STAR TREK [email protected]: DISASTER
STAR TREK [email protected]: DISASTER
30 years to the day since the episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation premiered on US screens, on October 21, 1991, James Cooray Smith faces 'Disaster' aboard the Enterprise.
"High Concept’ is the idea, usually ascribed to the legendary Hollywood producer Don Simpson, that the purest kind of creative work can be described in less than a sentence. The purest kind of high concept, it follows, is a title as well as a high concept. Beverly Hills Cop, for example. The juxtaposition of the moneyed neighbourhood of ‘Beverly Hills’ with the more downmarket term ‘Cop’ gets across the essence of the entire film in a logo.
High Concept, like Star Trek: The Next Generation, peaked in cultural penetration in the early 1990s, and this episode is – like several later TNGs – an example of the series dallying with the form. Like Beverly Hills Cop it’s an almost perfect example of it, the title Star Trek: The Next Generation: Disaster tells you everything you need to know. This is Star Trek, and it’s a disaster movie. Albeit one crammed into 44m.
Ronald D Moore’s teleplay, based on a pitch by a pair of outside freelancers, was worked out extensively in TNG’s writer’s room, as chaired by showrunner Michael Piller. The peak of disaster movies themselves had been around 15 years before, and by late 1991 they were a staple of late night television, rather than the multiplex. Making TNG’s version of one a strangely timely intervention in the television schedules, rather than the oddly outdated attempt at parodying a dead genre it was criticised for at the time.
This being TNG, what makes the episode sing is the cast and characters. Moore’s script takes full advantage of the idea that this is a story about something happening to the Enterprise crew, rather than being a mission they are sent on, and briefed for. It’s a situation where these professionals' professional expertise is largely irrelevant, because no one is where they need to be when the crisis occurs. Geordi isn’t in engineering, and Riker and Data are in the bar. Picard is in a lift with a group of schoolchildren and the senior officer on the bridge is the ship’s resident psychiatrist, Counselor Troi.
The story is, thanks to its nature as a pastiche of an existing form, inherently episodic. With unusual combinations of characters stuck in unusual situations. So Riker and Data make their way to engineering via a Jefferies Tube, and circumstances contrive for Riker to have to cut off Data’s head and carry it around before plugging it into a console. Meanwhile, the seemingly naive and untrained Troi argues with the ostensibly realistic and practical Ensign Ro, over what action to take and how on the bridge and how much of the crew it is possible to save. In Ten Forward, Keiko O’Brien goes into labour, and the only crew member on hand with any medical knowledge is Worf. Who once delivered a hologram baby as part of his Starfleet away team emergency medical training.
Patrick Stewart’s performance as a Picard trying desperately to comfort children in a life or death situation, when even having dinner in the same room as one is wildly outside his comfort zone, is superb. It’s not that Picard doesn’t like children. It’s nothing as dull as that. It’s that he just has no idea how to talk to them. It’s something Stewart conveys beautifully, hilariously, and without mocking Picard or their situation. His deliveries of “This is mutiny” (when the children refuse to leave him to die) and “I’m afraid I don’t know that one!” when they suggest singing a folk song called ‘The Laughing Vulcan and His Dog’ are honestly phenomenal.
If there’s a linking thread in this supremely entertaining episode, it’s that this crew can, with sufficient application and optimism, achieve anything no matter what is unexpectedly put in front of them. It seems almost like a statement about the series’ own production team, cast and crew, in this, TNG’s golden period.
Disaster? Disaster is a triumph.
STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION: Build the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-D!
This new fully authorised Star Trek build-up lets you construct your own massive model of the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-D as it appeared in seven seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation. This die-cast metal model is based on a careful study of the original shooting models. The makers of Star Trek: The Next Generation actually used three different models of the Enterprise-D, all of which were subtly different. ILM built a six-foot version that could separate, and a less elaborate two-foot version that could be used for more distant shots In TNG's third season, the VFX team built a new four-foot version that was easier to use.
Pulling elements from all three original models, our model comes with fully functioning lights and has been designed to look as much like the onscreen version as possible. The model replicates every last detail of the U.S.S. Enterprise-D, from its phaser strips and RCS thrusters to the Captain's yacht, including:
• Expert colour-matching to the starship’s on-screen appearance
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• Saucer and stardrive sections that can be cleanly separated for display, just as seen on screen
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Each model kit is delivered direct to your door and comes with new ready-painted parts and easy to follow instructions. All model parts screw and slot in to place seamlessly, with no need for gluing/sticking.
Every delivery comes with an in-depth magazine featuring simple instructions, labelled and color-coded for ease of assembly, plus behind-the-scenes information, insightful interviews, and astounding art from the people who made TNG, starting with how Andy Probert designed the Enterprise-D itself!