Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Where Silence Has Lease"

3 stars

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

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81 comments on this post

Fri, Apr 24, 2009, 7:23am (UTC -6)
"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 (UTC -6)
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???
Mon, Sep 5, 2011, 10:13am (UTC -6)
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?
Thu, Nov 8, 2012, 10:39am (UTC -6)
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
Sun, Dec 9, 2012, 2:10pm (UTC -6)
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.
Sat, Dec 15, 2012, 12:52pm (UTC -6)
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.
Thu, Jan 24, 2013, 9:11pm (UTC -6)
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...
Tue, Mar 12, 2013, 3:47pm (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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.
Thu, Sep 5, 2013, 9:10pm (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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!!!
Fri, Mar 28, 2014, 12:27pm (UTC -6)
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.
Mon, Aug 4, 2014, 7:55am (UTC -6)
This episode is a mess, as is typical with early-season Star Trek.

So the alien proposes to kill half the crew and Picard's reasonable answer is to threaten to destroy the ship? It doesn't seem to me that he was bluffing. Picard and Riker ponder the self-destruct delay at some leangth.

Oh...and what's with Q-lite?
Tue, Nov 11, 2014, 8:48pm (UTC -6)
They make a big deal of Data searching the records to see if any starship has encountered such a void in space before, and Data reports no instances of one. Guess Data never saw "The Immunity Syndrome".
Diamond Dave
Sat, Aug 22, 2015, 1:19pm (UTC -6)
This one reminds me in some ways of a TOS episode, if only because of the mysterious and omnipotent adversary but a classic crew death (say what you like, but the guy playing Haskell really gets into it!).

I liked the atmosphere created up to the revelation of Nagilum, after which it seemed to make some strange plot choices ("It wants to kill half of us? A-ha, I'll kill us all..."). And Nagilum did seem to be parroting Q, which was odd as the crew hadn't really demonstrated the traits described... So overall, a missed opportunity - 2.5 stars.
Sat, Sep 5, 2015, 6:50am (UTC -6)
Honestly, I'd give this 3 or even 3.5 stars. The slow pace and brooding tone in the first half are perfectly executed. We get a rare example of a good mystery plot -- the characters make (mostly) rational attempts to figure things out, sometimes things go wrong, but every step brings new information, and the characters don't make any impossible leaps of logic for the convenience of the script.

Sadly, as with so many good TNG episodes, the payoff doesn't do the setup justice. Nagilum is far less threatening and interesting than the mystery preceding him. Worse, the script uses him to set up a classic Star Trek morality debate. Not only is this completely disjointed from the first half of the episode, but the "debate" is completely inane, and Picard's actions are jarringly out-of-character.

So yeah, lots of flaws. But I loved the setup so damn much.
Tue, Apr 19, 2016, 10:57am (UTC -6)
The only thing I really hated was them conveniently writing out Wesley Crusher so the poor red shirt guy can die. But maybe I'm nitpicking.
Sun, Jul 3, 2016, 12:09am (UTC -6)
I always wondered if the alien entity was of the Jewish faith? Isn't there a song called Hava Nagilum?
Fri, Nov 11, 2016, 9:02am (UTC -6)
Creepy, weird, interesting - but once again they have to create a villain with a human face and make it all about gambits and wrap-up endings.

The scene on the Yamato was good, they should have made that bit three times longer and weirder, and never bothered wth Nagilum (why would it even have a name??).
Wed, Feb 1, 2017, 2:44pm (UTC -6)
3.5 stars Jammer?
You must be having a laugh.
This was one of the crappiest fiascos yet: and it has lots of competition from the first series.

Number one dire component is the yawn-yawn-godlike superbeing-this was also the trouble with every other episode of the animated series but enough is enough.

Number two is gratuitous killing of redshirt guy on the bridge

And then we have the self destruct sequence-oh god please no-there is no tension-we know the ship isn't going to get blown to hell but I was hoping.

The direction-a disaster with big empty moments everywhere.

Picard philosophising on death-childlike!

0 stars
Fri, Feb 17, 2017, 10:18am (UTC -6)
Funny how it always seems to be the nutjob religious types who have a problem with Picard's musings on death...

