Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Silicon Avatar"

**1/2

Air date: 10/14/1991
Teleplay by Jeri Taylor
Story by Lawrence V. Conley
Directed by Cliff Bole

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Just as a Federation colony is getting settled on a lush planet, the deadly crystalline entity — which consumes life as a food source — shows up and turns the entire world into a barren wasteland. The woman who would've been Riker's next conquest is among the colonists who are killed in the attack. The Enterprise is assigned to pursue the crystalline entity and attempt to make contact if possible — or destroy it if necessary. They take on Dr. Kila Marr (Ellen Geer), a scientist and expert on the entity whose son was killed many years ago in the entity's attack on Omicron Theta (see "Datalore").

There's a moment in "Silicon Avatar" that stands out for me: Riker has just privately made the case to Picard that the crystalline entity is a dangerous scourge that has already killed thousands, and perhaps the Enterprise's mission should be to destroy it to stop its killing spree instead of attempting to communicate with it. After the conversation, Riker leaves and Picard sits there ambiguously. Patrick Stewart's expression shows thoughtfulness without revealing what he's thinking. Does he disagree with Riker? Is he worried he may be right? It's a perfect performance that shows a man just thinking about what he has heard, and processing it carefully. Stewart makes such a brief, subtle moment so memorable.

But I also think this scene echoes my feelings about the episode in general, which is: I'm just not sure what I think about all this. Picard uses an analogy that compares the crystalline entity to a feeding whale, suggesting that it's a force of nature that has as much right to exist as anything else. Fair enough, but we're not talking about shellfish being consumed in mass quantities; we're talking about people's lives and entire M-class worlds being laid to waste. At some point, a line must be drawn. The episode acknowledges this question without quite dealing with it.

Then there's Dr. Marr, whose arc in this story is a little heavy-handed. At first she distrusts Data because his brother Lore betrayed Omicron Theta, leading to her son's death. Later, because Data holds the memories of her son, she weeps as Data reads a letter in her son's voice. Ultimately, she makes the unilateral decision to destroy the crystalline entity by turning the communication frequency into a weapon. I'm not fond of the contrived way she seems to instantly flip from rational to crazy as her revenge brings about "peace" for her son's memory. And the final scene with Data underlines the tragedy in a way that simultaneously feels too conveniently tidy and yet weirdly incomplete.

Previous episode: Ensign Ro
Next episode: Disaster

Season Index

60 comments on this review

karatasiospa - Fri, Apr 1, 2011 - 7:15am (USA Central)
Yes jammer but who drowns the line and how and where? Can we say that we have the right to destroy the crystalline entity but the entity itself has not the right to survive? becouse if we kill it for reasons of serfpreservation then it will not survive. So we will destroy other lifeforms in order to survive? and the shellfish has not the same right to survive? do we have somehow more right to survival than the selfish? If yes why?becouse we consider ourselves intelligent? you see these are difficult questions and i think that picard is right to pose the question. In the end the actions of Dr. Marr are exactly the kind of action that justify picard's question, they are the actions of a revengfull hunan who doesn't care at all about the entity's right to exist.And for all that the episode i think deserves 3 stars.
startrekwatcher - Fri, Apr 1, 2011 - 1:01pm (USA Central)
Silicon Avatar is a 3.5 star episode. Kila Marr's struggle with dealing with her guilt over leaving her son behind with friends to pursue her career leading to his death by the crystaline entity was well done and compelling, the scene where Data replays his logs in his voice was moving, and the final scene where we see an already broken mother get one more emotional punch to her gut when Data tells her her son would not approve was devastating. Plus the attack in the teaser and early first act added a nice bit of exciting action.

I don't quite understand your issue with the episode honestly. Picard's point was that does a human as a lifeform deserve to exist anymore than crystalline entity--they are both living creatures.
Rachael - Fri, Apr 1, 2011 - 4:05pm (USA Central)
The problem I had with Picard's "moral dilemma" was the idea that the concept of self-defense is somehow morally suspect. If shellfish could fight back against whales, wouldn't they? SHOULDN'T they? Why should any lifeform with the ability to fight back against its own imminent destruction decline to do so, or feel as though it should? Honestly, by season five, I was pretty well and tired of Picard's neverending "moral dilemmas" over issues that are self-evident on their face (such as the right to self defense, or the idea that being alive but "contaminated" is better than being dead and "pure" [See The Masterpiece Society]). TNG had mostly left such preaching behind by this point, making the occasional lapses that much more frustrating.
startrekwatcher - Fri, Apr 1, 2011 - 4:19pm (USA Central)
Picard isn't saying let's let the creature destroy us but he at least wants to make the attempt to communicate with it rather than just immediately deciding to destroy it.
karatasiospa - Sat, Apr 2, 2011 - 6:50am (USA Central)
I agree with you startrekwatcher. Otherwise we turn the right to survive into an amoral evolutionary struggle justifying everything in the name of survival.
Dan R - Sun, Apr 3, 2011 - 7:03pm (USA Central)
We already knew that the cystalline entity's intent was evil from previous episodes; that it would kill before; that it had killed thousands. Picard's naive attempts to communicate with it almost begged the question: is EVERY menacing destructive life form on this show always "misunderstood"? Are there EVER any circumstances that would justify the killing of a life for to prevent the slaughter of millions of people?

