Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Silicon Avatar"


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

111 comments on this review

Fri, Apr 1, 2011, 7:15am (UTC -6)
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.
Fri, Apr 1, 2011, 1:01pm (UTC -6)
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.
Fri, Apr 1, 2011, 4:05pm (UTC -6)
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.
Fri, Apr 1, 2011, 4:19pm (UTC -6)
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.
Sat, Apr 2, 2011, 6:50am (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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.
Mon, Apr 4, 2011, 6:43am (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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.
Tue, Apr 5, 2011, 10:32am (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
Reading posts *before* responding to them is advisable, Angel. The answer is in my 2nd-to-last sentence.
Wed, Apr 6, 2011, 10:26am (UTC -6)
With all due respect your answer is typical of people who shoot first and ask questions later.
Sat, Apr 9, 2011, 10:51am (UTC -6)
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...
Sat, Apr 9, 2011, 11:11am (UTC -6)
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).

Sat, Apr 9, 2011, 12:21pm (UTC -6)
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.
Sat, Apr 9, 2011, 3:18pm (UTC -6)
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.
Sun, Apr 10, 2011, 5:53am (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
"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.
Tue, Apr 12, 2011, 9:04am (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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?
Sun, Apr 17, 2011, 9:43pm (UTC -6)
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.
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 (UTC -6)
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.
Fri, Apr 22, 2011, 11:04am (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
Such as other life-forms. Non-humans. How altruistic.
Sat, Apr 23, 2011, 4:27pm (UTC -6)
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?
Sun, Apr 24, 2011, 9:07am (UTC -6)
"Such as other life-forms. Non-humans. How altruistic."

Picard didn't say other life forms, he said other SOURCES
Tue, Apr 26, 2011, 11:17am (UTC -6)
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.
Fri, May 13, 2011, 6:23pm (UTC -6)
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.
Sun, Sep 25, 2011, 8:22pm (UTC -6)
@ 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.
Sun, Sep 25, 2011, 8:28pm (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
Was a lot harder to kill this thing in Star Trek Online.
Mon, Oct 24, 2011, 9:31am (UTC -6)
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.
Sat, May 26, 2012, 1:22pm (UTC -6)
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.
Thu, May 31, 2012, 4:27pm (UTC -6)
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.
Fri, Sep 7, 2012, 5:03pm (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
@Tom What is an 'ESFJ' person?
Mon, Nov 5, 2012, 11:01pm (UTC -6)
@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.
Thu, Apr 18, 2013, 12:32am (UTC -6)
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.
Thu, Apr 18, 2013, 8:45am (UTC -6)
@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.
Thu, Apr 18, 2013, 11:37am (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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?
Fri, Jul 5, 2013, 3:26am (UTC -6)
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.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013, 6:33pm (UTC -6)

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.


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.
Sat, Jul 6, 2013, 2:23am (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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.
Sat, Jul 6, 2013, 7:31pm (UTC -6)
@ 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.
Sun, Jul 7, 2013, 8:33pm (UTC -6)
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 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...
Tue, Jul 9, 2013, 3:48pm (UTC -6)
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.
Wed, Jul 10, 2013, 5:25pm (UTC -6)
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.
Sun, Jul 14, 2013, 9:13pm (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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.
Wed, Jul 17, 2013, 1:21pm (UTC -6)
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.
Sun, Aug 4, 2013, 9:06pm (UTC -6)
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 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 (UTC -6)

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.
Sun, Aug 4, 2013, 11:51pm (UTC -6)
@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 (UTC -6)
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.
Fri, Jan 10, 2014, 1:13am (UTC -6)
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?
Fri, Jan 10, 2014, 9:25am (UTC -6)
@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.
Fri, Feb 21, 2014, 8:13pm (UTC -6)
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.
Fri, Mar 21, 2014, 7:15pm (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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.
Picard from USS Phoenix
Tue, Apr 29, 2014, 3:55pm (UTC -6)
"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."

This is the same argumentation that dr. Marr used in this episode. I understand why she want CE to be destroyed - typical captain Ahab's thinking - but I don't get why some viewers agree with her? After all Picard is ready to kill the creature, if this will be necessary but he want to try to communicate first and try to find find alternative solution. Whats wrong with that? Is this is not what Trek is all about - seeking new life forms and finding common language with them?
Fri, May 2, 2014, 7:19am (UTC -6)
I havent seen either of the ce eps since they first came out, so my memory of the details are few. Many blanks I am filling in from reading these posts so forgive if my 2 pennies are tarnished:

Iirc picards orders were to first try to establish communication if poss? If so that seems to remove half the arguments ive seen in these posts. He wasnt being sanctimonious or anything else, he was doing as ordered.

dr marr was wrong. Picture a civilian advisor aboard a US navy ship while tracking a known enemy... This advisor is in the fire control center, forces their way to an armed torpedo console and pushes the fire button after the captain had ordered standby. Hit and sunk. You would be in jail for a very long time and uncle sam would not give many points because your son died in said war. She used starfleet for her own end.

Back to the lore ep; did the ce conspire with lore, or did lore simply show it where the food was for his own means? I dont remember but The answer matters a lot. It gauges the malice of this entity.

Before the shoot first advocates jump me, hear me out. Im not a pacifist at all and I might add that I saw no post here (I read them all) where anyone advocated humanoids be slaughtered for this one creatures right to exist. Ive only seen a kill first vs communicate first.

Much ink has been poured and pored over what to feed this thing instead of humanoids and thats a very fair question which ill get to in a minute.

Anyone who likes trek enough to post here has to have at least a gram of respect for the term "to seek out new life"... as picard once said; "well... there it is!" Yeah this thing wiped out a couple planets and a ship, but I defer back to an earlier paragraph about the intent of this thing. It may have just been doing what it does not knowing the harm it causes. Yes I agree completely that its killing has to stop at all costs but the whole point of the matter is if we have a chance (no matter how small) to communicate to this thing and let it know we are not ants or nanites should we not try?

