TNG Episode 1.18: Home Soil

In which wet sand doubts your commitment to Sparkle Motion.

Memory Alpha says: A new microscopic lifeform threatens to kill the crew working to terraform its planet. (Please click the Memory Alpha link for detailed information.)

My Review
I have absolutely no memory of ever seeing this episode. I know this is where ‘ugly bags of mostly water’ comes from, and that sounds vaguely familiar except I may be confusing it with something like ‘little bags of thinking water’ which I’m fairly sure was in a Discworld book; I want to say Pyramids. I really like Pyramids, btw, and want to rewind Siddig El Fadil to about nineteen and make him play Pteppic in a film version.

Ah. I just looked it up and Pratchett had ‘little bags of thinking water held up briefly by fragile accumulations of calcium.’ Rather less punchy.  At least I was right about which book it was. Read, enjoy, and years later try to figure out how the hell the timeline fits together with this and Small Gods.

So I’m just going to bullet-point it and hope for some pleasant surprises.

  • They’re mapping the Pleiades cluster! That’s awesome! I like the Pleiades. They were part of a wonderful Mary Poppins story, and are the basis for the Maori stellar new year, Matariki, which if there’s any justice should become a public holiday in New Zealand in the next few years.
  • Were Marina Sirtis and Jonathan Frakes directed to stand there with their arms dangling awkwardly for no evident reason?
  • ha ha look at Picard with his hands on his hips.
  • Wow, this guy is incredibly unexcited about being visited by the starship Enterprise.
  • ha ha look at Riker try to inveigle the man into a holodeck – oh, the level of my discourse is poor this evening.
  • Troi senses something hinky! I guess she’s having a Useful Week, because the guy’s deal is not transparently obvious; he could just be an impatient jerk, as opposed to having something to hide.
  • I really liked the blocking of that last shot with two different people crossing briefly in front of Picard as the camera slowly zooms in on his frowny expression. Nicely done.
  • That is one heavy-duty jumpsuit. I really like it.
  • ‘Gardener of Edens,’ it sounds like Luisa Kim said. She’s perty.
  • Mullet dude, kindly unhand Data. Yes, he is absolutely adorable, but he has personal space like everyone else.
  • ‘Both matters are subjects of protracted discussion’ is a really strange thing to say when the answers should be ‘Omicron Theta, and one other that we know of – but he’s a total dick.’ I will give them a pass and assume we’re seeing the effects, again, of Season One episodes being written, shot and screened in quite different orders.
  • Look at Riker smizing at Luisa. NOBODY smizes like Riker.
  • This poor actress is having to give a full lecture on terraforming – but she’s actually pulling it off well.
  • Data and Geordi wander off for some nerdery – and mullet dude is being mildly unpleasant.
  • ‘So abrrrrupt!’
  • So everyone picks on the bald guy with bulbous eyes? Poor Arthur. He just wanted to hang out with Data and Geordi and talk nerdy.
  • What Data and Geordi just said is completely frickin’ lost on me. The writers really seem to have been earnest about providing a detailed description of how terraforming might work, and it’s super clunky. It reminds me of the pages in Destination Moon given over to explaining the workings of the nuclear reactor, with Wolff technobabbling away for panels and Captain Haddock occasionally making sardonic remarks – except nobody here is sardonic. Incidentally, any reader who can draw and draws me Captain Haddock in a Starfleet uniform, any era, is awesome.
  • And again, Troi’s psychic abilities are actually useful, picking up that poor Arthur is in trouble before anyone hears him scream.
  • Note that Data visibly dithers in the corridor before the boss terraformer takes control.
  • Boss terraformer randomly mashes buttons and claims ‘It’s jammed.’ I don’t trust him one bit! Y’all should’ve let Data pull the door open.
  • Critically injured by a laser drill!
  • Riker, you are not a doctor. Don’t go predicting Arthur’s chances of survival based on the look of his wounds, or referring to him as ‘the body.’ For all you know he’s conscious enough to hear you! Anyway, why can’t he be beamed out directly? Does someone with a commbadge have to be beside him? Hurry up, you twits.
  • Why would Tasha go with him to sick bay?

    Pew pew!

    ‘Too much to explain’? I insist that you try to explain, Data, it would be far more in-character.

