Jun 12 2012 3:00pm
Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Silicon Avatar”

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season 5, Episode 4 “Silicon Avatar”
Written by Lawrence V. Conley and Jeri Taylor
Directed by Cliff Bole
Season 5, Episode 4
Production episode 40275-204
Original air date: October 14, 1991
Stardate: 45122.3

Captain’s log: Riker is in command of an away team that’s helping setting up a colony. His flirting with Carmen, the colony leader, is interrupted by the arrival of the crystalline entity that destroyed the colony Data was created on. Riker, Data, and Crusher start to evacuate the colonists to subterranean caverns. Carmen tries to help an old man who fell, and they’re both killed while Riker watches. However, the rest of the colonists make it to a cavern, where they’re safe.

The Enterprise picks up a disturbance on the colony and can’t raise them, so they increase speed to return sooner. Worf and La Forge lead a rescue team that breaks into the caves. Riker and Data return to the surface to find the once-verdant world devastated, with all life—both plant and animal—destroyed.

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season 5, Episode 4

Starfleet sends Dr. Kila Marr to the Enterprise. A xenologist who has made the study of the crystalline entity her life’s work, she is detached to the ship to help in their pursuit of the entity. Marr points out that this is the first time out of eleven reported attacks by the crystalline entity that there have been any survivors. She is also frosty toward Data to say the least, blaming him for Lore’s collaboration with the entity on Omicron Theta and again against the Enterprise.

Data theorizes that the cave system they hid in protected them due to the presence of kelbonite and fistrium. Marr has a theory of her own: that the entity left them alone due to Data’s presence, that Data, like his brother, collaborated with the entity. Data assures her that is not the case.

Marr then drops the other shoe: her son was killed on Omicron Theta. It was his death that prompted her to become an expert on the entity. She then threatens Data, saying that if she finds any evidence that he collaborated with the entity, she’ll have him disassembled.

Data, La Forge, and Marr then are able to come up with a method of tracking the entity. Data credits one of the Omicron Theta colonists with the scanning methods, which surprises Marr, as she knew of no such work in that scientist’s papers—but he was working on it at the colony, and Data’s been programmed with the logs, journals, and some memories of the colonists.

Marr is also surprised and outraged that the Enterprise’s mission isn’t to kill the entity, but rather to communicate with it—though they will defend themselves if necessary. But Picard insists that they’re not hunters, and they’re not on a mission of vengeance. (Marr, as we shall see, doesn’t quite get with that program...)

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season 5, Episode 4

Data has been working on methods of communicating with the entity, and while Marr discusses them with him, she also apologizes for her attitude toward him—then asks if Data has her son’s memories stored. He does, and he assures Marr that there’s no record in those memories of his blaming her, as she feared—on the contrary, he was proud of her work.

The entity attacks a freighter called the Kallisko, destroying all life on board, including plant life they had in storage. Marr is particularly affected by the sounds of the Kallisko crew’s screams as they were attacked, wondering if her son screamed the same way.

Riker talks with Picard, saying that he agrees with Marr that the entity should be destroyed, as it’s already killed thousands. The fact that one of those thousands was a woman he’d planned a dinner date with has nothing to do with it, of course...

As Marr and Data work, the former asks about her son. She’s rather surprised to find out that he had a girlfriend. At her request, Data speaks one of her son’s letters to her in his voice.

When the Enterprise reaches a position five light-years from the entity’s likely next target, Marr and Data start broadcasting the graviton pulses they think will help communicate. It serves as a lure for the entity, which moves alongside the ship.

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season 5, Episode 4

The entity responds to the graviton pulses, opening the door for communication. But then Marr tries a consistent graviton beam—which she isolates so nobody else can shut it down. The beam eventually destroys the entity, which she says she did for her son. (To Riker’s credit, he’s just as outraged as Picard—the attempt at communication was working.)

