Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Force of Nature"

2 stars

Air date: 11/15/1993
Written by Naren Shankar
Directed by Robert Lederman

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

The Enterprise ventures into a corridor of space in search of a missing Starfleet vessel but instead finds a disabled Ferengi ship, then later a debris field that's actually a trap used to disable the Enterprise. It was set by the inhabitants of a nearby planet used to raise awareness; two of their scientists, Rabal (Michael Corbett) and Serova (Margaret Reed), claim the cumulative use of warp drive in this narrow corridor is causing irreversible damage to their space and planet. Also, there's a lot of dialogue about Data's cat.

Structurally, "Force of Nature" is about as inelegant as it gets. For the first half of the episode we essentially have a B-story where Data and Geordi crawl around Jeffries tubes and talk about Spot the Goddamn Cat. This material is so clearly padded (and then abandoned) that I'm pretty convinced the writers realized they didn't have enough story to fill the hour and so they tried to turn what should've been the teaser (and absolutely nothing more) into 10 minutes of irrelevant subplot. Then we get the disabled Ferengi ship, which is ham-handed to say the least (the Ferengi captain is a hostile idiot who makes threats and wild accusations despite any evidence and his inferior position that's completely at Picard's mercy) — and again, is dropped so soon after it's introduced that it feels like filler.

Finally we get the meat of the story with the alien scientists, who are desperate to prove theories that have been skeptically received for years, which is that warp drive is damaging their space. When it doesn't look like Serova is getting the immediate response she wants from the Federation, she pilots her ship into the rift and breaches the warp core, killing herself in a radical demonstration that opens a spatial rift that (sort of) proves she was correct. Serova does this despite the fact that Picard was fully prepared to take her recommendation to Starfleet, whom we have no reason to believe won't take it seriously. Serova is, in short, the story's dramatic catalyst, but not a particularly believable one. There are some okay scenes in the wake of this, including Geordi navel-gazing and his conversations with the reasonable Rabal, brother of the late, radical Serova.

The last act, in which the Enterprise must enter and escape the rift to rescue the survivors of the missing ship, drowns in a morass of who-cares technobabble. It makes you realize just how bored this kind of rote recitation of jargon must make the actors. It's action of the most thankless kind, where the camera shakes while people urgently yell out jargony jargon words, and it's supposed to be exciting, but it really is not. Better, but not good, is the heavy-handed final scene in the conference room, where we get the fallout from the revelation that warp drive might actually be causing damage to some areas of space. (The story is sketchy on the details, so as to not lock Star Trek into a situation where one can't trek the stars.)

This is a Trekkian Message Show with themes delivered with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. The real-world corollaries might register as topically relevant if they weren't so laughably obvious in their delivery. To summarize: warp travel is equivalent to carbon emissions, which is causing damage to space, with the long-term devastating environmental effects being equivalent to global warming. I will say that this is not one of Trek's more enlightening or effective allegories. (The Federation's immediate short-term precautionary solution is to institute a speed limit of warp 5, which comes across as more silly than anything.) The one irony I will note, writing this 19 years after "Force of Nature" aired, is the sad state of where the issue of global warming has since ventured in America — with accepted science being pathetically reframed as debate by absurd and shortsighted economic/political denial.

Come to think of it, the fact that the Federation enacts a speed limit immediately after the events of this episode says something when you consider what we haven't done to address carbon emissions and other ecological problems in the 19 years since this episode aired. Perhaps this episode is the ultimate allegory of indictment, meant to be analyzed decades after it was made! Now there's a concept!

Okay, or not.

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Next episode: Inheritance

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98 comments on this post

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grumpy_otter
Sat, Oct 27, 2012, 4:36pm (UTC -5)
I don't disagree with your overall review, just wanted to tell you not to call Spot a "Goddam Cat" again. If you do, I may have to enlist my fellow small mammals into teaching Jammer about proper small mammal address and protocol.

I like Spot, and think discussions of him/her are some of the funniest bits on TNG. If this had appeared in a better episode, I don't think you'd have minded.
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Jammer
Sat, Oct 27, 2012, 5:16pm (UTC -5)
I'm not anti-Spot, but the amount of Spot-related dialogue in this episode was really stretching it thin in a particularly obvious way. Definitely not "Spot on." (Har har! Groan.)
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lvsxy808
Sun, Oct 28, 2012, 5:16am (UTC -5)
Dull dull dull dull dull. The most pointless, white-noise waste of an hour ever. I'd rather watch "Manhunt" or "Shades of Grey" than this.

The Spot business was indeed filler, written to replace what would have been a much more interesting sub-plot in which Geordi's sister comes aboard to try to help him through the loss of their mother. The story would have revealed Geordi as a bit of a control freak, refusing to accept that his precious technology could ever be the cause of environmental damage and concentrating on that issue precisely to avoid dealing with the lack of control implied by his mother's unexplained disappearance, and his sister would have helped him to face his issues. That story was dropped because it was yet another never-seen-before family member coming aboard in a season full of such stories, which is an understandable concern. But what they replaced it with was so much crap that I'd much rather have had another family story than How to Train a Cat Using Tuna in Your Bra.

And after all that, the warp speed limit was Never Heard From Again except for one off-hand reference in which it was specifically suspended for political reasons.
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grumpy_otter
Sun, Oct 28, 2012, 3:51pm (UTC -5)
"I'm not anti-Spot, but the amount of Spot-related dialogue in this episode was really stretching it thin in a particularly obvious way. Definitely not "Spot on." (Har har! Groan.) "

Okay, you're forgiven. I will inform the irascible mustelidae community.
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Jay
Sun, Oct 28, 2012, 7:53pm (UTC -5)
Yeah this was definitely a silly idea, and if high traffic causes rifts like this, it shouldn't have taken long before a huge one opened up next to the Bajoran wormhole...

And as far as that series goes, I suspect the Defiant rarely settled for Warp 5.
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Paul
Mon, Oct 29, 2012, 9:13am (UTC -5)
Really terrible episode. I'm surprised it even got two stars, Jammer.

The first half is (as you said) all over the map. The tension-filled part of the episode is boring season 7 material -- lots of technobabble and boring music.

But the worst part is how significant the conclusion should be to everything later in Star Trek -- but it isn't. There's some talk of the Warp 5 speed limit for the rest of season 7 (in "Pegasus" and "All Good Things ..."). But after TNG goes off the air, there's no mention of the speed limit or the danger to space.

There is some sort of reference to how Voyager's engines were designed in a way to prevent this problem (maybe in one of the encyclopedias?). But nothing on air is mentioned, and none of the DS9 vessels appear different.

Season 7 is just such a waste. Other than the finale, "Parallels," "Pegasus", "Lower Decks" and "Preemptive Strike", we're lucky to get mediocrity.
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Nic
Mon, Oct 29, 2012, 7:28pm (UTC -5)
The writers certainly had good intentions with this one, and I'll grant you it's not easy doing a show with an environmentally-conscious message without being obvious. But yeah, they could have done better.
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Paul
Tue, Oct 30, 2012, 1:36pm (UTC -5)
Here's what they should have done with this episode that would have made it watchable:

1) Cut out the filler crap at the beginning.
2) Make the female scientist less whiny and the Ferengi less stupid.
3) With the time leftover from the beginning, go forward a few weeks where the Federation has more of a plan to combat the problem. A scene with Geordi and Picard talking about "promising results" with new technology designed to avoid the problem would have been huge.
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Nick P.
Sun, Nov 4, 2012, 12:39am (UTC -5)
And we have it! the worst episode of the entire run. I could watch the Crusher masterbation one tens times in a row before I would watch this one.

But everyone is wrong, it is not direction, or message, or acting, or plot, or music, or writing.

See, like all entertainment, what makes people come watch it, is that they want to LIVE in this universe. they want to BE the heroes. No one wants to live in universe with a "warp speed limit" and the fucking horrible starfleet beurocracy that was surely created. that is similar to why the last Indiana Jones failed. the 1st three were fun because you want to BE Indiana jones, but no one wants to be the 68 year old professor. That is the secret to entertainment.

Star trek was at its best from the TOS to mid season 4 TNG. Starfleet and the enterprise stopped being the guys you wanted to be. Look at all the episodes with Ro laren, or Wesley, from the 5th season onwards. No one wants to be that starfleet. The boring beurocratic one. TOS was about not judging people by their gender or skin color. Now star trek is about NOT warping somewhere cool.

F-that.
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Delkazyr
Mon, Nov 5, 2012, 4:19pm (UTC -5)
The real paradox in this episode is that the oh-so-brilliant Serova proved her theories the practical way. Using her as an allegory for present environmental problems, consider her an anti-nuclear activist causing a radioactive meltdown (in her vicinity) to prove lacking reactor safety. Yeah, brilliant indeed!

