Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Silicon Avatar"

2.5 stars

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

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283 comments on this post

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.
Sat, Mar 18, 2017, 5:42am (UTC -6)
I'm okay with the crystalline entity getting blown up. It killed millions (billions?) but suddenly it's a beautiful space snowflake and everyone's in awe of it. Isn't this the thing that influenced Lore into being evil? The episode was too harsh on the crazy lady for blowing it up before Picard could call it. Yeah he wanted to "negotiate" with it (yeah, right) but it's killed enough people that blowing it up is completely justified.
Mon, Apr 10, 2017, 3:48pm (UTC -6)
I just discovered this excellent site, so apologies for the late comment. This episode led to similar debates elsewhere. Count me among those who think Picard was wrong, but I'd like to raise a couple of other points. First, I agree with many who have commented that Dr. Marr was badly scripted . The crazy lady vs the noble captain was too one-sided. In fact, it would probably have been more effective to leave out her character all together and let Riker carry the "kill it poaition, where he could have made arguments about Starfleets duty to defend federation lives, and explained why he felt that communication was not a viable action. Second, why is it that Federation colonies apparently have no planetary defenses whatsoever? Can you imagine a governor of a colony of, say, tens of thousands of people in an obviously dangerous galaxy being content with the hope that there just might be a starship in close proximity when something like the CE comes at them?
Sat, Apr 15, 2017, 2:41pm (UTC -6)
@Michael Wallis Spot on.


Are you labouring under the assumption that this was an unintended plot device? The truth is, the writers wanted to brow beat you with what they "know" is right. So stop thinking for yourself. They deiberately created a crazy woman to be Picard's opponent. It's a classic tactic by the left. Left wing propaganda infests much of the media and especially Hollywood. It annoys me A LOT. But, like most, being entertained outweighs any annoyance, generally.
Fri, May 5, 2017, 5:51am (UTC -6)
In my opinion, this episode is just a waste of time because it never gets to the interesting part. Communication with the entity (as Lore managed) is never established, instead it is just killed off by a crazy woman. That's exactly the kind of lazy plot resolution that a Star Trek episode should never have, EXCEPT if the moral dilemma of the "crazy person" is shown to us in a convincing way that allows us to sympathize with the view of that person.

Maybe it's just the actress that failed, or her role was written really badly; in any case, I never really sympathized with her, and that's why the episode falls terribly flat. It could have been a decent episode, but with such an unlikeable character who just turns to irrationality to follow through with her Captain Ahab's revenge, there's nothing interesting that comes out of it.

I don't see why you rank this episode so highly, I'd give it 2 stars at best.
The morality of the show is very obvious: You should at least try to communicate before killing an unknown, INTELLIGENT life form. I just feel that this message doesn't contribute anything to the show because this moral stance has been established in Star Trek for a really long time. At best, this moral lesson is interesting to someone who has never seen any other episode of Star Trek.

For everyone who knows Star Trek, this episode is just yawn-inducing.
Sun, May 21, 2017, 4:15am (UTC -6)
As others have touched on, I really don't see the moral dilemma here, at least not as much as it is played up. Yes you don't want to kill a creature if you don't have to, but this thing has destroyed at least a dozen planets along with all but a few of the inhabitants. So why, when faced with this deadly threat that is even incredibly hard to track and find that doesn't give warning of its appearances, is the Enterprise the only starship apparently looking for the thing? My main beef though is that through the rest of the series, the crew, and Starfleet in general apparently, are so much more concerned with dealing with Klingons, Romulans, Cardassians etc when there is effectively a planet killer roaming Federation space! There should have been fleets of ships looking to destroy this thing and not just Starfleet as I doubt the Entity would restrict itself to Federation/human planets. This is a threat to the galaxy not unlike the Borg, and we know how hard Picard would fight to beat them. Why is the Entity not one of Starfleet's most wanted?

Also, communicating with the Entity is apparently very difficult here. But didn't Lore, who is mentioned several times in this episode, communicate with it? And not in any super special, just invented it, method. He spoke to it in a normal voice over the regular comm system. Picard could have tried that, or even tried to have Data pretend to be Lore to tell it to get lost. At least that would have prevented Marr's sonic attack on it.

And what kind of scientist is Marr when she can't even hold a tricorder the right way up? When she was talking to Data in the caves, it was upside down in the shots of her towards to the end of the conversation. All she should have got scans of were herself. Not even Data, the science guy, noticed!
Joey Lock
Mon, May 29, 2017, 1:09am (UTC -6)
I've always had a problem with this episode, to me it sums up, what Gul Dukat calls, "holier-than-thou Federation fair-play dogma". This seems to be an episode that demonstrates where the science and defence sides of Starfleet clash, on the one hand they're there to seek out new life and understand it, on the other hand that new life has slaughtered thousands or even millions and will continue to unless opposed.

Now it's all well and good sitting ina room having a good old debate over morality and "Do we have the right to..." like a bunch of college students trying to get into a pseudo-intellectual argument but this isn't the time or place, lives are at stake and Starfleet is the only defence against those threats.

Imagine if a terrorist attacks your city and your police hestitate and sit there having a little chat over whether they have the right to kill another person or not whilst that terrorist kills more innocent people.

Now as Picard tries to mention "It is not evil, it is feeding" but imagine if a bunch of sharks or crocidiles moved into a local swimming pool that kids go to, or a hoard of bears or wolves invaded a local town, mauling people as they walk down the street or invading homes because they're "feeding" would we sit idly by and go "Well what makes me better? What gives me the right to survive whilst they starve?" and reflect on morality as they chew off your leg or would you defend yourself from what is by definition an aggressor, whether or not their intention is simply to feed or whether its malice? I would hope most people would defend themselves unless they had little value for their own lives and I'm a Vegetarian and animal lover and even I would defend myself with a weapon if a wild animal was attacking.

So I find the holier-than-thou attitudes of some of the senior staff like Picard and Troi quite annoying considering they never faced the crystalline entity, Picard wasn't down on the planet, he didn't see a woman he had feelings for get vaporised infront of his eyes, he never saw the or knew the victims of this entity, so it gave him a nice, comfortable, self assured attitude that he's morally correct in his actions whilst making a rather conviniently dispassionate decision simply because "It never hurt me so I'm fine with it" and then gets angry toward someone who suffered the loss of her own son toward it. We see Picards attitude toward the Borg later, imagine if Doctor Marr came to Picard after Wolf 359 and said to Picard "What right do you have over the Borg? What gives you the right to kill them? Why don't you let them assimilate you? They're only feeding. Lay down your arms and let them carry on." do you think he'd agree? Like hell he would.

The Federations morality conveniently changes to suit the "view of the day" it seems.
Jason R.
Mon, May 29, 2017, 4:22am (UTC -6)
Joey, perhaps 24th century morality requires greater care and consideration before choosing death for any sentient being. I am reminded of the episode of TOS "Arena" where Kirk is certain the Gorn attacked unprovoked whereas from their point of view the Humans were invaders. Picard's instincts in this are very much in line with Spock's through most of TOS (See Galileo 7 for another good example).

I note again that Picard was not suggesting letting the Entity go on its merry way; destroying it was always an option on the table. It was simply not the first option, or one Picard would choose lightly. For all he knew the entity was unique, the last of its kind.

And as for your last point:

"We see Picards attitude toward the Borg later, imagine if Doctor Marr came to Picard after Wolf 359 and said to Picard "What right do you have over the Borg? What gives you the right to kill them? Why don't you let them assimilate you? They're only feeding. Lay down your arms and let them carry on." do you think he'd agree? Like hell he would."

Well no he wouldn't volunteer to be assimilated, but he would hesitate to kill the entire Borg race if given the chance, and indeed chose not to (see I Borg, an episode that addressed this very topic.)
Joey Lock
Thu, Jun 8, 2017, 11:33pm (UTC -6)
Jason, I understand they wanted to learn from it and that he may be the last of his kind, but if they did make contact and the doctor hadn't have killed it, would they just forget all the deaths it caused? Would the slate be wiped clean after contact? How can you accuse or extradite or hold trial on a giant space faring snowflake?

If it could communicate and said "Woops, my bad" or "Woops, sorry about that" would that be enough to satisfy all those who died and all those who lost loved ones to it? I doubt it. What if they contacted it and somehow managed to understand it, maybe even telepathically and they discovered it was perfectly sentient, knew exactly what it was doing and gladly killed people for its own purposes, what then?

Granted it would be great to understand and study the the Crystalline Entity, but what if it decided to carry on "feeding" well into Federation space during this "study"? Would we let them munch away at innocent people whilst we hastily jot down some information on the way it behaves or do we destroy it to stop it going further?

My point is regardless of if contact is made it needed to be stopped otherwise it'd be a worse killer than the Borg in time, so whether it was that day or within a month or two, eventually it'd have to stop or be stopped, especially if it entered Klingon or Romulan space, they'd be far less scientific and friendly.
Baron Samedi
Fri, Jun 9, 2017, 10:01am (UTC -6)
I've never fully understood the debate about this episode. It always seemed to me like Picard's attitude was completely reasonable and basically can be described by three possibilities:

A) the entity cannot be communicated with/the attempts to communicate fail, in which case the Enterprise should immediately destroy it because of the immense destruction and loss of life it has caused and will continue to cause

B) the entity can be communicated with and the Enterprise learns that it is cognizant of its actions (and the significance of the loss of life it has caused) and/or that it cannot continue to exist without continuing to cause similar destruction, in which case the Enterprise should immediately destroy it

C) the entity can be communicated with and the Enterprise can figure out a way to get it to stop its destructive rampage and provide some morally-neutral way for it to continue to live, in which case it should not be destroyed. This option assumes that the entity was unaware of the harm it was causing (or, if it was aware, saw no other option). In this case, it is not morally culpable for surviving the only way it knows how to survive.

The mother is at fault, because she destroyed the entity before option C) could be ruled out (and at a time when nobody was in immediate danger), thus potentially destroying an entity that was not necessarily morally culpable and did not necessarily need to be destroyed. Maybe it did - but that hadn't determined that yet and nobody was in immediate danger.

Some of the comments here are portraying the episode as naive/preaching Picard defying common sense to allow the entity to continue killing people, but I think the episode handles that issue quite reasonably. To an extent, maybe there's some dialogue contradicting what I'm writing (it's been years since I've seen the episode) and I'm just filling in some blanks on my own, I don't know really.

Or maybe the episode should have been ABOUT whether an entity like this should be allowed to live, rather than placing the story of the grieving mother on that framework, as that foundation seems to be the main issue for a lot of people.

Personally, I found nothing in this episode objectionable. 3.5 stars for me.
Fri, Jun 9, 2017, 10:29am (UTC -6)
@Baron Samedi

Excellent comment. I think the one thing you're missing which keeps being brought up is that the CE did already kill countless others (malevolently or not), and so there's bound to be people who think justice for those lives would be be served by destroying the CE on the spot.

I agree with Picard, though. If the Federation could befriend itself with the CE the same way Lore did, think of what a valuable ally the Federation would have. It could've eaten that little universe in DS9's "Playing God", or while on the subject of DS9, wouldn't it have been great to let the CE go feast on some Cardassian or Dominion worlds? I think the hawks on this board are too short-sighted.
Jason R.
Fri, Jun 9, 2017, 11:36am (UTC -6)
Chrome I think "justice" is not very pertinent here. We're talking about a gigantic spacefaring crystal. Are they going to execute it after a fair trial? (Does the UFP even have the death penalty?)) imprison it? Would UFP even have jurisdiction over it?

No - this has nothing to do with justice, any more than a modern day decision about what to do with a killer bear would. The "moral" culpability of the entity is equally impertinent - its only relevence would be in determining if the CE was truly malevolent or merely ignorant, which would impact whether or not it could be reasoned with and convinced to desist from further killing.

Baron's post was correct. Picard's sole point was that you don't destroy life unless it's necessary, and certainly not for revenge. Entirely reasonable and justified.
Fri, Jun 9, 2017, 12:09pm (UTC -6)
@Jason R.

Sorry if this wasn't clear, but I was referring to justice in terms of equity, not procedural justice with a magistrate. And to that degree, I think "kill on sight" is at least an understandable position, if not a hard-nosed one.

People may frown on the idea of an "eye for an eye", but when gets down to it, many punishments, especially capital punishment, are just that.

That said, I want to reiterate that I don't think kill on sight is warranted here, it's just something to consider. Even Riker assumed search and destroy was the Enterprise's mission before Picard tried to temper that.
Wed, Sep 13, 2017, 10:31am (UTC -6)
::opening shot of episode::

Holy shit! It's Rubicun III, home of the Aryan Super, the Edo! Why are they recolonizing?! Did something happen to their perfect oil massage society? Nooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!

But seriously, did anyone else notice this? I always thought it would be super fun to note either stage prop or scenery redundancy in shows like TNG. It had to happen relatively frequently, but normally I get so caught up in the show's world I don't notice. But this flashback to Season 1's "Justice" was too explicit. They must have shot that opening scene right about where Wesley crashed into those flower beds and almost got executed for it.
Wed, Sep 13, 2017, 10:51am (UTC -6)

Good spot! It is funny how often Paramount recycles sets. The Borg compound in Descent is actually Camp Khitomer from The Undiscovered Country (both were filmed at the Brandeis-Bardin Institute which is a little bit northwest of Los Angeles.) But they did such a good work with camera angles and completely different sets with the Borg base that you probably wouldn't immediately recognize it.
Wed, Oct 25, 2017, 5:02am (UTC -6)
Am I the only one that was bothered by the guest doctor holding the tricorder upside down in the caves? The shot was from the side, but clearly upside down.

This kind of little goof significantly messes up the suspension of disbelief for me.
Wed, Nov 1, 2017, 10:05pm (UTC -6)
This episode made me want to throw rocks at Picard aka "The Big Wuss". Seriously, sometimes TNG could get so damn PC it was sickening.

Arm photon torpedoes and destroy that thing!

Then court martial Picard for not defending humanity, he can live out the rest of his days stealing artifacts with Vash.
Fri, Jan 19, 2018, 10:21pm (UTC -6)
I wish they had never called the creature the "Crystalline Entity" which is a stupid, clunky, overly long name. It almost ruins the episodes in which it appears, they just keep saying "Crystalline Entity" over and over and over again. It reminds me why some people hate Star Trek (and why they aren't always wrong to do so). Too much emphasis on weird language. I can see why Ronald D Moore tried to go in a completely different direction with his BSG remake.
Fri, Jan 19, 2018, 10:26pm (UTC -6)
Also, for a creature that eats entire planets, the C.E. has an odd way of grazing in narrow little strips like a Caterpillar D8 bulldozer in the shots depicting it actually eating. At that rate it would take years to eat a planet!
Mon, Feb 12, 2018, 7:47pm (UTC -6)
I like TNG generally however when it comes to Picard always being soooo tolerant of enemies it really has me pulling my hair. Ferengi (or Romulan or whatever) ship attacking the Enterprise? Picard never fires back. In one episode, a terrorist ship attacks a shuttle with Riker and an ambassador inside. Picard never lifts a finger to defend it. Not even a warning shot. He just hurries Riker on to get back to the Enterprise. The ambassador (at least his humanoid body) died. The way he puts the lives of an enemy ahead of thousands of human and other Federation lives, of his own crew's lives, of the integrity of his ship, is appaling. Against the Nanites, against the CE, he's a Wuss.
Dr Lazarus
Mon, Apr 16, 2018, 4:48pm (UTC -6)
I'm with Picard with this one. Just like Kirk found a way to communicate with the Horta, so it could help with miners to find new minerals, once they taught it what to look for. The CE could had been taught to mine Dilithium while it feasted on non M-Class planets. That was a dirty, nasty, and dangerous job that I guess only prisoners were forced to mine.

