Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Star Trek: The Next Generation--"Home Soil"

I knew when I wrote yesterday that I was turned off by “When the Bough Breaks” because of it recycled plot elements of TOS that I was going to be a hypocrite when reviewing “Home Soil.” So be it. ’Home Soil” is essentially “Devil in the Dark” with inorganic life rather than silicon based. The thing is, I did not mind the similarities. I suppose if you are going to steal from a TOS episode, make sure it is one of the best.

The gist of the plot is that a group of terraformers have been adapting a planet for habitation without knowing they were killing an indigenous life form. The life form kills one of the terraformers and nearly destroys the Enterprise before Picard negotiates a peace and quarantine of the planet for three centuries while humanity--bags of mostly water--get rid of their barbarism.

The unnamed life form was truly unique and creative, even moreso than the Bynars a few episodes back. It is a definite plus in my book when some ingenuity is shown in creating new aliens for Trek. Truth be told, it does not happen all that often.

Not that ’Home Soil” is without flaws. The process of explaining exactly what erraformers do took up 2/3 of the first act and reminded me of my GEOL 203 class. I took Environment of the Earth under the most severe of duress, so I was less than thrilled to sit through a refresher course.

The second big problem is just how dumb these brilliant terraformers are. They saw flasing lights in a pattern on an otherwise dead world, but never realized it was life or that said life was trying to communicate with them. The head guy and his assistant started to suspect something was up, but never told the female of the group because--and I quote--“It wasn’t important.” Well, it was important enough for the life form to kill in order to protect itself and have everyone but the woman covering thie lights’ existence up. I guess only men folk need to know about heady stuff like that.

The head of the project is clearly theantogonist of the episode, but it is never made clear if he is sinister or just detrrmined to get his tewrraforming done. Picard rips him pretty hard, even accusing him of murder, after it has already been determined the life form is intelligent and probably capable of killing. I cannot see the point of still playing like there is a murder mystery afoot when it is already clar the life form was the culprit. Three different writers are given credit on the script, which means at least six worked on it. Chalk up the ambiguities to too many cooks spoiling the stew.

But the episode’s heart was in the right place. The hour was entertaining. There was also a better than usual balance between preachy moralizing and action, particularly with Data showing off his superior android skills. The story would have been better if the murder mystery had gone on longer. It should have been the third act cliffhanger when we learned it was all the life form’s doing. That and the other flaws I listed above cost it a couple stars.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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