Warp Speed to Nonsense

Warp Speed to Nonsense

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

ST:TNG: Season Two, Episode One "The Child"

ST:TNG Season Two, Episode One "The Child"
Production Order: 27
Air Order: 27
Stardate: 42073.1
Original Air Date: November 21, 1988

I didn't go on holiday hiatus and not tell you guys, I swear.
Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while already know that technology hates me, and that most of the time when I don't post, it's because there was some dumb tech problem involved. In this case, my laptop broke. Or rather, it no longer turns on. If I could hack into the case and figure out how to get the mofo to turn on, it would work perfectly.
Okay. Gonna get a new laptop earlier than anticipated. In the meantime, I'm a week behind in posting, so Roomie has agreed to let me use her laptop, which she doesn't use very often as she is mostly a phone person. I put in five hours of work on this post on Christmas Eve, and am pleased that it will go out on the 26th. I minimize the window I am working in with the post mostly completed. Because the laptop isn't used very often, it has updates backlogged from forever, and on the 25th, it starts running updates. It gets half-way through, then claims that it can't finish the updates it started for some reason, and that it is now going to undo the changes it made. Hours later, I open the laptop to find that it has finished whatever the hell it was doing, and I go to put in that last twenty minutes or so of work on this post before setting it to drop on the 26th.
And it is gone. All of the work I put in on the 24th is gone, despite the blogger program being set to save my post every sixty seconds or so.
I throw a pity party. I hate having to re-do shit.
Eventually, I suck it up and decide that I will just have to do it, or leave the blog forever. I tell myself that I will be getting a new laptop soon.
Then my car died.

*I don't always do this, but I know that grieving parents get some crazy PTSD, so heads' up: Child/Infant Loss trigger warning, okay? Skip this one if that's in your cards*

Okay, so it's 1988. Despite some setbacks, the ratings were pretty good for TNG, and they get green-lighted for another season. But much like the end of season one, there's a problem: the Writers' Guild Strike. No one's allowed to write anything new, so instead of starting out the fall at the beginning of September, our first episode airs after the strike ends, during the week of Thanksgiving.
We got some changes this season - some good, some bad, and some where you see the change and think, "Why the hell did that take so long?"
Anyway, I'm behind schedule, so let's just jump in, shall we?


Right off the bat, we get some shots of the E in space, parting ways with another ship, then a launch of a shuttle from the shuttle bay, all overlaid with some triumphant music, like, "Awww, yeah! We got a second season and weathered the writers' strike! This do this shit, muthufuckuhs!"
Then we go straight to the bridge, where we get to see the new Worf, and unlike Strawberry Shortcake, these revamps are welcome.
Dude is now officially the new Head of Security, with a gold uniform, a sash that reads as being more Klingon than the first, and well... a new head for the new Head.
...they changed his forehead ridges.

Old Worf...

New Worf.
The forehead changes are pretty subtle, but the sash is bad-ass. (That gold sash, BTW, is a throwback to the ones worn by TOS Klingons. I guess the second one reads as being "more Klingon" to me because I'm used to TNG Klingons more than TOS ones.) Now all I'm waiting for is for them to ditch that weird page-boy-ish haircut they have on him. #TeamPonytailedWorf
Anyway, dude is now Head of Security, which is where it always felt like he belonged. He's a big, strong, scary guy. If you run a bar, and you have two friends that you want to hire, you don't make the scary, strong dude your bathroom attendant. You make him bouncer.
Worf was already doing security stuff with Yar, anyway.
So we pan down...

Fuck, yeah! Welcome to the party, Bearded Riker!
(A weird side-note: I am not into beards. There are only like, two guys in the world that I think look better bearded, and Jonathan Frakes is one of them. Season One Riker is not a bad-looking guy by any means, he just... Bearded Riker is better.)
So how did we get Bearded Riker? Did the costume people decide that so many changes were taking place, that they thought Riker should change a bit as well? Did some executive suggest that a beard would make baby-faced Riker seem more forceful and commanding? 
Nope. The hiatus between seasons was longer than usual because of the strike, and Jonathan Frakes doesn't like shaving. That's it. It stayed because Gene Rod thought that it looked kinda nautical. Good choice, Gene. I absolutely believe that Bearded Riker has a more commanding look now.

And check out Wes' new uniform - still a grey unitard, but the colored bands around his shoulders are gone. Instead, his uniform looks like a drab version of the uniforms worn by crew members. It signals that he's not a full crew member, but still part of the team. It's crisp and simple. I like it.
Also, dude finally got his own combadge - moving up in the world!

