(written from a Production point of view)
The Enterprise gives chase to the Crystalline Entity after it destroys a Federation colony. A xenologist, who has a motivation all her own with respect to the Crystalline Entity, is assigned to the Enterprise to assist in the investigations.
Commander Riker is on the surface of a lush and life-filled planet called Melona IV. He is speaking to Carmen Davila about plans for the construction of a colony there, and plans a dinner date with her. Doctor Crusher and Lieutenant Commander Data are also present and approach the two. Riker hears a loud noise in the distance and asks Carmen if construction is scheduled for today. She says there is not. The sky suddenly darkens and the Crystalline Entity appears. Data suggests that they might find cover for the colonists in caverns that lie to the east. Riker looks up at the Crystalline Entity looming large in Melona's sky.
The Crystalline Entity destroys everything in its path with some kind of energy beam, as the Enterprise away team and the colonists flee to the caverns. Riker's friend Carmen shouts at Riker for assistance as she goes back to help an old man who has fallen in the rush. Riker rushes over and yells out Carmen's name before witnessing her and the old man she was trying to help get vaporized by the Entity.
The USS Enterprise-D's sensors pick up an atmospheric disturbance, possibly an electromagnetic storm on Melona IV. The Enterprise is twenty-seven hours away at present speed. Captain Picard orders Ensign Reel to increase the ship's speed to warp 8.
Back on the planet, the colonists have taken shelter underground. Riker and Data seal off the entrance with their phasers. Data believes that the refractory metals in the rock strata will protect them but is uncertain they will. Crusher is concerned that they and the settlers will run out of air soon.
On the Enterprise, Picard increases speed to warp 9. They are still six hours away from Melona IV.
Back on the planet, the cavern's oxygen is almost completely depleted but they haven't heard the Entity in an hour. Riker and Data respond to a sudden sound near the entrance of the cavern by taking cover, pulling out their phasers and aiming them at the blocked opening. Lieutenant Worf enters the cave along with a rescue party, which includes Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge. Riker exits the cavern to see that the surface of the planet has been reduced to a barren wasteland as far as the eye can see.
- "Captain's Log, Stardate 45122.3. We have notified Starfleet Command of our intention to pursue and investigate the Crystalline Entity. To that end, we have been joined by Doctor Kila Marr, a xenologist who has made studying the Entity her life's work."
Doctor Marr beams aboard the Enterprise and is escorted by Riker to meet with the senior staff in the observation lounge. She asks Riker if he was on the surface during the attack and he confirms he was. Marr is amazed and notes that he and his group are the only known beings ever to survive an assault by the Crystalline Entity. Later, in the observation lounge, Data confirms that it was the same entity that destroyed the colony at Omicron Theta. Dr. Marr says that the entity is basically an electromagnetic collector that converts all organic matter to energy. She states that in eleven recorded attacks, there have never been any survivors. Data surmises that the presence of kelbonite and fistrium in the cavern may have protected them. Picard orders Data to accompany Dr. Marr to the planet's surface to study the cavern. Dr. Marr is obviously displeased with having to work with Data, but Picard insists, and she ultimately relents. After everyone leaves, Counselor Troi expresses to Picard her concern that he may have forced Dr. Marr and Data together far too soon. "If her discomfort is going to affect her judgment or her objectivity, I need to know now.", Picard states.
On the planet, Dr. Marr tells Data while examining her tricorder readings in the cavern, that the reason for her active distrust of him is because his brother Lore had aided the Entity in destroying the colony at Omicron Theta. Further, she believes that the reason the Entity allowed the colonists to survive was due to Data's presence. She tells Data that her sixteen-year-old son was killed during the attack on the colony at Omicron Theta and that is why she has devoted her life to studying the Entity. She promises to have Data dismantled piece by piece if she finds out that he has been assisting the Crystalline Entity as his brother did.
La Forge, Data, and Dr. Marr are in engineering. Data suggests that the soil samples should be scanned for gamma radiation to see if there are any traces of antiprotons. It is determined that the Crystalline Entity deposits these antiprotons as it travels through space. Soon the crew is able to determine the likely course the Entity has taken. They set course for the Brechtian Cluster.
