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Silicon Avatar (episode)

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(written from a Production point of view)
"Silicon Avatar"
TNG, Episode 5x04
Production number: 40275-204
First aired: 14 October 1991
103rd of 176 produced in TNG
103rd of 176 released in TNG
  {{{nNthReleasedInSeries_Remastered}}}th of 176 released in TNG Remastered  
210th of 728 released in all
Crystalline entity
Teleplay By
Jeri Taylor

Story By
Lawrence V. Conley

Directed By
Cliff Bole
45122.3 (2368)
Arc: Crystalline Entity (2 of 2)  
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  Arc: {{{wsArc4Desc}}} ({{{nArc4PartNumber}}} of {{{nArc4PartCount}}})  

The Enterprise gives chase to the Crystalline Entity after it destroys a Federation colony. A xenologist, who has a motivation all her own with respect to the Crystalline Entity, is assigned to the Enterprise to assist in the investigations.

Summary

Teaser

Commander Riker is on the surface of a lush and life-filled planet called Melona IV. He is speaking to Carmen Davila about plans for the construction of a colony there, and plans a dinner date with her. Doctor Crusher and Lieutenant Commander Data are also present. The sky suddenly darkens and the Crystalline Entity appears. Data suggests that they might find cover for the colonists in caverns that lie to the east.

Act One

The Crystalline Entity destroys everything in its path with some kind of energy beam. Riker's friend Carmen goes back to help an old man who has fallen in the rush and Riker witnesses them being killed by the Entity.

The USS Enterprise-D's sensors pick up an atmospheric disturbance, possibly an electromagnetic storm on Melona IV. They are 27 hours away at present speed. Captain Picard orders an increase in speed to warp 8.

Back on the planet, the colonists have taken shelter underground. Data believes that the refractory metals in the rock will protect them. Crusher is concerned that they will run out of air soon.

On the Enterprise, Picard increases speed to warp 9. They are still six hours away from Melona IV.

Back on the planet, the cavern's oxygen is almost depleted but they haven't heard the Entity in an hour. Riker and Data respond to a sudden sound near the entrance of the cavern. Lieutenant Worf enters the cave along with a rescue party, which includes Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge. Riker exits the cavern to see that the surface of the planet has been reduced to a barren wasteland as far as the eye can see.

Act Two

"Captain's Log, Stardate 45122.3. We have notified Starfleet Command of our intention to pursue and investigate the Crystalline Entity. To that end, we have been joined by Doctor Kila Marr, a xenologist who has made studying the Entity her life's work."

Doctor Marr beams aboard the Enterprise and meets with the senior staff. Data confirms that it was the same entity that destroyed the colony at Omicron Theta. Dr. Marr says that the entity is basically an electromagnetic collector that converts all organic matter to energy. She states that in eleven recorded attacks, there have never been any survivors. Data surmises that the presence of kelbonite and fistrium in the rock may have protected them. Picard orders Data to accompany Dr. Marr to the planet's surface to study the cavern. Dr. Marr is obviously displeased with having to work with Data, but Picard insists.

On the planet, Dr. Marr tells Data that she distrusts him because his brother Lore aided the Entity in destroying the colony at Omicron Theta. Further, she believes that the reason the Entity allowed the colonists to survive was due to Data's presence. She tells Data that her sixteen-year-old son was killed during the attack on the colony at Omicron Theta and that is why she has devoted her life to studying the Entity. She promises to have Data dismantled if she finds that he has been assisting the Crystalline Entity as his brother did.

Act Three

La Forge, Data, and Dr. Marr are in engineering. Data suggests that the soil samples should be scanned for gamma radiation to see if there are any traces of antiprotons. It is determined that the Crystalline Entity deposits these antiprotons as it travels through space. Soon the crew is able to determine the likely course the Entity has taken. They set course for the Brechtian Cluster.

Dr. Marr has developed a modification of the photon torpedoes to destroy the Entity. Picard has reservations and tells her that he intends to try and communicate with it. Dr. Marr is incredulous and very upset at Picard's desire to preserve a lifeform responsible for the death of thousands of innocent people. However, Picard reiterates his point, asking that Dr. Marr work together with Data to find a way to communicate with the Entity.

She then joins Data in his quarters. He is playing the guitar when she enters. Data reveals to her that his memory contains the personal logs and even some personal memories of all the Omicron Theta colonists, including her son Raymond, who was called "Renny."

Data and Dr. Marr are summoned to the bridge, where they learn that the freighter Kallisko is under attack.

Act Four

"Captain's log, stardate 45125.7. An away team, led by Commander Riker, has conducted a thorough survey of the alien ship Kallisko and has returned to the Enterprise to report."

