In which Worf nearly murders Riker twice, not everyone has Qs bedside manner, and I backdate a new counter.
There’s a vague sense of unease as Picard strides out of his ready room. Worf and Riker aredoing something on a spooky-looking jungle planet (despite the fact that the establishing shot put the Enterprise in deep space. There appear to be the ruins of an outpost or something around, and Picard mentioned something about the Klingon psyche. Also Worf has some kind of murder gauntlet which is definitely not Starfleet issue, and he and Riker are fighting Skeletor and some weird bug monster. So I’m going to guess this is a holodeck program. And Worf is about ti kill Riker with a looted axe for a moment because he kind of went insane. This is apparently this is a lighter version of his workout, because the more intense version is, and I quote, “too personal to be shared.” I would hazard a guess that his normal calisthenics program also involves pornography, because holodeck. Relevant and somewhat disgusting.
We’re heading this week towards a region of the galaxy uncharted by manned vessels, and Data detects a region of blackness that appears to disappear and reappear. Remember that this ship has sensors that can see things approaching faster than light, so the fact that the sensors are not even registering a baseline vacuum energy from it is disturbing. Riker thinks to have Data check the logs, and apparently there’s no record of any Federation ship encountering anything like it. Which strikes me as similar to the statement ‘nobody’s ever reported being attacked by a dolphin.’ You don’t know that dolphins don’t kill people, only that they leave no survivors. I submit, as always, that it should be standard procedure any time you’re investigating a weird phenomenon in spacetime, that you dump your records into a probe or fire them off towards the nearest starbase just in case you’re never heard from again, so that the next guy will know what killed you. As always, the people in the horror movie never listen to the viewer. Arrogant jerks.
Although I will give them credit for sending a probe into the hole first. Of course, it vanishes immediately, and Worf recommends Yellow Alert on the basis of a Klingon legend about a black spacecreature that eats ships. Picard is a pretty effective manager in that he does not tell Worf to stop being ridiculous. Also of import – the Klingons had starships, or at least knowledge of starships, when they were culturally primitive enough to have legends rather than records. Different culture and all, but we kind of get the sense (which will be corroborated later) that the Klingons did not achieve space travel via an Enlightenment culture and ethos.
The Enterprise moves closer because they are all stupid, and then the black form eats them. Riker and Picard have a little circlejerk about how much more advanced the Federation is than back in the days when people thought the Earth was flat. Then the clear winner of ‘worst character in the season’ barges onto the bridge, insults Data a couple of times, and contributes nothing to the conversation. Although Pulaski does mention that Data’s service record says he is alive. Wesley charts a course back the way they came, but of course it wouldn’t be an exciting episode if there was a ‘the way they came.’
The next plan is to drop a beacon so that they can use it as a reference and navigate away from it to register how far away they’re going. It drops away, and the ship plays this is a slowly dropping pitch. It takes about ten seconds at warp 2 for them to reach it again. This, if you are at all familiar with popular physics, indicates that they are now in a self-contained universe, the dimensions of which I can’t math for you because a) I have had a lot of mead tonight and b) I have no idea how fast Warp 2 is, and Memory Alpha is only making things confusing right now. Sorry.
Suddenly a Romulan D’deridex warbird shows up, fails to get through the Enterprise shields, and then blows up when they shoot it with a torpedo. And also there’s no debris. And then another Galaxy-class ship, the Yamato E shows up, even though it’s not supposed to be anywhere nearby. Worf and Riker beam over to the bridge, and once again they explicitly think of their phasers and don’t beam over with the damn things already drawn. Although since this time it’s not literally the first thing they do to draw them, I guess I’ll be less upset than at Yar. Also, they appear in the corridors and split up. Definitely a horror movie vibe going on. As they scan the ship, Riker casually mentions that the walls aren’t tritanium, and they walk through a door onto a bridge that shouldn’t be there. When they try to go back, the door opens onto the bridge that they’re already on. Or possibly an identical but different bridge. Worf is getting exceedingly more feral, and back aboard the Enterprise there’s a fix on the outside starfield that lasts just until they beam Riker and Worf back. It fades as soon as they’re ready to take advantage of it, and then starts opening and closing just as the Enterpries starts to fly towards it.
Troi is now confirming Picard’s hypothesis that there’s an intelligence toying with them, and Pulaski mentions that it feels like a laboratory maze. The crew decides to stop playing along, at which point the experimenter reveals itself. It has taken a form it claims to have chosen so as not to be alarming, although it sounds fairly sarcastic about that. It calls itself Nagilum, and in the service of learning about propagation, mortality, it demands that Pulaski and Picard boink, and then kills a nameless helmsman. A rule of thumb that humanity has apparently grasped which Nagilum has not, is that if you can converse with your test subject you shouldn’t do permanent damage to it for the sake of mere curiosity.
In the face of a cosmic Mengele, Picard decides that the best thing to do is blow up the ship rather than let it kill half the crew out of of a childish sense of wonder. At least they learned something from “11001001,” namely that they should have a choice about how long the countdown lasts. They choose 20 minutes. Picard decides to spend his last moments listening to classical music, when he’s interrupted by Troi telling him that it’s not going to matter, and Data asking what death is. Picard chooses to explain the latter by illustrating the difference between some kind of hybrid between the Christian Heaven and Greek Elysium, and a more materialistic nothingness. Picard professes to believe that there’s some form of continuation of existence that doesn’t match up to either of those things. This is, of course, exactly the correct analysis given what happened in “Lonely Among Us” where we learned that human consciousness in the Star Trek universe is not fully a function of brain-states. Oh, also Troi and Data in this conversation are played by rather poor hand puppets operated by Nagilum.
When he sees through it, the real(?) Data calls from the bridge that the Enterprise is free of the void, but Picard doesn’t believe it until they’ve been at warp 6 for fifty seconds of the remaining minute before aborting the destruct. He has one last conversation with Nagilum on his computer, where Nagilum tells Picard that humans are aggressive, obstinate, and generally not worth talking to. TNG, it would seem is largely about tests, of humanity proving its worth to all the big scary meanies out there, so I’m going to inaugurate a new counter, in addition to incrementing an old one.
God-like Beings That Are Really Petulant Children With Too Much Power Count: 6. Although Nagilum doesn’t quite fit the Trelane mold of throwing a tantrum when he doesn’t get his way, it’s close enough that I’m counting it anyway, and you can’t stop me.
This Life Has Been A Test. If This Had Been An Actual Life, You Would Have Received Instructions On Where To Go And What To Do count: “Errand of Mercy,” “The Corbomite Maneuver,” “Catspaw,” “The Savage Curtain,” “Encounter At Farpoint,” “Coming of Age,” and now “Where Silence has Lease. 7. I feel a little dumb for not having picked up on this one a little earlier.