Welcome to Rana IV – population 11,000. Scratch that – population 2. Scratch that? Hmmm. A devastating attack destroys everything on the planet except for one house and its two inhabitants. Investigating, the Enterprise ends up in a deadly game of cat and mouse. But against whom are they playing? Find out when we put The Survivors in the Mission Log.
Tags: Anne Haney, colonists, colony, Delta Rana IV, Douwd, Hunsock, immortal, John Anderson, Kevin Uxbridge, Les Landau, Michael Wagner, music box, replicator, Rishon Uxbridge, tea, The Next Generation, The Next Generation Season 3, The Survivors, TNG, waltz
One of the highlights of Trek’s best season, and another bottle show that has to get by on solid writing, sensitive performances and heartfelt anguish. I’m soooo looking forward to hearing this.
what do you mean “bottle” show? Just one good story, in and of itself? doesn’t need any other backstory etc? Yeah, I enjoyed this one as well. Reviewing these episodes is a flashback to my weekly ritual when I was 17 and on…but this time it’ Thursday instead of Saturday for Trek. I Netflix the episode a day or two before the Thursday podcast…
A “bottle show” is an episode that’s fairly cheap to produce – very little if any location shooting, no new expensive sets, not a lot of time-consuming visual effects, not a lot of post-production work. A quick and relatively easy shoot, so it doesn’t cost as much as a typical episode, and a lot less than a more spectacular one. Lots of talking, less action, generally. “The Measure of a Man” is a classic bottle show. So is DS9’s “Duet”.
Series typically do bottle shows every now and then to keep costs down, and allow for them to shift money over to more difficult and technically complicated episodes. I think Ken and John mentioned that TNG changed their budgeting in Season Two to allow for giving certain episodes bigger budgets than others. “Q Who” was clearly a more expensive episode to produce, with all those new sets and costumes. And “Shades of Gray”, of course, was cheap as hell. By design.
ahhh, I see, but with this I wouldn’t think it would be due to the house set outdoors and the space battle, but I see your point. I can appreciate episodes that focus more on life on the ship w relatively mundane day to day activities and great storytelling….thanks!!
For “genre television” such as TNG, a single house plus a single ship really isn’t much. Compare that with “Angel One”, “Code of Honor”, “Justice”, “We’ll Always Have Paris”, “Elementary, Dear Data”, “Who Watches the Watchers”, “Tin Man”, and other stuff that made extensive use of at least one new set that had to be redressed for days at a time if not completely built anew. All they had to do in “The Survivors” was rent a house in Malibu for a day’s shoot, and produce one ship for the viewscreen. Everything else was talking, sound editing, or the usual “shaking while the ship is hit” stuff. It’s simple stuff, really. And, so long as the script is good, that’s more than enough to work.
And as I think I was (unintentionally, but with the best of unintentions) hinting at with dropping “Measure of a Man” and “Duet” earlier, bottle shows are often really, really good. They know they can’t replace good dialogue with fill-it-in-later visual effects, because there’s no room in the budget for that kinda stuff. They usually avoid Treknobabble plots too, since you’ll need some sort of effects to sell that. That leads to simple, classic human (if that’s not too chauvinist) drama on display. A courtroom drama. A series of interrogation scenes. Simple interaction between main characters, developing their personalities and relationships.
“Chain of Command”, while not technically a bottle show, derived the same advantage by being split into two parts – the budget gets split between two episodes, but you have a LOT of extra time that you have to fill. Better write some good, long dialogue, I guess. So we got the four lights, further exploration of Riker, and Deanna’s long-belated uniform. Bottle shows and the like are WONderful for breaking patterns and bringing new ideas to the fore by forcing the writers to dig deeper into the characters and the ideas of the show through bsic dialogue, and not just on setting up another set-piece action/SFX scene. Which should be used to add color to good, solid stories, not as frames to hang good-enough stories on.
I agree. I prefer fleshing out of characters more than “prosthetic of the week” aliens on Planet Hell/X. That’s what VOY felt like to me. Great insight! Thank you!
Good tea — Nice house!