(I admit, I essentially quoted Phil Farrand here. But come to think about it, he does have a point.)
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Jeffrey Jakucyk
Wed, Nov 7, 2012, 6:01pm (UTC -5)
I'm glad Jammer brings up the ambiguity of just how far-reaching this damage is. I've watched this episode a few times (though I admit it's difficult to pay attention to as it's so plodding), but I've never noticed anything to suggest that this damage applies anywhere but in this one particular corridor of space. It's a problem for anyone going through that corridor sure, but does it affect anyone near Earth, or Bajor, or anywhere else of much importance?

On the other hand, the discussion about warp speed limits and Voyager's special nacelles would seem to suggest otherwise. I just always felt like people blew this issue way out of proportion because it seemed (at least to me) to be fairly minor. To use the pollution analogy, this would be more like a problem with smog or heavy metals in a river, local concerns, not something with global implications like carbon dioxide or CFCs.
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Skeptic
Fri, Nov 16, 2012, 2:32am (UTC -5)
Ironic that since this Global Warming cautionary tale aired Earth's climate has not actually become significantly warmer. Maybe the warp 5 speed limit had unexpected benefits.
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Eric
Sat, Feb 23, 2013, 12:56am (UTC -5)
@Skeptic: What's your definition of "significant"?


It has raised though. From this chart I found on the National climatic data centre, it looks to be about .2-.4 degrees (since the episode aired), I dunno, seems "significant" to me, considering its a global mean.

From what I've read/heard from scientists on GW, is that global average increase that they're predicting is actually slow - deceptively slow, because a global average increase of 1.2 degrees in 20 years actually carries a lot more punch than laymen tend to think, in the form of rising sea levels, increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events. Don't forget there's also feedback mechanisms, rising population levels, and a segment of Earth's population that is only now becoming heavily motorized/industrial.

Its baffling that anyone is skeptical of this, or that people think that there's a debate raging in scientific fields. There isn't. Go to skepticalscience.com if you want to see a list of all the scientific institutions that support the consensus. Or to desmogblog.org, to see all the great exposition done on the disinformation spread on GW (Probably why so many people think that there's no consensus - therefore its not that baffling, but anyway...). Desmogblog did a tally of how many peer-reviewed research papers denied GW vs how many did. Something like 3 to 2000. Unless most of the world's climate scientists are participating in the world's biggest, most elaborate conspiracy (to what end, I'm not sure), we have a real problem on our hands.
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Formerly known as Artisan
Mon, Mar 11, 2013, 8:03am (UTC -5)
A couple of years before this aired, a young woman who I admired (but only knew via GEnie, an electronic forum of the 90s) privately shared with me a copy of a TNG script she had written. It would have been a great episode. When "Force of Nature" aired, I was amazed by the similarities, and terribly disappointed. Ellen's script was exactly the story this one should have been.

In her take on the subject, Picard had a difficult decision to make, and took responsibility for it. He could allow an alien civilization to die, if the Federation continued to use warp technology as before, or he could cripple the Federation to save them. He chose the Federation. There was real drama, and real tragedy, all of it rooted in people we care about, and true to their established character and motivation.

Having that spec script as a basis for comparison, this episode seemed even worse than it was. In the aftermath, it was no surprise that its speed limit was more thoroughly disregarded and unenforced than the 55 mph limit of today.
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Grumpy
Mon, Apr 8, 2013, 9:02pm (UTC -5)
(A lot of my comments are of the "If only..." or "They could've" variety, even though they're 20 years too late. Well, here's another.)

Not much would've saved this snoozer, but one easy fix is to replace the nobody scientists with someone we care about, especially in the spirit of 7th season bookends. Leah Brahms is an obvious choice. Another option is Mirasta Yale. In "First Contact," she represented technological progress. Now she's thrust into the 24th century (she left her planet, remember) and she discovers the future's not so clean. The same theme would've been served by an encore appearance by, say, Berlinghoff Rasmussen. Or both. Or all three!
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Jack
Sat, Sep 14, 2013, 11:05am (UTC -5)
Ferengi Council? We never see it, and by this time, DS9's "The Nagus" had already aired.
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Reverend Spork
Mon, Sep 16, 2013, 7:43pm (UTC -5)
It's a middling episode, to be sure, but I enjoyed the Data / LaForge patter. I also like Spot the Damned Cat. However, the A-story boasted annoyingly hardheaded characters, and those characters are especially Annoying Trek Cliches [tm]. Two stars is an accurate assessment, IMHO.
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William B
Fri, Oct 18, 2013, 9:25am (UTC -5)
I generally like the Data/La Forge patter and interaction enough to let the time spent on the Spot material slide, if this weren't an episode which obviously had more important things on its mind and didn't fail. The La Forge subplot in which he works hard at a competition he has with another chief engineer, on the other hand, has a clear story purpose which works well. "Booby Trap" more or less suggested that the Enterprise is his girlfriend, and this episode, in which Geordi moves immediately from seeing whether he's ready for cat ownership to, once that has fallen through, channeling his energies back into the warp engine, suggests that the Enterprise engines are also his pet. That Geordi has a personal connection to the ship is something that has been established over the years, and, as with "Interface," this episode does a bit to poke holes in Geordi's relationship to technology and show the weaknesses therein. Geordi is personally hurt that warp drive, which his identity is wrapped up in, could have devastating effects on the fabric of space, and that blow suggests that maybe the thing he values most is not a good thing after all. That's a potentially great story, and one I applaud in theory. In practice, though, while there's a good moment or two with this the emotional heft is lost.

Really, the episode is a mess, unable to stay focused, wasting time on irrelevant details so that the actual story doesn't begin until about halfway through the hour. Once then, it becomes a ponderous, preachy mess; some of these scenes work, but the idea that Serova, as Jammer points out, would react so strongly as to kill herself when people *were listening to her*, and, more to the point, would go as far as to do the damage of a *million ships* on her own space, which is surely more damage than would happen in a year, undermines her as a credible activist (unless, of course, there is a point here being made about activists sliding into extremism that is not only morally suspect because of the damage they do to themselves and others, but to the cause itself, in which, uh, maybe?, but there is no time to digest this). The performances of the guest cast are weak, and then the rescue mission in the last act is awful, with only *one* exterior shot to give us some dramatic idea of what's happening beyond Data and La Forge et al. shouting out what they are doing. The last scene in the conference room feels like a long, droning exposition scene about the new rules which are being put into place which are shortly being ignored.

I applaud the idea behind this episode quite a bit -- the thing about environmental damage is that to forestall it really does mean making compromises on things one had believed to be safe. For the Enterprise crew to learn that they have been unintentionally contributing to environmental damage is a great idea. Sadly the execution is terrible, aside from a few La Forge details. 1.5 stars.
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mephyve
Wed, Jan 29, 2014, 10:27am (UTC -5)
I definitely enjoyed the running gag 'Spot the cat' throughout the seasons. I love the imagery elicited whenever someone suggests using a phaser against it. Equally hilarious was the look on Data's face as he considered the implications of the suggestion. "Geordi, I can't stun my cat.' Hilarious! Was it filler? Perhaps somewhat, but highly entertaining filler that dealt with an ongoing gag. Good stuff.
I think the Ferengi scene was used to show that this was a universal issue rather than one limited to the federation. A serious environmental problem was brought to light that would have had more impact if it had led to changes in the Trek verse.
I enjoyed the episode.
3 stars
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Smith
Tue, Feb 25, 2014, 8:15am (UTC -5)
Thought the story was flawed, but execution and teleplay were strong. Gene specifically in his writing bible prohibiting making technology a villian. When do you do this lose some abstraction and the ability to tell stories in a more creative and spontaneous format. Story lines over whether you can break warp 5 become simplistic and tedious and compete with other more stronger story lines.

The concept of doing a global warming story was good...but it needed more abstraction. Gobal warming is about denial...and you can communicate this is a very science fiction indirect way. Perhaps the crew picks an alien parasite and those who have it deny they do. Or perhaps a new tech is hurting the crew in ways they can't realize and the engineers get in denial over it? Lot's of methods, without being too obvious.

I liked the non-linear format of the show in that it went from Spot to Geordi's competition to the rescue of the science ship to the "pirates" then to the global warming story. Too many modern stories are "too efficient" and become subconsciously predictable and boring.

