Series: The Next Generation
Air Date: October 23, 1989
Written by: Ronald D. Moore
Directed by: Winrich Kolbe
Worf tries to bond with a kid whose mother died in his away team. And then the mother comes back?!
The first image we see of Lt. Marla Aster is of her lying on the floor dead after beaming back from an away mission. The planet was supposed to be uninhabited, but Worf and his team found... something. Something dangerous. But that's not important right now, because Lt. Marla Aster had a son. So, who's gonna go tell the son? Picard and Troi take it upon themselves to assure him that on the starship Enterprise, one is never alone. And in the meantime, Wesley thinks about the death of his father. Wesley Crusher now has something in common with Jeremy Aster. But, wait... he already had something in common with Jeremy Aster... Jeremy's father was already dead and now Jeremy is an orphan whereas Wesley has his mom. Does that seem right to you?
In any case, this leaves the opportunity wide open for Data to muse on the very human experience of death. He finds Riker in 10-Forward and asks him how well he knew Marla. Riker admits that he didn't know her very well, and then he asks the same of Data. To which Data responds "why do you ask?" Riker's confused at first because Data asked first, but Data clarifies "why do you ask the question?" He's confused because shouldn't what you feel about the death of someone be the same regardless of how well you know them? Riker admits that perhaps there wouldn't be as many wars in humanity's past if that was true.
|"So, you're saying Star Wars is inferior?"|
So, anyway, meanwhile, Geordi took an away team to the planet and found that there were leftover mines, but that the rest of the ones had been physically picked up and deactivated somehow. So who did that? Later, Data picks up an energy buildup on the planet. And then Jeremy is watching home video footage of his mother and then suddenly Marla shows up in his room! She assures him that she is his mother, but then Worf comes along and is not quite as convinced.
|"You are NOT the mama."|
That doesn't hold her back for long, though. The energy being flies up from the planet and penetrates the hull. It takes out a couple of officers on its way to Jeremy's quarters and transforms it once more. Picard then tries to reason with Fake Marla who explains that the beings who lived on the planet were split into two races, one energy and one matter.When the matter beings destroyed themselves, the energy beings vowed never to let that war hurt anyone else. And they feel responsible for the leftover mines that killed Marla, so now they just want to help Jeremy.
|"I'm a good witch!"|
This is a pretty sad episode, but it treats death way better than "Skin of Evil" did. And Marla was just a redshirt. It explores the different angles of death, even drawing on what little we got from the death of Tasha Yar. It's especially important to develop the relationship between Wesley and Picard. Here we learn that Wesley was angry at Picard for a long time, but eventually came to understand and, possibly, even count him as a father figure. A very moving episode all around and one you shouldn't miss.