My biggest issue with this so-so episode is the way Haskell is just suddenly there in act two, right where Wesley was. At that moment you just know Wesley's only been replaced so they can kill off a redshirt. If Haskell had been there from the start of the episode, or if Wesley had been given a good reason to leave his post and be replaced, it might not have been quite so glaringly obvious. As it stands, they might as well have put a giant neon sign above Haskell's head that said RED SHIRT in all-caps.
Tue, Apr 18, 2017, 5:35pm (UTC -6)
An episode with some good points (1st half hour, the mystery, Riker/Worf on the Yamato being toyed with) but plenty of bad points (Nagilum as another type of Q, Picard's speech on death, the red-shirt death that should have been Wesley).
Brings to mind "The Immunity Syndrome" from TOS (which was a vastly superior episode) albeit ultimately very different.
I agree with what others have said re. Pulaski's interactions with Data -- who does she think she is coming on the bridge and asking Data to magnify the void x times? That was stupid and unnecessary. Also, what was the point of Worf/Riker fooling around in the holodeck as the show's teaser?
Overall, not a great episode because the ending is a letdown to a promising beginning. I'd give it 2/4 stars. I think Jammer is too generous in his rating.
Thu, Jun 1, 2017, 6:55am (UTC -6)
I was pretty baffled by why this episode would be rated 3 stars.

I guess it boils down to Jamahl's impression that Picard delivered an excellent, Trek-worthy speech on the topic of death. I watched it again and thought about it. Honestly, Picard doesn't "nail" anything in his speech. He doesn't clarify the philosophy of Star Trek very much.

There is a big difference to how the episode "Measure of a Man" lays out the beautiful philosophy of Star Trek to us compared to how vague Picard stays in "Where Silence has Lease".

So, he says that there must be some metaphysics, because the universe is created very beautifully (with natural forces balancing each other out, et cetera). Picard's personal opinion is that some sort of metaphysics must exist; reality can't be reduced to a mathematical and physical description. Such a belief obviously leads him to having respect for other beings, because he doesn't see them simply as soulless automatons. In that regard, a similar topic is touched as in "The Measure of a Man", where it is ruled that Data is a person, because he might have a "soul".

You could say that "Where Silence has Lease" serves as a preparation for the philosophy in "The Matter of a Man". But still, Picard's observation that "there must be a reality beyond what we can see and measure" is nothing spectacular on its own. It feels half-baked and this philosophy only becomes fleshed out when you watch "The Matter of a Man" as a sequel.

Picard's conclusion is that life is valuable and the life of other beings has to be respected and protected. He therefore cannot accept Nagilum's proposition to let half the crew die so that the other half can live. He rather enables the self-destruct of the ship, because losing half the crew would be an unacceptable price.

It is an acceptable story, but nothing very deep. I just don't get the feeling that it highlights a core idea of Star Trek very well, like Jamahl probably felt. "The Matter of a Man" feels like an afterthought, another attempt to get the philosophy across, and this time it works out much better.

I can appreciate the concept behind "Where Silence has Lease". But the execution falls terribly flat. Nagilum comes across as too unbelievable and cheesy. He is obviously just there to conveniently lay out the philophy of Picard and Star Trek in general. Which has been done better before. The attempt is very clumsy.

2 stars.
Mon, Jun 12, 2017, 7:26pm (UTC -6)
I will admit, in the beginning, I half expected Troi to say 'I sense a deep... emptiness, Captain'. The mere thought cracked me up laughing.
Fri, Oct 13, 2017, 10:34pm (UTC -6)
If one has ever suffered through, or witnessed up close in others, moderate to severe clinical depression, the first half of this episode encapsulates the feeling of hopelessness very well. One way to describe it is, "Nothing I do matters."

The second half? Not so much with the tension released as we realize, oh, it's only "Q-Lite" (made me laugh, thanks) and the inane metaphysical BS about death in the end (but yeah, creepy face, kudos for that observation--back then watching it when it was first broadcast, shivers).

But I will admit that I enjoyed the episode, at least as much as the reminder of the increasing tightness in my chest during the first half would allow. Needed to remind myself it's a TV show, which I did, which it is. Grounding nearly always helps. ;)
Fri, Oct 13, 2017, 10:40pm (UTC -6)
@ Luc-Jean's "Funny how it always seems to be the nutjob religious types who have a problem with Picard's musings on death..."

I'm an atheist and objectively found Picard's musings on death to be arbitrary, his conclusion not worthy of his intellect. But if you have proof that it should be taken seriously, please, it's a fundamental question and we're all eyes, brother.
Mon, Nov 27, 2017, 2:31am (UTC -6)
3 stars. Entertaining. Hour flew by

Points for atmosphere and weirdness for its own sake such as the Yamato stuff with Riker and Worf that really doesn’t do much except exist in a vacuum. Same for the beacon sequence.

The episode finally gets where it is going fairly late when Nagilium becomes interested in death and explains he intends to kill off the crew with varying types of causes pretty chilling especially considering that they are pretty much ar his mercy

Yes nagilum has demonstrated he can mess with ships systems and yes that raises the question of why he just doesn’t disable the self destruct but it honestly didn’t ruin it for me. Maybe he wanted them to initiate the sequence to observe the crew coming to terms with their impending deaths.