Initially, there was going to be a subplot about Geordi's sister coming aboard to reminisce about their Mom...which Pillar thankfully nixed because he thought (correctly) it was too trite.
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TS
Sun, Jun 22, 2014, 5:31am (UTC -5)
A sub-plot about Data training Spot. The cat. It's just further evidence that the writers were creatively out of gas at this point. Also didn't help that Michael Piller had moved on to DS9, but I digress.
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SamSimon
Wed, Jul 23, 2014, 2:49pm (UTC -5)
While I do agree with Jammer on all the weaknesses of this episode (basically, the fact that there are a couple of subplots just to fill the hour), I do believe that the final message alone deserves a couple of stars on its own. Simply great. And 20 years later, we are still destroying the only Planet that we have using fossil fuels, and we are not going to do anything at all to stop this in the foreseeable future...
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Samuel
Thu, Dec 18, 2014, 9:30pm (UTC -5)
Nick P is mr Plinkett.
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Tim Rigney
Fri, Mar 6, 2015, 7:56am (UTC -5)
I actually liked this episode, but did anybody notice the glaring continuity error? In the middle of the episode, they encounter a debris field which closely-matches the field that would be expected from the missing ship - the "Fleming." Data even goes so far as to imply that it probably *is* the Fleming. Then at the end of the story, the Fleming is encountered and its crew is safely beamed on-board the Enterprise. The debris field is never mentioned again.
I suppose it could be argued that the warp rift problems caused by travel at warp speeds could cause time shifts, but if that's the case I think it should have been spelled out. I think it's *way* too vague to expect people to just infer it, if that's what they were expecting.
I also thought they were a bit too vague on what it means to "field saturate" the nacelles. Maybe "Trekkies" would get that but as others have mentioned, there was perhaps too much "techno-jargon" involved in this one - imo it's *bad* science fiction to be throwing technical terms around willy-nilly without explaining what they mean.
It's actually one of my favorite episodes overall but I would definitely agree that it needed a re-write. It was written by Naren Shankar who was perhaps high on the science knowledge, low on the writing experience.
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Bick
Mon, Jun 15, 2015, 6:50am (UTC -5)
Ok I believe in global warming but that cocksucker Al Gore Promised us water levels way higher and a tropical California, I've been waiting for coconuts and mango trees in Laguna beach, but have yet to find a god damn one. Nor has the water level hit PCH. In fact, nothing has changed since Gore made that promise in 1990, not a god damn thing.. And that was originally supposed to go down in 08. It's 2015 and no coconuts, not a fucking thing.
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Dave
Fri, Jul 10, 2015, 2:15pm (UTC -5)
^
Cool story, bro.
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DLPB
Fri, Jul 10, 2015, 5:03pm (UTC -5)
If you're waiting for a democrat to be right about anything or see reality, you will have a loooong wait.
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Troy
Mon, Aug 3, 2015, 10:15am (UTC -5)
I like this episode 2.75 stars, yes the analogy to global warming and other environmental issues makes it an issue episode. Yes the stuff about Spot the cat was ho-hum. I'd rather have had Geordi's sister as another poster suggested (maybe even make the debris field the Hera?)
True there isn't enough to weave a full 45 minutes out of an issue, so a parallel story was needed.
Another change I suppose I'd rather the sister tried to beam back aboard and then ended up in her own mess would have been a better ending for her (rather than being a pure martyr)
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Dougie
Sat, Sep 19, 2015, 3:54pm (UTC -5)
I'm with Bick. Funny I live in Laguna Beach as well. Our high tides during this supermoon are no worse than before.

Trek preacher shows are garbage, and watching this one today makes me sad to think how gullible trekkies are. I thought we might be an intelligent group, but nope. Just 'issue consumers' of the same hogwash as the ordinary people that the average trekkie thinks is an unevolved troglodyte, but with a dash of pretentiousness previously reserved for the Q.

So for you bro types out there, get over yourselves.
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Luke
Thu, Oct 15, 2015, 10:27pm (UTC -5)
ROTFLMAO!!!!! What the hell did I just watch? No, seriously, what was that? I don't think I've ever seen a television show, or film for that matter, so laughably bad in all my life. And I've seen a lot of Adam Sandler movies, so that's really saying something. I mean, I'm not even mad - usually when a Trek episode is this bad it's because it has enraged me in some fashion, but this.... this is just.... LOL!!!!!

I barely know where even to start with this train-wreck. From the completely unrepentant, unabashed filler of the "let's train Spot" sub-plot (for crying out loud, they devoted the entire teaser to set up the god-damn filler!), to the equally unrepentant filler of LaForge in competition with another ship's Chief Engineer, to yet another asinine use of the Ferengi (they actually had the Ferengi DaiMon manipulate Picard into aiding in his repairs yet had Riker stand there with a shit-eating grin on his face looking like "we sure pulled one over on this pathetic Ferengi, eh Captain?"), to the absolutely god-awful atrocious acting from the guy playing Rabal, to the completely unsubtle delivery of "The Message" (my favorite metaphor for Trek Message Shows is usually "the trusty Trek 2x4 to the face" - but Jammer is right, this isn't a 2x4, this a sledgehammer to the face!), to the moronic and sophormically absurd attempt at world-building with the Warp Five Speed Limit (yeah, because that's what people watch Trek for - to see people not warping off into the unknown)(damn - I don't even much care for the whole "where no one has gone before" and "seek out new life and new civilizations" aspect of the franchise, but even I think this is quite possibly the downright stupidest idea Trek has ever come up with - yes, stupider than the lizard sex from VOY: "Threshold"!), to the fact that the Federation Council inexplicably decides that because this one area of space, which is directly stated to be highly unique, is vulnerable to warp effects that it therefore means that all space (everywhere!) is also vulnerable, to the.... well, shit, do I even have to go on? Seriously, I can't stop laughing even now while writing this review! I suppose I could get into the absolute bullshit that is the modern climate change narrative (early incarnations of which this "story" is obviously based on), but I'm not going to bother. That's trivial, absolutely trivial, in this stew of crap!

But let's leave all of that aside. Because all of it, as bad as it all is, absolutely pales in comparison to the main problem with "Force of Nature" - the character of Serova. Could somebody please explain to me what in the actual fuck the writers/show-runners were trying to do with this character? So, let me see if I have this straight.... she's insanely concerned with the effect warp drive is having on her area of space and particularly on her planet. So, what does she do in order to protect her beloved space and planet? She deliberately drop kicks it all into the tenth level of Hell. To say that this makes absolutely no sense what-so-ever is an understatement. That's like someone saying "I'm massively concerned about the environmental impact of you pouring that one gallon of toxic waste into the local river so I'm going to dump one billion metric tons of toxic waste into it to show you that the river needs protecting!" Do you see the problem here? She just literally destroyed the entire climate of her own beloved planet and demolished the entire area of space surrounding it. That, on it's own, would be laughable enough, but it gets worse! After she has committed her act of eco-terrorism (which she did because Picard was giving her exactly what she wanted - umm, what?!!) the episode then decides that she is the moral center for the story! LaForge starts navel-gazing and asking things like "why didn't I just listen to her?". What?! He was listening to her! They were all giving her every, single benefit of the doubt! Even though she (and her brother) have, up to this point - (let's tally this up, shall we) 1.) mined the only area of this region where ships travel, 2.) disabled a Ferengi ship (thereby endangering the lives of 450 people - if the Enterprise hadn't come along they would probably have died adrift in space), 3.) disabled a Federation vessel (thereby endangering the lives of that crew), 4.) attacked the Enterprise (attempting to endanger another 1000+ people) and 5.) completely destroyed the lives of God knows how many people on their planet - she is considered to occupy the moral high ground here? Seriously, if I didn't laugh I'd cry, this is so abominably bad. The level of cognitive dissonance it must have taken to write this stuff must have been something to behold - one for the record books! But what really stands out is this line of dialogue from her brother - "I'm trying to tell myself that she died for what she believed in, but somehow that isn't much comfort." Oh. My. Holy. God! She didn't die for what she believed in; she died for the exact opposite of what she believed in! Let me use another analogy. Suppose Person A comes up to Person B and says... "You see Person C here? I love him and I don't ever want him to be harmed." Person A the proceeds to pull out a .44 Magnum and blow Person C's brains all over the nearest wall. Person B then says "I guess Person A really did want to keep him from harm." Seriously, was this a joke?!

Wow, it had been quite a while since TNG delivered an episode this bad (almost two and a half seasons). I've actually given eleven other episodes a zero rating, but this one may end up in the running for the worst in the entire series. A lot of people have episodes that they would like to pretend aren't canon. Well, this might very well me mine.