Fri, May 2, 2014, 8:11am (UTC -6)
Another point on this; I cant help thinking about TOS 3 eps. M113, the gorn, the horta. Just like the ce they all killed us terrans and all 3 had different outcomes. But for me, the only two I felt remorse was M113 and ce. Maybe because they both died, maybe because they might have been the last of their kind and we extinguished them probably for good reason from our POV. But a part of me felt a sad when their end came. I just imagine earth decimated and I am the last one left and I am alone. Travelers come along and finish me (us all) off for their own good reasons. If I was in their tentacles I would at least wish the travelers/explorers/invaders show me the decency to try to talk to me and let me tell them who I am and what we were before they need to put me down. If that sounds cheesy to anyone, in all 4 episodes starfleet were the outsiders coming into their area or planet. On all 4 occasions we shot first (except the ce) but it still may have been her area. Not sure. But I think im sure it wasnt ours.
I truly do believe that this was GRs vision when he made this show, we were the frontiersmen bringing and maybe forcing our morality into places and people. What is right or wrong? Maybe tune in each week and decide for yourself.
Fri, May 2, 2014, 8:28am (UTC -6)
This is why twilight zone 1960s and TOS are my all times favorites... They both challenged my prejudice and bigotries and helped me open my mind. Much more than anyone ever did trying to yell, intimidate, or force their dogma down my throat. (Hint to the loud ones) The softest touch can be felt the most.
Fri, May 2, 2014, 9:14am (UTC -6)
Oh yeah I promised I would get back to feeding the ce IF We adopted this pet... Assuming it needed only humanoids to feed upon and not planets and vegetation; OK lets do it like mr spock...

This entity needs us to feed off of. What are we? The answer is,..ugly bags of mostly water!

We all know that the ce can get water anywhere just like the huge cigar from STIV-TVH. So thats out.

So what does this thing need? Either a handful of carbon left over from one of those styrofoam blocks some a-hole crushed of one of my buddies in TOs s2, or some very small enzyme in us. The point is if we could talk to the ce maybe a burnt tree is worth a thousand humanoids in the bush or some enzyme could be replicated.

If all else failed but we gained communication I say this; We point the ce towards the romulan neutral zone, (kudos to the early poster on this lol) and tell it to come back when hungry. We will by then have found another source. This could be such a win/win situation for starfleet.

Before any pacifists attack me think about this; the romulans have made their intent clear on the our future... total dominance or destruction. whereas the ce may be blindly innocent. Im a glass half full kinda guy. Is there a flaw in my logic?
Fri, May 2, 2014, 10:20am (UTC -6)
Ok I am all over the board on this, all I did was try to throw out all the variables on how to deal with this ce. One thing I remember from 20 years ago for sure is I always hated lore and his giant snowflake. A couple years later back then I remember seeing previews for this ep. And I almost didnt want to watch it but I did anyway because was hooked at the time. Then and now I am so glad I did because this was a good one I would give it 3 stars plus not just for entertainment, but for even star trek, it evokes something more out of us than most episodes... what would we have done in picards shoes?

I think the amount of posts and responses on this episode should serve as a testament of maybe not how good it is... but how much it makes us think about who and what we are.

Fri, May 2, 2014, 11:11am (UTC -6)
Last post (sorry there is many) but I will say what I would have done in picards place. I would have destroyed the ce as soon as riker told me this might be our only chance to stop it.

Like william b said there are too many unknowns and this might be our only chance....As much as I have said before about respect for life outside our sphere, and the fact we are the travelers, there is just too many things we do not know about this entity, mainly its capability to out run my ship and continue to what it has already done.

For that I would defer to my #1 and end it. Not of malice or revenge. But only because thats the only way we can be sure to protect and preserve ourselves. Would any species that we know of do different?
Sat, May 3, 2014, 5:22pm (UTC -6)
The appropriate Picard quote for this episode would be from Where Silence has Lease: "I can not allow you to do this!"

Usually Picard has a firm stance that the safety of the ship and the crew are paramount, but this episode seems like he disregards that. Just look at Galaxy's Child - he does use the phasers when the alien threatens the ship at first contact.

The alien in this one was feeding on people, so Picard should have taken the same defensive stance he did in those episodes.

Either way this is a pretty depressing episode. Sad ending for the CE and for humans too.
Tue, May 20, 2014, 10:17pm (UTC -6)
Not sure why there's much controversy here. Picard's right. Of course he's right; it's easy to be right when the universe's author is rooting for you. Picard's position is eminently reasonable; he's going to try to communicate but has the weapons ready just in case. And then everything worked swimmingly. He didn't meet up with the entity when it was in the middle of eating a planet, and thus didn't have to kill it and then wonder what might have been. He didn't have to have some response to a communication, but nothing translatable, and thus have to decide how long to keep trying. He didn't get a response from the Entity in which it responded politely and kindly, but mentioned that it really likes eating tasty humanoids. But it'll be nice and restrict itself to only pre-warp civilizations, which according to the Prime Directive means that's just peachy. Then maybe Picard would have a tough decision. Then maybe he could be questioned.

As an aside though, even though Picard's decision here was eminently reasonable, his attitude wasn't. Questioning Riker's motives was uncalled for. If I was Riker, I think my respect for the captain would have gone down quite a bit, and I would definitely have to restrain myself to tell Picard off there. I didn't catch the look Stewart had that Jammer mentioned; but maybe it was there. In that case, perhaps Picard did realize he was not correct in his accusation there. But anyway, he also seemed way too excited to talk to the entity. Yes, it's part of their mission, but what's the options here? Either the Entity is not intelligent (in which case it most likely must be destroyed or caged to protect lives) or it is intelligent at which point a rather unpleasant conversation must follow to explain its transgressions (after all, it worked with Lore before; maybe it is just evil?). Picard's overeagerness here, unfortunately, reminds me too much of the first season.