The Picard scene with faux Troi and Data was a nice reflective one. Thumbs up. I quite enjoyed it. The one scene though that made me cringe was Pulaski coming to the bridge and feeling the need to take over from Picard in supervising Data in magnifying the void. Seemed silly

Other than that this episode did a good job of capturing the unknown factor I enjoy in my Trek and that of all Treks. TNG excelled at
Sun, Dec 3, 2017, 3:59pm (UTC -6)
Notice Haskell is still breathing as the show cuts to commercial.
Sarjenka's Little Brother
Wed, Jan 17, 2018, 12:11am (UTC -6)
This episode is even worse than I recall.

Almost a decade later, I agree with everything the poster named Damien wrote. This is awful.

Seriously, I'd rather watch "Angel One" again. At least watching Trent spritzing himself with perfume is funny.

P.S. -- That was seriously the worst intro to an episode in "Next Gen" history.
Wed, Jan 17, 2018, 6:27pm (UTC -6)
Sad to see somebody beat me to the Hava Nagilum joke by two years, but also relieved to discover that it isn't just me.
Thu, Jan 18, 2018, 4:41pm (UTC -6)
Once again the internet fails to appreciate a good Trek episode. Literally the only thing I didn't like was seeing a big fish face in space, which was cheesy and dated even then, although early TNG had a high gorgonzola content per episode.

This episode was mind bending and frightening, especially aboard the Yamato, and with Voyager in mind, Picard' s decision to blow up the ship seemed warranted. They were trapped, at the mercy of an immensely powerful alien they didn't understand, which was going to horribly kill half the crew. Seeing the crew's reactions, seeing that this was the first time in modern Trek that a self destruct was set and the characters had no precedent to follow, and Riker' s hilarious cancellation of the destruct, made the episode a winner for me.

I am not familiar with early Trek and it is strange to see how routine things had become by the time of Voyager. Everything was new and unfamiliar here. No cliches, just one fascinating scene of conjecture and mystery after another, with a genuinely horrible alien who somehow thinks humans are arrogant in spite of what he does to them.

Also - people who watch Trek clearly don't have super-IQs, or at least don't watch the episodes properly. Picard was worried about Worf's animalistic and violent behaviour, not the holodecn characters. Picard knows his crew better than the viewers obviously do *facepalm*
Thu, Jan 18, 2018, 8:57pm (UTC -6)
I think this is one of the better episodes of season two that shows the maturing of TNG from the first season. But there are some growing pains which prevent it from being a really good episode. Such as:

-The opening sequence with Riker and Worf in the holodeck which seems to have little or no connection to the main plot
-The obvious "red shirt" killing of Haskell.
-Is Worf really prepared to be a Starfleet officer? Riker has to order him to snap back from his primal instincts on the holodeck and later he nearly loses his nerve again on the "USS Yamato" bridge!
-Would have been nice if Picard had said something at the end of the episode about warning Starfleet about this "hole" they encountered.


-Some creepy moments on the "USS Yamato"
-Data saying, "The beginning of wisdom is: I do not know."
-Picard musings on what is death
-Some good music from . Ron Jones
-I like how they don't try to explain everything at the end. It's a mystery.

convince Nagilum
Tue, Feb 20, 2018, 9:29pm (UTC -6)
The worst thing in this episode is that Nagilum could easily prevent que auto-destruct sequence to begin, as it would be against his interests.

The best solution for this episode (before or after Nagilum) would be for someone saying "Computer: exit", and then the Holodeck illusion fades. They were all in a Holodeck simulation since the beginning, what a relief!
Sat, Mar 10, 2018, 4:38am (UTC -6)
nag didn’t scare me! da writers are a bindh of fickin’ morins lol
Peter Swinkels
Sun, Mar 11, 2018, 3:53am (UTC -6)
Episodes like this fascinate and terrify me at the same time.

Because Paranount and Jamahl give us Star Trek and reviews respectively, the internet users can give their views.

Sun, Mar 11, 2018, 3:55am (UTC -6)
abs nagi wantz trekky prons lfmao rofl!
Fri, Mar 16, 2018, 1:55pm (UTC -6)
I have to laugh at Damien.......guess you didnt get hired as a come across as someone who sits in a Starbucks all day using free WiFi.....while trolling patrons and websites...LOL
I thought the episode was fine if you're the NORMAL was interesting.
Mon, Mar 19, 2018, 5:41pm (UTC -6)
TNG was rapidly finding its feet by now, but it was still plaqued by more than occasional sloppy writing and silly dialog. This moment made me cringe a little:

They make visual contact with the anomaly:

WESLEY (rather in awe): There it is, sir. It's like a hole in space.
...and his next line, moments later:
WESLEY: Captain, if this were any ORDINARY kind of hole in space..

