The Enterprise says “hello” to an old enemy. Or tries to say “hello.” And tries to figure out whether it is an enemy. Along to help is Dr. Kila Marr. Or is it help she is offering? She is getting to know her son, and will not let a little thing like his dying a few years ago stand in her way. Shields up for safety as we put Silicon Avatar in the Mission Log.
Tags: antiproton, Brechtian Cluster, Carmen Davila, cave, chicken curry, colonists, colony, Crystalline Entity, cuttlefish, Datalore, dessert, Dr. Kila Marr, Ellen Geer, fistrium, gamma radiation, graviton, green memories, Kallisko, kelbonite, Lore, Melina IV, Omicron Theta, pulse, Raymond, Renny, Silicon Avatar, sperm whale, Susan Diol, The Next Generation, The Next Generation Season 5, TNG, wine
Sadly, one of the weakest eps of the very strong season 5… Ok you two, what DID you make of it?
I haven’t watched this episode in years, if I remember right it’s kind of cheesy. I’m going to rewatch it this weekend.
So, they’re definitely going to have to do a story line based on Harold and Maude in the new series. Maybe a Klingon who is constantly threatening to kill himself. Don’t forget the Cat Stevens soundtrack! OK, how HOW is Data programmed with the “knowledge and experience” of the Omicron Theta colonists? HOW? No wonder the colonists hated Lor. Dr. Sung probably had him stalk each one and absorb their private thoughts and/or read their letters and diaries. CREE-PEEEEEE! Then, Data synthesizes Renny’s voice… complete with emotional inflection. SUPER CREE-PEEEEEE! Good thing Data didn’t show his party trick during “Measure of a Man.” They’d have tossed him in the recycler before Picard gave his speech. I liked this episode for showing human failings getting in the way of making contact with a difficult (OK, murderous) being. The opening sequence creeped me out. The rest is intriguing. To me.
Hmmmm. All the readings are strangely off for some reason…
Dr. Marr, I believe your technique in attempting to catch them all may be flawed.
Francisco Tarrega composed the Nokia ringtone (You know the one). I can just imagine Data playing Gran Vals instead.
… Years later the Federation is swarmed and destroyed by the Crystalline Entity civilization once they realize that the Enterprise destroyed a baby Crystalline Entity after luring it in by pretending to communicate with it.
Mr. Worf, retrieve as much of the debris as possible and fashion it into a tasteful chandelier.
OK – we’re going to have that comment dipped in bronze.
Data really breaks the ice at parties by reading dead people’s Livejournals in their voices! Next up, Odo’s Cardassian neck trick. Join us tonight in Ten Forward for an evening of magnificent awkwardness!
I think a possible sidebar to this story was missed. If Troi had known what Dr. Marr was asking of Data, and that Data was providing…I hesitate to say a “service”…that almost by its very nature pointed up Dr. Marr’s delictate mental state…I just think it was a missed opportunity for some rare interpersonal conflict. I can almost hear Troi asking Data, “What on Earth were you thinking, reciting her son’s journals in her son’s voice and not realizing what this said about her mental state?” This is definitely one of those “where is Troi during all this?” shows. “Something’s wrong,” indeed. And it never occurs to Data to report these requests on Dr. Marr’s part to Troi, or to ask her how best to proceed. I’m not trying to bestow upon Data a better instinctual understanding of human nature than he has, but surely, somehow, somewhere, it has to occur to him that these requests to read the kid’s diaries is Highly Unusual and maybe should be flagged down with, oh, I dunno, the ship’s chief mental health professional?
The Conspiracy Claymation Critters (TM, pat. pend.) were a clear and very present danger with a foothold on Earth. The Crystalline Entity was something with some measure of intelligence, and just because they’d first met it when Lore was leading it around on a leash didn’t mean that it would always behave that way (or, indeed, that it was exactly the same entity). In Conspiracy, Picard and Riker were hip-deep in fellow officers with bugs sticking out of their necks, and anyone could’ve rounded the corner at any second and phasered *them*. I think the difference in the two scenarios, despite the Crystalline Entity’s proven track record of blowin’ stuff up real good, is one of immediacy.
Interesting that you pointed up the number of – by our 20th/21st century standards – kids living seemingly on their own in TNG. Jeremy Aster, Marr’s son, and let’s not forget season 2 Wesley. This hadn’t occurred to me before, and it should have, because when TNG was airing new episodes, I was a teenager living alone for long stretches of time (long story for another time), and I guess it never hit me as odd because that was my New Normal back then. Oh, hey, there’s other kids on TV doing what I seem to be doing. Every once in a while it takes someone else looking at a situation to snap me back to what the rest of society regards as normal, and how normal my situation – and these characters’ situations – actually wasn’t. Now that I *do* think about it, it kinda does bug me in a hard-to-explain way.