Dr. Marr has developed a modification of the photon torpedoes to destroy the Entity and hands them to Worf so he can begin. Picard has reservations and tells her that he intends to try and communicate with it. Dr. Marr is incredulous and very upset at Picard's desire to preserve a lifeform responsible for the death of thousands of innocent people. However, Picard reiterates his point, asking that Dr. Marr work together with Data to find a way to communicate with the Entity.
She then joins Data in his quarters. He is playing the guitar when she enters. Data reveals to her that his memory contains the personal logs and even some personal memories of all 411 Omicron Theta colonists, including her son Raymond, who was called "Renny."
- "Captain's log, Stardate 45125.7. An away team, led by Commander Riker, has conducted a thorough survey of the alien ship Kallisko and has returned to the Enterprise to report."
An away team is sent over to the Kallisko, only to find that the entire ship is devoid of life. Picard informs Data and Dr. Marr that they may need the communication method soon. In the turbolift, Dr. Marr explains to Data why she was preoccupied since they surveyed the Kallisko. She explains to him that she found it difficult to not think about her son and comparing the screams they heard from the crew of the Kallisko to soldiers on the battlefield crying out for their mothers. Her greatest sorrow she reveals was the fact that her son died without her coming back to him.
Back in his ready room, Picard informs Riker that Starfleet will return Carmen's belongings to her family and asks him to write a letter to them as well. Riker asks for permission to speak freely and tells Picard that he is beginning to think that maybe Dr. Marr was right in that the Entity should be destroyed when they encounter it again because it will just continue killing. Picard, however, believes that Riker is influenced by personal feelings over the death of Carmen. Riker immediately takes offense to Picard's remark, stating that he is not a raw cadet and that he has lost people on missions before and that if they take their time to communicate with the Entity, they might lose their chance to destroy it; something Riker does not think they can risk. Picard responds with pensive silence as Riker, in a rather sarcastic tone, states that he thinks will now go write that letter to Carmen's family.
Data and Dr. Marr continue to work on a way to communicate with the Entity. They decide to use a graviton pulse to communicate with it. Dr. Marr creates a subroutine to allow them to vary the frequency of the pulses from the bridge.
Dr. Marr, in an emotional tone, requests to Data that he recite one of Renny's journal entries using Renny's voice. While Data recites a letter written by Renny in her late son's voice, Dr. Marr is visibly moved.
- "Captain's log, Stardate 45129.2. We are still in pursuit of the Crystalline Entity. Data and Dr. Marr are prepared to attempt communication with the being when we intercept it. I will admit to some uncertainty about the prospect; it could prove to be a scientific triumph or a catastrophe."
While still five light years away from the Brechtian Cluster, they begin emitting five-nanosecond graviton emissions at one pulse per second. They increase to ten pulses per second, and Worf detects a large mass on an intercept course moving at warp speed. It is the Crystalline Entity, which stops near the Enterprise. They increase the graviton pulses to twenty per second and notice a signal coming from the Entity. A pattern emerges, and Data begins to decipher it.
Dr. Marr then tries a continuous beam instead of the pulsing one. The Entity moves away slightly, as if hurt by the change. Troi believes the Entity does not like what they are doing, so Picard orders a return to the intermittent signal, but Dr. Marr doesn't acknowledge the command and the graviton pulse begins to make the Entity unstable. Troi then senses something is very wrong and Picard orders Data to terminate the signal, but Dr. Marr has locked out the controls with an access code. In a somewhat unbalanced state, Marr says she's doing this for Renny. La Forge can bypass the lockout, but it is too late: the amplitude reaches a critical point, and the Entity is completely shattered in a spectacular explosion.
The whole bridge is aghast of what occurred and Picard, with a quiet anger in his voice, orders Worf to escort Dr. Marr to her quarters. Dr. Marr remarks that the Entity "will never hurt anyone again". Data volunteers to escort her, which Picard grudgingly agrees, but because of her unhinged state of mind, he doesn't want her left unattended.
