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Go Back   The Trek BBS > Star Trek TV Series > The Next Generation

The Next Generation All Good Things come to an end...but not here.

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Old August 14 2014, 11:58 PM   #1
Trekker4747
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TNG Rewatch: 5x04 "Silicon Avatar."



Riker, Data and Crusher are checking up on a budding colony on an alien world when suddenly the Crystalline Entity shows up and begins to attack the planet. The Away Team and the colonists are able to seek refuge in a nearby stock Star Trek cave (Drink!) with the loss of but two colonists. All are able to survive in the cavern as the Entity decimates the entire planet's surface leaving no trace whatsoever of life.

Wanting to investigate more about the entity and hoping to be able to stop its destruction the Enterprise sets out on a mission to track it down and possibly communicate with it and to do so they enlist the aid of a Dr. Marr a xenologist who's been studying the entity since her son was killed by it on Omicron Theta (Data's home planet) a couple decades earlier.

Marr at first reluctant to trust Data, believing him to be responsible for the Entity's attacks much like Lore was on Omicron Theta, but soon learns Data's lack of emotions and inherent honesty makes this unlike;u.

She eventually begins to fixate on Data and looks upon him as being her son once she learns he possesses some of his memories, his logs and can emulate his voice.

Eventually the Enterprise is able to catch-up to the Crystalline Entity and begin attempts at communication using a method developed by Geordi, Data and Marr. It seems their plan is working, though it'll take time to work out how to produce more precise communication, when Marr takes control over the experiment, locks out the computer allowing the ramped-up experimental signal to destroy the Entity.

Data escorts Marr to her quarters where she asks Data to ease her mind with the knowledge that her son would have understood and been proud of her actions. Data does not think this would be the case, as her son was proud of Marr's career and the name she had made for herself and he would be unhappy she ruined her career, and possibly her life, by taking such drastic actions.

Mostly an okay episode. Not one I love or hate. It certainly has some good moments in it but there's also some odd ones in it. Marr's quick fascination and attachment with Data seems pretty darn psychotic when you think about it but that's certainly the point. That she was so broken up about her son's death and how estranged the two of them apparently were when her son moved to Omicron Theta that she may have been right on the line between "sane" and "psychotic" and Data's reading of her son's journals and such may have been what pushed her over that line.

In the beginning of the episode Marr is reluctant to have Data on her team, believing him responsible for the attack on the colony and his presence being why they have their first-ever knowns survivors, but Picard insists. Troi is unsure this was a good idea given the strong emotions there and it seems she was right, though not for the reasons she thought. The emotions between Mar and Data/The Entity ended up ruining their overall mission but not because of the hostilities between Marr and Data but because she was such on this line of psychosis interacting with Data eventually pushed her over.

There's some great location shooting at the beginning of the episode was we're shown part of this new colony as being a near Eden-like beauty. As the Entity attacks either some great lighting manipulation, time-of-day, shooting or trickery with the exposure of the original film stock turns a bright-sunny day to a gloomy almost stormy-looking day as the colonists and away team run for the shelter in the caverns. A matte painting nicely shows us what this Eden had become once the Entity had finished.

There's also a moment or two of nice conflict between Marr and Picard, as well as Riker and Picard when it comes to the Entity. Marr thinks they should kill the entity, driven by the death of her son; as well as Riker, driven by the death of his Lay of the Week; while Picard -the practical diplomat and explorer- would rather achieve communication first and resort to destruction only if necessary.

It was interesting to revisit the Crystalline Entity unfortuantely we don't really learn all that much more about it here. The best we get on a explanation of its motivations is when Picard likens its behavior as being akin to a sperm whale devouring plankton on Earth. It's feeding on what it perceives to be lower life forms, not maliciously destroying creatures.

Again mostly an okay episode. Not one I really have any strong feelings towards one way or another. The remastering work here, particularly the location shooting on the planet, looks great. I do think the Entity could have probably been rendered better (I know it's supposed to crystalline but I can't help but think it looks like a polygonic graphic from a "3D" video game made in the mid 1990s) but it's consistent with its previous use as well as the original version of it in the non-remastered version of TNG.

Next week? We get the token disaster-movie episode.
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Old August 15 2014, 12:07 AM   #2
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Re: TNG Rewatch: 5x04 "Silicon Avatar."