But anyway, back to the plot. Even though the controversy over who was right was a bit overblown, the plot was still pretty solid. I disagree with Jammer and think that we had some good characterization with Dr. Marr. She doesn't seem like an evil person, and we see her original icy demeanor chill through the season. And yet, her final betrayal doesn't come out of nowhere. She advocated for its destruction earlier, and her reasoning (revenge for a son's death) is at least understandable. What makes it interesting, I think, is her relationship with Data. Despite her moral failing at the end, she isn't portrayed as one-dimensional. Her initial prejudice against Data disappears, and she becomes attached to him. And yet, it's just another side of her obsession with her son. Her character seems consistent throughout the episode.

But more importantly, I think, is that it's another good Data episode. Data is unfailingly polite, nice, and giving to others. It's not surprising that people, even someone like Marr, would become comfortable with him. That made the last scene even more poignant. Data offers to take her to her quarters rather than Worf, an act of decency. Then she begs him for absolution from her dead son. What would you do in that situation? Try to make the emotionally unstable lady feel better by telling her what she wants? Rudely shoot her down? Data continues his polite, pleasant routine... telling her bluntly the thing that would hurt her the most. It's just another example of how he isn't quite human. Western culture tends to value polite lies in that case, but not Data. He seems unfailingly nice, but he isn't. Honesty isn't nice.

So on the whole, a pretty good episode. A worthy return for the Crystalline Entity.
Sat, Jun 14, 2014, 9:10am (UTC -6)
The amount of debate over this show demonstrates what a good premise the writers had, even if it is difficult to reconcile some elements with previous episodes (e.g., why couldn't Data communicate with the crystalline entity as Lore did)? There are two aspects upon which I wish to comment:

(1) I agree with Jammer and others that the Dr. Marr storyline is a little heavy-handed, and that it was contrived for Dr. Marr to flip from rational to crazy as she enacted her decision to kill the entity. Couldn't her act be viewed and depicted as rational? What upset me more, however, was Data's statement that based on his review of Renny's logs, he thinks Renny would have been saddened by Dr. Marr's action. Oh? Are we to believe that Data, who has struggled so much in understanding human emotions, would be able to review someone's records, *extrapolate* from the records to determine their feelings in a new situation, and state with confidence what their feelings would be? This is not the Data I know. This was the writer issuing a verdict and twisting a knife into Dr. Marr... for what purpose? We didn't need that scene to have our debate over whether the crystalline entity should have been given a chance to live.

(2) Great literature, theater, and TV can always be interpreted in different ways, depending on the point in life at which we are processing the material. Was anyone else struck by the "bad mommy" narrative? I'm reading Sheryl Sandberg's "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead." Dr. Marr is understandably torn up for not being present when her son faced the crystalline entity and died. She regrets missing out on different experiences her son was having. Does it follow that a "good" parent would never have take the opportunity to do science across the galaxy? (In fact, we don't know *when* Dr. Marr left her son with trusted friends. It could have happened when we was an older teen - his logs show he was romantically involved.) I appreciated that the writer made Renny proud of his mother's work.
Tue, Jun 24, 2014, 2:02pm (UTC -6)
Picard knows that a line must be drawn. He's unwilling to cross it until he knows that "negotiation" is impossible. He also knows that Lore was able to communicate with the Crystalline Entity. So, it is at least conceivable that he could come to an agreement with the Crystalline Entity: eat planets without humanoid life, for example.

Notice that Picard doesn't negotiate with spatial anomalies and the like. He just destroys them if they're a danger to others (and it's feasible, etc)
Fri, Jul 18, 2014, 4:14pm (UTC -6)
Dr Marr is a crazy, creepy old bat, who's obsessed with her son and comes across as a weirdo. Like those people who hurt their own kids, to take them to hospital, so they can get sympathy. The real issue with Picard's morality, is how can he let wacko grandma loose on his ship.
Fri, Aug 1, 2014, 6:28am (UTC -6)
This is a 3 star episode at least. Sure, the effects are dated now, but the story is good. This is good trek. I don't get the low score :P.
Sat, Oct 4, 2014, 6:09pm (UTC -6)
This episode makes Picard look like a naive fool. Picard wanted to investigate the possibility of supplying the entity's metabolism with benign material as opposed to life forms. The problem with this approach is that when you are investigating it, you are not destroying it. Nobody can predict the future with absolute certainty. If there is an opportunity to the destroy the creature now or to investigate, destroying the creature is appropriate. As Riker put it, "if we take time to try to communicate with this thing, we may lose our chance to destroy it, and I don't think we can risk that." I don't think any reasonable person would disagree with Riker.
Sun, Dec 28, 2014, 9:43am (UTC -6)
Do any of you people have children, or are responsible for other people's lives? I think the Dr. Marr character was well portrayed. I think she would have been happy to communicate with the CE had it not killed her son, and thousands of others. If a bear kills a human, even if it's not the bear's fault, Rangers are compelled by law to shoot the bear, as it has become a hazard, a threat to human life. Doubtless Starfleet would have issued standing orders to destroy the CE, after sustaining so many attacks with no survivors. Picard pointed out the analogy of the CE to a whale feeding on cuttlefish, and that it is not evil. Perhaps he's right. But that doesn't matter, if YOU'RE the cuttlefish, or your children are. Living creatures fight to survive, and will try to remove any threat to their survival, any way they can.j
Thu, Feb 26, 2015, 11:30am (UTC -6)

Two months late but...

The killing-the-bear law, IMO, is a foolish policy. Unless it's rabid, if a bear mauls or kills a human it's a little bit silly to put it down. Any bear in the same position, and any bear in general, is a threat to human life and would act the same way in the same situation. No single bear is more a threat to human life than other bears are. Killing one with the reasoning that it's a particular threat is misguided. If the situation requires immediate actions - fine, kill the bear. But hunting down a particular bear without entertaining a less destructive option is a disgraceful lack of respect for life and simply allowing vengeance and outrage to win out over reason.