A very shaken Dr. Marr asks Data if he thinks Renny would understand why she did it. Data states that it is his belief that Renny would not have approved of her actions, because her decision has effectively ended her career as a scientist, and he was proud of the scientific work that she did. He notes that Renny would have been sad over it and says he cannot help her. Reality sets in for the shocked doctor about what she has just done.
"And as you know… I provide the most memorable desserts."
"My favorite part of dinner."
- - Carmen Davila and William Riker
"Commander? Commander Riker, are you there?"
"Lieutenant Worf, I don't think I've ever seen a more beautiful sight."
- - Worf and Riker
"Remarkable. You and your group are the only known beings ever to survive an assault by the Crystalline Entity!"
- - Kila Marr, to Riker
"And your android, he was there too?"
"Lieutenant Commander Data was there, yes."
- - Kila Marr, first showing her hostility towards Data while speaking to Riker
"I don't think you need an empath to sense that woman's feelings. There's hostility that she seems to have transferred from Lore to Data. Perhaps you shouldn't have forced them together so soon."
"If her discomfort is going to affect her judgment or her objectivity, I need to know now."
- - Picard and Troi
"If we can possibly avoid firing on it, then I would hope we…"
"Aren't you going to kill it?"
- - Picard and Marr, on the Crystalline Entity
"I would argue that the Crystalline Entity has as much right to be here as we do."
- - Picard
"Perhaps the combination of the two metals prevented the Entity from…"
"Perhaps it was you!"
"I do not understand."
"Maybe it was your presence that made the Entity pass over the people in this cave, did that occur to you?"
"I cannot see what effect my being here would have had…"
"If you had been in contact with the Entity, if that's the reason Melona was attacked, surely it wouldn't have killed its ally."
"Do you believe that I lured the Entity here?"
"No, Doctor. Because Lore betrayed the colonists on Omicron Theta, you believe that I am capable of the same behavior. You are mistaken, Doctor. My programming is distinctly different from Lore's."
"You don't understand, I am accusing you of collaborating with that monster!"
"I do understand. And I am attempting to explain to you it is impossible."
"Amazing. You can't feel anything, can you? Nothing I say to you hurts you?"
"That is true, Doctor."
- - Data and Doctor Kila Marr, desperately attempting to intimidate the android, and then being faced with the fact that it is impossible.
"I took my last exam today. I think I did all right on everything except cellular biology. I know you think it's important, Mom, but I don't see how I'm ever going to use that stuff. In a couple of weeks, a bunch of us are going on an archaeological dig in the mountains. The Wallaces said it would be all right as long as we had adult supervision. So don't worry, Mom. They're looking out for me. They're really great people, and I like them a lot, but they're kind of serious. They don't have your sense of humor, Mom. Mom… I miss you."
- - Data, reciting one of Raymond Marr's journal entries in his voice to Kila Marr
"Why are we pursuing the Entity, if not to destroy it?"
"We are not hunters, Doctor. Nor is it our role to exact revenge."
"What do you propose? We track it down, greet it warmly and ask it if it would mind terribly not ravaging any more planets?!"
- - Doctor Kila Marr and Jean-Luc Picard
- - Picard, defending the Crystalline Entity's nature as a sentient lifeform
"You say you did it for him but I do not believe he would have wanted that. Yes, I believe your son would be very sad now. I am sorry, Doctor, but I cannot help you."
