In which I go off on a long(itudinal) tangent, nobody in the future appreciates the real classics, and jurisdiction is a knotty problem sometimes.
The Enterprise is entering the Delta Rana system which reported a distress call three days ago. They’re going in loaded for bear and ready to engage a potentially hostile alien force. And they didn’t leave the saucer section behind at the nearest starbase because…
I guess it would take too much time to leave somewhere safe? It’s not defenseless, it can run the dorsal and ventral phaser batteries, it just has no FTL capability. It can’t run, which seems like the opposite of what you want from the thing that carries your civilians. The dangers of Matter/Antimatter reactions make this risky, but at that point, what’s the actual use case?
Anyway, they’re taking the whole ship including the civilians into the system under full tactical alert, and don’t receive any contact from the 11,000-person colony. Along with the last episode, this does give us a ballpark for the size of a healthy Federation colony, although two isn’t quite a pattern yet. Also, Troi doesn’t sense anything from the colony. Possibly because it’s a barren wasteland.
Sensors detect no water or life-forms, until Wes finds a structure at “37 degrees North 62 degrees East”. In Earth terms that would put it in the wilds of Turkmeistan, just a bit north of the Iran/Afghanistan border. Of course, that’s assuming there’s a standardized zero point for the east/west measurement. I have to assume the colony registered one. What’s puzzling is that I would assume they’d list the colony at the zero longitude, as England listed Greenwich. If so, this structure is something like three thousand miles away. Potentially much more, if the colony was in the southern hemisphere. This would make me suspicious if I thought the writers hadn’t just picked the numbers because they sound good. Anyway, there’s two life-forms in there, in a perfectly square green patch that is visible, at the scale shown above. Picard sends Riker down, because that’s a far more immediate and tangible mystery than why the colonists marked longitude the way they did.
Beverly Crusher has concerns about their health, if they’ve survived a global holocaust. Troi senses something odd but can’t be specific. She doesn’t beam down, so it’s only the entire rest of the senior staff beaming down – Riker, Crusher, LaForge, Worf, and Data. Each with useful skills to add to an unknown situation, but… seems a bit much.
They beam down to a post-modern college dorm at a really arty architectural school surrounded by a matte painting. It’s a nice house, but the property is tiny. If it weren’t for the treeline, you’d be able to see the devastation from any point on the property. It is then that Riker gets attacked my a wild tetherball pole and a grumpy old man with a non-functional phaser. Riker gives his introduction and offer of rescue while dangling from a snare by his ankle.
The to survivors, Rishon and Kevin Uxbridge tell the tale of how a huge spaceship came and started destroying the surface of the planet. As a point of note, Kirk’s Enterprise was also capable of that kind of devastation, at least in theory. Doesn’t tell us much about the relative combat capabilities of Picard’s ship and the aliens, especially because we don’t know how fast they did it, but it’s just something to consider.
The away team goes inside the house, Worf compliments Kevin on his bravado, and Data examines a music box. Jump cut to Troi in her quarters with the same music but the reverb being turned up slowly. Well, that seems severely relevant. Riker makes the assumption that the two of them will be returning, and when they refuse, he gives them his communicator so they can contact the ship if they change their minds. Since Star Trek is a shiny bright future, I like to think that he can tell the computer to set that communicator to ‘guest access’ and get a new one without having to fill out a stack of paperwork.
Back aboard the ship, Picard speculates that they might have somehow aided the destruction of the colony, but Troi can’t focus because she keeps hearing the music. The couple will have power for five years because they have their own fusion generator (which is pretty neat – fusion power is safe and reliable enough that two 80-year-old botanists can just have their own) but they’ll be lacking in potable water due to the… uh… unknown side effects of the attack? Dialogue seems to suggest it was a nuclear assault and has left radiation damage, but that’s in no way consistent with the extremely clean edges of the Uxbridge estate. Troi, beset by the music in her head, leaves.
Later that day, rather than going to the doctor, Troi is lying in her darkened quarters trying to blot out the sound, and it takes Picard coming to her quarters and asking her directly what the problem is before admitting to what sounds like a classic psychic jamming signal, I was just bemoaning how nobody seems to produce anything new, but it would be nice if they still read classics other than Shakespeare. We still have a place for Verne, why is it that nobody in the future ever reads classic science fiction? Instead of recognizing a serious problem, Picard just tells Troi to get some rest before being interrupted by the alien ship Worf swore wasn’t there. Apparently, it was hiding behind a moon, even though Worf swore they could have taken it apart and buried it and he would still have found it. Note to self, do not trust Worf.