You both kept referring to Kevin as “Dowd” as if it was his real name. My recollection was that his race was called “the Dowd” his real name not stated. I think he says “I’m a Dowd”
Personally, I always thought his real first name was “Wellen”
I just watched this am on Netflix w subtitles…I think it said “Douwd”… I always thought “This guy coulda saved the Federation from the Borg!!!”
you’re right on the spelling.
this does make me wary of ticking of the actor Chris O’Dowd, however
LOL, the actor from Thor Dark World and Bridesmaids..hahaha!
At the time, I thought this was a kick butt space battle!! lol, so glad DS9 kicked it up a notch. When I first saw this episode I suspected the Borg. I also thought, this powerful guy coulda been related to Trellayne from TOS or Q of course and could have eliminated the Borg threat!!
First time I saw this episode (out of order, and after “Silicon Avatar”), I figured it’d be the Crystalline Entity.
true, great point, yeah, it definitely looks like something the Crystalline Entity could have done….so many good episodes to look forward to-!
John Anderson “Kevin Uxbridge” in his younger years, RIP 1992
Anne Haney “Rishon Uxbridge” seen in The American President w Michael Douglas & Mrs Doubtfire. RIP 2001
This episode has one of THE WORST teasers ever created for an episode. My college roommate and I still joke about “an alien force is destroying Troi’s brain!” Stop! Stop! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0BZpn9_0jvc
Looks like a pretty sweet trailer to me. Maybe I’ve been reverse-spoiled by current movie trailers, but this is intriguing, exciting, quick and still accurate to the episode.
GUN CONTROL….after listening to the podcast a few times…(I have to restart because I am at work and miss stuff…) the part you mentioned about how Kevin “loses it” and when he does…BooM. Like Spiderman’s Uncle Ben said, “With great power comes great responsibility…” you can be a pretty level headed citizen, polite, respectful and have good thoughts and intentions toward your fellow man. Own a gun and be proper and respectful as well. Go to the range once in a while or even a lot, and never consider shooting people for fun or sadistic pleasure… But one divorce, road rage incident, firing from a job, lapse in judgment and emotional control and a terrible power is unleashed. One that cannot be contained or undone. We just had another theater shooting in Louisiana and sadly I feel like they are “not that bad” unless they reach double digits. How cynical and jaded I have become regarding random mass/active shooter incidents. Anyway, I really enjoy the podcast and am in for the long haul. Just to share /brag I am in the Army Reserves and will be going to my annual training tomorrow, so out of the loop for 2 weeks, (hope I get good signal!!) but I am an Army captain and don’t wanna make major because captain sounds soooo cool!-lol me trying to dodge promotions like Riker…jk. anyway glad I have fellow Trekkers to enjoy TNG and review with… didn’t ANYONE think/wonder if the Douwd could eliminate The Borg?!!?
Spider-Man, not Spiderman… sorry, I couldn’t help myself. :p
All good! Just watched “Boobytrap” !!
Is Kevin a Mystic to Armus’ Skesi?
additionally, I think a message that sometimes violence is ok and needed to prevent more bloodshed. If Kevin had acted to kill/hold off the Hoosnawk until the Federation arrived he could turn the fight over to them, and hopefully his wife would have survived. To completely abdicate his authority in this situation was a mistake. Inaction when you have the power to help others is a moral failing. Bystander apathy when someone gets mugged, robbed or rape is bad. Sometimes understandable w/ fear and psychological issues, but still bad. There’s a good quote about freedom and good rough men being able to get dirty to preserve it, Teddy Roosevelt, I think, but clearly some violence and killing would have been preferable to the entire colony of humans and entire species of Hoosnack? being lost.
I believe you are correct in seeing this message in the show – but I see Picard’s excuse of Kevin’s revenge as the true justification for violence given.
Picard was willing to drag Kevin in front of a Star Fleet tribunal for attack on the Enterprise but when he admits to genocide in revenge for his wife’s death then Picard says he is now beyond judgment and possibly even a “hero”?!
At one point Picard actually says “we have no name for such a crime” – isn’t it called ‘genocide’? That’s what we call it now. The scale is huge but the intent is the same. Picard seems to be taking the phrase “one murder is a crime, a million murders is a statistic” as a legal defense.