It seemed that Dr Marr was committed after this. I wonder how many cats she owned? She looked just like a crazy cat lady.
Peter Swinkels
Mon, Apr 23, 2018, 12:35pm (UTC -6)
While I can understand how many people feel that the Crystalline Entity should be destroyed I can understand Captain Picard's wish to try to communicate with it first. I would assume he would destroy it if it couldn't be reasoned with though I have to admit, what would it consume if an understanding were reached? Ecosystems with non-sentient live I would assume, or perhaps a technical means of providing it with energy could be created. I don't know. While I would most likely rather see something trying to eat me killed rather than being eaten, let's not forget that the human race consumes a large amount of living matter to provide for its needs. Yes, we don't destroy entire planetary ecosystems, but I suspect that from the entity's perspective an entire planet is more like a tiny bit of a much larger ecosystem seeing as it how can easily travel from one to the other. And yes, you could say we don't destroy sentient life. That is at least not sentient as we perceive sentience/from our perspective. Did the entity even see humans as more than simple animals (or perhaps plant like even) (such as the ones we happily slaughter for our daily meat) before the Enterprise tried to communicate with it?

I can sort of understand what the old lady did considering the fact she lost her son, but to me the entity shouldn't have been destroyed outright like that. That could have been done after trying to reach an understanding and provide with another means of getting its energy. (Non-sentient life/technical means.)

Enough rambling.
Peter Swinkels
Mon, Apr 23, 2018, 12:46pm (UTC -6)
Found a website were a few interesting points are made, for example:
-The entity shouldn't be sentenced to death without a trial.
-The entiy could be studied.

Cody B
Thu, May 17, 2018, 12:56am (UTC -6)
The end of this episode is one of those times where Trek can be ridiculous with it’s “let’s not harm anything” type attitude. The crystalline entity regularly DESTROYED COMPLETE PLANETS. Sorry Picard, Dr Marr is a hero.
Fri, May 18, 2018, 4:22pm (UTC -6)
Dr. Marr did not do the right thing. What Picard wanted to do was correct by federation policy.
Chances are she will be taken to the nearest star base & most likely be put into prison for a very long time for murder.
Cody B
Sat, May 19, 2018, 8:42pm (UTC -6)
And there are times when following regulations/law just isn’t the right thing (nazis). Dr Marr might be improsined but so was Mandela. She will go down historically as a hero. This episode reminds me of the episode where the boy (Johns?) stabbed Picard in the chest while he was sleeping. Picard’s reaction after barely surviving was “poor little guy. We must have done something wrong!”. Forget that.
Wed, Jul 18, 2018, 5:12pm (UTC -6)
If the Enterprise was confronted by a Borg cube rather than a space chandelier there would be no question-kill the Borg if you have a chance.
The overgrown quartz monster is far too dangerous to be allowed to run free .
The Doc was right
Sarjenka's Little Brother
Tue, Jul 24, 2018, 7:24pm (UTC -6)
LOTS of comments on a fairly middling show.

So let's talk about Carmen for a minute. I felt like she was the right type for Phuck-Ready Riker. Too bad the old man tripped.
Sat, Jul 28, 2018, 9:28am (UTC -6)
I thought the crazy lady aspect worked quite well. It's stated clearly she dedicated her life to studying the entity after her son was killed... it's not surprising that her motivation was obsession with avenging her son.

She HID it well.

The annoying part for me is that Picard is pleasantly surprised they can communicate with the entity. Well, duh, Lore colluded with it and they knew that, so obviously some level of communication was possible.
Mon, Jul 30, 2018, 11:37pm (UTC -6)
Intriguing episode with guest character Dr. Marr the primary focus and another notable performance from Spiner as Data. The episode isn't totally satisfying (seemed to end abruptly) as we're left with Data telling Marr that her son would not approve of her action to kill the Crystalline Entity (CE) and we just get another one of Marr's facial expressions (man, did she have a lot of different facial expressions...) As an obsessed character, she was compelling but also a tad annoying.

Picard's point of view is one that shows he's able to look beyond the obvious and stick to Star Fleet principles -- he believes there is sentience to the CE (unlike say the Doomsday Machine) and wants to communicate with it whereas Riker and Marr are obsessed about killing it as they've lost people close to them.

So what should be Marr's punishment? She's just escorted to her quarters and is left feeling she's done her son wrong (by Data) -- maybe that is punishment enough for her as the episode made it pretty clear she felt horribly guilty about her son getting killed by the CE and her not being there. So I think the portrayal of her longing for her son was well done (again those facial expressions) -- certainly well emphasized. Her thinking Data lured the CE to the colony at first is obviously ridiculous but she's somebody obsessed with the death of her son.

Again, I think humans in daily life could learn something from how Data reacts to wild accusations from Marr -- never losing his cool or getting emotional. Clearly Data has compassion as well offering to escort Marr to her quarters instead of Worf.

Not sure why Marr says the CE is beautiful before they start communicating with it (and Marr unilaterally decides to destroy it). In any case, my $0.02 says the CE should be destroyed as the cost for it sustaining itself is just too high. It is not as simple as a sperm whale eating cuttlefish.

2.5 stars for "Silicon Avatar" -- Marr's obsession/vengeance/insanity is slowly but surely established but other than Data showing what a great android he is, not too much else is revealed about the crew -- other than Picard who will always aim for communication over killing. So it does give the crew a difficult decision given the destruction the CE causes and the personal nature of the loss. Usually on Trek, when a scientist has spent his/her life working on something, they're usually a little nuts -- no different here with Marr, although her part was well acted.
Fri, Oct 19, 2018, 4:24pm (UTC -6)
I've always liked this episode, but one thing that holds it back is "Datalore". We already know that the Entity can be communicated with and that it isn't exactly friendly. If we didn't know this already, this episode would be a 3.5 easy. I do my best to ignore "Datalore" and some of Dr. Marr's references to Lore.
Fri, Oct 19, 2018, 4:51pm (UTC -6)

In “Datalore” all we saw was Lore telling the entity to come feed on the ship. The thing is we don’t if the entity really appreciates human society or whether it blindly feeds on instinct like other animals. If the entity had been told something else like “Hey, don’t harm our ship, we’ll show you where you can get food without hurting us” it may have responded positively.

Also, regarding the communication, Marr mentioned that she knew Lore was working together with the entity so she of all people knew communication was possible.
Wed, Oct 24, 2018, 8:49am (UTC -6)
Nor does any logical person care, Chrome. I rather suspect that if you or your family had had dealings with a rampaging killer, you wouldn't be here defending this thing. And my biggest problem is that those here defending this creature are the exact same people defending child abusers, killers, and other criminals in real life.

Get a clue.
Wed, Oct 24, 2018, 10:15am (UTC -6)
“I rather suspect that if you or your family had had dealings with a rampaging killer, you wouldn't be here defending this thing.“

Actually the analog would be a wild bear or the like. And possibly I would want it killed, but Star Trek is about people who have overcome barbourous hostilities and try to be morally better than us in 20th/21th century. But, I thank you for being a model, if not childish, example of the outmoded thinking this show dares us to surpass.
Cesar Gonzalez
Sat, Nov 10, 2018, 8:43am (UTC -6)

People is Star Trek are not any better than we are niw when it comes to morals. They try to act holier than thou, sometimes. But they are the same.
They feel the same anger, rage, humiliation. They betray and conspire all the same.

Dr. Marr was absolutely right. Screw that entitiy. 95% of you people hoping for communucation 1st woulf be singing a different tune if it was your wife/husband who had been mercilessly murdured.
Had it been YOUR daughter or son you wouldn't be asking for communication 1st.

Picard was completely wrong in this episode.
The ending made me sick.
The show tried to paint Dr.Marr in a bad light for doing what Picard couldn't.
She was the hero here and showed more initiative than Picard.
It's episodes like this that remind me why Kirk was the best Captain.

It's also episodes like this that make me realize why I love Star Trek so much. Morally ambigious situations where no opinion is wrong or right. It's not Black and white. We dwell in the morally gray area where you can't prove me wrong, but I also can't prove you wrong.
Voyager had many episodes like this. Which is a reason I love it so much.
Sat, Nov 10, 2018, 10:01am (UTC -6)
@Cesar Gonzales

“Picard was completely wrong in this episode. It's also episodes like this that make me realize why I love Star Trek so much. Morally ambigious situations where no opinion is wrong or right. It's not Black and white.“

So what you’re saying is that no matter how much you disagree with Picard, he might be right. Glad we agree.
Mon, Nov 19, 2018, 9:56pm (UTC -6)
well I can't read the whole 7+ year old thread, but there's something I want to mention though someone else may have already thought of it.

first, my personal instinct in this case is definitely to "shoot first and ask questions later". you almost can't get worse than this thing. it's like a repeating nuke that specifically targets population centers. *maybe* it could be reasoned with, and placated, *maybe*, but that isn't really worth the risk. this thing is arguably worse than the borg, and no one would suggest not destroying them. even if you could temporarily placate it, maybe a decade from now it goes on another rampage. oops, 100k more dead?

ok but, what I wanted to mention is that I think I can maybe see one reason not to destroy it. this thing specifically targets *life*, all the way down to seeds and bacteria. good or evil, there is something important to be learned from it. maybe it's as mundane as being a carbon vacuum, but maybe there's something else about "life" that it's absorbing. the discovery of "lifeforce" would be pretty important. but even if it's just absorbing all carbon, there's still got to be something to be learned, either for being a silicon based life form, or however its matter absorption beam works.
Cesar Gonzalez
Tue, Nov 20, 2018, 10:03am (UTC -6)

Yup, he may be right.

This is my 1st TNG viewing abd enjoying it a lot.

I was actually thinking that at the end of the episode Picard was going to nake contact. Then it would be revealed that this whole time the people the entity "killed" were really alive. Like the entity had them trapped in a coma like state. I thought Picard would convince it to let them go and the lady's son and everyone else would come back.
Therefore sending a message that it's better to communicate abd seek understanding 1st before going in, guns blazing.

That was, however, not at all how it went.
Ari Paul
Mon, Dec 3, 2018, 10:07pm (UTC -6)
"As you know, I provide the most memorable deserts...hhhmmmmmhhhmmmyyeahhhmmmmmmmmmmmarggggggggaahhhahhhh"

Now THIS is sexual harassment. But you see how we men handle it? We handle it with class. Instead of filing a complaint with HR, Riker makes the chick feel like her advances are wanted, and he playfully reciprocates. I mean, what's the harm? He'll just avoid her later on.
Mon, Jan 21, 2019, 2:24pm (UTC -6)
“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.”

I agree with that. Picard had the right idea, but his timing was off. If an enormous, dangerous, deadly space-entity thas has recently killed thousands is after your ship, trying to negotiate with it is irresponsible. Negotiate with it by all means, but only once it can do no harm. Then is the time for dialogue - but not while it is free and able to kill. Dialogue with an entity that can do no harm because it is no longer a danger allows one the freedom to destroy it, if need be, without requiring that as the only safe course of action.

It might conceivably have been an infant, that had to eat in order to grow. And killing it could have been very unwise, if it had had parents to go all Mummy Bear on its behalf. Those questions could, perhaps, have been answered, had it not been killed.
Mon, Jan 21, 2019, 2:53pm (UTC -6)
That’s a false dichotomy. I agree with Jason R on this, they could’ve attempted to communicate with it and if that didn’t work they could’ve killed it. The episode doesn’t give the viewer the feeling that the Enterprise exhausted all its options and was left with no choice but to kill it. Trek is always about understanding the unknown and learning from it. When everything slightly threatening is kill on sight you miss that chance for exploration.
Bobbington Mc Bob
Sun, Mar 17, 2019, 5:16am (UTC -6)
I'll just say, the comments on this one are weird. Everyone must have had a hangover or something.

On the episode, I really felt for Marr and was hoping the episode payoff would be much more emotionally rewarding. I could relate to her sense of regret and loss, and using data as a conduit to grieve that, especially as she hated him so much, was a nice touch. I only wish Data could somehow have used that connection to her son as a means to stop her from trying to kill the entity, and at least allow the communication attempt to continue.

Perhaps data could have found a diary entry from the son on forgiving some egregious act against him, or a reference to a favourite mythological tale that deals with those topics. That would have made for a very 'trek' ending (even more so given the foregoing "darmok"), whilst still giving vent to the doctor's anger. If the entity turned out to be a jerk and then attacked the ship, then they could use the doctor's resonance trick and know they hid rid the universe of a scourge.
Jason R.
Sun, May 12, 2019, 7:48am (UTC -6)
This episode has improved for me in recent reviewing. One nuance I didn't quite appreciate before is Dr. Marr's increasing instability which culminates in what I can only speculate to be some kind of psychotic break. By the end the way she addresses Data on the bridge she seems to truly believe that he's her dead son. You can see she's becoming unhinged throughout the episode especially in the scene where she tells Data she could only think of her son when she heard the screaming of the crew of the ship killed by the entity. Data innocently accedes to her request to speak in her son's voice but unwittingly lights the fuse that sets off her madness.

All this time I could only think: where the F is Troi? I mean really, what good are her empathic powers if she is impotent to detect something as extreme as this? Right before Marr gave the command to increase the resonance wave on the bridge Troi should have been raising an alarm. You can SEE the anxiety in the character's performance just before she enters the final code on the computer. After Marr has already started staring into the abyss with that crazy look on her eye that's when Troi helpfully tells them "something is very wrong here". Bravo counsellor, bravo.

There's a scene at the very start of the episode where Marr is in a briefing and afterward Troi tells Picard "you don't need an empath to sense that woman's feelings". Congratulations to the writing on this line; it's the coda of the episode! Indeed, they don't need an empath (or Troi) at all.
Sat, May 25, 2019, 4:19pm (UTC -6)
When Jammer writes a line must be drawn who else thought in their head: "This far and no further!" Just me?
Capt. Ahab of Moby Dick
Thu, Jun 6, 2019, 3:09pm (UTC -6)
Bears & wolves are supposed to be "intelligent" beings. Yet, if one of them strays into a human dwelling & kills people (because of sheer hunger, not malice), it is promptly hunted down. Is there a moral dilemma about the "right of predators to eat people"?

Well, anyway... got to go hunt down that White Whale... ;-p
Mon, Jun 10, 2019, 3:24pm (UTC -6)
Just finished watching this episode. The Crystal (you can't assume it's an "entity") travels at warp speed seeking out "life" to consume (destroy). If this crystal had been around for any considerable length of time there would be a much broader path of destruction in the immediate warp range the Federation is capable of in several years time. In other words, it would be very likely there would no longer be any life left in within the Federation's warp range. Just look at what it was able to devastate within a very few days time. So, why no consideration this crystal was a deliberately created and released weapon of mass destruction within Federation space. A bio-destroy weapon of unimaginable evil and viciousness? That any communication would already be with a war machine?

