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The Survivors

Review

Series : The Next Generation Rating : 5
Disc No : 3.1 Episode : 50
First Aired : 9 Oct 1989 Stardate : 43152.4
Director : Les Landau Year : 2366
Writers : Michael Wagner Season : 3
Guest Cast :
Anne Haney as Rishon Uxbridge John Anderson as Kevin Uxbridge
Moral :
Genocide : Some crimes are beyond punishment
YATI : Near the end of the episode, Uxbridge teleports himself off the bridge into the turbolift to go to Deanna's quarters. Why bother with the turbolift? Why not just teleport direct to her room?

Kevin's power of perception must extend far beyond the planet - he was able to sense the location of all the Husnock in other star systems in order to destroy them, after all. Given this, he really should have known that the Enterprise was waiting in orbit for him to recreate his house rather than being fooled by it.

Great Moment : Uxbridge's confession of the true magnitude of his crime - a wonderfully chilling and sorrowful moment which John Anderson plays to perfection.
Body Count : Technically nobody dies in the episode, but we see Kevin and Rishon and the crew of the Husnock ship apparently killed. Off screen, eleven thousand colonists and fifty billion Husnock are killed shortly before the episode begins.
Factoid : Andorian Raiders are mentioned as possible suspects in this episode, the first time the aliens from the original series are mentioned in TNG.

John Anderson had lost his own wife shortly before this episode, and found it very difficult to play the part as a result.

Picard's mention of an Andorian ship being dismantled is the first reference to the Andorians in The Next Generation.

Quote : Worf : "Sir, may I say your attempt to hold the away team at bay, with a non-functioning weapon, was an act of unmitigated gall."
Kevin : "Didn't fool you, huh?"
Worf : "I admire gall."

"Good tea. Nice house." - Worf to Rishon

"Are eleven thousand people worth fifty billion? Is the love of a woman worth the destruction of an entire species?" - Kevin to Picard, agonizing over his crime.


Plotline

The USS Enterprise-D arrives at the planet Delta Rana IV, the site of a Federation colony, in response to a distress call which indicated that they were under attack by hostile aliens. They find the planet blasted by high power weapons, the entire surface devastated and lifeless - save for one small plot of land with a single house on it. Worf assures Picard that there cannot possibly be any enemy ship still in they system, essentially staking his reputation on it. They beam down to find themselves confronted by Kevin Uxbridge, a colonist who brandishes a phaser at them and demands that they leave. His wife, Rishon, forces him to accept them into their home as guests and they talk about what has happened. As Picard talks to them, Troi begins to experience a curious sensation - a loop of music which plays in an endless loop in her head, blocking out her empathic power and rendering her more and more distracted.

Kevin and Rishon claim not to have any idea why they were spared in the attack, though Kevin suggests that perhaps it was because as a pacifist he refused to fight against them. Both of them refuse to leave the planet, even though they have no apparent way of sustaining themselves there. In orbit, the alien ship returns to menace the Enterprise, apparently having been hidden behind a moon. Worf is shocked to have missed it and can offer no explanation. It is a large, threatening-looking vessel, but when it fires on the Enterprise the weapons seem pitifully weak. Picard fires a warning shot in response and it retreats immediately at warp speed. They give chase but the enemy vessel matches their acceleration perfectly, staying just ahead of them until they give up and return to the planet.

Picard beams down with a portable replicator unit for the Uxbridges, as a way to chat with them some more. Rishon is frightened to learn that the alien ship is back, but Kevin reassures her they are in no danger. Back on the ship Troi begins to suffer more and more from the music, which never stops no matter what she does.

The alien ship returns and again fires on the Enterprise, this time with far stronger weapons which damage the ship. They fire back, but their weapons make no impact at all on the enemy shields. They are forced to retreat, leaving the alien vessel in orbit. Picard begins to form a theory, but doesn't explain it to the others. He waits a while and then returns to the planet, finding no sign of the alien ship. Picard beams down with Worf and confronts Kevin, who is surprised to see him back. Picard states that the ship is dedicated to protect the two Federation citizens no matter what, and that so long as they live he will remain at the planet.

Beaming back to the ship, Picard finds the alien warship once again returning. He does nothing as it closes in and fires on the surface, destroying Kevin and Rishon's home. Picard then launches a single photon torpedo which destroys the alien vessel. With both the survivors and the aliens gone, there seems no more reason to remain at the planet. Picard decides to stay anyhow, watching the surface carefully.

Three hours later they are amazed to see the house reappear on the surface. Picard has kevin and Rishon beamed directly to the bridge, much to their shock. He lays out his theory for Kevin; ever since they arrived the alien ship has been responding to his wishes, first trying to lure the Enterprise away, then trying to drive them away, and then apparently destroying the house to give them no more reason to remain. Picard suggests that an alien ship did come and attack the planet, but found that Kevin as more than he seemed to be - something so different that he needed to block Troi's empathic powers to stop her from sensing it. He also suggests that whatever Kevin is, only he survived the attack - Rishon did not. Kevin says nothing, but Rishon fades into nothingness as he transforms into an energy being and leaves the bridge.