Anyway, we’re missing the big question: Crystalline Entity vs. Doomsday Machine. Who wins?
re: your Data / Troi comment – perhaps it is the ‘gumbification’ of Data in this case, in that, he doesn’t have emotions….so how is he supposed to intuit what kind of emotional reaction other people would have? It is a logical enough response to the mother – “sure, I’ll give you the last ‘letters’ your kid wrote”. Ultimately – it isn’t Data’s fault – she was already pursuing this thing to kill it.
I just wonder at what point, having been through the deaths of Tasha, Marla Aster, and others, Data might twig to the fact that these requests of Dr. Marr’s are very unusual. I think one of The Bonding’s original plot elements, dropped later on, was that Jeremy Aster was going to recreate his mother and his old life on the holodeck and then refuse to leave, with no alien influence in the story (something they wouldn’t be brave enough to do until DS9’s “It’s Only A Paper Moon”).
Then again, given how…fragmented …relationships seem to be as a matter of course in the 24th century, who knows how many stages of grief there are in the future? Does “unhealthy holodeck addiction and/or listening to old log entries” come after bargaining or after denial?
Data’s naivete sp? general cluelessness always bothered me a bit. I think he would have been better cast as an ensign….because going through the Academy and reaching Lt Cmdr w 20 some years service really should make him less clueless about human behavior, idioms, quirks etc….whistling…eating…dating..this should be old news for him imo
One of Data’s biggest areas of gumbification is in the category of emotional intelligence, or emotional intuition. In Ensigns of Command, he kisses the main female guest character (whose name I forgot – some Trekkie, I) because “she appeared to need it”. And yet in In Theory, just a few weeks ago… well, his behavior as written in that episode veered between “he’s at least trying” and “emotional intelligence tire fire”. The Data of the earlier episode might have twigged to something amiss in Dr. Marr’s behavior, perhaps even questioned her directly or sought advice from Troi (which might have circumvented events as they played out). But sadly, this is the Data of In Theory.
The troubling thing is, I can’t tell which iteration of Data is more intelligently written.
Yup…I agree..very inconsistent and improbable given his life experience
I think he felt some guilt by association because of her initial hostility towards him, and was perhaps pleased to see early signs that Dr Mar was warming up to him and so decided to do something to please her by agreeing to ‘play’ her son. I don’t think it was a problem of lacking emotional intuition. I think he was reacting too much like an emotional being and not using his logic.
Pretty sure the doomsday machine would win. CE just likes to eat biological material. Doomsday will wreck anything in its path.
The TNG novel “Vendetta” proposed that the Doomsday Machine cone was created to fight The Borg ages ago. It was a fun little non-canon romp w Shelby and the USS Repulse…yeah, pretty sure Crystalline Entity is getting swallowed by the Doomsday Machine… woulda been cool to have a Battle Royal w all these creatures I posted pics of!! hahaha
It’s interesting that two episodes ago (Darmok) was the most like TOS anthology episodes, one episode back (Ensign Ro) more closely adhered to the multi episode overarching story line type show TNG became, and in this episode, that Gene is essentially would’ve had nothing to do with, Star Trek does exactly the opposite of what it set out to do, seek out new life. Heartbreaking that a show that set out to showcase either the best in us or what we could achieve if we work to improve ourselves, instead shows that even as far in the future as TNG, revenge, vindictiveness and anger can go undetected and un-dealt with. The results were to kill off a life form and remove the possibility of learning anything about it. I realize they had to tell a story, but I bet that if Gene reviewed this in the first season it would’ve been rejected as not sticking to the ideas and ideals that Star Trek set out to present.
I think this episode could have been ok w Gene in the way, “Omega Glory” and “Doomsday Machine” were. An example of how revenge, and payback can be self destructive. Honestly, haven’t read “Moby Dick” but I always thought of that story when seeing this episode….
The picture for this episode says it all, a mopey one
Why have the ship/toy companies never made a Tin Man/Gomtu, Space whale “Jr”, Crystalline Entity, Farpoint Jellyfish ?!!? hmmmm what else?
Space ravioli, surely.
Space Killer Snowflake
I’m just going to say what we’re all thinking:
Hallmark, you totally missed your window to slap the Star Trek name on misshapen pieces of tinted acrylic and glass and make a fortune on that year’s Christmas ornament.
lol…yup, woulda sold like hotcakes!!
Space Energy Almond
Is Picard generally obligated to destroy the Crystalline Entity? In the episode, “Descent”, Admiral Nechayev states that Picard’s priority is to safeguard the lives of Federation citizens, not to wrestle with his conscience.
He said he would if attempts to communicate failed
So the Silicon Avatar is Data? Have you heard that idea? I always thought it was the Crystalline Entity!!!!