Kevin has the Bad Aliens “knew only aggression and destruction” so he had to kill them. I guess the Klingons are next and about 50% of the other Star Trek races. Were all fifty billion Hunsock (Huns?) evil to the core? No Hunsocks dissidents or Hunsocks really into puppetry for kids?
The quote you refer to is “We sleep safely in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would harm us.” It was written by Edmund Burke. The Hunsocks probably had a similar saying to justify their battleships going around torching other planets.
A good Twilight Zone episode but an unsatisfactory conclusion to a Star Trek one.
This was such a good episode. It was tight with good pacing. The third season really feels like a different show from the first two seasons. We saw glimpses of this in the first two seasons, but the greatness just oozes. Sure, we’ll probably see some dogs, but it was so refreshing at the time and solid, episode after episode. Miss this show.
I’m very fond of this episode. The “reveal” at the end that Kevin has killed all the Husnock felt very much like the conclusion of a Twilight Zone episode. I wonder if it’s just me or if John Anderson felt it, too.
My confusion ever seen this episode as a kid in the 1980’s was & still is,if he could destroy 50 billion people why couldn’t he recreate the entire colony
I’m amazed that JC barely remembered this episode — for me, after two massively disappointing seasons, and a couple of fair-to-decent S3 episodes, THIS was the episode that finally gave me faith that TNG had at last found its footing. I loved the set-up of the small patch of green on a blasted-out planet, and I vividly remember the reveal that Kevin had wiped out the entire alien race in his anger giving me a huge chill down my spine. “The Survivors” was a big crossroads for me and TNG at the time. 🙂
I’m catching up on the podcast today, and felt compelled to come here and make my first comment on any forum concerning the ML podcast. THIS. I came here to say exactly what you’re saying, Kevin. For me, this episode is the one where the series turned a MAJOR corner and never looked back. This is “Star Trek.” A huge idea that expands your mind while gripping your heart. Like you, I shook my head when John Champion said he couldn’t remember this one. And even a bit more surprised that on re-watching it for the podcast, that he didn’t think more of it. I haven’t seen this one since it originally aired, but it sticks with me. Haunting. And like you seem to imply, Jeff, it has a great deal to do with John Anderson’s performance when the big reveal comes. Like Picard, I couldn’t have punished this guy either. You can tell that he’s already living in a hellish self-imposed prison of his own despair. I had all but given up on TNG by this point, but this one kept me coming back and staying on till the end of the run.
I think that Ken is short-changing the writers of the TNG bible when he says that the Prime Directive is just a rather meaningless “stand-in” for any guiding ethic. That humans of the 24th Century regard non-interference with lesser-developed alien cultures as the most moral disposition toward those cultures communicates a certain world-view for 24th Century humans. 24th Century humans are compassionate, but not to the exclusion of rational considerations. They understand their own limitations in terms of coping with their emotions and letting their hearts guide their decisions, so they put in place a guiding ethic to prevent themselves from doing unintended harm under circumstances in which their compassion might overwhelm their rational decision-making. “Pen Pals” illustrates and defines this idea quite well.
If, for example, the guiding ethic of Star Fleet were to convert all species to the prevalent human world-view, that would communicate a very different set of values. One gets the sense from the Prime Directive being what it is that humans
have learned some important lessons from history by the 24th Century. It’s not just some arbitrary “stand-in” for a guiding ethic.
Ken here – You use the terms “meaningless” and “arbitrary.” I don’t know that I’ve used those terms. That said, it seems to me that most everything in Star Trek (characters, races, laws, etc.) are stand-ins for something today. If it’s simply science fiction about the 24th century, that’s swell. But if that’s all it is, it could just as easily be Buck Rogers or Star Wars.
So, what is the Prime Directive in 20th/21st century terms? To me (stressing, to me), it’s living and acting by a code. Sometimes when anger might get the best of us, this code makes us reconsider. Sometimes when a misguided desire to help might lead to disaster, this code stops us. Stating your beliefs and acting on and around them accordingly is the modern day analog, in my opinion. In the science fiction realm, the Prime Directive is one thing. If we’re looking to apply meaning from it to today’s world, it’s not the rules of the Prime Directive but the fact of the Prime Directive – its very existence – that gives it value.
