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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Home Soil

February 15, 2013

I’ve got the next week off from school. I’ll be visiting my mom, so updates may or may not be affected. Depends how I feel.

Originally aired February 22, 1988. Stardate 41463.9. The Enterprise is visiting a behind-schedule terraforming colony on Velara III. After an initial delay in the base responding to a hail, director Mandl comes on. Troi tells Picard that Mandl is alarmed, and is hiding something. Picard sends down an Away team to investigate, consisting of Riker, Troi, Geordi, Data and Yar. They’re met by Luisa Kim. Kim is open and friendly. Mandl comes in and sends one of his men off to another section to do some work, then continues explaining the project. Troi senses the other guy is in trouble. They find him seriously injured by a drilling laser.

The others beam up with the guy, leaving Data and Geordi behind with one of the terraformers. Data has them reactivate the laser, which promptly attacks him. The doors close and the laser starts firing. When the doors finally open again, Data walks out and says the laser was tracking him, which means someone was controlling it. He also apparently managed to break the laser with his bare hands.

On the Enterprise, Picard tells Mandl that the terraforming project is on hold until the mystery of who programmed the laser to attack is resolved. Data and Geordi beam back down, and see a flashing light in one of the holes being drilled. Data speculates that it may be what the terraformers are covering up. It’s beamed to the Enterprise, where they examine it. Crusher, Picard, Data, Geordi and Wesley (for some reason) are looking at it. They start hearing a hum from it, which gets quieter when they step back. The computer ultimately speculates it’s alive. In the Ready Room, Picard tells Mandl about the life form, and brings up murder. Troi says Mandl knew about the life form, but was shocked at the mention of murder.

Riker goes to visit Kim, and tells her about the life form. In the lab, the life form splits in two. It’s alive. Crusher tries to activate a quarantine field, but it doesn’t work. The life form patches into the computer’s translation banks, meaning it’s intelligent life. Picard brings the terraformers to the conference room to talk about it. Meanwhile, an Ensign calls Riker down to Engineering to tell him about how the energy to the quarantine field is being redirected. Finally, they’re able to communicate with the life form, which calls them “Ugly bags of mostly water.” The thing has become a colony, making it a lot stronger, and it’s declared war on the Enterprise. They eventually figure out it’s photo-electric, and kill the lights in the lab. It ends the war, and they beam it home.

Not a bad episode, all in all. It’s got some problems. The life form’s speech through the translator is annoying. Beyond that, it’s got an interesting premise, and good performances all around. The lack of a Chief Engineer remains noticeable in the scene in Engineering. The early part has a lot of exposition, but it’s some neat stuff, and it’s delivered with some enthusiasm, so it doesn’t feel too bad. The reactions of the terraformers to learning that the thing is alive is cool. There’s better-than-usual use of the scientific method and deductive reasoning. Keith R.A. DeCandido pointed out that the original Enterprise encountered an inorganic, non-carbon-based lifeform (the silicone-based Horta from The Devil In the Dark), which makes it seem like a bit of amnesia that they talk about having never seen inorganic life before. He has a point. But no big deal.

Overall, I’d give this a 3/5. It’s a solid episode.

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