Aug 15 2011 1:04pm

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Where Silence Has Lease”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Where Silence Has Lease”“Where Silence Has Lease”
Written by Jack B. Sowards
Directed by Winrich Kolbe
Season 2, Episode 2
Production episode 40272-122
Original air date: November 28, 1988
Stardate: 42193.6

Captain’s Log: While on a mission to an area of space that has never been explored, they find what appears to be a hole — it has no matter, no energy, no mass, nothing. Two probes are launched into the hole, which are seemingly swallowed by it with no trace.

The blackness then envelopes the Enterprise. They see nothing, pick up nothing on sensors, can’t even communicate outside the void. Pulaski comes on the bridge for no compellingly good reason except that she’s in this episode and needs something to do, and Picard calls engineering for no compellingly good reason except LeVar Burton is in the opening credits — which is also why La Forge comes onto the bridge a bit later.

When Picard decides to leave, they reverse course, but do not leave the void, despite getting well past the point where they entered. Data drops a stationary beacon to use as a point of reference, but as they move forward, they come around to the beacon again, despite moving in a straight line.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Where Silence Has Lease”

Worf detects a Romulan vessel, which fires on them. The Enterprise destroys it with one shot, but there’s no debris of any kind. Then they encounter their sister ship, the U.S.S. Yamato, which appears to be drifting and with no signs of life.

Riker and Worf beam over to the Yamato. Worf, claiming to be “familiar” with the Yamato, recommends beaming onto the aft section of the bridge. Since the Enterprise is identical to the Yamato, his claim to be “familiar” with the ship is kind of amusing, but I’m betting the script was originally written for the Yamato to be a different class of ship (when the ship first shows on screen, Riker says, “It’s a Federation ship,” not “It’s another Galaxy-class ship that looks exactly like ours”), but they went with it being a sister ship to save money on models.

Anyhow, Riker and Worf are beamed onto separate corridors instead of the bridge, and each hears the other scream and runs to help. Corridors change configuration, there appear to be two bridges, and Riker’s tricorder reveals the corridors to be made of materials not available in the Federation.

The away team loses communications with the ship, and then the new conn officer — an obnoxious, whiny twerp named Haskell — detects a star-fix. It fades before they can beam the away team back. When the away team finally is beamed back on board, another star-fix shows, then fades before the Enterprise can reach it. Another appears — and then another, yet it keeps fading away before they can reach it.

Pulaski and Troi realize that the Enterprise is in a laboratory experiment. When they refuse to participate anymore, the experimenter appears: Nagilum. He expresses curiosity about humans (he only speaks to the full-blooded humans on the bridge, ignoring Worf and Troi), and is especially curious about death. He kills Haskell, in a particularly brutal fashion (he dies in the fetal position, eyes wide open and frightened), and then announces that he’ll kill half the ship.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Where Silence Has Lease”

Picard refuses to stand idly by and allow half his crew to be slaughtered, so he and Riker set the auto-destruct for twenty minutes. During that interval, Troi and Data visit Picard, and the latter asks about death, and both try to convince Picard that he should not destroy the ship, and does so in a ham-handed manner that Picard sees through fairly easily (as does the viewer, and much sooner than Picard does). Once Picard announces that Nagilum’s trick won’t work, and the images of Data and Troi vanish, the void is gone, and the Enterprise is in real space again. When he’s absolutely sure that this isn’t another trick, Picard aborts the auto-destruct.

Nagilum has one final word for Picard, that their species have nothing in common — Picard points out that they do share curiosity.

Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity?: The auto-destruct has been reprogrammed so that they can set the interval for when it happens, which is a change from “11001001,” when the interval was pre-set.

If I Only Had a Brain...: At the top of the episode, after Picard accuses Data’s lack of knowledge about the void to be unscientific, Data very properly retorts: “Captain, the most elementary and valuable statement in science, the beginning of wisdom, is ‘I do not know.’ I do not know what that is.”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Where Silence Has Lease”

There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: In the teaser, Riker joins Worf for his daily calisthenics program, which is an abandoned industrial complex overrun by jungle, filled with brutal creatures who must be fought. This sequence has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the episode (aside from a brief callback later on), but it’s fun to watch on its own, especially with Riker realizing just what Worf considers fun. (Picard is less sanguine, telling Troi that it’s best to remain ignorant of certain aspects of Klingon psyche.)