- - Data, to Kila Marr, after she has destroyed both the Crystalline Entity and her career (last lines)
- Final draft script: 31 July 1991 
- Filmed: 7 August 1991 – 15 August 1991
- Additional day of blue screen unit filming: 26 August 1991
- Premiere airdate: 14 October 1991
- First UK airdate: 11 January 1995
Story and script
- The story for this episode was pitched by Lawrence V. Conley. At the time, the writing staff were trying to avoid sequels. However, this premise caught the attention of Jeri Taylor. She commented, "[O]f all the characters to bring back, who'd have thought the Crystalline Entity? But the Moby Dick premise of this obsessed woman whose son's consciousness was stored in Data was too good to pass up." (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 179)) Michael Piller agreed, "It was a great premise. The idea of the crystalline entity as Moby Dick really appealed to me." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 229)
- Taylor elaborated, "The crystalline entity was no one's favorite optical or bad entity, and there were doubts as to whether we should even resurrect it. Along came this story from a very young, inexperienced writer, Lawrence Conley, and he tapped into something that made us say, 'This works, this is a story that really has to be done.' I wanted to do it because I felt – being a mother and a woman – I could identify with what would have to be the worst kind of loss anyone could ever suffer, which would be the death of a child. I was really able to tap into those feelings and tell a story about a woman whose vendetta over the loss of her son ruined her." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 229)
- According to Taylor, the story was helped by its title, even though "no one knew exactly what it meant". While "avatar" has several different meanings, the intended meaning here was a "repository of knowledge", referring to Data. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 179))
- According to Brent Spiner, production problems affected the writing of the episode. He recalled, "Apparently they were having problems getting the next episode ready for production and this script was ready to go, but it wasn't very remarkable." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 229)
- "Silicon Avatar" was filmed between Wednesday 7 August 1991 and Thursday 15 August 1991 on Paramount Stage 8, 9, 16, outside of Paramount Stage 16 and on location at the Golden Oak Ranch in the Santa Clarita Valley, north of Los Angeles. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 179)) An additional day of blue screen unit filming was on Monday 26 August 1991 on Paramount Stage 16.
- On Wednesday 7 August 1991 and Thursday 8 August 1991, the Directors Guild Educators Workshop visited the set. On Friday 9 August 1991, the Emmy Awards shot the B-Roll during the bridge scenes and on Tuesday 13 August 1991, journalists and photographers from Entertainment Tonight visited the set. The call sheet for Monday 12 August 1991 features the note "Monday is Pink Shirt Day!".
- As with its first appearance, the Entity was computer generated. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 179))
- The destruction left by the Entity was accomplished by adding eighteen-inch miniature trees to the foreground after the live filming of the fleeing colonists. Rob Legato noted that the light beam was animated on computer afterwards, but the "sand trap" was actually a four-foot-wide tarp spread along the ground with air shot up from under it through the mesh. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 179))
- The guitar piece played by Data is "Prelude No. 2 in A Minor" by Francisco Tárrega.
- This episode marks the return (and destruction) of the Crystalline Entity previously seen in "Datalore". The Entity would later be referenced in "Inheritance".
- When Geordi La Forge compliments Dr. Marr on her professional handling of a console in main engineering, an LCARS graphic is seen for a short time. This is a re-use of the hydrogen-alpha emission (with the 4077) from "Half a Life".
- This is one of the few episodes in which Data demonstrates his ability to precisely mimic the speech patterns of other individuals. Other examples include "Encounter at Farpoint" where he repeats Q's description of the trial against Humanity, "Brothers" where he employs Captain Picard's voice authorization codes to commandeer the main bridge, and "Descent, Part II" where he mimics Captain Picard's voice to toy with Geordi La Forge.
- Shortly prior to this episode's initial airing, Rick Berman referred to it as "a show that I think is going to be wonderful." (Star Trek: The Official Fan Club Magazine issue 82, p. 6)
- However, Brent Spiner was not fond of the installment, noting, "I didn't think it was a very good episode. If this was to really conclude the story of the crystalline entity, I don't think it was really the way to go." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 229)
- Michael Piller espoused similar sentiments. "I don't think the show was as effective as I wish it could have been." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 229)
- Director Cliff Bole rejected claims that the crew's attempts to communicate with the Entity after all the destruction it had caused were wildly optimistic. "It's not, if you can control the fact it won't happen again, and I think Picard made it clear that he wouldn't destroy anything until it was explored. And it did finally show that it had another side, and I think that's what he was saying. It can be characterized with modern society's attitude, 'Let's make sure we're not making any mistakes,' knowing full well they can handle it if they were wrong." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 229)
- Bole was overall satisfied with the episode, but thought that if he was directing it again, he would have made some changes. "I think I would have made Marr stronger in places and in the ending I thought we were weak. Then again, she was over the edge. You know, when you've only got 40 minutes of picture, it's tough to take a character and go all the way through the change and what happens to somebody. We're doing short stories here. Why does she do what she does? Sometimes you just don't have the film time to explore it properly." Bole added that, unlike a feature film, there is insufficient time to reshoot scenes. "[Y]ou stand on what you've done." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 229)
- A mission report for this episode by John Sayers was published in The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine issue 18, pp. 23-26.