Riker enters the ready room, where Geordi is showing Picard some little plastic doo-hickey. Riker's report serves as some exposition here: the ship they rendezvoused with is leaving, and "Dr Pulaski" is being shown to her quarters. Picard says that his Chief Engineer is showing him the containment units he designed. Riker says that "chief engineer" still sounds awesome when applied to Geordi. You remember that I said some changes were good, some were bad, and some were, "took them long enough"? Making Geordi the chief engineer took them long enough. Much like Worf, Geordi spent all of season one feeling like he should have been someplace other than the pilot's seat. We saw three different chief engineers over the course of the last season, but somehow, Geordi always seemed smarter and more capable than any of them. Clearly, the writers were moving in that direction with him for quite some time. They just waited until season two to do something about it.

(Also, not gonna lie: I think LeVar Burton and Michael Dorn both look better in that Ops gold than the Command mulberry color.)

ANYWAY, Geordi tells Riker that each of the little plastic doo-hickies is it's own little environment, and that all 512 of them will go into a larger containment unit. The fact that he has to use the replicator to make those things means that he has to divert power from the warp engines, so they'll have to cruise on impulse for a while. 

Some little ball of light flies through space behind the E, then ducks inside through the walls. Data sees a blip or something on his console at the Science station on the bridge, and he calls Geordi in Engineering. 
"I don't see anything," says Geordi, checking his sensors.
The little ball of light keeps darting in and out of the ship at places, so that Data, watching it, can see the energy fluctuations, and someone like Geordi, checking his own stuff momentarily, cannot. We briefly get a camera shot from the ball's POV, floating through the corridors behind people, which is cool, then it goes into someone's quarters to watch the hairiest guy ever sleeping. You do you, Bear Guy.

But it's not into Bear Guy, and it takes off through the wall.
What we get next is a mixed bag of a scene that I think is mostly designed to make the audience squirm and go "WTH?"
The light goes into Troi's quarters, only we have no idea that's where it is. It moves in a suspiciously slow way, and we start to get some "creepy-crawly alien" music, as though we're watching the tentacles of some horrible plant crawl across the floor. It slips up under the covers on Troi's bed and makes it way upward toward her. She's clearly sleeping in a restless fashion, and of course we can't see anything because of the blanket covering Troi, but well... the ball of light doesn't know what consent is, and Troi wakes up breathing heavily.
Dramatic music! Opening credits break!

Picard's Log 42073.1: "Okay so, there's this plague in this one system, and we're going to this other place to get specimens of it so we can take it to another science station so they can hopefully make an antidote."

Did you catch all that? That's our B-plot: the E is going to Location 1 to pick up a plague and drop it in Location 2 so they can make a cure to administer to Location 3. In the meantime, the plague is going to be held in those plastic doo-hickies that Geordi is replicating.
Given that this is a medical-science thing, Picard tries to find the new CMO, Dr Pulaski. He calls sick bay, but is told that she's in Ten-Forward. Picard is unimpressed.
"A few hours on board and already she's found Ten-Forward?" he asks Riker.
Picard gets up and stalks to the lift, hell-bent on yelling at Pulaski in Ten-Forward. 
Worf gets a Sassy Moment: "Not the best way to meet your new captain."

Wes climbs out of the lift as Picard is getting in, but then he ducks back inside with Picard. What follows are snatches of conversation, surrounded by awkward silences. There's a bit of exposition here in the form of that convo: Dr Crusher is now the Head of Starfleet Medical, and Wes will probably be leaving to join her. So that wraps that up neatly with a bow - we have a new CMO because the last one was promoted. Wes says it's going to be extra hard to leave the E because the E is something really special. Picard agrees, and exits. And wussy Wes never works up the courage to say what he wanted to when he hopped back into the lift.
Picard goes into Ten-Forward. Ten-Forward is a new set, you guys. I love me some Ten-Forward. And who's that tending bar?
Fuck yeah, it's Guinan!

I can just hear the writers' meeting: 
"I think we need a bartender to administer wise advice."
"Why the hell do we need a bartender? They're out in space."
"We could have a bar. And you know who we could get to play the bartender? LeVar's friend."
"I thought that was a joke...?"
Yeah, no: Whoopi Goldberg, fan of both TOS and TNG, had been hassling her friend LeVar Burton to get her a part on the show. They thought she was joking, but came to find out she was serious. So they made her the alien bartender. Good choice.

Picard goes to a table, where Troi is sitting with Pulaski.
Picard introduces himself to her, and starts to give her a tongue-lashing about protocol, but she interrupts him to say that he needs to hear something.

He sits down to talk to her and Troi, and thank the entire pantheon of gods that they changed Troi's look. I was so sick of her green jumpsuit and severe updo with Bedazzled headdress thingy. It looks like they recycled that Bedazzled thingy into a headband, so that's not terrible.

I don't know how I feel about that orange-y lipstick, but I guess we'll see. I'm willing to accept that in place of her crappy season one hair.