The crystalline entity is a little bit different, given how powerful it is, but I think the same logic can apply. I'm stunned to see people leaping all over Picard for his decision, even though he *clearly* stated that killing the entity was an option if a safe state of mutual communication could not be met. Riker, also, was reasonable in suggesting that taking the chance to destroy the entity is the best option. Picard initially accused Riker of being biased, and I think Riker rightly defended himself from the accusation and, as Jammer pointed out, seemed to convince Picard of the arrogance of his comment. The only person who was out of line was Dr. Marr, who was bloodthirsty. The episode (rightfully, I believe) came down against her. Her actions were vengeful and pre-mature because the crew hadn't yet exhausted all the options and seemed on the verge of making significant steps in communicating with the entity. Her actions were also analogous to why we have codified laws and courts and do not allow frontier justice by the wronged parties. Her actions were also believable and, IMO, still sympathetic, but sympathy for outrage should not be the driving factor in seeking justice.

Re-watching TNG makes me really appreciate the characters (in general) as logical and deductive scientists, detectives, and diplomats. Each episode's script is obviously only as good as the guy or gal writing it, but I continue to enjoy the cool headed approaches to a lot of the situations the characters face. Very little hysteria. Reasonable courses of action. I appreciate it more now that I've grown up a bit.

Someone above pointed out that a lot of these posts aren't really talking about the episode so much as they're now just arguing worldviews. That makes sense to me. The episodes raises issues and now we're running with them. But as an hour of drama, I still think the episode is quite solid. I particularly liked the use of Riker and the love interest. At first, it seemed cliche and cringeworthy. Even her death seemed like it might go in a corny, melodramatic direction. It didn't, and it resulted in a good scene between Riker and Picard about personal bias (with Picard being the one in the wrong, interestingly). We as viewers needed the first-hand tragedy of an established character losing someone. If it had been a family member or a close friend, Riker may have been seduced into bias, but since it was only a flirtatious, casual interest the episode let him believably keep his composure without requiring any hand-wringing and without requiring him to make a herculean effort of detachment in order to win an argument with Picard.
Thu, Mar 19, 2015, 10:04am (UTC -6)
The amount of debate over this show demonstrates what a good premise the writers had,


No... it demonstrates that an awful lot of people have faulty thinking. The fact is that this "creature" goes around killing and wiping out. A shark does the same. If the shark is on your beach, you kill it. After trying to communicate with this "creature" and all the while it is destroying... you have no option. That's how the world operates. Anything else is a nonsense.

And most of you know what I am going to say next:

This episode is a symptom of Leftism and idealism. In the real world, a few fanatics might be happy that we are soooo hip and enlightened... but who speaks for the dead and their relatives?

It's stupid. If you think Picard is right, you have a lot to learn. It's not hip to risk and allow mass death.
Thu, Mar 19, 2015, 11:56am (UTC -6)
That's not what irritates me the most about this episode, though... it's how blatant the propaganda is. Look at how the writers wrote this episode:

Expert on the CE is a bitter, twisted, arrogant, closed minded and (often) nasty woman who is out for revenge for the death of her son. She is deliberately portrayed so that any reasonable person will see her in a negative light. The writers don't even attempt to give her some depth... she's the baddie. And why? It's so you are pushed into siding with Picard and Data... (the goodies and mouthpiece for the writers' own opinions).

Instead of people watching this episode and being able to make up their own minds, it tries to lead you by the hand - or rather - brow beat you into agreeing with the writers that Picard's deluded idealism is the correct view. That's the whole purpose of the episode - to force you into agreeing with his position. They couldn't have made it any more blatant without casting Jafar, from Aladdin, as the scientist.

"Oh, CE, yes, it is he, but not as you know it. Read my lips and come to grips with reality. Yes, meet a blast from your past..."

It's really irritating and insulting to have writers who push their own views on the audience by loading the dice in their favour.
Thu, Mar 19, 2015, 3:40pm (UTC -6)
"No... it demonstrates that an awful lot of people have faulty thinking. The fact is that this "creature" goes around killing and wiping out. A shark does the same. If the shark is on your beach, you kill it. After trying to communicate with this "creature" and all the while it is destroying... you have no option. That's how the world operates. Anything else is a nonsense. "

Except that they hadn't tried communcation with CE before. Then the lady blows it up when apparently they were on the verge of being able to do so with the CE. So the shark comparison doesn't really hold up.

That said I'm not a fan of the closing of this episode being so negative toward the lady that did it. I'd rather have the ending focused on Riker's reaction since his girlfriend blew up at the beginning.
Thu, Mar 19, 2015, 6:44pm (UTC -6)
Except that they hadn't tried communcation with CE before.

Except it had been communicated with in previous episode with Lore. And communicating with a rampaging death sentence is not hip. It's a threat and you wipe out a threat of this magnitude - not try to get to know it while it poses an immediate danger.
Thu, Mar 19, 2015, 7:13pm (UTC -6)
I hated the ending to this episode. The whole communication attempt was based on everybody forgetting the events of "Datalore", where it had been established that the CE could be communicated with and that it was hostile towards humanoids. There really was no other option than to kill (why does TNG always use the euphemism "destroy"?) the CE, and it would have been honest of the writers to let Picard give the order to do so. But instead that task was shifted to Marr, who is then presented as mentally deranged by grief. The script could at least have had Picard acknowledge that she probably saved other people from being killed by the CE. Or even better: Worf could have sided with her. But this way, the Enterprise crew gets a desirable outcome without having to take responsibility for it, while looking down on the person who was willing to take that responsibility.
Thu, Mar 19, 2015, 7:17pm (UTC -6)
But it hadn't been asked to stop killing or provided a subsitute energy source in previous episodes.

CE might have had that ability and now they'll never find out. Good luck if they ever run into the same species again.
Fri, Mar 20, 2015, 10:53am (UTC -6)
This thing isn't some misunderstood child... it's been killing people by the thousands. You have 2 options:

1. If it is sentient, it is a mass murderer and needs to be killed
2. If it is not sentient (Lore episode disagrees) then it needs to be culled because it can't be reasoned with.

What exactly are you having an issue here with? You think we should negotiate with a tiger? Or discuss alternate food supplies with a mass murderer? Your approach is completely illogical... like do-gooder Picard.
Sat, Mar 21, 2015, 12:03am (UTC -6)
You forgot option 3.