No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: When Nagilum realizes that humans are masculine and feminine, and Picard comments that the two genders allow for procreation, Nagilum asks for a demonstration. Pulaski rather fervently refuses.

The Boy!?: Apparently, Wes is only the conn officer when a redshirt isn’t needed to be killed. Handy for him.

I’m a Doctor, Not an Escalator: Pulaski expresses frustration with Data, wondering if “it” can follow simple instructions. Aside from that, and pithy comments about not procreating and how this was the wrong time to join the ship, she doesn’t really serve any function in this episode.

Welcome Aboard: Earl Boen plays Nagilum, a role apparently originally intended for Richard Mulligan (hence the name, a palindrome for the actor). Mulligan probably would’ve been more fun. Colm Meaney’s back as the still-unnamed transporter chief, though we get the first signs of his personality in this one. Charles Douglass plays Haskell to be the world’s most unpleasant person, which makes his brutal, painful death at Nagilum’s hands all the more nasty, because you find yourself feeling bad for the guy you don’t like. Of course, this being Star Trek, his death was given considering what color shirt he was wearing….

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Where Silence Has Lease”

I Believe I Said That: “Abort auto-destruct sequence.”
“Riker, William T., do you concur?”
“Yes! Absolutely! I do indeed concur! Whole-heartedly!”
“Auto-destruct canceled.”
“A simple ‘yes’ would have sufficed, Number One.”
“I didn’t want there to be any chance of a misunderstanding.”

Picard cancelling the auto-destruct, the computer requesting Riker’s consent, and Riker overselling his response.

Trivial Matters: Jack B. Sowards’s previous Trek writing credit was Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

This is Winrich Kolbe’s debut — he would go on to become one of the franchise’s most prolific and talented directors.

The Enterprise is exploring the “Morgana Quadrant,” a term that was used a bunch of times on both the original series and TNG before somebody realized that “quadrant” means “divided in four.”

Another interpretation of Worf’s Klingon legend of a black creature that eats starships will be seen in Voyager’s “Bliss.” The Yamato will be seen for real in “Contagion.” Worf’s calisthenics program will be used as a sex aid in “The Emissary.”

Make it So: “At ease, Lieutenant!” A claustrophobic episode that has its moments of tension and nastiness, and also plenty of moments of ludicrousness and padding. Haskell’s sudden unexplained appearance on the bridge was like painting a bull’s eye on his forehead, for all that his death was one of the more effective parts of the episode. Picard’s answer to Data’s question about death is surprisingly simplistic, the crew’s joyous response to the destruction of the Romulan ship a bit disturbing, and the end is a bit anticlimactic.


Warp factor rating: 4

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1. Hammerlock
Well, this episode did provide the internet with an entertaining animated gif meme thanks to Haskell's freaky death.
Margot Virzana
2. LuvURphleb
I guess wesley must use his unnatural traveler esque smarts to predict when he should arrive for his shift or not.
Love how nagilum does his probe spin to pulaski when babe troi is right there. Always wondered about that and like your note on his ignoring non humans and half breeds. or they just wanted a reAson for pulaski in the episode.
3. Tesh
It's interesting to me that Haskell's death is far more effective at generating empathy and fear than the silly "head explodey" death back in the ridiculous parasite episode. Far too often, writers go to the "shock and gore" approach when something like this is better.
David Levinson
4. DemetriosX
OK, so obviously I filed away Pulaski treating Data as a machine under "mispronouncing his name" and that definitely extended over a good chunk of the season.

I'll give the writers a slight break on Pulaski just dropping by the bridge. McCoy did it all the time, why shouldn't she. For that matter, Crusher does it all the time, too. It doesn't make much sense, but if you need the doctor in an episode that mostly takes place on the bridge, then she's just going to have to drop by for shits and giggles.

