Season Five - TNG

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Silicon Avatar

Written by Jeri Taylor and Lawrence V. Conley
Directed by Cliff Bole

Way back during the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, in the episode Datalore, viewers were given the background of the finding of the android Data (Brent Spiner). He had been found on the planet Omicron Theta, the only “survivor” of an attack by a creature known as the Crystalline Entity.

In Silicon Avatar, a Crystalline Entity attacks the planet Melona IV, where some of the crew of the Enterprise has been helping colonists settle. The attack completely decimates what was once a thriving planet. Gone is any vegetation or water, making the planet now virtually uninhabitable, as well as killing some of the colonists.

Dr. Kila Marr, a xenologist who has studied the Entity for her entire life, joins the search for the attacking Entity. She has an inherent bias against Commander Data due to the fact that his “brother”, Lore, worked with the Entity to have Omnicron Theta destroyed. Her son was in the colony when the Entity attacked and was slain along with the rest of the colonists.

Dr. Marr accuses Data of being in contact with the Entity and of his presence and association being the reason that the colonists hiding in the cave with him survived the attack, setting up a series of tense confrontations between the two as they track the Entity and attempt to communicate with it.

The acting in this episode is magnificent all the way around. There is a particular scene between Ellen Geer and Patrick Stewart that is amazing. In the heat of confrontation, Geer takes on the role of a huntress, intent on murdering the Entity. Stewart’s Captain Picard has a different outlook, and as they clash, the scene plays out in a wonderful way.

Stewart also does a tremendous job at the beginning with a weak scene where Picard is pacing on the bridge when Riker (Jonathan Frakes), Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden), and Data are on Melona IV subject to an unknown disturbance and out of communication. These scenes are very much unlike what we normally see of Picard, and I would have thought he would be more used to dealing with his crew out of communication away from the ship, even though his concerns are well-founded.

As Dr, Marr, Geer does a terrific job fluctuating between scientist and her emotional involvement in the investigation. There is, at times, sadness in her eyes as a result of this attack bringing back the memories of what happened all those years ago, as well as over not learning any new information initially from her investigation. Her scene with Spiner when she is talking over her guilt for having left her son behind on the planet while she was off on assignment is magnificently done, as are the scenes where Spiner conveys the memories Data has been programmed with to Dr. Marr. Her emotional deterioration throughout the episode as she confronts this guilt and it eats away at her is so well-performed.

Being an android, Data does not understand the emotional effect these memories have on Dr. Maar and sees nothing wrong with what he is doing. Viewers can see the toll and deterioration of her emotional state, so it is no surprise what happens in the end. With ship’s counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) on the bridge, who is a half-Betazoid and empathic, meaning she can feel people’s feelings, it’s simply poor writing that she doesn’t pick up on what is about to happen before it can be stopped.

This is a major problem with the plot, as it’s a very obvious drawback in the story. So much has been made of her abilities up until this point, that for her not to sense what this woman is feeling before she takes action would almost be grounds for dereliction of duty. Had she simply not been present on the bridge at this time for some reason, it would have kept the episode much more consistent.

The scenes at the beginning showing the attack by the Entity are somewhat disturbing, possibly greater for young viewers. However, the effect is magnificent as it shows what the initial attack by the Entity is like. Likewise is the initial view of the now-decimated planet once Riker and Data emerge from the caverns in which they took refuge with the colonists.

In my opinion, the episode can be viewed without having seen the original Datalore episode. It’s a fairly good piece of drama, with one major plot hole that will be more apparent to fans of the series than the casual viewer.

Previous episode (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – Darmok

Next episode (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – Disaster

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