|The only known Douwd, "Kevin |
That smug look means he's not happy
about having a higher kill rate than
Galactus and the God of the Bible
Abilities: Just about unlimited.
Nature: True immortals.
Our winner, debatably edging out number #2, is a mysterious race of beings called the Douwds. We only get to meet one of their kind in a single episode (#51, season 3 - see the condensed version here) called “The Survivors.” It was one of the very best of any season. What little we know of this illusive race “of disguises and false surroundings” only adds to our fascination with them.
When the Enterprise gets an urgent distress call from a federation colony on Delta Rana IV about an attacking alien warship, they head over as fast as they can, but they are days away. By the time they arrive, it is too late. All are dead and the planet has been literally leveled…with the sole exception of one house and the small patch of land it sits on.
Members of the crew arrive on the planet surface and find “Kevin Uxbridge” (the Douwd in human form) and his wife “Rishon” in their strangely intact home. Kevin met Rishon more than 50 years earlier while traveling in human form in this galaxy. They went to the colony to spend their last years together and to “fall in love all over again,” but Kevin never revealed his true nature to Rishon. Rishon offers them tea, but neither can offer a reason as to why the attacking warship spared them and utterly destroyed the rest of the planet.
|Rishon and Kevin Uxbridge |
(Anne Haney, John Anderson)
To lure the Enterprise away, the Douwd creates a perfect replica of the alien vessel that destroyed the planet. The race was called the Husnock and the Douwd’s re-creation was a perfect replica, indistinguishable from the real thing in every way. For all intents and purposes, it was the actual Husnock warship. The Enterprise is utterly no match for the massive ship with enough armament to easily pulverize a planet, so they must retreat, but they will not leave the planet. When the ship is seen to blow up the remaining house on Rana, the Enterprise still refuses to leave. Picard knows he is being toyed with and orders both Kevin and Rishon beamed on board—this time for a full explanation from Kevin who he knows is hiding something.
Confronted by the truth, the Douwd explains that when the Husnock initially attacked the planet, his pacifist views prevented him from destroying them (which he could have done in “a mere thought,” of course). This also prevented him from fighting alongside the colonists who were ready to defend their world. To defend the planet, Rishon left Kevin’s side and stood by the colonists in the battle.
At first, the Douwd toyed with the Husnock, driving them away from the planet much like he did with the Enterprise, but it only made them “angrier and more cruel.” So, when they returned, he let the colonists fight a hopeless battle, and when the colony inevitably lost to this advanced race of conquerors, Kevin looked down and saw the broken body of Rishon, but he was not prepared for how it would affect him. This drove him into a rage as his anger exploded.
In one single instant, the Husnock were forever wiped out of existence—total destruction of their energy, of the very essence that was them. Every single Husnock everywhere was gone—over 50 billion lives ended in one brief moment. When he realized what he had done, Kevin banished himself to the dead planet for violating his way of peace. As a lone source of comfort, he had recreated Rishon and their home and lived as though everything was fine. It was a cosmic being’s elaborate form of denial.
The intricacies of this episode are incredible. The more we contemplate what happened, the more impressive it is. A being of infinite power vanquishes an entire species of advanced beings (possibly more advanced than the Borg, maybe 1,000 years ahead of earth) spread out across the galaxy. No doubt they occupied many moons and planets and many conquered worlds. Any slave races under them would be very happy with the sudden disappearance of their captors!
You have to stop and think that it takes more than 30 years to count to just one billion, and yet, in one moment, fifty times that was eliminated from the universe with mere mental exertion over distances of hundreds, if not thousands, of light years. Every mother and child, every young man singing to his love through a window sill, every half-breed, every technician hiding in a crawl space on a moon-based colony…everyone gone. None could hide.
Every philosopher, every saint, every great leader, every statesman…gone. And the way Star Trek is set up allows us to connect our thoughts in wonder if perhaps the evil ways of the Husnock race brought about their own judgment day. Were there any righteous prophets who predicted a sudden end of their world? We can have fun guessing.
This is so amazing that we can’t even make a comparison to humans exterminating lesser life-forms like ants because if we tried our hardest, we could never destroy an entire population on a global scale the way the Douwd totally sterilized an intelligent race of great power from the universe. And getting back to what was said, you have to wonder what would have happened had Kevin not gone off and stopped the Husnock. The Federation would have lost a war with them and been destroyed.
But in placing the Douwds at number one, we aren’t just talking about power. We are talking about perception. The Q was more like some bored race of space trolls, always creating illusions and trivial modifications. Q was like the fly no one can kill at the 4th of July picnic (barring a few soul-searching encounters he arranged). The Douwd, on the other hand, is a being like capital “G” God, living through the experiences of lesser beings. And when the Douwd takes action, there is not so much as a snap of the fingers or drama, just a thought. The Husnock didn’t even get an on-screen death. Only a thought removed them from the life cycle. The race was “deleted” easier than using the “find and replace” feature on your PC.
It is at least doubtful that a Q could have eliminated all of a certain race everywhere with just a thought, but just look at the way Captain Picard treats the Douwd compared to the Q. Normally, know-it-all Picard is looking down on or condemning Q for his mischief like everyone else he manages to be wiser than, but here, he treats the being like “God.” When the Douwd confesses his “sin” to Picard, the captain says: “We’re not qualified to be your judges. We have no law to fit your crime. You’re free to return to the planet and to make Rishon live again” (as if the Douwd needed his say in the matter).
Douwds are true immortals. They can’t be killed because Kevin wanted to die alongside his wife, but couldn’t. Although it takes supernovas to kill Qs, they can die. Douwds can’t lose their powers whereas Qs can. But even what I once thought was a flaw in the writing of the episode turned out to be a very thought-out character trait.
For instance, the question has been raised that with a being of such enormous power, why didn’t Kevin just send the attacking Husnock vessel some 100,000 light years away from the planet? That way, they would never have been able to make it back for a century or more. But as a Douwd, Kevin never needed to take human precautions out of a desire to self-preserve. An exalted human of great power would have taken such an action, but not a Douwd who had no experience to force him to take protective measures.
The uniqueness of a creation in a material universe is that one arrangement of matter must be unique in its very nature from every other. Kevin recreated Rishon in a way that perfectly resembled her original life, right down to her personal views, disagreements, and memories. You couldn’t have found a difference if you tried. In a state of grief, that was enough to satisfy Kevin—a mere illusion of her would not have done the trick. But once something is destroyed, a re-creation necessarily robs the original of value, and thus, makes it pointless and even hurtful. We are therefore left to wonder how long Kevin will remain on the dead world with his new Rishon before he realizes that he is only prolonging his misery.
There is an incredible story here, one that has stayed in a lot of memories, but strangely, has not been revisited in sci-fi. It is fun to think about how our minds simply cannot grasp what it would be like to wield this sort of “admin access” to the universe. We will never know the upper limits of a douwd’s powers. Their illusiveness, in every aspect, teases us. But isn’t that what good sci-fi is supposed to do?