The Great Star Trek TNG Rewatch: The Child

There comes a time in the life of any TV show when they really have to scrape the barrel for ideas. In the case of TNG, the season two opener was actually an unused plot from the aborted Star Trek Phase II, the TOS sequel that never was. Reworked for TNG, the episode sees Troi get impregnated by a mysterious space-light, and subsequently give birth to a baby a mere 36 hours later. The child, named Ian Andrew after Troi’s father, grows at phenomenal rate – but what is he, and why is he here?

Now, it may well be that out in space, there really is a danger of getting pregnant from mysterious lights, but even so, I’m not sure that it’s something I want from the TNG universe. As a woman, I’ve always felt strongly about having control over my own body, and so an episode that is essentially about a space-rape leaves me feeling deeply uncomfortable. Troi has no say over whether she wants to be invaded by this life-form, or get pregnant, and once she discovers the situation, she then has to put up with the senior officers debating over whether or not she can keep the baby. Fortunately, Picard has the sense to say it’s her decision, but until he intervenes, Worf and Data argue over whether the pregnancy should be terminated.

New for season two

Much less awful and contentious than the main plot, here are some changes for this season.

  • Riker has a beard! Some people claim that the beard moment indicates the point where the show started to get good. I’m not sure we’re there yet.
  • Crusher has left to become chief of Starfleet Medical. Her replacement, Dr Pulaski, is already annoying, treating Data as less than a person and mocking him for not wanting his name pronounced Dah-ta. I bet she wouldn’t like being called Dr Pul-arse-ki.
  • Geordi has been promoted to chief engineer, and has a new gold uniform to go with it. Worf has also changed from red to gold uniform, and is presumably properly head of security now (he was promoted to acting head of security after Yar’s death), but does not get any onscreen acknowledgement.
  • The Ten Forward lounge is introduced, as is its engimatic bartender Guinan and her ridiculous hats.
  • Wesley has a slightly different uniform, and is supposed to leave the ship to join his mother on Earth (and presumably to start at Starfleet Academy). To all our dismay, he elects to remain aboard the Enterprise. Data and Riker promise to mentor him, whilst Worf promises to tuck him in at night.
  • O’Brien is now transporter chief.

Other points

  • If the viruses were so deadly, why didn’t the Enterprise have some special isolation deck it could put them on, where they wouldn’t have the potential to infect the entire ship?
  • How is Ian able to grow so quickly without taking in vast quantities of food? Similarly, how is Troi able to grow a baby so quickly? Also, even if he is growing at an accelerated rate, surely he doesn’t have time to get exposed to enough information and knowledge to learn how to speak and interact like an eight-year-old child.

Summary – The Child: “This is not the worst episode of Star Trek we’ve seen – it’s the worst episode of anything we’ve seen.”

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