Data escorts her to her quarters, to which Picard has confined her. He tells her that—based on what he knows of him—her son would not be happy with what she did, as he was very proud of her career as a scientist, and she has just destroyed that along with the entity. This news rather devastates Marr.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity?: Apparently the combo of kelbonite and fistrium is enough to shield a cave from the crystalline entity. (Kelbonite will be established in Star Trek Insurrection as also being impossible to transport through, which explains why Worf and La Forge needed to blast their way into the caves to rescue the away team and colonists instead of just beaming them up.)

The Enterprse is also able to use gamma radiation scans to detect the anti-protons that the entity leaves in its wake. (Said scans do not turn the entity into the incredible Hulk, which is actually kinda disappointing.)

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season 5, Episode 4

Thank you, Counselor Obvious: Troi tells Picard that you don’t need an empath to tell that Marr is initially hostile toward Data—which is true. Ellen Geer’s overstated facial expressions do the trick nicely.

There is no honor in being pummeled: When Worf rescues Riker, Data, Crusher, and the colonists from the caves, Riker says that he’s never seen a more beautiful sight than Worf. If he had a nickel for every time he heard that...

If I only had a brain...: Data’s ability to access the memories, journals, and log entries of the Omicron Theta colonists is mentioned and used for the first time since “Datalore,” and his ability to impersonate people is seen again (after being used to impersonate Picard in “Brothers,” not to mention repeating back Q’s mock trial in “Encounter at Farpoint”) as he channels Marr’s son.

He has also added the guitar to his musical lexicon, in addition to the violin and oboe. He’s seen playing “Prelude #4 in A-Minor” by Francisco Tárrega in his quarters.

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: Riker and Carmen set a dinner date in what, of all the Riker-hits-on-women scenes, is quite possibly the most painful to watch. (Its primary competition for the dear-God-make-it-stop prize being his falling into bed with Beata in “Angel One.”) After Carmen boasts about her “most memorable desserts,” and Riker proclaiming dessert to be his “favorite part of dinner,” the crystalline entity showing up to kill everyone frankly comes as something of a relief...

I believe I said that: “The sperm whale on Earth devours millions of cuttlefish. It is not evil; it is feeding.”

Picard pointing out that the entity may not be malicious.

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season 5, Episode 4

Welcome aboard: Ellen Geer as Dr. Marr and Susan Diol as Carmen have a competition to see who can perform worse in this episode, with Geer “winning” only by virtue of having more screen time. Diol will fare a bit better in her two appearances on Voyager as Dr. Denara Pel in the episodes “Lifesigns” and “Resolutions.”

Trivial matters: This is obviously a sequel to “Datalore,” bringing back both the crystalline entity and, after a fashion, the Omicron Theta colony.

It’s not clear when Marr became an expert on the crystalline entity, since the cause of the colony’s destruction wasn’t revealed to the galaxy at large until “Datalore,” yet she says she devoted her life to studying the crystalline entity since the colony’s destruction. Then again, it fits the pattern of things revealed for the first time in “Datalore” being retconned into common knowledge (like the fact that he was created by Noonien Soong, which was a revelation in that episode, but treated as being always known going forward).

The U.S.S. Titan, under the command of Captain William Riker, will encounter more crystalline entities in the novel Titan: Orion’s Hounds by Christopher L. Bennett. In that novel, Riker is successful in communicating with the entities.

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season 5, Episode 4

Make it so: “We are not hunters, Doctor, nor is it our role to exact revenge.” Jeri Taylor’s fetish for middle-aged people who become unhinged due to reminders of the loss of family members continues. First we had Ben Maxwell in “The Wounded,” then Norah Satie in “The Drumhead,” and now Kila Marr here. It’s already gotten tiresome, not aided by a script that—like “The Drumhead”—calls for so many changes in personality in the guest character that it practically strips the gears, with the added bonus of a truly dreadful performance by Ellen Geer, who plays Marr with all the subtlety of a nuclear explosion.

