The Good: Interesting character development, Good acting
The Bad: Weaker plot than some episodes
The Basics: When the Enterprise is seriously crippled, Troi must take command and determine who among the crew can be saved in "Disaster!"
There are several standards in Star Trek The Next Generation that come to be important things that define the series. Some of those standards include: the Enterprise is invincible, Captain Picard has a difficult time relating to children and Star Trek The Next Generation is not simply one character's story. "Disaster" will take the most true of those standards and violate it, putting the Enterprise in serious jeopardy.
While cruising through space, the Enterprise collides with a quantum filament which cripples the starship. With main power off-line and communications inside the ship disabled, the crew is split into various groups. Worf is trapped in Ten Forward when Keiko O'Brien is giving birth, Captain Picard is trapped in a turbolift with a group of children, Data and Riker are stuck together near engineering, Dr. Crusher and Geordi are marooned in a cargo bay which is on fire and Counselor Troi is in command on the bridge. When the warp core nears critical, Counselor Troi must decide whether or not to sacrifice the engineering section while Data and Riker do their best to save that section of the ship.
"Disaster" is a little episode that reminds the viewer of how integrated the crew of the starship Enterprise truly is. Seeing the crew fractured by this horrible malaise, it reminds us how effortlessly they usually fit together. For the most part, that creates a genuine sense of menace.
Unfortunately, part of the episode has a rather forced feel. Because we need to know where each of the crewmembers are in this episode, so we don't sit there asking, "Well why doesn't . . .Geordi fix the engine?" (For example), the writers wisely illustrate it by letting us see each of the crewmembers. This doesn't work on some of the plots, most notably the Geordi and Dr. Crusher plot. Their little menace seems tacked on, simply like an explanation of where they were during this problem.
Otherwise, the episode works. Picard's plot fits well and it uses the crisis to develop the character further than we have seen in the past. Picard's dislike of children here is forced to dissipate or he, being wounded, is likely to die. As well, Troi taking command, especially while being challenged by Ro, works wonderfully. She has no real experience here and she is forced to grow or die. Being that she is one of the "heroes" of the series, we know she will grow.
While the episode maintains quite a bit of tension and actually becomes very easy to believe in the jeopardy of the Enterprise, this is not an episode without humor. Worf, trapped with the pregnant Keiko, does a great job at lightening the mood, while still maintaining the sense of overall menace.
Part of what makes the episode work is the great acting. Michael Dorn, playing Worf, infuses humor into the episode with some of his lines, but more the way he plays Worf as uncertain. By keeping Worf unsure, Dorn makes even the lightest plot in this episode menacing. This is refreshing because otherwise, the Worf and Keiko interchange could easily come across as silly.
Patrick Stewart does well at making Picard resigned. Due to his character's wounds, Picard must relent some of his control in this situation and to some children. As a result, the character needs a sense of surrender and acceptance about him and Stewart does that quite well. Here he makes it sensible for us to believe in the character and where he is.
The real thief of our attention is Marina Sirtis. Here she rises to the occasion as Troi infusing an element of control that is quite different from the resigned character Troi usually appears as. Unlike "The Loss" (reviewed here!) which fails because too much of Marina comes through, here Sirtis manages to keep Troi Troi while forcing her to develop. Sirtis seems both analytical and driven to action here. She helps us suspend our disbelief and makes this episode quite successful.
This is one of those episodes that anyone could sit down and watch; just about every aspect of it is sufficiently explained to make it accessible to those who are not fans of Star Trek The Next Generation. In contrast, this episode is one that it likely to be appreciated more by those who have been with the show for a while. Here is a piece that illustrates how much our characters have grown in four years. "Disaster" succeeds and can be enjoyed by anyone who enjoys a decent disaster or suspense flick.
[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Complete Fifth Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the fifth season by clicking here!
For other Star Trek episode reviews, please be sure to visit my index page by clicking here for an organized listing!
© 2011, 2007, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.