pretty silly name, by the way).
• Nice scene at the end with the discussion about who will take care of Wesley, leading to a funny moment where Worf agrees to tuck him in at night. In this scene, Riker agrees to basically be a surrogate father to Wesley. I don’t recall if we ever see this played out over the rest of the year.
Dialogue High Point
The most memorable line (as I did remember it from my initial viewing) is Data’s reply when Dr. Pulaski asks why it matters whether she pronounces his name with a “date” or “dat” sound.
One is my name. The other is not.