Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Survivors   Rewatch 
September 25, 2020 5:49 AM - Season 3, Episode 3 - Subscribe

A perfectly harmless-looking elderly couple, whose homestead is the only untouched acre on a devastated colony world, charms the crew of the Enterprise—even Worf. Meanwhile, Troi battles an insistent earworm. (Not that kind.)

Some days, Memory Alpha feels like a virtual spouse:

• Director Les Landau recalled, "We were on location for a day. It made not only the audience but the crew happy. When you're tied to shooting indoors every day, it gets monotonous. We were lucky enough to go out to Malibu and we had a beautiful summer day. I think it was unique story for Star Trek and one of my best works to date."

• John Anderson (Kevin Uxbridge) had lost his own wife only a year before appearing in "The Survivors". Due to this, he almost turned down the role.

• Both guest stars play characters that are much older than they were in real life at the time of shooting. 67-year-old John Anderson played 85-year-old Kevin Uxbridge and 55-year-old Anne Haney played 82-year-old Rishon Uxbridge. This seems to indicate, as with the 137-year-old Admiral Leonard McCoy in "Encounter at Farpoint", that the average Human lifespan is much longer in the 24th century. (Haney would subsequently play an even older character, the hundred-year old Els Renora in the episode "Dax".)

"An entire planet obliterated…except for a few acres of trees and grass and one building?"
- Riker

"Sir, may I say your attempt to hold the away team at bay with a non-functioning weapon was an act of unmitigated gall."
"Didn't fool you, huh?"
"I admire gall."
- Worf and Kevin Uxbridge

Poster's Log:
I've always been really fond of this one, but on this rewatch, one thing occurred to me. Picard says "We have no law to fit your crime"—but in the big and busy Alpha Quadrant, surely somebody someplace has exterminated a species? Like, if a species is bound to a single planet, all it takes is a tractor beam and an asteroid, yes? Then again, the Federation is only about 200 years old at this point, so maybe it hasn't come up yet.

Lots of enjoyably creepy stuff here: the music and its effect on Troi (which Sirtis really sells), Kevin's demeanor, the fate of the Husnock (Husnock? not mynock! Heh…), and perhaps most creepy, the visual effect of Rishon dissolving into nothingness. There's a split-second where she looks like something from a truly nightmarish horror film.

I'll also observe (typing this from the vantage point of halfway through the season on my rewatch) that so far, it seems like season 3 is better about ensemble episodes, and this one has some of that going on: Riker gets his cool Ewok stunt, Worf and Beverly get good moments, and of course there's some Big Acting for Troi and Picard even though it's not a Troi or Picard episode as such.

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
I think I'm gonna discontinue the Greatest Gen links here, just to save some space and time; I figure they'll pop up now and then in the posts or replies at some point anyway. Those readers who are following the podcast have probably subscribed or bookmarked it.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (14 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Picard says "We have no law to fit your crime"—but in the big and busy Alpha Quadrant, surely somebody someplace has exterminated a species?

I always thought this was more of a save-face for the fact that even if Picard wanted to charge Kevin, how would you detain him? Imagine if Q wiped out all of the Vulcans with a snap of a finger. You could charge him all you want, but he's too powerful to be held to that. Kevin seems to be on a similar level of power. Not omnipotent, but he can teleport around, create illusions, and destroy things on a grand scale with hardly any effort.
posted by Servo5678 at 6:02 AM on September 25, 2020 [5 favorites]