Or would others rather talk it out and reach a compromise with Hitler?

Destroying it was the only rational course of action. The Doctor is a hero who killed an uncompromising weapon of war while Picard was moralizing genocide.

Picard should have been court martialed for dereliction of duty and the trivialization of human life that would undoubtedly affect any of his future command decisions.

But, then again, what can you expect from copies?
Stevens J.
Mon, Jun 10, 2019, 3:42pm (UTC -6)
I see we've crossed the line from Picard was wrong to try to attempt communication into Picard should be court martialed for trying. So much for that bright future for humanity, eh?
Sun, Jun 16, 2019, 2:47am (UTC -6)
I was so glad when the entity died, I smiled as I saw Picard's face after the entity exploded, I was like "fuck you picard, fuck you and your bullshit"

Justice has been served.
Mon, Aug 5, 2019, 3:16am (UTC -6)
So glad to see discourse on this wonderful site remains active.

This episode always bothered me because I want to like it, but it is one of those ones where it feels like execution missed the mark - things just got too simple and basic.

We get one conversation with Marr about morality of killing the Entity, then one with Riker, and that's it. No Picard wondering what to do like in I Borg or weighing options, and the only "uncertainty" comes from Riker.

Then Marr forces the issue unilaterally.

Things start going badly and Picard just kind of stands there. What does he do? He asks Troi what's going on - why not demand Marr comply? Or rather, why not just tell Data to do it (he eventually gets to that).

So how does Marr "lock" everyone else out of the command codes? She shouldn't even have command codes. But further, she should not have enough authority to prevent Geordi from deactivating power to whatever system is generating the signal in the first place. Or something similar to that. Too little effort was made to negate Marr's signal.

Then Data suggesting he escort Marr to her quarters instead of Worf, which is an odd moment. And not to the brig? How generous. The way she takes his hand and he allows it the whole way though just comes off as Marr going from a vindictive calculated scientist to a crazy old woman with dementia who thinks Data is her son. Then when Data breaks the news to her that he doesn't think her son would be proud of her, she seems to break down and react negatively a bit too early - before Data's message actually turns to the negative.
Mon, Aug 19, 2019, 12:45pm (UTC -6)
Agree with TH’s analysis. Just rewatched this. Can’t get past the fact that they bring aboard a traumatized mother to serve as an “expert” on the entity. “Sure. We’ve got an expert on white whales. His name is Ahab.”
The River Temarc
Sat, Aug 24, 2019, 1:39pm (UTC -6)
"I rather suspect that if you or your family had had dealings with a rampaging killer, you wouldn't be here defending this thing."

I actually was prompted to re-watch "Silicon Avatar" this evening after re-watching PATRIOT GAMES and vaguely remembering that the actress who played Mary Pat Foley was in a TNG episode.

FWIW, in PATRIOT GAMES, the Deputy Director of CIA, a guy named Marty, tells Jack Ryan -- whose family had been attacked by an IRA splinter group -- that "you are a victim of terrorism, and that does not make for the best analysis." The movie never followed up on this point (it wouldn't be Jack Ryan if he doesn't work at CIA!) but Marty had a point.

We do not, in Western judicial systems, let victims determine punishments -- yes, we take them into account, admit victim impact statements into the record at sentencing, and so on. But we ultimately recognize that victims do not always offer an objective prescription for the appropriate course of action going forward.

I mean, in real life, should victims of IRA terrorism have been able to scuttle the Good Friday Accords?
The River Temarc
Sat, Aug 24, 2019, 1:52pm (UTC -6)
The problem with this episode is not that it presents a moral dilemma. Done well, moral dilemmas make great fodder for Star Trek. The issue is the execution.

First, the crew never really pinpointed the heart of the matter: whether the Crystalline Entity was sentient, and thus could be not only communicated with but reasoned with, or whether it really was (1) sentient but evil, or (2) a sperm whale instinctually feeding on cuttlefish.

If you're in the former territory, Picard has a justifiable stance. If you're in the latter territory, killing the Crystalline Entity is justified. Planets with intelligent life aren't cuttlefish. And park rangers kill bears that have mauled humans. (To be clear, Picard explicitly stated that "it may be necessary to kill" the Crystalline Entity, so clearly he's contemplated the latter territory.)

Second, Marr's character came off as a mustache-twirler from the get-go with her threats to disassemble Data. Moral dilemmas work well when each side can make a credible case (see "Ethics" for a good example), even if one viewpoint ultimately prevails (e.g., "Drumhead"). That's the opposite of mustache-twirling.

If we wanted someone to truly critique Picard, either Marr or another character needed to delve into the heart of the matter above. (Troi would have been the obvious choice; in "I, Borg," she observed that there were no civilians among the Borg. And Guinan did the same thing.) The inexplicable choice to focus the first third of the episode on boring scenes set in caves left no time to cut to the chase.

Third, you can't ignore the fact that "Silicon Avatar" is a sequel to "Datalore," and that ultimately is what undercuts Picard's position here; "Datalore" strongly suggests that the entity knows what it's doing.

So in sum: potentially interesting dilemmas spoiled by poor execution and a one-sided antagonist. "Silicon Avatar" is no hidden gem.
Thu, Dec 5, 2019, 10:38pm (UTC -6)
Dr. Marr's choice to kill the creature basically saves the crew from any tough ethical decisions they might have to make on establishing communication. Feels like a bit of a cop-out, honestly.
George Monet
Sat, Jan 25, 2020, 7:24pm (UTC -6)
Anyone who thinks it wasn't right to destroy the entity is being foolish. The entity wiped out ALL LIFE on planets. If left alone it would wipe out ALL LIFE in the universe and then die itself. There is no compromise you can make with an entity that consumes life by the planetload to feed itself. This isn't some life cycle predator-prey situation where whales and crustaceans live, reproduce and die in an endless chain for millions of years. The entity WIPED OUT ALL LIFE FULL STOP.

This episode also raised issues it shouldn't have. Such as why Starfleet is a peaceful organization with no warships when 99% of the rest of the galaxy is full of hostile aliens and giant threats like the Borg. If there were really big threats like the Borg, or even just the Romulans, Klingons, Cardassians etc. then realustically Starfleet would be fully militiatized and producing large numbers of advanced warships constantly on patrol. The writers want to have their cake and eat it too by portraying the galaxy as being full of giant dangers but then claiming Starfleet would be a peaceful organization with zero warships but still have a military command structure. Bollocks.

Furthermore the crystaline entity was supposed to be an unknown but this woman is somehow an expert on it who has been studying it for years? And she is one of those TNG "experts" who actually knows nothing about the thing she is allegedly an expert on. And apparently despite the fact that multiple colonies have been lost to the Borg, the crystalline entity, Cardassians, Bajoran terrorists, Romulans, Klingons, etc., the Federation is still sending out colonists without planetary defenses or warships to protect them?

The writers really need to make up their minds. Either the Federation is peaceful or the galaxy is dangerous. You cannot have it both ways. Since they decided the galaxy is dangerous then Starfleet must be a military organization full of warships.
Sat, Jan 25, 2020, 7:35pm (UTC -6)
This episode went right over your head, eh George?
Tue, Mar 10, 2020, 8:07pm (UTC -6)
After Dr. Marr destroyed the CE and the crew were looking at her in judgement, did any notice that Riker was smiling at her almost approvingly? He definitely wanted that thing destroyed and was glad she did it.
Sat, Apr 18, 2020, 8:30pm (UTC -6)
As usual ST chickens out. The episode would have been so much more powerful had one of the main characters killed that thing against orders. But we can't have that, so we bring in the guest star of the week to do the dirty deed. Gotta keep the main character's hands clean.
Sun, Apr 19, 2020, 9:45pm (UTC -6)

If you keep using the name petulant, people will think you're me. I've been using that name for some time on here.
I find it kind of weird and more than coincidental that you not only chose the same name as me but also chose to spell it with a lowercase p.
Pick your own name.
Tue, Apr 21, 2020, 12:26am (UTC -6)
Ahhh, the great "watch tng with my mom" of 2020 continues. I asked her if I died if she would find it weird to ask someone to read something in my voice. She said it would definitely feel weird. Crazy scientist lady got what she deserved with that devastating ending. Data just crushes any hope she might have had as the grim reality of her actions becomes fully realised to her. Not a great 'sode but not totally brainless either. 6.5/10
Jeffrey Jakucyk
Tue, May 19, 2020, 6:33pm (UTC -6)
Whew, I read all the comments, and I'm just awe-struck at how polarizing this is. I also think that because there's so many comments, people are just spouting their opinions off the cuff without considering the arguments that came before, leading to everything flaring up again.

Here's the way I see it.

First, the CE wasn't an immediate threat when they finally caught up to it, and in fact it was responding positively to the attempts at communication. The Enterprise's shields are an effective means of protection, and I see no evidence that the CE could "get away" from them. The only reason they haven't caught up with it before is because they only found out how to track it recently (if not in this very episode), and then only when close by. So I find the "shoot to kill" mentality really disturbing. If you want to use the terrorist analogy, this would be killing them while they're walking down the street days later, rather than just, you know, arresting them. This is vigilanteism, which has no place in the 24th century or the 21st century.

Besides that, the one thing I have not seen anyone mention is that while WE know how Lore communicated with the CE, and it is also known in-universe that Lore can/did communicate with the CE, nobody else on the Enterprise knows HOW Lore communicated with it. Maybe he used some special carrier wave or comm frequency. All that anyone in-universe knows is that Lore could communicate with it somehow. It could be as sophisticated as a conversation in English, or as simple as commanding a dog to sit or stay. We the audience know more than the characters do, and nobody seems to have brought that realization into their argument.

Also, this being a universe with mater/antimatter reactors, it could very well be possible to feed the CE many times over with very little effort. And if it's a sapient being, it wouldn't be a bad ally to have, though it actually seems to be pretty easy to destroy. Nonetheless, I've read that an actual warp core breach of a ship like the Enterprise, if it happened while in orbit of an Earth-like planet, would be absolutely devastating to said planet. Like a large portion of it completely gone. Think what happened to Praxis in The Undiscovered Country. That's many orders of magnitude more energy than sucking the life out of the surface of a planet. If it needs to be alive to be satisfying, then that's what replicators are for. Plug them into those antimatter reactors and the CE can have a limitless salad bar of giant redwoods, whale blubber, and phytoplankton.
Fri, May 29, 2020, 10:29am (UTC -6)
Aha! Yet another episode that I found mediocre to middling, but which is enlivened by my coming to the comments section on this site and finding people reacting to it in a bizarre, angry way, full of wrongheaded certainty. eg. "Anyone who thinks it wasn't right to destroy the entity is being foolish."

The writers ticked off a basic criteria for good fiction by making it so the correct course of action is, at the very least, debatable. If you're angry because every character didn't conform to your view of the right course of action, then I suggest it's because you're narrowminded.

Picard's view is understandable. Riker's view is understandable. Dr. Marr's view is
understandable, if rather unprofessional. The tension between these views is part of what the episode explores, and it does it competently.

Picard's reasons for wanting to communicate with the entity map directly onto the reasons why wiser people in the real world urge dialogue, understanding, study. You need as much information as possible, in order to make the best choices and to widen your range of options.

What if the entity was one of a race, which themselves had the capacity of revenge? What if destroying it proved to be like smacking a wasp nest? What if it was only a child, and the adults were far more aggressive? What if, as Picard suspected, it simply did not recognise what it was eating as a kind of sentient life form, would be horrified to learn that, and could be sustained by other means?

What if it were artificial - a weapon created by a still more powerful enemy, hiding in the shadows?

It's telling that most of the posts on this page decrying Picard for being wrong pervert and misrepresent his position in order to try to make their point. He would certainly "shoot first" if the creature was in the middle of destroying another planet or presented a mortal threat to the Enterprise. He is only considering the communication option because they will be encountering it in the middle of space, and have the opportunity to find out more about its nature.

Equally, though, Riker's objection is reasonable - they don't know if failing to take the initiative at this point will result in the Entity working out a means of avoiding them in future. That's certainly a risk. But destroying the entity carries risks with it as well, as pointed out above.

It never ceases to amaze me how people credit themselves with being pragmatists and realists for wanting to take revenge or perform preemptive destruction, when they're usually just acting on primitive instincts. Yes, there are dangers inherent in attempting negotiation, or in an excess of hesitance around a dire threat, but if human beings weren't prepared to face those dangers in order to gain a greater degree of understanding of the destructive forces arrayed against us, then we'd all still be living in caves, cowering from the lightning.
Tue, Jun 16, 2020, 7:25pm (UTC -6)
I think the episode is excellent - at least a 3.5. Ellen Geer knocks it out the park with her performance as does regular nice performances from Spiner and Stewart. I also love Riker's smirk at the end as the entity is destroyed. He gets what he wants without any of the blame. I think Picard is correct to try to communicate with it. It's an exploration ship and without communication we can't figure out what someone is doing. Yes, I may have felt differently, like Marr, if one of my loved ones were killed but Picard was doing the right thing as an explorer: assess the situation and learn. Killing the entity impetuously doesn't do the Enterprise justice.
Tue, Jul 14, 2020, 7:15pm (UTC -6)
The fact that the entity was responsive to signals and to attempts to communicate rather implied that there might be other similar creatures it there. In which case destroying it without continuing attempts to find out more about it would have done nothing to stop them killing other planets populations, including those with billions of people. The recent spate of devastating incidents suggested it might be a recent arrival in the galaxy, or this part of the galaxy. There might be many more of them on their way.

Picard's choice to explore more about the creature, including whether there might be a better option made complete sense. There might be other potential sources for the Entity that did not entail it devastating populated planets.

The fact that Lore had successfully related to it in no way proved that it knew anything about the existence of humans; all it would have known was whatever Lore might have communicated to it, and Lore of course was not a human. And there are no grounds to assume that this Crystalline Entity was even the same one.

The whale analogy was OK, but I think a better point would be to suggest that if a cow were to talk to them most people would not be so ready to eat it.
Sun, Jul 19, 2020, 10:51pm (UTC -6)
Does anyone else think that Riker was really pissed off because he was going to get a nice piece of arse that the entity ruined for him =P
Sun, Jul 19, 2020, 10:58pm (UTC -6)
Gerontius, Too add a little bit more to the discussion. My relavent contribution. Dr Marr was right to destroy the creature. It was playing them. Plain and simple. Any theories that Data or Dr Marr came up with were all based on The Enterprise not being able to establish normal communications with the entity. We all know the entitiy understood perfect english. Are we forgetting that Lore directly spoke to the entity and told it what to expect. That he would identify himself as Data. The entity would of killed everything on The Enterprise the minute they would of dropped their shields. It was a malevolant creature that survived off living energy. Any living energy. Nature, organic beings, power sourcess. It devestated the planet
Sat, Jul 25, 2020, 7:34pm (UTC -6)
Picard is a mess in this episode: "Numba One, please control yourself. The creature may have destroyed 11 M class planets full of people, but it is our duty to prove to it that we are really very nice and love to chat. So let's have no more nasty talk. By the way, send my condolences to Carmen's family when you write to them. It will be a whale of a good time".

