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Recap / Star Trek: The Next Generation S5E5 "Disaster"

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Troi takes command of the Enterprise (however hesitantly).
The previous mission of the Enterprise crew was finished ahead of schedule, so everyone has some free time. The main characters are spread throughout the ship doing various activities, with only Picard and Troi on the bridge. Three elementary school kids have won the Enterprise science fair, and as a reward Picard takes them on a tour around the ship. Soon after Picard and the kids have entered the turbolift, the Enterprise starts to shake violently, all power on the ship is lost, and the lift falls down. It turns out a quantum filament has hit the Enterprise, resulting in a total power failure: even the communicators are down. The crew members are stuck in different departments of the ship, and they all have to figure out what to do without knowing what the others are up to.

The episode splits into five different subplots:

  1. On the bridge, it turns out Troi is the most senior officer still alive. She has to decide how the bridge crew, which currently includes Chief O'Brien and Ensign Ro, should react to a potential engine meltdown, which could destroy the whole ship.
  2. Data and Riker try to reach the engineering section via the ship's maintenance shafts.
  3. In the damaged turbolift, Picard's ankle is broken, and he has to figure out how to get the panicked kids out of there safely.
  4. La Forge and Crusher are stuck in the cargo bay, where a plasma fire threatens to blow up some hazardous chemicals.
  5. And in Ten-Forward, O'Brien's pregnant wife Keiko goes into labor, with the hapless Worf forced to act as a midwife.

This was the final episode to air before Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry's passing.


Tropes featured in "Disaster" include:

