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Star Trek: The Next Generation

Season 2 Episode 1

The Child

Aired Unknown Nov 21, 1988 on CBS
out of 10
User Rating
240 votes

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Episode Summary

Stardate: 42073.1

When the Enterprise is on a mission transporting dangerous viruses to a starbase in hopes of discovering a cure, Troi shocks the crew with the news that she has mysteriously become pregnant.

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  • The Child

    Welcome to season 2 of TNG. Like any growing show, this one has been going through some changes. You'll notice hair that wasn't there before, like Riker's smirk-enhancing beard, and new responsibilities, like Geordi's promotion to Chief Engineer. We also have ourselves two brand new cast members: Whoopi Godlberg as the wise bartender Guinan and Diana Muldaur as Dr. Katherine Pulaski. Guinan dispenses easy-going guidance in "Child," and Goldberg is pleasantly restrained in the role. Pulaski, on the other hand...

    Look, there's no getting around it: she's a horrible character, and a huge misstep for a fledgling series whose misstep budget is already well into the red. I'm crossing my fingers that she'll develop some depth as the season progresses, but for right now, she's miserable, poorly cast, painfully written, and quite possibly the worst possible choice to replace the smart, passionate, and sensible Beverly Crusher. Muldaur isn't a terrible actress. She's more professional than Crosby was, and there's none of that off-putting skittishness. The problem is, her persona is detached, icy, and aloof, and we're given no reason to think there's anything underlying all that condescension.

    Even her introduction starts on the wrong foot. Instead of reporting to Picard as ordered when she first arrives on the ship, Pulaski goes to Ten-Forward, where off-screen she meets Deanna Troi, and learns about Troi's surprise pregnancy. Now, typically, this sort of ignoring-standard-protocol behavior would be indicative of a down-to-earth, irascible personality, like McCoy from TOS. If you go by the script as written, that's clearly the intent here. Pulaski doesn't play by the rules, but she cares about her patients, and is willing to stand up to any authority to defend those rights. It's not perfect, but at least there's some sense of how she could fit into the existing cast.

    Muldaur ruins it because she has no warmth, and this kind of role has to be warm. McCoy was a bigoted ass at times, but he was passionate, and it was clear that passion, not calculation, was what drove him. Muldaur plays Pulaski like a librarian who would enjoy her work so much more if everyone stopped reading. It is a joyless, embarrassed turn, and given how cheerily enthusiastic every other cast member is, very out of place. Maybe the idea was to provide some balance for all the smiling. Often characters who stand out from the norm are break-out roles on shows, like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory or, hell, Spock from TOS. These figures provide points of identification for audiences who also often feel at odds from the rest of society. I can't imagine anyone relating to Pulaski, though, for the simple fact that if you did, why would you still be watching TNG?

    I'll save discussing her mistreatment of Data for later, though, because as badly judged as Pulaski is in this episode, the story is probably worse. The MacGuffin about a plasma plague is fine, and should've been the main focus. It falls into the hard sci-fi category, and the tensest moments in "The Child" come when that situation balances on the edge of getting completely out of hand. It's too bad, then, that this isn't called "The Perilous Plasmatic Instead, we get the Troi's unwanted pregnancy and the Space Baby.

    A dot of light jumps aboard the Enterprise, does some zinging around the halls, and finally finds Deanna Troi, asleep in her bed. There's no other way to describe it: Tinkerbell knocks Troi up. Trek has never been exactly female-friendly, but for all its tasteful presentation, this has to be a low-point. Even though she should be the central focus of the episode, Troi is essentially passive. Other characters discuss how to handle her pregnancy while barely acknowledging her presence in the room, and when she finally does voice an opinion, it's to state unequivocally that she's keeping the Never mind that the pregnancy is an invasion of her privacy and rights, never mind that her sudden determination to protect her mystery guest could come at the cost of great physical danger, it's beautiful because she's gonna be a mom now, and that's clearly the greatest gift anyone could ever have.

    This is bunk. It's not bunk that Troi is enthusiastic--the Space Baby could be manipulating her emotions in order to provide itself with an accommodating host. What's bunk is that the episode treats this an an unquestioned positive. Picard has his suspicions, but the birth scene is presented as a comedy and the STG's eventual exit is intended as a moment of great beauty. What it translates to is: an alien hitches a ride without permission, rapes a woman, knocks her up, saddles her with grotesque body changes, attaches itself to her post-birth to gain information, endangers everyone on board the ship with its thoughtless selfishness, and then orchestrates an exit in the most emotionally manipulative fashion possible by forcing its "mother" to witness the death of her child. That's not how it's presented, of course. It's presented as a joyous life experience, but no amount of tears and lies make this anything less than a travesty.moreless
  • Troi is impregnated by an alien presence and gives birth to a rapidly growing child.

