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Recap / Star Trek: The Next Generation S3E3 "The Survivors"

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Don't be fooled by the cute old couple; this episode is really horrifying.

Original air date: October 9, 1989

The Enterprise responds to a distress call from a Federation colony in the Delta Rana system. Upon their arrival, however, they find the planet Rana IV completely leveled except for one house on a small, green parcel of land. Troi has a hard time detecting any inhabitants on the planet, but eventually identifies two survivors.

Commander Riker leads an away team to investigate. The home is just as it appears from space, a small parcel of green among barren wasteland. The two survivors are Kevin and Rishon Uxbridge. Kevin is standoffish and tries to threaten the team with a nonfunctioning phaser, while the kindly Rishon is welcomes everyone inside for tea. The couple relate how an alien ship attacked the colony, but they did not go to fight. They both claim to have no idea why they were left alone, but both are adamant about remaining on the empty planet. Before the away team leaves, Rishon shows an old music box to Data.

Back on the ship, Counselor Troi has been trying to learn more about the survivors. Suddenly she starts hearing the music box's music in her head, which quickly begins to disturb her. As Riker gives his report on the Uxbridges, she retreats her to her quarters. Soon after, the ship is attacked by a mysterious, giant vessel, fitting the description of the ship Kevin described as attacking the colony. Its weapons are unable to penetrate the Enterprise's shields, and it retreats from the system. The Enterprise gives chase, only to find that any increase in speed is simultaneously matched by the escaping intruder. Believing he's being played with, Picard orders the ship back to Rana IV.

Picard pays a personal visit to the Uxbridges on the pretense of giving them a matter replicator. As usual, Kevin is unhappy to be bothered, but Rishon is friendly and accommodating. Picard grills them for more information about their circumstances. Kevin reveals that he is a man of a particular conscience: he refuses to fight for absolutely any reason, and his wife stayed with him as the other colonists fought the invaders. Kevin points out that the invaders had no way of knowing that, though, leaving Picard as confused as before. He again urges the Uxbridges to join him on the Enterprise, but Kevin refuses, and Richon opts to stay with him.

Back on the ship, Troi's condition worsens, eventually reducing her to panicked, screaming insanity and Dr. Crusher is forced to place her in a deep, medically-induced coma. Just as Picard returns, the alien ship attacks again, this time disabling their shields while resisting their phaser and photon torpedo attacks, forcing the Enterprise to retreat.

When the ship returns to Rana IV again, there is no sign of the attacker. Picard decides to beam down again, walking in as Kevin and Rishon are dancing, as if to celebrate the Enterprise's departure. Picard makes one last plea to Rishon, who refuses to leave, and then declares that the Enterprise will not leave orbit so long as the Uxbridges remain on the planet. This time, when Picard returns to the bridge, the attacker again appears out of nowhere, but he orders the crew not to interfere. The enemy ship moves to low orbit, where it proceeds to destroy the Uxbridge house. Picard orders a single photon torpedo fired, which destroys the ship. With no reason remaining to stay, Picard nevertheless orders the ship to a higher orbit, and to continue to monitor the planet.

The crew is pretty astounded by Picard's odd actions, but his hunch pays off a few hours later as the house reappears. No longer willing to entertain the charade, Picard orders the Uxbridges beamed directly to the bridge, where he reveals what he's figured out: Rishon had, in fact, died in the attack, and that Kevin had somehow not only recreated her, but the attacking ship as well. Rishon disappears, and Kevin becomes a being of light before disappearing to another part of the ship—Troi's quarters, where he reappears in human form and removes the music from her mind. He'd put it there out of fear of Troi discovering his true identity, but now that it's out, he opens up to Picard.

Kevin identifies himself as a Douwd, an immortal of extraordinary power who has worn numerous forms over the millennia. When he became human, though, he fell in love with Rishon, and put aside his powers to grow old with her. Rishon had gone to fight with the colonists against the Husnock, "a species of hideous intelligence," and died never knowing Kevin wasn't even human. Despite having the power to repel the Husnock, Kevin refused to kill, only to watch his wife die. In his ensuing grief, he snapped, and used his power to wipe out the Husnock, everywhere. In shame for his genocide, he has remained on the dead planet in self-imposed exile with an imitation of the wife he lost.

