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The Trek Nation - Where Silence Has Lease

Where Silence Has Lease

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at October 12, 2007 - 7:39 PM GMT

See Also: 'Where Silence Has Lease' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: Riker and Worf's training exercise is interrupted by a call to the bridge, where a mysterious dark spot in space has appeared. Since it does not appear on the sensors and probes cannot relay information about it, the ship remains close and is swallowed up by the apparently dimensionless hole. Picard orders the ship to reverse course, but it finds itself back at a stationary beacon launched during its investigations of the hole. A Romulan vessel appears and attacks the ship, then vanishes completely, leaving no debris. Then a Federation starship appears, but when Riker and Worf beam aboard, they find that nothing functions as they expect. Once they have been retrieved, a being that calls itself Nagilum appears on the viewscreen, though the sensors say that nothing is there. Nagilum explains that he wishes to understand life by exploring death. He kills a crewmember on the bridge, then tells Picard that a third of the crew will be used to explore other ways of dying. Rather than accept this butchery, Picard activates the auto-destruct system, though various crewmembers plead with him to accept Nagilum's terms instead. Just before the ship is due to explode, the Enterprise finds itself clear of the hole in space and Picard aborts the self-destruct. Nagilum tells Picard that he now has a better understanding of human nature.


Analysis: There is probably a more boring episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation than "Where Silence Has Lease" but I can't think offhand of which it is. (I know that the clip show "Shades of Gray" is widely regarded as the worst not only of the second season but the entire series, but I don't remember it being as tedious as this one felt upon rewatching.) There are many pointless scenes, and others that simply seem to drag on endlessly. I thought that Riker and Worf were going to remember something crucial from their earlier training on the holodeck that would save them on the Yamato, but all we really find out is that Riker can be freaked out. I thought that some scientific explanation of the nature of the hole would be forthcoming once they discovered a sentient being inside. And it's pretty sad to meet an Alien Menace and think that the black slime from "Skin of Evil" was more interesting and more creative.

The characters don't fare much better than the plot of this exercise. Which is the real Riker - the one who thinks nostalgically about legends of ships that sailed off the edge of the world, or Mister "Let's get the hell out of here!"? Which is the real Worf - the cautious, prudent one who wants to go to Yellow Alert before Picard is ready to acknowledge a threat, or the one who thinks a good offense is the best defense? It's kind of funny that Picard concluded Troi and Data weren't for real at the end, when Nagilum decided to let the ship go, because they seemed about as plausible arguing to let half the crew die as they would have supporting the captain, given everyone's wishy-washiness throughout. This is Pulaski's second episode and she's still describing Data as a device, then apologizing...if we're supposed to take her seriously as an intelligent woman, this isn't helping.

I think the idea is supposed to be showing us what these characters are like having their usual personalities slowly eroded by stress - Pulaski describes them as rats in a maze - but it's half-hearted and incomplete. Troi is thankfully spared any dialogue about sensing malevolence or menace, but given that that's all she ever talked about first season, she seems passive and uninvolved, so that by the time it's a phony version of her telling Picard to give in to Nagilum's demands, it's really difficult to tell the difference. We see Worf having a tantrum of sorts on the holodeck at the start, so when he loses his cool on the fake Yamato, again, it's hard to say whether this is Worf under extreme duress or just what Worf is going to be like as a Klingon this season. And Picard needs to express real rage once in awhile. If Kirk had half his crew threatened with death, he would seethe. He wouldn't become pensive and then, in the end, calmly tell the aggressor that they share curiosity as a common trait. Nagilum isn't curious so much as sadistic.

Add in the cheesy special effects that make Nagilum look sort of like a child's toy and the interminably slow build-up to his introduction and threat - even the torpedo sequence against the Romulans seems to be in slow motion - and there's just not much to recommend here. Picard has a long speech about death that he delivers to faux-Data about how mortals want their reality to be more than what they understand it to be, but it's not clear whether this philosophy or the imminent self-destruct is what convinces Nagilum to let them go so he can play with humans another day. Sadly, my favorite moment in the episode is the execution of the the red-shirt on the bridge, telegraphed long before it actually happens, played for hokum screaming entertainment. It's a Classic Trek moment: a bunch of familiar faces standing around and the poor slob we've never seen before just sitting there waiting to be the victim.


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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Michelle Erica Green is a news writer for the Trek Nation. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.