Few here would argue, I am sure, that a species technologically and physiologically superior to us is under a moral "obligation" to try to listen to our communication before annihiliating us if we are perceived as a threat.

Here, we were faced with a deadly killing machine. Dr. Marr killed it. And the show, through Data, in the final scene, wags its finger at her, saying "Shame on you".

Shame on the show. The ending made me sick. Dr. Marr did the right thing, and people who can't even understand (if not embrace) that point of view can be as narrow minded as the "evil" humans they so easily trash.
karatasiospa - Mon, Apr 4, 2011 - 6:43am (USA Central)
Picard just tried to explore the possibility of a compromise through communication nothing more or less. But Marr didn't let him do it she only wanted revenfe and for that shame on her.
Eric Dugdale - Mon, Apr 4, 2011 - 1:06pm (USA Central)
What the hell kind of compromise would be possible? "Oh, don't randomly kill thousands of us at a time - we'll offer you some sacrifices to keep you alive from time to time. Hey, look at all that Romulan space..."

Seriously, the thing's existence depends on an act that humans cannot tolerate. No workable compromise is possible.
Angel - Tue, Apr 5, 2011 - 10:32am (USA Central)
How would you know no workable compromise was possible? That was precisely what Picard was hoping to find out until Marr decided to take matters into her own hands.
Eric Dugdale - Wed, Apr 6, 2011 - 8:43am (USA Central)
Reading posts *before* responding to them is advisable, Angel. The answer is in my 2nd-to-last sentence.
karatasiospa - Wed, Apr 6, 2011 - 10:26am (USA Central)
With all due respect your answer is typical of people who shoot first and ask questions later.
Rachael - Sat, Apr 9, 2011 - 10:51am (USA Central)
They didn't "shoot first and ask questions later." They were, to continue the metaphor, essentially letting the crystalline entity go on an unabated shooting rampage while wringing their hands about whether they had the "right" to stop it from massacring more people. It absolutely blows my mind that people don't think sentient beings have the right to self-defense. Yeah, this episode ranks as one of the worse examples of naive Star Trek why-can't-we-all-just-get-along "morality".

Also, why do so many parents feel compelled to abandon their children on TNG? I love how Dr. Marr just left her son alone "with some friends" on the colony so she could run around and be a scientist. She couldn't take him with her? I had a hard time feeling sorry for her loss since her kid was obviously pretty low on her totem pole of priorities to begin with...
angel - Sat, Apr 9, 2011 - 11:11am (USA Central)
Picard admits to Marr that there is the possibility that they may have to destroy the entity. But he didn't want to resort to that until he had exhausted all other options, which Marr kept him from doing when she destroyed the entity.

Marr's son was a teenager, so maybe he was at the age when he wanted to be on his own (for a while, anyway).

Rachael - Sat, Apr 9, 2011 - 12:21pm (USA Central)
Every kid wants things that they shouldn't have. I wanted a pet lion and an airplane when I was a kid. Fortunately, my parents saw the wisdom in not getting me whatever I wanted. Abandoning your kid for no good reason is not good parenting, and it's something that shows up time and again on TNG. It drives me insane.

I would have found Marr's "revenge" a little more credible if she hadn't up and left her kid because she decided he was a hindrance to her career.
angel - Sat, Apr 9, 2011 - 3:18pm (USA Central)
I see what you're saying but giving a kid a wild animal for a pet and allowing a teenager to spend time away from home with friends are two different things.
Although this was never specified, the friends he was with may have been school/childhood acquaintances whom his mom trusted.
karatasiospa - Sun, Apr 10, 2011 - 5:53am (USA Central)
It seems some people just don't like TNG's morality and Picard's attempt to communicate (just an attempt to communicate, Picard didn;t abandon the right to self preservation, that's a misunderstanding at best or a perversion of the truth at worst ) becouse it is "naive" ( how many times i heard this accusation?) while shooting someone without even trying to communicate it's o.k. for them . So let us be naive and if you don't like TNG's "naive" morality don't watch it.
Eric Dugdale - Mon, Apr 11, 2011 - 1:59pm (USA Central)
"With all due respect your answer is typical of people who shoot first and ask questions later."

Maybe it is. Maybe it isn't. Does that mean that it's wrong? If so, then you should be able to give the reason *why* instead of resorting to polemics.
kratasiospa - Tue, Apr 12, 2011 - 9:04am (USA Central)
You don't shoot someone and you don't kill someone before you even try to find another solution. It's as simple as that.Becouse if you do it means that you are not even intersted to avoid the shooting. And that says a lot but i will avoid the apropriate term for such a behaviour becouse i'm not interested in "polemics".
Eric Dugdale - Fri, Apr 15, 2011 - 6:45pm (USA Central)
So far, they had tried allowing it to live. That path resulted in many deaths.

You trivialize the lives that were lost, and those that are still in danger of being lost. I realize it's hard to empathize with other sentient beings (humans) when they're on TV. It's easy to see them as expendable, since they're fictional. But within the context of the story, their safety is important.

