Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 161 (Force of Nature)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

WARNING: I’m about to give away pretty much all of the important details about this episode. If you want to be surprised, stop reading here.

You’ve been warned…

The Enterprise is looking for a medical ship lost in a region of space known to be difficult to pass through. There have been other reports of lost ships, but this one is carrying a valuable and important cargo. While looking for the ship, the Enterprise comes upon a Ferengi ship, which has apparently fallen victim to a probe that disabled most of their systems. They might know something about the medical ship, but they’re too busy with repairs to check their sensor logs. Captain Picard offers to help with repairs…if it would give the Ferengi captain time to look for the information that they want.

Using the information that they gather from the Ferengi, the Enterprise finds a debris field that might be the ship that they’re looking for. As the Enterprise scans the area, a probe emits a beam that knocks out most of their systems, much like what had happened to the Ferengi ship. Two aliens, Rabal and Serova, transport aboard the Enterprise moments later. They claim that warp drive, which makes interplanetary travel possible, is killing their people. That might sound a little drastic, but they claim to have proof that warp drive is damaging the fabric of space. Picard tells them that there will have to be more research, but Serova feels that this is just another attempt to stall and delay them.

Serova is actually willing to take her ship out and overload the engines (thus killing herself) to prove their point. By destroying her ship, she creates a subspace rift, just as was predicted. To make matters worse, the rift actually affects the ship that they’re looking for. They can’t use warp drive to go over and rescue the people on the ship, but it would take weeks to get there without warp drive. Data comes up with a plan to save everyone. Everything works out in the end, but the rift remains and the Federation imposes a warp-five speed limit. It’s not a perfect solution and other governments aren’t bound by it. However, it’s supposed to be a step in the right direction.

If I had to compile a list of the worst episodes of The Next Generation, this would probably make the top three. Part of the problem is that the message is really obvious. Warp drive damaging space is supposed to be like an SUV destroying the Ozone Layer. The loss of warp drive would adversely affect space travel to the point where interplanetary travel would be impractical or even impossible.

Also, there were several story and plot points that I had a problem with. For instance, it seemed like at first, the problems were limited to that area of space. By the end of the episode, it seemed like the problems affected the entire universe to some extent. I’ll admit that it could be that Serova and Rabal were mostly concerned about their planet, but could show how it affected everyone. However, it just seemed strange to me.

Also, couldn’t Serova have put her ship on autopilot? I don’t think that the exact spot where the warp drive went critical was all that important. I also don’t think that her presence on the ship was all that important, either. Yes, I acknowledge that sacrificing your life is supposed to say something, but it still doesn’t make any sense to me.

Overall, I’d say that it was a two-star episode. I think that the plot could have been a lot better. The acting and effects were on par. One good point was getting to see Data consider having to train his cat, Spot. Anyone that’s had a cat or a dog or knows someone that’s had a cat or a dog knows the difficulty involved in training them. However, that’s not enough to recommend watching this episode. If it comes on TV, it would be worth watching, but I can’t recommend buying the tape.

IMDb page

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