What defines Life? That is what this episode looks to explore and it does well at how it goes about the exploration. How can you tell if something is life, if you don’t recognize it based on your own preconceptions? First airing on February 22, 1988, I present Home Soil.
Stardate 41463.9 Home Soil
The crew are asked to investigate a terraforming station as the stations communications have gone dark. Upon arrival they discover that someone or something is taking over the plant and may be a threat to the terraformers and the crew themselves.
Upon arriving at the site, the Terraformers are obviously agitated but go along with a brief tour of the facilities. While touring, an accident occurs which threatens the life of one of the Terraformers but by the time the crew get to him, he is dead. During the investigation, Data is attacked again and, after disabling a mining laser that attacked him, he believes that whatever killed the terraformer wasn’t an accident, but something of intelligent design.
After returning to the site of the incident, Data and Geordi discover a small spec of inorganic life where the scientist had been working. They beam it aboard the Enterprise only to discover that it is an intelligence of its own and the Terraformers have, unknowingly, been destroying this indigenous species home.
The entity begins to grow aboard the Enterprise and soon becomes a threat to them as well as it views us as “Ugly Giant Bags of Mostly Water” who just want the life form dead. Picard, of course, manages to negotiate with the being resulting in the planet being quarantined for the next 300 years.
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
It is, although a little slow it is a solid story that is indicative of the show’s mission statement. Strange New Worlds? check. New life? check. New Civilizations? possibly.
The thing that makes Star Trek an intriguing premise overall is the exploration of the unknown. This one starts with what looks like a murder mystery and turns into the question of what constitutes life.
We also get to the age old question, what determines sentience? Do lifeforms have to fit a certain criteria that we, as humans, see or can they be more than what we expect? Is there life that we don’t recognize even here on Earth? It is episodes like this that presents the viewer with a chance to challenge their preconceptions and consider other options and ideas.
While not heavy on character development, this episode gives every cast member a purpose and really shows them working as a team. Once again, the ensemble cast doing what they do best!
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
At one point Data asks if the ‘micro brain’ could be ‘alive’. Geordi’s response is ‘How can it be alive it’s inorganic’. Did he forget that Data himself is not organic? If I had been Data, my response would have been, ‘Neither am I Geordi’. I wonder if the crew has gotten so used to Data being a member of the crew that they don’t see him as an android any longer. Or maybe it was just a writing mistake. Either way, a missed opportunity.
I have to ask, did they forget about the Horta? You know, that OTHER non-organic life form that was discovered by miners in the original series…
This is the first Terraforming we see on TNG, my brain immediately went to the Genesis Project from Star Trek The Wrath of Khan and I have to wonder if any of that technology is being used now, even unknowingly. Sadly, I imagine that it was classified and buried in Federation Bureaucracy.
We never see this being again in the series, which makes sense as the planet has been guaranteed at the species request for 300 years. This would make for an excellent followup episode if CBS were to do a new series set in the future of Star Trek. What has become of this species? Have they built a civilization of their own? Do they still view humans as a threat? I doubt we’ll ever know.
Riker Beard Countdown B minus 9 Episodes until Beard Emergence.
Thanks for reading the Retro TV Review. I look forward to discussing the rest of the series with you, one episode at a time every Monday, Wednesday and Friday! Next Review: Coming of Age
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Late To The Game 02/07/18
Special Thanks to Memory Alpha as they are one of the best sources for details on Star Trek information available. Although I have a pretty deep knowledge on the subject, they have proven invaluable as a regular resource.
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