“The Child,” in which Deanna Troi is impregnated unwillingly and unknowingly by an alien being and forced to experience a rapid pregnancy before giving birth to a son, is one of the most infamous episodes of The Next Generation. You could argue that “The Child” turns out much less disturbing then other mystical pregnancies in other film or tv franchises, such as Aliens or Slither, as it turns out that the being who impregnated her just wanted to experience life among the crew and leaves when his presence threatens the ship. Still, the attitudes of the crew during Troi’s pregnancy are uncomfortable in their own right, as the comments read as though Troi is unconscious or not allowed to make choices about her own body. This is even more relevant today as access to abortions is becoming more limited across the US.
While the audience sees Troi being impregnated by the alien, which appears as a glowing orb, the reveal of her pregnancy itself is revealed later in a scene that also introduces the new ship’s doctor, Doctor Pulaski. When Picard comes into Ten Forward to dress down Pulaski for going to the bar after arriving on the Enterprise, instead of reporting to him, Pulaski implies she has something important to tell him.
The next scene opens in the briefing room, where Picard reveals Troi’s pregnancy to senior staff. This already seems odd as La Forge, Worf, Data, and Riker are not trained in health care or the pregnant person. The discussion becomes even more uncomfortable as Troi says very little herself during the briefing, just that the pregnancy is a surprise and that a “presence” impregnated her the previous evening. Worf says the pregnancy should be aborted as it poses a threat to the crew; Riker asks who the dad is, even though that is none of his business; Data wants to let the pregnancy continue in order to study the being; and La Forge says nothing.
No one in the entire scene stops to ask Troi how she is feeling or what happened or even physically reassure her. It is implied Pulaski took Troi to Ten Forward to discuss the pregnancy outside of Sickbay, and possibly Guinan offered some advice as well, but this all occurred off screen, if at all. The fact Troi was silent through most of this discussion and only cut them off at the end to say she was keeping the baby is also uncomfortable as besides Pulaski, she is the only woman present and neither takes an active role in the conversation for very long; Riker and Worf control most of the conversation. Worf’s concern about the alien nature of the pregnancy may be justified, but this feels like a conversation for the Captain’s ready room or Sickbay, with Troi being a more active participant and Pulaski advocating better for her patient. It is also very telling that although Pulaski says the baby is a boy, Deanna even names the child Ian Andrew at birth, no one calls the child by name, only as “It.” It is especially glaring considering Data uses ‘it’ to refer to the child, considering his overarching character arc is seeking his own personhood yet not recognizing the child’s own personhood.
The birth scene also has several moments that make the viewer concerned for Troi, as the presence of Worf and other security officers makes it feel less like a birth and more like a security risk. Riker also showing up unannounced is a point of concern since he and Troi have an undefined relationship throughout the series—they did date in the past, but the awkward and fluctuating ‘are they friends with benefits, casual flings, or something else?,’ plus his invasive question earlier about who the dad of the child was, makes his unexpected presence really odd and makes Riker come across as too invested in her pregnancy.
Some of Dr. Pulaski’s actions also are concerning as she is originally dismissive and rude when Troi has Data as her support person in the delivery room. A previous scene set up Pulaski’s antagonism to Data by having her refuse to respect the pronunciation of his name. Pulaski’s comment that usually the father is the one who is there as the support person may be a product of the tv standards of the era, but her further huff that Data is unfeeling technology, that Troi needs a warmer and more human companion to support her during the birth really presents her as very narrow minded, especially as Troi clearly says she wants Data there. Would Pulaski have objected as strongly if Tasha Yar had been Troi’s support person, since Yar was a woman, yet human?
While the choice of Data as Troi’s support person could be because from Data is one of the members of the crew Troi works closely with, it might also stem from a previous scene where Data begins asking her questions about her pregnancy, not in the manner Worf might, but more personal questions, such as can she feel her child’s thoughts or connect to him mentally through their shared empathic half-Betazoid abilities. If Troi had been pregnant through more conventional and planned means, Data would probably ask similar questions as well, as he seems to be trying very hard to express human emotions in a healthy and reassuring way. He also starts referring to the baby as “he” versus “it.” Clearly identifying the child as a being who deserves to be respected and worthy of personhood.
Throughout “The Child” Deanna Troi is almost completely silenced in what is meant to be her episode, as most of the discussions about her surprise, unexplained pregnancy are conducted by the male officers around her, with very little input from Troi herself, or the only other woman in the room, Dr. Pulaski. Then in the delivery scene itself Troi’s own choices are disrespected and her delivery is clearly treated as a threat to the ship yet no one has focused on how the pregnancy could harm Troi herself, mentally or physically. Throughout the episode many of the people around Troi do not focus on her specific needs during the pregnancy, even given how alarmingly fast it is. Overall the struggles Troi faces in this episode parallel many of the issues a pregnant person faces in 2022: people around them making decisions about a pregnancy that is not their own—even those who are not medical professionals the patient trusts.