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Star Trek The Next Generation: Force of Nature

"Captain's Log, Stardate 47310.2. We are investigating the disappearance of the medical transport Fleming somewhere in the Hekaras Corridor. Our search is complicated by the unique properties of this particular region of space."

'Force of Nature' was Next Gen's big take on environmentalism and the damage we are doing because of our uncontrollable need to get to places as quickly as possible, a subject that is just as topical now as it was in the early 90s.

But before all that let's waste some time on Data's cat.

When an episode is running a little short it's not uncommon for the writers to throw in a few irreverent subplots to pad things out. But 'Force of Nature' is really bizarre in that not only does it have a completely pointless B-story that doesn't compliment the A-story in any way, it treats the B-story like it is the A-story and the A-story like it is the B-story then forgets about the B-story that it was treating like the A-story altogether and starts treating the A-story it was treating like the B-story like the A-story.

I think.

I might've over-complicated things there.

Let me start again.

When this episode starts the main storyline is about Data trying to teach his cat to be a better behaved cat. All the stuff about the missing ship is secondary to what is going on with Data and his cat. We get a good 20 minutes of stuff about Data and his cat. That's almost half the episode. This would almost be forgivable if this actually went anywhere. Instead, it pulls a Pulaski as soon as the actual A-story shows up and is never seen or heard from again. So what we have here is the strange case of a B-story being used to delay the A-story rather than stretch it out.

Then again, considering how bad the rest of the episode is, maybe it would've been better if they'd delayed it indefinitely.

The tardy main plot centres around a pair of scientists who warn that warp drive is harmful to the environment outer space and will soon cause a major disaster. They don't have the data to back up their claims so naturally they resort to domestic terrorism like any sane scientist would. When that doesn't work, one of them decides the best way to save her planet from all the damage caused by warp drive is to actually endanger her planet by causing the very disaster she was trying to avoid. That's sort of like David Attenborough flooding London to warn us about the dangers of climate change.

At this point 'Force of Nature' becomes your bog standard "how do we deal with this anomaly" crisis episode. A lot of technobabble gets thrown around, everyone gives their chairs a good shake, and the FX team earn their paycheck. After that there's some blather in the ward room about how we all have to do our bit to prevent this from happening again and some nonsense about speed limits on starships. That would be a massive game changer, if the rest of the franchise didn't ignore it completely rendering this entire episode as pointless as all the stuff about Data's bloody cat.

Notes and Quotes

--Early drafts featured Geordi's sister coming on board to help him deal with the death of their mother.

--I find it hilarious that, unlike DS9, Next Gen was still treating the Ferengi like they were some sort of military power that could threaten the Federation with war.

--Ferengi aren't really that short. Riker is just TALL.

--Spot undergoes an unexplained sex change in this episode and is now a she. Is she a Time Lord cat?

--Geordi says warp drive has been around for three centuries, but that's just humans. Other species have had warp technology a lot longer.

--Worf clearly isn't listening to a word Data is saying during his briefing. He just keeps playing with the table.

Data: "Why is Spot under the bed?"
Geordi: "Probably because she knows if I catch her, I'm going to kill her."

One and a half out of four B-stories that are really A-stories

Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011 More Mark Greig

1 comment:

  1. Omg, what a terrible episode. It was so dull, so wall-to-wall technobabble, that I kept yawning. And I kept thinking, you know, space is pretty darned immense that the story made no sense.

    And it's not that I don't like Data having a cat -- or more accurately, from what we learned in this episode, that a cat has Data. Geordi treated Spot terribly, which I found disappointing.

    Spot undergoes an unexplained sex change in this episode and is now a she. Is she a Time Lord cat? Good one, Mark. :)


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