3. It is sentient, mass murderer that they had an opportunity to stop peacefully and in the process make first contact with an alien species.

Are you also forgetting that Q is judging humanity? He charges humanity with being a dangerous, savage child-race and your approach doesn't exactly win the gold star for contradicting him.

Destroying it isn't the worst outcome but it is a wasteful one when the episode shows that it was not necessary in the moment.
Mon, Mar 23, 2015, 9:09am (UTC -6)
3. It is sentient, mass murderer that they had an opportunity to stop peacefully

Option 3 does not change option 1 in the slightest. Option 3 is not an option. Firstly, while trying to reason with a mass murderer you risk further death, and secondly, a mass murderer needs to be imprisoned or, better yet, executed. We don't go off playing happy families with a mass murderer. A mass murderer doesn't deserve any compassion or any second chances.

Good luck telling the families of those dead that it's all ok now because we had a little chat with it. That's not justice at all. Even if the creature changed its ways, the fact is, it is TOO LATE.

As for Q, he was judging us on our actions and if they were merited. You'll be hard pressed to find a majority of people who believe executing a mass murderer is unreasonable. Or that using deadly force in self defence is not justified. You are debating this creature like it stole a few lemons.
Mon, Mar 23, 2015, 12:04pm (UTC -6)
Q was judging to see if we could expand our minds. He doesn't care about 18 crew members lost at first contact with the borg, he probably doesn't care that the CE killing before making first contact. "If you can't take a little bloody nose, maybe you ought to go back home and crawl under your bed."
Thu, Mar 26, 2015, 10:18am (UTC -6)
You are desperately trying to explain away an absurd storyline. Q is not mentioned in the episode and the writers weren't thinking of Q when they made that story. You are.
Tue, Apr 28, 2015, 12:54pm (UTC -6)
Yeah you can't really say what the writers were thinking unless you're in their head. We do know that making contact with potentially hostile species has been an objective of the show since the very first episode.
Tue, Apr 28, 2015, 7:36pm (UTC -6)
Evidence suggests that they weren't and you need evidence to make an assertion that they were.
Wed, Apr 29, 2015, 6:56am (UTC -6)
"As for Q, he was judging us on our actions and if they were merited. You'll be hard pressed to find a majority of people who believe executing a mass murderer is unreasonable. Or that using deadly force in self defense is not justified. You are debating this creature like it stole a few lemons."

From the perspective of this episode, we (the meat eating public that takes drugs that were tested on animals) are all mass murders. The CE was just higher up on the food chain than us. So in that perspective it's a mass murderer if you and I are for eating a hamburger.

That said... your self defense argument has merit (especially since it has previously tried to eat the Enterprise). I mean, if suddenly the cows rise up against the hamburger eaters of the world and start killing us... could anyone blame them?

Q wasn't part of the episode, but if you look at the way the trial bookends the series... humanity expanding their horizons is arguably the focal point of the series. So it's worth considering how he'd feel about it.

The episode is a cop out in a lot of ways because somebody on a star ship who is part of a mission disobeys orders for revenge and mental instability. She's lost her marbles at the end. So we never sadly even get to judge if what she did is morally right.

For what it's worth I think you both have good points though. If we finished talking to the CE I sort of imagine it explaining that it's not going to stop eating people because they are delicious. The other possibility is that it doesn't know people are sentient and decides to let us feed it manufactured energy. Although even if it agreed to stop... could you trust it?

Sadly the episode answers none of these questions because she goes off her meds and blows it up against orders, sparing us any real analysis of the situation.
Mon, Jun 29, 2015, 1:52pm (UTC -6)
I agree with 2-1/2. Dr. Marr always strikes me as loony, annoyingly so, but the episode still remains provocative. This is sort of a conterpoint to season 3's "Evolution", where humanity is unwittingly destroying intelligent beings. Communication in that case allowed for a truce to be reached. Communication would have also added to the knowledge base of the CE, and might be useful to defend against any of its race. (Like bugs and rats, doubt it was the only one.)

I think an interesting twist would be to have the CE's mode of reproduction to be destroyed with harmonic disruption. Possibly it's life cycle is to get large enough that it destroys humanoid planets at which point the humanoids "destroy" it thereby breaking it into uncountable spores ready to repeat the life cycle. Probably wouldn't work as a sequel, but worth thinking about.
Thu, Jul 2, 2015, 12:30am (UTC -6)
This episode has some merit. The relationship between Marr and Data is one of them. However, I could never really like this episode because of how hypocritical it makes the characters look. When encountering the Borg, it wasn't long before the crew understood that they had to be stopped by force. However in this episode, Picard suddenly decides to avoid the use of deadly force at all costs, even after witnessing first hand the planet-killing potential of the entity. On the other hand, Picard never saw the Borg assimilate an entire planet, but nonetheless saw the Borg as an enemy (this was still before he was assimilated himself). To me, Picard's treatment of the entity made no sense whatsoever. His attempt to justify this using a sperm whale analogy doesn't make sense either. While the sperm whale offers some kind of benefit to nature by keeping certain populations of organisms in check-it is part of the 'cycle of nature', if you will. However, the Crystalline entity does not do this. It literally devours organic nature by the planet-load, putting an end to whatever natural cycles existed in the first place! Not one of Picard's better moral philosophies I'm afraid.
Mon, Jul 27, 2015, 10:08am (UTC -6)
"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."


Seriously, how am I the first one to think of that joke?

Okay, I'm torn on this one. "Silicon Avatar" has a lot of good going for it and a lot of bad going against it.

First, the good. The Data-Marr relationship is wonderful. First, Dr. Marr can only see Data as Lore. But, once she emotionally invests in Data and is then hit over the head with her dead son's journals and voice, she can only see Data as Renny. Great stuff. And I have to disagree with the people in these comments who say that Marr is clearly supposed to be seen as the villain and nothing else. I think she's a very sympathetic character, at least once we get to know her. Sure, she starts out as very unlikeable, but that quickly changes. The scene where she almost bursts into tears while Data recites in her son's voice proves that. Seriously, what else are we supposed to be feeling in that scene other than sympathy for her? Also of note is the scene between Riker and Picard when they discuss destroying the Entity. What I like so much about it is that the two characters are clearly holding opposing viewpoints and yet the issue is not resolved. The scene ends with Riker obviously upset that Picard might, in fact, not destroy the Entity. And, of course, I have to give credit to the writers for once more trying to use a Season One idea effectively.