Ya, he was taking the place of her son.
– The saddest part of the whole episode, Riker missed his booty call. Seriously though you do get the idea that Carmen and Riker had a past. It is a good question as to if this is a consensual hook-up, Riker smooth talking Carmen or something else.
– I think we now know why Riker keeps passing up promotions, it would cramp his style picking up the ladies.
– Totally agree, too bad there is not an empath on board who could refer Dr. Marr to a good Counselor.
– Picard’s explanation of the Entity is quite well done.
– I agree with John, Data using her son’s voice pushed her over the edge.
I get a kick out of the thought that Data just made up the bit about her son disapproving, just to twist the knife in the old lady’s back
This has always been one of my favorite episodes, a worthy counterpart to “The Wounded” and “The Drumhead”. Kila Marr comes off to me as a far more believable borderline psychotic than Admiral Satie, having lost far more and being in a position where it would be easier for her to slowly slip away into obsession. I think the ending (including the destruction of the Crystalline Entity) is far more effective as is. The CE was an expendable creature from a writing perspective – hence how nobody even wanted to bring it back – and I loved how our heroes are motivated to be sympathetic to it despite all the damage its done, for the “Be Who We Say We Are” reason. Their goodness comes through, despite the messy ending. Guest stars are allowed to be less noble, after all. Captain Maxwell, for a sympathetic example, and (stupid, stupid) Admiral Kennelly for an unsympathetic one. Marr ends up somewhere in the middle. Extra points to Riker’s doubt and willingness to confront Picard over it, and Picard’s sympathetic but so-principled-it-hurts resolve.
One of the most fascinating (and timeless) dilemmas in drama is the one of justifiable revenge. If you have been wronged, and believe that, if you do nothing, it will surely happen again to you or to someone else, is it right to do something that, in any other situation, would be just as wrong? Is killing attractive only because its the simplest choice, or because it might make one feel safer than trusting a killer, or can it be moral to kill someone when you don’t have to, just because there’s a real risk in letting them live? Dilemmas like this one are a big reason I think this episode (and my #2, The Wounded) work so well for me. “The Conscience of the King” tells a similar story, from further back. Justice (of the Solomonic variety) versus mercy, vengeance versus forgiveness, security versus trust. It’s always worth examination, because I just don’t think the jury’s out on this matter. There’s a line here, and it probably shifts around.
Silicon Avatar is a heavy episode, but a timeless one. I don’t think it’s even really about obsession. I think Marr made her decision long ago, to kill the CE first chance she got, partly for revenge, and partly to feel like, by protecting other mothers’ children in the future, she can, in some way, right whatever wrong she feels she did her own son by failing to protect him. Hearing her son’s voice just tipped her over the edge and (possibly) gave her the resolve to defy Picard. But she always wanted the CE dead. And…for reasons both forgivable and noble. But does that make it right? Right up until the Enterprise started potentially communicating with the CE (when it was probably already too late to stop what was coming), I would have said “yes”. Right enough, I suppose, given the known risks. Prosecute Marr. Lock her up (sorry for the timeliness of that line), by all means. But I wouldn’t personally condemn her. That extra added wrinkle of the potential for communication, that turns the episode into a total tragedy. But a good one. That potential means everything to the ideal crew of the Enterprise, but absolutely nothing to Marr, who is herself not a bad person.
*Will* her career be over because of her actions? Any number of counselors can be brought up in her defence to say that she wasn’t fully responsible for her actions at the time, and that the Entity, oblivious of its effects on humanoid life or not, was still a danger.
But even if they did throw the proverbial book at her, so she couldn’t work within the Federation (I’m assuming you need some sort of scientific imprimatur from some Science Council), so what? It’s a big galaxy; the Klingons would applaud her act of vengeance for her dead son. Or there’s the Ferengi.
If she has a good advocate she could be back at work.
if only there was an emphatic Councilor on the Enterprise. 😉
Love this episode so much. Ellen Geer absolutely kills it. You can’t help but sympathize with her as a grieving parent and her arc with Data is fantastic, brought to a perfect, crushing end with Data’s last line.
Picard knows the Crystalline Enitity is intelligent and can be communicated with because Lore did it.
I agree the episode would have been better with Troi in it. Data has shown he has more awareness of people than he shows in this episode, at least enough to ask other crewmembers for advice.
Rewatched this episode and it dawned on me just how long it would take for the Crystalline Entity to destroy the planet at the rate it was going. Those 30 ft wide paths of destruction would probably mean years of time spent wiping out a whole planet.
Not a great episode – but certainly a good one – because I didn’t buy Marr’s insanity. Would have been better if she kept her sanity and acted in revenge. Not enough time to do a decent psychotic break.