Picard goes to Troi's quarters, knowing that Kevin will go there to undo the music he put into her mind. With Crusher at his side, Picard pulls the rest of the story from Kevin; he is a Douwd, an immortal being capable of creating illusions and false surroundings using his considerable powers. He met Rishon whilst travelling in Human form, and the two fell in love and married. He lived with her for her entire life, content to remain in Human form. When the aliens attacked the colony Kevin did indeed refuse to fight, though he used his power of illusion to try and trick the attackers, a vicious race called the Husnock. The tricks only made them angrier, and when Rishon joined the colony defence she was killed with the rest. Her death sent Kevin into a rage, and he lashed out with his powers and destroyed the Husnock - not just the attacking ship, but the entire species, all fifty billion of them. An appalled Picard declines to pass judgment on Kevin's action and releases him to return to the planet where he can recreate the image of Rishon and live out whatever happiness he can. The ship proceeds on course. She joined the colonists in fighting the alien Husnock raiders and was killed. Though a devout pacifist, in a moment of anger towards the invaders for taking his wife's life, he annihilated the entire Husnock race. Stunned at his "sin", Kevin recreated Rishon and their house, and sentenced himself to exile on the ruined Delta Rana IV. He used the fake warship as a ruse to try and keep the Enterprise from finding out the truth. The music in Troi's mind is also his creation; her empathic powers were also threatening to reveal the truth. Picard confesses that the Federation is not qualified to be his judge in the matter, and allows him to return to the planet. As the Enterprise departs, Picard indicates that the Douwd should be "left alone".

Analysis

A truly great episode, Survivors serves up an engaging mystery and resolves it in an interesting way. John Anderson is outstanding as the Douwd, there's a real pathos to his performance - and you can see why, on learning that he lost his own wife not long before filming and was struggling with having to play the same thing out on screen. It's a tragedy, to be sure, and you can only marvel at his willingness to go through with the role and pull it off as amazingly well as he does.

In a way, the episode comes to nothing. The resolution doesn't really resolve anything - the situation when the Enterprise leaves is identical to when it arrived, and indeed things would have gone on exactly the same if they had never responded to the distress call at all. This isn't really an episode about solving some problem as such - it's about solving a mystery, about exploring a situation and working out what is going on. It succeeds brilliantly on that level, and I kind of like the fact that the resolution is to accept that there's simply nothing to be done.

I've seen discussion of exactly what should be done with Kevin Uxbridge, and I'm really not sure that any course of action would be possible or would achieve anything useful if it were. On the one hand, it is clearly not within the Federation's power to actually do anything to Kevin. He could likely simply leave if he wanted, and if pressed too far he could just wipe out the Federation. However, whilst it is certain that they would not be able to force a punishment on him, it's actually likely in my opinion that if they did try, he'd probably accept it. He's lost in guilt over what he did - if Picard told him he had to spend a few decades in a rehabilitation colony, I'd imagine he would submit to it through choice. But you have to ask, what would that accomplish really? Kevin is immortal, if you locked him up for the next fifty years it would probably mean little to him. Also we should bear in mind that the Federation attitude to these things is pretty clear - they call them rehabilitation colonies, not prisons, because that's what they believe in; they don't seek to "punish" as such, but rather to educate the criminal into seeing that what they did was wrong. You may think that's not a good attitude and I may even agree, but it IS their attitude nonetheless. In Kevin's case there really doesn't seem to be any rehabilitation to be done, he's already about as sorry as he could be. So all they can really do is stand back whilst he voluntarily placed himself into a rehabilitation that he doesn't need - is that really accomplishing anything useful?

It's fun to speculate as to what would have happened with the Husnock if Kevin hadn't been around. On the one hand, the Husnock ship is far larger than the Enterprise, and apparently far more powerful. However, we should bear in mind that what we see is not a genuine Husnock ship, but rather Kevin's recreation of such; and he initially creates it as weak, only to then make it strong, then weak again. Whilst Kevin likely based his recreation on the design of the real ship, we can only speculate as to how it would compare to the original in strength. All we can really say of the original warship is that it had enough armament to devastate the surface of a planet, which isn't really that big of a deal in Trek terms.

With fifty billion total population the Husnock were also apparently quite a small species - an episode of DS9 suggests that a fight to the finish with the Dominion could cost 900 billion casualties, indicating that the Federation is many times larger than the Husnock ever were. So whilst the Husnock warship may have been comparable or indeed superior to the Enterprise in firepower, there's really no reason to suppose that they are some super-powerful species that would conquer the Federation. That said, there's really no reason why they couldn't be super powerful either.


Copyright Graham Kennedy Page views : 3,502 Last updated : 12 Mar 2013