That's getting jaded a bit too fast!
Prince of Space
Sat, Apr 7, 2018, 4:22am (UTC -6)
Dayum... it’s one thing to disagree with a comment, Joe. But to pull out the Free Wifi At Starbucks card so quickly... sheesh.

Try some decaf next time. ;-)
Tue, Apr 17, 2018, 5:02pm (UTC -6)
I have little to say about this episode, except to note that I'm getting rather tired of humanity being judged by "superior" beings as being arrogant and agressive, particularly when they themselves threaten and kill the crew.
Fri, Apr 20, 2018, 3:25pm (UTC -6)
@damien , like others before me, I couldn’ Agree more! I would expect this to be the second episode of the first season and even then, maybe a star or a half. A high school junior could have written this for an English class!
Thu, May 17, 2018, 12:03pm (UTC -6)
They keep mentioning cool-sounding planets, and never go to them.
Parliament--a whole planet set aside for government conferences
Pacifica--"the ocean planet"
There was another one up to this point that I don't remember
But of course, even if they did go, all we would get would be lame cardboard and styrofoam on a soundstage.
Sun, May 20, 2018, 9:06pm (UTC -6)
Season 2 starts with a rape and follows it with the black tarpit's space cousin. Tasha's death seemed less painful. Wasn't the tarpit guy supposed to be the evil one? Ah well, maybe episode 3 will raise the bar.
Cesar Gonzalez
Mon, May 28, 2018, 7:26pm (UTC -6)
Whole-heartedly agree with Peter.
I find so annoying when Star Trek "superior" beings show up to talk down on humans as if they're any better.
Also find it annoying when the characters bash on 20th century people as if they're any better. They still kill, love, feel anger, fight, discriminate, want things just like people now.
Don't know why they act so high and mighty.
A few episodes ago Picard was giving some grand speeches about how humans no longer want stuff.
I recall Janeway also speaking that way. talking about how humans have moved on from Wars. Er.... really? Because I recall humans still fighting with Klingons, Cardassians, Kazon, Romulans, etc...
Thu, Jul 26, 2018, 7:56pm (UTC -6)
I quite enjoyed this episode, the execution with the ambience and the mistery was top notch, some of the effects were clearly dated and silly looking, but I think the story with it's top notch execution made up for that. I don't understand all the hate, while I can see why the story is a little bit shaky, specially the whole "we're being experimented on" part. I tend to value stories on the way they are handled and I'm not bound to nitpick every little choice as if I were a star-ship captain myself, this is a solid 3 star episode. All these users looking down on this episode as if it's no better than anything on Season 1 gotta mellow out and enjoy the great execution of this episode. Also, Picard's explanation of death was fine to me, Death is hard to explain, and being questioned about death out of the blue of course is going to get you a rather wonky explanation, we have to understand these are people, and not paragons of humanity, jeez.
Sat, Jul 28, 2018, 11:31am (UTC -6)
re: "Also, Picard's explanation of death was fine to me, Death is hard to explain, and being questioned about death out of the blue of course is going to get you a rather wonky explanation"

For sure. This is a show where there are many ways to cheat death, to live as "energy beings", to have one's neural content/mind-will-emotions live separately from the body. It's a show where species exist with nigh-godlike powers who are probably capable of setting up entire dimensions and new paradigms of existence. Vulcans are mostly based on rational scientific thinking and they consider themselves to have souls. Given all that, Picard's answer made perfect sense: he finds evidence for some sort of metaphysics that leaves him unconvinced in the total annihilation of what could be defined as existing, but he doesn't believe in any sort of fluffy-cloud heaven or a particular religious entity bringing people into his chosen afterlife.

re: "And then Troi helpfully points out: 'We must not let ourselves die Jean-Luc.' What an insightful comment."

That wasn't actually Troi, it was an illusion of Troi.

re: "They keep mentioning cool-sounding planets, and never go to them.
Parliament--a whole planet set aside for government conferences
Pacifica--the ocean planet"

Glad they didn't. Single-purpose-planets are more in the realm of Star Wars than Trek.
Tue, Oct 23, 2018, 3:50pm (UTC -6)
There are a lot of duff episodes in S2.

This is by no means one of them, even though I'd kind of remembered it as such. I was also surprised at how effective this episode is and how well the mystery and "haunted house" vibe are conveyed and built up. The giant face in space is cheesy, no doubt, but there's a lot that works here, from Worf's opening holodeck funtime to the slow-building sense of unease to the scenes with Worf losing his temper on the fake Yamato to Picard's philosophical dialog towards the end. It's a box of tricks that manages to be genuinely intriguing and creepy as well as touch you and leave you with things to think about. I'd even go up to 3.5.

