Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Where Silence Has Lease"

***

Air date: 11/28/1988
Written by Jack B. Sowards
Directed by Winrich Kolbe

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

The Enterprise is swallowed into a mysterious void, and every likely means of escape turns out to be a hopeless cause. It's surprisingly intriguing and entertaining, much more so than I remembered. The early stages might best be described as "sci-fi procedural," where the story elements are played for their mystery value and overall atmosphere. The episode doesn't get overly worked up about the strange things going on, but simply observes the Enterprise crew as they try to solve the dilemma. This laid-back approach (with danger implied rather than explicit) somehow makes the episode more effective.

All the usual solutions fail: They deploy a beacon, travel away from it as far as they can, only to arrive upon it again, as if they were running in circles. When holes in the void appear and offer an escape, they then suddenly seal at just the last moment, as if on purpose. When the Enterprise's sister ship, the USS Yamato, appears, Riker and Worf beam over to investigate, but find an empty vessel and a variety of funhouse tricks and illusions. This leads to a humorous sequence where Worf gets fed up and goes on a rampage: "This ship has one bridge! One bridge! One Commander Riker! One bridge!" And Riker has had it too: "Let's put all this technology to work and get the hell out of here!" It's fun to see the TNG characters lose their cool.

Ultimately, the Enterprise crew realizes they're being toyed with ("Rats in a maze," Pulaski observes) in an experiment by a superior intelligent being that calls itself Nagilum (Earl Boen, obscured by visual effects). What doesn't work, alas, is Nagilum himself; as alien designs go he's an exercise in stunning hokiness. Furthermore, his revealed agenda — to understand human death by killing half the crew — strikes me as manufactured for the sake of jeopardy. If Nagilum is so smart, why does he need to kill half the crew to understand death? Nagilum's first victim would've been Wesley — if not for the fact that Wesley is conveniently away from his post during only the scene where someone needs to die. Standing in for him is a Black Guy in a Thankless Role, whose sole purpose is to be killed. This red-shirt death is so blatantly transparent that it possibly outdoes every red-shirt death on the original series.

Not willing to be killed one by one, Picard and Riker arm the self-destruct sequence. Awaiting The End, Picard has a fascinating speech on the philosophies of death that's an example of Trekkian dialog at its finest. It's enough to convince Nagilum to release the ship, which only fuels my belief that his whole death experiment was a pointless enterprise.

Previous episode: The Child
Next episode: Elementary, Dear Data

Season Index

13 comments on this review

Damien - Fri, Apr 24, 2009 - 7:23am (USA Central)
"Where Silence Has Lease" – what a truly horrible episode! One of the worst. The acting and dialog was laughably bad and stilted throughout, the void of nothingness didn't look like a void, but a bluish mist – how is it like staring into infinity more so than the infinite blackness of normal space? How did the sensors report absolutely nothing, when clearly it was either emitting or reflecting blue/purple light?

And what the heck was that Riker/Worf holodeck crap all about at the beginning?

Then for some reason Pulaski comes to the bridge with more bad dialog and proceeds to (annoyingly) raise view screen magnifications. This is like a bad fan based amateur production.

There's some left field comment about rats in a maze and we of course later learn that that's exactly the Enterprises predicament. You see, there's this vastly superior intellect that, naturally, is fascinated by humans and wishes to learn more about them by killing them! A red shirt promptly buys the farm.

Only one thing to do – self destruct the ship! Should it be done instantly to prevent unnecessary suffering and anguish amongst the crew as they count down the minutes and seconds to their deaths? Nah, give them 20 mins to stew over it, after all, it's a nice round number, lol!

Then there's the god-awful Picard answer about what death is, full of new age, mystical mambo-jumbo. In the end, the self destruct is aborted and the entity gives some spiel about mans' failings: selfishness, conflict, rashness, quick to judge, aggressive, hostile, yadda, yadda. For a totally alien, disembodied intelligence, it sure seems to understand corporeal human concepts, emotions and motivations pretty well.

In the final scene, as they zoom away from the 'hole', we have a TOSian moment of levity. Apparently everything is all right now - who cares if a member of the crew was actually killed? Urgh, a horrible, horrible episode!
Nick P. - Thu, Sep 23, 2010 - 12:33am (USA Central)
Again, mostly agree.

