WARNING: This article contains spoiler information regarding this week's TNG episode, "Disaster". Those not wanting the "disaster" of having the plot spoiled for them are advised to depart. You *must* be kidding. Er...exactly whose idea was this story? And can we please bar them from the Paramount lot?
Well...it wasn't quite THAT bad--but good gods, it wasn't good. More after a synopsis:
The Enterprise is between missions and is struck by a quantum filament, trapping everyone more or less where they are, killing intraship communications, and knocking out primary life support and the warp engines. Picard, trapped in a turbolift with three elementary school children, is injured when the lift first falls. Meanwhile, on the bridge, the three relevant characters are O'Brien, Ensign Ro, and Troi, who as the senior officer is placed in command. In Ten-Forward, Worf is left to take care of the wounded (and a very pregnant Keiko O'Brien) while Riker and Data head through a crawlway to try to get to Engineering. Finally, Bev and Geordi are trapped in a shuttle bay--and a plasma fire is spewing radiation into the bay, threatening both the people and some canisters of chemicals, which are likely to explode.
Riker and Data end up with their retreat cut off by a coolant leak and their advance stopped by a huge current arc. Data volunteers to use his (non-conducting) body to block the circuit, claiming that his head will survive and can be detached for use in Engineering. Riker, having no other options, approves. While Picard tries to get the children working together to get them all out of the lift, Ro manages to power up the Engineering console and finds that the warp containment field is slowly failing, which will eventually lead to the entire ship exploding.
Once the lift's hatch is open (and the children refuse to leave the injured Picard behind), the group begins working on ways to leave and climb up to an open deck. Meanwhile, Bev and Geordi decide the only way to both keep the chemicals safe and put out the plasma fire is to depressurize the shuttle bay. And, as if things weren't bad enough, Keiko suddenly goes into labor.
While Troi decides not to follow Ro's advice (namely, to separate the saucer and get the hell away from the warp engines, assuming there's no one left alive in the drive section) and sends enough power down to Engineering so that anyone there can at least realize there's a problem, Picard and the children leave the lift (just in time, as its emergency clamps fail and it falls) and begin climbing to a door that will open. Bev and Geordi depressurize the bay, putting out the fire, and Bev manages to repressurize it just in time.
Riker and Data's head reach Engineering and manage to restore the containment field just before it collapses, Picard and the kids make it to an open deck, and a very inexperienced Worf manages to successfully deliver Keiko's daughter. Later, once everything is running smoothly again, the children give Picard a commemorative plaque to thank him for all his help.
That's it, folks. That's all she wrote. Now, for some rantings:
My opinion can mostly be summarized by the following two thoughts I had early in the show:
1) "Didn't Battlestar Galactica have an episode a lot like this?" 2) "My God, Battlestar Galactica did it better, too."
And no, that's not meant to be high praise. :-)
I don't know who decided they wanted to put the Enterprise into a Towering Inferno/Poseidon Adventure/insert your disaster movie here scenario, but it wasn't particularly well thought out--either the premise or the execution. Here, off the top of my head, are a number of objections:
--The Enterprise is so poorly designed that there aren't any *manual backups or overrides* for the many different "failsafe devices to be used in case of emergency" situations? Yeah, right.
--There is only ONE place in the entire shuttle bay where one can repressurize the bay? Even if true, it's also NOT the main console in the bay, which is supposed to be multipurposeful? Yep. Sure.
--Troi is a Starfleet officer, yet doesn't appear to know anything about ANY emergency procedure, including "what happens if the antimatter containment fails"? Just how daft IS this woman?
--There's only ONE sickbay in a ship this large with a complement of over a thousand people?
--Data, who by his own statements has pores and chemical nutrients running through his body, is completely nonconducting? Puh-leeze.
--Data's head is completely self-contained? Soong was one weird puppy.
--Data appears to have access to the information about the containment field, yet doesn't notice initially that the damn thing's failing?