Now the bad. All right, just go ahead and count me in the group that thinks Picard was dead wrong on this one. Why the hell does this episode expect us to spend so much time wondering if communication with the Crystalline Entity is possible? We know it's possible. The characters themselves know it's possible. Lore communicated with it - TWICE! He lured it to Omicron Theta with the promise of life to absorb. He then lured it to the Enterprise with the same promise. Obviously communication is possible! Also, why does the episode expect us to question whether the Entity is a sapient life-form or not? It obviously is! It obviously is capable of communication and therefore obviously knows that humanoid life-forms are also sapient. It just doesn't give a shit! It's still content to feed off them!

Picard's analogy to a whale feeding off cuttlefish is particularly bad. If the Entity was indeed a non-sapient life-form like a whale, then the only solution would be to kill it. After all, it's not feeding on non-sapient life like cuttlefish; it's feeding off people. If a whale was killing people, especially on this scale, would anybody seriously hesitate to kill it? If the Entity is indeed sapient, which we've already established that it is, then again the only solution is to kill it because it knows that it's murdering sapient life-forms but doesn't care. Killing it wouldn't be murder; it would be nothing more than self-defense - not to mention the defense of the two inhabited worlds it was heading toward when the Enterprise located it.

Was Dr. Marr wrong in what she did? Absolutely not. I really could have done without the whole "I did it for you, Renny" craziness, but she was absolutely right to kill the Entity. This isn't a case of live-and-let-live. She just saved the lives of countless people on those two planets. But you say, "Come on now Luke, Picard and company would have communicated with it and convinced it not to kill anymore." Okay, I say. How? What exactly would they have said to the Crystalline Entity to convince it to stop? It already isn't bothered by murdering people for it's own needs. So, again, how would have Picard stopped it? SFDebris said it best once about the Crystalline Entity - this thing is a Lovecraftian nightmare. It has just as much right to exist as anything else? Not at the cost of the billions of people it's killing! Sometimes, sadly, killing is required for self-defense. To quote Picard himself from "Peak Performance" - "That is not a weakness. That is life."

Also, one minor little nitpick - why weren't we ever given an answer as to why the Entity spared the group in the cave? Simply saying, "maybe it mistook Data for Lore" would have sufficed.

So, the good stuff somewhat buoys it up, but it could have been SO much better if they had 1.) remembered the events of "Datalore" and 2.) not given us this claptrap of co-existence with a murderous Lovecraftian monster.

Sat, Aug 15, 2015, 3:01pm (UTC -6)
Data: "Your son's most intense memories revolve around a young woman named Jenina."
Dr. Marr: "A girlfriend? I never knew about that. Of course, the last person he would tell would be his mother. What was she like?"
Data: "He enjoyed her kindness, her gentleness, her physical attributes..."

I have to admit, I was a little worried that Data - being Data - was going to keep talking and give the kid's mom waaaaay too much information...
Thu, Aug 20, 2015, 8:43pm (UTC -6)
It makes me proud to be a ST fan to see that even after all these years, these shows still spark passionate and relevant debate.
Diamond Dave
Mon, Sep 21, 2015, 12:42pm (UTC -6)
Ballsy move bringing back the crystalline entity, which was one of the wackier season 1 concepts. Good revelation when they emerge from the cave though.

Tonally this is a problematic one. The character of Dr Marr is all over the map, which suggests she was unhinged from the beginning and the Enterprise was thus aiding and abetting a nutjob from the start. That Riker seems to buy into this because of his abruptly terminated romantic interlude - despite his rebuttal of that accusation - adds to the difficulty.

Whether the entity should or should not be destroyed seems largely moot to me - it was attempting to communicate and was not threatening the Enterprise so there seemed no reason not to see what could be established. Given that people seemed to love the communication idea in Darmok it seems odd to dismiss it here. We come in peace, shoot to kill indeed. 2 stars.
Mon, Sep 21, 2015, 4:52pm (UTC -6)
The Tamarians hadn't wiped out whole worlds, though. Or anyone. So, kind of completely different.
Tue, Dec 22, 2015, 2:31pm (UTC -6)
Directed at the people asking how else you could "feed" the CE, remember that Picard said, "If we can determine what its needs are, we might find other sources to supply it."

It's not a reach to imagine being able to "feed" the CE with the technology of the Federation, assuming they could figure out its needs, which was what Picard hoped to achieve. After all, we're talking about a universe where matter/anti-matter reactions are harnessed as effortlessly as we burn gasoline; coming up with enough energy to "feed" something that survives by consuming organic material -- even by the planetload -- is certainly plausible.

With that said, you can't morally justify killing it without at least exploring the options. Certainly not in the moment as portrayed, when it posed no immediate threat to anyone; the "opportunity" and jeopardy" portions of "ability, opportunity, and jeopardy" were absent.

The only possible justification would have been what Riker hinted at, i.e., we might lose our only chance if we try to communicate. Can the CE outrun the Enterprise and consume another planet before our heroes caught up to it? Riker seemed concerned, so perhaps it was possible, but in that moment where they had the CE engaged light years away from any would-be victims?

No, I don't think the Doctor's actions are morally justifiable here. I'm not the peacenik type -- I hate "I, Borg" because I feel they should have exterminated the Borg when they had the chance -- but in this instance I think we were morally obligated to attempt communication before resorting to deadly force.
Tue, Dec 22, 2015, 2:59pm (UTC -6)
Continued from my last post, I feel that Jammer underrated this episode. This is a solid Data episode, almost on par with "The Most Toys," and condemning the ending as "too tidy" rather misses the point, for Data's blunt honesty was completely in character. He's incapable of comprehending emotions and fails to see just how injured the Doctor really is, as evidenced by the evolution of their relationship. That relationship was grossly inappropriate and downright creepy at times, but easy to envision when viewed in the context of an emotionless android paired with a grieving Mother.

