"Force of Nature"

Season Seven, Episode 9
Written by Naren Shankar
Directed by Robert Lederman
Main Cast:
Patrick Stewart as Capt Jean-Luc Picard
Jonathan Frakes as Cmdr William Riker
LeVar Burton as Lt Cmdr Geordi LaForge
Michael Dorn as Lt Worf
Gates McFadden as Dr Beverly Crusher
Marina Sirtis as Counsellor Deanna Troi
Brent Spiner as Lt Cmdr Data

Guest Cast:
Michael Corbett as Rabal
Margaret Reed as Serova
Lee Arenberg as DaiMon Prak
Majel Barrett as Computer Voice

"What we've seen here will have repercussions for many years to come."
-- Picard. Yeah, RIGHT!

The Enterprise is searching for the missing medical ship Fleming in the Hekaras Corridor, a passageway through an areas of tetryon particles which inhibit warp engines. They encounter a Ferengi ship disabled by a mine that disables warp drives. The Enterprise soon encounters mine itself and is disabled. The ship is boarded by two Hekaran scientists, Rabal and Serova, who claim that warp drive is destroying the very fabric of space, calling for a ban on the use of warp drive. Serova sacrifices her own life to prove her theory, causing a rift in space which sucks in the Fleming and the Enterprise. "Riding" a distortion wave, the Enterprise manages to escape and the Federation later announces a new restriction on warp drive.


The best thing I can say about Force of Nature is that it's a well-intentioned look at a relevant, important issue. Perhaps I'm betraying my "eco warrior" leanings here, but our planet is in a dreadful state -- worse, some experts say, than we have been led to believe. And we are fully responsible. We've been living as though we're the last generation that's going to inhabit the world, with no thought given to our own children and their future. "Save the planet," goes one of my favourite slogans. "Good planets are hard to find." I'm all for any attempt to convey this vitally important message...but sadly, despite it's good intentions, in terms of execution Force of Nature is quite, quite abysmal. 

Truly, this is a mess of the highest order. It harks back to TNG's dire first season which featured a barrage of horrifically obvious, patronising "message" stories that would be more at home in a Saturday morning kiddie's slot. At any rate, prepare to have your intelligence insulted...because we're back in sledgehammer city!

First of all, practically nothing happens in this episode. A lively but brief cameo by a deliciously deceitful Ferengi aside, the first twenty minutes are devoid of anything remotely resembling plot or meaningful characterisation. Were the writers on holiday this week? Did the actors have to make up their lines as they went along? Because, surely to goodness they can't think that Data's "dilemma" over whether to train Spot was going to be entertaining? To start with it was amusing, but it wore thin after the first two minutes. I was getting seriously impatient and while the Data/Geordi interaction is amiable, it does not -- repeat NOT -- have the spark or entertainment value to sustain so much time. Add to that vile amounts of technobabble as they discuss the inner workings of the Enterprise and I practically had to FORCE myself not to flick channels. 

Although it's initially a relief when the plot finally gets underway, sadly things actually get worse. Not only are the guest stars lousy, but the directing is flat and lacklustre and this episode achieves no sense of drama whatsoever. Perhaps the cardinal sin is that the message is hammered across with all the subtlty of a brick to the head. In the hands of a good writer, allegory can achieve spectacularly effective results...but this is the opposite side of the coin. This is so obvious, so thinly veiled that it's embarrassing to watch and I suspect insulting to anyone above the age of seven. "We still have time to make it better, Captain," says Geordi earnestly. Enough already -- I get it, I GET IT!! Like the episode itself, I found the supposed "repercussions", restricting warp speed to warp five very misguided. Star Trek is about "boldy going" and here we're told that we now must boldy go slower. :-{ Thankfully, despite Picard's statement that this discovery will have repercussions for many years, the whole affair is promptly forgotten and quite rightly so. Not only is Force of Nature the epitome of boring, it's also on my shortlist of Star Trek episodes that deserve to be erased from history.

Rating: 2

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