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Lunch » Tags » Tv Shows » Reviews » Star Trek - The Next Generation, Episode 17: Home Soil » User review

Would we really be able to recognize alien life as life?

  • Oct 1, 2004
This episode has one of the best lines in all of Star Trek, "Ugly bags of mostly water." The Enterprise arrives at a planet where a small team of terraformers is modifying the surface of a supposedly lifeless planet so that it could support an Earth-like ecology. It is supposed to be a routine visit, but the director of the project is curt, leading the Enterprise crew to suspect that something is not right. An away team beams down and in the middle of the enthusiastic briefing, one of the terraforming team is killed by an errant laser drill.
Over the objections of the terraforming team, all are beamed to the Enterprise and Geordi and Data beam back down to the planet to continue the investigation. Data is attacked by the laser drill and while he survives, he concludes that the drill was under the control of a very dynamic program. They then look into the tunnels and discover something that is flashing electromagnetic pulses. At first, they wonder if it is alive, but since it is composed only of inorganic material, they dismiss the thought.
However, it is beamed to the Enterprise and scientifically examined. After further analysis, they determine that it is intelligent life and it tries to communicate with them. Once understandable communications are established, the inorganic creature declares war on the "ugly bags of mostly water." It turns out that the terraforming team was about to destroy their habitat, which would have killed all of the inorganic creatures. After many attempts to isolate the creature, the Enterprise crew discovers how to "defeat" it and a truce is declared. The creature is returned to its planet and a centuries long quarantine of the planet is declared.
This episode is clearly taken from "The Devil in the Dark" episode of the original series. A planet is considered lifeless, although there is life based on silicon and other inorganic compounds. It is only the narrowness of the vision of the humans in their search for life that leads them to believe that the planet has none. Considering that the rocklike Horta would be well known to the Federation by now, it is hard to believe that such a mistake would have been made. Similarly, the terraformers admit to having seen geometric shapes, which are a telltale sign of intelligent life. Clearly, they should be subject to some sort of punishment.
If you get beyond these obvious flaws, this is a good episode, demonstrating some of the problems that humans will have when new lifeforms are encountered. Given that the cultural differences on Earth lead to serious conflicts, it is hard to see how an interstellar war can be avoided as humans explore the galaxy. Humans could end up inadvertently trying to kill off entire civilizations because of basic prejudices concerning what form life can take. The only possible way this can be avoided would be to have much stricter rules concerning the exploitation of planetary resources than are evident in this episode.

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Charles Ashbacher ()
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Charlie Ashbacher is a compulsive reader and writer about many subjects. His prime areas of expertise are in mathematics and computers where he has taught every course in the mathematics and computer … more
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On the lifeless desert planet of Velara III, a small group of scientists are hard at work terraforming the planet. When a routine check-in by theEnterpriseleads to a testy dismissal from the head engineer, as well as bad vibes for Counselor Troi, the away team goes to investigate. Apologies are quickly made by the newly conciliatory terraformers, who explain that their manners tend to fade over the decades of isolation required to bring life to a dead world. (So what exactly happened toStar Trek II's Genesis Project?) But during the brief tour, one scientist is killed by an apparently malfunctioning laser, and suspicions are raised again. Data and Geordi investigate, and discover beyond question that an intelligent force in fact controlled the deadly beam. The three remaining scientists are brought up to the ship for questioning; also beamed aboard is a small crystal whose arrhythmic, "musical" light pulsations have intrigued Data. Despite some insistence from the ship's computer that, lacking organic structure, the crystal simply can't be life (why exactly aren't Starfleet medical programs informed of the silicon-based Horta encountered by the oldEnterprisecrew?), alive is exactly the right word. Alive, growing, and angry at the attempted extermination of its species by the terraformers. Not to mention able to control theEnterprise's computers, thus putting the entire crew at risk. Though the rapidly multiplying creature, eventually dubbed the microbrain, is one of the ...
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Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy
Studio: Paramount

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