Despite jaw-dropping objectivity written into Picard's character, I think this is a great episode with impressive performances by Ellen Geer, Patrick Stewart and Jonathan Frakes. Jammer's 2.5 stars is an insult. Best put at 3.5 in his system; 8/9 in mine
Adam Marsland
Mon, Jul 27, 2020, 2:19am (UTC -6)
Brent Spiner is miming real guitar chords during Data's guitar sequence, but it doesn't correspond at all to the music we hear.
James G
Fri, Jul 31, 2020, 7:08pm (UTC -6)
I liked this one a lot. There's some surprising acting and direction in this one, that really impressed me. Thoughts and emotions being conveyed with facial expressions that stood out - Riker's horror at seeing the colonists killed; Doctor Marr's discomfort with Data at the meeting.

It's a nice idea with some flaws. The main one is that the entity is basically a planet-destroying indiscriminate slaughterer, and it gets a lot more respect than you might imagine probable.

For a few moments I thought that Riker's love interest at the beginning was Linda Gray. And did we really need the cheesy sexual innuendo about 'dessert'? It adds nothing to the plot except to make the viewer (this viewer anyway) cringe.

The doctor with a score to settle is an interesting character, and really played well. I thought the story was largely going to be about her animosity to Data, but that aspect of it evaporates quickly.

Anyway. Some nit-picks. Judging by the speed at which the entity carves up the surface of the planet during the initial assault in which the colonists are killed, it would take it weeks to devastate a country the size of Wales, and much longer to ruin the whole planet.

I can buy that Data and Geordi aren't able to interrupt the impromptu weapon the doctor creates, but couldn't Picard just have the Enterprise back off a few million km?

Not keen on Data doing voice impersonations. He does it in one of the very first episodes, and it's a bit creepy - it makes him seem more like a tape recorder than a synthetic humanoid.

Anyway, definitely a good one.
Sat, Aug 8, 2020, 4:57pm (UTC -6)
The big problem with the episode isn't the dilemma itself ("shoot on sight" and "let's try to talk to it first, but with our weapons trained on it" are both justifiable given the threat the CE poses). The problem is the script is so firmly on Picard's side and doesn't really care about the alternate view - the scientist is written as a lunatic and the only other proponent of her view is Riker, who brings it up for five seconds and immediately drops it.

Plus Picard just comes across as completely up his own ass. Especially when he deals with Riker. Riker's whole job as a First Officer is to raise alternative viewpoints to the Captain, and when he actually bothers to do that here (a rare occurrence since Riker is usually useless), Picard immediately shuts him down with "oh, well I think you're just mad that your girlfriend blew up". Pretty nasty when you think about it, but Riker just takes it.

The ending scene is farcical. Data, who has no emotions of his own, manages to be absolutely "certain" in his extrapolation of how a dead person he's read the writing of would react. Not only is the end scene dumb, it also makes it completely clear that the script has chosen a side and is going to talk down to the opposite side. I think Picard is right, but at the same time, the script seeming to invite the viewer to be more angry with Marr for taking one life* than the CE for taking millions if not billions.

*and potentially not even a sapient life. You'd assume a creature of any intelligence might notice that the things it's vaporising look suspiciously like settlements full of people, or complicated manmade starships.
Fri, Aug 28, 2020, 8:55am (UTC -6)
The crucial reason why I think Dr Marr's behaviour was highly undesirable was, in the words of a contemporary about a killing ordered by Napoleon, "it was worse than a crime, it was a mistake.

It meant any chance of finding out about tthe entity, and what could be feared of it. There was no reason to assume tgat it was the only such creature roaming the galaxy. There might be many more on the way. If there was some way of dealing with them that avoided them being dangerous the needed to be explored, however slim the chance.

And again, there is no reason to assume this entity wa tge same one as thatwhich Lore had used.
Sun, Mar 28, 2021, 11:58am (UTC -6)
The guitar scene with Data is faultless imagery. Episode itself falters badly in the last several minutes, however.

The opening is particularly cruel to Riker, an effective gambit, but perhaps not enough to raise a doubt in our minds about the entity's fundamental right to exist.

The Marr characterization is basically plausible and thoughtfully layered so as to reveal, if slightly simplified for time considerations.
The logical/spatial-minded cave scene with Data and the doctor is rather well written and performed, as is the ready room scene wherein Picard explains an expansive view of life in the universe with simple analogy.

The subsequent ready room talk with Riker gives some clarification of the basic moral throughline of the plot, which Stewart invests with quiet aplomb, imo. That Picard, whose moral POV is so impressively and subtly etched in these ready room scenes, does not at some point detect (or sense) the snake in the grass element here, is finally incredible.

I did appreciate the final scene with Data for its stark quality.
Mon, Apr 12, 2021, 7:43am (UTC -6)
I join the approvals. The plot develops with a lot of changes of the perspecive of things. We do not get any clear answer if it really whas right or wrong to destroy the entity. Only that it was to early to jugde it. Yes, I tried to commicate but we do not know what it wanted to say.

This message is clearly comunicated in the last sceen with Dr Marr and Data. Instead of revenge Dr Kerr realises that the has a adandoned / estranged herself from her son a second time.
Fri, Jun 4, 2021, 12:50pm (UTC -6)
It seems like a lot of people decided to argue against Picard without hearing his reasoning. He never argued people shouldn't fight back against the entity if deemed necessary. He doesn't even argue for a compromise. His plan still was about survival, only the survival of both sides.

I don't understand how people missed this but Picard spells it out: If the entity needs this energy to survive, then that might be why it's doing it. Not to kill, only to live, much like how humans have killed animals to eat so they could survive.

He wants to communicate with the entity and see if there's any way they can provide the entity with the energy it needs without destroying these planets. That's it. If they can't, they'll try to destroy it. If they can, then no one has to die. It cannot get simpler than this.

If the cuttlefish could make a deal with the whale and put their collective efforts into providing it with some vegan option... who's to say the whale wouldn't accept it?
Thu, Jun 10, 2021, 6:20am (UTC -6)
This episode's comment section is the reason I will stop visiting this site after following along for over 4 seasons. It's astounding to me how narrow minded and easily angered these so called "Trek fans" are. The fact that so many have come out of the woodwork to denounce Picard as naive is incredible. To seek out new life. To look for peaceful options where possible. These are the core themes and values of the series.

Talk about missing the point. I'm embarrassed to have ever thought that the Trek fan base might be filled with intelligent and open minded people. Sorry Jammer, I appreciate your opinions and the website as a whole. I always rushed here after watching an episode. But the negativity is too much.

Good luck to you all.
Thu, Jun 10, 2021, 11:13am (UTC -6)
Well Leo…. You sure seem awfully open-minded about the opinions of people who disagree with you.

Good luck to you, sir.
Thu, Jun 10, 2021, 12:12pm (UTC -6)
He seems to have a problem with reading comprehension too. The vast majority here agreed with Picard, so I'm not sure what this guy is at.
Sat, Jun 12, 2021, 2:15am (UTC -6)
lol looks like I bruised some egos.
I'll admit I didn't read all of the comments. There are a large number on this particular episode, but the majority of the earliest comments seem to call out Picard. I gave up reading through them just as they started to become more positive. That being said I stand by what I said. The comments on this site as a whole are often toxic, especially towards Jammer's own opinions.

For the record I would never be upset with someone for holding an opinion. The point is that there are many comments, on this episode especially, which outright misrepresent the characters in the episode or ignore the spirit of the series.

Calling someone out on reading comprehension is oh so mature. It only contributes to my point that this fan base is shockingly immature.
Sun, Jun 13, 2021, 10:31am (UTC -6)
You freely admit that you didn’t even bother to read all the comments? So, in other words, you encountered a few comments that disagreed with your opinions, thought that was unacceptable, and then decided to call some people names and rage-quit.

Nah, I’d say the only one who got his ego bruised here was you.
Sun, Jun 13, 2021, 11:39am (UTC -6)
He didn't "rage-quit" nor did he quit at all. The guy has never shown his face here before his present rant. He came out of nowhere, and basically screamed "you all stink!".

Honestly, this kind of behavior shouldn't even dignify a response. We should be talking about Trek (and other interesting topics) here, rather than have piss-fights with kids who come here looking for them...
Top Hat
Sun, Jun 13, 2021, 1:09pm (UTC -6)
It's true -- throwing a brick through a window is rarely helpful, even if there's something very insightful written on the brick.
Mon, Jun 14, 2021, 5:29am (UTC -6)
Good grief, if you didn't like my original two posts then just get on with your lives. I don't see the need for strawmen or snide remarks.

I never singled anyone out. I simply commented on a sphere of negativity and closed-mindedness I've witnessed on this site in relation to Trek, specifically this episode.

I never said, "you all stink", but if the shoe fits.

It's amazing how quick you are all to justify my original post.

"Easily angered" I really hit the nail on the head with that one.
Fri, Jun 25, 2021, 2:48am (UTC -6)
It always bugs me that Dr Marr could effectively take over the Enterprise. No-one, especially a civilian, should be able to lock out all the command staff. There should always be an emergency override.
Sun, Jul 4, 2021, 1:53pm (UTC -6)

Normally I would agree, but if you notice, the writers actually foreshadowed this action earlier in the episode. When Dr Marr is working on a computer in Engineering with great speed, Geordi observes, “You handle that terminal like a veteran, Doctor.” She replies, “One thing about spending your life doing research: You learn your way around computers.”

She had been studying the CE since Omicron Theta, and had been a scientist for even longer. She was probably a computer expert, likely more so than many members of the crew.

And she didn’t “take over the Enterprise”. I certainly hope that would have been beyond her power. What she did was find a way to lock the others out of a particular program - one which she had helped create. And even then Geordi STILL said he could defeat her lockout; he just needed more time than they had.
Ben D.
Thu, Jul 8, 2021, 5:02pm (UTC -6)
This was a really top-notch performance by Ellen Geer, who plays a broken, grieving mother as well as anyone I've seen on film. No exaggeration. It's one of those episodes that I distinctly remember watching during the first run, and I remember being disturbed by the scene between Dr. Marr and Data where he reads the poem, and that final scene where she destroys the entity.

On rewatch, I had the same feeling. The look in Dr. Marr's eyes watching the CE's death spasms, her tone of voice when she says "I did it for you, Renny," and the way she clutches at Data's shoulder, are bone-chilling. Same with the slowly unfolding desolation on Dr. Marr's face when Data gives her the ultimate sucker-punch by saying, "I don't believe your son would be happy right now." Brent Spiner does a really outstanding job in that final scene as well. There's some great camerawork as well, with the long ISO shots on Dr. Marr as she listens to Data. Brilliant acting all around.

I don't agree with some earlier comments that Data would not be able to extrapolate how Renny would react to his mother's actions. Even if Data himself does not have human emotions, he understands human emotions and it is not difficult to predict an expected emotional response from a particular stimulus, if provided enough background information.

I won't get into the morality debate. In this case, I liked how the writers raised some very provocative questions without fully resolving the moral ambiguity, even if they did ultimately plant their flag on the side of letting the entity survive. But it was not heavy-handed. It was a nice touch and more effective for Data to have given the final speech, as it were, rather than Picard.

My main quibble on re-watch is the inability of ANYONE to override Dr. Marr's program, including the Captain, who is supposed to be able to override anything. I mean, how easy would it be for the Enterprise to be highjacked altogether? What if Dr. Marr had decided to go out in a blaze of glory and crash the Enterprise into the entity using that same non-override code? And seriously, how did she get to be a world-class (galaxy-class?) hacker? But i don't think most viewers would have been keyed into that in 1991, when home computing was still in its infancy, and even the writers may not have thought the conceit to be far-fetched.

I'd give this at least 3.5 stars. A really haunting episode.
Fri, Jul 30, 2021, 8:34pm (UTC -6)
I think 2.5 stars is slightly too kind. Dr. Marr comes off as a very cardboard cutout version of a grieving family member driven to rage and revenge. This is another case in which TNG overreached its time slot. 40 minutes isn't long enough to do all of this stuff justice.

This story could have been done better, stretched out over a longer timespan, like so many TNG ideas. That's why I feel it deserves 2 stars; it is, at its heart, a very dramatic story.

But so much about it leaves me at the fridge later asking myself too many questions. Picard told Counselor Troi that he was interested in whether or not Dr Marr was emotionally compromised RIGHT near the beginning of the episode. So, when she gets called into his Ready Room ("Walk with me, please," always a precursor to a verbal slagging in Star Trek), I am utterly shocked that she was not simply removed from the investigation. Nobody at Starfleet Command was notified? What the hell??

Riker coming to Picard and saying "She might be right, you know" is a way of bolstering an otherwise flimsy teleplay. For this story to really work, you would need a lot more time to show Dr Marr slowly descending into a blood-eyed rage. You'd also need Data trying to question Counselor Troi about her perceived unhinged behavior, and not communicating it effectively enough for Troi to report it to the Captain.

That brings up another really powerful point; what was this, Counselor Troi's day off? She can sense the emotions of people who are even on planets the Enterprise is in orbit of. She couldn't sense the M U R D E R until Dr Marr locked out the controls on a constant graviton pulse setting?

That brings up another hefty failure of this teleplay; Data was shown to be fast, well-versed and capable enough to lock THE ENTIRE ENTERPRISE CREW out of the computer last season in "Brothers." He can't crack an encryption code on a Bridge Console fast enough to deactivate a Graviton Pulse?

Picard can't just use his Command Authorization to cut all power to main systems? This feels WAY too quick and easy, and part of me suspects that the special effects crew just asked the writing staff "can we please blow up this Crystalline Entity Model? It keeps stabbing us whenever we move it from storage garage to storage garage. We hate it" and the writing staff said "OK sure! Let's get to work on blowing up the Crystalline Entity, people!!"

All in all, I feel it's a two-star episode. More could have been done with this if not for 90s TV standards. Gotta hawk those products in the 20 minutes of commercials, baby!!!
Thu, Sep 16, 2021, 2:54am (UTC -6)
Can’t believe the Enterprise didn’t warp straight out of there to stop the attack on the Entity.

Can’t believe I wasted 45 minutes on this unconvincing, poorly conveyed hooey, especially after the intelligent real-politik of Ensign Ro.

1.5 stars. “Next…”
Sat, Oct 9, 2021, 4:12pm (UTC -6)
Picard's comparison was an affront to all of the people who died and those they left behind. Comparing the people to cuttlefish, really? It was a horrible thing to say to a mother who lost her son.

Perhaps he was making a valid point that we should try to communicate first before destroying the CE; to see if there was another way forward (however unlikely it seems we could satisfy this planet destroyer or ever really trust it). However, the way he made his point was disrespectful, cold and heartless. I think this conversation was a real miss. At a minimum, he should have shown more compassion. I would have felt like slapping him if I was her.

There should have been some acknowledgement at some point that it seemed improbable that we could ever satisfy or trust the CE. Even if it was just between Picard and Troi, or Picard and Crusher.

Leaving behind a 16 year old son to pursue a career does not rob the mother the right to mourn him or to be extremely, gut-wretchedly angry at the entity that consumed her son. She had such a huge conflict of interest that Starfleet was really blind to have sent her for this mission. Yes, she had been studying it for years and years, but it still was a mistake. Alright, even though I made it, I actually find that kind of criticism pointless. We would have had a very different episode if she hadn't be assigned and it would have lost much of its emotional impact. So, of course she was sent and I suppose Starfleet assumed she was "enlightened" enough to not hold a huge grudge. Their mistake (or was it.....).

