Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"The Child"

**

Air date: 11/21/1988
Written by Jaron Summers & Jon Povill and Maurice Hurley
Directed by Robert Bowman

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

As the Enterprise embarks on yet another humanitarian mission to stop yet another deadly plague, a strange and unexpected thing happens in mid-journey: Counselor Troi announces she's pregnant. "Who's the father?" Riker asks accusingly. "There is none," Troi responds.

The height of this episode's wit comes with a funny-in-its-savageness remark by Worf, whose utterly pragmatic Klingon-security-officer response to this mysterious, alien-influenced immaculate conception is simply that it must be terminated at once in order to wall off all possible risk. (Just think of how this could've been the ultimate launching-off point for an abortion-debate episode. Never mind.) The story's sci-fi gimmick is that the pregnancy proceeds at a vastly accelerated rate, such that Troi is giving birth to a son named Ian by the second act. The baby's accelerated growth proceeds from there, and Ian is an eight-year-old boy within 24 hours.

The problem with this story is that it has far too little curiosity in Ian or Troi (for most of the episode, their mother/son scenes meander with precious little original insight or interest), and far too much curiosity in the technobabble subplot, involving a deadly substance sealed in a container for transport to another facility. Some mysterious radiation is causing the seal to crack; if the substance gets out, everyone on the ship will die. The tedious tech details of the radiation, the leak, and the resulting threat drag on needlessly long, causing all interest to drain from the story.

And what about Ian? The story doesn't deal with him nearly enough, until the closing scenes where we learn he's the source of the mysterious radiation, and that he was born to Troi to learn about the human life cycle. Ian's self-sacrifice (or a reversion to his true energy state, if that's the same thing) makes for a good emotional scene that Marina Sirtis delivers on, but the sci-fi themes are familiar.

The episode's serviceable supporting material surrounds Wesley's question of whether to join his recently reassigned mother at Starfleet Medical, the introduction of the abrasive new McCoy-wannabe Dr. Katherine Pulaski (Diana Muldaur), and Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) as the bartender of Ten-Forward, the Enterprise's new (or at least previously unseen) refreshment lounge.

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Next episode: Where Silence Has Lease

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23 comments on this review

idiotghos - Mon, Oct 15, 2007 - 11:11pm (USA Central)
I wish I could make a comment on Dr. Pulaski, but I can't remember even the slightest detail about her.
Grumpy Otter - Tue, Oct 23, 2007 - 2:29pm (USA Central)
I must make one very positive comment about Season Two, and that is that we were free of Dr. Crusher. Pulaski was so much more of a tough, actual real-seeming doctor than Crusher's simpering "sweetness." The pseudo sexual tension between Crusher and Picard was enough to make me ill.

From the moment Pulaski walked on the scene and took charge in "The Child," I was rooting for her to be a permanent replacement. But alas.

How I long for the days when the doctor was offspring-free!

Franco - Fri, Apr 22, 2011 - 9:03am (USA Central)
Hello from Italy.
This is the first time I comment on this great site and I'd like to begin with a particular aspect of TNG season 2 on which I ask for your opinions.

The topic is DR. PULASKI, magnificently played by Diana Muldaur.

I just finished to watch again TNG season 2 and I think that Pulaski has been a fresh breeze in the slow beginning of TNG (first and second seasons).
I have read so many bad reviews about her but why?

If you compared her character with another strong character like Data, for ex., I could even understand. But if we compare her with Dr. Crusher, there is no match.
Dr. Crusher is one of the most boring and absolutely not pushed characters of all Star Trek season; you see or you don't see her, is not important.
Dr. Pulaski instead has a strong personality; someone compared her to Dr. McCoy but I'd rather say that she is just strong, determined, very human, even nice in some comic moments with Data and Picard (not speaking about the klingon ceremony that she shares with Worf).
Many fans think that she is unpolite just because, at the beginning, she innocently underestimate the real complexity of Data (but later in the season, she seems to appreciate him very much).
Basically, in just 1 season, Dr. Pulaski has a greater evolution than Dr. Crusher in 6 seasons!

So, at last, I'd like to know what you have against this poor and underestimated character.
It could have been great to have her for the whole series.
papa - Fri, Apr 22, 2011 - 10:44pm (USA Central)
I agree with Franco's assessment of Dr. Pulaski.

Having been raised on classic Star Trek (we don't need no steenkin' "OS"!), I was often annoyed by the character of Dr. Crusher. Dr. Pulaski was a refreshing change, in spite of some rough scripts in early season 2, and in spite of (or maybe because of) the obvious homage to Dr. McCoy.

I think Dr. Pulaski got off on the wrong foot with a lot of TNG fans because of her initial antagonism with the much-beloved Mr. Data. Personally, I think they lost a chance to tell some very interesting stories concerning the natures of artificial and human intelligence by dropping that antagonism, or skepticism, so soon.

