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The Trek Nation - The Survivors

The Survivors

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at March 28, 2008 - 9:37 PM GMT

See Also: 'The Survivors' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: The Enterprise receives a distress call from a remote colony on Rana IV, where it appears that the entire planet has been devastated except for a small patch with two inhabitants - the sole survivors out of more than 10,000. The elderly couple, Kevin and Rishon Uxbridge, are shocked to learn that they are the only people remaining on the planet but they insist that they want to stay in their home. Meanwhile, on the ship, Troi begins to hear the music from Rishon's music box, which begins to drive her mad. The ship that attacked the colony returns and Picard orders the Enterprise to take a defensive posture, but as soon as the Uxbridges believe that the Enterprise has departed, the aliens vanish. Picard begins to suspect that Kevin is controlling the attacks. When the warship returns and destroys the Uxbridges' house, the captain insists on surveying the planet until the house - and the couple - reappear. Troi is under heavy sedation yet still in agony, unable to read Kevin's emotions. Under questioning, Kevin admits that his home and his wife were in fact destroyed in the first attack, but he is a powerful, immortal being called a Douwd who survived the battle, although he would not defend the planet because of his pacifist beliefs. In his grief over the death of Rishon after the attack by the invading Husnocks, Kevin destroyed all the Husnocks in the galaxy...billions of individuals. Picard tells Kevin that he is in no position to judge a crime of such magnitude, and returns him to his private hell on the devastated Rana IV.


Analysis: Star Trek generally has two takes on super-beings: either they're contemptuous of humans and use them as playthings, such as the evolved Gary Mitchell, Trelane and Q, or else the only thing they want is to be more like humans, such as the Companion and "The Survivors" protagonist Kevin. Despite an intriguing storyline, this isn't one of the better contributions to the genre mostly because Picard wimps out so much in the end, deciding he's really in no position to judge Kevin. Give me a break! Picard has been completely comfortable judging Q for acts of intervention much smaller than genocide. Yes, the Husnocks seem cruel for leveling a planet and killing all the humans who lived there, but just a couple of weeks ago, Picard was going along with an alien race's plans to blast a human colony off a planet they claimed if the people wouldn't leave willingly. He's seen unprovoked attacks before, and like Kirk with the Gorn in "Arena," discovered that there was usually some misunderstanding underlying the act of savagery. I don't care how cold-blooded the Husnock attack on Rana IV might have been; Kirk would have gotten into Kevin's face and told him exactly what he thought of his bloodthirsty savagery. And hopefully talked him into blowing himself into nonexistence.

Somehow, we're supposed to accept Kevin's passion for his wife and belated compassion towards Troi as signs of his humanity, but I'm just not sold. It's interesting to see a story unfold on such an intimate scale - two people standing amidst the rubble of their entire planet, trying to keep their love story alive. Yet there's something creepy about Rishon's nostalgia for her music box from the first time we see it. Everyone she has known on the planet is dead and all she can do is wax nostalgic for her marriage? I'm surprised Troi didn't realize that something was very wrong the moment she couldn't sense overwhelming grief and rage from the survivors. Kevin figures out that he needs to block her sensitivities to pull off his charade, but it doesn't get past Picard, either. He knows the Husnock ship that keeps attacking without doing any real damage to the starship isn't behaving like a vessel from a species that just leveled a civilization. And he knows that Kevin's silly little booby traps and tantrums, the things that are supposed to convince us of his deep-felt pacifism, don't make a lot of sense either.

Kevin is yet another example that absolute power corrupts absolutely. He may have wanted to live a quiet life with the woman he has chosen to love, a woman who can never be a threat to his choices because she doesn't even know about them - what sort of love is that, to live a lie with someone to whom you can never show your true face? But his personal restraint system fails on the one occasion when Rishon defies him, taking up arms while he talks loftily of pacifism, and he loses everything. So then he snaps, and stops restraining himself, and commits an act of terrorism on a scale so breathtaking that every other Star Trek villain seems trivial by comparison. Armus may have been pure evil but he only killed Tasha Yar. Nagilum thinks he'll understand life by exploring death. Kevin has a conscience and a sense of restraint, and yet he exterminates children growing up thousands of miles from the site of his personal loss.

I know that this episode is generally praised for its fine acting, steady pacing and slow-building mystery, but I really can't stand "The Survivors." I can't stand the condescension of Kevin's love for the childlike, self-involved Rishon of his imagination. I can't stand how passive Troi is rendered, how unable to fight back, so that tears are her only solace and sedation Crusher's only means to treat her. And I really can't stand Picard throwing up his hands and declaring that he's in no position to judge Kevin because Kevin is suffering from guilt. Picard concludes that maybe Kevin deserves the solace of his phony life with Rishon! He thinks that Kevin should be praised for his conscience! If Picard can't make a judgment call here, stare a super-being in the eye and tell it that it isn't fit to share a galaxy with humans and Klingons and Romulans and Vulcans and Ferengi and Betazoids and Cardassians, then I don't know how he sees himself fit to intervene in the smaller struggles between races fighting over planets or weapons or drugs or technology or whatever it is that generates conflict as he seeks out new life and new civilizations. Kevin's actions are as close to pure evil as we ever witness on Star Trek, yet Picard suggests that we're supposed to accept that because Kevin feels badly, it's not for us to judge him. Call me a cultural imperialist, call me an anti-super-being bigot, or call me someone who grew up listening to Captain James T. Kirk, but the moment when one bears witness to genocide is not the moment for relativism.


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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Michelle Erica Green is a former news writer for the Trek Nation. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.