The character’s horrendously scattershot, too. She starts out utterly unsympathetic, treating Data more horribly than anyone has since Kate Pulaski, then as soon as she realizes Data has the memories of her son, she suddenly becomes his best friend. Her logic for treating him like crap is specious but understandable (blaming him for Lore’s crimes)—later, when she confesses in the turbolift that she’s comfortable talking to Data, it’s utterly unconvincing, especially given that she threatened to have him disassembled not that long ago. Then at the end, she’s obviously completely lost it, smiling obliviously, treating Data like her son—but there’s been nothing to prepare us for quite this level of psychic break.

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season 5, Episode 4

It’s all too extreme. At first, she’s totally hostile to Data, then she’s totally friendly with him, then she’s totally binky-bonkers, cluck-cluck, gibber-gibber, my-old-man’s-a-mushroom nuts. It’s impossible to even get a handle on the character, much less sympathize with her, and since she’s pretty much the focal point of the episode, this is a major problem.

It also undermines her perfectly legitimate argument with Picard over how to treat the crystalline entity (Riker’s leaden flirting with Carmen likewise undermines his similar argument, as it feels like he mostly wants to blow up the entity because it kept him from getting laid).

The episode’s just a complete mess. There was a good episode to be made about the entity’s return, but this wasn’t it.


Warp factor rating: 2

Keith R.A. DeCandido is a writer. No, really!

1. oldfan
The thing that aggrevates me about this episode is that Picard gets off so easy. Marr could have noted that a large part of Starfleet's job is to defend Federation citizens, and that all of the thousands (?) of civilian deaths since the Datalore incident are directly attributable to Picard's failure to act. Could they not at least have installed a tracking device on the entity? The point is that Picard's high moral principles about taking life are admirable, but if you have a man-eating tiger stalking your village, and your job is to defend the village, then you are going to have to put that principle aside or resign.

Hopefully, the Federation media have evolved, because in our day they would have a Captain's head on a platter for a mistake with consequences like this. Maybe things like this are why he never made Admiral?
Keith DeCandido
2. krad
oldfan: I disagree with the premise. Picard had no way of knowing what the entity truly was. It might well be sentient -- it might just be an animal that's consuming food without even realizing that it's taking sentient life. There were just too many unknowns to just go in and kill something. Picard's sperm whale analogy is a good one. The entity may not have even realized that it was killing people until the Enterprise communicated -- and still may not have realized it. As Picard said in the episode, the ship had shields and could at least try communicating first.

As for Picard not tracking it in "Datalore," Lore's misdirection kept the crew from properly dealing with the entity and it buggered off before anything could be done.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Michael Burstein
3. mabfan
You know what I could never understand about this episode? The title. What does "Silicon Avatar" even mean?

(In honor of the last rewatch, they should have called this "Omicron Theta, when the crystalline entity attacked.")

-- Michael A. Burstein
4. rowanblaze
@3 M.A.B. I remember reading that "Silicon Avatar" is a reference to Data's being an avatar for Marr's son and the rest of the colony.
Keith DeCandido
5. krad
mabfan: Actually that was two rewatches ago (we had "Ensign Ro" between this and "Darmok"), and the title refers to Data, as the avatar (made of silicon) of the Omicron Theta colonists.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Alyssa Tuma
6. AlyssaT
Unlike a lot of the rewatchers, I have no formal science background. I was one of those "physics for poets" people in college. I can let a lot of the science/engineering (and heck, even the linguistical!) garbage just wash over me, but this episode was an exercise in inane writing and bizarre, inconsistent character development and horrible plotting and crappy acting. Boo.

