“Home Soil” is the eighteenth episode of the American science fiction television series Star Trek: The Next Generation. It first aired in broadcast syndication on 22 February 1988.
Robert Sabaroff, Karl Geurs and Ralph Sanchez developed the story, with Sabaroff producing the teleplay. “Home Soil” is one of five episodes of the series directed by Corey Allen.
Set in the 24th century, the series follows the adventures of the Starfleet crew of the Federation starship Enterprise-D. In the episode, the crew of the Enterprise investigates the murder of a crewman on a terraforming colony and discover a crystalline life form possessing intelligence.
The production team encountered problems with the sets, casting, and scheduling. Due to issues with the script, it was delivered to Allen just one day before shooting. Nine million viewers watched the episode, the second lowest number of viewers for the first season of The Next Generation. Critical reception was mixed, with one reviewer noting that unlike the original Star Trek series, “Home Soil” explored the realm of hard science fiction. Critics compared the appearance of inorganic life forms in the story to the plot of the original Star Trek series episode, “The Devil in the Dark“.
Diverted from exploring the Pleiades, the Enterprise arrives at the terraforming colony on Velara III, as the project is behind schedule. The director, Kurt Mandl (Walter Gotell), insists they are on time but Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) orders an away team to the surface after Counsellor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) senses that Mandl is hiding something. After they arrive, one of Mandl’s team is killed by a malfunctioning laser drill.
During Lt. Commander Data’s (Brent Spiner) inspection of the tool, it begins to fire at him, but his quick android reflexes allow him to dodge the shot and render the drill harmless. He finds the programming of the laser was rewritten to fire upon the staff. Nearby, a crystal is discovered giving off irregular light and radiation patterns. The crystal is brought aboard the Enterprise to study and Picard orders a halt to the terraforming.
Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) and Data discover the crystal may be alive. When the crystal attempts to interact with the Enterprise’s computers, it is placed into a containment force field. The crystal begins to grow and gains access to the computer’s translation program and attempts to communicate with the crew, treating the humans as an enemy, derisively calling them “ugly bags of mostly water”.
Picard discovers that Mandl and his team previously encountered the crystals; at the time, they had considered the possibility that the crystals were alive, but Mandl insisted on continuing to terraform. The terraformers used a drilling process responsible for removing the saline water layer from the water table of Velara III. This saline layer acted as a conductor, allowing many separate crystals to function as one life form. In a defensive response to the drilling, the crystal life form rewrote the laser’s software and attacked the terraformers.
Data hypothesises that a single crystal is not intelligent, but when linked to other crystals, their intelligence is formidable. As the crystalline life form accesses higher-level functions of the Enterprise’s computer, Picard and the crew try to transport it to the surface but the crystal blocks all attempts to transport it off the ship.
Data and Lt. Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton) discover the presence of cadmium in the crystal and suspect it has photoelectric properties. They disable the lights in the medical lab and the crystal immediately begs for life. Picard peacefully negotiates to return the crystal life form to the surface of the planet where Starfleet will institute a quarantine, leaving the life form to live in peace.
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Production & Filming Details
- Director(s): Corey Allen.
- Writer(s): Robert Sabaroff, Karl Geurs, and Ralph Sanchez.
- Release Date: 22 February 1988.
- Running Time: 50 minutes.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.