To this day, my best friend and I say "Good tea, nice house" when visiting one another.
posted by briank at 6:17 AM on September 25, 2020 [11 favorites]

even if Picard wanted to charge Kevin, how would you detain him?
Ray Stantz: Gozer the Gozerian? Good evening. As a duly-designated representative of the City, County and State of New York, I order you to cease any and all supernatural activity and return forthwith to your place of origin, or to the next convenient parallel dimension.
Peter Venkman: That oughta do it. Thanks very much, Ray.
Gozer the Gozerian: Are you a god?
Ray Stantz: [looks at Venkman, who nods] No.
Gozer the Gozerian: Then... DIIIIIIIIE! [sends the Ghostbusters sprawling with lightning bolts]
Winston Zeddemore: Ray, when someone asks you if you're a god, you say "YES!"
So, yeah. The franchise having generally done even less WRT the Federation's legal system than it has with its economic system (see also my lengthy comments on "The Measure of a Man"), we can only speculate that it has a special set of statutes and regulations regarding the actions of beings or civilizations that it can't effectively control or defend itself against. There may even be a sliding scale of such, depending on whether the entit[y|ies] are merely temporarily beyond the Federation's control (e.g. the Dominion) or pretty much permanently so (the Q Continuum); there may even be special clauses for formerly accountable entities who powered up (Gary Mitchell, O'Connor). Not sure if there could be anything like a legally-mandated response, given that the entity in question could wipe out the ship, the Federation, or all of existence in a fit of pique, as Kevin Uxbridge does to the Husnock. (Also left unexplored is the fact that Kevin basically saved the Federation the hassle of dealing with the Husnock, who might have posed a serious threat to their existence. Bit of an ethical conundrum, there.)

Anyway, interesting questions posed, but kind of orthogonal to the main thrust/appeal of the episode, which is that of the elderly couple trying to maintain their little corner of paradise in the face of overwhelming destruction, and the crew trying to deal with the mystery in the face of what seems like impending doom for the survivors... and then, with the revelation of what really happened, the pathos being bumped up an order of magnitude. The funny bits (Riker's trap, teatime with Worf) help alleviate the sense of dread and the sorrow a bit, but eventually it all catches up. I think that this may be another episode that I hadn't seen, or if I had it hadn't stuck, and at first I thought that they might have been revealed as collaborators with the Husnock, sacrificing the rest of their colony so that their little piece of heaven was spared. That would have been pretty bad, but seeing Rishon fade out of existence was probably even worse--the actress, Anne Haney, was very good. (She shows up later in DS9 as a judge, but I like her much more in this role.) I'll mark this ep down as being very TOS-like in its tone; I think that it could have been done pretty well with 60s special effects, although I'm not sure who would have taken Troi's role--Spock?
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:09 AM on September 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

Cards of the episode from the Star Trek CCG:
Premier('94): Kevin Uxbridge, Husnock Ship.
Alternate Universe ('95): Kevin Uxbridge: Convergence, Rishon Uxbridge.
Official Tournament Sealed Deck('98): Husnock Outpost.
Second Edition('02): Kevin Uxbridge.

A very key episode for STCCG. Kevin's power is represented by the ability to destroy Events, a card type which would normally use up your per-turn card play and cause some change to the game state, such as drawing cards, restricting beaming, allowing multiple personnel to report per turn, and so on. The ability to counter such effects meant that many decks would use multiple copies of Kevin, throughout the life of the game. They retained this card in 2E but added a cost, making it a much rarer play.

The Husnock ships are represented in the game as pretty slow yet powerful. It was only ship early in the game that could survive an encounter with a Borg Ship without additional enhancement. This gave it a kind of popularity that inspired the CGI Husnock Outpost, a guaranteed facility to report to in sealed deck play.

The apparently-not-quite-extinct Husnock also appear in the game Future's End/Echoes of the Past.
posted by StarkRoads at 8:05 AM on September 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

I get this one confused with that other episode where a godlike dude creates a simulacrum of his wife and lets the simulacrum go about without any knowledge of who she or her putative husband really are. Who gets to decide whether Rishon and Juliana (from Inheritance) are real, what should be their fate, what is the truth about either their own existence or their relationships with the powerful men they are with? Neither of them have any voice in those discussions, or any say in the ultimate decisions made about their fate.