I don't think she cared at all what would the ramifications would be after she killed it. Job done.
Sat, Oct 9, 2021, 4:50pm (UTC -6)
I think after her discussion with Picard Marr decided once and for all that she was going to destroy the CE. She would try to play "nice," but her path was set. Maybe that explains why some of her behavior seems erratic as Jammer pointed out. She was hiding her true intentions and it proved difficult sometimes. Deep down she was so very angry. The mama bear in me gets it.

Yes, again Troi was conveniently useless. It makes for a better episode.
Gaius Maximus
Fri, Oct 15, 2021, 3:35pm (UTC -6)
Almost 200 comments on this episode, but Rachael basically nailed in the third one. Call me an unenlightened 20th century human if you will, but I'm on Dr. Marr's side on this one.

Picard's analogy is fine as far as it goes, but no one is allowed to make the obvious reply. It's all very well for us in our safe, comfortable ready room to judge the whale as not evil, but if we could talk to the cuttlefish, they would certainly tell us that the whale was evil. And if they could fight back and kill it, they surely would do so. So why shouldn't we, as the equivalent to the cuttlefish in this analogy, do the same to the CE?

This line of argument reminds of one I often hear used by vegans and other animal rights activists that always strikes me as an example of doublethink. One the one hand, humans are part of nature just like animals, and no better. But on the other hand, it is wrong for humans to act like every other animal by expanding our habitat, eating meat according to our evolved diet, and killing predators. The fact A directly contradicts B is simply ignored. Picard is arguing under the same kind of double standard vis-a-vis the CE.

Another important point that I have not seen brought up very much is that the CE doesn't only eat people; it sterilizes planets. While Class M planets seem to be quite common in Star Trek, they are still incredibly precious, and (on a human time scale) non-renewable resources, and every time the CE feeds, one is lost forever. It seems to me like this should figure into the calculations somewhere.

Also, how long is it going to take for communication with the CE, even if it's intelligent and friendly, to go from graviton pulses to diplomatic negotiations? How long the Enterprise sit there with its shields up working on this? How long can the CE go without eating another planet? Even if an agreement is made, what's to stop the CE from ignoring it and starting to eat planets again as soon the Enterprise leaves? They were only able to track it through the good luck that a starship arrived very shortly after the attack in this instance. Who knows how long it would take, and how many planets would be eaten, before a similar circumstance allowed the trail to be picked up again?

No, Dr. Marr is a hero in my book, and she deserves the thanks of every non-crystalline life form in the galaxy.
Fri, Oct 15, 2021, 4:47pm (UTC -6)
The comment from Gaius Maximus made me think -- what if the CE didn't turn an entire Class M planet into a total wasteland and if it just annihilated all the fauna instead? That would make the whale/cuttlefish analogy more appropriate and give a bit more credence to Picard's logic. Was it a mistake by the writers to write the CE as was done (wiping out all life)? Personally, I too would side with Marr over Picard here. Don't the writers want to make Picard look good/righteous or if he's meant to look bad, then shouldn't there be a bigger payoff for doing so?

I suppose if you got technical, by wiping out all the fauna, wouldn't some of the plant life die too? Maybe that's an argument the writers could sweep under the rug since it's all arbitrary anyway.
Fri, Oct 15, 2021, 4:58pm (UTC -6)
It is interesting how willingly some are to go back to a time before the social contract. So if your son was killed then that gives you the right to murder? Gaius and Pamela are arguing for jungle law. If you feel like it then it is ok to do whatever harm you see as appropriate. What Marr does is basically blood revenge.

Dr. Marr broke the law and not only ended her career but also will spent a long time either in a psychiatric facility or in prison. Pamela is right though that Starfleet should never have let Marr anywhere near all this and Picard showed a baffling lack of empathy. Still as insensitive as his comment was, he is right.

Pamela argues that it should be acknowledged that we cannot trust the giant snowflake. Starfleet knows almost nothing about this lifeform which means that there is no basis for trust or distrust.

Gaius also makes several arguments that boil down to "It is still a threat, therefore it is justified to kill it" while the first part may be true, you could at least find out if there is a solution other than annihilating what is maybe the entire species. If it does not stop it's behavior then you can still use force. The Enterprise can destroy the thing in a few seconds probably. It is no longer a threat and we are not cuttlefish.
Peter G.
Fri, Oct 15, 2021, 5:46pm (UTC -6)
It seems to me that in order to find the focus of the debate, the actual sequence of the scene needs to be included in the conversation. The way things went, the Enterprise had located the CE, and had a choice to make in how to engage with it (with hostility or with peace). But Dr. Marr hurriedly and preemptively destroyed it, thus removing the possibility of making a decision. Assuming we want to ascribe a motive to her action, rather than to just declare her as unstable, her motive was *to prevent* the choice being made that you're all debating. Because this is how the story is shown, the debate of the episode never was about whether it's more sensible to attempt to make a peace with the CE or not. The actual 'debate' we see, giving Dr. Marr full credit, is whether or not the CE *deserves* to be approached peacefully. Dr. Marr seems to me to approach the situation from a revenge perspective: it did what it did, it can't be allowed to live. Picard's side was not ruling out violence, but was going to weight the options. In effect, the debate being had here about the relative merits of dialogue vs violence with the entity was going to be the debate Picard was going to open up, had he been given the chance to. I don't think out of the gate we should assume he would have relentlessly pushed a peace treaty solution with it no matter what. He was definitely not going to allow it to do what it did ever again either way.

This other matter, about whether the CE could be trusted to abide by such a treaty, or whether the Enterprise had to destroy it right away while the chance was there, seems to me a bit in the vein of spaghetti western logic. "If we don't shoot now he'll get away!" Personally I think it's reasonable to suppose that once the Enterprise had caught up with the CE it's game was done; it was never going to be running amok again like an outlaw. It would not be very complicated at this point to keep tabs on it, or follow it around, or whatever. And as Booming suggested, once it was 'in custody' I don't think its threat potential was very serious. It could be executed at any time after that if the need arose.

Anyhow, I think the matter on the table is whether blood calls for blood, which TNG would vociferously argue it does not. I think Dr. Marr is both shown to be wrong in both how the episode plays out, and objectively in the sense that she is representing the vengeance principle where there is no dialogue, no investigation, and no forgiveness when the 'unforgiveable' is done. Picard (and I) would stand on the side of at minimum trying to understand the situation first.
Sat, Oct 16, 2021, 9:34am (UTC -6)

Please reread my post. I did not advocate jungle law (really, show me where I did). In fact, I even said that perhaps Picard was making a valid point that we should try to communicate with it first; to see if there was another way forward. Yes, my language waffled a bit because I had my doubts that it would be successful.

Regarding Dr. Marr, I just said I understood where she was coming from. I never said she was right to destroy it. I also never said that it could not be trusted, but I questioned whether or not we could ever really trust it. There is a big difference between the two. I think it would factor into Picard’s communications with it were he given the chance.

My post was mainly critical of Picard and the way he was with Dr. Marr. I concluded she didn’t care what happened to her after she destroyed the CE. To her it was job (well) done.

She was so happy until she spoke to Data.

@Peter G

What you say makes sense. I agree that Picard wasn’t bent on peace no matter what. He was never given the chance. If he had been more sensitive to Dr. Marr's history he might prevented her from taking such a drastic action. I think I was more offended by what he said than many were.

What he said to her might not have mattered. I can’t really make up my mind if she was determined to destroy it right from the start no matter what. She might have been.
Sat, Oct 16, 2021, 12:08pm (UTC -6)
You are certainly the most ambiguous. My critique was mostly aimed at Gaius (and of course Rahul). When I wrote me reply your and his comment apparently blended together in my mind. You write this sentence (and another similar one)

"There should have been some acknowledgement at some point that it seemed improbable that we could ever satisfy or trust the CE."
There is no indication in the episode that it will be hard to satisfy the entity (I think) or that we cannot trust it. So by saying that a peaceful solution is very unlikely, are you not arguing for violence? Dr. Marr got as you say the "Job done".

But in your last post you are admitting that you "waffled" a bit and I understand that having sympathy for somebodies deeds is not the same as agreeing with those deeds. In hindsight I should have made it clearer that Gaius (and Rahul) are definitely the ones who mostly advocate it.

"but I questioned whether or not we could ever really trust it."
What are you basing this on? As far as I understand it, the Enterprise and the snowflake just said hello. Apart from some very basic info about it's eating habits we really don't know anything about it.
Sat, Oct 16, 2021, 4:11pm (UTC -6)

I don’t think my stating that a peaceful solution is unlikely is advocating violence. What a leap in logic that is! To me it’s along the lines of hope for the best, plan for the worst.

I base my point about how improbably the CE could be satisfied on historical facts. The CE is an ecosystem destroyer. It doesn't *just* gobble up the warm blooded life forms, but every single living thing. It makes planets uninhabitable. That alone makes me think it would be very difficult to satisfy. Not impossible, but maybe close to it. I see no evidence to the contrary.

Regarding Picard, I felt his position wasn't balanced enough. As Peter G said, it wasn’t peace no matter what, but there wasn’t enough "maybe peace won’t be possible" in my opinion. I wanted Picard to at least express greater doubts to someone that peace may not be possible than he did. I thought that would have made a better episode.

Regarding trust, maybe it isn't very "Star Trek" of me but I believe trust must be earned, not just given. Especially with an entity that is capable of such widespread destruction so quickly. To place trust in it and be wrong would be much worse than not trusting it and being wrong (which doesn’t necessarily mean killing it). How could Starfleet continue to monitor it if they did manage to make peace with it? Would they just accept its promise that it would stop eating humanoids? I doubt it, but I don’t think this was explored enough. Peter G also says “it would not be very complicated at this point to keep tabs on it, or follow it around, or whatever.” Based on what? How in the world does anyone know that? They are going to assign a starship to follow it? What if it decides to go to another quadrant, is it just someone else’s problem? Or the starship will follow it? Try to stop it?

When I said "job done" I was expressing what I believed to be Dr. Marr's position on what she did. I thought that was obvious, but maybe it wasn't.

My main point was Picard was callous towards Dr. Marr and the CE's victims. I also expressed that for the reasons given above, peace was improbable. I will continue to deny that by stating that, I am advocating violence. I do think the CE is actually more destructive than the Borg (just not as widespread) given how quickly and thoroughly it destroys entire ecosystems. Due to the great potential of destruction of this entity, anything but extreme caution and skepticism would be foolish. I didn’t see that expressed in this episode. Maybe you did or maybe you don’t think it was necessary.
Sun, Oct 17, 2021, 3:08am (UTC -6)
"I don’t think my stating that a peaceful solution is unlikely is advocating violence."
Maybe I'm not making myself clear but we have very little indication how the snowflake will behave after establishing a line of communication with it. Just imagine your words being said by Worf. :)

"I base my point about how improbably the CE could be satisfied on historical facts. The CE is an ecosystem destroyer."
I guess you mean past events but again you ignore the fact that we do not know if the snowflake will continue what it does when it knows that it hurts other beings. Maybe sucking up sweet juicy planets is only the most effective way to consume energy, maybe it can instead just sit close to a sun for a week. You are making statements about probability (I have a background in statistics) based on extremely limited information. We Humans are also ecosystem destroyers, by the way. It just takes us more time.

"Regarding trust, maybe it isn't very "Star Trek" of me but I believe trust must be earned, not just given. Especially with an entity that is capable of such widespread destruction so quickly."
Sure, but to resolve conflict you often have to risk giving a little trust. As Peter and I pointed out. You can attract the snowflake with a graviton pulse and destroy it easily. When they attracted it with the pulse it showed no hostile intention, even when it was hurt by the pulse it remained peaceful. It remained peaceful until it was dead.

"I do think the CE is actually more destructive than the Borg (just not as widespread) given how quickly and thoroughly it destroys entire ecosystems."
Debatable. What is worse a sterile planet or a Borg planet that produces more Borg destruction? Personally, I'd rather be vaporized in a millisecond than being a drone for years. I'm also not a fan of the moist, green and pale skin. How are you supposed to ever to find a nice drone to marry looking like that?? #noborg
Sun, Oct 17, 2021, 8:06am (UTC -6)
@Booming. Please, the CE chases people into caves and doesn't leave until it eats them. Probability is not the point at all. You can believe it may be just as happy eating plants like a rabbit or sitting next to a sun, but the evidence is against you. I am advocating extreme caution and trust that must be earned. You can approach it with shields down and open arms all you want. I'm sure you'll be very tasty.
Sun, Oct 17, 2021, 8:28am (UTC -6)
I would hope so.
C.T Phipps
Sun, Nov 7, 2021, 2:02pm (UTC -6)
I would give this episode a 7 out of 10, easily.

Mind you, I may have completely missed the mark but why I like this episode is you can see the seeds of DEEP SPACE NINE being planted here. This is an episode where the idealism of the Enterprise crew fails and a very human act of revenge in taken by a person of the 24th century. There's also an ambiguity about whether Picard was right.

Picard thinks he is and this is going to be resolved peacefully but it is just as possible (and all subsequent tie-in fiction goes with the Crystalline Entity is about as moral as the Space Amoeba from "The Immunity Syndrome" or Vampire Mist from "Obsession") that he's dead wrong. We're inclined to believe Picard but the simple fact is the Crystaline Entity could very well be an existential threat to human life without a possibility to save it.

This is a very classic Star Trek problem and the first tie-in novel I ever read was PRIME DIRECTIVE where the crew faces another cosmozoan that they decide not to kill despite the fact it's killed (or seemingly has killed) billions. I also give a lot of credit for addressing a bit of continuity that had previously been abandoned.

The episode has Picard shown in a way where his enlightenment comes off as callous and may actually be dead wrong but it doesn't 100% say so either. Whereas the guest star is quite human in her anger and fear. Maybe she was dead wrong. Maybe she also has prevented another Doomsday Machine.
Wed, Jan 26, 2022, 11:27pm (UTC -6)
I think this is a 3.5 for me. The whole point is the moral dilemma. Should this creature be destroyed or communicated with? This is, as many have said, the dilemma that is touched upon many time. I think where the scene falls short is the ending. I agree with Jammer that Picard’s thoughtfulness over the ‘dilemma’ is a powerful moment. Rather than having another scene with Data and the grieving mother, a scene with Picard and the counsellor or Picard and Riker with Picard expressing his mixed emotions, would’ve been more powerful. Still a good episode, one that I don’t remember being so good.
Mon, Mar 14, 2022, 11:56pm (UTC -6)
One thing that drops this one a tad is that Dr. Marr's believing the colonists weren't completely baseless. This is the first time there were survivors and the notable difference was the presence of Data.

They should have at least considered the possibility that CE thought Data was Lore and spared those around him for that reason.
Sat, May 7, 2022, 11:13am (UTC -6)
You know, these days we have this fuzzy, utopian notion that conflict is always wrong, that we can all find a way to get along with each other, and that the past does not have to define the present or influence the future (unless you're a straight white man, of course). It's all about "coexistence," "respect," and "reconciliation": from South Africa to Bosnia to Timor-Leste.

Well, here's what. Sometimes the enemy cannot be reasoned with or negotiated with. Sometimes the enemy's sins are too egregious to be forgiven and forgotten. Sometimes the enemy does need to be destroyed, such as was Nazi Germany.