Realizing the Federation is in no position to judge an entity of such great power, and whose crime exceeds any law they have, Picard agrees to leave Kevin on Rana IV in his self-imposed exile. As the ship departs, Picard summarizes, "We leave behind a being of extraordinary power and conscience. I'm not certain if he should be praised or condemned, only that he should be left alone."

Tropes in this episode include:

  • Actual Pacifist: Kevin Uxbridge, who refuses to use his almost limitless power to kill, even in self-defense. Of course, being immortal, he has no need to. He comes to regret it when his attempts to trick the Husnock invaders (he attempted to fool them with trickery and illusions the same way he tried to fool the Enterprise crew) didn't work and his mortal wife Rishon is killed in the attack.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Kevin characterizes the Husnock as "a species of hideous intelligence, who knew only aggression and destruction". But as the Husnock are now extinct thanks to Kevin, we only have his word for it. And they'll never have the chance to evolve into something better.
  • Asshole Victim: As a race, the Husnock probably won't be missed by too many people. Still, there were a lot of them, and it's unlikely that every single one of them deserved to die.
  • The Atoner: Kevin has chosen to live in self-imposed isolation from the outside world as punishment for killing an entire race in a moment of anger. Since he is immortal and omnipotent, it's the only way he can be punished.
  • Batman Gambit: Suspicious of Kevin, Picard tells him the exact conditions that would make the Enterprise leave Rana, both the Uxbridges dead and the Husnock ship neutralized, and is not surprised when only a short time later both requirements are fulfilled. The unaware crew is left horrified and confused before The Reveal.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: However genial Kevin is, there is far more to him than meets the eye, and he is not somebody to be bullied, as the Husnock learn as an entire species in the worst possible way.
  • Big Word Shout: Picard's meeting with Kevin and Rishon is going rather pleasantly... and then a big ol' Mood Whiplash cut to Troi in Sick Bay yelling "Stop!"
  • Blatant Lies: Worf awkwardly sips Rishon's tea and grimaces at the taste. He then comments, "Good tea! Nice house!"
  • Contrasting Sequel Antagonist: While Kevin may not an antagonist per se seeing as how he is not actually hostile to the Enterprise, he still serves as a contrast to Q, both are immortal Reality Warpers but while Q is playful, jovial and usually indifferent to the death or destruction that he causes. Kevin is a far more somber and serious character but is also a moral being with a conscience who is clearly tormented not only by the death of his human wife but the fact that he wiped out the entire Husnock race in his grief-induced rage. Perhaps the reason for this difference in attitude is because of one final difference between the two; Q may be indifferent because he can just bring back what was destroyed with just a snap of his fingers (in most cases, and if he wants to), while Kevin can't bring back the dead, except as a hollow recreation, which leaves him with regret.
  • Converging-Stream Weapon: The enemy warship uses this against the Enterprise.
  • Cosy Catastrophe: The Enterprise crew discover that Kevin and Rishon Uxbridge are the only survivors on the entire planet after an unknown enemy ship has left the rest of the planet a wasteland, their land and house is the only place left untouched and they seem no worse for wear. Any concerns about food and water are mitigated when Picard provides them with a matter replicater. Ultimately this is subverted when the undamaged home and even Rishon herself turn out to be an illusion by Kevin, who is in fact a Douwd, an immortal life form who seems to have nearly Q-level powers.
  • Crime of Passion: Kevin Uxbridge is a Reality Warper that was sworn to pacifism right until constant attacks from aliens called the Husnock led to the death of the colonists - in particular, the death of his mortal wife. Seeing her broken body on the floor as a result of Husnock attacks drove him utterly mad with rage and grief, and with just a single thought, he wiped the Husnock out. All of them. Everywhere. For a being so powerful, it took the same amount of effort and the exact same lapse in judgement as pulling the trigger on a gun already in his hands. When he came back to his senses moments later, he was so horrified he punished himself with self-imposed exile in the dead colony with a simulacrum of his wife as his only companion.
  • Cruel Mercy: Kevin invoked this on himself. Rishon was the center of his life. Her hollow replica, as his only company on the now dead world, will serve as a constant reminder of his crime.
  • Downer Ending: Picard did an incredible bit of sleuthing here and solved a nigh-impossible mystery, only to discover that his efforts are All for Nothing when Kevin reveals the horrifying truth of why he keeps up this façade. All the Enterprise crew can do is leave Kevin alone with his mourning.