Ellen Geer nailed the character of grieving Mother; her evolution when viewed in that context is spot on. One might ask where Troi was when all of this was going on, or how a civilian can lock Command Officers out of the Enterprise's computer, but these are minor nitpicks.

This is not a "Top 10" episode for me ("The Most Toys" was) but it's not a 2.5 star one either. 3.0 seems about right.
Thu, Jan 7, 2016, 10:44pm (UTC -6)
I feel at the end of the day they had to try to communicate with it, if for not other reason then intelligence gathering. If there are more of these 'Entities' out there, what will be the official Federation response? If other CE's behave as this one did and indiscriminately move from planet to ship to planet consuming all life, then are they to be regarded as galactic 'pests' and killed on sight? Crystalline RAID? That doesn't sound much like Star Fleet's mandate to 'seek out new life and new civilizations'. Presumably some attempt at 'understanding' must go along with 'seeking out'. And without more of an attempt at communication, or even observation, they will fail in that noble goal if it's a shoot first policy.

So we have a story based on 2 main threads. The emotional and psychological journey of Dr. Marr seeking closure, redemption and/or revenge WRT her son. Which was done quite well, if a wee bit heavy-handed at times (imo). Accompanied by the, apparently, contentious moral dilemma of 'should they or shouldn't they' shoot on sight.

Arguments over whether germs, viruses, sperm whales or Crystalline Entities have a 'right to life' are not really applicable I think. When confronted with a clear and present threat (such as the Entity about to attack a ship or planet), Picard's mandate and moral authority would be absolutely clear. Riker does raise an interesting argument of course. But I think Picard does maintain Star Fleet's high-minded mandate to pursue all avenues of understanding alien life, when possible.

So I think from a strategic as well as moral perspective, destroying the Entity just as they had made 'first contact' in a way was a mistake. It's entirely possible no meaningful progress would be made in understanding one another, and it would have moved on towards it's next food source. Picard would then have had no other choice but to blow it out of the stars.

Now whether hesitating as they did would have led to the creature 'escaping' and consequently the Enterprise effectively 'enabling' it to annihilate another planet is pure conjecture and subject totally to the whim of screenwriters and producers, not logic or scientific debates of photon strength, warp speeds, etc. No question it was a huge risk to take. But that was the point I suppose - To present an almost un-winnable moral quandary: Star Fleet's 'highest ideals' vs the pragmatic needs of self-preservation and defence of Federation citizens.

That the rest of the Galaxy is a safer place for Dr. Marr's actions is unquestionable, but it doesn't mean that something wasn't lost in the process, as Data surmised.

Jason R.
Fri, Feb 26, 2016, 7:18am (UTC -6)
"Now the bad. All right, just go ahead and count me in the group that thinks Picard was dead wrong on this one. Why the hell does this episode expect us to spend so much time wondering if communication with the Crystalline Entity is possible? We know it's possible. The characters themselves know it's possible. Lore communicated with it - TWICE! He lured it to Omicron Theta with the promise of life to absorb. He then lured it to the Enterprise with the same promise. Obviously communication is possible! Also, why does the episode expect us to question whether the Entity is a sapient life-form or not? It obviously is! It obviously is capable of communication and therefore obviously knows that humanoid life-forms are also sapient. It just doesn't give a shit! It's still content to feed off them!"

I agree that the crystalline entity was sapient, but I find your conclusion (and those of others) that this leads to the inevitable conclusion that somehow the CI was "evil" or inherently villainous to be unjustified. The only evidence we have from DataLore is simply that Lore lured the entity to the colony hoping it would feed. The entity took advantage of the opportunity it was afforded, nothing more, nothing less. That it may have appreciated or realized that the creatures it was consuming were sentient is unknown, but even if true, does not make Dr. Marr's act of revenge any more justified.

Assuming the entity knew that it was feeding on sentient creatures, this hardly means it was irredeemably evil or that somehow it was impossible to negotiate with it. The Klingon Empire was guilty of equal or worse acts of murder and terror over the centuries, and yet the Federation eventually found common ground with them and made peace. The same could be said of the Founders and many other races the Federation eventually made peace with.

Suggesting that the entity should be exterminated without even attempting to communicate with it and to find common ground is the same as suggesting that the Federation should have exterminated the Klingon Empire and wiped out the Klingon race, regardless of the potential for communication. Morally and ethically, there is no difference except that the Klingons were humanoids and the CI was not - which is a kind of chauvinism unworthy of the Star Trek ethos.

As for Picard's decision, as others mentioned, he never ruled out destroying the entity. Riker's only point (which was a fair one) was that they might lose the opportunity to destroy the entity if it escaped and others could be hurt as a result. But given the evidence we have from DataLore, this seemed unlikely. We already knew that the Enterprise's shields were strong enough to protect it against the Entity. They knew enough about the entity by this point to believe that their phasers and photon torpedos would be more than capable of destroying it if need be. The chances of the entity escaping a Galaxy Class starship were probably very remote. One way or another, they were going to deal with the problem.
Sat, Feb 27, 2016, 12:40pm (UTC -6)
Sorry, but I still don't buy it. "The entity took advantage of the opportunity it was afforded, nothing more, nothing less." What that ultimately boils down to is the the wanton murder of all the colonists. Since you agree that the Entity was sapient, I don't see how any other conclusion is possible - it knows humanoid lifeforms are also sapient and still feeds on them.

Lore brought it to the Enterprise in "Datalore" and it was willing to do the same thing. We actually see it consume humanoid life on the planet in "Silicon Avatar" and it was on its way to do the same to two more planets when the Enterprise intercepted it. It's a murderer. And, sadly, sometimes self-defense requires the death of the attacker.