I always thought it was funny that for such an evolved ship with such an evolved captain (humans, cuttlefish, we're all the same in this great galaxy of ours!), they treat Marr's "break" with reality with all the care and sensitivity of... well, they didn't really address it at all. You'd think they would at least, um, utilize the COUNSELOR they have on board. When someone's mental state has reached the Norman Bates level, I think they maybe need a trip to sickbay -- not a "shame, shame" speech from Data. (Actually, I always thought that had this been a darker show, the episode may actually have ended with Marr's suicide.)
7. oldfan
Krad: respectfully disagree- the sperm whale is an anology only if we are the krill. A man-eating tiger is not evil or malicious. It's a beautiful, endangered beast doing what is has to do to survive. The entity's motivation, or even sentience, is essentially irrelevant. It is destroying people. Picard's position in this episode would be a reasonable one were this the first time the Federation encountered the entity, just as anesthethizing (or reasoning with a sentient) tiger would be. But, this was not the first time. The failure here is that Picard allowed an extremely dangerous, indeed, deadly life form to roam unchecked around Federation space, which (rather ridiculously) is apparently is full of defenseless planets.

Of course, the writers could have cured this with a sentence of dialog "Where's the USS Dumbkopf that was supposed to be monitoring the beast? Failing to do that makes the Marr-Picard debate much less credible.
8. Christopher L. Bennett
Was anyone else reminded of the debate over whether Reed Richards should've saved Galactus's life?

Given how exactly nothing was previously done with the idea from the series bible of Data containing the "memories" of the colonists -- not just their journals but their actual synaptic patterns -- I'm not sure it was a good idea to make use of it at all. I mean, presumably if he'd had the knowledge and experience of that many humans in his head ab initio, he wouldn't have been so clueless about human behavior a quarter-century later.

In fact, before the Dr. Soong retcon in "Datalore," the idea was that Data (like his antecedent, the title android of Roddenberry's pilot The Questor Tapes) had been created by mysterious aliens, and that they'd been unable to save the Omicron Theta colonists from destruction and thus had built him as a repository for their memories. I think the idea was that those memories would be a frequent part of his characterization, that he'd be able to draw on them at will (and maybe let the actor play a variety of characters). In other words, sort of a forerunner of what they eventually did with Dax on DS9 (plus a little bit of "Masks"). Which, frankly, might've been a lot more interesting than the whole "I have no emotions" schtick. It's too bad they never did anything with the concept beyond this.

Although I never had a problem with this episode. I thought it was a pretty good followup overall, and I liked the message.
Michael Burstein
9. mabfan
@4 and @5: Huh. Maybe a better title would have been "Positron Avatar" then. I would have had a better chance of understanding what they meant.

Keith: right, two rewatches ago. Shows you how omnipresent the whole Darmok thing is.
Alyssa Tuma
10. AlyssaT
Going back to the stored memories and journals aspect -- did anyone else wonder about the ease at which Marr was able to access this from Data? I'm not saying that Data did something wrong by sharing, necessarily, but it gave me pause. I guess one could argue that it would be similar to going to library or archive (or online) and accessing primary source material open to the public (like a Civil War soldier's letters to his wife). Are the journals less sensitive than the memories? Would Data have restricted access if she had asked for the journals/memories of someone other than her son? Anyway, something I was pondering.
Margot Virzana
11. LuvURphleb

Why is it Picard's fault for the entity zipping around and sucking planets dry? Shouldnt it better be the Federation's fault if placing blame on anything?
This is free roaming entity that has been everywhere. Why not blame every major power in the quadrant because i doubt the entity has been targeting just Federation planets.
There are plenty of people working in starfleet that could keep track of the entity instead of the enterprise.
Joseph Newton
13. crzydroid
I think it was kelbonite in the caves in Insurrection, not fistrium. But that actually brings us to my question: Was it firmly established that the combination of the two elements is what kept the entity away, or was it something else?

I kind of like how the colonists' memories thing was expanded upon here: It keeps continuity with an older episode but also sort of provides a description for why it is not this bizarre thing we'd never seen again. Data still has trouble interacting with humans because the synaptic transfer didn't give him the experiences of all the people, just stronger specific memories. Also, it doesn't seem like he has constant acess to them...he has to "look up" whether he has her son's files. Granted, in some ways he seems to be able to reference them the way our human brains would--for example, he is able to use the doctor's notes about Gamma radiation to postulate a theory.
Keith DeCandido
14. krad
crzydroid: Derp. Thanks for noticing my brain hiccup. It's been fixed thanks to the MAGICAL EDIT FUNCTION, also known as the Keith's Ass Saver.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido, and his saved ass
15. Lsana

The tiger analogy fails because we know that the tiger is not sentient. We can't explain to the tiger why it is that he shouldn't be eating our villagers and that we'd appriciate it if he'd go munch on the local deer instead.