@ Damians comments on the silence has lease. almost all of Trek has crazy plotholes. As people keep bringing up the lawyer argument for measure of a man. YES, obviously it doesn't make a TON of sense, but they are "possible", and they are thought provoking to be good enough for me. But you do bring up an interesting point, and something that has always bugged me about Star Trek and Sci-Fi in general, and that is the cliche of the alien that finds humans, determines they are a childish, dangerous, murderous, blood thirsty lower race, so Lets' kill them? Really, that is the high-brow answer? That is liberals letting their opinions through, but I digress.

I agree with Time Squared being GREAT, in fact I wold say the time travel here is among the most interest time travel stories in any sci-fi medium or beyond. I can watch that episode over and over again. However, I have always found it odd how much people hate Hotel Royal? It is not as good as time squared, but it is still an awesome episode, even thinking about that skeleton they find dying alone in that hotel room, still raises the hairs on my arm. The side characters blew, but I thought it was still a chilling, fascinating episode none-theless.

I guess it always bothered me how the show was essentially based on exploring mysteries, yet for some reason the "exploring mystery" episodes are consistenly the least popular???
Jay - Mon, Sep 5, 2011 - 10:13am (USA Central)
Okay, in "Where Silence Has Lease", Wesley at one point states that he's calculated the outer boundary of the anomoly, but a few minutes later Data announces that the anomoly has no dimensions. Which is it?
xaaos - Thu, Nov 8, 2012 - 10:39am (USA Central)
I found the scene between Riker and "going rampage" Worf in the holodeck quite hilarious. I bet Riker went and changed his pants after that. xD
Rikko - Sun, Dec 9, 2012 - 2:10pm (USA Central)
The episode wasn't that bad until Nagilum appeared. At least, prior to that revelation things were intriguing enough and the menace could've been anything.

But when you get a floating face in space, you're pushing the limits of what I'd consider Sci-Fi.

@ Damien: You totally nailed it.
Chris - Sat, Dec 15, 2012 - 12:52pm (USA Central)
In the opening scene, when Picard is fretting about Worf and Riker, either the holodeck safeties are on, which means there should be nothing to worry about, or the safeties are off, which certainly seems to be something Picard shouldn't be permitting. A dumb, self-indulgent opening scene, and surely one of the most utterly detached to the remaining content of the episode "teasers" ever.
Landon - Thu, Jan 24, 2013 - 9:11pm (USA Central)
This episode is one I remember watching as a kid, with such unique and cool scenes as when Riker and Worf keep seeing themselves in multiple bridges. I never could remember the title until I found it again when I bought the ssn 2 dvd. VERY good episode, I agree with all you said, Jammer, the only problrm I had was with the self-destruct solution, still not a big deal though, A very memorable, visceral and unique episode.

I also liked Casino Royalw and agree with above comments, I found it fascinating but , agrreing again, not as much as Time Squared which I still, somehow, can watch over and over and not thoroughly grasp...
Corey - Tue, Mar 12, 2013 - 3:47pm (USA Central)
I agree with Jammer's star rating for this episode. Everyone's already mentioned the weaknesses of the episode, which explains why it is not 4 stars, but I enjoyed the rather strange sci-fi premise, and both the characters and the audience didn't know what was going on until 1/2 way through or so, so that was nice.

Once I see an episode of Star Trek, I usually don't think much of them later, but this particular one gets in my dreams/daydreams. Namely, imagining I'm actually a powerful human, and am board the Enterprise during that incident. Then, with Picard's blessing, this "insignificant" human teaches that Negilium a lesson. Then, once safe, I help the Enterprise out of there.

Because Negilium is so powerful, he has probably been doing this to other species, learning about death. The injustice of it all, just calls myself to act against him, if I could and he were real.

