Star Trek: The Next Generation – Disaster [5.5]

An unexpected encounter with a rare but natural phenomenon cripples the Enterprise and traps the crew in a variety of challenging situations.  These include Picard being stuck in a turbo-lift with three children, Troi being forced to take command of the bridge, and Worf having to help Keiko O’Brien deliver her baby.  In order to gain access to engineering, Riker must dismantle Data’s head, and to prevent a further disaster, Dr. Crusher and Geordi must subject themselves to a temporary vacuum.  Eventually, Troi is able to make a key command decision that saves the ship, Picard is able to lead the three scared children to safety, and Keiko delivers a healthy baby.

Teleplay by Ronald D. Moore. Story by Ron Jarvis and Philip A. Scorza. Directed by Gabrielle Beaumont .

Previous Episode: Silicon Avatar • Next Episode: The Game

I’ve been looking forward to seeing Disaster again, remembering it as a fun episode with a lot of varied set pieces and interesting character dynamics.  Watching it again…well, I wouldn’t say it was a disappointment, but it wasn’t really as much of a delight as I had hoped.  The danger with stories in which everyone has got their own little plotline is that none of those plotlines really end up being all that well developed or interesting.  Still, it is fun to see everyone carrying their share of the action, including even the recurring characters Chief O’Brien, Keiko O’Brien, and Ensign Ro Laren.

It is a testament to how successful these characters are that they fit in so well in this ensemble episode.  Even Ensign Ro, who recurs for the first time here, feels like a regular part of the family.  Although perhaps it would have been nice to have been aware of Keiko’s pregnancy prior to this episode.  It seems like we only tune into the most significant moments in O’Brien’s life – we didn’t know Keiko existed until their wedding day, we didn’t know about little Molly O’Brien’s existence until the day she was born.

Out of all the plotlines, I’d have to say that Riker & Data’s, involving being required to dismantle and carry around Data’s head, was the most ridiculous.  Beverly and Geordi’s, on the other hand, though sort of irrelevant, was more interesting, partly because we don’t normally see those two characters paired up together.  By the far the funniest and most enjoyable was the business of Worf helping Keiko to give birth to her baby.  He’s obviously the biggest “fish out of water” to be involved in such an activity, but Worf does not disappoint, delivering not only the baby but also the episode’s funniest dialog.  For example (after being told that Keiko is going into labor) “You cannot. This this is not a good time, Keiko,” and “Dilation has gone to seven centimeters since the onset of labor. That did not take long,” and “Congratulations. You are fully dilated to ten centimeters. You may now give birth,” and “Now you must push with each contraction and I must urge you gently but firmly to push harder.”

I suppose the bits with Troi, Ro and O’Brien on the bridge must be considered the “main” plot of the episode, simply because their actions have such a profound effect on everybody else.  They do all right with the narrative, creating a moral dilemma that Troi can exercise her nascent command abilities on that doesn’t necessarily involve strong technical knowledge to comprehend.  She’s surrounded by O’Brien – whose decision-making ability is compromised because of his wife, and Ro – who is still rough and new enough to the show that she can believably cast as the “bad guy” of the storyline.  Probably they could have done without the extraneous Ensign Mandel.  It’s a bit silly that they should all leave Mandel on the bridge so they can discuss things in the conference room.

But while the bridge story is the main “action plot”, it’s Picard’s that is meant to be the heart of things, simply because he’s Picard.  Having him trapped with children is an obvious area of challenge for the character, and there are some nice moments, but it’s not taken advantage of as much as it could have been.  After the first minute or so, all of Picard’s awkwardness with the kids is gone, and he manages the range of emotions on display with amazing deftness and skill.  Really, after this, it’d be completely silly if Picard ever talks again about being awkward with children.

It’s a bit of a shame that they don’t take any time in the story to show the response of the ship as a whole to dealing with what has happened.  There’s nobody in engineering, so presumably a lot of people died.  Still, it’s a fun episode (though not a classic), if you can only accept how contrived it all is.

Guest Cast
• Erika Flores, who plays Marissa Flores, was a regular on Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.

• John Christian Graas, who plays Jay Gordon Graas also appeared in two episodes of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, as someone named Charles, and two episodes of Seinfeld as someone named Matthew.

Shout Outs to the Past:
There is no direct reference, but of course the Picard story-line is built off of all the previous references to Picard’s discomfort with children, first mentioned all the way back in Encounter at Farpoint.

Shout Out to the Past
There is a brief reference to Hyronalyn, the anti-radiation drug that was mentioned back in the original series episode Miri.

Setting Up the Future:
The episode introduces Molly O’Brien, Keiko and Miles’ daughter, although I’m not sure that she’s actually named here.

A season or two later, Troi will be inspired by her challenges in this story to undertake proper command training.

• Young Mr. Patterson’s line about his science project is hilarious:  “I planted radishes in this special dirt and they came up all weird!”  So is Picard’s response, “I see. That’s very, very commendable.”

• The effect of the actual disaster hitting is very effective.

• The one funny scene with Picard’s discomfort with the children is when Picard tries to basically order them to stop crying.

• I like the green edge on the lighting on Beverly and Geordi that’s meant to be from the plasma fire

• O’Brien reacting to Ro’s actions to get the engineering station functioning again is a bit over the top.

• Riker says that android or not, he would not ask anyone to take the kind risk Data suggests he take.  Yet later, in the story in which Troi attains command training, part of that training involves being willing to order a crew member to their death to save the ship.

• Goerdi and Beverly are extremely optimistic about being able to hold onto to something if they open up the doors of their cargo bay to the vacuum of space.

• Funny moment when Worf is helping the injured man:  “There will be a sharp pain as I set the bone. Prepare yourself. Good. Good, you bore that well.”  Probably he couldn’t make any more noise without being required to be paid more than a non-speaking extra.

•  Creepy when Dr. Crusher explains what will happen medically with depressurization.  But can’t Geordi just program the controls to automatically repressurize the bay?

• Data’s head is also sort of creepy.

• Riker says to Data, amusingly, “You need a bigger head.”

• Not sure why Marissa doesn’t go up the ladder last, as the eldest of the children

• Gracious response from Troi to Ro:  “You could have easily been right.”

• Keiko facial expression in response to the question, “Did you feel an uncontrollable urge to push?” is hilarious.

• Star Trek space blankets – all shiny!

Dialogue High Point
Worf has a lot of fun moments, but my favorite was this one:

The computer simulation was not like this. That delivery was very orderly.

Previous Episode: Silicon Avatar • Next Episode: The Game

One thought on “Star Trek: The Next Generation – Disaster [5.5]

  1. I really like this episode. The various plots are all cool. I really like Troi being in command. It’s an interesting situation for her to be in. That it eventually led to her taking the command test was great, too.

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