An away team is sent to the Kallisko, only to find that the entire ship is devoid of life. Back in his ready-room Picard asks Riker to write a letter to Carmen's family. Riker asks for permission to speak freely and tells Picard that he is beginning to think that maybe Dr. Marr was right in that the Entity should be destroyed when they encounter it again because it will just continue killing. Picard, however, believes that Riker is influenced by personal feelings. Riker is rather upset at Picard's remark, stating that he is not a raw cadet and that he has lost people on missions before and that if they take their time to communicate with the Entity they might lose their chance to destroy it; something they cannot risk. Picard responds with pensive silence as Riker, in a rather sarcastic tone, states that he will now go write that letter to Carmen's family.

Data and Dr. Marr continue to work on a way to communicate with the Entity. They decide to use a graviton pulse to communicate with it. Dr. Marr creates a subroutine to allow them to vary the frequency of the pulses from the bridge.

Data recites one of Renny's journal entries using Renny's voice. Dr. Marr is visibly moved.

Act Five

"Captain's log, Stardate 45129.2. We are still in pursuit of the Crystalline Entity. Data and Dr. Marr are prepared to attempt communication with the being when we intercept it. I will admit to some uncertainty about the prospect; it could prove to be a scientific triumph or a catastrophe."

While still five light years away from the Brechtian Cluster, they begin emitting five-nanosecond graviton emissions at one pulse per second. They increase to ten pulses per second, and Worf detects a large mass on an intercept course moving at warp speed. It is the Crystalline Entity, which stops near the Enterprise. They increase the graviton pulses to twenty per second and notice a signal coming from the Entity. A pattern emerges, and Data begins to decipher it.

Dr. Marr then tries a continuous beam instead of the pulsing one. The Entity moves away slightly, as if hurt by the change. Picard orders a return to the intermittent signal, but Dr. Marr has locked out the controls and the graviton pulse begins to make the Entity unstable. The amplitude reaches a critical point and the Entity is completely destroyed in a spectacular explosion.

Data escorts Dr. Marr to her quarters where she is confined. A very shaken Dr. Marr asks Data if he thinks Renny would understand why she did it. Data states that it is his belief that Renny would have been sad about what she did, because her decision has now effectively ended her career as a scientist and he was proud of the scientific work that she did. Reality sets in for the shocked doctor about what she has just done.

Memorable Quotes

"Remarkable. You and your group are the only known beings ever to survive an assault by the Crystalline Entity!"

- Kila Marr to Riker


"And your android, he was there too?"
"Lieutenant Commander Data was there, yes."

- Kila Marr, first showing her hostility towards Data while speaking to Riker


"I don't think you need an empath to sense that woman's feelings."

- Troi to Picard


"There's hostility that she seems to have transferred from Lore to Data. Perhaps you shouldn't have forced them together so soon."
"If her discomfort is going to affect her judgment or her objectivity, I need to know now."

- Troi and Picard


"If we can possibly avoid firing on it, then I would hope we..."
"Aren't you going to kill it?"

- Picard and Marr on the Crystalline Entity


"Lieutenant Worf, I don't think I've ever seen a more beautiful sight."

- Riker


"I would argue that the Crystalline Entity has as much right to be here as we do."

- Picard


"Perhaps the combination of the two metals prevented the Entity from..."
"Perhaps it was you!"
"I do not understand."
"Maybe it was your presence that made the Entity pass over the people in this cave, did that occur to you?"
"I cannot see what effect my being here would have had..."
"If you had been in contact with the Entity, if that's the reason Melona was attacked, surely it wouldn't have killed its ally."
"Do you believe that I lured the Entity here?"
"Did you?"
"No doctor. Because Lore betrayed the colonists on Omicron Theta, you believe that I am capable of the same behavior. You are mistaken, doctor. My programming is distinctly different from Lore's."
"You don't understand, I am accusing you of collaborating with that monster!"
"I do understand. And I am attempting to explain to you it is impossible."
"Amazing. You can't feel anything, can you? Nothing I say to you hurts you?"
"That is true, doctor."

- Data and Doctor Kila Marr, desperately attempting to intimidate the android, and then being faced with the fact that it is impossible.


"Why are we pursuing the Entity, if not to destroy it?"
"We are not hunters, Doctor. Nor is it our role to exact revenge."
"What do you propose? We track it down, greet it warmly and ask it if it would mind terribly not ravaging any more planets!?"

- Doctor Kila Marr and Jean-Luc Picard


"And as you know... I provide the most memorable desserts."
"My favorite part of dinner."