  • Drama-Preserving Handicap: Invoked by Kevin; Troi hears a music box song over and over in her head, drowning out her empathic abilities so that she won't learn the secret.
  • Ear Worm: The Psychic Static that Troi experiences comes in the form of an eternally repeating song. When she describes the sensation, Picard at first thinks she's talking about an Ear Worm, but it's much worse than that.
  • Final Solution: Kevin killed every member of the Husnock race, fifty billion total, in a moment of anger and grief.
  • The Ghost: We never see the Husnock. The closest we get is an imitation of a Husnock ship. They become the subject of the Star Trek: Titan novel "Fortune of War" which described them as 7-tentacled Cephalothorax-like creatures and went into detail on their feudalistic culture.
  • Incessant Music Madness: Kevin plants a harmless tune in Troi's head but forces it to play over and over, driving her mad. It even plays when she's reduced to unconsciousness through drugs. Crusher prepares to put her into a coma in a last-ditch effort to give her peace.
  • It Works Better with Bullets: Kevin threatens the away team with a phaser that Worf has already scanned and declared inoperative. That's not to say that Worf didn't respect his gutsy bluff.
    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.
  • Killed Off for Real: Enforced. While we've seen Sufficiently Advanced Aliens with the ability to bring people back from the dead in the Trek universe, it's made very clear that Kevin Uxbridge is not one of them. His wife is dead, the colonists are dead, the Husnock are dead, and there's absolutely nothing he can do about it.
  • Late to the Tragedy: By the time the Enterprise reaches Rana IV, the colony has been completely destroyed.
  • Manly Tears: Oh, Kevin.
    Picard: And then what you most feared happened. Rishon went to fight with the colonists... and died with them.
    Kevin: (bursts into tears) I wish I could have died with her.
  • Mayfly–December Romance: The immortal Kevin disguised himself as a human being and fell in love with Rishon, deciding to stay with her until her inevitable death. It's implied that he had already somewhat accepted this reality, but the actual circumstances of her death (killed in a futile battle against a cruel invader) were so horrifying that Kevin retaliated in the worst way possible.
  • A Million Is a Statistic: Played with. In this case, it's eleven thousand, plus fifty billion. Picard and Crusher, rightfully so, look like they can't even begin to process what Kevin just told them.
  • Moment of Weakness: Kevin's crime took place in the wake of his beloved wife's death.
  • Mood Dissonance: The uncanny feel of much of the episode stems from the contrast between the devastation of the planet, the terrifying battleships, and Troi's screaming agony, and on the other hand, the adorable Happily Married old couple in their comfortable house dancing away.
  • The Mourning After: The Reveal shows that Kevin was this trope all along. The replica of his dead wife Rishon is just one of Kevin's inventions, meant to remind him of the crime he committed in her name.
  • Mugging the Monster: The Husnock had no idea whom they were dealing with when they chose to indirectly antagonise Kevin by destroying his home and killing his wife, and they paid for it with the lives of their entire species.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Kevin is revealed to be perpetually in this state at the end of the episode having in a moment of grief, used his powers to annihilate an entire species over a single colony destroyed by only a few of them.
  • My Significance Sense Is Tingling: Even before the Enterprise enters orbit around Rana IV, Troi notes that she should be able to sense the minds of the colonists and isn't. Then, after the crew discovers Kevin and Rishon, she observes that their minds are "elusive". She begins to pick up on something "different" about them, right before she begins hearing the music box tune in her head.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: During the original attack, Kevin tried to trick the Husnock into leaving the colony with his illusions. But all it did was piss them off even more.
  • No Adequate Punishment: In the end, Picard realizes that there's just no way for the Federation to punish, or even adequately judge, an immortal, benevolent, near-omnipotent alien for instantaneously exterminating an entire sentient species in a moment of rage and grief. They've never even conceived of a crime on that scale, and have no laws for it. All he can do is leave the alien behind in its own self-imposed punishment.
  • No-Sell: Even an all-out phaser and torpedo barrage from the Enterprise can't harm the enemy warship in the second battle.
  • Not Hyperbole: As Kevin claims, after Rishon was killed in the attack, he "destroyed the Husnock". After noticing Crusher's unfazed reaction he clarifies: he didn't kill just the attacking Husnock, he killed every Husnock in the galaxy, all 50 billion of them.
  • Ominous Music Box Tune: Kevin and Rishon's music box serves double duty: as the Nostalgic Music Box to which they dance, and as the music Kevin projects into Troi's mind to distract her, tormenting her so badly that Dr. Crusher has to put her in a coma just to block it out.
