Nagilum only appeared on one episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but it was a frightening and memorable experience for the crew of the Enterprise-D. This mysterious entity’s arrival sparked lots of questions in the TNG fandom. In the course of the episode, Nagilum takes the form of a giant face in space, and addresses the crew directly. Ultimately, Nagilum’s goal is to use his “laboratory” to understand the concept of death itself, by killing members of the crew. Picard sets the auto-destruct, rather than willingly participate in the experiment. However, he aborts the auto-destruct sequence when Nagilum returns the ship to “normal” space, with only seconds to spare.
Nagilum Was a Mysterious One-Off Villian on ‘TNG’
The video above expands on popular fan theories about who or what “Nagilum” was on TNG. The fan theory video was created by YouTuber Certifiably Ingame, who speculates that the closest thing fans have seen to Nagilum are the interphasic realms in between parallel universes, like the one the Defiant was in before crossing into the infamous “Mirror Universe”, as featured in the TOS episode The Tholian Web. However, so little is known about Nagilum that fans are forced to speculate about the entity’s true nature and origins.
The space entity known as Nagilum was first featured in Star Trek: The Next Generation, in the episode Where Silence Has Lease. In that episode, the crew of the Enterprise-D explores an area of space that hasn’t been well-charted, the Morgana Quadrant, and encounters a strange void in space.
Data is one of the first crewmen to note just how strange this phenomenon is, stating: “The sensors are showing this to be the absence of everything. It is a void without matter or energy of any kind.”
In the course of the episode, it becomes clear that the crew have encountered a phenomenon never reported by another Federation vessel. However, Worf notes that the void is eerily similar to a cautionary tale told by his ancestors. Despite Worf’s concern, Picard orders his crew to continue examining the phenomenon. Shortly thereafter, the ship is “trapped like a fly in amber” in the void, in Picard’s words. The crew begins to debate, what, exactly, they’ve encountered, with the issue being raised that the crew may have traveled outside of their dimension.
“Could a lack of dimension be another dimension in itself?” Data asks the assembled crew at one point early in the encounter with the Nagilum phenomenon. The official Star Trek database entry for Nagilum is very brief, very light on details, and simply lists the origin of the Nagilum as “space”.
The Voice of Nagilum Appeared in Other ‘Trek’ Media
On TNG, the voice of Nagilum was provided by actor Earl Boen, an actor with a long resume in both TV and film, inlcuding recurring appearances on shows like Who’s The Boss?, L.A. Law, and Kim Possible. He has also contributed voiceover work to the World of Warcraft game franchise.
While Nagilum was his only role on televised Star Trek, his voice is frequently heard in Star Trek video games, including Star Trek: Bridge Commander, Star Trek: Armada II, and Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force.
Earl Boen was born August 8, 1941. At the time of publication, he was still living. His most recent credit on IMDB is a voice credit on the video game Girls Mode 4: Star Stylist, alongside former Daily Show correspondent Wyatt Cenac. Boen’s voice role in that game came hot on the heels of years of voiceover work in both the World of Warcraft and Monkey Island series of games. According to TCM, Boen has over 200 professional credits on his resume, and first appeared on-screen in 1977. Given that he is still alive, and given that Star Trek: Picard has brought Patrick Stewart back to Star Trek, perhaps the character could return in future seasons of Picard.
Was Nagilum the Source of the Klingon Legend?
During the events of the Nagilum episode, Where Silence Has Lease, Worf tries to caution his shipmates against getting too close to the “void” in space. Worf cites an ancient story from the early days of the Klingon Empire.
“My thoughts were of an old Klingon legend,” Worf tells Captain Picard after the ship encounters the phenomenon. “A gigantic black space creature, which was said to devour entire vessels.”
What fans want to know is this: Was Worf right? Or was Nagilum something else entirely? Without a clear answer in the episode itself, fans look for clues in other Star Trek series and episodes.
One candidate for the unnamed Klingon “space devourer” of legend appears in the TOS episode The Immunity Syndrome, which features a “zone of darkness” that’s somewhat similar to Nagilum, in that sensors can’t really penetrate it. However, Data does state during the events of Where Silence Has Lease that no Federation ship has ever reported seeing such a void in space before. This might be a simple continuity error, or perhaps, since Kirk was ultimately about to learn something about the phenomenon he encountered, this is why Data doesn’t draw a commonality between the “impossible to scan” space phenomena in Where Silence Has Lease and The Immunity Syndrome. Unlike Nagilum, the monster at the heart of The Immunity Syndrome is a giant single-celled organism, a sort of “space amoeba” that seems less intellectually complex than Nagilum.
Another candidate for the Klingon legend might have been seen in Star Trek: Voyager. The fifth season episode Bliss features a cloud-like hole in space. The crew thinks it could be a wormhole at first, but they quickly realize there is something strange about the opening in space before them. Voyager is, for a time, in the belly of the beast, unaware that they are the victims of a hungry, telepathic space monster that intends to devour the ship and its crew. The crew ultimately gets free by making the creature “vomit” them up, a feat they accomplish by making the ship “taste bad” when it vents anti-matter within the creature’s unusual digestive system.
However, little is known about this creature, and it seems unlikely that the Klingons would have had knowledge of it, given it was shown only in the Delta Quadrant. While Voyager did eventually feature Klingons who had traveled to the Delta Quadrant, in the episode Prophecy, there were only a small number of them from a religious sect that had left the Alpha Quadrant behind, making it seem unlikely that any Klingon encounters with the creature seen in Bliss could have been recorded and reported to Klingons back in the Alpha Quadrant.