The old lady was right to blow that thing out of the water. Kudos to her; we need more like her.
Sat, Aug 13, 2022, 5:13pm (UTC -6)
Everyone is debating about whether the entity should have been destroyed or not, but I want to know what Dr. Crusher was doing on that planet. Is she an architect also? Why would a doctor take part in planning the construction of a hospital?

I also agree with Dimpy, that old lady had some serious psychological problems. Is mental health care still a problem in the 24th century? She had no business even being there.
matt h
Tue, Oct 18, 2022, 8:04am (UTC -6)
Analogy in consideeration.

C.E is to Picard
Horta is to Kirk
Tue, Oct 18, 2022, 9:55pm (UTC -6)
Was it morally wrong for Kirk to have destroyed the Ceti Alpha V eel creature in The Wrath of Khan? Let’s assume the eel was intelligent, self-aware, and exhibited consciousness ( to even the slightest degree). AGene Roddenberry said that Kirk’s destroying the creature was morally wrong, is every life form misunderstood? For those who favored Picard’s attempts to talk to the CE, at what point do you say that has become futile, the safety of my crew requires that I take action for my own self- preservation. The episode stacks the deck in favor of the CE’s right to exist posture, by having Dr. Marr clearly be an 11 on the scale of being disturbed, because of what happened to her son, from the word go.” So many of Picard’s moments of ‘moral victory” weren’t really victories. They were wins over straw men. Alkar, Rasmussen. Radue. Admiral Haftel. A lying Wesley Crusher. Proponents of his acting as a god, to placate the Mo takans. Loonies, moral cowards, brutalists, dictatorial Admirals..
Top Hat
Wed, Oct 19, 2022, 6:56am (UTC -6)
It's sort of like saying that Perry Mason's job as a crusading defence attorney was made easy by the fact that his clients were inevitably innocent. The moral scales of a fictional work are often pressed in favour of its protagonist.
Wed, Oct 19, 2022, 9:12pm (UTC -6)
@Top Hat

Not all of Mason’s clients were innocent. A thoughtful lawyer, when considering whether to assert a defense, has at their disposal moral arguments, ethical arguments, whatever the lawyer believes will dissuade jurors from finding evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. Deciding which arguments to make is not easy, tactically, morally, or otherwise, in many cases. Not to mention the fact thst some of Mason’s clients, while innocent, were very unsavory characters. The playing out of how far the lawyer will go makes for compelling drama.

When Q told Picard that Q visited the Enterprise to listen to Picard’s “wonderful little speeches,” maybe the writers were giving themselves a nudge in their own ribs, acknowledging how morally tidy Picard’s positions were. Not all Trek pressed the moral scales in favor of the protagonist (to say fictional work often presses the scales does not mean that writing is good, which Ais my entire point. Effective drama is derived from real conflict, not contrived conflict). Episodes like “Duet,” “”Equinox” , “Children of Time” and “Dear Doctor” let us see, and let the characters be affected by, a moral gray zone.
Jeffrey Jakucyk
Thu, Oct 20, 2022, 2:45pm (UTC -6)
"For those who favored Picard’s attempts to talk to the CE, at what point do you say that has become futile, the safety of my crew requires that I take action for my own self- preservation."

Since the Enterprise was in no danger from the CE, and they'd been attempting to communicate for all of 75 seconds before Dr. Marr turned the dial up to "kill," I'd say they were nowhere near the point of futility.
Jason R.
Thu, Oct 20, 2022, 4:52pm (UTC -6)
But Jeffrey macho lady's man Kirk would have just killed that entity good and wouldn't have stopped for some namby pamby reason (says every J.J. Abrams school Trek fan who never really watched or liked the original series :)
Thu, Oct 20, 2022, 8:09pm (UTC -6)

As a starship Captain, Picard has two competing obligations: to protect his crew and to “seek out new life forms.” I am not saying he should have destroyed the crystalline entity in those 75 seconds. I ‘ll put it another way: had the entity attacked the Enterprise, how many casualties would have been acceptable before attempts to communicate with it while it was in attack should have ceased? Picard would have been forced to make a tough choice had it attacked-which obligation must give way to the other. He would have faced a real dilemma, like the kind he faced in I, Borg ( earlier in the episode anyway ). The episode portrayed Dr. Marr so obviously as a monster and Picard so obviously as the saintly humanist that she didn’t come across simply as misguided or as vengeful; the way the ending came across, her destroying the entity was presented as a greater crime than all of the lives the entity destroyed. The episode caricatured her-a clearly mentally ill individual who might have benefited from the benevolent Federation’s medical assistance.

So, to ask again, should Khan’s eels have been destroyed?

What about the parasitic creatures in Operation: Annihilate? They were described as malevolent and has having spread terror across a whole line of planets. As the posts across decades have made clear, there is room for something in between a “kill it” and “love it to death” reaction re: how to treat the CE. Except for people who “know” they are right, like Picard “knew.”
Fri, Oct 21, 2022, 1:16am (UTC -6)
" The episode portrayed Dr. Marr so obviously as a monster and Picard so obviously as the saintly humanist that she didn’t come across simply as misguided or as vengeful; the way the ending came across, her destroying the entity was presented as a greater crime than all of the lives the entity destroyed."
Really, I never saw it that way. They went to some length to give the death of the colonists some emotional depth. They were not just a random number Data said after the fact. We actually saw them. Riker was there and did what he does when he meets somebody with shiny hair. That woman was killed in front of him. So I wouldn't say that the episode portrayed destroying the entity as a greater crime.
Top Hat
Fri, Oct 21, 2022, 7:16am (UTC -6)
I think the real villain of this episode is whoever approved Dr. Marr coming along this mission.
Fri, Oct 21, 2022, 9:29am (UTC -6)
True, that mission was marred by conflict.
Jason R.
Fri, Oct 21, 2022, 9:48am (UTC -6)
"So, to ask again, should Khan’s eels have been destroyed?

What about the parasitic creatures in Operation: Annihilate?"

Totally different. The Enterprise was in no immediate danger from the Entity and it was not in the midst of hurting anyone when Marr killed it.
Jeffrey Jakucyk
Fri, Oct 21, 2022, 8:54pm (UTC -6)
Caloceptri: "...had the entity attacked the Enterprise, how many casualties would have been acceptable before attempts to communicate with it while it was in attack should have ceased?"

Jason R.: "The Enterprise was in no immediate danger from the Entity and it was not in the midst of hurting anyone when Marr killed it."

Precisely. Picard said "We know from our own experience that our shields will protect us. So long as we're in no danger, I will make every effort to communicate."

They were in no danger, the CE stopped when it realized they were approaching and attempting to communicate, so it wasn't heading to anywhere to eat. They had all the time in the world. Destroying it after barely a minute of trying to talk is like the police shooting an unarmed suspect walking along a deserted highway 20 miles from any other human without even giving the suspect time to answer the question "do you speak English?"
William B
Fri, Oct 21, 2022, 9:56pm (UTC -6)
Riker suggests that they may miss their shot by trying to communicate with it. But ultimately the last scene does strongly suggest the Enterprise is in no danger and that the CE is not leaving and is willing to communicate.

I guess I'm not sure that the episode is about the ethics of killing dangerous creatures. Picard has his take, Riker his, but the episode doesn't dwell on it or seem to locate its emotional core there. I don't think Marr was written the way she was to prove Picard right. I think the episode is a tragedy about the long shadow of grief and loss, particularly from violence. Marr was destroyed by the CE, and more to the point by Lore. Data is both Lore's brother and another of his victims, and she switches through the episode between viewing him as an enemy (a version of Lore) to an ally (a version of her son), but he remains Data, regardless of what she projects onto him. Even at the end Data doesn't say her son would be sad that she killed the CE because of fuzzy feelings for the entity, but that it would mean the end of her career, and thus what little remained of her life. Lore/the CE "wins," is the tragedy of the episode. The episode doesn't seem to ask us to mourn the CE (the way it does the mommy creature in Galaxy's Child) but to mourn the life lost to unfulfilling revenge. Her inability to see Data except through the lens of the CE attack is the signal that she has lost her entire life and self to that attack. And while we can blame the CE (and certainly Lore) it is also a tragedy that her son would, probably, have preferred that she hold onto something else in her life.

Now here one can say, well, it's not unfulfilling: the CE won't hurt anything else, so, good! So what if she ended her career? But I think the communication working is there to signal that there were going to be other options, so that Marr didn't really save any future lives. And again, if the episode were primarily about the ethics of killing things I can see how this would be frustrating, but again I don't think it's really the episode's main subject.
Tue, Nov 29, 2022, 10:03pm (UTC -6)
Dan R is spot on... this episode preaches like today's climate change loons.

"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."
Wed, Nov 30, 2022, 4:50am (UTC -6)
Much better than I remember it to be. I find it that the dilemma whether to destroy the creature or not works wonderfully well with Dr Marr's trauma of losing her son. Having Data possess and share some of the son's memories is a neat device that is, I'd say, used to a right degree in order to accentuate the doctor's loss, emotional turmoil and effectively involve the audience in it, which makes this episode a very human story at heart, despite the presence of an unusual alien. Dr Marr is initially introduced as antagonistic because of her obvious disdain for one of the audience's favorites, but over the course of the episode she quickly starts showing her vulnerability and even grows an attachment to Data (in no small part due to the memories he carries). The resolution to the episode is then not surprising, but even so carries a punch because it didn't take the easy route, especially given the closing dialogue.

As for the central dilemma of the episode, @Rachael nicely put into words more than 10 years ago exactly what I was thinking while rewatching the episode:

"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?"

The CE may be feeding itself and that is not even an issue; the issue is that its way of life is completely incompatible with life that defines us and that we hold dear and cherish. I do appreciate that, in addition to Dr Marr and her son, the writers clearly showed the stakes to the audience by briefly introducing us to the colonists, in particular those who perished, and by having us listen to a distress call of a ship while under attack by the CE. In doing so, the episode doesn't really make up its mind for you, but rather that is something you as a spectator have to do on your own. I would easily give this 3.5 stars on the Jammer's scale.

Once small nitpick I have with this episode is that it seems the writers again lost track of the fact that space is incomprehensibly enormous, so having one of the top experts on the CE appear on the Enterprise out of nowhere literal moments after its attack is kinda fart-fetched, but since the story needs to keep going forward and since it more than delivers in the end, one can easily look past that.
Wed, Nov 30, 2022, 5:28am (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?"

There are several problems in that quote. First, Picard never goes against the concept of self defense. That's not what this episode is about. They make it very clear that they will destroy the Crystalline Entity if really threatened. This episode is about preemptive strikes. Meaning that we have to destroy the CE now, so that it does not attack anything else later.

Second, shellfish does not have the capacity for higher thought so they "shouldn't" anything because that would imply rational thought/consciously evaluating something. Humans on the other hand can evaluate a situation, that is why we can come up with more solutions than fight or flight. As others and myself have pointed out earlier, the CE was at that point no real threat anymore. They knew how to easily destroy it.

Third, Picard uses the whale shellfish example not to make a cruel comparison but to highlight that he has put himself in the CE's shoes. In other words the example Picard makes, is him seeing the CE just as a huge animal that eats with no ill will, like a whale. The example is not about the shellfish but about the whales. Nobody thinks that whales are evil for eating shellfish but even here people argue that the CE is evil because it eats us even though the motivation for the CE is the same as it is for whales. If whales aren't evil, then the CE isn't evil. It just has to eat to exist.

Picard just wants to find out if the less primitive parts of our brains can come up with a way for CE's and Humans to coexist. Sadly, Dr Marr's monkey brain parts decide to kill kill kill.
Gorn with the Wind
Wed, Nov 30, 2022, 10:16am (UTC -6)
4/4 stars from me. An exceptionally strong story that usually flies under the radar in the perennial “best of lists”.

I love the concept of the Crystalline Entity as a whale devouring “insignificant” sea creatures for fuel. Same could be said for omnivores like myself who depopulate the oceans. It’s also visually cool, particularly after its glow up in the recent remasters.

Picard seeking to reason with it only for the doctor to destroy it out of bitter revenge is such a classic Star Trek moral dilemma. I fall heavily on Picard’s side: pro communication, pro understanding, & anti violence, but the fact that others identify with Marr is proof positive of it being a thought provoking episode.

Much like other TNG classics, this one has an ending which lingers and haunts well after the credits roll. You can imagine Marr being destroyed by her triple tragedies: death of her son, disgrace of her son’s memory, & the murder of an intelligent, potentially unique, creature, for the rest of her life. I love it when fiction lands thematic blows which resonate beyond the time spent watching or reading, and this episode certainly qualifies.
Peter G.
Wed, Nov 30, 2022, 10:36am (UTC -6)
@ Booming and others,

"Nobody thinks that whales are evil for eating shellfish but even here people argue that the CE is evil because it eats us even though the motivation for the CE is the same as it is for whales. If whales aren't evil, then the CE isn't evil. It just has to eat to exist."

The reason analogies break down is because the whale is eating civilizations, not shrimp. And according to Datalore the CE is capable of communication. What we don't know is what sorts of signals Lore was sending it: was it instinct-level signals, like what bees gives each other, or was it actual communication, in which case the CE is sentient? If the latter, it means that the CE is not a whale but an intelligent entity that is killing civilizations, i.e. on purpose. Maybe it knows it has no choice, and like the proverbial vampire, does the bad thing because it must in order to survive. Maybe it judges itself harshly for this. Maybe it's an amoral intelligent entity. Without trying to communicate with it we can't say what it did or didn't know. What Lore said isn't enough to know for sure. The distinction between it being a big dumb whale and a psychopathic alien is fairly large. In the case of it being an intelligent remorseful alien it would probably welcome some assistance to meet its diet without killing.

Again, none of this is exactly the point of the episode, as I feel like the core of it lies in the strangeness of an android carrying the memories of humans, and how it feels to have that life reduced to programmable circuit data. To the extent that silicon is a metal, but also can be crystalline, perhaps the episode is drawing a parallel between Data and the CE, that both of them 'consume' lives, the CE to eat, Data because the lives of the colonists are in him. Maybe the horror of that is what set off Dr. Marr, and she took it out on the entity. This aspect of the episode is rather half-baked since while it's cool to bring up the notion of hearing from a lost child through Data's memories, the story doesn't quite follow up on that other than as a nifty technical element, whereas I think there was more meat there. Certainly Data's material nature and the CE's inorganic material nature being common should have had more resonance for us.
Wed, Nov 30, 2022, 10:42am (UTC -6)
So now we have introduced the concept of “no immediate danger” into the debate, to decide when we can break the “respect for all life forms” rules. This concept does not make it easier to determine when destroying life vs . trying to love it to death is appropriate. “Immediate danger,” for anyone familiar with American criminal law concepts, means “objective immediate danger.” If i subjectively believe I am on immediate danger from someone who is threatening to kill me, I will lose on a self-defense argument if my belief was *objectively* unreasonable. In other words, society gets to judge whether I can prevail on this defense. Society was of course not present when the Enterprise deatroyed the crystalline entity. Was it sibjectively unreasonable to believe the crystalline entity’s (possibly) peaceful intentions could have turned on a dime? No, I would think. At what moral point does the crystalline entity lose the benefit of the doubt re: whether its intentions are “peaceful”? The answer of some people here seems to be that unless it is actively slaughtering people, we must try to befriend it. That is not my understanding of the “social contract” (which does not exist in the Star Trek universe in a large degree anyway, because the pursuit of wealth that informs so much of the details of tjat contract is no longer a motivating ambition). Again, bo one showed an ounce of sympathy for Dr. Marr, or tried to. Instant condemnation. Just mix and two teaspoons of Picard speechifying and one cup of Fara cold shoulder.
Wed, Nov 30, 2022, 11:36am (UTC -6)
Sure, maybe the CE is a pervert who gets a kick out of killing, we will never know and not to be pedantic but Humans kill around 200 million animals every day. Many of them highly intelligent and we definitely know what we are doing. Is mass killing life forms only wrong if they are like us?