0/10
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Robert
Fri, Oct 16, 2015, 6:33am (UTC -5)
Actually LaForge's "why didn't I just listen to her" makes plenty of sense. She just sacrificed her planet to save the rest of the galaxy. It's the equivalent of someone protesting nuclear power detonated a reactor city to show how dangerous it is. Seeing the devastation could easily cause someone to say "Hey, she was right, that IS bad". That said, Serova's actions were preposterous, because nobody is so noble as to be more concerned about the galaxy than their home.
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Luke
Fri, Oct 16, 2015, 9:22am (UTC -5)
Except she wasn't out to save the galaxy. She was only trying to save her local region of space. The episode goes out of its way to let us know that this region is susceptible to the damage because of the high levels of technobabble radiation (or whatever field it was). It's only after her she destroys everything that it suddenly becomes "everywhere is capable of being damaged." Just like so many things, the episode promptly drops and forgets about what was said earlier.
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Diamond Dave
Mon, Nov 2, 2015, 12:32pm (UTC -5)
This is indeed something of a mess in conception. It's clear the A-story didn't have enough meat to sustain the whole episode - I was surprised the teaser contained nothing more than a Spot story, and even more surprised to find that carried on for the first 10 minutes, fun though it is! The Ferengi plot element also arrives and disappears. The we get a fairly heavy handed allegory for environmental damage - and it's difficult to get too engaged given the bizarre behaviour of Serova. Given something as far reaching as the war speed limit being introduced you'd expect it to be a big thing, and yet that disappears as well.

Still, the run up to the end is exciting enough, and there's some fun interplay earlier. "Geordi, I cannot stun my cat" indeed. 2 stars.
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Chrome
Wed, Nov 4, 2015, 5:56pm (UTC -5)
"Come to think of it, the fact that the Federation enacts a speed limit immediately after the events of this episode says something when you consider what we haven't done to address carbon emissions and other ecological problems in the 19 years since this episode aired."

Don't get me wrong, I liked your review, but what's up with the inaccurate political jab in your conclusion? Many states, particularly California, have enormously heightened their emissions restrictions on vehicles. Congress also has enacted federally mandated carbon emissions (which Volkswagon has infamously tried to circumvent). Less Star Trek, more newspapers for you, Jammer!
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Skywalker
Sun, Apr 17, 2016, 2:36am (UTC -5)
A note on the intro with Data, Geordi, and Spot.

I have a theory to why Spot often changes genders and appearance — Data keeps killing them by accident with his android strength and then gets new ones and uses the same name. I laugh imagining it like Mice of Men, with Geordi as George talking to Data as Lenny:

"That kitty ain't fresh, Data. When I find another that's fresh I'll let ya keep 'im a little while. You was always killin' 'em by pettin' 'em too hard. First chance I get, I'll get ya a puppy. You can pet 'em harder."
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IIII
Fri, Apr 22, 2016, 5:10am (UTC -5)
During the the mid and late 90s, just about every series (live action and animated) in those days needed some type of environmental friendly message crap shoved down out throats. The plot to this episode, that wrap speed is damaging space, was ignored because it made no sense. it was there own global warming bullshit... wake-up people!

Scientific Consensus on Climate Change
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AM4CnKk_83Q

Green Tyranny: The Propaganda Machine
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3NryBx2hP8o
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Trekker
Sun, Sep 4, 2016, 9:15pm (UTC -5)
Agree too heavy handed, it's like watching n episode of Captain Planet (I am a 90's kid).

TNG had two major topical issue problems in the late 80's and 90's:

1. Environmental stories- flat and too obvious or too utopian/clean answers that can never happen. There are no simple answers to climate change either for believers or deniers.

a. If it is real you can't mandate the world to work together.

b. If it is not really human driven, then how can we control the weather to not drop tornadoes in our towns where they haven't happened in over 100 years. Personally, I belong to class b argument, I don't doubt issues with climate probably natural. My inclination is not to "Go Green", but to advance science and change weather patterns to suit Human life, which both Liberals and Conservatives lack in their extreme stances.

c. If you are a super-denier in climate pattern change, not just a scientific challenger on facts but a religious zealot believer in God's will (I argue more along the line that there isn't enough data to support human driven pattern, but there is enough to show periodic issues), how do you explain the European Ice age of the 19th century, which cause the Great Potato Famine among other historical events?

2. LGBT storylines- "The Host" and "Outcast" just made Star Trek out to be homophobic, while other TV shows were rising to the challenge like Alien Nation and later on Babylon 5 and even Gene Roddenberry's forgotten classic Earth Final Conflict.
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Greg
Thu, Oct 27, 2016, 11:56pm (UTC -5)
I have to agree with Jammer on this one. Only I would give it less than two stars. A bunch of filler about Data's damn cat that was pointless as well as Geordi's efforts to get the efficiency of the engines up to snuff. Then there is the Frengi vessel whose only reason for existence is to inform us of booby traps. And finally after blundering into said bobby trap we are confronted by two aliens that tell us warp drive is screwing up the environment. This entire episode was rather heavy handed allegory filled with enough techno babble to fill a Voyager episode. And the short term solution is to drive 55 through this region of space. God it was awful and about as subtle as the old Star Trek episode about the two aliens that were black and white but on different sides of their bodies. I've seen better stories on the back of cereal boxes. The actors must cringe when ever they see this one. I'd give it one star.
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SteveRage
Mon, Feb 6, 2017, 6:41pm (UTC -5)
I'm currently ploughing through Trek on Netflix using the chronology project website which has all the episodes of all series in chronological order. Which means right now I'm flitting between TNG S7 and DS9 S2....... My god is DS9 ever kicking TNG's ass right now!
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Outsider65
Fri, May 19, 2017, 12:09am (UTC -5)
Why do I get the feeling the "warp speed damages space" thing will be ignored in subsequent episodes and series of Star Trek?

I didn't mind the Spot subplot, but it did abruptly end after Data realized that Spot was the one training him. Kudos to the animal trainers for the show, that look Spot gave him after he suggested she might not be smart enough to be trained clearly showed otherwise. (Also, apparently Data only now realized Spot was female? Seems like an odd mistake for him to have made this whole time, especially since she's not spayed and would periodically go into heat (you will never not notice the calling out of a queen on the prowl), or need to be given some sort of supplement to prevent her from doing so.)

The sister character was completely unlikeable, I was actually glad she died, to be honest, so we didn't have to see her onscreen anymore. And then everyone was all "why didn't we listen" but as Luke pointed out - they DID listen, her actions actually worsened things for her world, when even if the Federation had taken a few years to come to the same conclusion, her world would still be better off.

I appreciate some of the meta comments on "Trekkies". I do notice they tend to think they are somehow more intellectually or morally superior than the general population because of their enjoyment of a science fiction television series, and it seems like a very odd thing to believe. Just because I watch the same shows as Stephen Hawkings doesn't mean I'm suddenly a genius ;) As far as fandoms go, though, there are worse out there.
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Josh D
Sat, Jul 8, 2017, 3:25am (UTC -5)
This episode didn't make any sense

So if I'm to get this straight, Serova's goal was to get the Federation to take action on warp drives causing damage to space and to look at her research. But when the most prime opportune moment comes to achieve her goal, when she runs into Picard, she throws away her opportunity and leaves in a tantrum just because it would take too long for the science council to look at if even though Picard says he'd basically fast track it. Then Serova blows her warp core on purpose to open a rift just to say I told you so, completely endangering and altering her planet forever contradictory to her entire goal which was to avoid such a cataclysm in the first place by educating people. It would be like Earth's most leading and outspoken climate scientist saying oh well you don't believe me? I will blow up the ozone layer and then you will!!
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R.J.
Tue, Aug 29, 2017, 2:55am (UTC -5)
Would be a good time to separate the saucer section. Anyone? Anyone?
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kznate
Wed, Sep 13, 2017, 6:58am (UTC -5)
This was such a good episode when it was Seinfeld-esque banter about nothing. When they go into the preachy side of it, I totally lost interest.

I wish they'd just kept it an episode about nothing. After all, Seinfeld was a thing when TNG had season 7, they could have totally gotten away with it. Maybe even bring in Michael Richards for a guest spot as an alien who lives in the system next door, and always hops in to borrow a few dilithium crystals?
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Startrekwatcher
Fri, Nov 10, 2017, 5:08pm (UTC -5)
1.5 stars

Padded city. Glacial. Tired jeopardy plot at the end I didn’t mind the idea warp was having negative impact on space but the episode was just dull
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Liam Thibodaux
Fri, Nov 10, 2017, 9:56pm (UTC -5)
I like cat videos, and little slices of ordinary life aboard the Enterprise, so I didn't mind the "padding" at all.
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Rahul
Tue, Dec 5, 2017, 5:16pm (UTC -5)
Overall dull episode with 2 wooden aliens, the usual TNG problem solving, and some fairly arbitrary scenes with the Enterprise dealing with the subspace rift. There's the usual technobabble but it isn't that onerous. Feels like trying to stick to a tried and true formula except with added filler material. There is a prescient message here about environmental damage but it's too fleeting.

Problem with this episode is it took forever for anything meaningful to start happening (the teaser was all about Geordi trying to get Data to train Spot). And then there's the almost needless Ferengi thrown in. The Ferengi Damon comes across as a stupid jerk (surprise, surprise). And what about the Enterprise team on board fixing the damaged Ferengi ship? We never find out how that little subplot ended up.

As far as the aliens, the female alien is kind of like Green Peace fighting for her cause although the poor acting never gave the impression that she'd be someone who was about to commit suicide for the cause. Gotta make these performances more credible.