- Carmen Davila and William Riker


"The sperm whale on Earth devours millions of cuttlefish as it roams the oceans. It is not evil. It is feeding."

- Picard, defending the Crystalline Entity's nature as a sentient lifeform


"You say you did it for him but I do not believe he would have wanted that. Yes, I believe your son would be very sad now. I am sorry doctor but I cannot help you."

- Data to Kila Marr after she destroyed both the Crystalline Entity and her career (last lines)

Background Information

Story and script

  • The story for this episode was pitched by Lawrence V. Conley. At the time, the writing staff were trying to avoid sequels. However, this premise caught the attention of Jeri Taylor. She commented, "[O]f all the characters to bring back, who'd have thought the Crystalline Entity? But the Moby Dick premise of this obsessed woman whose son's consciousness was stored in Data was too good to pass up." (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion 2nd ed., p. 179) Michael Piller agreed, "It was a great premise. The idea of the crystalline entity as Moby Dick really appealed to me." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 229)
  • Taylor elaborated, "The crystalline entity was no one's favorite optical or bad entity, and there were doubts as to whether we should even resurrect it. Along came this story from a very young, inexperienced writer, Lawrence Conley, and he tapped into something that made us say, 'This works, this is a story that really has to be done.' I wanted to do it because I felt – being a mother and a woman – I could identify with what would have to be the worst kind of loss anyone could ever suffer, which would be the death of a child. I was really able to tap into those feelings and tell a story about a woman whose vendetta over the loss of her son ruined her." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 229)
  • According to Taylor, the story was helped by its title, even though "no one knew exactly what it meant". While "avatar" has several different meanings, the intended meaning here was a "repository of knowledge", referring to Data. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion 2nd ed., p. 179)
  • According to Brent Spiner, production problems affected the writing of the episode. He recalled, "Apparently there were having problems getting the next episode ready for production and this script was ready to go, but it wasn't very remarkable." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 229)

Production

Silicon Avatar map

The map attached to the call sheet showing the location at the Golden Oak Ranch.

Continuity

Reception

  • Brent Spiner was not fond of the installment, noting "I didn't think it was a very good episode. If this was to really conclude the story of the crystalline entity, I don't think it was really the way to go." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 229)
  • Michael Piller espoused similar sentiments. "I don't think the show was as effective as I wish it could have been." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 229)
  • Director Cliff Bole rejected claims that the crew's attempts to communicate with the Entity after all the destruction it had caused were wildly optimistic. "It's not, if you can control the fact it won't happen again, and I think Picard made it clear that he wouldn't destroy anything until it was explored. And it did finally show that it had another side, and I think that's what he was saying. It can be characterized with modern society's attitude, 'Let's make sure we're not making any mistakes,' knowing full well they can handle it if they were wrong." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 229)
  • Bole was overall satisfied with the episode, but thought that if he was directing it again he would have made some changes. "I think I would have made Marr stronger in places and in the ending I thought we were weak. Then again, she was over the edge. You know, when you've only got 40 minutes of picture, it's tough to take a character and go all the way through the change and what happens to somebody. We're doing short stories here. Why does she do what she does? Sometimes you just don't have the film time to explore it properly." Bole added that, unlike a feature film, there is insufficient time to reshoot scenes. "[Y]ou stand on what you've done." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 229)
  • A mission report for this episode by John Sayers was published in The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine Vol. 18, pp. 23-26.

Video and DVD releases

Links and references

Starring

Also starring

Guest stars

Uncredited co-stars

Stand-ins

References

access code; antiproton; archaeology; Argos system; arts center; bacteria; bitrium; Boreal III; Brechtian Cluster; cadet; cave; cellular biology; cellulose; championship emblem; chicken curry; Clendenning; crystal; Crystalline Entity; cuttlefish; dessert; Earth; electrical storm; electromagnetic collector; fistrium; Forlat III; gamma radiation; gamma scan; graviton beam; greenery storage; guitar; hertz; hospital; humor; hydrocarbon; insect; Janina; Kallisko; kelbonite; keV; lanthanide; Lore; Melona; Melona IV; Melona colony; memory cell; metal; monocaladium; monster; neural net; nitrate; Omicron Theta; outpost; Parrises squares; particle phaser; photon torpedo; plant; ration; replicator; residential pod; school; science station; skeleton crew; Soong, Noonian; spectrographic analysis; sperm whale; starbase; Starfleet; Starfleet Command; synaptic pattern; temporal lobe; tent; transport ship; tricorder; turbolift; Wallace family; wine; xenologist (xenology)


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"Ensign Ro"
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 5
Next episode:
"Disaster"

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