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Disaster (episode)

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"Disaster"
TNG, Episode 5x05
Production number: 40275-205
First aired: 21 October 1991
104th of 176 produced in TNG
104th of 176 released in TNG
  {{{nNthReleasedInSeries_Remastered}}}th of 176 released in TNG Remastered  
211th of 728 released in all
USS Enterprise-D adrift
Teleplay By
Ronald D. Moore

Story By
Ron Jarvis & Philip A. Scorza

Directed By
Gabrielle Beaumont
45156.1 (2368)
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A quantum filament disables the Enterprise, leaving Counselor Troi in command on the bridge, and various groups on different parts of the ship facing perils alone.

Summary

Teaser

Captain's Log, Stardate 45156.1. Our mission to Mudor V has been completed, and since our next assignment will not begin for several days, we are taking a welcome respite from our duties.

In Ten Forward, Riker, Worf, Data, Chief O'Brien and a pregnant Keiko O'Brien are discussing names for the O'Brien's baby. Miles and Keiko are arguing good-naturedly, each believing the other had agreed to name it after their respective fathers (Michael and Hiro), if it is a boy. Straight-faced, Riker advocates "William" as the perfect name. O'Brien excuses himself, patting Keiko's belly and addressing it as "Michael".

In a cargo bay, Lieutenant Commander La Forge and Dr. Crusher are inventorying a collection of supply canisters. She is trying to convince him to audition for a part in her latest play, and he reluctantly sings a few lines of "I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General" from The Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert and Sullivan. He insists that he is too bashful to sing in front of other people, but Crusher insists that he is perfect, and puts his name down for the role.

On the bridge, Counselor Troi introduces three children to Captain Picard as the winners of the school science fair, whose prize is a tour of the ship with the Captain. Forcing down his usual awkwardness with children, Picard smiles and conducts the children onto a turbolift to begin the tour, passing a newly-arrived O'Brien.

Aboard the lift, Picard tries to make conversation by asking each of the children about their respective projects. The third and oldest member of the group, Marissa Flores, is tongue-tied, and before conversation can go further, the ship is rocked by an impact, and the turbolift plummets, causing the children to scream in panic.

Aboard the bridge, the crew pick themselves up and O'Brien reports an impact with a quantum filament, and warns that another one is headed for the ship. The Conn officer, Lieutenant (JG) Monroe only has time to warn the ship to brace for another impact, before the ship rocks again and her console blows up in her face.

Act One

On the bridge, O'Brien and Troi see that Lt. Monroe has been killed and that most systems are down, including primary life support, communications, and the ship's computer.

In the turbolift, Picard is trapped with the three crying children. He cannot raise anyone on his combadge, and the children assume everyone else on the ship has been killed. When one of them says they are going to die too, Picard angrily tells them all to calm down - which only makes them cry harder.

On the bridge, O'Brien reports that primary life support, main engines, and computer controls have all been disabled by the impact, and the turbolifts and communications have likewise been cut off, effectively sealing off the bridge from the rest of the ship. Ensign Ro squeezes through a turbolift door, having managed to make it to the bridge before the impact. At first, Troi is bewildered as to what to do next, and defers to O'Brien and Ro's suggestions. The ops officer says that he is registering sporadic life signs throughout the rest of the ship, but cannot be sure they are real while the sensors are still malfunctioning. Troi is then surprised to be told by O'Brien, with Lt. Monroe's death; that she (as Lieutenant Commander) is now the ranking officer.

Ten Forward has been turned into a make-shift sickbay for the wounded. Data returns from a survey of the corridors and reports that heavy damage has blocked off access both to Sickbay and Engineering. Riker says that they have to assume no one has been left alive on the bridge, and he and Data attempt to reach Engineering via a service crawl-way. Worf is left in charge of Ten Forward.

In the cargo bay, La Forge and Crusher are trying, unsuccessfully to open the doors. When Geordi goes to a wall panel to remove a manual hand actuator, Crusher feels heat coming from the wall, and a panel explodes outwards, revealing a plasma fire in a damaged power conduit. Crusher warns that the fire is emitting intense radiation, which could have long-term effects if they don't put it out. Geordi says they have a more immediate problem: the cargo bay is filled with drums of quaratum, which becomes explosive when exposed to radiation.