    With the opening episode of the second season, some aspects of TNG which would go on to become familiar begin to fall into place: Commander Riker has grown a beard, Troi has her purple jumpsuit (and a decent hairstyle), Geordi LaForge is now the Chief Engineer, Worf is firmly in place as Chief of Security, and there's a new bar/lounge area with Whoopie Goldberg playing Guinan, the bartender/wise old owl. Less obvious, but still important are production differences that include smoother and more polished camera moves and less intrusive music. The setting is finally there for some great stories! Sadly, we're right in the middle of the 1988 writer's strike. With this problem delaying production of the second season, Star Trek looked to its past for story ideas. The unused story ideas from the aborted 1970s Star Trek revival series were fished out of their dusty file cabinets and considered for TNG, and "The Child" was chosen to kick things off. All the new changes are introduced quickly in the first ten minutes, including the debut of Dr. Pulaski (played by Star Trek veteran Diana Muldaur), who replaces Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden). In the long term, this proved to be a poor choice, but in the short term Pulaski adds some spunk and vitality to the show, and helps make this story the first decent Troi episode. It helps that the pacing and dialogue for "The Child" are much improved over the first season. Is this one of Trek's greatest installments? No. But it's one of the first TNG episodes that feels like TNG.moreless
  • Not as bad as the story outline might suggest but fairly weak....

    So, the episodes of the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation was either hit, miss, or snooze - mostly snooze but with a few great ones thrown in. The ball gets rolling on season two of Star Trek: The Next Generation with "The Child," beginning well with a sweeping score and character re-introductions (many sporting new positions, uniforms, and facial hair).

    As hard as it is to take a storyline involving Troi getting impregnated by an unknown entity seriously, Star Trek: TNG's first second season episode "The Child" is not terrible. The scenes involving Troi & the crew dealing with her being pregnant are handled surprisingly well, with Troi being treated like an object as her body is poignantly thrown into the middle of a tactical discussion regarding the unknown entity that has impregnated her, are actually very good. However, then they go on way too long with a birth scene (which is just weird), tack on a dangerous space virus sub-plot (which is uninteresting), and do not learn much from season one and give Wesley Crusher significant screen time. "The Child" is not a bad episode of Star Trek: TNG but it is a ho-hum one.moreless
  • What a (good) difference!

    The start of season two in some ways seems like the start of a new show, or the way the show should have kicked off. A lot of it has to do with little things that make a huge difference in the overall feel of the show; a feel that is more polished and visually captivating. There are slight changes to the entrance theme (no more crazed string sections) with harder hitting warp effects. The model shots of the ship and the in space orbiting and travel are greatly improved and more realistic looking and the characters seem to be comfortable and fluid in their acting. It is true that a lot of the above are asthetic improvments but they do tend to make the overall picture a lot more appealing.

    The changes are not limited to that though. We get Worf firmly planted as the new Chief of Security and Geordi as the new Chief Engineer, roles that they are both meant to play and which they make their own. On the downside though we lose the stunning Dr Crusher for Dr Pulaski, a choice that robbed the show of one of its more interesting dynamics; namely the underlying sexual tension and attraction between Picard and Crusher and idea that Picard might serve in some capacity as the father Wesley had lost while at the same time filling the void Beverly lost with the death of her husband. A Family dynamic not explictely stated.

    Story wise, the episode keeps you intrigued as to the possible motive for the alien being impregnating Troi and seeking out residence on the Enterprise. You get a couple of hints as to the final revelation in the middle of the episode when the child burns himself in front of Picard and the doctor, but overall it is a decent idea to explore. Nothing ground breaking but not too drab either. The Wesley subplot fails to excite in the least...get rid of the kid that easily....no such luck, and the aspect of the virus transfer serves well for what it is, namely a compliment to the alien presence.moreless
  • Troi's immaculate conception

    A fairly mundane scripts has Troi take the storyline by the throat and take it to an acceptable level. The alien visiting has been done before and if it werent so early in the 7 season run, Id be asking not again!

    However, the fairly benign start turns into a good standalone story of first contact as the being uses the vessel of Troi's immaculately conceived son to experience what it is like to be human and communicate with the crew.

    Nothing really threatens anyone in this episode and the only conflict comes in the form of the harmful energy that the being transmits. Which opens the door for the final farewell and Troi's heartbreak!