S1-2 may have a lot of misfires, but what's great about this early phase of TNG is the audacity and the sense of the unknown, that space is unsettling and there are genuinely weird and freaky things out there.
Mon, Dec 10, 2018, 12:42pm (UTC -6)
Pulaski’s interactions with Data here pretty quickly doomed the character, which is too bad because she actually became a quite good character as the season progressed.

They seemed to be aiming for a McCoy/Spock rivalry, which on paper might have seemed, um, logical with Pulaski being the cranky doctor and the android Data being quite logical. But Spock was an adult, while Data was much more like a child, so it came across like a mean middle aged woman picking on an elementary school child.

Not a good dynamic, and with Data being a fan favorite, her fate was sealed quick.
Peter G.
Mon, Dec 10, 2018, 1:04pm (UTC -6)
@ Silly,

That's a good point. But even worse than that, part of the Spock/McCoy rivalry is that McCoy knew that on some level Spock had the human emotions in him and was in denial (or just stubborn), and so considerable efforts are made throughout TOS to get Spock to admit what was obvious to his closest friends ("in a pig's eye!").

But with Pulaski and Data there is (a) no friendship, (b) nothing for Data to admit, since he literally does have many of the shortcomings Pulaski suggests, and (c) there was nothing friendly in Pulaski's ribbing. Her point was literally that Data was basically a toaster and incapable of doing anything creative. To be honest, her attempts to demonstrate this probably violated half a dozen regs and the Federation charter to boot. I'm surprised no one has raised a fuss about it here! So it's often not only akin to a middle-aged woman berating a school child, but one with a learning disability. Nice lesson in humanity, lady.

The Spock/McCoy recycling plan here is a hard fail, especially since if Pulaski actually cared about cybernetic capabilities you'd think she's be ecstatic to have a uniquely advanced android around so that she could actually work with him to test his limits. But since she doesn't actually care to learn with him about his design, instead we have no choice but to conclude that she's some kind of luddite who doesn't actually care about Data and wants to justify her own bias. Contrast with McCoy who was in no way a luddite but rather often took on the role of the humanist who didn't want to see technology rob us of what makes us human. That this was missed with Pulaski, who just 'doesn't like robots'. Actually it might have been helpful in the series going forward if the arguments made in Measure of a Man hadn't stopped there but had been explored more. In VOY too they were beyond hesitant to ever question their implied premise that Doc was sentient. What does it even mean to make that argument? Neither series seemed comfortable going there.
Circus Man
Mon, Dec 10, 2018, 1:29pm (UTC -6)
A question I've always had: were the writers actively sabotaging Pulaski (or Muldaur)? Because it seems like they stacked the deck against her at every occasion. To an extent I like that she shakes up the dynamic, but between the "McCoy carbon copy" factor and the "bullying Data" factor, it seems she was doomed. Perhaps they wanted a controversial, "love to hate" character and went too far?
Peter G.
Mon, Dec 10, 2018, 1:58pm (UTC -6)
@ Circus Man,

"A question I've always had: were the writers actively sabotaging Pulaski (or Muldaur)? "

Do you mean as a form of protest against McFadden's firing, so that they'd have to take her back if the fans hated Muldaur? I never thought of that. I guess it's possible.

My initial hunch is just that they didn't know how to do much out of the gate other than copy TOS in a lot of cases. What we now accuse Trek of becoming - recycling tropes as a form of fan service - was probably true of early TNG until they learned how it could stand on its own two feet. Of the various Trek series, only TOS and DS9 seemed to know what they wanted to be and didn't try to copy something else. And in so doing DS9 caused itself some trouble, because one result of going off in its own direction was being sort of aimless for 2 seasons with both characters and story arc. VOY, by contrast, was much more derivative *but* also more sure of what it wanted to do right away. Likewise, TNG wanted to be TOS series 2, which is basically what it began as, and because of that it didn't have its own identity for a while. Both TNG and DS9 figured out their own rhythm by around S3, and strangely VOY went in the opposite direction, starting out stronger but loosing its way by around S3.
Wed, Jan 16, 2019, 3:44am (UTC -6)
One small (fun) observation I accidentally stumbled upon:
Watch closely for Troi, she will suddenly disappear from the bridge around the ninth minute in the episode just to pop up in the room 15 minutes later when she gets involved in the episode again. The chair next to Picard becomes suddenly empty.