They go into a senior officer meeting in the observation lounge, and Troi sits as far away as humanly possible. Picard gives a super-quick intro to the others regarding Pulaski, then jumps into it.
Troi is pregnant.
Pulaski says she's done two exams in the last few hours, and the fetus is several weeks old, despite the fact that Troi was knocked up only 11 hours earlier. Pulaski says that the typical Betazoid gives birth after 10 months, but that she thinks Troi will have her kid in 36 hours.
"WTH?" everyone asks.
"Dude, who's the dad?" Riker demands angrily.

"I dunno," admits Troi. "I was impregnated by a presence."
"The baby is half-human/half-Betazoid, like Deanna," says Pulaski.
"We have to figure out what to do about this," says Picard. "It's an alien life-form breeding within Troi."
So everyone starts discussing what they should do. Worf is in favor of termination, because they don't know what kind of life-form knocked her up, and what its intent might be. Data is in favor of allowing it to come to term, and studying it as a new life-form. They argue back and forth for a bit. Both make good points.
Meanwhile, Troi is looking at the big screen where her ultrasound is being shown, and the voices fade as you can hear a heartbeat, and it's like she's being hypnotized or something. She kind of stares off into space.
Then she interrupts the discussion: "Hey, so, you should do whatever you feel is necessary to protect the ship, but I'm gonna have this kid." 
"Oh," Picard is surprised. "Okay. Discussion over, then."
Dramatic music! Commercial break!

Picard's Log, supplemental: "Made it to the place where we're picking up the plague samples. Pretty freaking dangerous, but it's important, so we're doing this."

Troi enters the bridge, and she's hella pregnant at this point. Also, her clothes are not terrible. I remember what maternity clothes looked like in the eighties, and these are not like that. It's not a floral muumuu, and there's not one damn bow anywhere to be found. Picard and Riker are already treating her like a delicate thing, and it's mildly annoying, but also not.
They ask her how she's feeling, and she says that she should feel like shit, seeing as how she's going through ten months worth of pregnancy in a day and a half, but she says she actually feels awesome.
Wes swivels in his chair at the conn to look at her, and Riker barks at him to put the ship in standard orbit. I have no idea why that was in there.

They open hailing frequencies, and the medical specialist guy Picard talks to, Hester Dealt, is one of those weirdos that probably doesn't leave his own lab very often. He wants to look at the containment set-up on the ship, and Picard grants it, as long as Picard can look at the manifest of what Dealt is bringing onboard.
"Cool," says Dealt, and signs off.

Another freaking supplemental Log: "Been here 14 hours while Dealt looks at our system, and he refuses to go anywhere until he's certain that there won't be any growth during the voyage. In the meantime, Location #3 has been begging us to get a move on, because they need the antidote."

Would like to point out here that they're hauling the specimens to a lab (Location #2) to work on said cure, not that they have said cure already. As far as anybody knows, that cure could take years to develop, not hours, and in that case, looking over a containment system for a full day is not going to make much of a difference. Really, this would work much better if they were hauling both live plague specimens, and the cure, and there was no Location #2. Then you'd have sufficient urgency in the matter.

Data is making his way through the corridor when he comes across Troi, who is in labor. She asks him to help her to sick bay, where she informs Pulaski that "it's time."
Data calls security, so they can be present. When Pulaski objects, Data lets her know that Picard security be present for the birth, just to be on the safe side. Remember, doctor: Troi gave Picard permission to take whatever precautions he thought were best, because, you know... she's growing an unknown alien in her abdomen.

Pulaski says that the father is usually present for the birth, but this is a weird one, as Troi was impregnated by some presence - is the father the child and vice versa?
Data offers his services, and here comes the reason why I hate Dr Pulaski:
Pulaski: "Counselor Troi is going to need the comfort of a human touch and not the cold hand of technology."
Troi briefly gets this look on her face like, "Bitch, did you just insult my friend?"
But she smooths it over by jumping to Data's defense.

"It's your party," shrugs Pulaski.
 Later, Troi is in the birthing chair, and Data starts asking her questions. He's mostly uncertain of the bond between mother and fetus - he wants to know if she is aware of the baby's thoughts. I'm not sure if he's asking about humanoids in general, or Betazoids specifically.
Also, this pale pink lipstick is way more flattering on Troi than the orange. Let's just do the pink, okay?
She stops him mid-interrogation to tell him that she needs to have the baby now.
He calls over Pulaski, and much like in "We'll Always Have Paris," Data displays a panicked emotional response that he probably shouldn't, especially given that we've established that he doesn't have that capacity.

Pulaski asks if she wants painkillers for her birth, and Troi says she isn't in any pain.
Worf and the Gold Shirts show up, and Pulaski says it's fine they're there, but not to get in the way.
The baby is born, a little human-Betazoid male.
Pulaski asks if easy births are normal for Betazoids, and Troi quips, "Not according to my mother."
Then the doctor invites the security team in to look at the baby. Worf seems disappointed that the kid isn't going to try to eat his face. They leave.
Data sincerely thanks Troi for allowing him to witness the birth. Want somebody to appreciate your hard work? Invite Data to your shindig. 
Troi says she will name the baby Ian Andrew after her father.