How many lives do you think would be a reasonable price to pay in order to learn more about the CE?
angell - Sun, Apr 17, 2011 - 9:43pm (USA Central)
How exactly had they 'tried allowing it to live'?
Our heroes hadn't seen the CE since "Datalore" so it's not like Picard could've just decided one day to seek it out and talk to it.
And for the last time, PICARD ACKNOWLEDGED THAT IT MAY BE NECESSARY TO DESTORY THE CE!!!
His meeting with it would have determined whether its destruction was imperative until Marr decided to skip a few steps.
Eric Dugdale - Wed, Apr 20, 2011 - 4:50pm (USA Central)
They "tried allowing it to live" by virtue of having, for various reasons, been allowing it to live.

And I agree that there was nothing to lose by attempting to communicate with it; they could always outrun it and kill it afterward. I just don't see what they could have gained by it, either.
angel - Fri, Apr 22, 2011 - 11:04am (USA Central)
Picard: "If we can determine what its needs are, we may find other sources to supply it."
Eric Dugdale - Fri, Apr 22, 2011 - 1:36pm (USA Central)
Such as other life-forms. Non-humans. How altruistic.
Lenore - Sat, Apr 23, 2011 - 4:27pm (USA Central)
The problem I had with this episode was the whole idea that it was so hard to communicate with the Crystalline Entity, when in Datalore, Lore just flipped on the communicator and spoke to the thing verbally. Even as recently as Brothers, Data tells Soong that Lore conspired with the entity - he clearly knew that communication, even co-operation, was possible. So how come all of a sudden they're reduced to tickling the thing to get a reaction?
angel - Sun, Apr 24, 2011 - 9:07am (USA Central)
"Such as other life-forms. Non-humans. How altruistic."

Picard didn't say other life forms, he said other SOURCES
Charlie - Tue, Apr 26, 2011 - 11:17am (USA Central)
Just a guess, but I think Lore talking to the CE was just a way of giving it an arrow toward the flying candy store that's the Enterprise.
Elliott - Fri, May 13, 2011 - 6:23pm (USA Central)
This moral issue had been done and would be done far better in the Trek canon. This one feels like an excuse for unnecessary continuity with season 1--the CE was a really hokey idea to begin with, I didn't need to see it again just to learn absolutely nothing new about it.

Marr's interaction with Data serves the purpose of letting us see the emotional emptiness of Data himself and how emotional distance leads to altruistic behaviour, a staple of Federation values. For that, I appreciated the story, but Marr herself is overplayed and rather uninteresting.

Fair rating. Maybe 2 stars.
Jay - Sun, Sep 25, 2011 - 8:22pm (USA Central)
@ Rachael...there was one set of parents that took their child with them...her name was Annika.

We know how that turned out...I bet she wished she;d been left with friends.
Jay - Sun, Sep 25, 2011 - 8:28pm (USA Central)
ALong the line sof Elliott's comments about the hokeyness of the CE...he's right. As presented here, the Crystalline Entity is a a singular being, which begs the question of its origins. Does it have a mother, does it have children? Was this THE same entity that we've seen before? Neither the characters nor the episode itself bothers to ask.
Captain Tripps - Mon, Oct 3, 2011 - 12:40pm (USA Central)
Was a lot harder to kill this thing in Star Trek Online.
Tom - Mon, Oct 24, 2011 - 9:31am (USA Central)
What I find strange here is how was everyone so 100% sure that the modified photon torpedos would destroy it (or a resonance for that matter)? I would have seen the communication attempt necessary first hand since firing the creature would almost certainly deny any attempts to find other possible resolutions. By this logic the "let's shoot first" tactic could have been the undoing of all nearby life. I also don't see how any communication attempts could "rob" them of their chance to *try* to kill it. If it was then absolutely sure that they could destroy it, I don't see how the "last words of the accused" would have any danger in them.

Where do these accusations of "letting it live" come from? By trying to speak to it, they were slowing it down if anything.

Also, the doctor was obviously a typical annoying woman. As in "The Drumhead." Probably a ESFJ person, who so easily becomes the victim of hysterization and emotions. Always trying to justify their actions with "reason." And oh yes, that kinda of people do exist.
Steve - Sat, May 26, 2012 - 1:22pm (USA Central)
DanR got it right. In "Datalore" they had already established communication with the CE and in so doing revealed to the CE that humans were intelligent, sentient beings. In spite of that the CE decided that humans were merely food and had no right to exist other than to provide it sustenance. James T. Kirk would have blown that monster away as soon as it got within sensor range [see Obsession]. And, no, Renny would NOT have disapproved of mom's actions.
Tim - Thu, May 31, 2012 - 4:27pm (USA Central)
Boring episode, really didn't interest me, although ending was relatively interesting - but liking the number of outdoor locations and Picard's uniform this series!

I thought maybe they'd communicate with the being, and find out that it hadn't destroyed the people, but instead transported them somewhere, so that Riker could be reunited.. I was wrong.
Mike - Fri, Sep 7, 2012 - 5:03pm (USA Central)
Dr. Marr was not right. To commit murder is against all laws according to different countries & worlds. Picard wanted to try to communicate with the creature & try to figure out if a comprimise can be reached. Since that was not so, I suspect, Dr. Marr was going to be severely reprimanded.
Tim M, - Fri, Nov 2, 2012 - 4:32pm (USA Central)
@Tom What is an 'ESFJ' person?
Rosario - Mon, Nov 5, 2012 - 11:01pm (USA Central)
@Mike: "Dr. Marr was not right. To commit murder is against all laws according to different countries & worlds."

