Written by Ronald D. Moore, Ron Jarvis, and Philip A. Scorza
Directed by Gabrielle Beaumont
The episode begins innocently enough, with the Enterprise between assignments, traveling through space, with no problems expected. Of course, that would probably be a pretty boring episode, so the writers throw a quantum filament in the path of the ship. This separates and strands the regular cast in various situations where they are like fish out of water.
Counselor Troi (Marina Sirtis) who holds the rank of Lt. Commander is the senior officer on the bridge with Ensign Ro (Michelle Forbes) and Mr. O’Brien (Colm Meaney).
In the 10-Forward Lounge, Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes), the android Data (Brent Spiner), and the Klingon Worf (Michael Dorn) are trapped with O’Brien’s very pregnant wife, Keiko (Rosalind Chao).
Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge (LeVar Burton) and Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden) are trapped in a docking bay with a plasma fire emitting deadly radiation nearby.
However, the most uncomfortable in the situation has to be Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) trapped in a turbo lift with the winners of the Enterprise‘s elementary science fair (portrayed by Erika Flores, John Christian Graas, and Max Supera). It has long been established in the series that Picard is very uncomfortable around children and doesn’t cope with them very well.
The story puts the crew out of their element all the way around. Troi is in command, and in a situation where she doesn’t know much. She knows to ask the right questions of O’Brien, but has trouble dealing with Ro and having to make a hard decision. This is a good situation, as Ro is new to the cast, so it keeps everyone on their toes. She is the wildcard in the game, and her persistence in trying to force her views on the unsure Troi is carried off very well. Credit goes to Forbes for managing to play the part convincingly. Sirtis also gives one of the finest performances of her Star Trek: The Next Generation tenure, by showing Troi’s doubt and uncertainty, while at the same time having her stand up and not be bullied into a decision by Ro.
Likewise, Riker must attempt to learn about the Engineering section and have to disassemble Data when the two of them leave 10-Forward in an attempt to reach the Engineering section. It’s interesting to see Riker in a situation where he is not altogether sure of what he is doing or if he can do it. Too often he has the most confidence of any of the crew of the Enterprise, so this is a very different scenario for him. Frakes carries it off well and made me see Riker in a somewhat different light than the cocky First Officer.
Of course, Keiko goes into early labor. However, this is where the tone of the show lightens up a bit. Worf has to deliver the child and has only done so in a simulation during a Starfleet Emergency Medical course. When Keiko’s labor does not progress as in the simulation, there are some very funny exchanges between the two of them. Dorn and Chao carry this off very well, injecting humor without letting the scenes deteriorate into total unbelievability.
However, the most emphasis here belongs to the ship’s Captain. Placed in a crisis situation with these children with whom he is most uncomfortable and has trouble relating, he flourishes after an inauspicious beginning. It’s a credit to Patrick Stewart (who has children of his own)and his acting ability that he manages to pull off both Picard’s discomfort and his acclimation to the situation in less than an hour’s time. I could see Picard’s frustration as he attempts to treat the children as normal members of his crew, ordering them not to cry and becoming frustrated when they don’t immediately obey his order. The child actors are nothing spectacular. My three kids could have been put in the same situation and given performances as good as these did. Stewart had to make up for weakness in that area as well.
It’s nice to see all of the cast truly involved in the show, rather than have it focus on only one or two characters. Disaster is one of the true ensemble pieces of the series, and it’s carried off fairly well. The real problem is the predictability in that none of the regular cast will ever really be in any jeopardy, although it might have been nice to see some of the blood-vessels-bursting effects that Dr. Crusher describes to Geordi at one point. Still, it’s nice to see the cast wind themselves in and out of the crises in the story.
Disaster is not a top-10 episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but it’s still very enjoyable to view. The weaknesses are not bad, but they do take away from the story. Fans of the show will enjoy it, and non-fans or casual viewers will be able to watch it as well, although the abrasiveness of Ensign Ro may startle those who haven’t seen the episode Ensign Ro.
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It can be a gamble to have to work with children and animal – as they have the ability to steal scenes. Stewart is a seasoned actor and has tremendous talent so he was probably never in danger of that… also helps when the kids are just random kids playing the parts instead of Oscar award winners…
You really need a good director. I took the Harry Potter tour in the U.K. and they talked about how hard it was to work with them in the first movie, but they came along much better by the second. I watch them now and it surprised me at first how Emma Watson really wasn’t all that good until about the third film.
A good director can make it work, but it still isn’t an easy thing