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TNG 2-01

TNG 2x01
"The Child"

Original airdate: 11/21/1988
Rewatch date: 8/14/2011


Troi is impregnated by an alien lifeforce and gives birth shortly thereafter. The mysterious child grows at an astounding rate, but when a dangerous pathogen is nearly released, the child's existence begins to threaten the Enterprise.

Spoiler-free notes:

Things have changed! Worf's make-up is a little more polished and his baldric is silver, Riker has a beard, Wesley's wearing a grey uniform, and both Troi and La Forge have better haircuts. There's a new doctor on board, Dr. Katherine Pulaski, and La Forge is now Chief Engineer (presumably the only one now). Also, an as-yet-unnamed bit character in "Encounter at Farpoint" is apparently the new transporter chief. The start of this episode almost feels like a second series premiere. The cinematography also feels a little more polished, both in aesthetics and in overall quality. They must have gotten better cameras and lighting equipment. Additionally, the visual effects have gotten a slight upgrade.

It's interesting seeing the relationship between Picard and Wesley develop even further. With Dr. Crusher out of the picture, Picard is forced to become even more of a parental figure.

Dr. Pulaski says that the fetus is genetically identical to Troi. However, it's a male. Where did it get a Y chromasome?

Data's argument against an abortion: "Captain, this is a life-form. Not to allow it to develop naturally would deny us the opportunity to study it." I've never heard that point made by the pro-lifers.

Troi tells Picard that she is determined to have the baby, at which point Picard says the discussion is over. I get that the writers are making a noble point about a woman's right to choose and all that, but it doesn't really make sense in context. There is the genuine possibility that this child is a threat to the security of the ship and crew (which he ultimately winds up being, albeit indirectly), and Troi is an officer serving under Picard. Picard's primary concern, as is pointed out time and again, is the safety of his ship, so he could easily make a case for ordering an abortion. Granted, there may be certain provisions of Starfleet law that dictate how far a commanding officer can go, but since Picard is empowered to order crewmembers to their deaths, it would seem that he should be able to order an officer to have an abortion. Maybe Picard is sensitive to Troi's feelings and desires and weighs that carefully, but the discussion shouldn't be over. They also need to consider whether the alien life-form that impregnated her has compromised her mental state (which becomes all the more obvious when her mental state isn't altered by the pregnancy itself, which is evidence that an outside influence is in control of her hormones). I know the political subtext of such a discussion on prime-time television would be ugly and indelicate (to say the least), but from a strictly narrative standpoint, the discussion should still take place amongst the senior staff.

Picard orders Data to go over the final manifest with Dr. Pulaski, at which point Data leaves the bridge. He exits a turbolift and heads down the hall, where he comes across Troi, obviously in labor. Troi asks Data to help her get to sick bay. Data takes her hand and then goes down the hallway in the opposite direction. As Dr. Pulaski is in the sick bay, it raises the question: where was Data going?

Data stands by Troi's side as Troi is giving birth. Dr. Pulaski argues that Troi would probably want a human touch, but Troi says Data will do nicely. Since Troi is a Betazoid, I think she might be right, because Data wouldn't be broadcasting any panic or anxiety the way a human would under those circumstances.

There are fewer things in this world creepier than a four-year-old saying, "Please don't worry. Everything's okay." Why is that?

I like how, with Dr. Pulaski, we finally have somebody on board who is completely fascinated by Data. In "Encounter at Farpoint," it seemed like Riker was intrigued, but after that episode, he never seemed to take as much interest in what makes the android tick. The relationship between Pulaski and Data reminds me a little of the relationship between McCoy and Spock, in that the doctor is always incredulous about the other's behavior.

As a new parent, I find a whole new angle to this story. Parents often joke that their children get bigger every minute and say cliché things like, "They grow up too fast, don't they?" This episode poses the question: what if that were actually true? Also, before having a kid, I would have asked how Ian is able to grow so quickly without constantly eating, but now, I no longer ask that question, because I've assumed it is a medical mystery outside the realm of science.

Picard has never played with a puppy? No wonder he's so stuffy.

Guinan's something of a paradox. Her character description is the definition of cliché: she's a bartender who seems to know everything and gives good advice. However, Whoopi Goldberg pulls it off, making Guinan one of the most interesting, nuanced, and enigmatic people on the ship.

Troi calls the doctor for help when Ian is dying, and Pulaski, Riker, and Data come running. They show up really quickly, but at the time that Troi called them, they were busy dealing with a situation that was spiralling out of control and threatened the lives of everybody on board in a matter of minutes. You'd think Pulaski would send one of her subordinates.

Worf is going to tuck Wesley in at night?!

Twist ending: "The Child" in the title is actually Wesley! How will the Enterprise crew cope with this child?

Number of episodes in which a crewmember is subverted by an alien lifeforce: 3. You could make a case that Troi's mind isn't really subverted, but I think even a hardcore feminist would have to admit that forced impregnation is a form of subversion.



Spoiler section:

Guinan and Ten-Forward are an integral part of what makes TNG so great. Finally getting to them on the show feels a little like going home.

Guinan says she never met Captain Picard until she came on board the Enterprise. This is a lie, but her reasons for lying are pretty rock solid, as we see in "Time's Arrow".





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