Friday, August 14, 2009

Star Trek: The Next Generation--"The Child"

The second season of TNG is upon us. I consider it several notches above the terribly uneven first season, but the show still has not firing on all cylinders. It was adversely affected by the WGA strike of 1988. Most notably, the episode count was trimmed from 26 episodes down to 22. Some fans might even call it 21, considering the season finale “Shades of Gray” was mostly a clip show. There is no way to know if four additional episodes might have boosted the season, but there were more high points than the first season, including one of my all time favorites. We will get to that one when we get to it.

The responsibility for the improvement from season one to two is difficult to attribute, but whoever is responsible for the greater emphasis on characterizations deserves a medal. Picard is less of an arrogant jerk, Riker begins his swashbuckling hero motif, data is less a walking computer, LaForge is finally given something to do down in engineering, the friendship between he and Data has its beginning, and the fact worf is a Klingon becomes a plot point rather than window dressing. It does not all come together until the third season, but the potential is now obvious.

I am split on the new character additions. Whoopi Goldberg was a fan of the show and requested a recurring role. She became the bartender Guinan, a character which I liked. Now that we see characters enjoying themselves off hours, including seeking guinan’s counsel, they seem more real. I think it is unintentionally revealing the characters often sought counseling from Guinan rather than Troi.

I am certain it was meant to be a play on the idea that bartenders have traditionally lent an ear to depressed patrons, but I like to think it is a jab at Troi. Would you really trusta counselor who can read your emotions without your permission, particularly when at least part of her job is to manipulate new aliens the ship encounters by reading them without their consent? I am still in the Troi is an ill conceived character camp. I do not much care for this episode or any other in which she is the focus.

I absolutely despise Pulaski. She was supposed to stir up the dynamic by being an ill fit, but they went overboard with it. Pulaski has a completely snotty, condescending attitude, particularly towards Data. She lies and manipulates for her own ends. Any time shewas in peril, I was hoping they would off her. She could have fallen down an elevator shaft or something. Diana Muldaur hated being on the show. She could not stand the long hours, odd dialogue, and the long make up hours she occasionally endured. Much of her true attitude probably played out in her character. Good riddance, I say.

All that is about the season as a whole. What about “The Child?”

It sucks. The script was rewritten for the ill fated Star Trek: Phase II series from the ’70’s. whenever a script is intended for one set of character, but transferred to another, something is always lost. In this case, there was nothing character specific going on. The story was a generic alien wants to study humanity and causes a major problem plot. There was no point to it other than attempting to tug at our heart strings by upsetting Troi. Well, I do not care about Troi, so good luck with that.

An alien impregnates Troi in an incredibly disturbing sequence in which she…I will be discreet and say obviously enjoys the nonconsensual act. She gives birth, the child quickly grows older, and then dies. The alien’s action causes a plague to break out, but there are no lasting consequences on the crew or Troi as the alien does his thing, thanks her, and then leaves. It is fascinating to know childbirth and subsequently losing that child has no effect on Troi.

There is nothing to see here other than the characters settling into their new, deeper roles. The drama is maudlin at best without any significant consequences. Surely they could have kicked the season off with a better episode. Indeed, several subsequent episodes are resuses of Star Trek: Phase II scripts. “The Child” is the worst of the bunch.

Rating: * (out of 5)

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