In which Troi immaculately conceives, the child sacrifices itself to save the ship, and Pulaski is just awful.
I recall this as being one of my bottom-list episodes, and I just realized why. Who’s ready to climb back on board the ‘I Hate Pulaski’ train?
The Enterprise has met up with the Repulse to receive a new medical officer. Other notable changes: Worf is in Tactical & Operations gold and RIker has a beard. Wesley is wearing a cadet uniform rather than an ugly sweater, and Geordi is now the Chief Engineer and also wearing gold. He’s designed a containment unit for something, and the power needed to replicate 512 of them is going to take the warp engines offline for a few hours. Take note: this is the first time we see actual ramifications of extensive use of the energy->matter conversion process. Feeding 1014 people and running the holodecks doesn’t strain them, but replicating a few hundred complex containment units does.
As the enterprise sets off at impulse (one wonders why they’re even bothering going at sublight aside from just to feel like they’re accomplishing something) a little energy ball flies into the ship and leaves a faint sensor trace as it does. They seem to have a budget this year, too. The little light ball effect is quite well done as it slides under Troi’s sheets and wakes her up in a cold sweat. We will not dare to speculate on the exact mechanics.
The containment units are to help contain an outbreak of a, and I quote, ‘deadly plasma plague.’ I assume blood plasma rather than electron soup plasma. Pulaski is already making no friends whatsoever by going to Ten Forward before checking in at Sickbay to replace Beverly. Beverly left to become head of Starfleet Medical, which is impressive. Also, now we meet Guinan and her hats. Pulaski does have a good excuse – she was talking with Troi and fills Picard in. Picard immediately calls a conference and tells everyone. I will be charitable and assume Troi authorized him to do this, because otherwise this is too terrible for words.
Riker is dismayed. It’s perhaps a bit territorial of him to react so strongly so quickly, but then again, this is a staff meeting, not a party, so it’s probably a safe assumption this wasn’t planned. I would also imagine that prophylaxis in the 24th century is basically perfect – say five nines of surity per method, and an outpatient procedure or a pill for both men and women to put in or take out birth control. So for all… corporeal methods, unplanned pregnancy is extremely unlikely.
Pulaski confirms this by explaining that the growth rate of the fetus is insanely fast, and the child will come to term in a total of 48 hours. Riker is trying very hard to be cool about this, while Worf argues that the alien is a potential threat and Data waxes poetic about their opportunity to study it. Nobody bothers asking Troi. Under normal circumstances we could easily expect her to speak up because she is a senior staff officer, but something feels off about it when she’s been impregnated as she slept by an alien Tinkerbell. That said, when she does speak up and say she’s having the baby, the discussion about what to do about is simply over, despite any potential risks.
The B plot proceeds – the local Federation medical officer is inspecting the containment unit fully to ensure that something typical to the Enterprise doesn’t happen to the plague. At this time, Troi has come to term, and goes to sick bay. Are you ready for while we hate Pulaski? When Data offers to be there for Troi to help her out in whatever way he can, Pulaski brushes him aside because he’s a robot, again without letting Troi speak for herself. Troi has to assert that Data is welcome. As the time approaches, Pulaski offers to give her something for the pain, but apparently there isn’t any pain, which is fairly surprising for reasons I would prefer not to have to spell out. Presumably you all had some biology classes at some point.
All the physiological effects of birth are already healed, and the next day when Picard goes to check on Troi, her baby is four years old and reassures Picard that everything is okay, like some kind of terrifying nightmare child from a horror movie. Pulaski is working on some scans, mispronounces Data’s name, and then wonders why he would care. This is because she is a terrible person, and brings the total number of terrible doctors an Enterprise has had to two out of three. I am ignoring Dr. Boyce from the TOS pilot “The Cage” because we didn’t see him do any doctoring, although I will grant he had an excellent rapport with Pike. I digress – Pulaski is so astonished that Data objects to having his name mispronounced that she scans him. It looks like she’s trying to be funny but it just comes off as more of the exact same McCoy/Spock Dynamic where McCoy was wrong about literally everything. Only Data is much more of a naif and less capable of defending himself. Spock had feelings and chose not to let them control him, Data does not, at this point, understand. Basically, Pulaski, for the foreseeable future, will be nullying an autistic person. Because she is terrible.
Little Baby Ian, who looks to be about six now, is playing with puppies. The Enterprise has a half-dozen puppies on board just because. And we have a new transporter chief, too, although he’s not named yet, this will be Miles O’Brian, butt monkey of Deep Space 9 and all-around stand-up guy. Picard goes to check on Troi and Ian, and Ian sticks his finger in a bowl of hot soup so he can feel what burning feels like. When asked directly, he out right says he’s not quite ready to tell everyone why he’s on the ship.
Transport of the deadly superplague is completed and the Enterprise jumps to warp. And in the next scene, before Ian has the chance to be creepy again, something goes wrong and one of the samples starts growing. Seems like this would be a great time to beam it off the ship using that ‘energy only’ setting from “Lonely Among Us.” The chances that this writer remembered that episode are, of course, slim to none.
We get a little of Guinan chatting with Wes, and since Guinan is a complex and mysterious person who may or may not be a Wormhole Prophet, I will pay particular attention here. And no, I will not be justifying that statement until many episodes hence, if ever. Wes seems to think she knew Picard from back aboard the Stargazer. She says that she never knew the captain until she came on board, which, if you think about it, is one of those statements that could be perfectly true and incredibly misleading. Marathonning the Dresden Files stories will give you a kind of a sense for how those kinds of statements work.
The sample of plague is growing, but only one sample. They can’t beam it out because it will live as a spore in deep space and then germinate if it hits a ship or a planet. Again, beam it out and don’t reassemble it. Or beam it out and incinerate it with phasers. Or beam it into the antimatter reaction chamber, or any of the dozen ways the Enterprise has at its disposal to render a given mass down to its component quarks. Instead, they try to find out what’s different about that sample. Apparently being bombarded with Exotic Radiation Type 94 has caused its growth to accelerate, but the ship isn’t carrying anything that emits that kind of radiation. Jump cut to the alien baby, who’s about twelve now.
Ian states that people on the ship are worried, and that he’s the reason the ship is in danger, and then he starts to die just slowly enough for Pulaski to get there and fail to save him. Then he dissolves into light, because sure why not and makes contact with Troi and probably tells her something via empathic senses before streaking through the bulkhead and away. As soon as he’s gone, the plague stabilizes and they make it to the starbase without further incident, and the bridge crew gets to rib Wesley for a little bit before we get our happy french horn outro.