What worlds exactly are you referring to? Murder as you define it, could be part of a natural mating cycle on some other planet. What a ridiculous statement. Typical human arrogance. As if our morality, our laws and our anything are what the universe must revolve on. Before the cosmos, humanity is as insignificant as whatever you can conjure up to satisfy the definition of "really insignificant." Morality is not instinctive in humanity - it is taught through childhood. All of our senses of morality are different from each other. One could even say alien to each other. So, how alien would our sense of morality be to an actual alien?

Anyway, this whole episode is ridiculous. As others have pointed out, Lore established communications with the Entity, the Entity knowingly ravaged a human colony - it knew what we were (as in, sentient beings possessed of advanced technologies) and still considered us a food source. Sorry. Arm photon cannons, you're gone.
Ralph - Thu, Apr 18, 2013 - 12:32am (USA Central)
So it has the right to live and we should let it… Yeah right! If the entity is intelligent, self aware, and sentient or whatever, it is not going to stop simply because we tell it to. Didn’t Star Fleet tried that with the Borg and other villains? Had it been left to continue it would had destroy the two planets it was heading for and eventually EARTH. I would call that a mass murderer. If it was intelligent that would make it evil, period. Now remember that the crew realized they could actually “communicate” with it. How can an intelligent being not realize the colonist were also intelligent.

Now let use Picard’s analogy and simply say it was acting on pure instinct. So how many of you out there believe that if you get an infection you should just let it play its course and allow whatever is killing you to continue since the germs are only feeding themselves, they are not intelligent and are, just like the whales, just doing what comes naturally. They too have the right to be here, especially since many of them are quite beneficial. Or maybe you would allow cockroaches, mosquitoes, rats, mice, bed bugs, lice or another pest invade and stay in your home or body living right besides you or off you and your children. Perhaps if you house is invaded by Termites you would probably just let them eat it to the ground and just go purchase another house somewhere else. After all they are beneficial and acting on instinct. Without them life on this planet would be impossible. Imagine no cockroaches, Flies, bacteria, or even Termites. We would be living in a pile of Garbage. When they invade they too are acting on instinct, nothing personal, just eating.

Oh but wait, these are tiny little creatures and the Crystalline entity was a huge beautiful creature, worthy of scientific studies. Really? In space? In our galaxy these entities would be just as microscopic in comparison as bacteria would be in our bodies. In such comparison men would be the cure, the anti bodies needed to control them from totally destroying the galaxy, much as our own immune system defends our bodies. Uhh, or maybe we should destroy our immune system in order to keep it from destroying the germs that attack us. Does anyone see how ridiculous this whole episode was?

We have animals on earth that are quite capable of killing humans but when they do they kill a human or other animal they feed on it and move on, they don't kill everything in their path, yet we still kill them to protect ourselves or our live stock. I’m sure that if one you were in the jaws of one of these animals you would give anything to have someone kill the animal before it kills you. What would you do if the animal was capable of killing the entire population of your town in a couple of hours and then started moving on to another town? I guess it has the right to live and eat so just let it go on its merry way.

This episode was an insult to ANY intelligent viewer that saw it and agreed with Picard. He’s an idiot. He would draw a line on the Borg, “Here! No Further!” but would allow a planet killer to go on its merry way totally destroying all life and whole civilizations. With the Borg at least the victims continued to live. What about in "Identity Crisis"? Why did he destroy the life form that had taken over LaForge? Lilly was right, he is a coward and in this instance he was afraid of the Crystalline Entity, even a mouse when cornered would come out fighting, and I truly believed this is the kind of behavior he exhibited time after time, cowardice, then defense because he was cornered.

What would any of the other Captains do? This episode destroyed the Picard character.
Paul - Thu, Apr 18, 2013 - 8:45am (USA Central)
@Ralph: Dude, calm down.

There are problems with this episode (and I'll get to those). But you're kind of misstating what Picard tried to do.

As you noted, citing "Identity Crisis," Picard will try to eliminate something that is a threat that CAN'T BE REASONED WITH. TNG is clearly the most PC of the Star Trek series, so it might be the case that Picard and co. bend over backwards to do this too often. But this episode (as it is written) is only a slight stretch.

Picard was trying to establish communication with the entity to see if there was a way they could reach a mutual understanding. He also does this in "Time's Arrow" when he asks the beings traveling back in time to San Francisco if there is anything that could replace the neural energy they're stealing from humans. This happens after the aliens have killed a bunch of humans in the 19th century.

The outrage at the entity's destruction stems from the fact that Picard might have moments before found a way to communicate -- so they could explain to the entity what it was doing and try to get it to stop. The comparison with the whale paints the entity as some sort of incoherent force that just doesn't understand what it's doing.

And, if that were applicable, Picard's position is exactly right and consistent with Star Trek.

The problem with this episode is that it forgets much of the entity's first appearance in "Datalore". The entity, in that episode, was pretty clearly sentient and could communicate with Lore (Lore talks to it, at one point). It's hard to believe that it didn't know what it was doing -- which means negotiations would have been harder, if not impossible.

But even then, Picard's approach to try to find a solution through communication is consistent. Archer made peace with the Xindi, even after they killed 7 million humans because of bad information. Picard sent Hugh back to the Borg collective (because he'd become sentient) without the virus (or whatever it was) Data and Geordi had designed to destroy the Borg. Etc. Etc.