Riker, who has been standing near the door this whole time, enters the room and genuinely congratulates Troi on the birth of her baby. I don't know how much Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis were friends in real life, but I completely buy that their characters were friends after a romance. It's a really lovely moment.

The next day, Pulaski visits the bridge, where she is greeted warmly by Picard, She sits with him and explains how Troi's pregnancy was different than any other she's encountered (other than the obvious, of course): she says that Troi had her kid yesterday, but if she were to do an examination today, she wouldn't be able to tell that Troi had ever had a kid. She also notes that the experience was both effortless for both mom and kid.
"Like it never happened."
Picard decides to "pay his respects" to Troi, so he and Pulaski go to her quarters. After Troi calls out that they should enter, Picard and Pulaski go inside.
"Hey, Deanna. Just wanted to stop by to check on you and... your four-year-old?"

Pulaski scans the kid, and says that he's chronologically one day old, but appears to be about four.
Everybody looks unnerved, including Troi.
"Ian, say hello to Captain Picard."
"You mean he talks?" blurts out Picard.
Rude. The kid is standing right there.
Of course, what he says next is kind of creepy.
"Hello," he says cheerfully. "Please don't worry. Everything is okay."
Way to make sure that everyone in the room is worried, Ian.
Pulaski closes her eyes momentarily as though praying for strength. 
Rude. Again, he's standing right there.
Picard makes a mildly terrified face.
Dramatic music! Commercial break!

I have two things to say about Ian here.
Number one: how the bloody hell did he go from newborn to "looks like 4yo" without anybody knowing? How did Picard and Pulaski just find out about this? Like, sure, maybe Troi asked for some privacy, because she didn't want her kid poked and prodded in sick bay for the rest of his life, but how did she not contact someone about the fact that her kid was aging very, very rapidly? "Hey, sick bay, my 6-hour-old baby just taught himself to walk"? Or "the kid I gave birth to yesterday speaks in full sentences." Did she not keep personal logs? Contact friends on the ship? And let's face it: whenever someone gives birth, people are quick to flock to that person's home to fuck up the eating/sleeping schedule they're trying to establish with a newborn, just so they can look at the new baby and spread their germs all over the living space. Are Picard and Pulaski really the first ones to come see her?
Number two: holy shit that kid is gorgeous. Was the casting director told to hire a demigod to play Troi's kid? "Find me a kid with striking eyes and better hair than 90% of the population."

Another supplemental Log: "Rehash of what just happened while you were getting another Coke out of the fridge."

Data and Pulaski are down in sick bay going through the manifest of diseases that they're going to start beaming on board.
She calls him Dah-tuh rather than Day-tuh, and he corrects her.
She snorts.
"What's the difference?"
And Data gets a Sassy Moment: "One is my name. The other is not."
And then, because I didn't hate her enough after that initial insult, she does something that makes me want to punch her.
She is smiling, which makes it worse. "Is this possible? With all your neural nets, algorithms and heuristics, is there some combination that makes up a circuit for bruised feelings?"
There isn't much of anything that would show up on a medical tricorder where Data is involved, so she's scanning him for comedic effect... for her own amusement.
Her "pleasantly surprised" attitude at the idea that Data would correct her when she mispronounced his name puts me in mind of an SS doctor telling a colleague in the same tone, "Did you know that Jews have feelings, just like regular people?"
Data briefly makes a WTF face?
His WTF face is politer than mine.

Then, like she didn't just do something that would earn her a trip to a room filled with rabid dingoes, she sits back at the laptop and tells him she doesn't recognize a certain symbol next to a disease. And because it's Data, he lets the insult just slide off of him and he informs her that the symbol is indicative of a genetically-engineered biological life-form.
Yay, Monsanto-brand Plague!
She mutters that it's "eager beavers at play," but he is unfamiliar with the term eager beaver. She explains that some doctor fucked around with the specimen just for the fun of it, "to see how bad bad can get."
She calls Picard to let him know the risks: if the most harmless of the specimens gets out, it will kill everything on board in hours.
He thanks her for the info, and lets Data know that he's needed in the transporter room to begin the transfer process.
Data excuses himself, and her parting words are to accidentally mispronounce his name again. Then she laughs and says "whatever," and I fight the urge to stab her through the screen.

