I like "Force of Nature", and I thought that the idea of warp drive destroying the universe was a pretty good one. It was nice to see the characters humbled. Another memorable time that happened was way back in "The Neutral Zone" when Offenhouse showed up everyone on the bridge during the Romulan encounter.
I suppose "Force of Nature" hit too close to home to be a really fun idea, though, given that we're all actually on the line IRL with climate change and all. But, that was the way Star Trek
rolled back in the days of TOS: challenging viewers with allegories of controversial real world issues. And it was nice to see that TNG still had some teeth left in it even by season seven.
Well, the trouble is, first, it wasn't
an allegory of a controversial real world issue. It was just a real world issue with a search-and-replace done on the specifics. That can be worthwhile --- ``Let That Be Your Last Battlefield'' is iconic partly because it made its topic staggeringly direct --- but you have to bring something more to it. ``Battlefield'' achieved it by being big and direct (and, for my money, including the montage of destroyed cities as the two run around pointlessly); ``Nature'' gives us … uh … people sitting at their stations while little blipping noises go off, like in every other episode.
Second, the story comes after like eighty minutes of Data fretting about how to train his cat. I mean, sheesh. Any of the cat-training scenes is cute and could maybe be a pleasant little bit of slice-of-life before getting to the actual plot, but, the little bit of slice-of-life stuff is supposed to be a minute or two and then have actual things happen. Here, we're on Data's Cat for an insanely
long time, to the point that I had to wonder if they actually for some reason made an episode about the exceedingly minor hassles of pet ownership.
Third, the plot fails its own allegory: the Weekians were trying to prove that ordinary, routine warp drive use damages otherwise healthy space, so … here's a big subspace explosion that damages an anomaly-ridden sector of space. Case closed! How could their work not have got past peer review? Granted the episode needed something big and dramatic to happen --- the most recent time that just watching sensor readouts was dramatic was the carbon dioxide scrubber scene in Apollo 13
, so you know how hard these scenes are to do --- but it meant the episode didn't actually make the prima facie case for its own premise.