This episode suffers from poor continuity -- but viewed on its own, it's is pretty consistent with TNG and Star Trek.
Patrick - Thu, Apr 18, 2013 - 11:37am (USA Central)
Why does everyone who criticizes this episode forget that Picard acknowledges that they *may* need to destroy the CE? In fact, there's a scene in this episode where he talks to Worf about preparing photon torpedoes when they run into it. Hello?

I think people conveniently forget this to fit their "Picard is a wuss" narrative.
Rick C - Mon, Jun 10, 2013 - 10:30pm (USA Central)
I gave the TV screen a big thumbs up at the end when the doc destroyed the CE. I also thought Data was out of line at the end. How could he, without feelings himself, know how her son would have felt?
Patrick - Fri, Jul 5, 2013 - 3:26am (USA Central)
Episodes like this one raise far bigger ethical and philosophical questions than DS9 ever dreamed of. And yet every time TNG ventures into this zone, and begins philosophizing over true morality and ethics, a higher order of thinking, you reject it Jammer. I'm sorry but I'm calling BS. It seems like you don't want depth, but instead want angst and conflict and basassery.

TNG stood for something greater, and so does Picard here. That's why this show is so great, and has been remembered as such.
Jammer - Fri, Jul 5, 2013 - 6:33pm (USA Central)
@Patrick:

You call BS, then I will as well -- on your going from review to review to call DS9 a soap opera while alleging that I equate serialized with "deep" just 'cause.

Whatever.

Let's first set aside the fact that some of these review were written nearly 20 years after other ones, and expecting me to be 100 percent consistent is just silly.

You don't like DS9? Fine. I don't care; that's your prerogative. I like both shows for what they were. Anyone who can't see that isn't paying attention. If you're going to nitpick everything I say in X situation and cry foul that I didn't also say it in Y situation, then we're going to be here awhile.
mephyve - Sat, Jul 6, 2013 - 2:23am (USA Central)
I had no problem with the entity getting blown to bits. Let's say for instance that it was 'feeding'. That would make it somewhat of a poor man's Galactus, of Marvel comics. Clearly in order for it to feed, civilizations must die.
Let's say Picard managed to converse with it. The entities only defense would be essentially, "Hey, that sucks for them but I have to live." It's next act would have been to continue to the next 'live' planet and suck the life out of it.
What would Picard do as the entity wiped out yet another civilization? Just sit there and watch.
What if it came after earth? Does earth say 'No problem entity. We understand you have to wipe us out to survive.' Or does earth defend itself?
I'm with the doctor here. Blow the thing up. It's only one destructive life form weighed against billions of other life forms. Not just the human/oids get wiped out, every species on the planet becomes extinct.
William B - Sat, Jul 6, 2013 - 11:49am (USA Central)
I'm on board with destroying the CE if it comes down to it or an entire civilization. However, Picard was not wrong that there might be other sources for the CE -- and by that he surely meant non-living sources. Replicators can produce meat. And Picard said it may be necessary to destroy it.
mephyve - Sat, Jul 6, 2013 - 7:31pm (USA Central)
@ William B Nice suggestion with the replicators, but that would be some serious replicating. If this was a first encounter then I'd say talk to it. I just think the writers did far too good a job establishing the entity as a destroyer of planet life for there to be any need for a discussion of compromise. They did not even tone it down for this episode.
As soon as Data and Riker established that it was the crystalline entity they knew that it meant certain death. The thing devoured all signs of life on the planet in a short period of time. When they started tracking it there were two possible courses. One led to uninhabited planets, the other led to an inhabited planet. Picard knew the thing was headed to the inhabited planet.
The planet eater was ready for dinner. I highly doubt that a replicator could serve up a planet size meal.
jdp - Sun, Jul 7, 2013 - 8:33pm (USA Central)
Ralph's comment raises an issue inherent in almost any criticism of an episode (assuming the episode isn't an absolute catastrophe) - when does criticism become 'mere' disagreement over taste or world view? As Ralph says, Picard's position is without a doubt consistent with the Star Trek humanist world view represented by Star Fleet's ethos. And the character never waivers from this particular idealism. So, if one has a problem with Picard's stance in this episode, it is essentially a disagreement with the ST world view. If I had this sort of problem with Picard and thus, I think, the show, it would be a good idea for me to consider what I want and expect from the show...you know, I'd try to exercise the sort of awareness and consideration that's a huge part of what underwrites Picard's character.

Re the heated comments, the point is that, when disagreements arise over world views, we're no longer really talking about any given episode.

Note: please don't take my comment to be saying there's no way to criticize any episode - certainly not! Episodes can have crap stories, continuity problems, etc., and of course such problems are fully deserving of attack...but such problems are, thank fully, usually not lightning rods for heated arguments...
Malcolm - Tue, Jul 9, 2013 - 3:48pm (USA Central)
I think Dr. Marr erred at the end of this episode. The fact that the crystalline entity had stopped its approach to its next target and was attempting to communicate back doesn't mean that it should have been destroyed right then and there, even considering all the lives destroyed before. Its analogous to two parties who agree to sit down to settle a dispute and one party summarily destroys the other.

That's not to say that the crystalline entity would have been willing to stop, or that it would have been possible to provide for the energy it needed in some less destructive manner. It still could have been necessary to destroy the entity, but to do so during a moment in which there's the potential to find out more about it and a potential to stop any further destruction is as conniving an act as I'd expect from a Romulan.