Our next scene takes place in what I guess is probably a school of some kind, because there are alphabets on the wall. And just in case you forgot that this is a Star Trek show, they've used the TOS font on the English alphabet.
Ian is about 8 now, and Troi has dropped him off at the school so he could pet the litter of puppies they have there.
This scene doesn't really have any function, besides Ian engaging in some tactile experience, and the audience getting to see some shots of adorable puppies. Then Troi comes in to pick him up, and the teacher talks about how much he's enjoying his experiences, and OMG, she thinks he might have grown since he showed up! Then they leave because it's time for Ian to have dinner.

Okay, I have a quick bitch here about something probably unrelated, but which falls into the category of Were the Writers Not Paying Attention? To wit: why the fuck is there a litter of puppies on the Enterprise? I'm gonna give the 24th century the benefit of the doubt here and guess that people have wised up about the overpopulation of pets, and that, in general, they get their pets the Bob Barker Treatment. (And really, if they don't, how did the mom dog get knocked up? Are there packs of stray dogs wandering the corridors of the E? This will come up again in a later episode of TNG, and I'm equally angry-baffled by that episode as well.) So if most pets are speutered, that means this was probably a breeding program in action. But again: who the hell is breeding dogs on the Enterprise? Are these puppies cargo? Do they intend to drop them off with new owners at planets they visit? Or was it the plan to find people on the E to adopt these puppies? Assuming for an average litter of seven (given that these dogs appear to be Golden Retrievers), that means that the owner of the mother dog needs to find seven people out of a thousand willing to take in a large dog. While I know it's possible to live in a tiny space with a big dog (my friend had a Great Pyrenees in a two-bedroom apartment, FFS), the average quarters on-board the E appear to be about the size of a generous hotel room, which means finding homes for those puppies is going to be difficult. Further, where the hell does one walk a dog while living in a space ship? The holodeck? The arboretum? Do they anxiously await the ship stopping over at different planets so their dog can drop a deuce on alien terra firma? Data will get a cat eventually, but that kind of pet makes more sense on a ship, because it goes in a box. And there's a later episode that features two people living on a space station with a dog, but again: where does it crap?
It just... sets off my Spock radar. That shit is illogical.

Hooray, it's Chief O'Brien! Okay, technically, he's not Chief O'Brien yet - he doesn't even have a name. But he is doing a job on screen with lines. He and Data transfer the plague samples to the containment thingy down in the cargo bay.

Picard and Pulaski make another trip to Troi's quarters to see Ian. Troi is making dinner (read: she pushes a button on the replicator) while Ian plays with blocks at the table. Ian politely invites Picard to eat with him, then asks if he's ever played with puppies. Picard says he hasn't, but he's probably lying - who hasn't played with puppies? When Troi puts his soup down, Ian purposefully sticks his finger in the soup, burning himself. Pulaski rushes forward and hits his finger with the dermal regenerator while Troi hugs Ian. He's surprised that his face is wet.
Pulaski and Picard whisper about how Ian burned himself for the experience.
Picard decides to ask Ian about why he's there.
"It's dinner time," he replies.
"No, why are you on the ship?"
"I live here?"
"No," says Troi,"Captain Picard wants to know if you want to tell us why you came to the Enterprise."
Ian thinks. "No, not yet."
Troi walks Picard and Pulaski to the door, where she tells them quietly that he has the answer, but doesn't yet have the developmental capacity to articulate it.

We go back to Ten-Forward, where Wes stands in front of the window, watching the ship pull out of orbit. Guinan approaches him and asks if he wants anything. He replies in the negative and she asks about a specific beverage. Again, he says no. Then she remarks that he's leaving the E. He doesn't seem pleased. So she asks what he sees when he looks out the window, and he starts naming off astral bodies.
"You don't see your future?"
"It'll still be there," he shrugs.
And she asks again if he wants anything, and he gets pissed off.
"Why do you keeps asking me that?"
"It's expected of me. Don't you always do what's expected of you?"
"Yeah, because you have to think of others before yourself."
"Fuck that," says Guinan wisely. "Be selfish sometimes."

On the cargo deck, an alarm goes off.
"Fuck," says Dealt. "Something is growing."
"Crapcrapcrap," says LaForge. He calls Picard. "Malfunction! We're screwed!"
Dramatic music! Commercial break!

I only make supplemental Logs now: "Rehash of what we just saw."

Nobody can figure out why that plague sample is growing. Riker and Data go down to the cargo deck and Picard pages Pulaski there as well.

Hey, look! 3-D chess!

Wes and Guinan are now talking at the bar, and Wes seems much happier with his drink or dessert, or whatever the hell is in that giant glass.
They start talking about Guinan, and Wes says that everyone on board is curious about her, that she knew Picard before coming aboard the E, that she's really old, and that she's from Nova Kron. She replies that she only met Picard when she came on-board, but then dances around the other stuff. After a bit, it seems like he's flirting with her. But then they're interrupted when Picard calls Wes, and while I want to know more about Guinan, I'm okay with this, Having Wes flirt with her is kind of weird. But then he thanks her for helping him work through some stuff, and it's genuine and not weird.