The entity, though, we aren't sure about. We don't know if it is sentient, if it is destroying planets for survival purposes, because of some program, or just for the evulz. If the entity is sentient and not evil, however, perhaps it's unaware that it's killing sentient creatures, and if we tell it, it will stop. Hence, we make an attempt at communication. Maybe the attempt fails, and if so, you're probably right that it should be destroyed. But it's certainly worth the attempt.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
16. Lisamarie
I actually liked this episode a lot, but I immune to bad acting - however, I am glad somebody else noticed the 'unhinged older person' thing because I brought up those exact two episodes to my husband! I think it kind of falls into 'hysterical woman' territory, although the Warden (sorry, can't think of him as anything else) kind of rescues it from that.

But, I have a young son, so a lot of it hit home. I can empathize with how she would feel (even if she was a bit over the top by the end in practically pretending Data was her son and calling him by name) and how that could override the scientist ideals of wanting to communicate with and preserve new life if possible. I don't think she was right - that is really the most crushing thing of all. The thought of not doing right by my son, or not being a good example for him, or the kind of person he would respect is an awful feeling. I kind of wish Data would have told her that (what he surmised her son would have thought) AS she was trying to destroy the entity, and it would all click with her and then they would be able to communicate with the entity and convince it to stop (or not - but at least then if they destroyed it they'd know they tried)...perhaps that is a little too cut and dry, and instead we get this horrible, horrible ending (horrible from a feel good perspective, not a storytelling perspective).
17. oldfan
Apologies for belaboring the point, but I see that I've generated some interest. What I was trying to suggest was this. Someone, either Picard personally or Starfleet in general, has failed to protect an entire planetary population against a known and previously encountered deadly threat- sentient or not (the Borg are sentient)- which has already killed many others, including Marr's son.
Certainly, there could be reasonable explanations for this, but we are never offered any, and the point is ignored by Marr, who has every reason to make the accusation, which perhaps Picard could answer in any number of ways.Instead, we are presented with a clash between cardboard figures- the wise, humane Captain vs. the revenge- crazed, emotionally driven woman. This could have been a much more nuanced and effective episode.
18. MvComedy
Going beyond the question of whether the entity may or may not have been sentient, or aware that it was killing sentient beings to feed, there is also the question of whether or not consuming other sentient beings was necessary for the entity's survival, and if so, can we define that as being inherently evil. In the entity's case, it probably did not need to feed on sentient life to survive, as it seems to feed indiscrimanently on whatever planet it comes across. But I think it would have made for a more interesting debate (and a more interesting episode) if the crew had managed to establish some kind of communication with the creature and then had an ethical dilemma in deciding what to do with the thing because it is feeding to maintain it's own survival. Christopher's mention of Galactus is an example of this. Even though he is aware that his feeding takes sentient life, Galactus does not devour planets simply for evil's sake. Similarly, there are a couple instances in Star Trek where the crew encounters intelligent beings who are intentionally feeding on other sentient beings, the Devidians in "Times Arrow" and possibly the telekinetic "pitcher plant" on Voyager's "Bliss" being two examples. In both cases the crew fought for their own lives, which is of course justifiable, but at the same time neither the Devidians nor the pitcher plant were acting inherently evil, they were simply doing what was, to them, normal for their survival. A sentient species whose entire physiology depends upon feeding on other sentient species would probably have a very different view of the value of sentient life than humans and other members of the Federation. In the entity's case, I would like to have seen the Enterprise crew wrestling with the dilemma of how to fulfill their mission to seek out (and thus respect) new life when dealing with a creature like the entity whose very existance requires it to take life, without any malicious intent.
19. Christopher L. Bennett
@1/7/17: Oldfan, I think you may be underestimating the difficulty of tracking the Crystalline Entity. We know it's capable of high warp velocities. In "Datalore," when the Entity approached the ship while in warp, Riker said, "I can't believe anything's overtaking us this fast." If it was that fast compared to a Galaxy-class ship, the fastest vessel in Starfleet at the time, then it would've been pretty hard to chase. And finding a warp-capable creature in the vastness of interstellar space? Good luck. Even if a ship could catch up with it, planting a tracking device on something that dangerous is easier said than done.