As for the rest of the episode, I think its main function is to make 3rd season TOS look not all that bad.
5. mundiel
I was 8 years old when this episode originally aired. I remember the first appearance of Nagillum's face and Haskell's death scaring the living !@#$ out of me. Bad memory burn....
6. Christopher L. Bennett
I was never too impressed by this episode, aside from really liking Ron Jones's score in the climactic sequence (which was recycled in "Booby Trap"'s climax when the producers thought Jones's original cue for that sequence sounded "too Europop" or something). The main thing that stood out for me was a glaring discontinuity -- Data saying that no Starfleet vessel had ever encountered anything like the "hole in space," even though it bore a striking resemblance to the "zone of darkness" from TOS: "The Immunity Syndrome." In more recent years, I've learned that by this time, Roddenberry considered a lot of TOS apocryphal and wished to distance himself from the elements he found embarrassing, so I wonder if he deliberately put in that line of Data's as an oblique way of trying to remove the preposterous giant space amoeba from continuity.

Not that Nagilum was any less preposterous, really. By this point, the "superpowerful alien testing humanity" trope was really getting tired, especially given that TNG had already established Q doing that on a recurring basis. And Nagilum was a pretty silly visual effect, just an actor's eyes and mouth matted together with the nose cut out. (Oh, and despite what Monty Python would have us believe, "Nagil(l)um" is an antigram of "Mulligan," not a palindrome of it.)

Still, I kind of liked the quiet, contemplative stuff with Picard near the end. And Data's line about "I do not know" being the beginning of wisdom is a very good statement that everyone who posts on the Internet, or serves in government or engages in political punditry, could stand to learn from.

And is the starship Yamato the first anime reference worked into TNG? I know there are a bunch more to come, mostly in Okudagrams.
7. John R. Ellis
Out of all the episodes of TNG where a nigh omnipotent alien decided to screw with humanity just-for-the-heck-of-it, this is definitely one of them!


Not a very memorable episode.
Chris Hawks
8. SaltManZ
@6: Why would you think Yamato is an anime reference?
9. John R. Ellis
Space Battleship Yamato (syndicated in somewhat altered form in the US as Star Blazers) was a very popular anime series, back in the 70s and 80s.
10. Pendard
Not a very memorable episode, except for the holodeck scene at the beginning. I always liked that scene because it made Worf seem very alien -- at one point, he becomes so aggressive that Riker starts to get afraid of him. Early TNG has a lot of great moments like this for Worf that remind us that he comes from a very different value system than we do ("The Icarus Factor," "The Enemy" and "Reunion" are some good examples). I always look back at these moments longingly when I'm watching Domestic Worf on Deep Space Nine. (DS9 did a lot of great things, but their use of Worf wasn't one of them!)

The Yamato was a Japanese battleship in World War II (actually, an entire class of them), just like the Enterprise was an American battleship in World War II. It seems more likely Starfleet is making a reference to that (although I suppose the TNG writers could have been referencing anime).
11. Christopher L. Bennett
Well, yes, obviously in-universe it was meant to reference the WWII battleship, or perhaps the broader spiritual embodiment of Japan that the name represents. But it's a well-known fact that the production staff of TNG, mainly Rick Sternbach & Michael Okuda, were constantly inserting in-joke references to anime, particularly Dirty Pair, in graphics and dialogue. There's an element keiyurium, a Ferengi's access code began with "Kei Yuri," "Peak Performance"'s war games were called "Operation Lovely Angel," etc. The only other thing that got more in-joke references was Buckaroo Banzai. So it's not an unreasonable conjecture that the use of the name Yamato may have been part of that same practice.
12. Cradok
I've always liked this episode. Q never struck me as being truly alien, probably because he appeared as a human. And although he killed people to make a point, he always brought them back. Nagilum was much more sinister.

Things like the visit to the Yamato were a bit stupid, though.
13. don3comp
@ 12 cradok Q let several crew members die in "Q Who" when the Borg damaged the ship. I do not think that he brought them back.
j p
14. sps49
This was probably the first episode I watched after giving up on the first season. I thought it was too talky and a pale shadow of what I thought was it's template, "The Corbomite Maneuver". And who isn't tired of uber-powerful space douches by this point? And how many more are coming?