    Should have been moved up to later in the season and become a filler episode. Not really fit for a season starter, but the ending of the last one wasnt really a good finale so.....moreless
Patrick Stewart

Patrick Stewart

Captain Jean-Luc Picard

Jonathan Frakes

Jonathan Frakes

Cmdr. William T. Riker

Brent Spiner

Brent Spiner

Lt. Cmdr. Data

Marina Sirtis

Marina Sirtis

Counsellor/Lt. Cmdr. Deanna Troi

LeVar Burton

LeVar Burton

Lt. Cmdr. Geordi LaForge

Michael Dorn

Michael Dorn

Lt./Lt. Cmdr. Worf

Seymour Cassel

Seymour Cassel

Lt. Cmdr. Hester Dealt

Guest Star

R.J. Williams

R.J. Williams

Ian Andrew Troi

Guest Star

Dawn Arnemann

Dawn Arnemann

Miss Gladstone

Guest Star

Colm Meaney

Colm Meaney

Miles O'Brien

Recurring Role

Whoopi Goldberg

Whoopi Goldberg


Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (9)

    • Dr. Pulaski states that Troi's child is identical to her genetically, but also that it is male. In order to produce a hybrid like Troi, human and Betazoid genetics must be similar. However, in human (and indeed all mammalian) genetics, sex is determined by X and Y chromosomes. Females are XX, while males are XY. Troi appears to be female, which is the child-bearing sex by definition, and is therefore XX. There's no source for her son's Y chromosomes.

    • Guinan states that she never knew Picard before coming to the Enterprise." This contradicts "The Best of Both Worlds Part II," when she tells Riker their relationship goes beyond friendship and family. it also contradicts what we eventually find out of the origins of their relationship in "Time's Arrow."

    • In the first scene on the bridge as Riker walks towards Wesley's station an orange object, perhaps a sack or bag, can been seen at the bottom of the screen sitting near the base of the helm console.

    • Trivia: Troi's father's name was Ian Andrew, the name she gives her son.

    • Trivia: A Betazoid's normal gestation period lasts 10 months.

    • When Lt. Cmdr. Dealt detects unusual radiation in the cargo bay, Riker asks Data for possible causes. Data says "certain cyanoacrylates." His response sounds very scientifically impressive...but cyanocryclates are basically adhesives such as super glue. So apparently they're hauling...radioactive Super Glue??

    • In the episode "Redemption," Picard states that Tasha died a year before Guinan came onboard, but her first episode here is only four episodes after the fact. It seems impossible that it is anywhere near a year after "Skin of Evil."

    • Watch Deanna's face after Ian is born and Riker kisses her. Before the kiss, her cheeks and face are entirely dry, but just after the kiss, the entire upper half of her face is covered in tears and sweat.

    • Picard refers to "cargo deck 5." There is no such thing - there's a deck 5, and a cargo bay 5 (according to specs it's not on deck 5). But no cargo deck 5. So how does anyone know what he's talking about?

  • QUOTES (1)

    • Riker: And who will tuck him in at night?
      Wesley: Come on, Commander.
      Worf: I will accept that responsibility.
      Troi: Well, we know he'll get his sleep.

  • NOTES (10)

    • Wesley is seen in uniform for the first time in this episode. Crusher is now wearing a grey jumpsuit uniform very similar to the ones worn by Starfleet cadets. He would continue to wear this uniform until late in the third season.

    • Deanna Troi's hair and clothing both change in this episode. Her hair is removed from the unattractive bun she wore throughout the first season (except "Encounter at Farpoint"). Her clothing has changed from the dark grey jumpsuit to a burgundy jumpsuit.

    • Jonathan Frakes got married during the break and didn't shave during that time. When he came back on set, his beard was very long and he was going to have it shaved off. However, Gene Roddenberry thought it looked good, so he told him to get it trimmed instead.

    • O'Brien is seen wearing full Lt. pips because issues of his rank were not decided yet. We later learn he is a non-commissioned Chief.

    • As part of the ongoing revisions to the Klingon appearance, Worf gets a makeover. Notable in this episode is a smoother blend of his forehead ridges, new slope to the forehead, revisions to the hairline that make it smoother, and slightly longer hair.

    • Diana Muldaur was a guest star on two original Star Trek episodes: "Return to Tomorrow" and "Is There in Truth No Beauty."

    • Other changes in this episode: Riker gets a beard, Worf wears a golden uniform, and Geordi's uniform turns gold as well and he gets transferred and promoted to Chief Engineer. Also, both Geordi and Worf have been promoted from Lieutenant JG to full Lieutenant.

    • This is the first episode to feature Diana Muldaur as Dr. Kate Pulaski, who fills the shoes of Dr. Crusher after Gates McFadden opted not to return for the second season (she would subsequently return at the start of season three). Muldaur declined to have her name added to the opening credits, and instead receives "Special Guest Star" credit for all the episodes she appears in.

    • This is the first episode to feature Whoopi Goldberg as Guinan, the mysterious, recurring barkeeper of Ten-Forward. Goldberg got the part after she expressed interest to the producers as a fan of the original series - mostly due to Nichelle Nichols, one of the first black women to appear as a regular in a TV series.

    • Due to a writers strike, the plot of this episode was salvaged from the aborted late 70s series Star Trek II (which was eventually dropped to become Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)).