TNG Re-Watch: "The Child" vs "The Child"

“The Child” script was originally written in 1977 by Jaron Summers & Jon Povillfor for a planned TV series called Star Trek: Phase II.  Paramount passed on that series and the script for the pilot episode was redeveloped into Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  Years later (1988) when the producers  Star Trek The Next Generation were facing a writer’s strike they dug up those old Phase II scripts to see if any of them could be re-written for TNG.  They found the original story for “The Child” and Maurice Hurley was asked to adapt it for TNG.  According to Memory Alpha he never read that original script but based his on the story.

Fast forward to 2012!  Star Trek fans have taken matters into their own hands and are making top quality fan films.  One such group is the Cawley Entertainment Company who first called their fan series Star Trek: New Voyages but later changed it to Star Trek Phase II (confused yet?).  They seem to be picking up where the original series left off and decide to produce their own version of “The Child” using that original 1977 script!

Today I watched both versions of “The Child”.  The TNG version is available on Netflix of course.  And you can watch the Phase II version (and all of their fan episodes) on Youtube.  I actually watched them both twice and I have some thoughts on how they compare to one another.

First let’s look at the one that was made in 1988.  “The Child” is the first episode of season 2 and had to do more than tell the story of the week.  It also needed to introduce a new ship’s doctor (Dr. Katherine Pulaski) the new bartender, (Guinan), a new set (a bar for the new bartender: Ten Forward), and a newly promoted Chief Engineer (Laforge)!  They also have to explain why the old ship doctor’s son is remaining onboard unsupervised.  I’ll write more about this doctor dilemma in another entry.   But my point is that none of this has much to do with the core storyline so it gets a little lost.

All that aside, the A plot is very straightforward.  An alien entity enters the ship and flies around, unseen by the crew.  It hovers over a sleeping crewman and eventually enters Counselor Troi’s quarters.  It crawls under her shiny bedsheets and impregnates her.  To be clear- it doesn’t act as the father but rather impregnates itself in the Counselor.   The fetus quickly grows, is born, continues to quickly grow and ends up looking like a 4 year old who Troi names Ian after her father.  In the end we learn that this alien wanted to learn all about humans so it decided to try living as one– being born and goes thru our life process.  The only complication is that the Enterprise is carrying some highly dangerous technobable which reacted to the alien’s presence by endangering the entire crew.  So the alien had to end its experiment early by dying.  See?  It’s a neat tidy little story.  Of course the episode has a B plot too.  Young Wesley Crusher is faced with the choice of doing what is expected of him and join is mother at Starfleet Medical or go with his gut and stay on the show ship.  Luckily there is a new bartender on board who is GREAT at giving out advice!  Guinnan helps him decide to stay. All in all, it’s not a terrible episode.  It’s just a little cluttered.

There is one very uncomfortable scene that I have to mention.  The senior staff is all gathered around the conference table discussing the situation of Deanna’s immaculate pregnancy.   Some staff members, Worf for one, wants the fetus aborted immediately because it is a security risk.  Others make an argument for the baby to live.  None of them think to ask Deanna– the woman who’s body they’re talking about– the mother of the fetus that is INSIDE HER BODY what her choice is.  It’s a ridiculous scene that would never be written today.

At first glance, the Phase II version of “The Child” seems to be a lot more straight forward.  We don’t need to deal with a new doctor on board or sit thru any long scenes were a bartender gives out advice to a teenager.   We get right to the alien entering the ship and impregnating someone.  Now in the original script this was to be Lt. Ilea, the new Deltan navigator who we ended up meeting in Star Trek The Motion Picture.  It makes perfect sense that in the TNG version the alien chooses Troi as her character was based on Ilea in several ways.  Anyway, in the Phase II production they introduced a new Deltan  officer Isel.

The alien impregnates itself into Isel, grows very quickly, is born, and quickly grows to be a kid who Isel names Irska.   That’s about where the similarities end.  Irska’s white blood cell count is strangely high.  Also a strange alien cylinder appears outside the ship.  A week later Irska has worked her way into the hearts of the crew.  The alien cylinder beams some techobable into the ship which will kill everyone.  Luckily Irska can cure everyone with her awesome white blood cells.  But as soon as she does the cylinder attacks the ship with an energy beam!  It damages an impulse engine and guess what!  The wonder child comes to the rescue again! This is all in the first half of the episode.   The cylinder goes on to affect the hull of the Enterprise– seen as another attack.  To be honest I got bored.  The plot is really bogged down in what I’m sure is supposed to be mystery- but I felt a little ahead of the script.  I mean, obviously the kid has the answer. Obviously the cylinder and the kid are connected.  In the end Irska had to “die” to save the ship.  The cylinder was helping her to experience all stages of her race’s prior development so she could evolve.

In conclusion Hurley simplified the story to its core for TNG.  Ian went thru a life cycle just like Irska did.  But he did it because he was curious.  Not because he had to evolve.  The “curious cat” is a much more enjoyable premise.  At its core- that is the difference in these two scripts.  So I say that despite it’s flaws, the TNG version of “The Child” is much better than the Phase II production of the original script.  What do you think?

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