Tuesday, 18 February 2014

CAPTAIN'S BLOG: TNG 2.1-2.2

2.1) The Child
or


The Galaxy's Fastest Pregnancy


The Mission: Transfer samples of the deadly plasma plague to the Rachelis system.


Planets visited: We see the blue planet Aucdet IX from orbit only.


Famous firsts: First appearance of Diana Muldaur as Dr. Pulaski, Whoopi Goldberg as Guinan, the Ten-Forward lounge and – drumroll – Riker's beard!


In Therapy: This is a Troi-centric episode, and Marina Sirtis proves she can put in a strong performance given the right material. In her sleep, Troi is impregnated by a glowing ball of light; this does, at least, wake her up, ans she senses a 'presence.'. Understandably horrified by this violation, she decides to keep the baby once she begins sensing its thoughts. Considering that the pregnancy is hugely accelerated, she takes it all very well. She picks Data to accompany her during the birth – he's the first person she comes across in the corridor, but she still asks him to stay with her. She bonds with her new baby as if she had been expecting him for nine months, and names him Ian Andrew after her late father. She is understandably devastated when Ian dies/returns to his natural form, but is reassured by his telepathic words with her, in which she finally gets to communicate with the true being behind the pregnancy.


The Picard Manoeuvre: He's pissed off when his new medical officer doesn't report to him, but puts all this aside when he learns about Deanna's situation. He calls a meeting with the senior staff to discuss the potential threat, but abides by Deanna's wishes without argument when she chooses to let the baby come to term. He also listens to Wesley's concerns about his future. Their chat in the turbolift is illuminating; he clearly misses Dr Crusher, and it's quite a tender moment between the two, in spite of the Picard's usual tension. I just wanted Picard to slap Wes on the shoulder, maybe give him a manly hug. Considering how much he hates kids, Picard deals with the situation on the ship well.


Number One: There's a brilliant moment in which Riker loudly demands to know who the father of Troi's child is. Frankly, it would have been better if all the staff had turned to him when they were told she was pregnant. This is a particularly good episode for seeing Riker's unique method of climbing into his chair.


Elementary, Dear Data: Doesn't immediately get on with Dr. Pulaski, who insists on treating him like a machine. She pronounces his name 'Datta,' which he corrects with just the slightest hint of irritation. There's a lovely moment when, during a barrage of question about pregnancy to Deanna, he registers she's giving birth and visibly panics.


Lady Bones: Dr. Pulaski is simply the female version of Dr. McCoy. She's a member of the crew for just one year, taking over as chief medical officer only as long as Dr. Crusher is heading up Starfleet Medical (until Gates McFadden decides she'd like to be on the show after all). She's obstinate, old-fashioned and opinionated. She immediately heads to Ten-Forward; I thought, I'm going to like this woman! But it turns out she was only in the bar because she was meeting with Troi there. She was previously stationed on the USS Repulse.


Geordi Shore: Finally, la Forge is promoted to Chief Engineer, after the ongoing stream of chiefs we had in season one. He is in charge of the securing of the medical samples to Rachelis, along with a Starfleet medic who looks like an albino Robert Winston. He has designed a storage chamber for them, and sighs that he has to replicate 512 of them. You want to try working in the days when you actually had to build things, mate.


The Boy: The A-plot is Troi's pregnancy, the B-plot is the medical crisis, and Wesley gets relegated to the C-plot. He's not sure if he wants to go work at Starfleet Medical with his mum, or stay on the Enterprise. A chat with Guinan sets him right, and he decides to follow his gut and stay on the ship. He's wearing his new all-grey acting ensign uniform, and it's an improvement on the old one (nothing beats his season one peach jumper though).