Geordi and Data have the somewhat entertaining dialog about training Spot. This is the kind of thing a show that's comfortable in its own skin can try and get away with -- entirely meaningless stuff dependent on the characters in their time off. Filler material here.

I guess after all this the Federation decides warp 5 is the speed limit? Talk about kicking the can down the road but I suppose it is symptomatic of the approach to global warming or the environment -- it takes time... Probably the best part of the episode is Picard reflecting on how space travel is causing damage to other worlds. Wish the episode spent more time examining that aspect instead of Spot.

A weak 2 stars for "Force of Nature" -- poorly executed, bland but an interesting idea of residual effects of warp travel on a certain region of space. Could have been much better with better guest actors and omitting the silliness of the ship dealing with the rift. Rather unsatisfying.
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Bill
Thu, Feb 15, 2018, 12:55pm (UTC -5)
NexGen's quality really dropped with Jeri Taylor in the show runner's seat. How this bomb made it to the screen is beyond me.

She sent her idealistic boy writers to an Earth Day conference or something and they came back all hyped up to write the definitive environmental allegory. After the same old hum-drum pollution story (and one intriguing idea where the natives on a dilithium-rich planet were suffering mutations because the ore was being mined, thus weakening the ambient EM field) they came up with this drek - warp-drive wearing a hole in space.

I love cats, but I think the whole sub-plot of Geordi's sister Ariana coming aboard and finding her brother a control freak to compensate for his mother's disappearance preferable to "training Spot" (Though the line "Geordi, I cannot stun my cat" has me ROFLMAO!) By the time you reached the main story, the trials and travails of Spot and Geordi's competition to squeeze more power out of the warp reactor, you couldn't care less.
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Jeffrey Jakucyk
Sun, Mar 18, 2018, 7:16pm (UTC -5)
I think I have an explanation for what happened after actually paying attention to this episode (one of the "benefits" of being sick on the couch). Part of it is corroborated by "Formerly known as Artisan's" comment from five years ago, as well as some of the production commentary on Memory Alpha. Namely, the story originally had a different message. It's like they had the script dealing with a local phenomenon but a hastily done staff rewrite tried to shoehorn in the larger global warming allegory without sufficiently modifying the dialogue.

I mentioned in my comment from 2012 that I didn't see any indication of this warp drive damage applying anywhere but in this particular isolated corridor of space. After watching closely, I can still say that's the case, at least as far as what's spoken in the dialogue. The exception is how everyone reacts, specifically Geordi. It's as if his dialogue was rewritten to make the problem bigger than actually presented. The same goes for the final scene. It fits the localized nature of the problem when Picard reads Starfleet's directive "...areas of space found susceptible to warp fields will be restricted to essential travel only." However the next line "Effective immediately, all Federation vessels will be limited to a speed of warp five, except in cases of extreme emergency" comes out of nowhere, since as I've said only the Hekaras Corridor has been identified as a place that's "susceptible to warp fields."

The one and only possible counter to this is a scene with Geordi, Data, and Rabal in Stellar Cartography. They're looking at the rift trying to find a way to get to the Fleming. At the end of the scene they notice something. "It's a subspace instability outside the rift. That should not be possible." Could this be nugget of information that's supposed to indicate damage to all of space? If so, the dialogue is wrong. It should be "It's a subspace instability outside the CORRIDOR," which is what the graphic indicates. Even so, just like Spot, the Ferengi, and Geordi's tinkering with the engines, it's never followed up on and forgotten despite being what could be the critical element of the story.

Also, coasting at warp? Come on. They also said after the Fleming engaged their warp engines that they no longer have sufficient velocity to escape. Just a short while before however they said "It would take weeks to reach them at impulse." Ok that would suck, but it's not like they'd be trapped. This is just so sloppy.
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Olivaro
Thu, Apr 12, 2018, 9:10am (UTC -5)
So to prove her point about the affect of warp energy on their corridor, she had to be on the ship when it exploded?
And their original expectation was that their unproven hypothesis would be immediately met by regulatory action initiated by Picard? Or that he would destroy a warp core in the corridor?
And lastly, in a universe as such the entries space faring Galaxy rather limits it's trading, exploration, help missions et cetera than evacuating and repopulating the planet to a better one or to at least discuss that option? We only have one Earth but if we had two, a lot of people might actually want to go there.
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Gilian
Sun, Apr 15, 2018, 1:56pm (UTC -5)
Just because a large segment of a scientific community is up in arms about a particular conclusion regarding their theories does not mean that they are infallible, and in plural, correct. We have many examples in history which prove that; remember the idea of alchemy (Isaac Newton was a believer and wasted much time on this), the medical theory of the four humours (which led to the common medical practice of bleeding a patient), the modern field of psychiatry (a harmful practice that still hasn't been adaquately discredited). History may very well prove the practitioners of climatology, that by injecting their scientific bias into the political arena were mistaken in their approach to handling a complex concept to the detriment of society.
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MMM
Sat, Jul 28, 2018, 1:43pm (UTC -5)
This episode didn't deserve more than a single star, if that. It's an instructional video: How Not To Do A 'Care For The Enivornment' Episode: Part 1 - Make Your Environmentalist A Moron.

First she's unreasonable as hell. She presents people who've never heard of her with one single scientific treatise and demand they instantly accept every part of it. Even though their response is to take her seriously and investigate the possibility, she gets upset and berates them for this.

Then she causes an environmental catastrophe. This would be like if, in 2010, someone realized the BP Deepwater Horizon Wellhead was deficient, and proved it by intentionally causing the oil spill themselves. On top of this, she offs herself for no reason at all. Why not set the ship to core breech with a delay, and use a transporter or shuttle to get out of their first?

It's almost like a Captain Planet ecosystem-hating card-carrying villain wrote this episode as a parody to try to make environmentalists look ridiculous.

re: "Desmogblog did a tally of how many peer-reviewed research papers denied GW vs how many did. Something like 3 to 2000. "

Although that leaves out the even-greater number who didn't come to a firm conclusion either way. The often-parroted "97% consensus" actually comes from this sort of data-massaging. It was from a study that was (something like, I'm pulling the exact numbers out of the air) 3 said "definitely not", 97 said "definitely so", and 200 said "inconclusive". So they reported "97% of those with a conclusion came to conclusion X" rather than "32% of the total came to conclusion X", and it naturally got interpreted as "97% of the total".
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Mikey
Tue, Oct 16, 2018, 10:12pm (UTC -5)
The plot and execution didn't bother/surprise me

I'm here because what the hell happened to that "abnormal spacial anomoly" outside the rift that Data deemed "not possible" in grid "delta 17" I think.... I was waiting for a juicey twist and it was literally never brought up again.

Did I miss something? or was this just a hatchet job of an episode?
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Dave
Sun, Dec 2, 2018, 10:36pm (UTC -5)
The idea of "warp drive is damaging space" is an excellent idea, but poorly executed here. They should have introduced this idea at the start of the season, maybe with some hints in the first episode or two, and then manifesting itself in the third or fourth episode. The problem should have continued in the background throughout the season being resolved sometime near the end. I guess there just weren't enough resources available to have season spanning story elements.
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McCoy, Leonard McCoy
Sun, Jan 20, 2019, 1:04pm (UTC -5)
Yeah cat storyline was horrible filler. It's not even a B storyline line, it's literally a C storyline. The Ferengi are still annoying idiots. After their initial encounter, we never hear from them again, which is again, more padding as they weren't necessary to the story at all. Horrible B storyline. Then the main storyline. I hate episodes being overly preachy and especially Geordi's line at the end "there's still enough time to fix this" BARF. Obviously that is a stab at us to get more involved in the environment, protect the earth. Won't be revisiting this episode anytime soon.
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Trish
Tue, May 7, 2019, 9:05pm (UTC -5)
I thought the "filler" story about Spot was better than the "real" story about warp drive suddenly being bad. If anything, there should have been more stories dominated by Spot, and indeed more crewmembers dominated by Spot.

PS: I am not at all being influenced by the feline in my lap. She's not at all forcing me to type any of thi

SEND HELP! She won't be distracted by the catnip for long …

… and in conclusion, I think Star Trek would be a better franchise if every series included a cat.
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Trish
Tue, May 7, 2019, 9:08pm (UTC -5)
I mean, "STARRED" a cat. Not just "included."

"Starred."
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Thomas
Tue, May 7, 2019, 10:51pm (UTC -5)
You mean felis catus? I’m with you, Trish. ฅ^•ﻌ•^ฅ
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RandomThoughts
Wed, May 8, 2019, 4:02pm (UTC -5)
@Trish

I enjoyed that. Sounds like something I'd do/write. :)

Regards... RT
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Meister
Mon, May 13, 2019, 11:23am (UTC -5)
10/10 for the Picard message alone:

"We can only hope that others realize that it is in their best interests to take action."
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Lizzy DataLover
Sun, May 19, 2019, 9:47pm (UTC -5)
A rather dull episode. But being a HUGE Data fangirl, I enjoyed the filler with him trying to train Spot the transgender cat.

