Commander Riker leads an away team to investigate. After Riker is caught in a fairly harmless trap, they are greeted by the residents of the house—"greeted" by a phaser-wielding old man looking to kick the kids off his lawn, and his somewhat more accommodating wife. They identify themselves as Kevin and Rishon Uxbridge, and Data proceeds to summarize the public record of their history together, as taken from the colony records he memorized before they arrived. The team is invited inside the house, where Worf states how impressed he is with Kevin for bluffing with a broken phaser. The couple profess to be as baffled as the Enterprise crew as to why they survived, but the Uxbridges have no desire to leave Rana IV. Rishon starts playing a music box...
... whose song can be heard by Counselor Troi back on the ship. She had been having a difficult enough time reading the survivors, but as Riker gives his report in the observation lounge, the song proves too much of a distraction for Troi, who confines herself to 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. Picard orders the ship back to Rana IV.
Picard decides to pay the Uxbridges a visit, with Worf in tow and bearing the gift of a replicator to help them out, as their resources appear very limited. Kevin insists that they don't need the replicator, but Rishon is thankful for the gift. Picard does try to convince them to leave, and expresses his determination to find out why they were spared when the rest of the planet was destroyed. Kevin reveals that he is a man of a particular conscience—he would not fight, 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. Back on the ship, Troi's condition worsens; Dr. Crusher is unable to do anything to block the music from Deanna's mind. Just as Picard and Worf return, the alien ship attacks again, this time disabling their shields while resisting their phaser and photon torpedo attacks, and 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—that 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 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. Dr. Crusher was surprised he'd try to hide his guilt over destroying an attacking ship, but it was much more than that...
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, to be left alone with his guilt, with only his recreation of Rishon to comfort him.
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 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".
- Asshole Victim: As a race, the Husnock probably won't be missed by too many people. Still, there were a lot of them.
- 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.
- 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 "STOOOOOOOOP!!!"
- Converging-Stream Weapon: The enemy warship uses this against the Enterprise.
- 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.
- Death Is Cheap: Averted. 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.
- Downer Ending: One of the most disquieting, messed-up endings in the entire franchise. The mystery is solved, and the crew almost wish they hadn't when Kevin reveals the horrifying truth of why he keeps up this facade. All the Enterprise crew can do is leave Kevin alone with his mourning.
- Ear Worm: Since Deanna Troi's powers could clue the crew into the true nature of the Uxbridges, Kevin has a music box tune play in her mind nonstop. This gets so bad, that Dr. Crusher has to induce Troi into a coma. Not that it works - as Crusher explains, she still reacts as if she hears the music.
- Final Solution: Kevin killed every member of the Husnock race, fifty billion total, in a moment of anger and grief.
- Genre Savvy: Picard rather quickly picks up on the convenience of Kevin Uxbridge's illusions to drive them away from the planet, even when the rest of the crew don't and are shocked by Picard's seeming callousness over the destruction of Uxbridge's home.
- 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 Dr. Crusher puts her into a medical coma.
- It Works Better with Bullets: Kevin threatens the away team with a phaser that Worf has already scanned and declared inoperative. Thats 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.
- Kill 'Em All: Before the events of the episode - to the colony, and then to the Husnock race as a whole. Every last one.
- Late to the Tragedy: By the time the Enterprise reaches Rana IV, the colony has been completely destroyed.
- Manly Tears: Oh, Kevin.
- 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.
- 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 commited in her name.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Kevin's reaction to committing instant genocide.
- 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".
- 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: The episode revolves around an ageless Actual Pacifist Sufficiently Advanced Alien is attempting to live a normal life on a colony of a planet. When said colony comes under attack by "a species of hideous intelligence that knew only aggression and destruction" and his human wife is killed he, in a brief moment of anger, wipes out not just the attackers, but their entire species with a single thought in retaliation, and immediately afterwards has a major My God, What Have I Done? moment. Picard cannot even conceive of a punishment, and merely leaves the being alone on a planet in his 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.
- 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: Kevin committed genocide, and Picard decides the only thing they can do is to leave the immortal energy being alone. The Enterprise has no way to pass sentence on such a powerful being, but Kevin is already mad with grief over his wife's death and filled with remorse for his crime. His isolation is his own sentence.
- 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.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Kevin's reaction to Rishon's death is to wipe out every last member of a sentient species.
- Spot of Tea: The Uxbridges make some tea for the away team, leading to an awkward bit of small talk from Worf.Rishon: Well, what do you think, Mr. Worf?
Worf: Good tea. (beat) Nice house.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 re-creation of something that already existed: the house, Rishon, the Husnock warship and even the music he projects into Deanna's mind. It may be that he had never seen anything that would be useful (such as the Aldean planetary force field or repulsor beam) that he could have used as a passive defense.
- Wham Line: "I killed them all. All Husnock, everywhere."
- What Happened to the Mouse?: The Douwd. Kevin is presumably not the only one of his species, a race of immortal energy beings so powerful they could give the Q a run for their moneynote , but the race has never appeared again anywhere in Star Treknote .
- Who Wants to Live Forever?: Kevin's greatest wish is that he died with his wife. Sadly, he didn't..and never will.
- 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.