“It’s all gone wrong”: Disaster
Well, the obvious joke to make is that the title is incredibly fitting.
But aside from being facile, that would also be a bit unfair. This episode isn’t a complete hangar fire: It’s got a cool setup and a few memorably defining moments for Captain Picard. A Star Trek: The Next Generation genre romp send-up of disaster movies had a lot of potential, even if it is still the sort of thing the Dirty Pair TV show could do way more intelligently in its sleep on an off day. There’s a discussion to be had about how challenging this series is finding it to do just plain “fun” episodes every once in awhile, both due to external fan pressure to be “serious” and due to the fact that, frankly, I think this creative team is pretty poor at comedy (which is almost criminal considering the cast are comic geniuses). That’s not the discussion for today though, because that’s not the main problem. There are, however a *lot* of things conceptually wrong with “Disaster” on a number of different levels, and the combined weight of them all sadly scuttles it.
Let’s talk about the good first. Captain Picard’s scenes where he’s stuck in the turbolift with a group of little kids are genuinely heartfelt and touching. It should be said the subplot is not quite as originally conceived: Ron Moore (who didn’t write the story, but liked the idea and adapted it into a teleplay) said he had them stranded in the turbolift because he actually wanted it to be raining. Moore had been reading about the hangar where NASA built the Saturn V rockets, which were so tall that clouds would actually form in them and start raining. Moore thought that the Enterprise turbolifts were of comparable height and that, with no power, it might start to rain in there too and that lightning might arc across the metal siding. Unfortunately, doing live water special effects on set is a logistical nightmare, so that part of Moore’s treatment had to get cut.
But even though the segment isn’t as dramatic and impressive as it could have been, it’s still an unquestioned highlight. You would think, the way the episode is set up to put the crew in situations they’re uncomfortable with so we can watch them fail (more on that later) and Picard’s famously known dislike of children, that it’s going to end up a comedic runaround of forced awkwardness, and there is a little of that. But what there’s a lot *more* of is Picard slowly coming to respect, understand and actually *like* these kids. Patrick Stewart can’t help but play gentle and supportive, and it’s impossible not to smile at the sweetness of Marissa becoming the new “Number One” or Patterson becoming “executive officer in charge of radishes”. For a show that we’re trying to claim works by children’s television logic on at least some level, it’s nice to get a kind of diegetic nod to that here.…