Hat-tastic: Guinan is a mystery, being deliberately enigmatic while running Ten-Forward. She provides a nudge and helpful ear to Wesley. She wears a staggering outfit consisting of a mauve dress and matching giant hat. We'll be getting some truly superb hats from her over the years. No one knows where she's from, just that she's very old. Wesley has heard that she's from Novakron, which she doesn't deny. She claims she never met the captain before joining the Enterprise, which is an outright lie. As a kid, Guinan always unsettled me far more than any of the aliens on the show, because Whoopi Goldberg has no eyebrows.


Alien Life Forms: The alien who becomes Ian Andrew initially appears as a glowing mote of energy, before entering Troi and beginning her pregnancy. He undergoes an accelerated rate of growth, coming to term in a few days and growing to a physical age of four in a day. In all respects, he's an ordinary child, but he is faintly aware that he will later explain why he's there. He's half-human, half-Betazoid, just like Troi, so is obviously extrapolated from her DNA. He emits a form of radiation that accelerates the growth of one of the sample of plasma plague, and allows himself to die in order to return to his initial form and leave, stopping the threat. He did the whole thing to learn what it was like to be human.


Funny Bits: The bridge crew rip the piss out of Wesley, with Riker asking who will tuck him in at night. Worf manfully accepts the responsibility.


Space Bilge: Why are they transporting deadly boxes of plague on a starship with a population in the hundreds, including numerous civilians, if a single, tiny leak will mean the death of everyone onboard? Surely a ship with a skeleton crew would be more sensible? Or even a robot ship? Data could head up the mission, seeing that he's the one person in Starfleet who will be immune.


There's a particularly stupid moment in which Pulaski and Picard freak out because little Ian sticks his finger in his soup and burns himself. They take this to mean he's a weird alien, deliberately hurting himself to test the experience. Because normal kids never stick their fingers in things or hurt themselves.


Trivia facts:


  1. This episode is based on one of the same title originally intended for the 1970s series Star Trek: Phase II. When that series never came to pass, the scripts went into the archives, and 'The Child' got pulled out as a stop-gap measure when the Writer's Guild strike delayed scriptwork on TNG's second season. The fan series New Voyages (now retitled Phase II) also produced an episode entitled 'The Child,' based on the original script. It still didn't make it through without big changes: the character impregnated in the original was the Deltan officer Lt. Ilia, and to preserve continuity with The Motion Picture, the fanfilm version changed her to their own character, Ensign Isel.
  2. Diana Muldaur is the only regular cast member in a TNG-era series who also appeared in the original series. She played Ann Mulhall and Thalassa in 'Return to Tomorrow,' and Miranda Jones in 'Is There, in Truth, No Beauty?'
  3. They have puppies on the Enterprise! Are they replicated?


The Verdict: Not a bad start to the season. It's a decent enough bit of sci-fi, albeit rather cliched. The B-plot concerning the plague samples is a pretty blatant attempt to ring up some jeopardy in an otherwise talky, emotion-led episode. Still, the cast all do good work with the material, the kids playing Ian Andrew aren't nearly as annoying as they might be expected to be, and both Pulaski and Guinan get memorable introductions.





2.2) Where Silence Has Lease
or
Is it a Wibbly Thing, or a Swirly Thing, sir?


The Mission: A charting assignment in the Morgana Quadrant.

Planets visited:
None.


Alien Life Forms: Nagilum, a god-knows-what living in space, who takes an interest in the crew of the Enterprise. Possibly Nagilum created the void as a trap for ships, or possibly it creates it around itself naturally. What it truly looks like, if anything, is unknown, but it 'goes to the trouble' of making a human-ish face in order to communicate with the crew. In spite of the fact it can't get a face right, Nagilum is quite capable of creating a perfect replica of a Romulan Warbird to attack the Enterprise, and a Galaxy-class starship, which Riker and Worf board, only to find it is a ghost ship that traps them in a loop, stranding them on the bridge.


