Star Trek: The Next Generation
Air date: 10/21/1991
Teleplay by Ronald D. Moore
Story by Ron Jarvis & Philip A. Scorza
Directed by Gabrielle Beaumont
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
The random spatial anomaly of this week hits the Enterprise, leading to shaking cameras that go on for longer than usual and cause all the lights to shut off. Uh-oh. The ship is dead in space, and the characters are trapped in various parts of the ship with no communications, each facing their own individual crises. The title says it all: It's a disaster movie on the Enterprise.
Here's an episode that plays like a collection of half-baked C-stories rolled into a single show whose tepid premise was used to justify the summation of its parts. The result is the ultimate procedural hodgepodge. (1) In what must've been his worst nightmare, Picard is trapped in a turbolift with three children (whose early whimpering proves especially unconvincing). (2) La Forge and Crusher are trapped in a cargo bay with a radiation leak that could cause some containers with volatile chemicals to explode. (3) Worf is trapped in Ten-Forward with a pregnant Keiko O'Brien, who is going to give birth imminently, making Worf the reluctant midwife. (4) Riker and Data must crawl through Jeffries tubes to get to engineering, leading to Data's head ultimately being detached. And, perhaps most frighteningly, (5) Counselor Troi is in command on the bridge.
Many of these pieces employ the usual disaster cliches (Keiko giving birth is especially well-trodden), and there's a notable lack of tension and conviction throughout. But perhaps most problematic here is the depressing realization that Troi is so utterly useless. Putting her in command proves painfully contrived, as the story demonstrates how she's the only bridge officer who doesn't speak Trekkian technobabble — begging the question (rank be damned) of why she would take command in the first place. Both O'Brien and Ro have to walk her through what's happening in the early going. (O'Brien is the very definition of competence, and Ro, while abrasive, is at least someone you know will have your back. Troi, on the other hand — sigh.) Troi gets more decisive as things proceed, but the early hemming and hawing is so overplayed that her transformation into The Decider isn't believable.
I'm honestly not even sure how the ship ultimately gets repaired. The episode basically resolves each of the vignettes and then stops, with everything suddenly returned to normal. TNG has done far worse (an episode where Picard says, "I shall appoint you my executive officer in charge of radishes," can't be all bad), but move along, nothing to see here.