Pulaski joins Riker, Data, Dealt and LaForge down in the cargo bay. They determine that the plague sample they have is most definitely growing, but they can't figure out why. Pulaski suggests that they destroy it, but Dealt says that isn't possible. Riker asks if they can just shoot that shit into space, but Dealt points out that it'll turn into a spore, and just float there until it hits a planet or another ship, then it'll kill all of those people. The bottom line: the E is super-fucked. In twenty minutes, it's gonna bust out of those fancy little containers, and within a few hours, it's gonna break out of that bigger, fancier cage thing. Riker calls Picard and recommends that if they can't get this shit under control, they separate the ship.
Pulaski asks to see the record on that particular sample, and they figure out that the sample grows when exposed to low levels of Eichner radiation. Dealt takes a scan, and says it's there.
"Then why did you bring that crap on board?" demands Riker.
"That radiation wasn't here before," replies a mystified Dealt.
But there isn't anything on board that produces Eichner radiation.

Troi is putting Ian to bed.
"People are worried," he says, reminding us that he's half-Betazoid.
"Yeah, I feel that too," she agrees.
"It's me," he says, sighing. "I have to go now, or it will be bad for everyone."
"What are you talking about?" she asks, confused.
But remember: half-Betazoid. She figures out that he's going to die and loses her shit, as you would too if your kid told you he was going to die right the fuck now.
She screams for Pulaski with her comm badge and grabs the now-inert body of Ian.

Pulsaki bursts in with Data and Riker. The doctor asks the normal questions - "what did he eat? Did he fall?" - but Troi says no. There isn't really a good explanation for "he said he was going to die, then he did."
Pulaski and Data both scan Ian with their respective equipment. Pulaski gives Ian a hypo, but Data says that he's the source of the Eichner radiation that's causing the plague sample to grow. A tearful Troi confirms that Ian said he was the cause of the ship's problems. After a moment, Pulaski gives her the sad eyes and steps to the end of Ian's bed with the others to give Troi some semi-alone time.
Troi holds Ian's hand, but then he disintegrates into that ball of light again, and floats into her cupped hands.

She holds it there for a moment, and it's obvious that we're meant to know that they're communicating telepathically. Then she smiles and the little ball floats away, out of her hand and through the wall, out into space again.
The others stare at her, then LaForge calls Riker to say that the plague sample stabilized. Riker thanks him, and they resume staring at Troi expectantly. She finally turns to them and gives them Ian's story:
He's an alien presence, floating in space, and got curious when the E passed him. He decided that the best way to get a handle on humans was to go through the experience: to be born and live as a human. He never meant any harm.
Riker asks about the moment when she smiled, and she says that he thanked her, and she told Ian that they would miss him.

Up on the bridge, Picard gives the order to transfer the plague samples to the lab at Location #2. He tells Data and O'Brien to get it the fuck off of his ship, ASAP.
"Good riddance," says Riker.
Wes grabs Picard, who is on his way to his ready room, and asks to see him. Picard grants it.

Down in cargo bay 5, LaForge talks to Dealt about the process of creating a vaccine.
"We may never develop one," admits Dealt.
And there you go, friends.
There was never any freaking rush beyond getting the samples from Location #1 to Location #2 in a timely manner. Basically, it's like filling an empty ice cube tray - the odds that you will spill the water in the tray go up the longer the tray is in your hands. So you move quickly from faucet to freezer. But you also recognize that if you're not careful, you're gonna spill it anyway. The fact that there's someone in the living room, whining that their drink is getting warm, is immaterial. You can't speed up the ice-making process by rushing the water-filled tray to the freezer.
The plague-ridden Location #3 calling the E was just a bit of lame Ship-Disabling.
He wishes Dealt good luck, then Dealt beams off the E, followed by his samples.

Picard is in his ready room when Wes enters. The acting ensign gets right to the point this time: he wants to stay on the Enterprise.
Picard asks if Wes has talked to his mother about this.
"No," says Wes. "I wanted your permission first."
"It's more complicated than that," says Picard. Riker chimes in to say they're ready to leave Location #2, and Picard shoos Wesley back to the conn.
A bit later, Picard leaves the ready room and takes his seat on the bridge, beginning a loud conversation of Sassy Moments.

"Wesley wants to stay on-board the E. I didn't say he could, because it takes a village. What do you think, village?"
"That could suck, with his mother gone," suggests Riker. "Who will make sure he does his homework?"
Troi, clearly feeling better, smiles at their goofy conversation.
"I bet Data could do it," says Picard.
"But who will tuck him in at night?" Riker asks.
Wes swivels in his chair, knowing they're ribbing him. "Come on, Commander."
"I will assume that responsibility," answers Worf stoically.
("Good night, sleep tight. And if the bedbugs bite, take them down like a motherfucking warrior.")

