The Good: Acting
The Bad: Characters, Plots, Hammy overpresentation
The Basics: "Home Soil" is terribly pretentious, reiterating a good theme to the point of ridiculous overkill. Not worth your time.
While I've long argued that the first season of Star Trek The Next Generation is just fine as "Philosopher Kings In Space," "Home Soil" is the exception to the rule. This is an episode that goes too far in attempting to make a message and it ends up being obvious and overstated and ultimately boring.
The Enterprise visits a planet where colonists are teraforming, or turning a lifeless ball of rock into a habitable world. When the Enterprise arrives, a death occurs and Picard is compelled to investigate. He is met with resistance by the colony leader, Project Director Mandl. He insists on not knowing how the colonist died and Data is almost killed while investigating the teraforming station by a malfunctioning laser drill. Data survives and discovers there's an indigenous life form on the planet. In the soil, there is a microscopic life form. Data beams a sample of the life form aboard the Enterprise and it begins to evolve at an incredible rate. In fact, it's obvious it's intelligent. The life form takes over the laboratory on the Enterprise and threatens the crew.
The strength of the episode is in the acting. That the actors are playing against some light emitting diodes with a straight face is wonderful. The underlying philosophy of the episode is likewise good; it is not humanities place to change other places and kill existing life forms. Good message.
Brent Spiner, especially deserves some credit for his role in "Home Soil." Primarily a comedic actor, Spiner as Data is relegated to a lot of very serious moments as his character is supposed to be emotionless. Here, Spiner is able to branch out a little more and give a little more depth and flavor to his performance and the audience is able to buy it solely on his strength of acting (as opposed to a logical extension of Data's character).
The problem is in how the episode is executed. The excuse is used that the colonists didn't recognize the microscopic life form as either life or intelligent. Yet, they also claim to have done extensive tests on the planet before the colonists ever arrived, before the teraforming station was ever placed on the planet. Yet as malfunctions occur and the bodies stack up, it becomes obvious that they made a huge mistake.
The problem with the episode is that the viewer figures out the mistake made long before the characters either figure it out or acknowledge it. Mandl lies to Picard and crew for some time before they disbelieve him enough to actually confront him on it. It's a huge disappointment considering how much more advanced the crew of the Enterprise is supposed to be than we are. Moreover, that such an advanced society is unable to identify the life form as life that quick is very disappointing as well.
This episode is poorly paced, thematically overbearing and almost impossible to watch more than once on account of how uninteresting it ends up being.
[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Complete First Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the debut season by clicking here!
For other Star Trek episode and film reviews, please be sure to visit my index page by clicking here!
© 2010, 2008, 2002 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.