" At what moral point does the crystalline entity lose the benefit of the doubt re: whether its intentions are “peaceful”?"
I would say after the point of the CE showing that it understands what peace is and deciding against it. Peace and war are as far as we know is Human concepts. Whales are not at war with shellfish.

"he answer of some people here seems to be that unless it is actively slaughtering people, we must try to befriend it. That is not my understanding of the “social contract” (which does not exist in the Star Trek universe in a large degree anyway, because the pursuit of wealth that informs so much of the details of tjat contract is no longer a motivating ambition)."
Ok, two things. One, I would not say that Picard tried to befriend the CE, he just wanted to find out if we could coexist and two, you do not understand what the social contract is. It was invented because divine right had lost it's value. Very simply put it means that people decide that there are certain rules some entity decide on (in democracies the people) and then follow and if not then the state enforces those rules. The Federation certainly has a form of social contract or as most people would call it, a constitution. Wealth accumulation is not a necessary part of a social contract. The CE is a life form that is obviously not part of the Federation and because we don't know if it would want to be part of the Federation or that it could even understand what a social contract is, mans that the social contract has no relevance to this discussion.

Here a short vid about it.
Peter G.
Wed, Nov 30, 2022, 12:28pm (UTC -6)
@ Booming,

I definitely do not think we know what we are doing, tbh.
Jason R.
Wed, Nov 30, 2022, 12:51pm (UTC -6)
I confess I am baffled at why Picard's simple proposition of "kill if necessary, find peace and accomodation if possible" approach could be so controversial. This is the essence of Trek going back to TOS Arena, Devil in the Dark, TNG Encounter at Farpoint and so many other episodes dealing with variations on this same scenario. It is practically the defining feature of the Trek ethos.
Wed, Nov 30, 2022, 1:13pm (UTC -6)
Point taken. :)

Yeah, I kind of agree. Maybe that highlights how effective the set up is. Showing how those colonists are vaporized and how the planet looked afterwards. There seems to be a significant part of humanity who sees that and thinks:" If something causes that then that being must be evil."
Wed, Nov 30, 2022, 7:18pm (UTC -6)
>Humans kill around 200 million animals every day. Many of them highly intelligent...

How are we defining intelligence here, like give me some examples of animals you consider highly intelligent? Also are all those deaths for food or are you counting things like environmental destruction?
Thu, Dec 1, 2022, 2:04am (UTC -6)
"How are we defining intelligence here, like give me some examples of animals you consider highly intelligent?"
great apes, octopi, elephants, pigs, dolphins. To name a few.

"Also are all those deaths for food or are you counting things like environmental destruction?"
The around 200 million per day are only land animals that are slaughtered for meat (80 billion per year). There is of course also fish which adds another 2 trillion per year and so on.
Thu, Dec 1, 2022, 2:00pm (UTC -6)
I don't really count octopi as highly intelligent, sure they can navigate a maze, but that doesn't mean much to me. I'm guessing most of that 200 million are not that smart.
Fri, Dec 2, 2022, 2:37am (UTC -6)
As a human being, I have a built-in desire not to personally become food. At the same time I do derive benefits from feeding others (being a source of their food) and this benefit comes not only from the feeding of my fellow human beings, (family, friends, allies, guests, neighbors in need, people who are just in dire straits) but from the feeding of other life forms...dogs, cats, birds, fish, rodents, etc. In the hot summer, squirrels even drink water from my fountain and wash their paws.

I think the benefit is that psychological strength is increased by the bonds formed with other creatures. The effect is one of becoming a kind of minor deity with respect to those other creatures. Their intellectual capacities are not particularly important. (Cf., Jillian's comments in ST IV).

If I become food, and have not chosen that fate for myself, as happens when the Crystalline Entity ingests me on its own schedule and according to its own logical system, I have been reduced to the level of Picard's cuttlefish. It's not evil per se; it's just that being transformed into caloric energy by the Crystalline Entity's digestive tract is not a great use of my potential as a human being. I would have hoped to have done so much more... or at least to have gotten clean water into the fountain. :)
Fri, Dec 2, 2022, 7:33am (UTC -6)
If people had to watch the animals being slaughtered, many of us would change our diets. But the industry ensures we don't watch, and we don't really mind. Because meat tastes really good.
Fri, Dec 2, 2022, 8:55am (UTC -6)
I guess someone needs to go to Bovine University
Sat, Dec 3, 2022, 12:21pm (UTC -6)
Forgot about that. Great stuff
Sat, Dec 10, 2022, 2:05am (UTC -6)
This entity could put humanity into extinction and some of you here want to play Patti Cake with it?
Max Stirner
Fri, Mar 24, 2023, 8:31am (UTC -6)
I liked this episode a lot but I found Picard’s point about whales and fish to be absolutely ridiculous and inapplicable because it makes humanity a third party and outside observer in this when in reality it is the victim. He is right that whales are not evil for eating but that is immaterial to those things being eaten, and if they had a way to destroy the beings that wanted to eat them they would, Picard should have made some argument about how it would be beneficial to the crew or to humanity as a whole.
Tue, Apr 18, 2023, 7:12pm (UTC -6)

This entity could put humanity into extinction and some of you here want to play Patti Cake with it?


See my comments further up....
Mon, May 8, 2023, 11:54pm (UTC -6)
Beard of Sisko
Wed, Jun 21, 2023, 12:29pm (UTC -6)
Picard goes full bleeding heart on what would be equivalent to a rabid animal terrorizing a community. There's only one solution; put it down so it can't harm others. Sure Dr. Marr wanted revenge but it was still the right thing to do.

Ordinarily I would be surprised that Picard would object to an act that would save people's lives. But after watching Homeward and re-watching Hide and Q, I can't say I'm surprised at all.
Peter G.
Wed, Jul 5, 2023, 10:04pm (UTC -6)
Watching this episode again, and reflecting on previous comments I've made about it, I'm more convinced than ever that the episode is really not about the dilemma between killing the CE outright and giving it a chance to communicate. Dr. Marr is clearly deranged to the point where we cannot take her point of view seriously as an objective position, and I get the idea that even Riker may be succumbing to traumatic emotion in his suggestion to Picard that they should destroy it outright. But what clinches it for me is Marr's preoccupation with her son, and more specifically how much self-focus there is in her questions to Data about him. She doesn't ask Data whether he was happy, or spent his last hours alone, or anything like that. She asks whether he blamed her, she asks whether he asked for her when he was dying, and she asks for his forgiveness at the end when she insists she did it all for him. The very fact that she has to say she did it for him should be enough for us to understand the episode is stating unequivocally that she did a bad thing, and that she has to justify it. Some viewers may in fact agree with destroying the CE, in that's not the point of our story. The point of the story is that at no point was Dr. Marr considering what the correct course of action should be.

Just consider that in her questions to Data about her son, she mentions she left him there with friends at age 16. That she had always meant to come back and visit, but every month there was a different excuse not to. These clues should lead us to suggest that either they had a falling out, or else she up and left him outright to pursue a career and never went back. She says he told her about things like winning a Parrises Squares tournament, but I get the feeling that things were not good between them. And based on how Marr is acting now my assumption is that she blames herself for him being there and dying. The hatred and broken anguish we see in her the entire episode seems to me a reflection of self-hatred, which gets directed all over the place, including at Data and the CE. And this is why I don't think it's that important to speculate about whether she was 'right' or not. Her position was never one of moral debate but of a desperate need to take our her feelings on someone. And at the end when she finally does it, she's not vindicated but rather destroyed. When Data says that her son would be sad, I think it is as much about having destroyed the CE as about having destroyed herself. There is no moral victory here, only desolation.
Thu, Jul 6, 2023, 12:52am (UTC -6)
Peter G. is on the right track. People can argue back and forth on whether killing the CE is ultimately permissible, perhaps even the best moral course of action. But that's an intellectual matter that is of secondary importance to the crux of the story. Tonally, it is very clear that the episode is trying to make a point about a related, but independent issue. It's about the importance of bringing the correct principles to bear on a moral dilemma. Because principles matter -- even if it turns out that the wrong principles coincidentally happen to lead you to the same conclusion as the correct principles. And this episode highlights why that is.

I see that others have recently brought up the example of slaying wild animals to protect a community of people (I'll leave the "rabid" out of it since arguably euthanizing animals ravaged by rabies is the merciful thing to do regardless of whether other lives are threatened by them). According to these people, it is a foregone conclusion that you strike back and it doesn't matter how you go about it or why you do it. Because all that matters is the consequences -- that the danger is allayed.

This mentality hits close to home because recently there have been some coyote attacks in my city where small children have gotten mauled in a recently developed area. There have been calls for a culling and already a few coyotes have been killed...though nobody really knows if those coyotes were involved in the attacks. There are many nuances and complexities to the matter that place it beyond a simple open-and-shut case, such as the ramifications of how and when wild animals lose their natural fear of humans (usually because they've been fed) and who is really to blame for that; whether it is reasonable to expect that such a danger can truly be contained once and for all due to the transmission of learned behaviours; whether culling is even effective if it triggers reproduction in greater numbers; and what rights and responsibilities come with encroaching into previously wild areas for human development.

But beyond those questions which I do not presume to decisively settle (and are outside the scope of this discussion anyhow), the most significant moral consideration for me was whether there was rhyme and reason to the killings, or whether the officials quickly needed a few scapegoats (having just any two coyote corpses to show for two maulings like an eye for an eye) in order to appease a bloodthirsty public. Perhaps short-sighted revenge would conveniently just so happen to bring about the same results as a more methodical and evidence-based approach, but we cannot and should not pin our hopes on such serendipity. And besides, even if the contents of our hearts ultimately do not weigh into the fates of wayward coyotes or CEs, they still have some bearing on our character which in turn determines our own destiny both as individuals and what sort of society we will come to engender.

At least it seems clear to me that if our societies are to become like many of those that compose the Federation with the sort of principles and values it espouses, ours will somehow need to habitually choose the better angels of our natures. And quite independently of the consequences.
Thu, Jul 6, 2023, 1:38am (UTC -6)

I think there is much to what you say. Clearly, Dr. Marr's grief has taken her off the deep end. She has spent her life on a search for vengeance for the son she cannot get back. In that, I think she presents the viewer with a cautionary tale. Many times, when I see someone who has gone into full-on "activist/advocate" mode after an injustice either to themselves or to a loved one, I fear for them, because although anger has long been recognized as a natural stage of the grieving process, it is also considered a fairly early one, and I think that there is a danger of getting "stuck" there.

I find myself thinking of how I was trained in pastoral counseling for situations with the bereaved, and was taught to watch for people getting stuck at some point in the grieving process. Interestingly one of the things that could be a "red flag" would be an unwillingness to accept that the person was really gone. Obviously, counseling in a religious context does not consider hope for an afterlife pathological, but it is concerning when people maintain, for more than a relatively short time, a fairly concrete sense of a deceased person still being with them in much the same way they were before they died, rather than accepting that their loved one's mode of existence is beyond our current understanding and will never be the same again. Dr. Marr's turning to Data almost as the resurrected embodiment of her idealized memory of her son could be such a red flag. As much as we can see that it hurts her when Data refuses to keep playing this role for her, it may be what she needs in order to have any hope of moving on to more healthy mourning at last.

I would tweak a few details that you mentioned: She seems to realize that Data does not possess her son's memories all the way up to the moment of his death, only the written materials he had created up to the point when Dr. Soong uploaded them into Data's memory. The android thus can't answer the question of whether Renni called out for her as the Crystalline Entity killed him, and as I recall, she doesn't directly ask Data that, only says that she wonders.

I also am not convinced that we're necessarily supposed to think that their mother/son relationship was particularly bad. Everything Data found in Renni's journals suggested that his feelings for his mother (at least for the woman she was before his death warped her so badly) were genuinely warm.

I think in Roddenberry's mind, a more "evolved" humanity would become more okay with prolonged separations between parents and children. We see it also when Beverly Crusher pursues her career at Starfleet Medical while leaving Wesley on the Enterprise, and when two even younger boys were left by both their parents (and one of them nearly ends up dead after eating some nasty thing after his brother's cruel prank). In DS9, it's apparently perfectly thinkable that Molly O'Brien accompanies her mother to Bajor for months while Miles remains on DS9. Yes, people miss each other, but I don't think we're supposed to think that the children feel abandoned.

Maybe that's why it doesn't occur to anyone to put newly orphaned children immediately into the care of some kind of foster parent until a permanent placement can be arranged in the cases of Jeremy Aster (the boy whose mother was killed by some sort of land mine during an away mission under Worf's command) or of Timothy, who ends up deciding to play android for a while.

It's not one of the parts of the Trek vision that I'm particularly fond of. I don't think it's very realistic about how much children really do need parents or parent-figures. It's as if we're supposed to think it's perfectly normal to just leave them in the care of a bunch of babysitters.
Peter G.
Thu, Jul 6, 2023, 1:50am (UTC -6)
@ Trish,

I agree with you that this portrayal of leaving your kids to fend for themselves at age 16 is not very warm and fuzzy as much of the rest of the TNG universe is. But even if that was the intended backstory, it requires a real leap of imagination from us to assume that a mother who ditchers her son at age 16 still has a great relationship with him. That alone would be sloppy writing. Anyhow, in this case even if their relationship wasn't bad, I still think she feels guilty and blames herself for her son's death. I think her whole vengeance streak is trying to make it up to him, which she tries to do through data.
Beard of Sisko
Thu, Jul 6, 2023, 6:36am (UTC -6)

There is no discussuion to be had. The entity needed to be put down like a rabid dog for the sake of saving lives. There is no dilemma, no complexities. Dr. Marr's motivation may have been personal, but killing that thing was the right thing to do.

It's one thing to be an idealist, it's another to be a bleeding heart.
Peter G.
Thu, Jul 6, 2023, 11:18am (UTC -6)
@ Beard of Sisko,

Let's do a thought experiment. Let's say there was such a thing as actual vampires, and they raided towns and killed people routinely. If you had reason to believe they were still intelligent, rather than being mindless zombies, would you actually run out and stake them sight unseen without even trying to talk to them? Would you not perhaps try to capture one, or contain it? Let's say you had one surrounded by a SWAT team so that it couldn't hurt anyone. Would you really not want to open a dialogue and find out some stuff about vampires? This isn't some esoteric question. Are you telling me you would literally have no interest in finding out what these vampires are, where they came from, what they want, or anything else? You would just burn them all and say 'eh'? And this is in a case where we can almost assume by definition that they are 'evil'. That being said, you also run the risk of finding out it was humans with a weird vampiric disease you burned, who maybe could have been cured or helped.

