The aliens live in the lower atmosphere and entered the ship when it passed through taking scans. Unaware that the ship would move to the upper atmosphere the aliens were stranded in a situation that would eventually kill them. They were able to pull images and information from Geordi’s brain through the probe’s interface, a procedure that is apparently deadly without the interface as a buffer. This is how the crew died.
First of all, why was this not our first, or perhaps second guess? Isn’t this the third or fourth time that this has happened? Rather than figuring that Geordi’s own mind is interpreting strange new data as a wish-fulfillment hallucination of his mother, why not consider that an unknown alien species is trying to contact them? Either the interface is causing Geordi to totally lose his mind, or it’s an alien. In this case wouldn’t Occam’s razor point to the alien? Elaborate hallucinations like that are actually not all that common, whereas mind reading aliens are a dime a half-dozen.
Secondly, why the fuck is the alien communicating this to Geordi a) with a mental download when the mother image has been working just fine b) fucking at all? The aliens have gotten what they wanted. They risk killing Geordi by doing the brain download thing, which might screw up their plans. They killed an entire spaceship crew trying to communicate. Getting what they want is clearly the only thing of any importance. Why would they bother explaining themselves? It seems like they’d just abandodn ship as soon as possible and leave the humans to sort it out themselves.
It’s not even as if the situation can’t be explained later by sensor records or something in a debriefing later. There’s no need for the aliens to explain themselves from an audience standpoint or a narrative one. It just make any sense for the aliens to finally want to be understood.
This is one of those situations in Star Trek where we’re supposed to dismiss the slaughter of unnamed and uncounted Starfleet personnel as some sort of innocent alien mistake. Sure maybe the first two or three times they didn’t quite know what was going on, but if every time you tried to talk to someone that person died you’d work it out sooner or later. They aren’t mindless subspace animals. They are clearly capable of thought and language. They also clearly understand death. It’s not a foreign concept to them that life can end, because that’s exactly what they are trying to avoid.
There is absolutely no justification or rationalization that can let these aliens off the hook. They made the choice to hope that their continued communication attempts would eventually work with one of the crew, even though the consequences of a failed attempt was death. Sure, it’s a desperate situation, but if you stowaway on a ship and then kill everyone on it trying to highjack it, my sympathy for your plight is drastically reduced.
They are even capable of, wholly unnecessary, deception. Having read Geordi’s mind they should immediately realize that Starfleet would be more than happy to lower the ship themselves. Picard is obsessed with saving lives, even lives who’ve “accidentally” murdered dozens of innocents or attempted to rape him. They dig deeply enough to create a convincing mirage of his mother, but not deeply enough to see that they could just tell the truth and ask for help? Even the most cursory perusal of moral information would let them know that potentially losing some salvage in exchange for saving lives, even strange ones, would be an acceptable trade.
But these lying, murdering aliens get a pass because they’re stranded and well, “alien.” Sorry kids, cultural relativity or not, “All beings are expendable in the pursuit of our own goals.” is not a morally defensible position by any logic. At this point might I suggest the Batman decision? You might feel bad killing them, but you don’t have to save them. (Alright, that’s nonsense in itself, but you understand my point.) It’s just another point where Star Trek expects us to shut up and learn our lesson as laid out for us, which is that we should accept the death of a loved one with grace, rather than stealing an experimental probe and chasing even the tiniest chance that they might still be alive.
Of course at the end of the episode Geordi accepts his mother’s death, as well Picard’s reprimand and sympathy. Whatever significance the “permanent record” might hold in Starfleet, we never really see it. Honestly, If I weren’t one of the main characters on the Enterprise I’d be constantly worried about when one of these schmucks is going to lose their mind, highjack something, and put the entire crew in danger. There must be some kind of pool concerning which bridge crewmember is going to lose it next.
Until next time, campers!