I like this one.
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Old August 15 2014, 03:30 AM   #3
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Re: TNG Rewatch: 5x04 "Silicon Avatar."

BillJ wrote: View Post
I like this one.
Yeah, I mean I like it too it's just that I can't say it really motivates me to think or feel much beyond that. Seems like some wasted potential on what they could have done on dealing with the CE.
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Old August 15 2014, 03:32 AM   #4
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Re: TNG Rewatch: 5x04 "Silicon Avatar."

I like the scenes on the planet and in the cave. Other than that it was just ok for me.
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Old August 15 2014, 03:49 AM   #5
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Re: TNG Rewatch: 5x04 "Silicon Avatar."

The one thing that stands out about this episode is that the dangerous alien gets destroyed in the end instead of forming a new understanding, which is contrary to the usual pattern of TOS/TNG. Other than that it's pretty much TNG by numbers, a completely average episode. But, it's an important one because it marks the biggest divergence from Gene Roddenberry's vision.
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Old August 15 2014, 04:37 AM   #6
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Re: TNG Rewatch: 5x04 "Silicon Avatar."

JirinPanthosa wrote: View Post
The one thing that stands out about this episode is that the dangerous alien gets destroyed in the end instead of forming a new understanding, which is contrary to the usual pattern of TOS/TNG. Other than that it's pretty much TNG by numbers, a completely average episode. But, it's an important one because it marks the biggest divergence from Gene Roddenberry's vision.
If one discounts "The Man Trap". The very first aired episode of TOS.
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Old August 15 2014, 08:27 AM   #7
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Re: TNG Rewatch: 5x04 "Silicon Avatar."

Trekker4747 wrote: View Post
There's some great location shooting at the beginning of the episode was we're shown part of this new colony as being a near Eden-like beauty. As the Entity attacks either some great lighting manipulation, time-of-day, shooting or trickery with the exposure of the original film stock turns a bright-sunny day to a gloomy almost stormy-looking day as the colonists and away team run for the shelter in the caverns. A matte painting nicely shows us what this Eden had become once the Entity had finished.
Indeed, that scene, and their emerging from the cave to see the now-devastated world, was one of my favorites of the entire series.
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Old August 15 2014, 12:30 PM   #8
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Re: TNG Rewatch: 5x04 "Silicon Avatar."

"This was a beautiful exterior location before...now it's been transformed into a fakey-looking set extension...the horror...the horror...."
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Old August 15 2014, 05:08 PM   #9
JirinPanthosa
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Re: TNG Rewatch: 5x04 "Silicon Avatar."

BillJ wrote: View Post
JirinPanthosa wrote: View Post
The one thing that stands out about this episode is that the dangerous alien gets destroyed in the end instead of forming a new understanding, which is contrary to the usual pattern of TOS/TNG. Other than that it's pretty much TNG by numbers, a completely average episode. But, it's an important one because it marks the biggest divergence from Gene Roddenberry's vision.
If one discounts "The Man Trap". The very first aired episode of TOS.
That's not the same case, in The Man Trap there was no implied possibility of communication and peaceful coexistence. In Silicon Avatar the creature gets destroyed right after successfully opening a line of communication. It would be like if in Devil in the Dark, right after the creature said 'NO KILL I', some angry friend of a victim took out his blaster and vaporized it.
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Old August 15 2014, 06:57 PM   #10
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Re: TNG Rewatch: 5x04 "Silicon Avatar."

This is one of the worst episodes of the season. The season got off to a very strong start, and then a screeching halt. It didn't have to be awful, a followup to the Crystalline Entity could have been good, but the Marr character ruined that opportunity.

First she's a dick to Data, then accepts that he is not like Lore, then begins to think of him as a "Silicon Avatar" of her son. Then she really goes off the deep end with grief and regret. In a misguided attempt at revenge, she looks to Data as her son, saying she did it for "you" referring to Data. Yawwwwwn. I didn't care about her as a character, her grief as a parent, or the son she keeps looking to Data as.

I will give Dr. Marr credit for one thing though. While the crew feels that can communicate with the CE, Marr's sarcastic response is good. "Aren't you going to kill it? .... What do you propose? We track it down, greet it warmly, ask it is would mind terribly not ravaging any more planets?"