Space Phenomena: The Enterprise comes across a 'hole in space,' that looks like a big, black nothing, with no stars, opaque and unpassable. Although Data says nothing like this is in the Starfleet records, it is rather like the phenomenon discovered by Kirk's Enterprise in the episode 'The Immunity Syndrome' (that one turned out to have a giant amoeba in it). It contains no matter or energy, and lacks dimension. In spite of this, the warp drive still functions (how can it, if there is no space to warp?) although the place seems to be a bubble curved round on itself, so the ship never makes any progress.


The Picard Manoeuvre: He can't resist entering the hole in space for a poke around. He's in a very philosophical mood, having a long talk with Data (it's not really Data, but still) about the nature of death. When Nagilum declares that he is going to kill half the crew as an exploration into death, Picard decides to blow up the ship, with a twenty minute countdown – just long enough for Nagilum to change its mind, thankfully. It's pretty arrogant, really – he doesn't call a conference, he doesn't take a vote, he just decides that it's better to go out with a bang than have the alien choose which of them is going to die. He appears to be weirdly amused to see Riker shaken by his experiences on the ghost ship. He later has an almost chummy moment when he tells Nagilum that they are both motivated by curiosity, and maybe not so different after all.


Number One: Not best pleased by Picard's plan to destroy the Enterprise, but he supports him and helps set the auto-destruct. When Picard shuts down the auto-destruct, Riker tells the computer that he concurs 'Absolutely! I do indeed concur, whole-heartedly!' just in case there's any scope for misunderstanding. He totally knows how to handle an angry Worf.

Son of Mogh:
Riker joins Worf in one of his so-called callisthenics programmes on the holodeck. It involves fighting two monster warriors to the death (one looks kind of like Skeletor, and the other is like a spiky Ninja Turtle with a bloodlust). He almost totally loses it in the programme, nearly starting on Riker when he's finished with the monsters. He's also seriously rattled by the hole in space, due to an old Klingon legend about a huge, black space beast that eats spaceships (considering what the USS Voyager fell afoul of in the episode 'Bliss,' this legend might not be without substance). He's still rattled on the ghost ship, to the point it's beginning to look like he's not up to the job.


Lady Bones: Is beginning to think she shouldn't have joined this ship, with it's crazy, self-destructing captain.


Cliche Count: There's a new man on the helm, a Mr Haskell, who has 'redshirt' written all over. Nagilum kills him, leading to one of the all time great Trek death scenes. Wesley normally sits there – lucky for him, it seems he had the afternoon off, so Charles Douglass sat there instead.


Sexy Trek: Nagilum notices that Pulaski is of a different “construction” to the rest of the bridge crew (it's almost a paraphrase of Linx in Doctor Who), completely ignoring the fact that Troi is standing there too! It orders a demonstration of the human method of reproduction, which Pulaski refuses (but there's surely an instalment of Sex Trek: The Next Penetration in there).


Space Bilge: Data drops a stationary buoy in the void in order to track the ship's progress. But you can't have a stationary object in space; the buoy will just continue moving in the opposite direction to the ship.


Trivia facts: The Enterprise's sister ship is the USS Yamato 1305-E (named for the Space Battleship Yamato, or the original Japanese battleship?)




The Verdict: This is good, creepy stuff for the first half, particularly the ghost ship Yamato, which is genuinely quite unsettling, and makes good use of the standing sets (it's very clearly a cheapie episode). Winrich Kolbe impresses on his first directing assignment on TNG. Once Nagilum turns up, though, it all gets very tedious. This is the second episode in a row with an incorporeal alien who is curious about humanity. Nagilum is really just a crap, knock-off version of Q.


4 comments:

  1. According to Memory Alpha, this wasn't a reference to Space Battleship Yamato/Star Blazers. A few anime references do turn up in The Next Generation (we get two ships, the Kei and Yuri named after the two main characters of 'The Dirty Pair.')

    I love Space Battleship Yamato, it's so unapologetically melodramatic and space opera-y.

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    Replies
    1. I think the Akira-class ships in First Contact were named after the manga and movie.

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