WARNING: The following post contains spoiler information regarding this week's TNG episode, "The Vengeance Factor". Be warned. Really. Greetings, all.

Well, this is another case of "nothing spectacularly wrong, but nothing spectacularly RIGHT either". It was sort of nondescript. Here comes a reasonably short synopsis:

The Enterprise finds a Federation science outpost torn to shreds, and it appears that the Gatherers are responsible. The Gatherers are a group originally from Acamar III, who split off from the Acamarians roughly a century ago. The raids have been getting worse, and something has to be done. They travel to Acamar III to talk to the Marouk, Sovereign of Acamer 3. She wants nothing more than Federation help to hunt the Gatherers down, but Picard has other ideas. He claims they'll be a divided people until they take the Gatherers back into the fold, and weaker as a result. Eventually, he manages to talk her into it. Then, of course, the problem is finding and convincing the Gatherers.

They find one Gatherer outpost, led by a man called Brul. He is initially skeptical, but after hearing the Sovereign out, decides this is an offer worthy of consideration. He says he'll take the message to Chorgan, the Gatherer leader, but whatshername says she'd rather do it herself. Okay . . . so they all end up on the Enterprise.

One minor complication arises, however. The original reason for the Gatherers' departure, the Clan Wars, apparently are not quite as over as originally thought. The Lornac clan, a century or two ago, managed to kill off nearly all members of a rival clan, the Triesta. A few survived, however, and one of them has been genetically altered to carry a virus lethal only to Lornacs. She happens to be Uta, the Sovereign's servant, and is discreetly killing off the last few Lornacs wherever she goes. The final catch: Chordan, himself, is the final Lornac left alive.

From here, things are pretty much as you'd predict. After analyzing the death of an elderly Gatherer on the outpost (whom we saw Uta kill), Dr. Crusher ends up realizing it's lethal only to Lornacs. Data eventually figures out who'd have motive, etc., and Riker ends up beaming over to the negotiations and stopping Uta. Unfortunately, he has to kill her to do it, and it's all the more painful because he was falling in love with her.

Well, that's about all there is to that. Now, usual babble:

As I said, there really wasn't much wrong with the episode. There just wasn't much right about it either. It was certainly watchable, but just . . . there.

I was fairly impressed with the acting of whoever played Uta. She carried off the attitude of one who's been so obsessed with vengeance that it's all she's got left quite well. She also projected a good image of one used to service for so long that she can't remember any other way to behave.

I liked the idea of the virus tailor-made to kill one clan only very much indeed, but had one major problem with the scene where this was discovered.

When they discover the record of the other Gatherer dying, and see he's a Lornac, then notice that the old man was also Lornac, they immediately say, "Oh, so that's it!" Now, I realize that the Clan Wars were a big deal on Acamar III, and that this in all probability wouldn't have led them astray, but would it have been that big a deal to ask the computer to specify all factors common to the two people who died? For all they know, the virus specifically attacked only those who were males with no left testicle.

The coarseness of the Gatherers seemed a little overdone to me, and slightly inconsistent as well. There's a scene between Brul and Wesley in 10-Forward, which smacked of a subplot waiting to happen (but never did), where Brul seems a little less brutal than usual, with no real reason given. While the brutality of the Gatherers did convey the idea that these people have had to live by their wits for 100 years, it still seemed a little too barbaric to me.

One really minor "what-if": I sort of hoped that Uta's meal for Riker had been less delicious and more spicy. I half expected him to have real trouble with it. Well, I suppose this lends credence to the theory that Riker had his taste buds surgically removed before signing on to the Pagh last season. :-)

I didn't like the acting of the woman playing the Sovereign very much. She was too whiney and dictatorial to be a proper leader.

Other than that, there's not much to say. The regulars did a pretty good job (particularly Crusher), but there just wasn't much to this. I suppose, then, that it's rating time.

Plot: 6 - Competent, but not particularly exciting.
Plot Handling: 5 - Nothing wrong, but points off for the immediate jump to the clan being the common factor.
Characterization: 7.5 - Not bad, and a little extra for Uta. Some off for the Sovereign and the Gatherers.
Technical: 8 - I liked the virus, and the method the away team used to get out from under the ambush.

TOTAL: 26.5/4 => 6.6. Watchable, certainly, but not really worth a second viewing.

Tim Lynch (Cornell's first Astronomy B.A.; one of many Caltech grad students)
BITNET: tlynch@citjuliet
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"Brill? What was he doing here?"
"Last time I saw, trying to fly."
"I didn't know he could do that." "He wasn't doing very well."
"Well, maybe he'll get the hang of it." <> "Does bouncing count?"
---Silk and Belgarath, from David Eddings' THE BELGARIAD

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