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Where Silence Has Lease

Series : The Next Generation Rating : 4
Disc No : 2.1 Episode : 27
First Aired : 28 Nov 1988 Stardate : 42193.6
Director : Winrich Kolbe Year : 2365
Writers : Jack B. Sowards Season : 2
Guest Cast :
Charles Douglass as Haskell
Colm Meaney as Miles Edward O'Brien
Diana Muldaur as Dr. Katherine Pulaski
Earl Boen as Nagilum
Guy Vardaman as Darien Wallace
Moral :
Experimentation : Always keep in mind that the rats may not like being in the maze
Guest Reviews :
Rating : 4.0000 for 1 reviewsView existing reviewsAdd your own review
YATI : Data claims there is no record of a ship finding an area of darkness like this one. Yet Kirk and the original Enterprise found something similar in "The immunity Syndrome". Since Data is supposed to be a repository of virtually all Federation knowledge, shouldn't he know this?

Riker gives the Yamato's registry number as NCC-1305-E, which is incorrect according to the ship's later appearence in TNG. Apparently Mike Okuda never corrected the line in the script because the scene was deleted - but the scene was then reinserted without his knowledge, and he didn't know about it until he saw the finished episode on television.

When Picard and Riker order autodestruct, the computer asks them what time interval they would like. Yet the first time this was used in "11001001", Picard commented that they had no choice about the time, it was a fixed 5 minute countdown.

This episode opens with Picard apparently genuinely worried that Worf might 'snap' and go berserk on Riker during a holodeck training exercise. Really? Worf has gone through a four year academy training program and served long enough to be the tactical officer on the Federation flagship... and everyone is so unsure of his mental stability that they think he might attack a shipmate over a little exercise? And even more absurd... he actually comes very close to doing exactly that!

Okay, this is reeeeealy nitpicky, but... when he's confronted with a duplicate of the main bridge on the Yamato, Worf declares angrily that "A ship has one bridge! One bridge!" Well... actually no, the Galaxy class has two bridges - the main one on the saucer section, and the battle bridge in the engineering hull. Yes, I know Worf meant one main bridge, but he's still technically wrong!

When they first try to get out of the hole, the Enterprise goes to impulse. After a minute or two they go to Warp 2. We watch them sit at warp 2 for an continuous, uncut 18 seconds, at which point Picard asks Data how far they have travelled and he replies 1.4 parsecs. A parsec is 3.26 light years, so they have covered 4.564 light years in 18 seconds - which would make Warp 2 an impressive 8,000,000 time the speed of light!

Great Moment : I love Picard's discussion of death with Data and Troi, and his eventual realization that they are fakes.
Body Count : One redshirt, Lieutenant Haskell. It's an especially funny redshirt moment because it's just so obviously a transparent avoidance of killing a main character. Wesley Crusher has been in that station all episode long... but when they need a casualty, Wesley vanishes, poor Haskell gets killed, and then shortly afterwards Wesley is back there again!
Factoid : This was the first episode to feature Worf's holodeck exercise program. The skull-headed creature included in the program may look a little familiar - his skull head is the same mask used for Skeletor in the He-Man movie!

The music Picard chooses for his final minutes is Eric Satie's "Gymnopedie #1".

The episode title is from the poem "The Spell of the Yukon" by Robert Service : "It's the great, big, broad land 'way up yonder... It's the forests where silence has lease... It's the beauty that thrills me with wonder... It's the stillness that fills me with peace."

Quote : "Yes. Absolutely. I do indeed concur wholeheartedly!" - Riker when asked by the computer if he concurs in aborting the autodestruct sequence.

Plotline

The Enterprise encounters a strange "hole" in space, a region totally empty of both matter and energy - yet which the ship's sensors cannot see through. Probes sent into the region simply vanish; the Enterprise closes to investigate, and the hole suddenly expands to enclose the ship. Picard orders the ship to reverse course, but no matter how fast they fly they do not reach the edge of the hole. Without external reference points it is unlcear whether the ship is actually moving as intended, so they drop a beacon so that they can confirm their progress. The beacon falls behind as intended... but then they detect it ahead. Somehow the ship has circled around whilst travelling in a straight line.

Another Starship appears, the USS Yamato - a Galaxy class vessel like the Enterprise. Riker and Worf beam aboard but the vessel is deserted. They find the internal geometry of the ship altered in a bizzare and apparently impossible manner - walking out of a bridge exit only to find themselves walking in on the other side. Analysis also reveals that the materials used to build the ship are not used by the Federation, meaning it cannot possibly be the real Yamato.

A frustrated Riker and Worf beam back to the Enterprise; shortly afterwards a Romulan Warbird decloaks and fires on the Enterprise. Picard responds with a single photon torpedo, which utterly destroys the Romulan ship. Picard reasons that the brief battle was won far too easily, and the ship must not have been a real vessel.

A face appears on the viewscreen, announcing itself as Nagilum - apparently a member of some highly advanced species. Nagilum reveals that he has been investigating the Enterprise crew, as a scientist might observe mice in a maze. Nagilum is especially interested in death, and kills one of the bridge crew in order to see how he dies. It declares that it intends to continue with these experiments, but assures Picard that only one third to one half of the crew will be killed.

Faced with no way to evade or defeat Nagilum, Picard decides to destroy the Enterprise rather than be the subject of such experiments. He sets the autodestruct system, leaving the crew 20 minutes to prepare for the end - Picard himself relaxes in his quarters with some classical music and a good book. Whilst he is there Data and Troi arrive and Data questions Picard on the nature of death. Both officers agree that it is wrong for Picard to kill the crew, and urge him to abort the autodestruct sequence. Picard realises that his officers would never react in such a way, and that the people in his quarters are fakes; they both vanish at his reaction.

Riker calls from the bridge to reveal that the hole in space has vanished, and the Enterprise is free. Picard goes to the bridge but hesitates to abort the autodestruct, wondering if this is another trick of Nagilum's. Finally he aborts the countdown with seconds to spare, with Riker's relieved support.

Afterwards, Nagilum appears in Picard's ready room and shares his unflattering analysis of Humanity. Picard states that during their encounter they have been evaluating Nagilum as well... and wonders threateningly if perhaps one day the two species might meet for real amongst the stars. At his words Nagilum simply vanishes, leaving Picard alone with his thoughts.

Analysis

An excellent episode, this. The idea of a super-intelligence testing Humanity in some way is not a new one for Trek - hell, Encounter at Farpoint is a classic example - but this puts an interesting spin on it. Most times this happens, the crew are presented with some difficult problem to solve, which they then proceed to wrap up nicely. Here, Nagilum puts the crew in a position where the problem is impossible to solve. Watching them bounce off the walls trying to work out what the hell is going on makes for a good mystery, and the episode creates a definite air of paranoia.

Nagilum's threat to wipe out half the crew is chilling not only because he is perfectly willing and capable of doing it, but also because of the incredibly matter-of-fact way that he reveals his intentions. There's no malevolence about it, any more than a present day scientist is being nasty when he kills off a bunch of bacteria in a petri dish.

Picard's response to the situation is exactly in character and totally believable. I love how he chooses to spend his last minutes, and I love his conversation with the fake Data and Troi. His hesitation over aborting the autodestruct sequence is well played, with Riker's addition breaking the tension nicely.

And the last scene... Picard's little dig at Nagilum, followed by the implication that there will be a little payback down the line... somewhere... someday... nicely done.


Copyright Graham Kennedy Page views : 2,682 Last updated : 1 Jul 2014