Thanks for the comment.
Ken, thanks for your response.
I went back and listened to what you said just to make sure that I hadn’t misunderstood you the first time. At around 37:20 into this commentary, you said the following:
“I don’t think the Prime Directive is a thing; I don’t care about the Prime Directive. … Really, it’s just a stand-in for a code, a way of acting. And this guy has a code, a way of acting, and that falls apart.”
I agree with your summation of the theme relating to Kevin the Douwd—yes, that theme is about a guy whose emotions overwhelm his ability to live by his guiding ethic or “code.” But, I cannot escape the conclusion that you are dismissing the intrinsic ideological/philosophical and dramatic value of the Prime Directive, per se, as the particular code chosen by our protagonists in Trek.
Obviously, everything in Star Trek, or most things, are a “stand-in” for something of the present day. Since TOS, the basic art form of Star Trek has comprised the invention of futuristic analogues of present-day things as a means of commenting (making thematic statements) about those present-day things. Some sort of “Space Religion” is put forth in Trek as stand-in for present-day religion or even for a specific present-day religion. Some sort of “Space Politics” is a stand-in for present-day politics or for a specific political position or political movement. You get the idea. Obviously, the Prime Directive is the Star Trek analogue of a guiding ethical code. But, the Prime Directive, ITSELF—what this particular ethical code implies and communicates to the audience about the fictitious, future culture that has adopted it as their guiding ethic—has greater meaning beyond simply “Space Ethical Code.” And, from what you said in this commentary, I cannot escape the conclusion that you are dismissing the intrinsic ideological/philosophical/historical value and greater dramatic implications of the Prime Directive as the particular code adopted by the protagonists of the Star Trek body of fiction. That THIS PARTICULAR code—the Prime Directive—was chosen by the Trek writers as the guiding ethic of their protagonists carries certain meaning and says something specific about the values being promoted by the show and by its writers, as well as conveying certain character meaning and implications about the protagonists of the Trek dramas.
If you were so inclined, you could draw a logical line—a thread—through real-life human history that would inform the choice of the Prime Directive as the particular “code” of our fictitious Trek protagonists. This thread would likely include the Hippocratic Oath and Primum non nocere (“Do no harm.”)
So, yes, in terms of dramatic elements, the Prime Directive is a “stand-in” for a code or guiding ethic. But, the Prime Directive is not “JUST a code [emphasis added].” The actual concept of the Prime Directive, itself, is more meaningful than you seem to be giving the writers of the TNG bible credit for.
As the computer mentioned, Kevin is such a silly name for an immortal, all-powerful being. I like that he gave it to himself. It shows a tiny bit of insight into his character. He just wants to live a normal, boring “Kevin” kind of life (with apologies to all Kevins out there). That was a nice touch by the writers.
I hate to be That Guy, but:
1) Given that Kevin’s actions were against a species that the Federation hadn’t even heard of before, would the Federation have any jurisdiction over what he did to them? Who set them up as the judges of the Alpha Quadrant?
2) Who gets control of the Husnak territory, all their cities and ships and possessions?
There were two interesting things that I thought about during this episode.
1) Responsibility when your weapons are absurdly more powerful. If you are a nuclear power in the stone age, wouldn’t you have the responsibility to lock up your nukes and throw away the key?
2) Moral absolutes don’t hold up in a world full of shades of gray. Due to his absolute pacifism, Kevin would not defend his colony and they all died. Then, in a blind rage, as retribution, he killed an entire race without discerning innocent from guilty. It may require trudging down into the muck and mire every once in a while, but pragmatism and case-by-case moral judgement are worth the headache.
I thought it was a poignant ending. Everyone, including Kevin, knew there should be consequences yet the means did not exist. It’s intentionally unsatisfying.
So it’s been a while since this podcast episode aired, but, watching Little House on the Prairie with my kids, we came upon Season 2, Episode 5 ‘The Haunted House’ in which John ‘Dowd’ Anderson played an old man with…wait for it…a creepy musical globe with a spinner dancer inside! Later in the episode, he wipes out the entire population of Walnut Grove lol 😉
image here: (can’t embed it for some reason)