It is a virtual certainty that creatures with incredibly long life spans would be unable to comprehend the concept of death. In this episode, the Enterprise encounters a void of total nothingness. Every attempt to obtain information from the void yields the absence of data. Suddenly, the Enterprise finds itself inside the void and all is black. They travel around, but nothing changes. In an attempt to gain their bearings, they discharge a marker buoy and travel away from it. Suddenly, they receive signals from another buoy in front of them, and they quickly realize that they have traveled in a circle. Suddenly, holes appear in the void and they can see stars. However, all attempts to use those stars as a navigational fix to leave the void fail. As soon as they attempt to exit through the hole, it closes up and reappears elsewhere. Picard orders the Enterprise to halt and a face appears on their monitor. It is a being calling itself Nagilum and it is immensely old. It has been studying them and is fascinated by the concept of death. It kills one of the bridge crew and announces its' intention to kill one-half the crew of the Enterprise in order to study the many ways in which humans die. Since the Enterprise is powerless to leave the void and cannot stop the experiment, Picard sets the auto-destruct mechanism in order to deprive Nagilum of his data. Shortly before the ship is scheduled to blow up, Data and Troi visit Picard and express their wish that they not die. Picard quickly realizes that they are images sent by Nagilum to test his resolve. Suddenly, the Enterprise is released from the void and the self-destruct order is cancelled. In a final chat with Picard, Nagilum notes that there are many similarities between humans and himself, most notably in the characteristic of curiosity. Picard objects, but of course he knows that Nagilum is right. If the subjects of study were not humans, Picard's objections would not have been so strong. A being with the power and longevity of Nagilum would fit the human definition of god and could easily consider humans a legitimate subject for laboratory study. The distance between the levels of intelligence of Nagilum and humans is greater than that between humans and the mammals used in laboratory studies, so Nagilum's actions are reasonable. This point of the episode is what makes it interesting in the philosophical sense. How would humans react if we were the "guinea pigs" of the laboratory experiments of a species of creatures whose power would by definition make them gods? Would we choose to deprive them of their experimental subjects or accept the losses as simply the "will of God?"
Very few people will defend the second season of TNG as a masterpiece but many will argue that the series did at least get a footing here. Much like the first season there were good episodes and bad episodes and even a terrible one or two. This one for me is in the former. The Enterprise is investigating an area of space resembling a void, or a hole in space. No sensor readings are provided and there is no information available. Probes fail and moving … more
Charlie Ashbacher is a compulsive reader and writer about many subjects. His prime areas of expertise are in mathematics and computers where he has taught every course in the mathematics and computer … more
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On their way to the Morgana Quadrant, which has yet to be visited by a manned Federation ship, theEnterpriseruns across an amoeba-like hole of blackness in space. Sensors do not indicate any energy or form, probes shot into it disappear without a trace, and even Counselor Troi can get no sense from it. Worf calls for a yellow alert, relating an old Klingon legend of a giant black space that devours entire ships. When the void engulfs theEnterprise, they find themselves lost within it, unable to find their way out. Then things start to get weird. Other vessels show up. A Romulon battle ship and a Federation star cruiser appear, but they are strangely empty. Turns out the void is one of those giant, uncharted sentient beings that is trying to learn about humans and the concept of death, and is doing so by killing members of theEnterpriseone at a time. Once again, the contradictions of humans are on trial, and it's up to Captain Jean-Luc Picard to talk the ship and all of humankind out of trouble.--Andy Spletzer