Act Two

In the turbolift, Picard has no success with the lift controls. His ankle was broken in the initial fall, so his mobility is limited. To help the children overcome their fear, and pitch in to help him, he gives each of them a rank in his makeshift "crew", and pins one of his collar pips onto each of them accordingly: Marissa Flores, the eldest is appointed First Officer (receiving two pips instead of one), and henceforth addressed as "Number One"; Jay Gordon Graas, the second oldest, is appointed Science Officer; and Patterson Supra, the youngest is appointed "Executive Officer in charge of radishes," in reference to his science fair project.

While crawling to engineering, Data and Riker are menaced by a coolant leak, and are forced to speed-crawl down the tunnel and seal a bulkhead behind them. They now have no choice but to go forward, but the way ahead is intimidating in itself, with electric arcs visible in the distance.

In the cargo bay, Crusher notices that the radiation levels in the quaratum containers further away from the plasma fire are lower, so she and Geordi push the containers into a corner to buy themselves more time.

On the bridge, Ro has managed to restore power to the Engineering monitoring console with an unorthodox reroute, over O'Brien's protests. She reports, with alarm, that the antimatter containment field has been damaged by the impact with the filament, and is slowly failing; when it does, the ship will explode from a warp core breach.

Act Three

Riker and Data are halted in the crawlspace by a 1/2 million-amp arc of electricity in front of them. Data cannot shut off the current with the controls, and they cannot go back. Data has the idea of interrupting the flow of current with his own body to break the circuit. Alarmed, Riker says the current may destroy him; humanitarian concerns aside, he also needs Data's help to operate the computers in Engineering. Data volunteers that his positronic brain has extra shielding, and could withstand the current even if the rest of his body could not. He proposes that after the current is shut down, Riker detach Data's head and carry it with him. Data steps into the current, and succeeds in interrupting it ("A remarkable experience").

In the turbolift, Picard helps Jay remove the ceiling hatch and climb up. Based on Jay's description of what he sees, Picard understands that the safety clamps meant to anchor the lift in an emergency are sheared away, meaning the lift will eventually break away and fall. He tells Marissa to lead the crew through the hatch and escape the lift via the shaft ladder.

Picard says that, with his broken ankle, he would only slow them down and orders them to leave him behind. Exchanging a look with her crewmates, Marissa declares that they will not. Sighing, Picard accuses them of mutiny, but agrees to try. On his instructions, Marissa removes a large bundle of optical cabling from the control panel, to lash themselves together.

In the cargo bay, La Forge and Crusher finish moving the corudum containers, but the radiation levels are still rising. Frustrated, Geordi says that the only way to put out the fire would be to deprive it of oxygen - and gets an idea. If they open the cargo bay doors, the vacuum will suck out both the containers and the oxygen feeding the fire; if he and Crusher can hold on to something, they can re-seal the doors and re-pressurize the bay once the fire is out.

In Ten Forward, Worf and Keiko are caring for the wounded, when Keiko goes into labor, to which Worf points out that it's not a good time, but the baby is coming whether she likes it or not.

Act Four

On the bridge, Ro demands that they separate the saucer section from the rest of the ship. They can't stop the antimatter containment field from degrading from the bridge, and it is better that they save those people in the saucer section than let the explosion claim the whole ship. O'Brien objects that someone may still be alive in the stardrive section of the ship, but Ro says they can't know that for sure. Asserting her authority, Troi vetoes Ro's suggestion and instead tells O'Brien to transfer power to the consoles in Engineering, to highlight the problem in case someone in that section is watching.

In the turbolift shaft, Picard and the crew are climbing the ladder, trying to find a door they can open manually. After another door fails to respond, Patterson begins to despair, but Marissa "orders" him to steady himself. Before they can start to ascend again, the lift's clamps give way and it plunges, causing the walls of the shaft to tremble. They all cling to the ladder, and hear the crash of the lift far below. Grateful to at least be out of the lift, the crew keeps climbing. Picard suggests that they sing a song to boost their spirits, and eventually hits on Frère Jacques as one they all know.

