Third season is when Michael Pillar really arrived on the scene and became the Gene Coon of Next Generation. Pillar took the characters and the universe created by Gene Roddenberry and turned it into something special. There was a greater emphasis on character driven stories and really digging into who and what these people were in the 21st Century. The show tackled issues of the day, but it did it in a far less preachy and obvious way (as opposed to some of the early episodes where the moral is about as subtle as a two-by-four to the head)
To tell you how much I enjoy the third season, it was the only one I paid the huge asking price for when it first came out on DVD for the box-set. (I’ve since filled in my collection when Paramount dropped the price on the sets and they went from outrageous to just eye-brow raising in price.) I know that there are other seasons that are more consistent, but there’s just a lot of things I love about season three.
The tonal shift starts in season two, but it comes roaring out of the gate full force in season three. And after a string of episodes that gave us the new style to start the season along came this episode, “The Survivors.”
The premise is an intriguing one.
The Enterprise answers a distress call from Rana IV and upon arriving finds the entire planet has been wiped out–except for one small area of land. An away team is sent down and meets Kevin and Rishon Uxbridge, an older couple who can’t explain why the other 11,000 inhabitants were killed and they weren’t. And they refuse to leave their home.
The crew suspects there is some connection between Kevin and the aliens, but can’t figure out what it might be. Troi is also suffering from hearing the music of a music box the Uxbridges own in her head…and it’s shielding her from being able to read the couple. As the episode unfolds, Troi is slowly driven mad by the inability to shut off the music in her head.
An alien ship returns, attacks the Enterprise and is fought off. Picard beams down to inform the Uxbridges he won’t leave while they’re alive. Alien ship shows back up, more powerful and destroys the Unxbridges. The Enterprise leaves…but then doubles back to find the house and the area fully restored.
Picard and the crew figure out that yes, Kevin is connected to the aliens attacking, but not in the way they think. He’s the last of a race of powerful telepathic aliens who married the human Rishon. The colony was attacked and when Rishon died, in his rage Kevin destroyed all the aliens–as in every alien in the universe. He is ridden with guilt over what he’s done and has tried to create an illusion for himself of the life he and Rishon shared together.
So, why did this one make my top ten?
Honestly, it has a good storytelling balance. We have a few good space battles, an intriguing premise and an interesting mystery for the crew to solve. We have the central morality that makes Star Trek different from a lot of other shows and we’ve got some great performances all around by the regular and guest cast. It’s all wrapped up in a satisfying package that is one of the more fulfilling and complete episodes of Next Generation.
It’s also one of the best stories from the consistent start to season three. And season three only continues to get better from here. So factor in some nostalgia from seeing it and enjoying it so much the first time and it’s easy to see why it’s one of my favorites…