  • So the door opened because Geordi thumped on it and shouted?
  • I love how nonchalant Data is about the laser drill trying to kill him. Mullet is a pretty bad actor in his dismay that Data killed the laser drill right back.
  • It’s not a fantasy, Boss Terraformer; Data doesn’t have those. He just features in other people’s.
  • I like how Beverly helplessly flaps her coat, with her hands in the pockets, as she says she couldn’t save Arthur. Note how I have learned Arthur and Luisa’s names but cannot be arsed to learn Boss Terraformer’s or Mullet’s.
  • ‘It seems we are becoming detectives, Number One.’ Yes! Isn’t it awesome? I think you should dress up for it.
  • And they actually make use of Geordi being able to visually analyse things with his Visor. The shot of Data hovering over his shoulder is super awkward, because they are basically spooning upright. I do like Data and Geordi getting to play CSI, though. In my imaginary spin-off, Law & Order: UFP, that’s exactly what they do – they are the CSIs who assist Odo, in the Briscoe role (all the more appropriate since Jerry Orbach and Rene Auberjonois have both done noteworthy voice acting in Disney animation – Auberjonois is, among other things, the crazed chef who tries to cook Sebastian alive in The Little Mermaid) while Picard, who has retired from Starfleet but bucked expectations of an ambassadorial role, is the crusading silver fox DA. And everything is absolutely awesome forever and ever. Don’t you think?
  • Data and Geordi found a twinkly. Why are they saying there’s no test for inorganic life when Data is right there, being inorganic and alive? Because of the excellent ‘The Offspring’ I absolutely love Data suggesting that reproduction should be one of the criteria they look for to determine if it’s alive. I wonder how long he had plans in that direction before he found a way to do it?
  • Observe, hypothesise and test the hypothesis, Beverly – not observe, theorise and attempt to prove it. The scientific method is about checking whether your idea is WRONG, not trying to prove that you are RIGHT. Or that’s the impression that I get from reading an awful lot of And You Call Yourself a Scientist!
  • What is Wesley doing in the background? Is he here because he’s a gregarious nerd or because he was hanging out with his mother?
  • Picard: What are we looking at?
    Data: (scrunches up his face like it’s kind of yicky)
    Wesley: It’s beautiful, whatever it is.
  • It looks like a baby Crystalline Entity. If it were a bit bigger, Lore would try to make friends with it.
  • The twinkly is making a noise!
  • I love how in early TNG they’ll just stand around analysing something like this for ages and ages without the least concern for pace.
  • Beverly’s hair is looking great.
  • Aw, I love how Data looks at the little living twinkly with awe.
  • The prime directive says that we can’t terraform twinklies!
  • You brute, Picard, you upset Boss Terraformer!
  • Wow, look at Deanna sensing specific, useful things! They really are working like a team of detectives within their own specialities.
  • I also like the fact that Deanna basically sics Riker on Luisa to try and find out what her deal is – by implication, with the full knowledge that he’s going to use his Smizing Powers to loosen her knicker elastic along with her tongue.
  • That’s a nice dressing gown. Poor Luisa, looking at the stars and crying. It makes me a little bit mad that Riker is going to intrude on her when she’s so upset, even though he’s doing it to find out the truth about a murder.
  • And he really didn’t find out anything, so what was the point?
  • The shots of everyone squinting at the twinkly, especially Gates McFadden moving her head like a snake, are cracking me up.
  • The twinkly doesn’t like you staring at it while it makes a baby!
  • Awww, it’s just so sweet how enthralled Data looks.
  • Beverly Crusher is one nonchalant HBIC (Hep-looking Broad In Charge); she will evacuate a lab with her hands in her pockets.
  • It’s trying to communicate with us, so we all scampered out into the corridor and sealed the door. Well. Beverly sauntered.
  • Wow, it is like Gates McFadden had a bet with herself that she could have her hands in her pockets in every one of her shots. I’m tempted to suspect that she had something wrong with one of her hands and was trying to conceal it (like the scene in, I think, Fellowship of the Ring where Saruman is sitting with his hands tucked into his armpits as if he’s feeling very old and tired and shivery, because Christopher Lee had broken off his artificial fingernails and there wasn’t time to reapply them).
  • And now a good old TNG debate over the shiny black table. You’d think they’d be a bit stronger on the concept of silicon-based life since ‘Devil in the Dark’ anyway, wouldn’t you?
  • Actually, Luisa, I suspect you weren’t informed because you’re the girl.
  • Mullet’s mullet is horrible.
  • Of course you can’t understand the patterns, Worf. You’re Worf. They don’t keep you around for your brains. You say things like ‘I wasn’t talking to you‘ to the computer.
  • The programmers’ restroom? That’s a strange little detail. Does it mean toilet or break room?
  • Is this another different chief engineer? How many did they have to go through before they gave up and asked Geordi to do it?
  • And so, the USS Enterprise got into a war with some sand. This is a great day for the Federation.
  • Perhaps if they had a Horta in the crew it could act as a go-between, and explain about No Kill I and the whole terrible misunderstanding that worked out all right in the end. And look hilarious shambling along the corridors of the ship.
  • Bit derogatory how they keep calling it The Microbrain, I must say. Doesn’t Q call Worf ‘Macrohead Microbrain’ some years later?
  • It’s a big twinkly now! And it really is looking more and more like the Crystalline Entity. Or a Christmas tree ornament. Do you think they sell those?
  • They obviously put a lot of work into figuring out the scientific explanation for how all this works, and I honour that. It’s just a bit wasted on me. I watch Star Trek as a sitcom/soap opera, not for the hard science fiction, I have to admit.
  • ‘Agreed! We will send you home to your wet sand.’ What a lovely line.
  • Sand is calling you primitive. Nice.
  • I don’t even understand why this is a Riker scene.
  • Well, Data, I think in 300 years you should just come back here and check it out. You’ll be Captain by then, you can do what you want. (I imagine half your crew will be your kids and the ship will be absolutely infested with cats, and nobody will really dare to say anything about the eccentricity of your arrangements because you’re Captain Data and you’re older than dirt and have saved the Federation more times than they’ve had hot dinners.) I also want you to visit Planet Mudd and try to persuade the android ladies and Norman to live life for their own sakes rather than as the perpetual servants of organics – and upgrade their systems so they don’t need to co-ordinate every time someone says something confusing to them.
  • This near tragedy? I’m glad to hear that Arthur’s death doesn’t qualify as tragic all on its own!