USS Yamato- the source, "in-universe" or whatever, is the battleship. During Star Trek's development in the 60s, producers were trying different names for the then-12 vessel Constitution class. Drafts included US carriers, then some British carriers, then a Russian battleship, and I think the Yamato made a later list. Regardless, most references to "Yamato" will refer to the battleship or Japan, not the anime- which is, of course, named after the same battleship.

And the only way the WWII vintage aircraft carrier Enterprise can be called a "battleship" is if "warship" is poorly translated.
Michael Poteet
15. MikePoteet
No real feelings about this episode, but I do want to say I wish I'd appreciated Dr. Pulaski more while she was around. At the time, I missed Dr. Crusher, and I was excited when she returned for season 3 -- I foolishly thought it meant the show would spend more time examining her and Picard's tortured backstory (really, why go to the lengths to set all that up, only to leave it hanging until the final season? Chalk it up to different expectations of 1980s TV, I guess...) I resented Pulaski for her gruff demeantor, her acerbic wit, and most of all for being "not Crusher."

Looking back, though, I see that she was an intriguing attempt to "shake things up" on the good ship Enterprise, and, as others have noted, very much in the vein of McCoy. So a belated "huzzah" from me to Kate Pulaski. I'm glad she's enjoyed an after life in the Trek "EU."
16. Pendard
@don3comp (#13): True, Q did neglect to resurrect the crew members killed by the Borg. He's more than happy to stand by as people die, but he never actually killed anyone himself. That wouldn't be entertaining for him.

@sps49 (#14): I admit I don't know the difference between a battleship and a warship. My knowledge of naval warfare pretty much begins and ends with Patrick O'Brian and I generally think boats got much less interesting when they got rid of sails. :-)
17. Shard
That Green Face alien STILL gives me the willes, I remember when I first saw it how scared it made me feel. I thought this was a much better then a 4.
18. Cradok
@13 don3comp Yeah, but as Penard says, there's a distinction between doing the deed, and doing noting while it happens, even if he was the one who put someone in a position where it might happen in the first place. Q may have put the Enterprise in J-25, but it was Picard who made the decisions that led to the deaths.
19. Chessara
Well, life got in the way and I got behind on the rewatch, but I'm finally catching up! :)

Wow...I'm really surprised by how little I remember this episode! I thought it might happen with season 1 eps, as the show was on its third season when I started watching regularly, but no...I'm chalking it up to the "Pulaski Effect" in that I disliked her so much that any reruns of any episode she was in I must have inmediately changed the channel :p

Which is why I thought, re-watching "The Child" that maybe I had been too hard on her, because in that episode she's not that bad, besides mispronouncing Data's name...but in this one?! Boy!! Actually turning away from Data and asking Picard if "it" knew how to follow instructions????? I think I hate her more now than I did back then! I mean, what exactly gave her the right to treat a Starfleet officer like that when the rest of the crew clearly did not? It was just too heavy handed on part of the writers to establish her as the "McCoy-like doctor" but I don't think Bones would ever have been so callous and rude...even to a "machine".

The sudden unexplained appearance of the redshirt at the conn really bothered me until he was killed...then it all became clear! Of course Wes couldn't be there! :D

I liked the Worf&Riker scene at the beginning, (that little bit I did remember), when Worf gets too intense and Riker gets uneasy and afraid of showed an unpredictable side to Worf that I thought was very interesting, in terms of future character development.
@Pendard: too bad they "domesticated" Worf in DS9...yet another reason for me to not like that show :(
Justin Devlin
20. EnsignJayburd
4 is way too generous a score, IMO.

This episode is a real stinker, but like all Trek it has its moments. Data stating that "I do not know" being the beginning of wisdom always resonated with me. I had never heard that before.

Haskell's death scene was well acted and you can't help feeling sorry for him even though he was a badly written twerp. Some might even find that scene to be a bit racist and I can't say I would really blame them.
21. crzydroid
Not sure what everyone thinks was so annoying about Haskell...just that he was eager to get out before Riker and Worf beamed back? Still, seems a little harsh.