"Geordi, I cannot stun my cat." Lol!!
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Macca
Wed, May 29, 2019, 10:01pm (UTC -5)
Watched this again on Netflix last night. I didn't realise how long Data and LaForge spend in that Jeffries Tube!

Another one for the fans who would happily watch a whole hour of the crew roaming around, pressing buttons and having a drink at Ten Forward.

This reminds me of Twisted from Voyager.
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Craig
Sun, Aug 11, 2019, 10:16am (UTC -5)
I think I have to disagree with Jammer about the B-story being filler. It's about competitiveness and how people want to be the strongest, fastest, etc, even when it's pointless. And then the Ferengi are here to emphasize this point by being the embodiment of capitalist competativeness. It's not filler; it's foreshadowing.
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Craig
Sun, Aug 11, 2019, 10:58am (UTC -5)
If it's that easy to completely disable a ship with it's shield up, why aren't these "verteron" devices routinely used as weapons?
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Pleasure Gelf
Wed, Sep 4, 2019, 11:24pm (UTC -5)
Excellent review, spot (heh) on, with only one exception: one too many stars.
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borusa
Wed, Jan 15, 2020, 4:21pm (UTC -5)
So, Geordi thinks one can train a cat-good luck with that one.
Now I am a cat person-I have always had cats. Cats are great .
However nine minutes into this episode we are being bored senseless by the wholly pointless sub plot about Data's pussycat.
Having the irritating pre Quark Space Goblins turning up is a very bad move but the biggest problem is the main plot.
Jammer has deconstructed this with more skill than I possess but the only proper response from Starfleet to this inconvenient truth would be to immediately recall all starships and scrap warp drive.
Luckily the showrunners conveniently forgot about this problem and if anyone asked they could just say that the new warp ten is the old warp 6 compatible with the new speed limit imposed while starfleet engineers go around the universe fixing all the rifts with gorilla tape.
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OmicronThetaDeltaPhi
Wed, Jan 15, 2020, 11:50pm (UTC -5)
Come on... the cat thing is the best part of this episode (though this doesn't say much). I particularly loved how Data, the super-advanced logical android, was not immune to the spell that cats cast on their owners. I thought it was funny and cute.

That's more then we can say about the disastrous A-plot, isn't it? So that's something, at least.
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gozar
Thu, Jan 16, 2020, 1:02am (UTC -5)
The scenes with Spot were written by someone who had no understanding of what cats are like or how they behave. Of course the whole thing was dropped with no payoff so I guess it doesn’t matter.
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Top Hat
Thu, Jan 16, 2020, 7:16am (UTC -5)
Yeah, "the cat thing is the best part of this episode" is less about how good the cat part is than how bad the rest is.
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Chrome
Thu, Jan 16, 2020, 10:16am (UTC -5)
See, because the cat is uncontrollable just like the forces of space. Nope, even the analogy isn’t helping. :-)
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Picard Maneuver
Thu, Apr 30, 2020, 2:40am (UTC -5)
I guess it makes for a better shot, but boy does it look awkward when two people crawl through the Jefferies tubes side-by-side; Burton was crammed into the wall. Spiner was having some difficulty supporting himself as he crawled in the final shots; I'm wondering how long the filming was for these scenes. I think I'd rather not have them than to be reminded that Data is not an actual android. Otherwise, I didn't mind the Spot subplot. Sometimes TNG does humor well, and I thought this was one of them. "This is down. Down is good. This is up. Up is no."

This episode checks a number of TNG standards: starts off with a meeting almost immediately, something is considered an act of waaarrr, and something will fail in some hours (though no minutes and seconds this time). All that's really missing is an alien threat that they're given a long, arbitrary amount of "your earth hours" to consider.

Continuing on the trend of cheaping out, we never see the Fleming or anyone who was on board it. These levels of cutbacks make it difficult to invest in the tension of the rescue mission. The guest stars' heavily compressed screen time was also conspicuous. Effectively the episode's climax was the rift's creation. It's possible this episode would have been better off with more Spot footage instead of a soulless (literally) rescue.

Despite the simplistic and heavy-handed political messaging, I liked this episode's (attempted) contribution to the lore. I believe Roddenbery's mandate that technology basically be magic is a mistake. I love the concept of "equivalent exchange" in fictional systems, where even mundane actions have consequences of some sort. It's just too bad after paying lip service, no one really cares and they just continue warp 9ing everywhere all the time.

Actually, this episode's implications are rather realistic, if ironic. Despite the attempt, they actually indict themselves more than their targets of criticism. The opposition don't actually believe the claims; the most you can go for is to accuse them of willful ignorance or self-delusion. These guys on the other hand do buy into the claims and keep on regardless. Which, again, is ironically realistic.
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Artifex
Fri, May 8, 2020, 12:41am (UTC -5)
My comment on the episode shortly, but 1st.....Like most 'activists' , you must agree with their unhinged emotion or you are an enemy. I remember in the 70s when everyone was terrified of the coming new Ice Age. Then it changed to Global Warming. Then a cooling trend started in the 2000s and it became climate change. And most millenials wrong their hands and believe the fear tactic. Climate will always change. Humans may die, but the Earth will go on. We cannot control something such as a flare in the Sun's corona. The only green in the green movement is the money being made by people like Al Gore and others by playing to your emotions. To be so full of yourself that you think you actually have much of an affect on cosmic events and the flow of the gulf stream. Grow up, stop useless protesting or wringing your hands and stop letting bullshitters like Gore and others make billions by pushing useless band-aids they invent. Take the time to calmly and properly address the situation with new tech like improved solar and cleaner batteries. Sure I want clean air and rivers, but not because someone wants to make money by telling me to be afraid and to hurry up and buy their crap.
NOW, AS FOR THE EPISODE.......
This is what you get when you stop writing good science fiction and try to insert and push some bullshit political propaganda into the show.!!! There are venues for you activist assholes to use for that. Leave the entertaining shows and movies for what they were watched for to start with...ENTERTAINING PEOPLE.!! Stick your PC message up your scared little ass and stay the hell away from our fun distractions.
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Sigh2000
Sun, May 17, 2020, 8:23am (UTC -5)
A quick review of previous posts shows general absence of the term "Ozone Hole". I think in the Next Generation era, this was the piece of recent science which likely motivated the writers of the episode. Perusal of the www indicates earliest reference to the ozone hole to be May 1985. So the "subspace rift" is probably an analogy to the the ozone hole over the S. Pole.
It's a strong episode in my view; not a weak one. I liked meister's comment a year ago. Love Data, Geordi and Spot, because it shows how we go about our little bits of life oblivious to big issue stuff. "Up is no".
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borusa
Tue, Jun 2, 2020, 2:16pm (UTC -5)
I have looked at my earlier coment and wish to reconsider:

Nothing and I mean nothing of any of my criticisms of various TNG episodes including the really really weak ones from earlier seasons can compare with my abject terror at what they just did to Picard-omg-blade runner synths,cthulhoid Ai monsters from beyond,Picard killed and re born into a minority group artificial body after spending the whole season being portrayed as some irrelevant fuddy duddy imperial colonial elite member of a society that totally does not exist in the star trek universe.

It is agonising and the same wholesale vandalism has been inflicted on Star Wars and Dr Who.
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Chapters
Sat, Jun 6, 2020, 5:10am (UTC -5)
Geordie "no cat is untrainable, my sister trained her cat"

Geordie 5 minutes later "Data, that cat is untrainable"
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The_Man
Fri, Jun 26, 2020, 8:53pm (UTC -5)
You pretty much said it all @Luke. She was an impatient eco-terrorist. The amount of damage she caused because of a temper tantrum is beyond insane.
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James G
Mon, Nov 23, 2020, 5:17pm (UTC -5)
A poor one, this. If the subplot about Spot is a clever allegory of the main theme, it went over my head.

Just so much of it is superfluous .. the encounter with the Ferengi, the cat, Geordi's competitiveness with the engineer on the Intrepid.

It occurred to me while watching this evening, though not the first time I saw it in the '90s, that it's an analogy on the use of fossil fuels. But this idea that Warp travel, understood for three centuries (really?), is gradually destroying the very fabric of the Universe undermines the whole premise of the entire Star Trek franchise. It is the basis of space travel at the necessary speeds to make the whole idea work.

Also - in a galaxy as huge as ours, some of those civilisations would have had Warp Drive for thousands, or hundreds of thousands of years. Some of them might have overcome this problem long before Cochrane's first flight.

Finally, here's a thought - next time Q turns up, instead of doing the impatient rolling-of-eyes thing, just ask him very nicely to fix it.