The alien ship is five times the mass of the Enterprise and the way Riker says that they have the weaponry to devastate the planet indicates that it may not be common Federation practice to carry that level of armament anymore. That said, the 40-megawatt attack doesn’t even seem to bother the Enterprise shields. The warning shot Picard returns sends them running, and the Enterprise gives chase but can’t seem to accelerate fast enough to catch them. For those of you better than me with numbers, Geordi offers to take the Enterprise from warp 5.5 to warp 9.37 in fifteen seconds as if that’s more rapidly than the Enterprise can usually accelerate. It’s worth noting, then, that the Enterprise doesn’t just transition from sublight to whatever warp factor they want instantly. I’ll have to keep that in mind.
Since they can’t catch the alien warship, Picard orders a return to the planet to get some answers. He delivers them a matter replicator about the size of a large minifridge. What I wouldn’t give for such an appliance. Although, now that they’re back in orbit over the planet again, Troi is having even worse fits than before. Finally, someone has heard the screaming and sent for Crusher.
We get Kevin and Rishon’s backstory – kind of a Jack and Rose thing but instead of her hogging the floating debris and dropping his frozen corpse into the Atlantic, they got married and eventually took a second honeymoon to this colony. In trying to figure out why the aliens didn’t attack the Uxbridges, Kevin says that he’s a pacifist, but that he doesn’t believe this mattered to the aliens. He’s eager for Picard to leave. Soon after, the alien ship reappears, goes straight for the Enterprise, and this time take out the shields in a single shot but do minimal damage otherwise. The power output this time is 400 gigawatts, but all the shots do otherwise is singe the hull plating a bit. Under this assault, Riker orders a full-on assault, but Picard seems remarkably calm and unsurprised about all of this even as his ship is seen off.
Picard does, in fact, put it together. It took a while, but then again he didn’t have the benefit of having seen this episode already.
I couldn’t resist. Anyway, Troi is suffering a telepathic attack from Kevin and Rishon. They wanted the Enterprise to leave, and it’s left, and the best way to unravel a mysterious problem is to look at what happened and see who benefits. Picard is smart. S-M-R-T smart. They’ll keep running for an hour, then sneak back to see what happens. When they do return, the alien ship is gone, and Worf and Picard beam down.
Kevin and Rishon are in their house, dancing to the tune that’s turning Troi’s mind into jelly when Picard walks in. He tells them that he’ll leave but that the Enterprise will remain in orbit indefinitely to protect them, for as long as they live. This is clearly a lie because Starfleet can’t spare them that long, but emotions are running hot and there’s no given time limit, so, yeah. The warship appears again, out of nowhere, and Picard refuses to fire or, indeed, react. The warship veers off and vaporizes the Uxbridge estate with no survivors.Following this, the Enterprise destroys the warship utterly with no debris, soundly eliminating any need for the Enterprise to stay. Picard orders them to stick around, and everyone casts weird looks around the bridge as he leaves.
A little over three hours later, the house reappears, with both survivors, so Picard abducts them directly to the bridge. Turns out that the whole planet was destroyed, but Kevin just recreated it. It is worth noting that Picard has met Q three times now, as well as a negative space deity that created a funhouse Yamato, so even if he hasn’t read all the logs of Kirk’s Enterprise the way Riker did, it’s definitely within the realm of possibility. We are told that everyone died on the colony but Kevin, and Rishon was just an autonomous illusion. Kevin vanishes in a puff of energy and goes over to Troi’s quarters to stop the music.
Friggin’ energy beings. They think they’re so much better than the rest of us. Kevin calls himself a ‘Douwd’ and is at least several millenia old. He fell in love for a while and stopped using his powers until the aliens, the Husnak, appeared. As a pacifist, Kevin didn’t kill them. He tried to trick them, but for a several-thousand-year-old being, he kind of sucks at thinking through his deceptions. They got pissed off and wiped out the colony, and in a moment of grief he killed every member of the species everywhere in the universe.
You have to wonder what the Q continuum or the Organians think of this sort of thing. Picard is baffled into forgetting the existence of genocide laws and they leave him behind to sulk. The kicker of it is, Kevin would probably consent to being punished under Federation law. He appears to genuinely regret his actions and I would hope that the Federation is modeled on rehabilitative incarceration rather than punative. But then again, the argument could be made that he’s not actually a Federation citizen. Either way, he’s probably going to live for the next several years trying to forget what he did. After that… who knows.