My apologies for being a day late with this. Silly life stuff….
Written by Michael Wagner
Directed by Les Landau
Season 3, Episode 3
Production episode 40273-151
Original air date: October 9, 1989
Captain’s Log: Delta Rana IV is a human colony that has come under attack. The Enterprise responds to their distress call to find a planet that has been wiped out—no plant or animal life, no structures, no emissions, nothing.
Except for this one square of vegetaion surrounding a house. Riker takes a team down to meet what appear to be the only two survivors: Kevin and Rishon Uxbridge, a couple in their 80s. They’ve been married for 53 years, and have lived on Rana for five—until the attack. They have no idea why they were spared by the alien attack, and they can’t say who the attackers are.
Riker offers to take them onto the Enterprise, but they refuse, even though they don’t have any means of supporting themselves—their water table is tainted and their fusion reactor won’t last forever.
Meanwhile, Troi is feeling out of sorts—the same music that plays on Rishon’s music box is playing in her head, nonstop, distracting her.
A ship appears in orbit and attacks the Enterprise. Its weapons are less impressive than expected, and as soon as the Enterprise fires back, the ship leaves orbit. The Enterprise gives chase, but the other ship matches their acceleration curve precisely so it stays the same distance away. Frustrated, Picard calls off the pursuit and goes back to Rana IV. Picard and Worf beam down with a replicator. Kevin doesn’t want them there, but Rishon offers them tea. Picard tries to determine why it is that they survived, but they can find nothing. The only way in which either is unique is that Kevin is a person of conscience—he will not fight anyone for any reason. But he also believes the aliens had no way of knowing that.
As soon as Picard and Worf beam back, the enemy vessel returns, and fires with much greater force, driving the Enterprise away from Rana in order to survive. But Picard is convinced that Kevin and Rishon will remain safe.
Troi remains incapacitated and Picard believes that the Uxbridges are being protected by the alien ship. Picard takes the Enterprise back—the enemy vessel is no longer in orbit.
Picard and Worf beam back down, to Kevin and Rishon’s surprise—and that, in turn, surprises Picard, as there was no reason for Kevin to not expect them back. Picard insists that the Enterprise will not leave orbit of Rana as long as the Uxbridges are alive.
Sure enough, the enemy ship comes back and fires on the Uxbridge house, destroying it. Picard waits three hours, and then the house reappears, with Kevin and Rishon back intact. Picard beams them to the bridge, where he finally confronts them.
Soon all is revealed: Kevin is in truth a Douwd, “an immortal being of disguises and false surroundings.” He was disguised as a young human when he met Rishon, and decided to live as her husband, retiring to Rana IV with her to live out their days. The aliens who attacked were called the Husnock. Kevin refused to fight them, but he did try to distract and confuse them the way he did the Enterprise, but it didn’t work, and the Husnock only became more cruel. Kevin still refused to fight—but Rishon did, and was killed.
When he saw her broken body, he went insane. He wiped out the Husnock—not just the attacking ship, but all fifty billion Husnock, the entire species.
Kevin removes the music from Troi’s mind and then leaves the ship. Picard can do nothing with him, not even do his usual speechifying—the scope of his crime is beyond their ability to prosecute. Or, indeed, comprehend. So they leave him alone to re-create Rishon and their house on Rana IV.
Thank You, Counselor Obvious: Troi is the only fly in Kevin’s ointment, as she is capable of sensing his true nature, so he implants the song in her head—an earworm from hell that eventually puts her in a coma.
The Boy!?: Wes is the one who finds Kevin and Rishon’s house, and he does a spiffy job as the ship’s pilot during the first attack. What’s cool about this episode is not that Wes plays a big role, but that he simply is the guy behind the wheel, and does it well.
There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: Worf stakes his reputation on there being no other ships in the Delta Rana system, which makes him look rather silly when another ship does in fact show up and attack.
No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: Kevin and Rishon are simply an adorable couple. You can see that they’ve been in love for half a century.
Welcome Aboard: An episode like this succeeds or fails on the backs of its guest stars, since the episode’s really about them, and John Anderson and Anne Haney—two of the finest character actors—knock it out of the park as Kevin and Rishon. They are brilliant, charming, spectacular, wonderful—there’s not a single false emotional beat in either performance, whether it’s love, affection, fear, or anger. Just two amazing performances by two amazing actors.
I Believe I Said That: “Sir, may I say your attempt to hold the away team at bay with a nonfunctioning weapon was an act of unmitigated gall.”
“Didn’t fool you, huh?”
“I admire gall.”
Worf calling Kevin’s bluff.
Trivial Matters: John Anderson’s wife had recently died when he did this episode, which added a certain unfortunate texture to the role, which the actor described as one of the hardest he ever had to play.
This is the first appearance of Troi’s blue dress, which will show up periodically along with the maroon and brown outfits.
This is the only solo script by Wagner, whose tenure as show-runner was very brief. Wagner’s probably best known for his work with Steven Bochco on Hill Street Blues.
Make it So: “Good tea. Nice house.” An underappreciated gem, this is a strong story, a strong science fiction premise, and two superb guest turns by Anderson and Haney. It never shows up in anybody’s best-of list, and that’s a crime. The story builds beautifully from a simple mystery to a brutal yet understated crescendo. In particular, Anderson sells Kevin’s confession to Picard, putting tremendous power, understated emotion, and overwhelming guilt and regret.
It’s too bad that Wagner didn’t stick around. If this episode is any indication, he would’ve made a great permanent addition to an already-excellent writing staff.
Warp factor rating: 9
Keith R.A. DeCandido‘s first ever Star Trek fiction was the comic book Perchance to Dream, which will be reprinted later this month by IDW in the trade paperback Enemy Unseen. His most recent critically acclaimed novels are Guilt in Innocence, part of “Tales from the Scattered Earth,” a shared-world science fiction concept, and the fantastical police procedurals SCPD: The Case of the Claw and Unicorn Precinct. Find out more about Keith at this web site, which is a portal to (among many other things) his Facebook page, his Twitter feed, his blog, and his podcasts, Dead Kitchen Radio, The Chronic Rift, and the Parsec Award-winning HG World.