The Child (TNG Rewatch: Season 2, Episode 1)

Rewatching Star Trek: The Next Generation after a 20-year break.

As science fiction, this was an interesting premise with great production values and character moments, that ultimately didn’t deliver any real drama because our main characters lacked any significant agency.

The Child opens with some lovely footage of the Enterprise alongside another starship, and a stunning shot of a shuttle leaving the landing bay, with another starship floating nearby and crew members in the foreground & on a second level. These days it’s very inexpensive to compose such shots with green screens and CGI, but this was all done optically, with miniatures and live actors. It’s not a terribly significant scene, but it’s pretty to look at.

Much the same can be said of this episode, which manages to cover the departure of Dr. Crusher, the arrival of her replacement Dr. Pulaski, the fate of Wesley now that his mother has gone, the promotion of LaForge to Chief Engineer, the introduction of the Ten Forward lounge set, and the introduction of the semi-regular bartender Guinan — and none of those happen in either the A or the B plots.

The character-driven A plot involves a glowing point of light that enters through the ship’s hull, wanders around inside until it finds Troi sleeping in her quarters, and floats under her sheets.

Some good writing involved Picard getting annoyed that his new Chief Medial Officer hasn’t reported to him and isn’t in sickbay. When he finds her apparently chilling in Ten Forward, he’s about to chew her out but she just tells him to sit down.

I also liked an intentionally awkward elevator-and-corridor scene between Picard and Wesley, which sets up a scene between Wesley and Guinan. These scenes are part of the C plot (what happens to Wesley now that has mother is no longer on the Enterprise) and also shows us what Guinan is here for. (What has Whoopi Goldberg done lately? I’ll probably Google her later.)

The contrived B plot, involving transporting dangerous cargo necessary to fight a plague, is by-the-numbers and forgettable. I was much more interested in seeing Colm Meany return as an as-yet nameless transporter chief (eventually known as Miles O’Brien, who would become a main character in the spinoff Deep Space Nine).

Diana Muldaur does a good job playing a central role delivering all the medical lines to an ensemble she’s never worked with before. Muldaur actually appeared in the original Star Trek, guest starring opposite William Shatner not once but twice.  Of course I missed Dr. Crusher, but I enjoyed the Pulaski-Data dynamic, and and would have welcomed seeing her return as a guest in later seasons just to give her character closure.

The A plot, involving Troi’s pregnancy and the rapid growth of her child, has some nice character moments. I thought it was a nice touch that Troi asks Data to be present for the birth.

However, a big storytelling flaw as I see it is that, after a tense Act II moment where Worf recommends an abortion for security purposes, and Troi asserts she wants to keep the baby and Picard says the discussion is now closed, nobody on the crew makes any particular decision. We just watch things happen for the next few acts.

Then, when the B-plot McGuffin Contrivance Particles start acting up, the titular child makes a decision, and the A plot is suddenly over.

The tag scene on the bridge where the crew gently hazes Wesley was enjoyable, though Troi certainly seems to have recovered rather quickly from her ordeal.

I enjoyed spending time with the characters, and the production values were great — not only the FX shots and the Ten Forward set I mentioned earlier, but some medical visuals, a daycare scene with puppies, and some nice music all helped flesh out the world.