“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
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.
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.
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.”
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 .
I Believe I Said That: “Abort auto-destruct sequence.”
“Riker, William T., do you concur?”
“Yes! Absolutely! I do indeed concur! Whole-heartedly!”
“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
Keith R.A. DeCandido really wants you all to buy SCPD: The Case of the Claw. Seriously, it’s good stuff—it’s about cops in a city filled with superheroes and it’s incredibly brilliant. Would I lie? There are ordering links at Keith’s web site, which is also a gateway to his blog, Facebook, and Twitter, not to mention his twice-monthly podcast Dead Kitchen Radio.