Video and DVD releases
- Original UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 52, September 1992
- UK re-release (three-episode tapes, Paramount Home Entertainment): Volume 5.2, catalog number VHR 4761, 22 July 2002
- As part of the TNG Season 5 DVD collection
Links and references
- LeVar Burton as Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge
- Michael Dorn as Lt. Worf
- Gates McFadden as Dr. Beverly Crusher
- Marina Sirtis as Counselor Deanna Troi
- Brent Spiner as Lt. Commander Data
- Anthony as Melona IV technician
- Joe Bauman as Garvey
- Cullen Chambers as command officer
- Tracee Lee Cocco as Jae
- Cooper as Reel
- Tony Cruz as Lopez
- W. Dixon as Melona IV colonist
- Gina Gallante as Melona IV scientist
- Goldie Ann Gareza as Melona IV technician
- Michele Gerren as sciences officer
- Nicole Huang as Melona IV colonist
- Gary Hunter as sciences officer
- Ken as Melona IV colonist
- Jason Marsden as Raymond Marr (voice)
- Betty Matsushita as Melona IV colonist
- Tim McCormack as Bennett (stock footage)
- Jay Montalvo as operations officer
- Wilfred Moore as Melona IV colonist
- Henry Murph as Melona IV scientist
- Terry Noel as operations ensign
- Leah Nova as Melona IV colonist
- R. Park as Melona IV colonist
- R. Perez as Melona IV colonist
- Randy Pflug as Jones
- Jerome Reed as Melona IV colonist
- Bill E. Rogers as operations ensign
- Richard Sarstedt as command ensign
- Eric Schwartz as Melona IV technician
- Victor Sein as Melona IV techncian
- Sissy Sessions as Melona IV colonist
- Star Shulman as Melona IV colonist
- Stedman as Melona IV colonist
- Noriko Suzuki as operations ensign
- John Tampoya as Melona IV colonist
- Uchizono as command officer
- Robin Van Sharner as Melona IV colonist
- Guy Vardaman as Darien Wallace
- Dru Wagner as Melona IV colonist
- Josh Wagoner as Melona IV colonist
- Webb as Melona IV scientist
- Unknown performers as
- David Keith Anderson – stand-in for LeVar Burton
- Faith – stand-in for Ellen Geer
- Kristen – stand-in for Susan Diol
- Nora Leonhardt – stand-in for Marina Sirtis
- Tim McCormack – stand-in for Brent Spiner
- Lorine Mendell – stand-in for Gates McFadden & Ellen Geer
- Richard Sarstedt – stand-in for Jonathan Frakes
- Dennis Tracy – stand-in for Patrick Stewart
- James Washington – stand-in for Michael Dorn
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- USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D) dedication plaque: Advanced Technologies Group; Arnold, Richard; Berman, Rick; Curry, Daniel; Dwyer, John M.; Engineering Group; Galaxy-class; Hutzel, Gary; James, Richard; Jein, Gregory; Justman, Robert H.; Lauritson, Peter; Legato, Robert; Livingston, David; Mars; McKenzie, Richard; Mees, Jim; Moore, Ronald B.; Neuss, Wendy; Okuda, Michael; Piller, Michael; Probert, Andrew; Roddenberry, Gene; Sackett, Susan; Starfleet Command; Sternbach, Rick; Thomas, Cari L.; Utopia Planitia; Warp Technologies Development Group; White, Dana; Yard Engineer; Zimmerman, Herman
- "Silicon Avatar" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Silicon Avatar" at Wikipedia
- "Silicon Avatar" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "Silicon Avatar" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
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