--So, lots of chemicals that are unstable around radiation are just sitting around in the shuttle bay, where shuttle engines and tractor beams are active on a consistent basis. Good planning there, guys.
--An electric shock can screw up the containment fields? This is not a ship on which I would want to serve.
--Troi, O'Brien, and Ensign Etcetera don't think to look at the lieutenant who's lying there BLEEDING in the middle of the bridge for a couple of minutes?
I could go on, but I think you get the picture. Virtually nothing about this plot held together in any way.
What's more, many of the performances didn't attract me overmuch. Stewart's was watchable (it rarely is anything else), but far from magnificent. Michelle Forbes was probably the strong point this time (one of the show's few bright points was that Ro *hasn't* lost her combative edge, although that was blunted by her apologizing at the end when her advice was completely on the ball and warranted). Dorn's was awful (or rather, the main thing about his acting that impressed me this time through was that he managed to keep a straight face through the whole thing!). (Actually, the other reasonably good performance came from Erika Flores, the girl who played Marissa. The other two kids were a total loss, but she's got potential.)
Speaking of Michael Dorn...my own notes for the synopsis simply said towards the end, "Keiko gives birth after Worf has a lot of lame one-liners." "You may now give birth," indeed. I could swallow that coming from Data, just. But not Worf--let's be serious here. "This is not a good time, Keiko"--that's bad sitcom talk, not drama (or even humor). Worf's problems with the delivery were all right, but they were handled miserably. This is probably the biggest slap in the face of Worf's characterization since "Qpid".
(Even the FX had problems--the shuttle bay depressurization looked miserable, as did the "shaking" FX when the lift finally fell. They've done so much better...)
However, it wasn't a complete loss. There were two sequences which had me interested, if amused. The first was Bev trying to coax Geordi into singing Gilbert & Sullivan in public. It's a bit silly, but it is *completely, completely* in line with Bev's past actions, and I found it hilarious. The second was Troi's parting shot to Riker: "I don't think I'm cut out to be Captain. First officer, maybe--I understand there aren't many qualifications." OUCH. Very enjoyable. :-)
If you're reading this before seeing the show, I suggest you watch this in a "Mystery Science Theater 3000" style--mock it mercilessly and take no prisoners whatsoever. I and those watching with me decided to do that early on, and it worked nicely. Some examples:
(as Worf is left in charge of the injured): "Klingons EAT their wounded."
(Keiko explaining that not all births are as easy as the simulation Worf worked): "For example, this one's an Alien [TM] baby--rrrrragggghh!"
(The kids refuse to leave Picard behind): "This is mutiny, Mr. Queeg!" [said in as much of a Red Dwarf-Holly-like voice as possible]
(Picard and the kids finally make it onto a deck): "Whoops, another quake. Back down you go!"
And so it goes.
This is something you can probably have fun with if you realize immediately that it's a complete no-brainer and treat it accordingly, but if you try to take it seriously you'll be hideously disappointed. Be warned.
So, the numbers:
Plot: 1. Old, tired and ridden with holes--and those are its good points. Plot Handling: 1. It didn't flow all that well either. Characterization: 4. Mostly unspectacular, and occasionally downright bad.
TOTAL: 2. Not good, folks. Not good.
NEXT WEEK: Wesley vs. the Addictive Game from Hell. We shall see...
Tim Lynch (Cornell's first Astronomy B.A.; one of many Caltech grad students) BITNET: tlynch@citjuliet INTERNET: firstname.lastname@example.org UUCP: ...!email@example.com "Liddell, he is your future king. Does your arrogance extend that far?" "My arrogance, sir, extends just as far as my conscience demands." --"Chariots of Fire" Copyright 1991, Timothy W. Lynch. All rights reserved, but feel free to ask... This article is explicitly prohibited from being used in any off-net compilation without due attribution and *express written consent of the author*. Walnut Creek and other CD-ROM distributors, take note.
Hans-Wolfgang Loidl <firstname.lastname@example.org> Last modified: Sat Aug 19 17:15:44 1995 Stardate: [-31]6158.38