Among all of the Federation crews that audiences have come to know, none showed an aversion to violence as consistently as Captain Picard and his subordinates in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Whether the Romulans, Ferengi or Borg, Picard’s dogged insistence on finding areas of common ground between antagonists saved his ship -- and the entire Federation -- on more than one occasion. His crew upheld this standard in kind, and seemed to operate on a credo of, “What would Jean-Luc do?” when faced with moments that could turn toward conflict just as easily as discussion.
Still, even the most-persistent diplomat requires willing opposition. So, what’s a crew to do when facing a foe who is uninterested in negotiation of any kind -- or that can’t communicate with humans at all?
The Crystalline Entity
Before the Borg, the Crystalline Entity was TNG’s premier example of a foe so inhuman that discussion seemed impossible. While not biological, the Crystalline Entity was undeniably “alive” in the sense of having will, motivation and the ability to make self-determining decisions.
Still, nothing in previous contact reports or the Enterprise crew’s initial meeting with the Entity in “Datalore” revealed any intelligence more advanced than that of a virus. By all appearances, the Entity was simply a self-organizing collection of crystalline molecules whose very physical structure drove it to react to stimuli in automatic ways -- much as a virus, while not “alive,” can still detect and infiltrate a living cell.
The Entity first appeared in Federation records in 2338 after annihilating all life on Omicron Theta, including the colony where Dr. Noonien Soong and his wife Juliana had lived while creating Data and his brother, Lore. Though it was unknown by Picard and crew at the time, this first contact was itself evidence of the Entity’s intelligence, as it had been called to the planet as a result of ongoing subspace conversations with Lore, whose jealousy and anger had driven the android to destroy his fellow colonists.
Even after the Entity destroyed a new colony on Melona IV four years later, Picard and crew continued to view it as a dangerous force of nature -- something to be studied or avoided, not attacked and destroyed. Their restraint was justified when they seemed moments away from establishing open communications via graviton pulses before Dr. Marr -- an embittered survivor of the Melona IV attack -- sabotaged the experiment and used the graviton beam to destroy the Crystalline Entity, instead.
Stunned and saddened, Picard ordered the Doctor confined to quarters to await charges -- as the murderer of an intelligent mind, not a hero.
In “Galaxy's Child,” the Enterprise encountered a new, completely space-borne life form in the Alpha Omicron system. While analyzing the life form, the Enterprise sensors triggered an attack, forcing Picard to attempt to stun or dissuade it with a minimal power phaser strike.
Instead, the creature was killed, leaving the Captain horrified at having inadvertently ended a life and destroyed the opportunity to establish peaceful contact.
Soon after, the bridge crew realized that lingering energy readings in the creature were in fact its child, which soon entered the universe with a phaser-assisted delivery after Picard determined that killing its mother gave them responsibility for its well-being. Unfortunately, the newborn -- dubbed Junior by the crew -- recognized the Enterprise’s energy signature as its mother and immediately latched onto the rear hull. Shortly afterward, it began “feeding” off the energy of the ship, putting the crew in danger all over again.
Rather than harming the creature, Picard assembled his senior staff to find a solution, and the crew eventually determined that the mother had been on its way to a nearby asteroid field replete with mineral “food” for the creatures. Upon arrival, Junior began broadcasting communications, soon revealing others of its species had come to greet the new baby.
After failing to knock Junior loose with a decompression blast from a shuttle bay, Geordi La Forge and Dr. Leah Brahms (a visiting scientist) decided to “poison the milk” by manipulating the Enterprise energy signature. The effort was a success, freeing the creature and allowing Picard to resume their journey, safe in the knowledge that Junior would survive even despite its mother’s death.
In “Conspiracy,” Picard faced one of the few foes that presented no feasible solution, except armed defense. After being summoned to a secret meeting on Dytallix B by Captain Walker Keel, an old academy acquaintance, Picard learned of a potential conspiracy on Earth that may have already begun overtaking Starfleet Command.
Those fears were confirmed shortly after the meeting when they discovered the debris field left by Captain Keel’s ship, now destroyed with all hands lost.
Upon returning to Earth, the Enterprise was hailed by Admirals at Starfleet Command, who explained that all was well and requested a meeting aboard the ship. However, Admiral Quinn’s behavior during a “tour” of the Enterprise was noticeably abnormal, and before long he had attacked Riker in an attempt to insert a creature into his body -- a “superior form of life” that Quinn said had been recently discovered.
Dr. Crusher soon revealed that a similar creature had taken control of Quinn by latching onto his brain stem, leaving only a telltale protrusion from the back of the neck as external evidence. Riker was soon sent to the surface, where Picard was already present for a planned meal with the Admiralty. Unbeknownst to Picard, Dr. Crusher had implanted a fake protrusion on Riker’s neck to mask his uninfected status, allowing him to save the Captain from implantation during the meal.
It was quickly revealed that the parasites were already well-positioned to commence an immediate takeover of Starfleet -- and eventually all of Earth. Facing attack from the parasite Admirals, Picard and Riker fought back with phasers, eventually destroying the “mother parasite” in Lt. Commander Remmick’s body and ending the invasion.
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Stephen Ashley is a freelance writer currently taking a break from Brooklyn in the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York. He credits the syndicated TNG reruns of his youth for launching his love affair with Star Trek and all things science fiction.