Plot Synopsis: Counselor Troi is shocked to find out she is pregnant; a deadly plague threatens to kill the Enterprise crew; Wesley Crusher is weighing his options for the future with the help of Guinan, the proprietor of the ship’s lounge, Ten Forward.
Plot A and B Analysis: The teaser here is alright. Listen to the musical fanfare at the very beginning of this episode, it’s meant to be celebrating getting through the first season, and is likely what got this episode nominated for an Emmy; it’s really nice if you pay attention. So Geordi, the new chief engineer, has built a containment module for some deadly specimens, but we don’t know what. Then a mysterious little light from space flies into the Enterprise and ends up going between Deana Troi’s legs. I remember watching this when I was 13 and thinking, “uh, did that go where I think it just went?” Plot A here concerns Troi’s star child, plot B revolves around deadly disease specimens the Enterprise is transporting to help cure a plague. There’s even a little plot C in this episode, surrounding Wes’s decision to stay or leave the Enterprise. Troi delivers the baby within 36 hours of conception and her kid grows preposterously fast. Meanwhile one specimen of plasma plague is beginning to grow, endangering the ship, and they can’t stop it. We learn of course, that the child and the cell growth is linked and things resolve in a nice enough fashion I suppose. Meanwhile Wes decides to stay on the Enterprise after a couple of talks with Guinan. Plot A is somewhat interesting, plot B is somewhat interesting, and plot C is good. I can’t say that any of them are good enough that someone would really want to see them again.
Favorite Scenes: There is a nice overlooked scene about seven minutes into the episode where Picard and Wes are on the turbolift together. Patrick’s acting subtly conveys his inexperience with relating to Wes in a way I like. The birthing experience for Troi is actually done pretty well. Data is pretty funny and we see Riker in the corner watching, everything in that scene seems to work. I don’t know if it’s actually touching, but it’s pretty good. It’s not really a scene, but in this episode is one of the only times we see what it looks like when the Enterprise goes to warp as you look through a window. The scenes with Guinan and Wes are good, and one of their exchanges I’ve actually remembered through my life:
Guinan: Don’t you always do what’s expected?
Wes: I try.
Guinan: Even if it’s not what you really want?
Wes: Sometimes. Sometimes it’s more important to consider others before yourself.
Guinan: Yes. But sometimes the game is to know when to consider yourself before others. Give yourself permission to be selfish.
Striking that balance has been one of the struggles of my life, but I wouldn’t have been really considering it at all if I hadn’t learned it here.
Use of Cast/Characters: “Counselor Troi is going to need the comfort of a human touch and not the cold hand of technology.” And thus Dr. Pulaski’s romance with Data begins. It continues a few minutes later, when she mispronounces his name and doesn’t seem to care when he corrects her. She doesn’t come across as really unlikable, but here the groundwork is being laid. Guinan is introduced pretty well, having a couple of nice conversations with Wes that sets up how her character will interact with others most of the time. There’s a line here that’s always thrown me–saying she never knew Picard until she came on board–but there is some unknown back story between the two I’ve always wanted to discover. Picard doesn’t do a lot here, he mostly visits the Child, comments on the plague specimens and tells Wes he can stay. Riker has more to do, being involved with plots A and B and we see the beginning of his increased development in this episode. Troi of course is one of the centerpieces of the episode, so she gets some development and lots of screen time. We get to see her act and get fleshed out a bit more, which is nice. She also wears her new maroon outfit, which must have been a huge step up from the denim uniform she had to wear for the first season, ugh. Data doesn’t do a lot but he does have a couple of good scenes, most notably in the delivery room. Geordi has some more to do here, both with his promotion and his involvement in plot B. Wes gets a new uniform and has some nice scenes as well. Worf, as usual, has the least to do. Seymour Cassel is the guest star, playing the medical officer, but he really gives a forgettable performance.
Blu Ray Version: The video quality in the first several scenes is a little sub-standard. There’s noticeable grain in several scenes here, which is a bit disappointing considering the exceptional quality of season one. Toward the end of the episode, however, it’s so crystal clear you can see the difference Marina’s tears have made in her foundation make-up. The CGI and animation in this episode was redone, and it looks great. The planets are usually beautiful, but in this case it’s nothing exceptional either. The scene where ‘the child’ transforms into energy is much improved, smoother, and even shows the depression in his pillow evening out and the blanket sinking down to the mattress.
Nitpicks: In the first shot of the bridge you can see Worf’s shadow cast across the turbolift door, obviously from a stage light. Later on when the specimen is growing Data thinks it might be a sensor malfunction and asks the computer if growth is actually occurring. Umm, wouldn’t the computer just use those same sensors to find that out? Unhelpful! And of course later on Data wouldn’t be nervous and yelling for the doctor’s attention at Troi’s delivery, because he doesn’t have feelings of nervousness, though I forgive that. There are a couple of black cards at the back of the bridge toward the end of the episode, but they’re not that noticeable. Toward the end of the episode Riker does the hands-under-pits thing again. If he keeps it up I’m going to start calling it the Riker Maneuver. It’s still kind of annoying, but somewhat less so because it’s dark and he has the beard. It’s true! The lighting in this episode is still unnecessarily dark in a few places, such as the cargo bay scenes and the scenes in Troi’s quarters, and it just doesn’t need to be.
Overall Impression: For some reason I don’t really think of this episode as the beginning of the second season. Maybe it’s because this isn’t actually a TNG script, as I discuss below. The whole episode is kinda of blah, and while it doesn’t do anything terribly, it doesn’t do anything particularly well either. It’s telling that my two favorite scenes both have to do with the short interaction between Guinan and Wes. I remember being shocked that there was a new doctor, particularly when I had no explanation or warning at all that Gates wouldn’t return. I was almost as shocked to see Whoopi, and I not only liked her but so did my parents, who thought of her as just a dirty comedian previously. One thing in this episode’s favor is that there is no whiff of the original series, but there’s not much to recommend it. I rate this episode 2 out of 5 stars.
Behind the Scenes/Trivia: The writer’s strike was winding down but there was still no script when season two began. It even began late as I discuss on the season two page, but they still needed to do something or they would be canceled. Their secret weapon were the old scripts from Phase II. Star Trek: Phase II is a show that was planned to be a spin-off series in the 70’s that never worked out (click on the link to learn more about it). The Child was an episode from that series that TNG adapted so Paramount wouldn’t cancel them. Marina Sirtis said that while they were filming this episode Patrick was treating her like she was actually pregnant, offering her chairs, asking if she needed anything etc. Her prosthetic stomach here was filled with birdseed. Rob Bowman, the director said that for this episode “I know we went for more of a feature look, although the consensus from the studio was that it was too dark and looked too much like a feature, so we brightened it up a little.” If you pause the listing of the etiology of the plague specimen in the cargo bay you see it’s some of the producers and directors of TNG. This episode was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Music Composition for a Series. The only other episode where we get to watch the ship actually going to warp out a window is in The Vengeance Factor.
Missable/Unmissable? Missable. I suppose there is some importance as this is the first appearance of Whoopi Goldberg and Diana Muldaur, but you don’t learn anything about the former here and you’ll get plenty of the latter as the season progresses. The next episode is where I consider season two to really begin.