I personally liked the episode for the atmosphere, especially the Yamato scenes worked very well. I thought at first "meh, another space cloud episode" but this one was entertaining. Some small annoyances, they obviously wanted to show Worf as Klingon needs to actively control his Klingon instincts in this episode... and why on earth did they make Pulaski disrespect Data that bluntly? Awkward and unnecessary moment, yeah they wanted to create a McCoy-Spock moment, but why? I found those moronic scenes between Spock and McCoy always annoying, but explained it with the age of the show: cheap creation of drama and tension or they just had no better idea to characterize Spock and his unemotional behaviour. It was tolerable for a 60s show, but in the 80s? this really killed the Pulaski character, which I found sound otherwise. Maybe it was originally done in TOS to give the part of the (American) audience that gets alienated by scientific talk a person to associate with, who knows. Nevertheless: 3 Stars
Sun, Mar 3, 2019, 6:55pm (UTC -6)

I am not sure what this episode brought for us. the idea of being the lab rats for a change is a good one but the captain seems so disinterested in getting to know the scientist species after they are let go. what happened to exploring and learning. is that all behind the scenes? how did all the illusions happen? how did the scientists get their data? no pun intended...
Sat, Mar 9, 2019, 11:56am (UTC -6)
I’ve always enjoyed this one despite it really making very little sense. This one always seemed to me like the writers were making it up as they went along. 2.5 stars regardless, it’s just good fun.
Mon, Mar 25, 2019, 9:39pm (UTC -6)
To all the commenters either denouncing or doubting Picard's decision to commit suicide in response to helpless victimization:

We must be watching different shows. I really do not see what would be appealing about Star Trek generally (especially early TNG with its poor production values) if you do not grok the philosophical principles behind such a decision.

What Trek's idealism aspires to, especially through the character of Picard, is not giving in to the tempation either to be a victimizer (cf. all the comments on this site about Starfleet's apparently annoying pacifism and reticence to revenge) or a victim (e.g. this episode). Resolve in the face of despair. Forbearance in the face of strong emotion and its indulgence. Radical freedom. Committing oneself to a strict code.

Say what you want about the technical qualities of the writing (maybe please don't however if you yourself cannot manage a reasonably accurate summary of a single line of dialogue presenting Picard's views on death) or editing or directing - I will probably agree with you - but if you want realistic science fiction then look beyond Trek. If you want an idealistic vehicle for thought experiments and moral quandaries which most of the time showcases a (yes, LIBERAL) humanistic, idealistic, and progressive worldview, then watch Trek.

If you want to complain about the presence of liberals and their ideology, I am dumbfounded as to why you are watching this show.
Mon, Mar 25, 2019, 9:43pm (UTC -6)
That said, excellent episode marred by some poor choices, notably the (Black) Redshirt and the insistence on sabotaging the otherwise interesting Pulaski through making her a prejudiced bully.

Three stars at least.
Sat, Aug 10, 2019, 7:19am (UTC -6)
Nice spooky elements to this one, and a "right in your face" continuation of the "what is life/what is death" theme from the opening episode, as Pulaski reminds herself that Data is officially considered alive, Naghilum asks about how life begins, and Picard discusses his beliefs about life and death with fake Data and Troi.

And then we have Naghilum itself, who seems very powerful, yet is an absolute nothingness. This fits a popular concept of Death. Picard escapes it by not being afraid of it, by usurping its power and becoming Death himself. He pushes this to the brink, and finds himself unafraid. And he tells it they'll meet again, but out in the stars. It's not spooky anymore; he's faced it down.

RATS: Pulaski days they're rats in a maze. Geordi says the rat says "forget the cheese, I just want out of this trap." Is the 50% chance at life, that Naghilum dangles out there, the cheese? But that's not the way out of this trap, is it?

And the constant pairing of Worf and Riker seems like an Id and (governing) Ego thing. Worf, with his boogeyman story representing the deep fear of Death, Riker with his "at ease, Lieutenant," calming Worf, representing the rational , controlling part. Worf wants off the Bridge!! I think this is all about Picard's inner conflicts in the situation.

Notice how Riker reveals his own fears and relief, at the very end.

Worf also gets some independent character development here, with Picard worrying about unknowable elements of the Klingon psyche right before we head into a big, black scary void that unpredictably appears and disappears.

There's an underlying theme regarding communication, sound and silence - it's mentioned constantly. Communication to the outside is gone. It's sketchy otherwise. Lots of miscommunication and people cut off from, or needing encouragement, to speak. How life has both an inner and outer component? Need them both? I dunno.

Well, this one really got me going. I shall cease the Springy-babble. For now.

A good ep, though the Naghilum portrayal as that big, smeary face was off putting.
Wed, Feb 5, 2020, 12:33am (UTC -6)
This is 100% an episode of TOS. After a recent viewing, I checked the writers half-expecting Roddenberry's name to be on it. Superior alien testing/messing with humans? That's as Trek as Trek gets right there.