"Who volunteers to do everything else?" Picard asks. "You, Riker?"
Riker scrutinizes an anxious Wes before saying, "Yeah, I guess I can do that."
"Okay," says Picard decisively. "Tell your mother you're staying. She gets final word, though. Now let's get the hell out of here."
And a jazzed Wes pulls the ship out of orbit.

Okay, so there's a bunch of stuff to talk about with this episode.

Let's cut to the chase with the beginning: Deanna Troi was raped by a ball of light. And it was both treated that way, and wasn't. It wasn't violent, and she didn't struggle, but it was clearly invasive and disturbing, as we got the creepy-vibe music while she tossed restlessly, then woke up in a cold sweat. And she's unnerved by the whole thing... until she decides to keep the pregnancy. Then she suddenly forgets that a ball of light got non-consensual with her, because it pretty much told her that it wanted to be born. To recap: a ball of light floated through the ship, selected her as good breeding stock, entered her, got her pregnant with... itself, then encouraged her to keep the pregnancy so it could be born in another shape.
We briefly touched on the contentious issue of abortion, and notice that two guys who had nothing to do with the situation argued whether or not she should keep it. Granted, each of these men made good points, and each seems to have been carefully selected to raise those specific points. (Worf, as security chief, notes that the unknown alien presence could be a threat to the ship; Data, himself an unusual life-form, wishes to allow it to live and be studied.) Presumably, Picard called this meeting to discuss the implications of the situation, because it wasn't just a normal pregnancy they were dealing with. However, it is telling that two men immediately jumped in, ready to decide the possibly drastic turn her life might take. It isn't until she interrupts to say that she's decided to keep the pregnancy, that she's afforded any part of the conversation at all. Then it's all," Oh, Okay, then."  
Very interesting here that it became a Hmmm Moment: early chat rooms for fans hosted discussions of episodes as they aired, and the chatroom hosts allowed a civil discussion of abortion to occur, as long as everyone played nice and kept it Trek-based. Fans eventually got into a discussion about whether Picard was pro-choice or pro-life. (We never find out the answer to that question, of course. No one in that discussion is given a preference, not even Worf or Data, as we have no idea how they'd react to a normal pregnancy.)
Then there's the story of the ball of light itself: an alien decides it wants to check out the humans, so it impregnates a female with itself, is born, and later dies to save everyone on the ship.
And this is where I close my eyes and pinch the bridge of my nose.
Really, Star Trek? Really?
Did you seriously write a Christmas episode disguised as sci-fi? I mean, it's less obvious than when TOS opened their second season with a Halloween episode populated with aliens who shape-shift into witches and warlocks. But did you really start out season two of TNG by writing a script about Space Jesus?
(All the more reason that I'm sad that I wasn't able to post this episode earlier, as you too could have spent your holidays reading about Space Jesus.)
Apparently, I'm not the only one with this same conspiracy theory, as TrekMovie.com suggested it two years ago.
As sci-fi goes, it isn't terrible. A bit like my least-favorite Ursula K LeGuin story, but the concept of an alien being born and living as a human in order to get the full experience is interesting.
Not gonna lie, the B-plot was just okay. I was mostly annoyed that they threw in a Disable the Ship that was completely worthless and added nothing to the story overall.

So that brings us to our changes. Almost all of the changes made were welcome. Troi, Wes, Riker, Geordi and Worf all received new looks/uniforms. And Geordi and Worf received promotions, Worf to Head of Security, and Geordi to Chief Engineer. And it's about damn time, too. They'd been doing those jobs all last season.
Not everyone was okay with those changes, though. One fan wrote that there used to be someone on the bridge who looked like him (Geordi), but now that character had gotten a promotion, and was sent off the bridge to Engineering. (This is assuming that that fan was not counting Michael Dorn, as he played an alien with a darker skin tone.) And suddenly, we have a problem: if you don't count Worf (alien), the senior bridge crew are now almost all white humans. Marina Sirtis is Greek, but plays a half-alien, and we aren't certain what her human heritage is supposed to be. Picard, Riker, and Pulaski are all white, and Data is modeled after a white male. Geordi is no longer part of the bridge crew, though he is certainly a senior officer, and his presence at the senior officer meetings reflect that. It seems like TNG was determined to have POCs present on the bridge, and peopled their non-speaking and minor roles with POCs, but I can see where that fan had a point: sometimes Star Trek goes a bit whiter than it intends.
This leads me to my most un-welcome change: where the fucking FUCK is Dr Crusher?
We got three versions here:
A.The official Star Trek story (told to the fans) is that Gates McFadden left to pursue "other opportunities."
B. Gates McFadden says she got a call from her agent saying that the show was "going in a different direction with the character."
C. She later joked at a con that she "disagreed with the writers, and got fired."
Either way, they got rid of Crusher, but now had loose ends to tie up. For instance, where did Dr Crusher go? 
"To head up Starfleet Medical." 
Ah, she was promoted.
What about her kid?
"He's staying to continue his experiences with the E."
(And let's not beat around the bush here: I'm sure there were plenty of fans who cried foul at the thought of Beverly exiting, but Wesley staying.)
Okay, and who is CMO now?
"A new doctor, Katherine Pulaski. She's older, has no romantic interest in Picard, and will sometimes break protocol because she's a scrapper. Oh, and she tussles with another character sometimes. A character that lacks emotion. She struggles to understand him. Also, she dislikes too much technology. Especially the transporter. Okay, she's a McCoy clone."
No, seriously. They tried to make another McCoy, because they had another Spock. But the Spock-like character here is very different from Spock, and they did not adjust Pulaski to fit with him, making her come off as a cold, robophobic bitch with the occasional sympathetic moment, rather than a cuddly curmudgeon. It seems rather fitting then, that Diana Muldaur would request to be listed as "Special Appearance By" rather than a regular cast member, despite the fact that she would remain a regular player throughout season two.