It's creepy that this is a repeated theme in TNG. Don't like either of those episodes for that reason.
posted by skewed at 8:11 AM on September 25, 2020 [5 favorites]

It's creepy that this is a repeated theme in TNG. Don't like either of those episodes for that reason.

It does make Kevin that much more icky of a character. "Superhuman men not being able to deal with loss any better than regular men" is a theme that we probably didn't need this many revisits to, irrespective of how compelling the writers seem to find it. There is also a (weaker, early) DS9 episode that also uses the formula, though at least they changed it to the godlike dude's granddaughter rather than wife.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 8:20 AM on September 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

I just mentioned how third, fourth, and fifth season episodes could be interchangeable. This is a good example. I logged in just now and saw this one is up and thought, "This one already?"

I enjoy Kevin and Rishon in this one. They are well played by Anderson and Haney.

Poor Troi! Other stuff mentioned already really fleshes out this episode. The question of what to do with Kevin once all is revealed is a good one.

There is one thing about this one that has always bothered me (always just one more thing). In the beginning it's about an elderly couple and the Enterprise wanting to take them away because it doubts they can long survive, but Kevin and Rishon don't want to go. It is very hard for Picard and the team to take no for an answer. Obviously once they start to figure things out, things become clear, but at first, it can definitely be grating. Just another example of how the Federation and its duly appointed representatives know better.
posted by Fukiyama at 8:27 AM on September 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

the actress, Anne Haney, was very good. (She shows up later in DS9 as a judge, but I like her much more in this role.)

My girlfriend and I *just* watched "Dax" a couple of nights ago. I thought Haney was perfect as a long-serving, one hundred year old judge who just no longer accepts any guff.
posted by hanov3r at 1:21 PM on September 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

I liked this one! Decent script, good acting, some great Worf lines. I liked the spin on the omnipotent but fallible alien. Since I've started watching TNG, I feel like I've been waiting for an episode that just felt like a good, solid Star Trek ep, and this... was that.
posted by phooky at 5:31 PM on September 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

Podcast The Greatest Generation has forever destroyed my ability to enjoy this episode. Or rather, have limited me to only being able to enjoy it in one specific way.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 8:12 AM on September 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

Mr. Encyclopedia. I don't understand. Perhapsh we could help you erash all of your limitations. Everywhere.
posted by Seeba at 3:56 PM on September 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

A planet devoid of life… except for a tiny area where one building inexplicably stands… inhabited by illusory people created to keep one survivor company… Welcome to the Royale, gentlemen! Get off my yard!

This is the eighth godlike being in 51 episodes, we are about 15% #blessed. All these gods are so lonely, how are they not hanging out? They should start a weekly poker game or something.

Anyway, good episode, nice cast.
posted by rodlymight at 7:35 AM on September 27, 2020 [6 favorites]

I'm pretty sure the Federation has a law against genocide, but enforcement could definitely be tricky in this case. Probably not worth the risk. Kevin clearly lacks Q's omniscience, but is clearly close enough to omnipotent for it not to matter to puny humans and he says he's immortal anyway. And probably is given that he survived the attack that denuded the planet and even eliminated its oceans.

The only real solution here other than letting him go won't be available for another few centuries, when time travel could be used to make sure he never meets Rishon and therefore never commits genocide in the first place. Even then, they'd have to be willing to piss off all the other signatories to the Temporal Accords.
posted by wierdo at 11:36 PM on January 28, 2021

So if we take that the Douwd have a different relationship to existence then humans, I think we can fix Picard's statement that they have no law for his crime: When Kevin says he destroyed the Husinak he doesn't just mean that he caused their deaths, but that he removed them from existence outright. Picard and co don't seem to know who the Husinak were... but what if they would have before Kevin lashed out?

Now, it's a bit tricky because he obviously can't remove them in a way that undoes the attack on the colony, which means it's not a full Year-of-Hell-style timeline reset, but you can probably thread that needle somehow.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 8:16 PM on September 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

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