Any episode that can arouse all this in me, can't be as bad some of you are making it out to be, in my opinion.
William B - Wed, Apr 3, 2013 - 7:51am (USA Central)
I quite like the sense of mystery and dread in the opening half of the episode, and the various directorial touches accompanying it. I like the second half of the episode, too, except for the gratuitous (and hilarious) redshirt death. The two halves don't quite mesh well together, and the second half goes way too quickly -- if Picard really wasn't bluffing, then I think he offers to destroy the ship too easily, though if he was bluffing it's one hell of a bluff. I think on the low end of 3 stars is a fair rating.
SkepticalMI - Thu, Sep 5, 2013 - 9:10pm (USA Central)
Sadly, I have to admit that a lot of commenters are right. I remember having fond memories of this episode as a kid, mostly due to the scenes on the Yamato. Looking back at it now, though, you can definitely the flaws in it. Part of it was just poor directing. Picard's nervousness about Riker's holodeck game was rather stupid misdirection, making Picard out of character just to make people think they were in actual danger. Geordi's comment about being a rat in a maze came way too early, particularly since Picard acted surprised 10 minutes later when someone else made a similar comment. And some of the early confusion at the beginninig of the void-mystery was too slow and talky.

And Nagilum's assessment of humanity at the end was annoying. Q did that a year ago, do we really need a rehash? Picard should have rolled his eyes at that comment. Also, why did he make a point about Pulaski being different, and not Worf? Speaking of which, Pulaski's gratuitous Data bashing was annoying. We had that as her character defining moment last episode, and the next episode it's a major plot point. It wasn't needed here.

That said, there were several highlights. Worf's calisthenics program, the beacon scene, the Yamato bridge scene, and Riker's "wholeheartedly" concurrent decision to end the autodestruct. Also, two particular aspects worth mentioning:

- As bad as the pacing and directing was in some aspects, the Romulan Warbird scene was great. It came at the right time, when we were totally confused and wanted to know what was going on. Suddenly, the mystery seemed to go to something we know, something we can understand. Sure, a few seconds of consideration would make it clear that this is beyond what we know about the Romulans, but who had time to think? The tempo increased, and the action and tension spiked up. And just as suddenly, it disappeared. Picard's comment fit everything the audience was thinking: "That was too easy."

- I didn't catch it years ago, but it does seem that Picard fully expected Nagilum to be satisfied with the auto-destruct and fully expected that they would survive the deal. It did seem like one large bluff, and his comment afterward seemed to confirm this. I hope that was the intent, as otherwise the auto-destruct just seems to come out of nowhere and the solution only seems to be Nagilum's mercy (which goes against his character).

Also, I think this is the first "Enterprise is trapped by a spacial anomaly" episode that would become rather cliched in the future.
Nick P. - Mon, Sep 30, 2013 - 4:04pm (USA Central)
I can't lie...I don't love the Auto-Destruct plot device, BUT, I do feel it was a reasonable response to their predicament. And I feel it was very likely a bluff on Picards part. But for it to work, he couldn't tell anyone, even Riker (it is assumed Nagilum could monitor everything going on)

In other words I can't consider it a flaw since I could see a real ship commander doing this...Further didn't Kirk do that a bunch of times?
Nick P. - Mon, Sep 30, 2013 - 4:05pm (USA Central)
Sorry, one more thing...the atmosphere in this episode is wonderful. I give the director full credit, even after seeing this one probably 10 times, this episode chills me from beginning to end. I remember one night years ago, it came on late at night, and I turned the TV OFF as soon as nagilums face shows up....Come on that is creepy!!!
Tom - Fri, Mar 28, 2014 - 12:27pm (USA Central)
I can't rate this low enough. Nagilum is like a bad version of Q. Picard's answer about death wasn't a great moment, it was a lot of nonsense. "Considering matter, energy, gravitation, time, dimension, the look on my cat's face, well I think that there must be something beyond, our experience must be part of a reality within a reality..." Poor Data must have been confused. He almost saved very bad dialogue with good acting, but not quite. And then Troy helpfully points out: "We must not let ourselves die Jean-Luc." What an insightful comment.

Submit a comment

Above, type the last name of the captain on Star Trek: TNG
Notify me about new comments on this page
Hide my e-mail on my post

Season Index

Copyright © 1994-2014, Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of any review or article on this site is prohibited. Star Trek (in all its myriad forms), Battlestar Galactica, and Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda are trademarks of CBS Studios Inc., NBC Universal, and Tribune Entertainment, respectively. This site is in no way affiliated with or authorized by any of those companies. | Copyright & Disclaimer