In the case of the CE, you don't even need to be thinking in terms of compassion to try to find a way to let it live. Pure curiosity should be enough. Otherwise it would seem you'd have the Enterprise's job to be going around the galaxy blasting anything dangerous. It's not like humans have some innate right to colonize other words. What if that colony was actually within the CE's "home planets", and it was protecting itself from invaders? It doesn't seem that likely, but now we'll never know.
Beard of Sisko
Thu, Jul 6, 2023, 7:03pm (UTC -6)
If mayonnaise was mustard and relish was a Batman costume, would Superman be allergic to kryptonite.

My rabid dog comparison stands. Threat seen and identified, eliminate threat.
Peter G.
Thu, Jul 6, 2023, 8:21pm (UTC -6)
"Threat seen and identified, eliminate threat."

There are threats all over the place in the world, right now. I suppose what follows from your assertion is that you would have them all identified and eliminated? What if it's entire nations?
Fri, Jul 7, 2023, 12:56am (UTC -6)
@Peter G.

Or perhaps some survivor guilt? That is, rather than picturing that she should have taken him with her and then he wouldn't have been there when the CE attacked and he would now be alive, maybe some part of her believes she shouldn't have left, and then they would have died together, but instead she is alive and he is dead?

Sometimes, in a bad situation, of all the bad options available, dying isn't the worst.

It seems that for her, the only thing that gives her son's death meaning is her own undying rage, her quest for vengeance. At the end of the episode, Data has taken that meaning away from her, and the stricken look on her face shows that, insane as she may still be, she finally recognizes this central truth of her meaningless existence. It is, I think, far worse than whatever Renni suffered as his own life came to an end.
Beard of Sisko
Fri, Jul 7, 2023, 5:17am (UTC -6)
@ Peter G

If I see a dangerous animal threatening me or other humans, I shoot the animal dead. Simple as that.
Jason R.
Fri, Jul 7, 2023, 8:26am (UTC -6)
"If I see a dangerous animal threatening me or other humans, I shoot the animal dead. Simple as that."

Although I strongly disagree with Beard of Sisko in the context of the CE, I do think he accurately describes our current policy to wild animals that have killed humans. If the CE was a bear or a wolf that had killed campers, the park ranger (in this case, the Enterprise) would be tasked to "destroy" said animal.
Top Hat
Fri, Jul 7, 2023, 12:14pm (UTC -6)
If the violent animal is a unique being, scarcely documented by science, and it can be stopped without killing it, isn't it desirable to do so at least for the purpose of study?
Fri, Jul 7, 2023, 1:22pm (UTC -6)
I think much of the question comes down to whether you make your decision for the sake of the past, or of the future.

Dr. Marr is not really trying to protect human(oid)s who may encounter the CE in the future. She is trying to avenge those (one in particular, her son) that it killed in the past.

The analogy of the rabid dog is presented as being about the future, but is it? Rabies is incurable by modern science. Would it make a difference if it were? If the decision to kill is REALLY about protection in the future rather than punishment in the past, then it would make all the difference in the universe.

If the CE could in fact be "negotiated" with, so that it agrees not to devour any more inhabited planets, then the rabid dog argument goes away, at least with regard to the future.
Fri, Jul 7, 2023, 1:23pm (UTC -6)
Just want to add that there's a big difference between defending people from an imminent attack, and deciding how to deal with the aftermath especially when animals of the same species look more or less identical to each other. That's why I say it is best to use a cool-headed and rational approach that explores all the relevant context and evidence-based lessons of what works and what doesn't, as opposed to just summarily rounding up and terminating any 'suspicious' suspects. Especially when we are encroaching on their turf and they just have as much right to be there as we.
Peter G.
Fri, Jul 7, 2023, 1:26pm (UTC -6)
@ Trish,

Yeah, it could be survivor's guilt for sure. My main point was to illustrate that the episode is not particular about whether it was right or now to kill the CE. It is about Dr. Marr's psychological problems.

@ Jason R,

"Although I strongly disagree with Beard of Sisko in the context of the CE, I do think he accurately describes our current policy to wild animals that have killed humans. If the CE was a bear or a wolf that had killed campers, the park ranger (in this case, the Enterprise) would be tasked to "destroy" said animal."

Yes, that is why I asked the hypothetical about vampires, because they would encapsulate both the dangers of a wild animal and the intelligence offering you the chance to communicate. We know for a fact that the CE can communicate, at least on some level. Not investigating futhter means you may be killing an intelligent being that doesn't know a better way to survive. That is why the analogy to wild animals misses the entire point. Anyhow the episode is clear enough that Dr. Marr's reasons had nothing to do with choosing the most prudent course for the safety of all, so IMO that entire line of debate is moot.
Beard of Sisko
Fri, Jul 7, 2023, 6:02pm (UTC -6)
@Top Hat

If the violent animal has already killed a few people, I don't give a damn if it's the last of its kind. It needs to be taken out.
Beard of Sisko
Fri, Jul 7, 2023, 6:20pm (UTC -6)

Once human lives have been taken, all beta are off. Except this is even worse; this thing rendered entire planets devoid of life.

Not wasting time on negotiating. It's already signed it's own death warrant.
Beard of Sisko
Fri, Jul 7, 2023, 6:31pm (UTC -6)

Dr. Marr's motives are irrelevant. It's not impossible to do the right thing for entirely selfish reasons.
Peter G.
Fri, Jul 7, 2023, 7:04pm (UTC -6)
"It's not impossible to do the right thing for entirely selfish reasons."

It is, actually. But that claim would require a much longer discussion on another topic.
Fri, Jul 7, 2023, 10:38pm (UTC -6)
@Beard of Sisko

I think Dr. Marr's motives are the very opposite of irrelevant in the storytelling context of this episode. I believe they are the storyteller's point.
Sat, Jul 8, 2023, 3:14am (UTC -6)
To mention a more general point. Humans who are in pain either externalize or internalize that pain if they don't find a healthy way of dealing with it. That means that Humans either hurt themselves or others. Marr obviously externalized her pain.

The whole guilt narrative is a little dated, though. Would a woman in the 24th century really fall into the "uncaring career mother" trope when there is no indication that mother and son had a bad relationship. At the same time it is somewhat indicative of 1990s gender norms that Marr, as a female Captain Ahab, is not driven by injuries she sustained herself but, different from Ahab, by something happening to her child.

A man goes out to kill something because he was hurt himself, a women goes out to kill because something happened to her children. For most of Human civilization a woman's worth was determined by her ability to produce children and this seems like an afterglow of framing women's primary role as mothers and not as individuals. Sure, the general message is unchanged (dealing with pain in an unhealthy way will destroy you) but I found the framing still interesting.
Beard of Sisko
Sat, Jul 8, 2023, 7:00pm (UTC -6)
@ Peter G

If you're a surgeon performing life-saving surgeries but you're only doing the job because it pays well, then you're doing the right thing for entirely selfish reasons.

If you rescue a woman from a burning building but only because you think she's hot and you hope saving her will make her want to fuck you, then you're doing the right thing for entirely selfish reasons.

If I donate to charity simply because it makes me look good, I have done the right thing for entirely selfish reasons.

And so on and so forth. So no, you're absolutely wrong when claiming that it's impossible.
Beard of Sisko
Sat, Jul 8, 2023, 7:06pm (UTC -6)

Maybe that's what the writer intended. But in the end, she destroyed a menace that needed to be destroyed. She could have done it for any reason and it wouldn't have mattered; all that matters is the damn thing is dead.
Peter G.
Sat, Jul 8, 2023, 9:42pm (UTC -6)
@ Beard of Sisko,

Like I said, it's a claim that would require a lengthy discussion. I will admit that I can see why you think it's self-evident that what matters is the material result. That would be called consequentialism, with which I strongly disagree.
Sat, Jul 8, 2023, 9:43pm (UTC -6)
@Beard of Sisko

It's true that sometimes, people do the right thing for motives that aren't particularly noble, occasionally even for motives that are downright wrong. The thing is, in the real world rather than in a manifesto on utilitarian philosophy, wrong motives are less likely to keep leading consistently to right actions than right motives are.

I know what it is to lose a career I'd worked hard to build after blowing the whistle on wrongdoing by a co-worker. The wrongdoing was addressed, but by then, my career was toast, and I had to start over. I was not the only one who knew of the wrongdoing, but the others thought like you: No need to cultivate integrity, because the internal motives that underlie your decisions never matter, just the results. There really isn't an effective way, from that perspective, to learn to count broader "results" than your own benefit. The result that they thought counted would have been them losing their career, so they weren't willing to do it, and OTHER people would have kept being hurt by the wrongdoing.

"My career at all costs" is a wrong motive, and while that motive may have led them to SOME right actions, like being productive workers in order to earn raises and promotions, it was not going to lead to whistle-blowing. For the wrongdoing that was hurting other people to be stopped, somebody had to have the right motive, and be willing to make a sacrifice for it. That somebody was not going to be anybody motivated solely by self-interest.

You've shown that you can imagine a situation in which an utterly selfish person might do some right things, might even risk their life to rescue someone from a burning building, assuming the rescued person could provide some benefit to them. However, a trapped person who wasn't lucky enough to offer such a benefit, most people, would be left to burn, if there didn't happen to be anyone else around with better motives.

Over the wide range of situations found in the real world, I think it turns out that motives do matter, even if you only care about results, if you do care about EVERYBODY'S results. It's just a lot easier to cultivate the motives that consistently lead to good results if you actually believe that motives matter.

My advice to anyone who is forced to choose whether to "go along to get alone" or "blow the whistle": It is a lot easier to find new friends and a new career than new integrity.

It's true that Dr. Marr could not have gotten her son back, even by acting with integrity. But at least she would not have had to end up with neither.

That's the realization I see in her face at the end of the episode. It's not something I ever want to be on mine.
Beard of Sisko
Sat, Jul 8, 2023, 10:48pm (UTC -6)

Okay, what if instead of rescuing some hot chick I wanted to bang, I instead saved a whole bunch of people, none of whom are particularly attractive? It could still be for selfish motives; media attention, being praised as a hero, etc.

Sure, selfishness doesn't lead to a PATTERN of altruistic behavior, but it often does lead to singular isolated acts of altruism. And that's ultimately the flaw in your assessment; in the context of the story and character we're critiquing here, we're talking about a singular act (since you can only kill something once). And whether her motives were pure or not, her actions saved countless potential future victims while also giving the entity its just desserts.
Sat, Jul 8, 2023, 11:26pm (UTC -6)
@Beard of Sisko

It sounds to me like you're trying to use exceptions to prove the usual pattern wrong.

Even if I granted you that selfishness "often" rather than only "sometimes" leads to good acts (which I don't; I think it's closer to "occasionally"), I would not grant that it leads to good acts MORE often, or even AS often, as better motives. A person motivated by desire for acclaim is more likely to lie to the media about being a hero than to actually do something heroic. After all, what good will media attention do them if they end up dead? Some may fail to make that calculation, or may want the acclaim badly enough to take the gamble, but I think that's far more rare than choosing to stand around doing nothing and then kind of resenting the attention given to the person who did dare to run into the burning building. They may even grumble under their breath, "He's not any better than I am."

Because I take seriously the concept that there is such a thing as being "morally better" not just in external results but in internal motives, I have been forced to recognize that there are lots of people morally superior to me, and to keep striving to be better than I am. I realize that some people just don't want to believe that anybody is morally better than they are. I think that believing that has made me a better person than I might have been, and I hope that it will keep making me better in the future. I realize you may not find that convincing, but it is what my life has convinced me of. It's the kind of life I want to keep living.

Live yours as you believe. You haven't convinced me to live mine differently.

(By the way, to avoid any confusion, there was a typo in my post above. I meant "to get along," not "to get alone".)
Beard of Sisko
Sun, Jul 9, 2023, 1:04am (UTC -6)

I never said that selfishness leads to altruism "as frequently" as pure motives do. But I don't think it's nearly as rare as you're implying. People are generally selfish assholes looking out for themselves. The extreme outliers (murderers, child molesters, etc) are just bigger pricks than most.

And no I don't think that's overly cynical. Assuming the worst in people has protected me from a lot of unnecessary pain.
Sun, Jul 9, 2023, 1:53am (UTC -6)
" Assuming the worst in people has protected me from a lot of unnecessary pain."
Wow, if you ever want to understand misanthropes.
Sun, Jul 9, 2023, 4:11pm (UTC -6)

Yes. I find it very sad.
Beard of Sisko
Sun, Jul 9, 2023, 6:33pm (UTC -6)
@ Trish, @ Booming

Well unfortunately misanthropes are more in tune with reality than optimists.

Sure I would love to be more optimistic but...I have thoughts. And that fucks up the whole thing.
Peter G.
Sun, Jul 9, 2023, 7:42pm (UTC -6)
@ Beard of Sisko,

"Sure I would love to be more optimistic but...I have thoughts."

That is a more important statement than I think you realize.
P Car
Sun, Jul 16, 2023, 5:24pm (UTC -6)
Watched this at random tonight (literally choose 5, 4 at random) and it has some interesting points, as evidence by these comments still taking about it 10 years after the review and 30 years after airing.

Firstly, I notice chickens don’t get the amount of respect that humanoid killing crystalline entities do. I appreciate it’s probably an anachronism of writing but I think it unlikely 24th century people would eat animals (in S1 Riker says they don’t), yet it’s a ration for our love interest.

Next up: in 7 seasons I’ve never know Riker to have a go at Picard like that, it was surprising to me that Jammer didn’t mention it. ‘I’m not a raw cadet!’ And ‘I’m just off to write a letter’ I mean, wow. Riker was I feel personally affected though and it did affect his judgement. If they could track the thing I can’t see why it’d be the only chance to kill it.

Picard sees a bigger picture as usual and sees things from the entities pov. That’s a good thing. He’s right to try communication. There’s no immediate threat to anyone so no complete hurry to kill.

The chilling scene at the end where Data coldly tells her her son would not approve - she’s disappointed to hear this obviously, but the lady has quite obviously also gone mad. All perspective has been lost and she will convince herself it was the right thing.

It wasn’t made clear what would happen to her for doing this apart from being sent to her room, and she may not care her career is over.

For her this is still a win, she’s avenged her sons death. How she feels from now on will be new territory ofc.

And it being called Silicon Avatar - this is because of Data seeming to be her son? This is very poetic. Telling us the ending in a way.
Beard of Sisko
Thu, Aug 10, 2023, 12:39pm (UTC -6)
@P Car

Once something has caused untold death and destruction, all bets are off. The entity needed to be regarded no differently from a rabid dog; something that needs to be destroyed for the sake of other people's safety.

Picard was being a blindly idealistic bleeding heart in this episode.
Robert II
Wed, Nov 8, 2023, 3:11am (UTC -6)
Picard had an ethical dilemma that I wanted to see directly addressed and maybe solved. There's a killer creature on the loose that requires vast amounts of energy to survive. Can it be communicated with, and if so, could future killing be prevented? Or does it need to be destroyed.

At the moment when the plot could've been finessed, Dr. Marr resolved the dilemma. It felt like a cheap "out" from having to deal with the more difficult issues. Too much episode run time was committed to the sentimental interactions between Dr. Marr and Data. They should have spent more time developing a plot that bridged humanity with the crystalline entity. It could've been an interesting species to carry through the Star Trek franchises. Now it's gone, oh well. I guess it was the only one in the universe?

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