I love putting this episode on when I want to feel like a kid again as opposed to watching something with an more involved story. This reminds me of late night Saturday night reruns of TNG and TOS on PBS when I'd hunker down, turn on the TV, and be taken to deep space where everything is mysterious and nothing will be remembered of this adventure by the next episode.
Tue, Feb 11, 2020, 12:46pm (UTC -6)
Hello All,

This is my first post here. I started watching TNG and this episode really bothers me, bothers me enough to post this... The episode starts off with Picard hesitantly walking onto the bridge. He almost leaves the second he enters. Deanna Troi senses Picard is worried about Riker and Worf specifically the Klingon psyche. What happens next, to me, is the best part of this episode. Then we get the TNG intro and the actual episode starts. What did this scene have to do with the rest of this episode? This is not even mentioned in any Wiki or episode synopses. This should have been the intro to Season 1 - Heart of Glory.

The next highlight of this episode is with Riker/Worf on the USS Yamato and the mind trip they experience. Worf freaks out again but not in anyway related to the Intro scene. When they get back, Riker expresses how freaked out he is to Picard and walks away while Picard almost starts laughing.

Why was Wesley replaced by Haskell... Why wasn't it just Haskell from the start?

I think this is an above average episode but for all the wrong reasons. Thanks for reading and hope to get some responses.
Fri, Feb 21, 2020, 7:33am (UTC -6)
This is a truly excellent episode, albeit let down by Mr Fish, as I call him, the giant face. The weakest TNG got was when it tried to be the sequel to TOS. I guess that explains why Voyager, DS9, Enterprise and later TNG had nothing whatsoever in common with the original show.

The scenes with Riker and Worf are probably the best I've seen in TNG. Visiting another Galaxy class starship was a nice idea. The quiet darkness with only the sound of wind, and the mind-bending scenes where Worf starts to freak out, were so well done. And this is the first appearance of the self destruct which would become a Trek cliche, and which was superbly done here.

If every episode of Trek had been this suspenseful, this meaningful, well, science fiction would have a different landscape. Watching it makes me realise how empty and agenda-driven the new Picard show is.
Fri, Feb 21, 2020, 11:07am (UTC -6)

You're comment got me thinking, and it looks like they used the auto-destruct back in "11001001", which makes that its first use. Now, how many successful self-destruct sequences have there been? The Enterprise-A in STIII, I know. Anyone know any others?

I find this one really good too, especially for a season two episode. It does lose steam with the discussion about what death is, though.
Sat, Jun 13, 2020, 11:48am (UTC -6)
This thing captures the enterprise and tortures and kills people and threatens to slaughter more and it calls humans selfish, violent and militant?
SS Elim
Mon, Aug 17, 2020, 8:54pm (UTC -6)
The opening scene is not only completely disconnected from the rest of the episode, but hokey as all get out. Riker does battle with a goon in a rubber suit, and Worf is fighting Skeletor!

I did, however, dig Picard listening to Erik Satie while waiting for the ship to self-destruct.
Sun, Oct 4, 2020, 6:27pm (UTC -6)
“Why was Wesley replaced by Haskell... Why wasn't it just Haskell from the start?”

Wesley had to hit the head.

Haha, I think is simply because Wheaton was a billed/main/paid actor, so needed to be on screen. They just pulled a lame switcheroo for an extra to be redshirted. I guess with the way the scene was staged, killing someone back at one of the science stations wouldn’t have worked so well.

In most respects, it’s a pretty good episode. Like with Time Squared, it creates a nifty creepy self contained mystery. High concept TOS type episode.
Mon, Oct 5, 2020, 12:55pm (UTC -6)
There’s some production hilarity here, likely partly fx lying down the actors:

When the Yamoto appears on screen, Riker says “it’s a federation ship N-C-C (etc)- it’s the Enterprise’s sister ship!”

But it’s obvious at first glance it’s a Starfleet Galaxy Class. That’s a lot easier than struggling to read the registry number. W...K...R...P...

Also, Worf says he knows the Yamato and recommends how he and Riker transport to the bridge— but the bridge is 100% the same as Enterprise’s!
Mon, Apr 26, 2021, 6:57pm (UTC -6)
Fairly good episode. Liked the end with the self destruct cancellation. That part was gold.
Sun, May 2, 2021, 4:19pm (UTC -6)
I just want to hear what a Riker scream would sound like...
S. D. Martino
Mon, May 17, 2021, 1:30pm (UTC -6)
The name Nagilum is Mulligan spelled backwards, according to Memory Alpha. Not entirely, it is short of one L. I have wondered why the writers dropped an L frequently.
Another thing is I don't think that the federation would name a starship after a ship that was on the evil side of man's history in the second world war.
Perhaps the federation knew that the american generals knew about the upcoming Pearl harbor attack, didn't act and let the harbor get attacked, in order to make their entrance into world war two more palatable to the US public. Therefore the federation figured that the japanese weren't so bad after all, and were deserving of a starship being named after their erstwhile flagship.
Sun, Jun 27, 2021, 1:51am (UTC -6)
What a mixed bag of an episode! As Jammer says, the first half is an intriguing mystery that involves the viewer totally; we want answers, we laugh at Worf’s behaviour on the Yamato, we are as baffled as Picard and Data.

