Sunday, 7 March 2021

Episode Archive: Silicon Avatar

Having nattered on about TOS' Obsession, TNG's Silicon Avatar came up as a natural successor to the story.

Both are focused around a mysterious space creature that seems to be up to no good but there's more to this 1991 instalment than just that.

Coming four years after Datalore, in which the Crystalline Entity first appeared, Silicon Avatar questions the nature of the creature as well as to what level of redemption is necessary.

Beginning the colonisation of a new Federation world, the initial scouting party finds itself up against the destructive power of the Entity as it strips the planet of all natural resources. The Borg would be proud of its efficiency but for some reason it leaves the colonists who hide away in the caverns alive. A first.

Enter Doctor Kila Marr, a scientist who has spent her life studying the Crystalline Entity and whose son perished on Omicron Theta. Now for reference that's the world where Data was discovered and that was ravaged by the same Crystalline Entity.

Marr is all out to destroy it from the off although Picard is considering all the options and ultimately would rather it live than die. As an episode it compares well to Obsession since the two creatures initially seem to be driven to survive only and lack sentience however this is where the two episodes take a turn away from each other. Through the episode she sees Data as the embodiment of all that is left of her son since he carries the colony's database. IN the end though, Data is as logical as ever in noting that her Marr's son would not have been pleased with her ruthless solution. Certainly a good episode for Data's understanding of humanity and one person's driving force in life.

In the case of Silicon Avatar, the being can communicate but its cares are for survival only. The classic Obsession has but one priority from the start and never sways from it, focusing purely on the destruction of the gas creature and never anything else. There is no doubt of its malevolence, only backed up by Kirk's previous encounter on the USS Farragut. Picard of course differs in that he looks further than his one past experience with the creature and hopes for something more.

The something more is indeed there as is revealed through the communication attempt yet Marr takes it as a chance to eliminate the creature.  But is it her right to have that choice? 

We never know if it would have understood reasoning or come to terms with the notion that it was killing people. Lore took full advantage of the Crystalline Entity for his own ends and perhaps the audience's perception of it is mired by this initial appearance.

Both Obsession and Silicon Avatar end up with their respective creatures destroyed but the feelings left by the action are polar opposites. The mist of Obsession was relentless and seemingly without remorse or sentience, existing to survive if you will and is eradicated for the survival of thousands of lives. The Crystalline Entity however isn't. It's sentience is revisited in the closing minutes of the episode and there's a chance that it might "see" the error of its ways - but we are robbed of this through Marr's singular resolution.

Apparently in the name of her lost son, Marr was always set on eliminating the entity and her plan is executed coldly, calmly and precisely. The reminder of the colony at Omicron Theta, Data's recovery and the stored memories and journals of the colonists makes this just as hard-hitting as Obsession although that feels more personal due to the Kirk connection.

The initial death of Carmen Divila is brushed past quickly once the colonists are back on the Enterprise with the focus of the story clearly switched to Kila Marr and her (dare I say it) obsession. But in the cold, hard light of day, this is nothing like that gas creature. Just look at the way in which the entity rips the landscape apart in seconds, devastating everything in its path not unlike the destruction at Jouret IV in The Best of Both Worlds. It's easily more terrifying and devastating than the effects of Kirk's Obsession cloud which was pretty slow moving and confined to very localised targets. The massive spacefaring Entity on the other hand is at quite the other end of the obliteration scale.and...could Kila Marr actually be right in what she does? This is planet-killing stuff not seen since the Borg and her action is decisive and may well save millions. Does it matter if this creature is sentientSomething to think about there!

While perhaps not remembered as strongly as Datalore, Silicon Avatar is still a strong episode that adds more to the tragic backstory of Data's creation. Well worth a stop off if you're heading through that way!

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