The Enterprise has a habit of becoming the guinea pig of vastly more powerful beings. We puny humans always manage to outsmart and/or charm those who might squash us - well, at least those of us on the Enterprise under the command of Jean-Luc Picard.
In this case a stretchy-faced hole of nothingness wanted to watch the crew of the Enterprise squirm and die, well, only a third to a half of them. It was a brave decision by Picard and Riker to destroy everyone rather than lose many. I'm not sure the crew would have agreed with them but it reminded me that although the Federation may be the epitome of human development, the Enterprise is not a democracy.
This episode was improved by its focus on one story line. However, the writers are still trying to shoe horn some of their ideas in (the holodeck scene at the beginning of the episode, timey wimey ghost ships) but at least there is a dominant theme. The story suffered a bit because of shuffling on the deck and too much standing around bemused and then pondering. For example, why was Dr. Pulaski on the bridge? All she did was insult Data again, take Deanna's chair and ask for super magnification. And poor Haskell's only job was to be an example of a very strange death. The writers need to help us understand why things happen and how they tie together.
Nagilum was a lacklustre enemy perhaps because he (?) had the detachment of a scientist. I think the whole, 'he exists but he doesn't exist' didn't really work. Perhaps if they had followed through with the old Klingon legend or the other dimension stuff she (?) might have been more interesting. In general this wasn't the greatest episode, but at least it is moving in the right direction.
Wormholes are known to the Federation but they didn't seem to be of any particular use.
When Troi and Wesley weren't on the bridge I thought, well, I guess they have to have time off sometime.
The beacon was a clever audible cue that they were in a loop. I would have been much more satisfied by a less cursory exploration of the 'other dimension' idea.
We got to meet 'Chief O'Brien' as a transporter operator.
Picard would spend his last minutes listening to 'Gymnopedie No. 1' by Erik Satie. It is one of my favourite pieces of classical music.
I enjoyed Picard's ideas about our existence after death. They were spiritual without being religious.
Picard: “I think it is perhaps best to be ignorant of certain elements of Klingon psyche.”
Data: “Captain, the most elementary and valuable statement in science, the beginning of wisdom, is 'I do not know.' I do not know what this is, sir.”
Worf: “When in doubt surprise them.”
Riker: “Them, who's them?”
Worf: “Whoever may be there.”
Riker: “Our sensors indicate no life forms.”
Worf: “Still the tactic is sound.”
LaForge: “Sure is a damned ugly nothing.”
Nagilum: “Please demonstrate how this is accomplished.”
Dr. Pulaski: “Not likely.”
Dr. Pulaski: “Why do I get the feeling that this was not the time to join this ship?”
Riker: “Well, 20 minutes - nice round figure.”
Picard: “A simple 'yes' would have sufficed, Number One.”