Dear Mother,
I've had a really weird week. I was impregnated by an alien presence, and then gave birth to it like the next day. Surprise! You're a grandmother! Just for feelsies, I named him after Dad. I'd send you baby pics but he was out of diapers before I could change the first one, and had reached age eight by the next day. I really had no time to take pics or sit down to write to you. Anyway, his being on the ship was dangerous, as it was going to cause a plague to break out and kill everyone. I'm still a bit fuzzy on that part. Anyway, he killed himself (sort of) to save us all, and then he turned back into a ball of light and floated off through the wall and out into space. It's a bit all over the place, and I swear I'm not drunk. It super happened, even if there really isn't any evidence.
I guess it's just easier to recommend that you read the second half of a Terran book called the Bible.

Still trying to figure out what the hell happened,


Red deaths: 0
Gold deaths: 0
Blue deaths: 0
Obnoxious Wes moments: 0
Legitimate Wes moments when he should have told someone to go fuck themselves: 0
Sassy Geordi moments: 0
Sassy Wes Moments: 0
Sassy Worf Moment: 2
Sassy Riker Moments: 2
Sassy Yar Moments: 0
Sassy Picard Moments: 2
Sassy NPC Moments: 0
Sassy Data Moments: 1
Sassy Crusher Moments: 0
Number of times that it is mentioned that Data is an android: 2
Number of times that Troi reacts to someone else's feelings: 2
Number of times that Geordi "looks at something" with his VISOR: 0
Number of times when Data gives too much info and has to be told to shut up: 0

Fun Facts:
- The skant, only seen during the first season and a few episodes of the second, has morphed into another uniform option in this episode. Dr Pulaski's preferred uniform is a tunic over pants rather than the jumpsuit, but here we see yet another option: the skant worn as a tunic over dress pants.

- Some of the other powers-that-be on this show didn't like Riker's new beard as well as Gene Rod did, and they requested that he shave off 18% of it. That's not a typo. The actual number is 18%. How the fuck does one even measure out 18% of a beard to shave that much off?
- Along with robophobia, Pulaski's shitty treatment of Data might also be called automatonophia (fear of things that falsely represent human beings). Isaac Asimov referred to it in his work as the "Frankenstein Complex."
- Wes' new comm badge is all silver, rather than the silver delta over gold ellipse that everyone else wears.
- Troi's "pregnant belly" was filled with birdseed.
-This is the only episode in season two to reference Dr Crusher. She will be seen later in archived footage on a clip show, but will shoot no new footage for season two.
-The warp speed visual effect, seen by Wes and Guinan in Ten Forward, is debuted in this episode. DS9 will later add a flash at the end.

- From this episode on, the transporter will be energized by running the hand up a column of lighted bars on a touchscreen console. The TOS transporter was also run this way (sliding a bar up a lighted column on the console), but no effort was made to do this extra step in TNG's first season.
-The con and Ops stations in the front of the bridge now have upright, swiveling chairs instead of the reclined bucket seats from season one.
-The "triumphant" music from the first scene of this episode is from "Encounter at Farpoint." It is called Picard's Theme.
-This episode was actually a script rewrite from the aborted Star Trek: Phase II show. In that script, Chekov and Uhura are considered as hosts by the ball of light before it chooses Ilia.


  1. So sorry to hear about your holiday problems. You and my wife seem to share the trait of gadgets hating you.

  2. Data displays a panicked emotional response

    I like to think that Sonny Clemonds found an old archive of TV sitcoms that he sent to Data, and that's how Data learned about delivering babies.

  3. Welcome back. :)

    Now, I've got an image in my mind of Picard exiting a turbolift and stepping into dog shit.

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