That final blow to Dr. Marr that Data delivers is great. She made studying the being her life's work (perhaps the work being a replacement for the son she left to his fate) and in the end her revenge will give her no satisfaction.

In fact, I'd give this episode three and a half stars myself. This is one of those episodes in which we're reminded that humanity, despite all of its great achievements, still can be its own worst enemy sometimes, especially when dealing with such an unclean motive as revenge. It's also an episode that has stood out over the years since the first time I saw it, and because of that impact that it made upon my memory I think it deserves that extra star.
Corey - Wed, Jul 10, 2013 - 5:25pm (USA Central)
There's a lot of interesting comments here. I think part of what the problem is, is that Picard was never clear what exactly he hoped to gain by dialog. E.g., just what kind of compromise could be made with a creature that eats ALL life of a planet? I cannot see replicators being sufficient. About the most peaceful thing Picard could do, is just tell the Entity to leave Federation Space, but that just passes this major problem to other civilizations.

Also, even if somehow Picard and the Entity got to an agreement, what if it broke its word? Eating all the life of Betazed would be a SEVERE consequence! The survivors/relatives of such an incident would NOT have been satisfied with an agreement, they would say it should have been destroyed back when Dr. Marr was on board, it's too great of a danger to the Federation and its people.

And that I think, is the crux of the issue. The CE needs to be destroyed, regardless if it's intelligent, because it's just too a great a danger to Federation Worlds (TWO have already been destroyed at this point, plus the crew of a ship). Capturing it and trying to feed it won't work (the CE consumptions needs are too great), telling not to eat is a non-starter, so thus ending its threat is the only viable option - NOT what Picard said "It MAY be necessary." No, it's not MAY, it is IS.

This I think is what getting people emotional and disagreeing with Picard, because it's not MAY be necessary to destroy, it IS.
mephyve - Sun, Jul 14, 2013 - 9:13pm (USA Central)
Just finished watching 'Matter of Time' in which Picard totally disregards the Prime Directive, and admits to having done it before. In that instance hie reason for 'going against the world view' ,as someone put it, was that he wanted to save a planet of 20 million lives. That's why it is possible to argue against his reasoning in this episode without arguing against the 'world view'. There are precedents and post instances where Picard disregards the 'world view' for a greater good.
I would venture to say that his argument in this instance is out of character because he puts his curiosity ahead of the risks involved.
William B - Wed, Jul 17, 2013 - 10:25am (USA Central)
I think the thing that hurts this episode, thinking about it, is that the stakes are a bit unclear. In that Picard vs. Riker discussion in the ready room, Riker suggests that they may miss their only shot to take out the CE if they stop to talk to them. Is that the case? We know what the risks are if the CE continues to kill civilizations, but I don't think we, or the characters for that matter, have a very strong idea of how probable it is that the Enterprise can indeed destroy it; and, further, how likely it is that the CE can outrun the ship if it chooses to do so. What exactly is it that Riker is concerned about here? Is he worried that the CE will run away if the Enterprise communicates with it, and the Enterprise won't be able to catch up with it? If so, why does he think the Enterprise will be able to catch up with it in the first place? Watching the episode, I largely feel as if nothing is lost by trying to communicate with the CE -- I don't see how that attempt at communication makes it harder to destroy it, given the stated premise that the Enterprise' shields will protect it, and given that I believe the Enterprise can outrun it, though maybe I'm wrong about that. Still, Riker has conviction that not opening fire will be missing a shot, and I am not sure if that is supposed to be a sensible position or not -- and the episode, I feel, just doesn't give enough information to evaluate that claim. I think that uncertainty about the stakes is part of why I think the episode plays well for me while watching but feels unsatisfying once it's over. All that said, I do think that Picard is more right than wrong here -- he agrees that they should destroy the CE if necessary, and merely wants to find other ways to communicate it, and refuses to dismiss the entity as evil when it is feeding to sustain itself. I agree with all those.

Picard's comparing the CE to a whale also positions the episode as a bit of a Moby Dick fable. More interesting than Marr's revenge is the way in which her relationship to Data shifts in a way that always maintains Data as the titular avatar: first she looks at Data and sees only Lore, then she looks at Data and sees only her son. Tim Lynch, when he reviewed the episode back in the day, pointed out that Data's emotionlessness plays out *very* well in this story -- that only Data could react as little as he does to her outright rudeness early in the story, and only Data could lay on the line how her son would have disapproved of her actions with such brutal honesty at the episode's end; anyone else would have been too angry or too sympathetic. That Marr eventually is so crazy that she starts talking to Data literally as if he were her son is rather much for me. But the episode is maybe interesting in suggesting the way Data functions as a blank slate for others to project their beliefs onto. Data's lack of emotions and his willingness to listen attentively and selflessly to others make him the perfect repository for others' hopes, dreams, fears and flaws. Still, be careful what you wish for: Data turns out to be better at being an avatar for Marr's son than she really wanted.

This episode is pretty far out of continuity with the details of Datalore, but I think it mostly is in tune with its spirit. It doesn't quite come together but has many interesting elements; I'd say a high 2.5 stars.
Jack - Wed, Jul 17, 2013 - 1:21pm (USA Central)
So suddenly the CE is "back in town"...where has it been since it last showed itself? We have a vessel devoured be the CE in this episode...was this the first incident of its kind since the ENt-D last encountered one of these, or have ships been devoured all during the interim? If its the latter, why only here, after the colony where Riker was, is destroyed. If its the former, where was the CE in the interim...does it only feed every 5 years.