The character of Dr. Pulaski was developed nicely over the course of season 2. I would have liked the character to been kept and further developed in later seasons. In view of the relationship that was developing between her and Worf the character would have been an asset in the Klingon Cycle stories that developed through the series. I could also see the character fitting in the DS9 milieu.
Franco - Sat, Apr 23, 2011 - 1:51am (USA Central)
Papa.

I agree perfectly with what you write.

I add something more. It's right when you say that most of TNG fans hated her because of her skepticism for Data, at the beginning of the season.
But, come on, this is humanity; she does not underestimate him or humiliate him, she just has some doubts about the real complexity of Data. Later in the season, she seems to like him, even to understand him better than others.

Not speaking about the moment she shares with Worf which witnesses a development of the character.

Then I personally like that human and witty behaviour of her, above all with Picard; they have some communication problems at the beginning but you can feel that there is a lot of respect between Picard and Pulaski.

She is nice, sharp, brave and with strong personality; as Papa wrote, if she were in DS9 maybe fans would have loved her very much. Because DS9 focuses on characters.

I just say, let's not forget Pulaski from the universe of Star Trek characters.
papa - Sun, Apr 24, 2011 - 1:40am (USA Central)
Just to add one more note of Pulaski appreciation, it was nice to see Diana Muldaur again after she guest starred in two TOS episodes. She was hot in the red mini-uniform in "Return to Tomorrow".
Franco - Sun, Apr 24, 2011 - 2:43am (USA Central)
Diana Muldaur is a good actress. Yep, she was twice in TOS (one is the episode you were referring to, "Return to tomorrow", and the other one is "Is there in truth no beauty?").

stviateur - Tue, May 10, 2011 - 1:56pm (USA Central)
In watching season two for the first time in decades, I was struck once again by the contradictions inherent in the PC future of the Trek universe: In season one everyone falls all over themselves to declare the viability of a point of light found in "Home Soil" but in "The Child" abortion of Troi's child is discussed with nary a sign of concern. So all sentient life no matter what form it may take or how insignificant it is is worth moving heaven and earth to protect but an unborn human child isn't?
grumpy_otter - Sun, Jun 5, 2011 - 11:32am (USA Central)
So nice to see some love for Pulaski, Franco and papa--I sometimes thought I was the only one.

I commented on this (way above) a few years ago--Pulaski would wipe the floor with Crusher! She was so much more complex and not nearly so weak and whiny.
Paul - Sun, Jun 12, 2011 - 10:26am (USA Central)
Yes, Pulaski love at last!

I never really understood all that hate towards her. I guess it's because of the way she treated Data at the start of the season. But come on, she was a rare gem in TNG as a character who was actually fully human. She had prejudices, quirks, was pretty impatient and in your face -- a hugely differnt character when compared to all the others who were oh just so 24th century perfect.

And the tea ceremony with Worf was just fantastic. It shows her deep appreciation of other cultures on a fundamental level, not only as some politically correct mantra with no real substance.

Me likes Pulaski very much :)
Grumpy - Mon, Jul 2, 2012 - 9:34am (USA Central)
Continuing a tangent from "Schisms" (of all places)... another point in Pulaski's favor, often unremarked, is her uniform. Her sensible smock was the most dignified costume in all of Season 2. Imagine how different the series would've felt if the crew had all worn jackets like hers. Heck, the high collars were largely responsible for the turnaround in Season 3!
William - Wed, Aug 29, 2012 - 6:40pm (USA Central)
I was a fan of Dr. Crusher and Dr. Pulaski, but I was sorry to see Pulaski last just one season.

As for "The Child," it was bad. I was really fearing for this show at this time, but great episodes weren't far away!
Jhoh - Tue, Sep 18, 2012 - 6:45am (USA Central)
Personally, I always thought the dislike for Polaski wasn't so much her character as the fact that season 2 was horrible episode after horrible episode after horrible episode. That and she seemed somewhat like a gorgon.

Oddly enough she was in the TOS episode "Return to Tomorrow" and was quite attractive in that. Of course that was the 60s. And attractiveness isn't a prerequisite for a good character.
Rikko - Fri, Dec 7, 2012 - 9:02pm (USA Central)
First episode of the season and it was just there. It didn't scare me as much as William, but it didn't excite me either. I'd say I thought S2 would play out just like the first (fortunately, I was wrong). At least, we got Marina Sirtis doing what she knows best: To Cry.

There were also a couple of changes, all for the better: Riker's beard (just the way I remembered him to be), the character of Guinan and Ten-Forward (that place gave TNG a much needed feeling of a lively place) and, of course, Dr. Pulaski.

I must admit my first impression of her was negative: In "The Child" she struck me as a character that knows too much, exactly what was needed for the plot to move forward. And that gave me Wesley Crusher's vibes all over again.

But as the episodes go on, I learned to like her. Franco, Papa, Grumpy and Paul: I totally agree with you guys, high five!

One thing about her that would have never gone anywhere is the forced Picard-Dr love interest. I can buy Beverly Crusher as a potential lover, but Pulaski?? Both Picard and her are too strong-willed to be attracted to each other.