Anyway, making it the sister ship was probably to save money on sets, rather than models, as the Excelsior model and Oberth model had already been used on the show and established as classes of ships that were still in use.
22. NullNix
It's pretty clear to me that there aren't two bridges on the Yamato, btw: what we have instead is a general theme of spacial manipulation. The bridge has merely been connected to itself, just as the region of space the Enterprise is sitting in is connected to itself, so that when you leave one door you come into the other. (Of course, this has to be active manipulation, done after they entered the bridge for the first time). This is made clear when Worf looks through one door and sees Riker standing in the 'other' bridge.
23. Nick P.
3 points:

I still disagree with people on this episode. Not only do I like it, I think it is in my top 20 ever. I have always been a true classic sci-fi fan. Of the Arthur C. Clarke type. I always prefer episodes like this. This is classic sci-fi! Exploration, alien intellegence, mystery, what is death? The second season had a bunch of these, and I like them all! I think there are different types of Star Trek fans, and i think a good majority are those that think Science Fiction is just a method to discuss social justice and crap like that. If you want social justice, go get an f-ing poli-sci book. Sci-fi is about exploring the unknown, and that is why I LOVE these types of episodes. It is also why I generaly give Voyager a pass.

Second, I agree with MikePoteet, in that I really miss Kate Pulaski. I hated her when she was there, but after 20 years, I realy wonder how the show would of went if she had stayed?

Third, The "domestication" of Worf was season 5 of TNG (What I like to call season crap), not DS9. DS9 did nothing to fix him, but they did not cause the problem.
24. Electone
Nick P. - agree with each of your points. My favourite part of this episode is Picard awating oblivion in his quarters, Erik Satie playing in the background and his discussions about death with the fake Data and Troi. Wonderful stuff from Patrick Stewart. Pretty good episode considering it was a budget conscious bottle show.
25. null
@christopher who will probably never see this. It's not an antigram (which is an anagram which has the meaning opposite of the original term: restful/fluster) nor is it a palidrome (a word which spells the same backwards and forwards: racecar), but an ananym (an anagram that spells the reverse of the way it's spelled forward: alucard/dracula)
26. DPC

Seasons 5 and 6 were by and large craptacular to be sure...

I too miss Pulaski -- Crusher was good at times, but Pulaski was the first attempt to add a character that rubs the wrong way. (Ro would be next, but she would disappear too...) And for fans' vitriol of Pulaski being a McCoy-wannabe, DS9 and every other spinoff gleefully made actual McCoy clones. Pulaski still had a vestigate of an original personality that could not be pawned off as something McCoy would do.

I love "Silence". For being a "ship in the bottle episode" (to cut costs), there is a decent amount of suspense and intrigue, even if we've all seen the zone of darkness shtick once in TOS. It still works. Earl Boen passes as the amoral Nagillum... and, yes, Trek was always about exploration. "Silence" exemplifies this great quality. (Though "Voyager" had everyone trying to get home while assimilating the Maquis rebels... it seemed "anti-Trek" at times, or perhaps, "inverse-Trek"...)

I wonder how this episode will look on Blu-Ray, given the Nagilum scenes all have to be redone from scratch, apparently...
27. Electone
Happen to catch this one on tv again yesterday and noticed an odd little tidbit. When Nagilum is speaking to the bridge crew and is naming them off, he mentions everyone by their last names except Laforge who he calls "Geordi". I wonder if it was a slip of the tongue by the actor playing Nagillum.
28. TDanger19
I actually liked this episode a lot when it first aired, although I was very young at the time (Nagilum's appearance was actually quite startling back then). In retrospect, it's fairly average, like most of the early episodes, but I still like it.
30. 2ndTenor
Pretty average episode but if it was part of season 1 it would probably creep into the top 5. At the end of the Masters of the Universe movie (which starred Robert Duncan 'Tom Paris' McNeil) Skeletor said "I'll be back". It appears he resurfaced in this episode when he fought Riker at the start. I could've sworn the skull prop used was the same one as that worn by Frank Langella in the MOTU movie, probably to cut down on the costs.
31. Josh Luz
I don't necessarily think that "quadrant" is misused here or in the past because we don't really know what it's a quadrant of. Sure, Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta are used to divide the galaxy into fourths, but I would just assume this "Morgana" is part of a smaller segment of space that someone, the Federation or some local civilizations, designated.

This episode always creeped me out as a kid. Nagilum still does, to be honest.

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