So many unanswered questions here, making both the concept and the episode a hot mess. The CE is about the last entity that needed a return engagement on the screen.
DanielH - Sun, Aug 4, 2013 - 9:06pm (USA Central)
I've read all of the above responses after having watched the episode again just an hour ago.

My thoughts are: the CE needed to be destroyed.

Why? Because it wasn't simply "acting on instinct" it was going on premeditated action.

Many of you are correct in pointing out that the CE had already been communicated with previously by Lore with great ease I might add. This episode was written poorly in that it completely ignores that fact. It could also be that the ignorance by the writers was intentional, since ackowledging Lores communcation with it and its later corresponding actions would have made any moral dilemmas for picard practically disappear, and ergo there would be no episode. Either it was poor writing, or lazy writing but regardless I hated the way it ended. Marr should have at least been presented in a sympathetic light and not simply as a trigger happy space vigilante.

My point here is: dr marr was wrong NOT for what she did but for WHY she did it. In dealing with a space faring population killer one does not simply hail the nearest space police for justice. Its the 24th century equivalent of "frontier justice:" you go after a criminal and dispense justice swiftly and without hesitation or doubt. Its not always right, its not always pretty, but it is always necessary when there is NO form or justice available in the form of a law enforcement organization. Picard and his crew should have been the lawmen in that particular situation, and having assessed the situation he (not they) should have dispensed the appropriate justice by destroying it. Kirk would have done no less.

When I say him I mean just that. In that type of situation a leader has to take the full reasponsibility for his actions whether right or wrong. Destroying the entity should have ultimately been picards decision alone so as to prevent anyone else from suffering any possible repercussions from starfleet.

Those of you who also think she was wrong and picard was right need to go watch the episode in which he and riker pretty much went rambo on those parasites that had infected starfleet. Id like to ask you...didn't they have a right to live? Didn't the officer infected by the mother have the right to live? Instead they were both hit with a max setting by riker and picards phaser (one particularly grisly shot shows the officers head exploding) so tell me, why didn't picard take the diplomatic approach then? After all, the creature wasn't really a threat to him or riker at that point, it was just menacing. Why didn't they choose to stun it instead?

Ill tell you why: because unlike with the crystalline entity picard in the instance above found HIMSELF in a situation where HiS life was threatened. No matter high or altruistic people like to pretend they are, in 99 percent of these examples a person will not simply stop and question about the ethics of killing another life if they perceive their life to be in jeopardy. Let's assume that the events regarding the communication between lore and the CE never existed...picard would STILL BE WRONG for wanting to communicate with a creature that had already cut a swath of destruction wherever it went.

So what if its acting on instinct?! Does that justify the deaths? If so then stop taking antibiotics and medicine to treat viral infections because you're killing life that is essentially acting on instinct as well.

Sometimes in order to preserve lives you must by necessity take a life. Never in revenge, but always with justice in mind. The bombing of nagasaki and hiroshima while clearly being murder nevertheless convinced the japanese to stop with their kamikaze actions, which inexorably saved millions more people. As a former solider and a current Christian I can tell you all that the two do not reconcile easily in some occasions. Sometimes the right thing to do is not the moral one, but simply the necessary one. Convenient historians can judge historical figures from the comfort of their chairs but for those on the field life is far less accommodating.

The reality is there is no right way to go about doing thing but with specific regard to the CE picard trivialized the deaths of the colonists by attempting a diplomatic solution through communication. The time that it took to communicate with it could have resulted in their destruction or its success (as seen in the episode) could have been successful but ultimately, fatal.

Let's now say that the events of the previous CE story were not ignored, that only Lores communication with it was overlooked. Let's say we still didn't know if it was sentient or not and communication was still plausible.
What if the CE simply was trying to communicate back simply because it felt Lore was on board? Maybe that's why it spared the colonists that had taken refuge wiith data...it mistook data with lore. Now what if it agrees to picards olive branch, that it would no longer attack planets? Picard in his infite smugness would have dropped the shields and the CE would have destroyed them all.

to use another example: when kirk and his crew encountered a space germ they weren't sure if it was sentient or not but kirk wasn't about to waste time with communication like spock wanted. He was determined to destroy it. Now contrast that with that voyager episode where voyager ends up inside another similar giant organism that feasts on space matter. See the difference? Kirk is acting with frontier justice and janeway (and the doctor) are acting as diplomats, as though this giant destructive organism somehow needs to survive in order for there to be harmony in the universe. That's utter politically correct Bs.

For example: The dinosaurs were wiped out and yet the earth went on its business. In fact i'm glad they were wiped out because I doubt very much we could have coexisted with them. Given a choice I would have preferred them to be annihilated and not us.

I generally like star trek except when it gets sanctimonious, such as it did with this episode. We are supposed to view kila marr as bad because of her motivations but we are supposed to view picard as noble because of his actions...nevermind the fact that his actions wouldn't have led to justice, but a detente. Those of you who disagree, tell me...if the US had pursued detente with Nazi germany instead of war, would that have been justice to all those they murdered?

The difference between killing and murder is that killing is not always done with an evil or selfish purpose in mind but murder almoat always is.

