Star Trek: The Next Generation (1988): S02E01 – The Child


Introduction

“The Child” is the first episode of the second season of the American science fiction television series Star Trek: The Next Generation, the 27th episode overall. It was originally released on 21 November 1988, in broadcast syndication.

The story was originally written by Jaron Summers and Jon Povill for the cancelled late 1970s series Star Trek: Phase II. Due to the tight deadlines caused by the 1988 Writers Guild of America Strike, the producers of The Next Generation searched the records of that earlier television project, resulting in the script being amended by show runner Maurice Hurley.

Set in the 24th century, the series follows the adventures of the Starfleet crew of the Federation starship Enterprise-D. In this episode, ship’s Counsellor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) becomes pregnant by an alien entity and gives birth to a mysterious child. This causes problems for the Enterprise, which is transporting dangerous plague strains. The child’s presence on the ship begins to endanger the crew due to effects on a virus sample being transported by the ship. It sacrifices its physical body, turning back into an energy being, telling Troi why it visited before departing.

Being the first episode of the second season, “The Child” was the first episode to feature Diana Muldaur as Doctor Katherine Pulaski and Whoopi Goldberg as Guinan. Director Rob Bowman was allowed to use additional camera equipment to improve the style of filming, resulting in a change to the opening shot of the episode. It was watched by 10.9 million viewers, but critics held a negative opinion of the episode saying that there was no ongoing effect to Troi. Further criticism also compared the means of the character’s pregnancy to rape, and stated that the reactions of the other crew members were irrational.

Outline

The new Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Katherine Pulaski (Diana Muldaur), is brought aboard the Enterprise as it prepares to travel to Aucdet IX in order to take on dangerous virus samples, which will be carried to a Starfleet Medical station in hope to devise a cure for a plague epidemic in the Rachelis System. On leaving the ship the doctor transferred from, a ball of energy passes through the hull and enters the ship, eventually settling into ship’s counsellor Deanna Troi’s (Marina Sirtis) quarters. Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) wonders why the new doctor hadn’t checked in with him, and locates her in the Ten Forward lounge. Upon arrival he meets the ship’s new bartender, Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg), and is directed to the doctor, who had been consulting with Troi. At a meeting with senior officers, Pulaski presents that Troi is pregnant; the fetus, implanted the day before, is developing at an accelerated rate and would be fully developed in 36 hours. Troi does not know who the father is, but was aware of a “presence” entering her body the night before. Though the senior staff debate terminating the pregnancy, Troi decides she will carry the child to term.

When the Enterprise arrives at Aucdet IX and to transport the plague samples into a highly secure storage vessel, Troi gives birth to an apparently normal boy, whom she names Ian Andrew after her father. Ian continues to develop rapidly; within a day, he appears as a four-year-old child with corresponding mental faculties. Troi, Picard and Pulaski observe Ian (Zachary Benjamin) purposely putting himself in harm’s way, seemingly just for the experience. When asked if he is ready to explain who or what he is, though, Ian responds “not yet.” Having completed the transfer of the virus samples, the Enterprise heads for the Starfleet Medical station. En route, the crew finds one of the plague strains is growing inexplicably; should it continue growing, it will rupture the storage vessel and result in the catastrophic exposure of all on board.

They discover that an unknown source of Eichner radiation is causing the growth. Separately, Ian (R. J. Williams), now appearing as an eight-year-old, confides to Troi that he is the source of the crew’s problems and will have to leave. Troi realises Ian is dying and calls for medical assistance. As Pulaski tries to keep Ian alive, Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner) scans him and discovers that he is the source of radiation. Ian dies in Troi’s arms, and turns into a ball of energy, which settles into Troi’s hands, communicating telepathically with her for a moment, then leaves the ship. The lifeform told her that he wished to learn about humans through experiencing standard human development and living among the crew. With Ian gone, the plague sample returns to normal and the crew continues on their mission.

As a subplot through the episode, Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton) is trying to cope with leaving the Enterprise to join his mother on Earth after her promotion to director of Starfleet Medical. After receiving guidance from Guinan, he decides he wants to remain on the Enterprise.

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Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s): Rob Bowman.
  • Writer(s): Jaron Summers, Jon Povill, and Maurice Hurley.
  • Release Date: 21 November 1988.
  • Running Time: 50 minutes.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

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