In Ten Forward, Worf is assisting Keiko, with the help of his tricorder and an emergency birth procedure he remembers from his Academy training. He appears flustered when Keiko starts to "deviate" from the procedure, asking him to check whether or not the baby's head is facing down.

In the cargo bay, Crusher describes the sensations and dangers involved with vacuum exposure and explains they'll have essentially 25 seconds to restore the atmosphere before they collapse. The exterior door is opened, leaving only a force field keeping the air in the cargo bay. La Forge and Crusher hold on to a ladder and hold their breaths while La Forge hits the button to disengage the force field. The evacuating air blows the volatile barrels out into space, and the plasma fire eventually extinguishes from lack of oxygen. La Forge restores the force field and shuts the bay door, and Dr. Crusher is able to crawl to another panel and hit it before she collapses from the effects of the vacuum. She and La Forge breathe heavily in relief as air is resupplied to the cargo bay.

Act Five

Data head

Data trying to save the ship

On the bridge, Troi gives her final "no" to Ro's demand to separate the saucer section and tells them all to wait for a sign from Engineering.

In the stardrive section, Riker has rigged Data's head to the controls, allowing him to raise the bulkhead to Engineering. Immediately noticing that the monitors have been powered up, despite the lack of power on the rest of the deck, he deduces that the bridge is trying to show them something. When he sees the containment field is failing, he has to quickly connect Data's head to a new link, enabling him to stabilize the field with only seconds to spare. Seeing the field return to normal from the bridge monitors, Ro and O'Brien realize that someone is alive down there and disaster has been averted. Ro apologizes to Troi for her error, but Troi says she might as well have been right.

O'Brien, Troi and Ro

O'Brien, Troi and Ro see the Enterprise's containment field rise

In a deserted corridor, a door finally opens, admitting Picard and his crew out of the turbolift shaft. Safe at last, Marissa hugs Picard gratefully, while he exchanges hearty handshakes with the two boys.

In Ten Forward, with Worf's help, Keiko delivers her baby, which is a girl. Worf comments that she looks like Chief O'Brien, much to Keiko's amusement.

Captain's Log, supplemental. We are en route to Starbase 67 to undergo repairs. Life aboard the Enterprise is slowly returning to normal.

Troi conducts the three children to the bridge again. Riker jibes that she must be drawn to Picard's empty chair, while Troi admits that she isn't cut out to be a captain - "first officer, maybe. I understand there aren't a lot of qualifications."

When Picard emerges from his ready room, Marissa and the crew present him with a homemade plaque, thanking him for leading them out of the turbolift. Picard accepts it heartily, and says he will rendezvous with them later to lead them on their promised tour, starting with the battle bridge, which was declared off limits at the beginning. Returning to his ready room, he says over his shoulder, "you have the bridge, Number One," causing Marissa and Riker to chirp, "aye, sir!" in unison. Marissa lets out an embarrassed laugh, but Riker smiles and Picard throws her a a wink.

Memorable Quotes

"What did you do for your science projects?"
"I planted radishes in a special dirt and they came up all weird!"
"I see. That's very... very commendable."

- Jean-Luc Picard and Patterson


"I'm not sure who I feel sorry for, the Captain or the kids."

- Miles O'Brien, watching Picard and the children board the turbo lift


"Can I be an officer, too?"
"Well let me see, uh, your science project involved radishes, did it not?"
"Yes, sir."
"Then I shall appoint you my Executive Officer in charge of radishes."
(Big smile)

- Patterson and Jean-Luc Picard


"If it falls to fifteen percent, the field will collapse and we'll have a containment breach."
"Which means?"
"Which means the ship will explode."

- O'Brien, Troi and Ro


"The bridge will be sending a rescue party as soon as possible, so I want you all to stop crying!"

- Picard, to the children


"Let me get this straight; you want me to take off your head?"
"Yes, sir."

- Riker and Data


"We will separate the ship when I decide that it's time, and not before. Is that clear, Ensign?"
"Yes. Perfectly."

- Deanna Troi and Ro Laren


"A remarkable experience, Commander."

