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Where Silence Has Lease
The Enterprise gets lost in a void with a total lack of dimension, in a story that sadly shows a similar lack of dimension but at least has some weird stuff to entertain us
Picard is pacing about the bridge, admiring Troi's new haircut, then he sits down and performs the Picard manoeuvre on his uniform. We cut to Worf and Riker stalking about in a foggy Sound Stage 16... there's monsters! And Worf even beats one (Worf 2 Aliens 4)... oh wait, it's just a holodeck simulation (back to Worf 1 Aliens 4). Now, onto this week's story.
We're exploring the Morgana Quadrant, which is amazing because the previous script actually said that was where we would be going next (!). The Enterprise comes across a hole in the fabric of space-time and ends up in a void where weird stuff starts happening. Suddenly, the new stock footage of the Romulan Warbird appears!
And then it disappointingly gets blown up straight away. Then the Enterprise's sister ship, the USS Yamato appears. That’s not suspicious. Worf and Riker beam over for some freaky Twilight Zone fun and end up in an infinite loop of bridge sets that causes Worf to freak out. Meanwhile, Wesley gives up the helm for Ensign Marked-for-Death. The away team beams back as the Galaxy-class ship winks out of existence. Domo arigato, USS Yamato!
Then the big bad pops up. He calls himself Nagilum, and he starts killing members of the crew, starting with Ensign Marked-for-Death. If only Wesley hadn't conveniently left the bridge before Nagilum turned up! The big bad plans to kill off half the crew so it can learn about death, so Picard opts to blow up the ship instead. Nagilum decides to let them all go, so it all turns out nice again.
This is the beginning of the show being willing to use the teaser (the scenes before the opening credits) for something other than setting up the story. There's no connection whatsoever between Worf's calisthenics program and the main plot. It's a nice opening, though, and the start of our peeking into Klingon culture and Worf's psyche.
'Morgana Quadrant' is an odd choice of name for where we are supposed to be this week. What are the other three quadrants that fit with the Morgana Quadrant to form a whole, and what exactly is that whole…? Later in the Trek franchises, the word 'Quadrant' will be reserved for the Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta quadrants, but this usage doesn't get codified until next season's "The Price". In this screenplay, 'Quadrant' is just a convenient descriptor for a place, like 'Sector' or 'Expanse'... it's rather difficult to imagine how 'quadrant' would be a reasonable term, though, as it expressly implies dividing into four parts.
'Rats' does a surprising amount of work in this screenplay! LaForge mentions these rodents being caught in a trap, then Dr Pulaski makes the comparison with 'rats in a maze'... it's a quick way of getting across the situation, if nothing else. It plays out best in Worf and Riker discovering the bizarre topography of the fake Yamato, which really does feel like a ‘lab rats in a maze’ scenario!
All in all, it's not the most impressive of screenplays, and it falls very flat in terms of giving things for the characters to do, but it sets up some amusing oddness which provides most of the entertainment in this story.
In case you're wondering where the title comes from, it's from the poem "The Spell of the Yukon", by Robert Service:
There’s gold, and it’s haunting and haunting;
It’s luring me on as of old;
Yet it isn’t the gold that I’m wanting
So much as just finding the gold.
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.
Coincidentally, the second episode of the next season also has an odd title that is taken from a poem... but we'll get there in due course.
Patrick Stewart is on fine form in this episode, defiantly railing at Nagilum's abuse, and then turning thoughtful when needed. The rest of the crew does a lot of reacting, with the most fun moment being Worf freaking out on the false Yamato bridge - a line that’s not in the script and seems to have been ad-libbed by Michael Dorn.
Nagilum is voiced by Earl Boen, which is something of a waste, as Boen has a lot of charm in person that is lost by using him just as a distorted voice. He's perhaps most recognisable as the criminal psychologist in the first three Terminator movies.
Colm Meaney is back as 'Transporter Chief', who is namechecked as being of Lieutenant Rank, like our previous Transporter Chief. All the intriguing explanations about 'Chief' being a non-enlisted rank will come much, much later.
Note how, unlike "11001001", the self-destruct automation is voiced by Majel Barrett, like all the other computer messages.
Ensign Marked-for-Death AKA Dexter Clay has such a wonderful death scene. He also appeared in “Encounter at Farpoint” briefly, and was in fact Michael Dorn’s stand in for the first four seasons of TNG. How nice that they let him get in front of the camera for a few shots so he could melodramatically die!
(Incidentally, this is the first episode directed by Winrich Kolbe, who would go on to helm a great many Trek shows, perhaps most memorably the TNG finale, "All Good Things".)
Models, Make-up, and Mattes
The two aliens in the holodeck are perhaps the most memorable special effects in this episode. The 'insectoid opponent' isn't great, to be honest - it has too much foam rubber and would have looked too much at home on the set of classic Trek to look good in the 80s.
But 'skull-faced opponent' is a rather excellent mask! Almost a shame to waste it on a throwaway holodeck character.
For the first time, we see a probe in this episode. And the second time too... It's a simple model, but it does the job nicely, in part because it’s so tiny you can barely see it! Seriously, you can play Where’s Class 1 Probe Waldo with this prop…
Nagilum's face is suitably freaky looking but is not a very classy special effect, and the same can be said of the void in space, although it has to be said, it's not that easy to show nothingness in an interesting way.
All in all, the special effects departments do a fine job on what is otherwise a fairly lacklustre episode most notable for killing a helmsman-of-the-week who inconveniently is not Wesley Crusher.
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