So I don't think you can say someone is negligent for failing to achieve a virtually impossible goal.
20. Iain Nicholas Mackenzie
Lsana says:

The tiger analogy fails because we know that the tiger is not sentient. We can't explain to the tiger why it is that he shouldn't be eating our villagers and that we'd appriciate it if he'd go munch on the local deer instead.

Errrr.... Felines are sentient which is to say intelligent. What we cannot do is communicate with them effectively that, say, eating baby rabbits will not curry favour with us.
Philippe D. Andrecheck
21. pda
@16 Agreed. Thinking one was “doing right” by one’s son only to be shaken out of that conviction and shamed must have been soul crushing. Imagine having spent your entire mourning period focussed on revenge, believing it to be the best course of action to honour your son, finally achieving it, only to realize that revenge was not, as you had hoped and truly believed, the best way to honour your son.

(The revenge theme of First Contact comes to mind. Perhaps this episode has parallels with Moby Dick? Like Lily though, I have not read the book, though I plan on reading it one day.)

I enjoyed this episode's ending immensely. Sometimes we cannot save the day and sometimes our own people end up doing terrible things. Personally, I thought Marr “becoming completely unhinged” was really something to watch. Her character's wild jumps from hostility to warmth made me think she was actually becoming unhinged as she sensed she drew nearer to her goal.
I was young at the time, but I remember thinking that faced with the reality that all those years driven to revenge, ultimately achieving that revenge, but having it be such a terrible victory that did not at all achieve what she had thought it would push many in that situation over the edge too. The realisation that all those years were spent on achieve the wrong goal, that her son would actually have been quite ashamed, that she betrayed her ideals as a scientist and that she committed a really evil act…so much emotion all at once. Then again, I have always been a fan of a total melt down. ("The line must be drawn here!" etc...)

Granted, the episode has its flaws, but the concept of revenge and the emptiness and futility and waste of it all is what I retrained from it the episode all these years and I believe it was worth exploring in a TNG episode.
22. trekgeezer
This episode was taken from a spec script submitted by Lawrence V. Conley. I have a special edition of Starlog magazine that follows that chronicles Lawrence's experience meeting Michael Piller and pitching the script to a room full of TNG writers.
The original script did not involve the Chrystalline Entity.

In it the boy's memories took over Data, I can't remember the specifics of the story. Piller nixed the idea because they didn't want Data being take over constantly . They gave Conley a story credit for his trouble .
23. Mike Kelm
This is Star Trek does Moby Dick, but does it poorly. Biggest reason this didn't really work- Ahab was after the white whale because it killed his son- but Ahab *was* the captain and a charasmatic leader. Dr. Marr is a mentally unstable supernumery. This is where the wacky Admiral du jour could have come in. If this is some Admiral that has a vengence wish than you can have a really good opportunity to debate whether vengence/protecting the federation or peaceful communication should be a priority. After all, Picard has to at least take into consideration what the Admiral is saying. If you want, it can be the senior most science officer in the fleet so you have reason to have intense technobabble. However, a specialist with no command authority should be thrown off the bridge the moment she shows to be unstable, and well, she's pretty damn unstable. Counselor Obvious should have figured that one out. It's a pretty big hole that the person with no command authority and an obvious vengence wish is left to her own devices to destroy the entity. It basically requires that Troi, Picard, Riker and the rest of the command staff be incredibly dense, when usually (especially the last couple episodes) they are actually pretty good at nuance.