- Data, to Riker after being electrocuted


"Geordi..."
"Yeah?"
"This wall is HOT!"

- Beverly Crusher to Geordi La Forge


"No, I mean contractions... I'm going into labor!"
"You cannot! This is not a good time, Keiko!"

- Keiko O'Brien and Worf


"Your contractions are now only thirty seconds apart. Dilation has increased to seven centimeters since the onset of labor. That did not take long."
"That's easy for you to say!"

- Worf and Keiko


"Congratulations, you are fully dilated to ten centimeters. You may now give birth."
"That's what I've been doing!"

- Worf and Keiko


"The computer simulation was not like this. That delivery was very orderly."
"Well, I'm sorry!"

- Worf and Keiko, during the birth of Molly O'Brien


"Push, Keiko. Push. Push! Push!"
"I am pushing!"

- Worf and Keiko, during the birth of Molly


"Marissa, is there a song you sing at school?"
"Umm, The Laughing Vulcan and His Dog?"
"...I'm afraid I don't know that one."

- Picard and Marissa


"You have the bridge, Number One."
"(in unison) Aye, sir."

- Picard, William T. Riker, and Marissa

Background information

Story and script

  • Jeri Taylor commented that this episode "was pitched by a couple of outside writers and it's something we had never done before. I believe in variety. I think that it freshens a series. If you see the same story week after week it becomes deadly dull...I'm very much for breaking formula, changing something and doing a different kind of story. It was let's do something different – stop them dead in space and give them lots of problems. I thought some fans thumbed their nose at it, but in a mix of varied stories it was a good infusion of life." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
  • Teleplay writer Ronald D. Moore recalled, "I thought let's just have fun with it. We put our people in interesting and fun situations. It was nice to put Troi in the captain's chair and Picard in the elevator shaft. It was very episodic, and I remember the best moment was when we were breaking the story. Michael left the room and we were looking at different elements – Data and Riker in the powertube, in particular – and somebody said, 'What if Riker takes Data's head off?' Michael came back in and we said, 'You're going to hate this, but what if we took his head off?', and he laughed and rolled his eyes and said, 'Do it. No one will let us do it, but go ahead, it'll be fun.' I wrote it and Rick [Berman] never said a word. It's amazing that we got away with it." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
  • Moore noted that the episode was The Next Generation's homage to disaster movies. To this end, Moore half-jokingly proposed casting Shelley Winters in the episode, but the idea was rejected. (Memorable Missions, TNG Season 5 DVD special features)
  • When asked, Moore denied that "The Laughing Vulcan and His Dog" was a reference to Sybok. He explained, "I just liked the image the title of the song conjured up." (AOL chat, 1998)
  • An early draft of the episode had the Enterprise colliding with an asteroid, but the writers, sensitive to scientific concerns that an asteroid would not cause the damage described in the script, "invented" the quantum filament. (Star Trek Encyclopedia)

Production

  • "Disaster" was filmed between Friday 16 August 1991 and Thursday 27 August 1991 on Paramount Stage 8, 9, and 16. Additional second unit inserts were filmed on Wednesday 28 August 1991 on Paramount Stage 9 and on Thursday 3 October 1991 on Paramount Stage 9 and 16.
  • On Monday 19 August 1991, the Make-a-Wish Foundation visited the set of this episode at 11:00 a.m.
  • This was the last episode aired before Gene Roddenberry's death on 24 October 1991.
  • At the end of the episode, the children present Picard a commemorative plaque with their full names on it. The characters' last names are essentially the same as those of the actors who played them.
  • For the scene in which La Forge and Crusher evacuate the air from the cargo bay, Greg Jein constructed miniature barrels. Dan Curry recalled that these were then attached with pins to a vertical miniature floor. The pins were then removed, with the barrels falling against a blue screen. By shooting at a high frame rate, the desired effect was achieved. (Memorable Missions, TNG Season 5 DVD special features)
  • Curry revealed that the plasma fire effect was created by filming a clear glass tray with hot water and granules of dry ice. This was then lit from the back and tinted green. (Memorable Missions, TNG Season 5 DVD special features)
  • First UK airdate: 18 January 1995