Then Nagilum appears. Apart from a superb scene where Picard discusses death and the meaning of existence with Data, the whole story goes rapidly downhill. We get a sudden and unexplained replacement of Wesley by a doomed redshirt, a completely unnecessary auto-destruct sequence, a visual of the alien that is clumsy and ineffective, and a sudden ending that just doesn’t satisfy.

2.5 stars but should - could - have been at least 3.5.

We did get Dr Pulaski’s continuing reluctance to accept Data as “alive” and to be honest I share her feelings.

Did anyone else notice that the producer was “Burton Armus” - did he win a competition to have his name used for the Skin Of Evil??
Sun, Jun 27, 2021, 2:08am (UTC -6)
Oh, and a brilliant title, taken from a Yukon poem (by a poet I never heard of - Robert Service?).
Fri, Oct 15, 2021, 10:43pm (UTC -6)
What a hot mess of an episode. Starts off with an intro that's pure filler. Then there's great moodiness created by the mystery of the spacial disturbance leading to the USS Yamato lookalike. But from there, it all goes downhill and when I see this episode appear in reruns, I always seem to change the channel just before Wesley's stand in gets it.
Thu, Nov 4, 2021, 10:13pm (UTC -6)
Have to agree with the negative reviews here. Poor story with very stilted and stiff interactions by the crew and the alien. The attempt to include a discussion of the possibility of life after death fell really flat. (Tom’s description on 03/28/2014 nails it - made me laugh out loud.) The auto destruct resolution was silly and carried zero dramatic impact. I didn’t worry for a nanosecond that the enterprise might blow up and the series would end.
Wed, Dec 22, 2021, 6:19pm (UTC -6)
Agreed it was much better before Nagilum appeared. Though, I thought his actual "face" worked in a very uncanny valley way.

Another funny bit: in the conference, when Picard says he's going to blow up the ship, watch him. The way it's edited, he stares at Pulaski for a VERY long time, like literally 25 seconds.
Mon, May 16, 2022, 1:57pm (UTC -6)
Red Shirts name was "Haskell". Since Negilum named him. Come on that was seriously a brutal and cruel death. The thing that always gets to me, on all of the ST shows, is the main cast just carries on and even makes jokes when they get out of whatever situation they were in. A little banter with Neglium, no problem. You just totally murdered a crew member, who has family and a life, but whatever. Ugh.
Sat, Jul 9, 2022, 10:58pm (UTC -6)
GUYS Can someone PLEASE tell me is Nagikum really similar to Q?? Isn't he more creative and original or at least as original or almost?? I don't remember Q caring much about death or how humans deal with it..only the judging humanity but seemed thst so?
Fri, Nov 25, 2022, 9:18pm (UTC -6)
It does know how to do these things, doesn't it?
matt h
Sat, Jan 28, 2023, 10:56am (UTC -6)
Was I wrong to perceive the Nargilah or whatever it was called as having a ratlike face so as to ironically reverse the idea of rats in a human maze but human in a rat's maze?
matt h
Sun, Feb 5, 2023, 1:58pm (UTC -6)
ANd it was notable as others point out that Data finds no record of a remotely similar space ole when presumably the Immunity SYndrome was in the same archive as The Naked Time.
Peter G.
Mon, Apr 24, 2023, 2:40pm (UTC -6)
The most interesting line is the episode is one I had forgotten was ever uttered on the show:

PULASKI: Forgive me, Mister Data. I'm not accustomed to working with non-living devices that. Forgive me again. Your service record says that you are alive. I must accept that.

Does this mean the story of Measure of a Man is a soft retcon? It would seem to be obviously ridiculous to claim that an officer who is a living being can be Starfleet's property, unless perhaps it's an unintelligent one such as a lab specimen or something.
Mon, Jun 12, 2023, 12:55pm (UTC -6)
A very good concept that goes off the rails in the final bit. Where everything really breaks down is when Nagilum announces that he will have to execute up to half the crew and commercial break. Next the staff is having a meeting. And then they set the destruct for 20 minutes out? Nag could have easily fulfilled his task in that half hour.

One last thought; it's a good thing Picard didn't have a sneeze coming on as the countdown clock winded down to 10

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