This show also has a flaw in that the method of destruction (the locked out communications system) is easily circumvented. "Stop the pulse- we can't we're locked out" should be followed by "Then turn off the power!" Someone in engineering hits three buttons and the communications system turns off, the pulse stops, and we don't have a shattering giant christmas decoration.

Lastly, a bit of an inconsistency. In Datalore, Lore opens a subspace communication link to talk to the entity, and the entity seems to understand them. Later, they open a regular communications channel and Lore talks to the entity and it backs off (part of Lore's evil, evil plan, right before he goes looking for a tree). Yet somehow in the ensuing four years, we no longer can talk to the entity and have to send graviton pulses? It previously was able to at least understand voice communication, now it can't. This sort of inconsistency drives me nuts.

Bottom line, you have the opportunity to do a Roddenberry-esque show where we debate a big weighty opportunity, but instead we turn it into the Enterprise is commanded by idiots who let psychopaths play with the communication system. It makes you wonder how they figured out intergalactic charades with Darmok two weeks ago...
24. John R. Ellis
I've never enjoyed this episode. The re-watch didn't change my mind. Sometimes, forcing a downbeat ending just seems like it was written by a 14 year old using cynicism as a shield. Not the devastating statement about the darkness within the human heart I'm sure they intended to make.

In the end, just pointless, nonsensical ugliness.
Alyssa Tuma
25. AlyssaT
Another nit I'm going pick (and then I'm done, I swear): If Dr. Marr is the preeminant crystalline entity expert of the galaxy, the Enterprise crew seems weirdly clueless about things that I thought would have been in some sort of personnel file debriefing, or even generally well known. I'm guessing that the writers thought it more compelling to viewers to have the dead son thing slowly revealed, but to me it seemed really unrealistic, if not kind of negligent. If this were set in our times, I can almost picture Marr's bio on a website/dust jacket saying something like, "Following the death of her son on Omicron Theta, Dr. Marr dedicated her research to..."

And again, a total throwaway opportunity for Troi to employ truly useful therapy/empath abilities regarding Marr's deteriorating mental state. After all this time, you'd think she could detect something more nuanced than "hostility."

And since I referenced Seinfeld's "jerk store" in a comment I made on the Ensign Ro post, I feel compelled to point out that I think dear Carmen is the girlfriend of George Costanza who gets a nose job.
26. Codefox
@25: I think the writing on this episode was mostly horrible but one thing to remember is that this episode was written before the Internet thing was really around. I am sure that 20 years ago, the amount of data we have at our fingertips about random people would have been hard to believe.
Keith DeCandido
27. krad
Codefox: This isn't a random person, this is a person assigned to a starship for a crisis situation. They had background checks 20 years ago, y'know...... :)

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Dante Hopkins
28. DanteHopkins
A truly awful episode, one I watch just to get to the others, like "The Game" two episodes hence. I felt absolutely nothing for Marr, especially at the end where she's just completely gone off the deep end. How she talked to Data didn't make me feel sorry for her, it just creeped me out. As stated, the only interesting part was the crystalline entity. Otherwise a terrible episode.
29. ScottM
I didn't hate this episode so much. I guess I was more forgiving because I thought the plot was well conceived. I do think Marr's character would have been better served by just being angry the whole time. I also thought the "life's work" statements were off-putting.