Continuity

  • This episode is the first appearance of Molly O'Brien.
  • In trying to understand O'Brien's description of a quantum filament, Troi (unsuccessfully) compares it to a cosmic string, which the Enterprise encountered in "The Loss".
  • There is a humorous reference to this episode in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, "Accession". Worf becomes alarmed at hearing that Keiko is pregnant again, and hastily plans a vacation to Earth for when she is due, so he does not have to assist with the birth again.
  • In DS9: "The Begotten", Miles O'Brien also references missing the chance to witness the birth.
  • Deanna Troi references this episode in the episode "Thine Own Self", when she wishes to become a bridge officer.
  • The Jefferies tube junction set appears for the first time in this episode. The set is still one level here and not attached to the main engineering set.

Reception

  • Michael Piller remarked, "I think "Disaster" was a fun show, it achieved everything that we set out to do. Ron wrote a nice script, I loved the stuff with Data's head disembodied. It had a real pace and rhythm. It didn't reach the upper echelon of episodes for me because it didn't really have a mystery or science fiction base to it." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
  • Moore remarked, "What I liked about it was the opportunity to put Troi in command and to do all the little stories in a disaster movie. Brannon was a big fan of The Towering Inferno and those films and he and I had a great deal of fun structuring the piece and putting it together and taking Data's head – I mean 'You want to take your head off?' is one of the great lines on the series and literally carrying Data's head through the corridors of the Enterprise is just a scream." (Memorable Missions, TNG Season 5 DVD special features)
  • However, Piller regretted the direction that Ro Laren took in the episode. "We gave her the role of the disbeliever who had nowhere to go but lose in the end because she didn't believe Troi. I think, as I wrote in a memo, it would have been much better if she'd been around a year with some victories before we threw her right into that situation to look rather foolish. And I didn't like the moment where she had to come back and say, which was almost the same arc as that character in the opening who apologized to Data, 'Gee, you were right, Counselor and I was wrong, and I respect you.' To me, after Troi made the right decision in a crisis, Ro's character, and I'm not sure if anybody would agree with me on this, would have said, 'You still could have killed him and I still think I was right and you're just lucky it came out this way.' That's the way I would have ended it with her. The bridge sequence was my least favorite part of the show because it seemed very predictable to me." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
  • A mission report for this episode by John Sayers was published in The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine Vol. 18, pp. 28-31.

Video and DVD releases

Links and references

Starring

Also starring

Guest stars

Co-stars

Uncredited co-stars

Stunt double

Stand-ins and photo doubles

References

amp; antigrav; antimatter containment; astrophysics; battle bridge; bridge; bulkhead; cargo bay; cargo transporter; childbirth; commemorative plaque; computer; communications; confinement mode; cosmic string; cranial unit; counselor; diagnostic; distress call; docking latch; drive section; duty officer; electricity; emergency bulkhead; emergency hand actuator; emergency procedure alpha two; emergency thruster pack; energy conduit; Engineering; engineering station; Federation; flow current; "Frère Jacques"; Gilbert and Sullivan; Gonal IV; hydroponics; hyronalin; "I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General"; impulse drive; Ishikawa, Hiro; isolation protocol; "The Laughing Vulcan and His Dog"; lifesigns; life support system; manual override; mass; meter; O'Brien, Michael; O'Brien, Molly; millicochrane; millisecond; Mudor V; mutiny; neural net; Number One; ODN conduit; opti-cable; oxygen; The Pirates of Penzance; phaser array; pips; plasma coolant; plasma fire; polyduranide; positronic brain; power; power coupling; power grid; power shunt; primary school science fair (primary school); quantum filament; quantum resonance; quaratum; rad; radiation; radish; rank; red alert; saucer section; saucer separation; science officer; sensors; shuttlebay; sickbay; Starbase 67; Starfleet Emergency Medical Course; subspace distortion; suicide; swarming moth; Ten Forward; torpedo bay; transporter simulation; tricorder; tripolymer; turbolift; turboshaft; ventral; warp core breach; warp drive; warp field

External link


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Star Trek: The Next Generation
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