I didn't notice how much I've become used to her until S3 and her magic departure. Crusher is a weaker character and a weaker actress. With all due respect to Gates McFadden, sometimes she says "Captain" like she was acting in a porno movie.
Jay - Sat, Dec 15, 2012 - 12:13pm (USA Central)
Pulaski sez...

"if I were to examine her now, I wouldn't be able to tell that she had a baby or had ever had a baby"

but...how did she make that determination except by examining her...what was with the "if"?
William B - Wed, Apr 3, 2013 - 7:59am (USA Central)
My big problem with this episode was that I couldn't understand why Troi was so blase about having the kid and about his rapid growth; we don't really get any scenes from Troi's POV about how she *feels* about him. I talked about it with my girlfriend (who is watching the show for the first time) and it took a long time to figure out why we reacted to the episode differently; she mostly liked it (or, rather, didn't understand why I was so critical of it, given that it's not exactly below the standard of quality set by season one, which is fair). Mostly though she felt that it was possible that the child would stop growing at a certain point and then stay a pre-teen and stay on the ship; I thought it was most likely that even if the kid hadn't disappeared into light at the episode's end, he would just keep aging at an accelerated rate and die within a week or two. I suppose there isn't actually enough information either way. Troi's relative lack of reaction to the ordeal she's put through while it's happening still doesn't work for me, but it makes more sense if on some level she thought that there would be time to sort her feelings out.

The other big problem is that I was not sure what the point of all of this is -- what aspect of the human condition is being illuminated here? Eventually I hit on the idea that maybe this is about the sorrows of parenting as a whole -- it is the experience of all parents, I guess, that they have children, raise them, and "before you know it" (ha) they grow up and leave and find their own way in the universe. It just happens with Troi and her "son" at a really accelerated rate. This thematic point is strengthened by having Wesley decide to leave the nest in this episode, too, staying on the Enterprise rather than joining his mother; so we effectively get the same story (son "grows up" and leaves mother behind) from the perspective of both a mother (Troi, through metaphor/SF) and the son (Wesley, more literally). That made me feel more charitable toward the episode, but it still doesn't emotionally land for me because I can never really get into Troi's headspace.

I read that the inspiration for the "carrying the plague" material was the French film The Wages of Fear, in which there is a truck carrying dynamite which is (of course) highly explosive. That movie is thrilling, suspenseful, and highly recommended; this episode's adaptation is, er, not. Part of it is that it's much easier to get a sense of danger within a film in which it is highly possible the trucks will actually blow up, and in which we have a really good understanding of how difficult it is to navigate difficult terrain and that type of thing.

Anyway, yeah, 2 stars.
William B - Wed, Apr 3, 2013 - 8:03am (USA Central)
Incidentally, I agree about earlier comments Pulaski -- I think she's a good character, very well acted, and highly underrated by the fandom. There is a clearer arc for her over the course of the season (her thawing out with respect to Data) than many characters get over the series as a whole. This episode isn't actually a great vehicle for her, though, because she exhibits as little curiosity about Ian as the episode as a whole does.
T'Paul - Thu, May 23, 2013 - 4:04pm (USA Central)
Ditto Pulanski, I think TNG needed a McCoy... As to the weaknesses of the child, well, I think it was tough to be too interested in him when he only lasted a few days and in the midst of a potentially life-threatening medical transfer!
Colton - Wed, Jul 10, 2013 - 12:28pm (USA Central)
TNG on BluRay FTW! TNG on DVD FTL!
Reverend Spork - Sat, Aug 24, 2013 - 12:06am (USA Central)
Another incredibly annoying Troi episode. Sirtis had a distressing tendency to overact in the first two seasons, and this episode was but one example. As for Pulaski, Muldaur is certainly a better actress than McFadden, but Dr. Crusher was a more interesting character. I think Pulaski suffered from the writers' lack of ability to give her a deeper character other than the Grouchy Skeptic and her one-dimensional arguments with Data.
Jons - Tue, Dec 24, 2013 - 5:32pm (USA Central)
I'm trying very, very hard to like TNG as much as ENT and VOY... But I couldn't stand the first episodes of the first season and I'm trying this one because I've been told the second season is much better.

Well not going by this episode, which was one of (if not THE) lamest episodes of Star Trek I've seen. Slow, boring, completely pointless.
Doug B - Sun, Dec 29, 2013 - 12:30pm (USA Central)
This is also a writer's strike casualty -- just as Shades of Grey was in a different way at the end of the season. The strike was in the summer of 1988. This was originally a script intended for the aborted series Star Trek: Phase II, which sorta morphed into the first Trek film. They did a quick rewrite on the script so they could get started right after the strike ended. Troi's part was originally Ilia's.
Roland - Sun, Apr 13, 2014 - 6:33am (USA Central)
Although the ratings are low for a reason I do think this was a great episode, great because of its campiness. How did they make up this stupid story? Anyway it was really amusing to see. I had the idea that the second general secretly was jealous that someone else gotten Crusher pregnant. It is good that if they cannot make a good espide at least make it campy and worth to laugh about.

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