Decent episode, very slow, like the mystery format, like it when everyone contributes something relevant – except Worf, who really doesn’t have anything relevant to contribute. The fact that Denise Crosby decided she wanted out really was a boon to Michael Dorn.

And what did you get up to this week, O’Brien?

‘I’m very hurt that you don’t have a part planned for me in Law & Order. I’ll have you know I nearly played Gene Hunt.’


10 Responses to “TNG Episode 1.18: Home Soil”

  1. jakeish Says:

    I have definitely commented on Law & Order: UFP before on ontd_tng, but, I mean, REALLY. The beeeest.

    Beverly would be the medical examiner, but unlike Rogers she’d get to have a cute assistant named Bashir to annoy everyone with his youth when she’s busy. O’Brien as the tech they all go to to zoom in on pictures and filter audio? I suppose Riker would be a Mike Logan type. And there’s endless room to fit in characters as the defense attorney of the week.

    I have wondered if Carolyn McCormick’s Olivet rhyming with Minuet was just a coincidence or a tribute. More likely pure coincidence, because what ridiculously subtle reference that would be.

    • picardigan Says:

      Yes to all of the above! Emphatically!

      • jakeish Says:

        I’m unfortunately unintrigued by the thought of Captain Haddock in a TOS uniform because I don’t think I’ve ever read any Tin Tin in my life, but now I DO really want to draw Briscodo. And if I had any skill or talent whatsoever with sequential art (or, uh, plot-writing and dialogue and all of those things that are sort of important) I would totally devote my downtime to the creating a L&O: UFP comic series, as well as one for the untitled wacky science adventures of Data and Bashir (and Geordi can be there, too).

        Did you know they really DID consider an animated series featuring the TNG crew in the early nineties?! The idea was scrapped because no one (network/syndication wise) would pick it up and Rick Berman thought it was stupid. Your face is stupid, Rick Berman.

  2. solo Says:

    Yeah, I’d watch the shit out of L&O:UFP, not gunna lie. Although I know nothing about the original show, nor have I watched any of its incarnations.

    I remember loving this episode because of the sparkle alien. The idea of discovering a new form of life is just-so-cool-I-can’t-even and they portrayed that really well. Also the stuff about terraforming was cool, if I recall.

    Like you, I don’t watch Star Trek for the science, but I do get excited when some comes up that’s not utterly silly. Well, okay, sparkly light aliens and terraforming are but not in comparison with, say, the Giant Space Ameoba in TOS. Or the idea that two aliens from completely different, unrelated planets can not only have babies, but can do so accidentally (I’m looking at you, Dukat.). As someone who hopes to call herself a scientist some day, I just have a laugh. (By science I mean biology. Let others debate the (im)possibility of FTL travel.)

    • picardigan Says:

      I like the idea that you can cross a human with anything because humans are the Universal Slut Donors of the galaxy.
      Not totally sure how Bajorans and Cardassians work though, since I’m pretty sure Bajorans are mammals and Cardies look PRETTY REPTILIAN. Not that I have anything against them being reptiles; it just shouldn’t WORK that way.

  3. Curuchamion Says:

    I have now actually asked my sister, who can draw, to draw Captain Haddock in a TOS uniform (she’s a TOS-only fan). We will see what, if anything, transpires.

    • picardigan Says:

      HA! I never expected anyone to take me up on it.
      I think Haddock and Dr McCoy would like to get shitfaced together and complain about EVERYTHING. ‘Man’s proper place is on dear old Earth!’

  4. IHeartData Says:

    “It’s not a fantasy, Boss Terraformer; Data doesn’t have those. He just features in other people’s.”

    ‘It seems we are becoming detectives, Number One.’ Yes! Isn’t it awesome? I think you should dress up for it.”

    Whole heartily agree

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