  • Artistic License – Medicine: Hoo boy. The "advice" Crusher gives Geordi just before he decompresses the cargo bay is not only wrong, it's dangerously wrong: if he had followed her advice to "resist the urge to exhale" he would've died. The proper way to handle even a very brief decompression is to exhale and completely empty your lungs so they don't pop from overpressure, the exact opposite of what Crusher said to do.
  • Artistic License – Military: In Real Life, a therapist like Troi would not be in command of a ship. Virtually all militaries distinguish between "staff" and "line" officers to exclude specialists like Troi from the chain of command. Ensign Ro, the highest-ranking line officer, should be the one in charge. (Starfleet has always been Mildly Military, but this is still pretty crazy.)
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  • Be Careful What You Wish For: In the first scene, Keiko says she wishes her pregnancy, in its eighth month, was over already.
  • Bottle Episode: Everything takes place on the (crippled) Enterprise.
  • Character Development: A subtle example. Picard has some trouble interacting with his three young charges, but he's also come a long way from the first episode (where he thought he was wholly incapable of dealing with children). In particular, he doesn't throw a fit over there being children on The Bridge like he did with Wesley. The development then continues through the episode, as the shared danger makes Picard more comfortable with the kids at the end.
  • Clean, Pretty Childbirth: Keiko's baby comes out clean, eyes open, and not even crying. Averted in the DVD (and Netflix streaming) version, where Molly is shown crying, naked, covered in placenta, and with a strategically placed umbilical cord still attached.
  • The Complainer Is Always Wrong: Ro for wanting to separate the ship. The writers admitted they sort of shortchanged her by having her in this position in what was her second appearance.
  • Cranial Processing Unit: Riker has to carry Data's head to Engineering after Data sacrifices his body to block an arcing current.
  • Crazy Enough to Work: Geordi's idea to decompress the cargo bay, both putting out the plasma fire and dumping the explosive stuff. Not only does it work, it also averts Explosive Decompression. (Crusher does, however, screw up by telling Geordi not to exhale; in reality, holding your breath in a vacuum could rupture your lungs.)
  • Delivery Guy: Worf plays this part to a tee. He's nonplussed when the process doesn't go exactly as the simulated birth did in his Starfleet emergency medicine course.
    Worf: Congratulations. You are fully dilated to ten centimeters. You may now give birth.
    Keiko: That's what I've been doing!
  • Drama-Preserving Handicap: Troi's empathic abilities abruptly become functionally useless, preventing her from determining how many people are alive or dead, or where they are on the ship. She knows that there are people elsewhere who are alive, but not where they are on the ship. The main purpose of this power outage is to preserve the tension over the question of whether or not to separate the saucer section, since if Troi were aware that Picard, Riker and La Forge were all still alive and working on various parts of the problem, she would have just been able to tell Ro to shut up and let the rest of the command staff save the day. (It should be noted that Troi has been able to sense emotions of people on a planet while the ship is in orbit, in another example of her plot-dependent powers.)
  • The Eeyore: Jay Gordon, one of the science kids, continually says that they're all going to die.
  • Elevator Failure: Just one of many things that go wrong.
  • Explosive Instrumentation: Scratch one Red Shirt.
  • Feeling the Baby Kick: Keiko O'Brien and her husband Miles are in Ten Forward, where she offers to let Riker and Worf feel her baby kick. Later they are trapped in Ten Forward when the titular disaster happens. Worf ends up being midwife to the child's Screaming Birth.
  • Field Promotion: Picard temporarily brevets the kids to help keep them calm and give them something to do.
  • Fish out of Water: Nearly everyone is faced with a situation beyond their expertise and comfort zones: Troi, a psychologist, must make life-or-death command decisions; Child Hater Picard must comfort and guide three scared children; and Proud Warrior Race Guy Worf must... deliver a baby. Crusher and La Forge find themselves trapped in a cargo bay, away from their vitally important posts in Sickbay and Engineering respectively; at least La Forge is somewhat in his element, devising an outside-the-box engineering solution to his problem. Riker, usually most at his element in dealing with people by supporting and commanding them, is teamed solely with the member of the crew who has no need for emotional support and is left crawling around the ship's guts trying out technical solutions. Data, normally capable of doing almost everything himself, has to rely on Riker for locomotion and, moreover, has to give guidance and instruction to someone who's not entirely familiar with the subject.
  • Foreshadowing: The events here play a large role in Troi taking the promotion exam in "Thine Own Self".
  • Four Lines, All Waiting: exaggerated with five plotlines.
  • From Bad to Worse: The whole episode. Almost ends in Critical Existence Failure for the Enterprise.
  • Grew a Spine: Marissa, enough to refuse Picard's order to abandon him.
  • Involuntary Group Split: The premise of this episode.
  • I Will Only Slow You Down: Picard to the children when he breaks his ankle.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Ro's idea to separate the saucer and abandon the seemingly lifeless drive section is made out to be heartless, but the threat of a warp core breach keeps it on the table. Lampshaded by Troi, when Ro is proven wrong: "You could just as easily have been right."
  • Layman's Terms: O'Brien translates some of Ro's technobabble for Troi.
  • Let Me Get This Straight...: "You want me to take off your head...?"
  • Losing Your Head: Fortunately, Data can still talk and instruct Riker while his head is separate from his body; doesn't make it any less creepy, however.
  • Made of Explodium:
    • The quaratum in the cargo bay where Geordi and Crusher are trapped is normally stable, but not in the presence of radioactive plasma fires.
    • It's absolute madness that the Enterprise's bulkheads contain a material that's flammable and emits radiation when ignited. Geordi mentions that the ship's main power supply is involved, but that doesn't excuse the wall being Made of Explodium.
  • Major General Song: Crusher wants Geordi to sing this as part of some upcoming performance. He gets out the first two lines before deciding that he can't sing, especially in front of others.
  • Maternity Crisis: Keiko O'Brien, eight months pregnant, is assisting in the makeshift sickbay in Ten Forward when she goes into labor, where the only other uninjured crewmember available to be the Delivery Guy is Worf.
  • More Expendable Than You: Two examples:
    • Data offers to use himself to absorb an electric current, allowing Riker to pass, which will cripple him, but should leave him repairable later on. Riker points out to regardless of whether or not he'd be willing to sacrifice Data, and he isn't, it would be pointless—Riker wouldn't be able to fix the warp core without him, as he's not an engineer. Instead Data walks into the current, diverting it, but allowing Riker to detach Data's still-functional head and take it along so he can talk him through what repairs need to be done—and wire him up to the computer just in time to avert the impending explosion.
    • Second, Picard tells the children to leave him behind, as he'd only slow them down; they refuse. note 
  • Negative Space Wedgie: A "quantum filament," whatever the hell that is,note  upending and disabling the Enterprise like a rogue tidal wave.
  • No Antagonist: The conflicts of the episode are caused by a collision with a Negative Space Wedgie, not by any antagonistic character.
  • No One Gets Left Behind:
    • The children to Picard; they refuse to abandon him, despite his "orders" to do so.
    • Also Troi to the rest of the ship—she won't separate the ship without proof there are no survivors in the drive section.
  • No OSHA Compliance:
    • No normal human adult would be able to reach the emergency hatch on the turbolift.
    • That the turbolift would fall fast enough to injure someone is pretty pathetic seeing how our current elevators have enough safeguards installed to prevent such an incident.
    • In-universe, O'Brien protests the way Ro transfers power from phasers to the engineering station because that's way too much power to put into a computer terminal.
    • In the cargo bay, the control to close the external hatch and the control to repressurize the bay are nowhere near each other, almost costing Crusher and La Forge their lives.
    • The quaratum in the bay is literally rocket fuel, yet the room it's stored in has no fire extinguishing equipment.
  • Poorly Disguised Pilot: Downplayed Trope. Producers were developing DS9 at the time, and had pegged O'Brien and Ro to be part of the cast. Their interactions here were to see how the two characters would play off of each other. Producers were satisfied, though Michelle Forbes ended up turning down the offer.
  • Recycled In Space: This episode is essentially a Disaster Movie in space, right down to being called "Disaster".
  • Screaming Birth:
    Worf: Push, Keiko! Push! Push! Push!
    Keiko: I AM PUSHING!
  • Shrinking Violet: Marissa, before her Character Development.
  • Significant Wardrobe Shift: A mild example, but Marissa is dressed in a much brighter reddish-pink outfit at the end of the episode, after her confidence boost.
  • That's an Order!: Marissa gets to use the line when telling the other two kids to be quiet.
  • Three-Month-Old Newborn: Molly starts her SORAS right out of the gate. It's all the more obvious because she's a month premature.
  • Uncomfortable Elevator Moment: Picard is clearly ill at ease while in the turbolift with three kids—and that's before things go to hell.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: It's been established that Captain Picard feels uncomfortable around kids, so of course he gets stuck inside the lift with three young children.
  • You Are in Command Now:
    • Deconstructed with Troi, who is forced into command on the bridge after Lt. Monroe is killed. Despite her rank as Lieutenant Commander, she has no idea what she's doing. Neither does she seem to understand the basics of how the ship works. It really doesn't make sense that, as part of the Medical structure and not Command, she would take command of the bridge just by being ranked higher, but it makes for some good Character Development (for example, the events of this episode is the main reason she takes the bridge officer's exam in "Thine Own Self").
    • Troi's taking command is the automatic result of an emergency protocol, after the redshirt in command is suddenly killed. While Troi does not have the necessary preparation to command a starship under normal circumstances, she seeks input from other officers with the expertise she needs. Troi also realizes the need to exert her authority and be confident in her decisions, despite Ro relentlessly undermining her. That realization is probably why Troi will choose to pursue further training in command, instead of running fast and far from the bridge once the crisis has passed. Like "Face of the Enemy", this episode is one where we begin to see Troi's potential as a Starfleet officer.


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