Thursday, December 9, 2010

If The Problem Is Easily Resolved, It Wasn't Much Of A Problem To Begin With: "The Child!"

The Good: Interesting new characters, Good use of existing characters, music
The Bad: Excessively long lead-in, simplistic problems and resolution
The Basics: The introduction of two new characters to the series is hindered by a weak script filled with simplistic conflicts.

When "The Child," the second season premiere of Star Trek The Next Generation begins, it does so with an especially long fanfare both musical and visual. The music is fine, in fact, it's one of the highlights of the episode. The visual . . . well, it left me begging the director to GET TO THE ACTUAL EPISODE! Almost a full minute is wasted simply showing off the Enterprise again, getting the viewer back in the swing of where and when they are. While this might have been advantageous after that first summer hiatus, now it's just drawn out and annoying.

When the story finally gets into the plot, it's a doosey. The Enterprise is transporting a whole zoo of dangerous microorganisms which, if released from their containment, could kill everything on the ship. As the transfer of these bio-materials commences, Counselor Troi is visited by an alien presence which impregnates her. Rather quickly, she gives birth to a boy and it begins to age at a rapid rate until the two main storylines collide. In a third plot, Wesley Crusher, now abandoned, must resolve to do what he's told or what he wants, namely remaining on the Enterprise.

The problem with "The Child" is a fairly major one and it's a problem uniform across the board: if a problem is easily solved, it wasn't much a problem to begin with. All three of the conflicts are easily resolved. Before Troi ever has her baby, she asserts her right to choose to, claiming dominion over her body. Excellent, it's her right, she ought to be able to make that decision. But it basically nullifies a five minute briefing room scene where options are tossed around. Similarly, when the microorganism containers begin to break down and threaten the ship, the cause is found rather rapidly and it is neutralized. And it's always the obvious answer in this episode. So too is the necessary, but very forced feeling conflict Wesley undergoes.

The redeeming factors of the episode is that it introduces two new characters and it makes use of previously underused characters well. Dr. Katherine Pulaski arrives to replace Dr. Beverly Crusher. Pulaski is well played by actress Diana Muldar, who brings stiffness and compassion to the team. Unfortunately, she reads as somewhat out of place in this particular ensemble. She is a female rewrite of Dr. McCoy and in this context, her conflict with Data seems forced. They are trying to reinvent Star Trek as opposed to developing Star Trek The Next Generation in this respect.

Fortunately, they are innovating with the addition of Guinan, an alien who listens. She is played by Whoopi Goldberg and is essentially a bartender in the ship's lounge.

On the other front, the use of Deanna Troi for the season opener was particularly inspired. So little is known of her by the end of the first season that it's good to see her get a chance at the limelight. Unfortunately, like Wesley Crusher in this episode, it seems that the conflict outweighs the character.

And that's not to say either Marina Sirtis (Troi) or Wil Wheaton (Crusher) aren't up to the challenge. They do the best they can with the material they are given. Unfortunately, they're working with a script that is, at best, mediocre.

This episode sets up several conflicts, long enough to fill forty minutes, then resolves them all in the remaining three minutes of the episode. It doesn't feel genuine and it's a poor way to introduce two characters that have a lot of potential and much to offer this series. Fortunately, writers and directors that follow find better ways to use them. Unfortunately, only writers of the Star Trek The Next Generation novels make good use of some of the lines in this episode that ought to resonate louder and create character conflict. Well, at least someone made something good from this episode. Very introverted, not for people who aren't fans of Star Trek The Next Generation.

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Complete Second Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the sophomore season by clicking here!


For other Star Trek episode and movie reviews, please visit my index page!

© 2010, 2008, 2002 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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