Plot Synopsis: When an alien entity traps the Enterprise and threatens to kill half the crew purely out of curiosity, Captain Picard is faced with a grim decision.
Plot A and B Analysis: The teaser here is really enjoyable. Worf allows Riker to accompany him on one of his training programs in the holodeck, and it’s a cool fight. After the battle things nearly get out of hand with Worf, but Riker is able to remind him he’s a Starfleet officer and things end without incident. Plot A involves the crew dealing with Nagilum, there is no plot B for this episode. The Enterprise investigates this ‘hole in space’ and finds itself inside it. After a few seeming impossibilities they try to leave, only to find that they can’t. Thus we have a plot. The concepts involved in this episode are really interesting, as is the crew being a little out of their depth; the tension only increases as the episode progresses. You get a feeling they are being played with, and the stakes just get higher. Things resolve in a kind of unsatisfactory fashion at the end, but I guess the writers couldn’t come up with anything better.
Favorite Scenes: Hmm. There are some interesting ones, but I guess my favorites for this episode are the teaser on the holodeck, the observation lounge when they are discussing what to do, and later on in the Captain’s quarters when Picard discuss the concept of death. The writers had to walk a fine line here in Picard’s answer, and I think they walked it well. I liked most of the stuff on board the “Yamato.” I account for what happened by Nagilum folding or looping space so Riker and Worf can step directly from one side of the bridge to the other, for example. One set of lines that always makes me smile is when Riker and Worf get back from the “Yamato.” They’re ticked. Riker storms onto the bridge and walks right up to Picard.
Riker: What the hell is going on?
Picard: Are you all right Number One?
Riker: I’ve had it. Let’s put all this technology to work, figure out what is going on, and get the hell out of here!
Use of Cast/Characters: Pulaski doesn’t waste time trying to irritate us: “it does know how to do these things, doesn’t it?” in reference to Data working at Ops, and Picard defends him to her. “Forgive me, I’m not accustomed to working with nonliving devices…forgive me again, your service record says that you are alive. And I must accept that.” This is the first time we see Geordi transferring engineering to the bridge so he can be on the bridge. Get used to it, it will happen quite a few times this season. Having said that, Geordi doesn’t really do much once he’s there. Picard’s experience in dealing with unknown situations is on display here, and he demonstrates why he’s the guy you want as your captain. Riker’s personality starts to get shown a bit more, which is good; he handles Worf well but still gets a bit discombobulated later, showing that he is still growing. Data has a little to do, but not much and Wes has less, much like Troi. Worf gets perhaps the most character development in this episode, and it will inform him as the series progresses. Colm Meaney makes another appearance as the transporter chief but he still doesn’t have a name yet.
Blu Ray Version: Lookin good 🙂 The picture is so clear it’s not tough to spot the stunt double fighting in Frakes’ stead during the teaser. The hole in space effect was redone here and looks indistinguishable, but the first probe the Enterprise fires is far more detailed.
Nitpicks: Alright, the title of this episode is downright nonsensical. Star Trek isn’t that great at coming up with episode titles, but this one is terrible; I could have thought of something better. During the teaser, couldn’t Riker have just said “computer end program?” Might have been more effective at shutting Worf down. Having said that, I like the way things went in the episode better. They fire a probe into Nagilum, and it disappears so they decide to fire another one into it, “with full sensor array.” Then what kind of crappy probe was the first one? Frakes does the Riker Maneuver about 11 minutes into the episode…but again, it doesn’t seem to bother me. Hmm. More black cards about 12 and a half minutes into the episode, and this time they’re more noticeable; they appear intermittently throughout. This time when Picard & Riker initiate auto destruct they get to set the time interval, whereas in 11001001 there was no choice. I guess I’d attribute this to a software upgrade? The ending isn’t great in terms of how they get themselves extricated from Nagilum, I would’ve preferred if they out-thought him/it somehow.
Overall Impression: When I think of season two, this is the episode where it begins for me; I discuss why in the previous episode’s review. When I think about this particular show I remember liking it quite a bit as a kid, and I think it holds up decently as an adult, it is pretty creative. There is certainly some flavor of the original series here (a big floating face in space, and the ensign’s death), and without it it would be stronger, but overall it’s a pleasant episode to watch. I like the idea of testing the crew’s responses to different situations, and can relate to their feeling of helplessness and frustration. The most lasting effect of this episode is Worf. The reason there is tension in the teaser is because of Dorn’s performance, we get to see him as a predator. Later on in the “Yamato” he almost loses it again, and we are reminded that Klingons are more than just folks that look different than us. They really are alien, with urges and drives we just don’t have and can’t fully understand. Compare this to most of the aliens we see on subsequent Star Trek franchises. I had a somewhat difficult time rating this one. I’ve settled on 2.5 out of 5 stars, but one could make an argument that it be slightly higher or lower. I think the original series flavor held it back a bit, as did the lack of a satisfying ending.
Behind the Scenes/Trivia: The title of this episode is taken from a line from the poem “The Spell of the Yukon,” but that doesn’t make it any less stupid. Nagilum is supposed to be Mulligan backwards, as Richard Mulligan was originally slated to play the part. How is that a good reason to name the alien? This episode is a bottle show, with no new sets being constructed and it essentially takes place on the ship. Chief O’Brien is referred to as lieutenant, and he seems to hold this rank for a while. Later on in the episode Family he is an enlisted man. This will be the case for the rest of TNG and all through DS9. There’s a whole article on his rank craziness here. Data says that no ship had ever encountered a hole in space before, but the original series episode The Immunity Syndrome does have some similarities. Last, Worf discussing an old Klingon legend of a monster in space that “devours entire vessels” will become of the plot of the Voyager episode Bliss.
Missable/Unmissable? Decent but missable. It’s not a bad episode, it does maintain your interest and Worf is particularly interesting here, but it’s not essential viewing. As I say, for me this is where season two begins if you don’t want to put yourself through having to watch the last episode. The next episode is even better.