Picard should not have wasted time trying to communicate with a creature that, sentient or not, was responsible for the deaths of countless lives. You don't stop and ask a shark why its killing people, you get the hell of its way to survive or you kill it so that others may survive. Ralph nailed it, its a shame some of you touchy feely convenient humanists don't.
Patrick D - Sun, Aug 4, 2013 - 9:53pm (USA Central)
@Jammer

I've been noticing a different person with the handle "Patrick" is commenting on your site.

For what it's worth: I'm not the Patrick who's been needling you with the whole TNG vs DS9 in all your reviews. I'm the Patrick from way back in the old TrekBBS days.

"Patrick" from April 18th is me; "Patrick" from July 5th is someone else.

From now on, I'll distinguish myself with Patrick D. I just don't want to be thought of as dickish.
Jammer - Sun, Aug 4, 2013 - 11:51pm (USA Central)
@Patrick D: I figured that he was a different Patrick. The tone of the comments was clearly different.
William B - Mon, Aug 5, 2013 - 1:01am (USA Central)
I hate to reopen this subject, but I can't help but say: while I don't think that the episode was very effective at elucidating the issues, I really don't think it's clear that Picard was wrong. We don't know exactly how risky it was to attempt communication with the CE before destroying it. I mean that -- what is the difference between destroying the CE, or trying to communicate with it and then, if a peaceful resolution cannot be reached, destroying it? The episode's great failure, for me, is that I don't think these stakes are ever clarified. I would guess that the weapon which affects the CE would work equally well before and after attempts at communication, so that, ultimately, there *is* no difference, and thus no loss by communicating with it. Riker, otoh, seems to think there might be a missed opportunity -- maybe the CE can "run," or fight back. I really don't know.

So let me lay out my position on this. The CE should be destroyed if it will certainly destroy more (sentient) lives. If the CE can be communicated with and it is possible to find some non-living source of energy/food for it -- or, non-sentient at least (lots and lots of plants?), then that should be done. That the CE has killed untold people already has little bearing in my mind on whether it should be destroyed. The CE, it seems to me, genuinely believes that its only option is to feed on any planet (or starship) with life that it finds, and it just wants to live; however, it may well be possible that the resourcefulness of the Enterprise crew would be able to find a substitute for the CE which would allow the CE to continue living without endangering others. Is it likely? I don't know. Maybe there isn't such a source, in which case it becomes necessary for the Enterprise to destroy it -- but I don't think it's possible to conclude that the CE has no other options, or that no possible solutions could be found by the Enterprise crew if communication were reached. And hey, Picard himself wanted to destroy the CE if need be.

In addition to my moral feelings about the matter, it's also a pragmatic decision. There may be lots of other Crystalline Entities out there of the same species. Understanding how they work and whether it's possible to find a solution that does *not* require either the CE or the sentient (or animal, even) life to die could mean the difference between war and peace with an unknown species.

If attempting communication with the CE has a real cost -- it is more likely that the CE will not be destroyed if they attempt communication -- then it becomes more difficult. Ultimately there is a threshold of danger above which immediate killing is preferable to me and below which an attempt at communication is preferable. I think the level of danger posed by communication has to be pretty low for me to prefer destroying it as the primary option. But I can't tell what the danger level is at all, and am not sure on what basis from the episode to make that call. On the whole, I don't see how attempting to communicate with the CE will make it harder to kill, and so I'm with Picard more than I'm not.
Nissa - Fri, Jan 10, 2014 - 1:13am (USA Central)
Let's put it in context.

Nuclear weapons: can destroy most of a city and leave behind radiation. People react by freaking out, and cold war results.

Crystaline entity: has consumed entire worlds and will consume more worlds. Picard reacts by rationalizing its activity, and a woman is called wrong from destroying it.

What the fudge?
Paul - Fri, Jan 10, 2014 - 9:25am (USA Central)
@Nissa: You're missing a pretty important point.

Setting aside the part of "Datalore" where the crystaline entity seemed like Lore's partner in evil -- which this episode does -- the Enterprise crew believes they've found a way to communicate with the entity. Picard clearly hopes he can reason with the entity and get it to stop killing -- to convince it of what it's actually doing.

(Again, this forgets the details of "Datalore", but stay with me.)

Then, the doctor kills the entity JUST when Picard is hoping to find a peaceful solution. Even if communicating would have ultimately failed, Picard would have wanted to try, rather than just kill the thing.
Gooz - Fri, Feb 21, 2014 - 8:13pm (USA Central)
What I want to know is why, if Picard wanted to stop vibrating the CE to death, didn't he just order them to back off the ship? Surely the doctor hadn't frozen out the helm controls.

For those keeping score, I'm on team Picard on this: try to reason first, fight if necessary.
Jack - Fri, Mar 21, 2014 - 7:15pm (USA Central)
Soong scanning everyone's frontal lobes on Omicron Theta and programming Data with the material seems quite the violation of privacy...
Corey R - Fri, Apr 4, 2014 - 1:29pm (USA Central)
Jack said...
Soong scanning everyone's frontal lobes on Omicron Theta and programming Data with the material seems quite the violation of privacy...
...end quote

I could have sworn there was dialog between Dr. Marr and Data about this - she asked does Data possess the colonists memories - Data said no, but he said he did possess all of their log, diary, and journal entries, or something to that effect.

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