Or, to use your analogy, would you say that if a Klingon had a bat'leth to your throat, that you wouldn't even consider responding in kind to protect yourself because "communication is possible" with him?
Michael Wallis
Fri, May 20, 2016, 9:12pm (UTC -6)
Captain Picard absurdly wants to roll over and expose his bald belly in an attempt to appease the entity. Happily, Dr. Marr emits a continuous graviton pulse to eliminate the threat. Of course, the writers were unable to create an opponent of Federation ideology, who was in complete control of her wits, instead Dr. Marr was explained away as suffering from a mental incapacity that forced her actions. A similar cheap plot device was used in "The Drumhead" to dismiss the Jean Simmons investigator character. It's a great weakness of the Trek franchise that Federation ideology is never challenged by fully cognizant, strong characters, acting in good faith. The final scene where Data becomes an echo chamber for Picard's dogmatic Federation propaganda is one of the low points of the entire series.
Sat, May 21, 2016, 3:31pm (UTC -6)
After seeing this again with such a long distance of time and memory, I think his is an underrated gem of Trek. I would argue that Jammer's original review might have been a bit harsh in retrospects to the story's greater narrative benefits.

When considering the story as a case study in human nature and vengeance, it is narrative similar to Moby Dick, but when applying it to our modern issues with similar issues between the problem with Islamic Terrorism and reprisal effects of Islamophobia, it's a good reflection on the reality of vengeance.

Like the Crystalline entity, Islamic fundamentalism is not understandable to us, its effects are visible though so we assume its nature is vicious, murderous, and evil at its heart. Personally, I can't dispute that and I doubt many Americans or Europeans who have seen the effects of terrorism in their own home cities not take that into account.

Yet, the beauty of Star Trek idealism is that perhaps, I mean this not as a believer in the message but an understanding viewer, we can find a common language and try to figure a way to communicate and understand each other.

However, people like Dr. Marr are no less sympatheic in their desire for vengeance. When the series of bombings occurred in Boston a few years ago and my calls could not reach my sister, I had felt of fear, dread, and hatred. In the hours before re-establishing contact, I contemplated many of the same things I think others did and as the news came in, I wanted vengeance.

As misguided as vengeance is, it is a true trait of our nature and something no matter how ideal our society becomes we can not avoid.

In this regard, I'd argue this episode deserves 3.5 stars out of 4, not perfect, but the story had the right human realities.

Wed, Jun 29, 2016, 4:03pm (UTC -6)
I think it's easily a 3-star rating. Dr. Marr's character was fantastic acting. I've watched this so many times and I can't fault Picard for wanting to communicate with it. Perhaps I need to see Datalore again to find out how "intelligent" the CE is. Ultimately, based on the communication, Picard could get rid of it or not. No one was in imminent danger and he would have to assess if the CE could feed some other way. I read most of the comments, but no one seemed to mention Riker's face after Marr destroyed the CE. He was pretty happy. I was sorry that Marr felt she had to take revenge, ironically an Ahab before Picard's turn later in the movie. Her career is ended, but would she be imprisoned for her actions? Probably not since her son died from the entity. Still, the episode was very good. Some of you are pretty difficult to please.
Thu, Jul 21, 2016, 6:32am (UTC -6)
It doesn't make sense at all. Lore spoke English to the entity and told it he would identify himself as Data. He was speaking English. So Dr Marr was probably right to kill it because it did not need graviton pulses to communicate. On the other hand I may be wrong because no one knew that Lore spoke English to the entity. Something to think on
Sun, Sep 18, 2016, 11:06pm (UTC -6)
This can't be less than 3 stars. The fact that it engendered such passionate debate in the comments here is a testament to what a thought-provoking episode this was. It's a great example of philosophical Sci-Fi. And that actress is impressive - I really felt like she had lost her son, the emotion in her voice was perfect, and that last scene was just so depressing and tragic.

I want to echo what was already pointed out - Picard was never going to allow the CE to roam freely if an alternative couldn't be found, he was clearly going to destroy it immediately in such a case.

Is it just me or is this the most depressing episode of TNG?
Flamingo Bob
Fri, Sep 30, 2016, 10:28am (UTC -6)
Star Fleet's mission is to seek out new life and establish contact, not exterminate every potentially dangerous lifeform so colonization can go forward. The Klingons killed a lot of humans at first, but a way was found to cohabitate and the Federation was stronger for it.

As for the "prior communication" argument, we have no idea what Lore told the CE about humanity or what kind of impression it got regarding us with him as our sole representative. Marr's actions precluded any chance of clearing that up and, just by the way, made sure humans who encounter another CE lifeform (unlikely that there's only one) in future won't be able to communicate with it to perhaps save their lives. She will be responsible for any future deaths.
Tue, Nov 15, 2016, 1:44pm (UTC -6)
Flamingo Bob: "Marr's actions precluded any chance of clearing that up and, just by the way, made sure humans who encounter another CE lifeform (unlikely that there's only one) in future won't be able to communicate with it to perhaps save their lives. She will be responsible for any future deaths. "

How's that? Wouldn't the potential to communicate with a second CE be just the same as it was with the first?
Tue, Jan 17, 2017, 2:12am (UTC -6)
Sometimes you have to ask WWKD? - What Would Kirk Do?

Kirk would have blowed it up real good, the first opportunity he got :-)

Meh episode, and I kinda agree with Marr and Riker - 1.5 stars
Jason R.
Tue, Jan 17, 2017, 8:38am (UTC -6)
"Kirk would have blowed it up real good, the first opportunity he got :-)"

He didn't blow up the Horta. And it killed many humans too.

As for the CE, I am with Picard and agree with his approach. Destroying the entity without at least attempting to communicate with it and exploring alternatives (such as offering it a less destructive alternative for feeding) would have been unworthy of a Starfleet captain, even for Kirk.

If communication was impossible or the entity proved intractable, the Enterprise would have destroyed it. But Marr denied them even the chance at a peaceful resolution.

Submit a comment

Notify me about new comments on this page
Hide my e-mail on my post

◄ Season Index

▲Top of Page | Menu | Copyright © 1994-2017 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication or distribution of any content is prohibited. This site is an independent publication and is not affiliated with or authorized by any entity or company referenced herein. See site policies.