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TNG 7-09

TNG 7x09
"Force of Nature"

Original airdate: 11/15/1993
Rewatch date: 12/26/2012

A scientist convinced that warp drive poses a danger to space itself creates a dangerous subspace rift that threatens to destroy the Enterprise.

Spoiler-free notes:

When did Spot become a female? Did the male Spot die and Data replaced him with a female Spot between episodes? Just a couple of episodes ago, in "Phantasms," Data was very clear in referring to his cat as a "he."

Data and Geordi talking about whether or not to train Spot is yet another really weak hook, probably one of the weakest so far this season (which is saying a lot). They could have easily started this episode with the encounter with the Ferengi ship, going into the intro once the ship fires on the Enterprise (or even when the DaiMon accuses Picard of committing an act of war), and it would have required a very minimal shuffling of scenes.

Geordi discussing his "friendly competition" to improve his power conversion rate leading into he and Data realigning the sensors leading into more discussion of Spot is really mind-numbing. This is seriously the best the writers could do to pad out the episode? They couldn't come up with a more interesting B-story?

Picard's diplomatic skills are once again worth noting. Where most other people would grow quickly impatient with the Ferengi, Picard knows exactly how to talk to them in order to get what he wants.

I have to side with Riker on this one. These scientists, by mining the corridor, are using terrorism, and it's inexcusable. In this case, it demonstrates a shocking lack of faith in the scientific process, which is a terrible message to put into a science-fiction show. This story is vilifying the scientific method as being too slow, and that kind of thinking quickly leads to irrationality. I am not opposed to the underlying environmentalist message of this episode, but I am deeply opposed to the tacit approval of terrorism because science is too slow. When the seriousness of the charge becomes more important than the strength of the evidence--and being careful is demonized--you have abandoned the scientific method and embraced superstition.

The plot is trying to convince you that Serova is some kind of noble martyr for killing herself to create the rift she predicted, but think about it logically. Serova had two choices: go through the proper scientific process, or create the very thing she's trying to prevent. Even if she were unable to convince the galaxy that her hypothesis has merit, over time the rift would form on its own, meaning she would be vindicated in the long run (and technology might have progressed far enough and the hypothesis studied by enough people that a method to contain or minimize the danger of the subsequent rift would exist in the future whereas it does not exist in the present). By suicide bombing herself, all she does is throw away the chance that science might actually work, and put two Federation ships with several hundred lives on board in grave danger to boot. Indeed, at the end of the episode, they make it clear that Serova's rift is already doing extreme damage to the climate of her homeworld. She killed herself in the name of blind faith and an arrogant disregard of others. I refuse to even entertain the notion that she's a hero; at best, she is a fool who believes that the ends justify the means.

I find this episode deeply offensive. It's not because I have a problem with the underlying message and obvious global warming allegory; in fact, that's a classic archetype (the Eden myth) and worth highlighting in a socially-conscious show like Star Trek. However, it is advocating panic over reason and celebrating the sacrifice of a potential mass murderer who acted without sufficient evidence. Then there's the B-story about Data trying to train his cat, which I'd rather believe has no thematic relevance, because if it does, that means the writers are comparing the human race to a stubborn cat who cannot be trained. Call me crazy, but I think a show about all the great things science can do for us in the future shouldn't take such a cynical, superstitious view of science.

Spoiler section:

This episode would have more meaning if it had any lasting repercussions into the future of Star Trek, but it doesn't.

TNG 7x08
Star Trek: The Next Generation
TNG 7x10
Copyright 2012 e. magill. All rights reserved.