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Overview – After having a rendezvous with the USS Repulse to pick up new Chief Medical Officer Kate Pulaski, an alien entity impregnates Deanna Troi. The pregnancy is unusual in that it is highly accelerated and the child that is born also accelerates in aging. His presence, while in itself is a concern to the crew, might be linked to a threat to the crew from some viral samples that the Enterprise is transporting. Meanwhile, Wesley Crusher is preparing to join his mother at Starfleet Medical, but after a conversation with the new hostess of Ten Forward, Guinan, he realizes he truly wants to remain onboard the Enterprise.
Score: 7/10 – This is an interesting episode to review. At this point, with four series that followed TNG, there is a certain expectation towards season openers. At the time, however, TNG’s second season was showing the signs of a major change that was taking place. With Gates McFadden being fired from the show and Diana Muldaur being brought in to serve as a more McCoy-like doctor, there were some definite feelings of growing pains. The episode, which was a recycled story from the abandoned “Phase Two” Star Trek series, is good. Not necessarily earth-shattering, but good. It does a good job of introducing a couple of new faces, Pulaski and Guinan, as well as highlighting the changes being made. We get some good character development and an interesting story. Aside from that, however, the show is just like any other episode in the season. A writer’s strike did factor into this, as there was originally talk of having the Borg, which were alluded to in the Season 1 finale, be introduced here. That would have been a far more compelling season opener, but alas, we are given this story instead.
Relevance – 3 points. A lot of changes are shown here in the season opener. In “Skin of Evil” Worf is made the acting security chief. In this episode, it looks as if it is permanent. Also promoted is Geordi La Forge to full lieutenant and Chief Engineer. Beverly Crusher is gone, and Diana Muldaur comes aboard as Kate Pulaski, the new ship’s doctor. Also premiering is the new hub of social activity, Ten Forward, and its mysterious host. Guinan was specifically created at the request of Whoopi Goldberg who was a lifelong Trekkie. Guinan became one of the most popular characters among the fans, and this is the episode that it all began with. So even though this is not the strongest of episodes there is a lot that is relevant to the season and the series that happens here.
Continuity – 3 points. Story and universe continuity are both fully intact here. What is of particular interest for this episode is the character continuity. In the briefing where the officers discuss Troi’s pregnancy, everyone who chimes takes the positions one would expect them to take. Worf sees it as a threat, while Data an opportunity to study. Riker is mostly concerned for Deanna, and Picard listens dutifully. Pulaski, who is introduced in this episode, quickly establishes herself in this episode, and we get a very clear picture of who she is. In short, character continuity is maintained as well.
Character Development – 3 points. Deanna is the main focus here. She is given a choice and chooses to become a mother to this alien child. We learn how much she loved her father when she chose to name her son after him. She shows that she would have made a very capable mother as well. We see her compassion as well as her resolve and grit. Wesley also is given some important development as he seeks to determine what is truly best for him: to be with his mother at Starfleet Medical or to be on the Enterprise. His dilemma also gives us the opportunity to see what Guinan’s role in the show is going to be. There is also the start of the gradual introduction to Doctor Pulaski. She does not like transporters, she is does not waste time or mince words, and she has a thing against treating Data like a sentient being (which has not yet been established). This also gives Data an opportunity to flex is assertiveness as she mispronounces his name, for which he dutifully corrects her. Lots of good character development here.
Social Commentary – 3 points. When the pregnancy was announced, there was a great deal of discussion around it among the senior officers. Worf, the ever-pragmatic security chief, stated that the pregnancy should be terminated. Riker wanted to learn about the origin of the child, and Data was speaking to the potential for study. During all of this, Troi had to burst out that because it was her child that she should be the one to make the decision, which was to keep it. This is as close to the debate on abortion that Star Trek has ever gotten to. It was interesting in that it re-enforced the mother’s right to choose what happens to her body while at the same time having her choose to keep it. Of course, that needed to happen in order to have the story last the whole episode. Meanwhile, with the Wesley story, there is the idea of a young man unexpectedly finding his independence. His heart was telling him that he belonged on the Enterprise and he chose to follow it. While for the show it was important to have this happen in order to keep Wil Wheaton on the show, it was a good way to address this coming-of-age motif in a way that makes sense. So while the first issue is only dealt with in a very brief and almost superficial manner, the second theme has much more general appeal to the audience.
Cool Stuff – 0 points. Sadly, as interesting as this episode is, there is not much that I found that met the criteria for being “cool”. There is a lot of good in this episode, but nothing that really stands out.
Rank – Captain (19 points). This is not really good example of how to start your sophomore season, but it is a good episode in and of itself. While this episode is not very strong or memorable on its own, what makes it special is all the changes that it establishes. It sets a tone for a more stable season than the previous and has some good character moments.
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