A clunker, this one.
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Peter G.
Mon, Nov 30, 2020, 1:55am (UTC -5)
Man this episode is bad. For the Spot allegory it's fairly simple: wild thing all around you, which is supposed to be "yours" but does wild things you don't expect and don't want. The sense of ownership is key because Data believes he owns the cat; it's not merely his roommate. And Geordi wants to own space itself; or rather the mechanics that govern it. He doesn't like wild elements that put it out of his control. Convincing Data to train Spot is at first glance just a poorly written scene about nonsense. People do not routinely train their cats as they are wild animals. They can be trained in the sense any animal (like a bear) can be trained, but they are not bred to receive training with pleasure. They don't even pick up on our cues well. So Geordi telling Data to train his cat is a bizarre, almost surreal scene already. Is Geordi supposed to be ignorant, or is Data the one missing out on training programs? Well it's neither: it's just a ham-handed way of saying that Geordi believes that everything should be behave how he wants, because these things exist to service you. Space, as it turns out, is a wild animal like spot and won't be trained, or even used to your ends, without consequences you can't control. You might see subspace tears up the couch and pees on your warp engines when it's upset. Not that that's explained, I'll just mentioned that the whole cat angle (a) takes way too much time, (b) is emotionally flat and tedious, and (c), makes us actually wonder whether Data thinks Geordi is acting weird. But LeVar totally sells is that he's quite right about training cats. Was there a communication in production about who is actually supposed to be making sense - cause, it ain't Geordi.

Besides all this the episode is poorly plotted, the pacing is awful, the scene order feels almost random, there's no drive, and the 'crisis' could not possibly interest us less. It's just a perfect storm of a mis-written, mis-directed, and even mis-acted series of scenes. It's just lazy across the board. I don't tend to agree out of the gate about Season 7 itis, but if anyone wanted to make a case for it they could start here.
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Chrome
Mon, Nov 30, 2020, 8:12am (UTC -5)
@Peter G.

Good observations about Spot and Geordi's eagerness to control everything. It's kind of a pattern Geordi has where he thinks he can find a technological solution to every problem when sometimes there just isn't any.

What's interesting (or crazy) about this episode to me is how Picard has the political will to convince Starfleet to mandate every ship not go above warp 5. Is Starfleet just that malleable to change? Could you imagine a world leader trying to mandate all cars not go above 50 mph to prevent carbon emissions? Surely there would be riots and it would be practically impossible to enforce such a regulation. I can't begin to imagine how a much more vast area like outer space could be policed.

What's worse is that it seems like Picard's original plan was the best one: we'll conduct some independent studies and consult this matter with the Federation. Wouldn't that be the best approach before hamstringing every ship in the fleet?
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Peter G.
Mon, Nov 30, 2020, 11:34am (UTC -5)
@ Chrome,

Worse than that, it hamstrings the rest of the series (or franchise!) into having to pay lip service to this inane new premise. A few episodes after this did pay minimal homage to this ongoing reality but after that it was rightly shucked. Why write in such a game-changing rule? It would be like some writer of the week penciling into an episode that the Federation has dissolved, or that matter transporters actually kill you and create a duplicate with no soul. Or even worse, imagine if some lame writer wrote that Vulcan blew up. Anyhow, it's hard to believe such stories could make it past the pre-production process. I think the only force of nature here is production deadlines.
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Luke
Mon, Nov 30, 2020, 11:50am (UTC -5)
@Chrome

Picard has nothing to with mandating the Warp Five speed limit. It’s the Federation Council that mandates it. When Picard is first informed of it in the episode’s final scene, it’s clear he’s rather shocked by the news.

You are right, however, that it would be impossible to police this order - which is just one of many reasons why it’s a stupid addition to the show. Are they just going to go on the Honor System? Who gets to determine what constitutes an “extreme emergency” where the limit can be exceeded? Does each ship’s Captain get to make that call or does the bureaucracy (God forbid!!!!) get to do it? If warp travel actually is damaging all space everywhere (which this very episode contradicts), how are they going to get the other warp-capable civilizations to comply? Does anybody think the Dominion (for example) will even care?

You’re also right that Picard’s first plan of independent studies and expert consultation would be best. But, why would the writers let things like logic, reason, and proper scientific analysis get in their way when they just want to push their environmentalist agenda?
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Luke
Mon, Nov 30, 2020, 11:57am (UTC -5)
@Peter G.

It could be worse. Imagine if some hack writer wrote that Romulus was destroyed by a supernova in another star system and then every movie and episode thereafter had to acknowledge and build on that nonsense.
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Peter G.
Mon, Nov 30, 2020, 2:37pm (UTC -5)
*shudder*
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William B
Tue, Dec 1, 2020, 10:58am (UTC -5)
This episode is pretty bad for the reasons people say, but I do like the idea of Geordi's story here: as Chrome mentions above, it's not just with Spot or warp engines, Geordi's whole identity is so wrapped up with technology and control as a solution to problems. I think it's interesting that it's Geordi's sister who "was able" to train her cat (at the cost of wearing tuna in her blouse), and it's a brother-sister team, with the "brilliant" "aggravating" sister who is able to expose the tear in spacetime (at great cost) -- which is what convinces Geordi (and the others) that there is a problem.

Put aside the plotting and whether one approves of the environmental message: some of the "nature" we're talking about here is human nature, which takes huge effort to "train" someone out of. Geordi's identity is so wrapped up in his work that it takes incredible lengths (including death?) to get him to see the possibility of it being harmful, and to restrain himself from indulging in essentially pointless competitions (with Kaplan) over considering hard whether there's something dangerous in what he's doing.

What's cool is that it does this without suggesting that Geordi's pride in his work is because he wants money or food or shelter from it; what he wants is to work, for his work to be meaningful, for his work to be competent, and for him to be useful. He wants to "work to better himself and the rest of humanity," to check the boxes of enlightened humanity, and he's found a way to do that which, as it turns out, might not be as unadulterated good as it seems. It works in concert with episodes like "Booby Trap" or "Relics" (where Scotty's sense of usefulness was under threat and Geordi wasn't as sympathetic) but is also going into slightly different territory. Of course it probably failed to do this effectively, yadda yadda, episode bad but I like the idea of this aspect of it.
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Peter G.
Tue, Dec 1, 2020, 2:19pm (UTC -5)
@ William B,

"What's cool is that it does this without suggesting that Geordi's pride in his work is because he wants money or food or shelter from it; what he wants is to work, for his work to be meaningful, for his work to be competent, and for him to be useful. He wants to "work to better himself and the rest of humanity," to check the boxes of enlightened humanity, and he's found a way to do that which, as it turns out, might not be as unadulterated good as it seems."

That's an interesting argument. I know we tend to want to look at character foibles in the context of the enlightened future (especially Geordi's, and especially in Galaxy's Child). But in this instance I think the text in the episode seems to point to something a bit sketchy in Geordi's competition here. Yes, there is the aspect of Data always being befuddled by human behavior, and yes, we can suggest that the writing in this episode is an ill-timed throwback to S1-2 where Data was truly perplexed by regular human motivations. But Spiner seems to do something different in this episode, rising above what is probably weak writing and showing something else with his expressions. Watching him react to Geordi when Spot is besting him, and when Geordi is talking about his competition, I distinctly get the idea Data is portraying "I believe I do understand this aspect of humanity, and I'm fairly sure Geordi is acting weid." He gives Geordi a few looks that convey something like "are you ok, man?" And I suspect the engine competitiveness is meant to be seen as an excess rather than as a healthy desire to perfect Federation life or help anyone. It seems distinctly to be the point of those scenes that Geordi doesn't really have any motivation to win the competition (or to defeat Spot) other than he thinks he can out-power all situations.

To that extent I see more similitude between Geordi's competitiveness and what in our current age might be called industrialist excess. You are right, Wiliam, that Geordi has no direct financial stake in winning, whether it be for food, riches, or anything else. But then again when we're talking about a Jeff Bezos or anyone at the highest echelon of industrialism we are also no longer talking about whether they can make a living. For them, it can't be anything other than an exercise in maximizing because they can, to make 20 billion instead of 5 billion, simply because it is possible to do so and they want to win. The pride and self-enlargement of both that and what Geordi is doing seem to me in a similar vein; or at least that's what I think the writing is going after.

So it's not so much that even good activities can have unfortunate results. I think the episode is trying to argue (but badly) that an excess of domination over nature will have adverse effects *be definition*, and that Geordi's need to dominate every problem with more power is actually indicative of a destructive way of thinking, one not in balance with nature. In this instance I think Geordi is actually *intended* to be in the wrong, as opposed to Galaxy's child, where that wasn't the intention at all despite it coming off that way to many viewers.
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William B
Tue, Dec 1, 2020, 3:01pm (UTC -5)
@Peter, yeah, your'e right. I guess what I mean is that I think that Geordi's deriving a sense of worth from his work is a lot of the problem here. He is definitely taking it too far, and the way in which he's taking it too far is, as you say, about dominating nature. The thing is that we know Geordi and we know how much his whole life is wrapped up with technology, and how technology allows him to see, allows him to contribute to the world, and so on.

