Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Next Generation 5x5 "Disaster"

rating: **

the story: Various members of the crew share experiences as they attempt to recover from a ship-wide emergency.

similar to: "Civil Defense" (Deep Space Nine)

my thoughts: Perhaps the last effort from the fourth season push to find more slice-of-life stories to tell ("Data's Day," "Family," "In Theory"), "Disaster" is another fine experience in that sequence (even once again involving a major event for Miles and Keiko O'Brien, as their daughter Molly is born, just as they were originally wed in "Data's Day"), but the episode lacks the overall significance of the finest moments from it (Picard's emotional recovery being the crux of "Family," for instance).

The best, or at least most memorable sequence from the episode involves Picard once again grappling with his unease at spending time with children.  Possibly a nod to Wesley's impending return ("The Game," "The First Duty"), it's also another chance for the series to redeem its frequent, and frequently mediocre, attempts to craft a reasonable episode around kids (seriously, the last such effort, "Rascals" from the sixth season, is possibly the most questionable effort of all).  Yet Picard's interactions with the three kids he's forced to shepherd circumvent the worst aspects of other efforts by presenting everyone in a useful, rather than labored, even endearing, manner.  The scenes become less about the kids and more about how comfortable Patrick Stewart is portraying Picard at this point, regardless of the circumstances. 

Less successful is the first chance Ro has, since her debut in "Ensign Ro," to prove that the series will have further interesting things for her to do.  If fans really want to complain that Voyager blew it with the Maquis members of Janeway's crew, they may want to remember how clumsily Next Generation presented Ro's further exploits.  Clearly unwilling to give her an immediate second spotlight, the series instead plays it far too safe, almost cuddly, in attempting to demonstrate that she still has to work out how to interact with people not named Picard on a favorable basis, in just one of several plot threads, easily forgotten.  Well, anyway, "Conundrum" is a much better use of her potential, and that's nine episodes away...

criteria analysis: franchise - series - character - essential

notable guest-stars:
Michelle Forbes (Ro Laren)
Colm Meaney (O'Brien)
Rosalind Chao (Keiko)

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