I'm tired of Star Trek treating mindless killing machines like misunderstood puppies. They did it here, and they do it again later in I Borg. Was the episode trying to tell the audience that destroying the CE was a horrific thing? It failed there.
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Old August 15 2014, 08:20 PM   #11
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Re: TNG Rewatch: 5x04 "Silicon Avatar."

Are you suggesting that killing it is preferable to neutralizing it as a threat? Nobody ever suggested that the Enterprise should just let it go if they failed to neutralize it.

Would you call humans 'Mindless killing machines' if we found out later that one of the many animals we consume was actually sentient and intelligent? The CE was clearly sentient and saw humans the way humans see chickens or cows. It would be much preferable to change that perspective so the killing stops than just to get revenge.

I, Borg is also a terrible example of treating mindless killing machines like misunderstood puppies, since Hugh was an individual enslaved by the mindless killing machine.
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Old August 15 2014, 08:35 PM   #12
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Re: TNG Rewatch: 5x04 "Silicon Avatar."

JirinPanthosa wrote: View Post
Are you suggesting that killing it is preferable to neutralizing it as a threat? Nobody ever suggested that the Enterprise should just let it go if they failed to neutralize it.
Reasoning with it was touched upon in the episode, but we never got to hear Picard's bright idea on getting it to stop destroying planets while satisfying its appetite. Picard says killing it is a last resort, but honestly, unless he can figure out a way to feed it, it's gotta die. If anything, Dr. Marr just saved the crew the trouble of having a dead snowflake on their consciences.

Besides, in Datalore, it's implied that the CE had some malevolent intent because it had conspired with Lore on two occasions, so it's not merely an innocent animal just out for a bite to eat.

I, Borg is also a terrible example of treating mindless killing machines like misunderstood puppies, since Hugh was an individual enslaved by the mindless killing machine.
I Borg is a controversial episode, so it's not like I'm introducing anything new. Borg were initially born and not assimilated. BOBW introduced the concept of assimilation, but it was driven home with I Borg. The Borg individuals became victims of the greater collective, rather than drones like bees or ants. Plus who's to say Hugh was assimilated at all? He likely started off like one of those babies Riker found.
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Old August 15 2014, 09:09 PM   #13
Trekker4747
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Re: TNG Rewatch: 5x04 "Silicon Avatar."

Reasoning with it was touched upon in the episode, but we never got to hear Picard's bright idea on getting it to stop destroying planets while satisfying its appetite. Picard says killing it is a last resort, but honestly, unless he can figure out a way to feed it, it's gotta die. If anything, Dr. Marr just saved the crew the trouble of having a dead snowflake on their consciences.
We don't know what their longer-term plan was on finding a way to "feed" the entity, they had *just* begun to grasp how to communicate with it and were beginning to find a way to parse its language when Marr destroyed it. Marr didn't give them a chance to fail at communication and finding other ways to feed the entity.

Besides, in Datalore, it's implied that the CE had some malevolent intent because it had conspired with Lore on two occasions, so it's not merely an innocent animal just out for a bite to eat.
That's ridiculous. It didn't conspire with Lore to destroy planets for it's food anymore than a hunting dog conspires with a human to find prey. It's not clear what Lore gets out of the relationship with The Entity but the Entity gets to eat and seemingly is unaware what it is doing is "wrong" or being received poorly by intelligent creatures. It just knows "I get food now."
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Old August 15 2014, 09:16 PM   #14
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Re: TNG Rewatch: 5x04 "Silicon Avatar."

That's what I read into it, that's all. At the end of Datalore, it fled once it was clear that Lore's plan had collapsed after he was beamed into space. I think it had more cognitive ability than a hunting dog.

The communication as seen in this episode contradicts Datalore. Lore was able to speak to it via regular comm (or subspace or whatever) while they could only speak to it by shooting a beam at it.
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Old August 15 2014, 10:58 PM   #15
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Re: TNG Rewatch: 5x04 "Silicon Avatar."

Lore's own voice may have had an (unheard to us) ultrasonic component to it as well. Not enough to damage the beast. Remember, the idea to use the powerful dish was her idea--she was coaxing the crew into using what she knew would kill it. By the time they figured it out--it was all over.
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