Possibly a better example of what I mean is the exchange between Geordi and Picard at the end:

PICARD: Very well. You know, Geordi, I spent the better part of my life exploring space. I've charted new worlds, I've met dozens of new species. And I believe that these were all valuable ends in themselves. Now it seems that all this while, I was helping to damage the thing that I hold most dear.
LAFORGE: It's won't turn out that way, Captain. We still have time to make it better.

Maybe what I should say is that with Picard, I think we're looking at the genuine Enlightened Humanity take on this, where genuinely good intentions, totally reasonable behaviour can sometimes have negative side effects. Geordi is not at the Picard level, and so he also has this pettier side to his work. But I think pride in his work *in itself* is not a problem, it's that he takes it too far, is too blinded to the negative side of it.
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William B
Tue, Dec 1, 2020, 3:12pm (UTC -5)
I think some of what I was getting at is that it's natural for people to have pride in their work, and Geordi's work is *mostly* worthwhile. He's maybe not idealistic in the same way as Picard, but I think he believes in the basic goals of the ship's exploration, diplomacy, scientific endeavours, etc. And it's very important for the ship to keep running for those. So it's in general good for Geordi to be a dedicated chief engineer. Now Scotty, for instance, loves the engineering for engineering itself, whereas I think Geordi likes the work but wants to feel something else about it too -- so hence, pride in *doing a good job*. And pride in his work is good, to some degree, if it's being channeled toward the good goals of the ship's overall Continuing Mission.

It might have been better to explore a bit more the gap between what "should be" motivating Geordi versus what is driving him, especially since it's an episode about what drives the Enterprise. So maybe it's more proper to say that Geordi discovers that, without entirely realizing it, his "engines" are doing damage to the world around him -- the thing actually driving him is not as innocent and positive as he thought. Probably this would need to have Geordi commit more fully to the Starfleet mission (or decide that's not entirely what he believes in, if it comes to that).
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Dave in MN
Tue, Dec 1, 2020, 6:35pm (UTC -5)
I grew up with this show, I think it aired from when I was 8-15. Young me wasn't a huge cinephile yet, but I did watch Siskel & Ebert and my dad had given me a good foundation by extolling Hitchcock and John Huston and Orson Welles, etc. I was learning about the craft but had never applied any of it.

To be fair, I also remember thinking Aquiel and The Masterpiece Society weren't good episodes, but this one was special.

This may have been the first thing I ever viewed "live" where I ended up analyzing it like a critic. The ineptitude forced me to think about HOW entertainment is made.
In a sense, I'm glad to have seen this.

That didn't make this rewatch any less painful. A disappointing snoozefest.

I award a star for the scenes with Spot and a half star for helping me mature as a discerning viewer.

⭐½
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Hotel bastardos
Thu, Dec 17, 2020, 10:08am (UTC -5)
Damn! That teaser had me on the edge of my seat-with ennui... And special praise must surely go to the herculean proportions of tediously impenetrable techno babble. Oh, and darling- dontcha know that ridged forehead alien of the week is now so terribly passé.... Still beats Voyager or sodding enterprise any day of the week.
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Icarus32soar
Mon, Jan 18, 2021, 11:40pm (UTC -5)
Very misguided reviews on this episode. Spot is a delightful dramatic diversion and it feeds the friendship between Data and Geordie. It's actually one of the genuinely deepest relationships between any two people.
So later on, when Geordie confesses to Data that he took things personally and thus he casts doubt on his own professionalism, it rings true. Data is by far the best confidant Geordie could have.

And the fact that the environmental message about the destructive potential of human activities comes from an alien species gives that message far more conviction than if it came from some starry eyed environmental zealot from within the Federation.

This is a highly cerebral episode, not a gee whiz bang! type of plot. As such, it's among the best ST EPs in any iteration.

Very satisfying intellectually.
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Silly
Sat, Apr 3, 2021, 6:11pm (UTC -5)
The woman: "Your warp drives are destroying our space!!"

Doesn't get the response she wants: takes a ship out and destroys their space.

Well, yes, I guess she was right.
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Glom
Fri, Jul 23, 2021, 11:43am (UTC -5)
Geordi's self-reflection scene was poignant. An unwelcome prompt the remember my own climate denial many years ago. When you feel the truth threatens you personally, it's easier to listen to those who tell you more convenient untruths.
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Nesendrea
Wed, Jul 28, 2021, 7:22pm (UTC -5)
Someone already mentioned about how the characters undermine this episode’s message by almost totally ignoring the game-changing discovery made here - after “Force of Nature” we get, what, one more mention of the warp speed limit before everything is back to normal? But I think the deeper irony is that the writers didn’t bother accepting their own premise.

We all know that this story, like all of Trek’s social commentary, is meant to speak directly to the viewers. Interesting then that we are being implicitly asked to shoulder the burden of helping fight climate change - paying more for energy, driving more expensive hybrid or electric cars, etc etc - while the very people sending this message can’t even be inconvenienced to honor the limitations they just introduced on this fictional universe.

We understand why: Star Trek would be hobbled if warp drive were actually destroying space and nobody could travel at fast speeds. The show might even get boring. Heaven forbid, money could be lost!

But it’s still damning optics when the people who penned this story are happy to lecture us about how we must make sacrifices for the cause, while they sit comfortably in the executive’s chair and ignore that cause themselves (after this one episode) because taking it seriously would be too hard for them.

If it matters, I’m no climate denier. I actually take global warming very seriously, though in the spirit of Star Trek, I do prefer humanity employ a technological solution to this problem rather than a regressive one. But I don’t feel the need to sit still for barely concealed Captain Planet-style preaching from people who are total hypocrites on the subject.

Aside from that, terrible episode for all the structural reasons that have been analyzed to death. 2 stars? You’re a generous man, Jammer. 0.5 from me.
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Sigh2000
Mon, Nov 15, 2021, 5:44am (UTC -5)
@ Nesendrea "...the very people sending this message can’t even be inconvenienced to honor the limitations they just introduced on this fictional universe.
We understand why: Star Trek would be hobbled if warp drive were actually destroying space and nobody could travel at fast speeds. The show might even get boring. Heaven forbid, money could be lost!"

I agree with all of this. In the writer's universe why did they not maintain the truth they created and turn into amore interesting arc? They could always have invented a new property to circumvent the problem. Geordi, for example, would have met with Leah Brahms at Utopia Planetia to work on the problem for a few episodes. Alas, not to be.
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Jason R.
Mon, Nov 15, 2021, 8:23am (UTC -5)
@Sigh2000 if they can just technobabble their way out of the problem by recalibrating the dilithium matrix through an inverted polaron pulse (a la Voyager) then the story was rather pointless wasn't it?
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Sigh2000
Mon, Nov 15, 2021, 1:39pm (UTC -5)
@Jason R.
Very true. Although I had something a little bit more consequential in mind than one of the Voyager-style speed bump reducers.
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Tidd
Thu, Nov 18, 2021, 2:59am (UTC -5)
Alien race #39
Name: unnamed
Similarity to Homo sapiens: 98%
Difference: Forehead wrinkle #62

Alien race #7
Name: Ferengi
Similarity to Homo sapiens: 83%
Difference: (too many to list)

Alien race #2
Name: Felis felis (“cat”)
Similarity to Homo sapiens: 11%
Difference: (see Cmdr Data’s report)

I’d go along with Jammer’s review. I didn’t spot the climate change allegory, but it was obviously clumsy and hamfisted.

As for the “corridor of space” that’s too dangerous for warp drive, I’ve only one thing to say: JUST GO ROUND IT! I mean, Jeez, just how small do they think the galaxy is ?

Boring, technobabbly, laughable (“just rock from side to side in your chairs to give the impression of a spaceship with sophisticated artificial gravity being ‘shaken’ by a fictional force”), a pretty poor episode. 1.5 stars. When is Series 7 going to pick up?
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Jaxon
Sat, Nov 27, 2021, 1:29pm (UTC -5)
Since the warp scale is logarithmic, reducing the "speed limit" to Warp 5 is not like halving it, but rather reducing it to less than 1 km/hr.

Hard to believe that that wouldn't cripple 24th century society.

I also scoff at Worf's assertion that the Klingons would obey it.
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Sigh2000
Fri, Dec 3, 2021, 11:35pm (UTC -5)
@Jaxon "I also scoff at Worf's assertion that the Klingons would obey it."

Just rewatched the episode...I completely agree. That idea was really shoehorned in.

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