  • Psychic Static: Kevin fills Troi's head with music to stop her from using her empathic powers to realize what he is.
  • Put Them All Out of My Misery: Kevin did this to the Husnock race in his fury and grief over his wife's death.
  • The Punishment Is the Crime: Since the Federation has No Adequate Punishment for Kevin's crime, Picard decides the only thing they can do is to leave the immortal energy being alone with his remorse.
  • Reality Warper: Kevin's species, the Douwd, are pretty impressive examples, possessing the power to destroy on an apparently infinite scale across unlimited distances with a mere thought. Kevin is also able to create constructs of considerable power out of nothingness, such as the replica Husnock ship that smacks the Enterprise about with ease once it stops messing around, or a recreation of Rishon who appears to have an exact replica of her original personality. However, his power has limits that put him below, say, the Q as he cannot revive the dead (either bringing back the real Rishon and the other colonists who died, or undoing his genocide of the Husnock) and he is clearly not omniscient, unable to even notice that the Enterprise has remained in system rather than leaving simply by Picard moving to high orbit above Rana IV (presumably he could have easily detected them there had he thought to look, but he assumed his trick to fake his and Rishon's deaths had worked and they were simply leaving, not realising that Picard was onto him). Presumably the Douwd have almost limitless power over the physical plane, as well as limited psychic powers (since he was able to plant the music in Troi's head but only because he couldn't outright deceive her empathic abilities, nor could he mentally compel the Enterprise crew to leave) but no temporal or extradimensional powers such as the Q have.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Kevin's reaction to Rishon's death is to wipe out every last member of a sentient species.
  • Self-Imposed Exile: Kevin committed genocide in the blink of an eye due to a moment of rage, and is now isolating himself from the rest of the universe as punishment for his crime.
  • Survivor's Guilt: Rishon says she can't figure out why she and Kevin survived when everyone else was killed. That's nothing; she should hear Kevin's guilt.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Kevin holds himself to the standard that he will not use his nearly unlimited powers to kill. He initially tries to fool both the Enterprise and the Husnock rather than just kill them outright.
  • Took a Level in Badass: The enemy warship is much more powerful the second time it attacks the Enterprise, dishing out a Curb-Stomp Battle and forcing Picard to withdraw.
  • Unwanted Rescue: At first, Kevin and Rishon seem like they're being stubborn old folks when they refuse to leave their home. The truth of why this particular rescue is unwanted turns out to be far more grisly than anyone could have possibly imagined.
  • Useless Superpowers: Despite being a Reality Warper, Kevin was unable to come up with anything to stop the Husnock without hurting them, something he steadfastly refused to do until it was too late. This may be a case of Creative Sterility, as Picard notes that everything Kevin has made is a recreation of something that already existed: the house, Rishon, the Husnock warship and even the music he projects into Deanna's mind.
  • Wham Line: It's only when Kevin drops this bomb that Picard realizes he and his crew are in way over their heads.
    Kevin: No no no no... you don't understand the scope of my crime: I didn't kill just one Husnock, or a hundred or a thousand, I killed them all. All Husnock. Everywhere. Are eleven thousand people worth... fifty billion?
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Kevin's greatest wish is that he died with his wife. Sadly, he didn't and never will.
  • Women Are Wiser: Subverted. During each away team visit, Rishon is friendlier and more practical, while Kevin seems irrationally stand-offish. However, Kevin has a very specific reason to want to be left alone.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Kevin Uxbridge. Let's look at the full story. He was a powerful godlike being called a Douwd. He took human form and married a woman named Rishon and put aside his powers. Kevin also became a pacifist and took an oath to never kill another being. Moving to a Federation colony on Rana IV, the colony was attacked by aliens called the Husnock. Kevin tried to use illusions to drive the Husnock away, but after they killed his wife, Kevin destroyed all the Husnock, 50 billion of them, in a moment of rage and grief. Horrified at his actions, Kevin went into self-imposed exile on Rana IV, recreating his house and his wife on the ruined planet. When the Enterprise comes to investigate a distress call sent by the colony, Kevin tries to use illusions to drive them away. When Picard confronts Kevin for all this, Kevin breaks down and admits his crime, his actions still tormenting him.