My biggest gripe is near the beginning. How exactly did the Enterprise find the survivors? The rocks shielded them from the crystalline entity and communication but not sensors? Did Worf just look for a suspicious cave-in? Speaking of communication, the Enterprise was light years away but Riker seemed to expect to be able to communicate with his badge -- those things are awesome! Anyway, then they get rescued and go outside to witness the destruction...which no one mentioned to them beforehand. You know, "Sir, you should take a look outside" or something? Then Geordi gives some weird look to worf, who ignores him. And...scene.
30. Jannisar
Have a hard time rewatching the next generations, because of the decade in which they were made they had a lot of preaching, moral to the story stuff that i found insulting and wasteful of a possibly good story. If i need a tv series to get my moral grounding, i am in serious trouble. The episodes i enjoyed had to do with how the characters dealt with adversity, such as hitting the cosmic string. These episodes here make for emotionally powerful stories, but i dont like being forcefed pc ideals that at times are at odds with things like common sense.
31. Anthony Pirtle
I agree with the review and the comments that this episode has some plot issues and contrivances. However, I still enjoyed it a lot more than others apparently did. The moral question of whether we have any more right to exist than a being that feeds upon us is an interesting one to ask, and that, along with the fact that Picard and company's effort to open communications and resolve the situation peacefully was defeated by Dr. Marr, made the episode more interesting than its many plot holes or the unnuanced characterization of Dr. Marr gave it any right to be, at least for me. I'd give it a 6 out of 10.
32. Stargazer4
@ oldfan

I see that although you initially put the blame 100% on Picard for the entity roaming the galaxy, you conceded that it wasn't entirely his fault, so I'll let that aside. Also, the failure to "put a tracking device" on the entity has been explained thoroughly by other posters, so there's no need for further commenting.

"the sperm whale is an anology only if we are the krill. A man-eating tiger is not evil or malicious. It's a beautiful, endangered beast doing what is has to do to survive. The entity's motivation, or even sentience, is essentially irrelevant. It is destroying people"

I don't see why it is NOT an analogy in your mind. Although it's not made 100% clear in the episode, it's clearly hinted that the entity isn't malicious and it's only feeding, exactly as the sperm whale does. The whale has no idea that it's destroying cuttlefish, just as the entity has no idea it's destroying people. So you are suggesting that what the whale does is alright, but what the entity does isn't, when they are both doing exactly the same thing, only with different 'victims'.

Since there was a chance that Picard could communicate with the entity, while not being threatened by it, I don't see why they should have killed it without attempting to communicate with it first.

"against a known and previously encountered deadly threat- sentient or not (the Borg are sentient)- which has already killed many others"

The Borg are sentient, but they KNOW they are essentially whiping out entire species. Their lives don't depend on assimilating others, yet they choose to do so, so they are malicious. The entity is sentient, but apparently it's not malicious, so clearly the Borg and the entity aren't the same thing and therefore shouldn't be treated the same.

Again, since the ship wasn't in danger (the shields would hold off any attack the entity might attempt), I don't get why they should choose the "act first, ask questions later" approach. Picard stated that he WOULD kill the entity if communications attempts failed. Plus the Enterprise could easily match the entity's speed, had it chosen to get away. So there was nothing wrong with Picard trying to communicate with it first.
33. Kellia
My biggest complaints (and I'll keep this to the biggest ones, because ho boy are there many of them):

1. Why is the Federation not monitoring this thing already? I understand what everyone has said about sightings being rare and space being huge, but why doesn't the Federation send a FLEET of ships to every sighting to attempt to track it? Why is there not a TEAM of scientists working to understand this random planet-destroying entity? This thing is basically a shiny tree version of the Death Star. Whether or not it's a beautiful misunderstood space whale, dealing with it should be priority one for the Federation.

2. Dr. Marr--where to even start? It's like they were trying to write a cautionary tale about women scientists. "Watch out! They will be scientists for PERSONAL reasons! They will be completely unable to handle being a mother and a scientists at the same time! They will be unreliable and led by irrational emotion! They will spend a decade working on a problem only to have Data solve it for them it ten minutes! They will hit menopause and go insane!" Ugh, ugh, ugh.

3. Let Troi do her dang job! A person critical to the mission is on the verge of a mental breakdown--couldn't we have had at least one scene where Troi attempted to talk to her or warned Picard? The show is generally so good at letting various characters be consistently good at various things (Data's researching such and such/Worf tried to tackle the bad guy/Geordi's working on a solution in engineering); this isn't just a missed opportunity for Troi's character, it just makes her look plain incompetent.

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