Star Trek: The Next Generation: Home Soil   Rewatch 
June 1, 2020 8:01 AM - Season 1, Episode 18 - Subscribe

Hello and welcome to the Velara III terraforming station! I'll be your tour guide through this absolutely safe and incident-free look at every excruciating detail of hydrological engineering!

Compared to Memory Alpha, we are ALL microbrains:

• This was the final episode of the series on which Gene Roddenberry acted as head writer. Maurice Hurley took over control of the writing staff starting with the following episode, "Coming of Age".

• According to Hurley, the production was troubled. "An interesting idea, but the execution fell apart. I thought it was a wonderful idea. If you could think of all the problems you could possibly put together in one episode, we had it in that one. Casting, sets, location, time, the fact that the director was getting pages the day before we had to shoot … that was a real tough show to do."

• Walter Jack Gotell (Kurt Mandl) is best known for the part of General Gogol, the head of the KGB, in six films of the James Bond film series from 1977 to 1987.

• Elizabeth Lindsey (Luisa Kim) was the first female National Geographic fellow and the first Polynesian explorer at the National Geographic Society. In 2010, she received the Visionary Award from the United Nations for her contributions in intercultural engagement and understanding including her work with the Dalai Lama and with Islands First.

• This episode was the second time on Star Trek for Carolyne Barry (as the unnamed engineering ensign). Twenty-one years earlier she appeared as a Metron in the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Arena" under the name Carole Shelyne.

"If there anything we can do to help? You and your staff are welcome aboard for a change of scene, rest."
"We have some holodecks which you might enjoy."
- Picard and Riker

"Ugly giant bags of mostly water."
- The microbrain, describing Humans

"Terraformers are often obsessive. It frequently goes with the career profile."
- Troi

"When did you first become aware of them?"
"Tell them about the pattern in the sand."
"Oh, yes. Do tell us."
- Picard and Bensen

"…But is it alive?"
"Probability: positive."
"I wasn't asking you."
- Worf and the computer

"Darkness. Death. Terrible. Must go home to wet sand. War over."
"Agreed. We will send you home to your wet sand."
- The microbrain and Picard

Poster's Log:
This episode may be most notable for the line "Ugly giant bags of mostly water," which (at least at one time) was high-profile outside of Trek fandom, a la the "timey-wimey" line from Dr. Who.

Definitely more than a little bit of the Genesis Project, and of "Devil in the Dark," in this plot, which maybe hurts the episode more than other instances of TOS-borrowing (save for "Naked Now," of course) in that there's not a whole lot else here, except perhaps that they apparently spent a good chunk of money on these sets. Good to see Worf doing some sciencey stuff, though. I also forgot how much I enjoy it when Picard gets testy and command-y.

I always seem to struggle to differentiate this episode from season six's "The Quality of Life", which is striking in that this is (STILL) season one. That said, given what Hurley says about the production troubles, it holds together OK, and is far less sloppy than several previous episodes. Just pretty forgettable.

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
"Greatest Generation" episode link.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (21 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It's weird that "Ugly giant bags of mostly water" seems to violate English adjective order to my ear, but it doesn't. "Giant ugly bag" sounds more natural to me and I'm not sure why.

I've always liked how Spiner handled Data's reaction to that observation too. Data seems genuinely amused by it, in the sort of way Data can be amused by things.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 10:53 AM on June 1, 2020 [3 favorites]

I noticed another moment of ensemble acting when Worf irritatedly tells the computer “I was not talking to you”; the edit cuts away right as Geordi starts to laugh.

Elizabeth Lindsey’s website. I was initially struck by the length, density, and sort-of stiff delivery of her character’s descriptive introductory monologue on the set of the lab. I went and looked her up and was sort of amazed. Her anthropology credentials and subsequent career all came after this role.

I laughed when I heard “ugly giant bags of mostly water”, having totally forgotten it originated in this episode.

Waaaay too much recycled from “Devil in the Dark”. I have always thought it was weird that Data or someone never refers to the Horta as an example of mineralic life, or even to the Crystalline Entity.

I was sorta hoping MA would mention that radar-sweep prop, what a crazy piece of set.
posted by mwhybark at 11:12 AM on June 1, 2020 [6 favorites]

I'll take forgettable but decent over unforgettable and a trash-fire anyday! The "ugly bags of mostly water" was how dad would sometimes describe folks when I was a kid- until someone overheard him without the requisite TNG knowledge and thought he was insulting them- oops.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 1:07 PM on June 1, 2020 [4 favorites]

mwhybark beat me to it: not only is this a redress of "Devil in the Dark", it's also, to put it mildly, darn peculiar that everyone's acting like non-carbon-based life forms are such a mind-blowing concept. And it's made even worse by the fact that "Devil in the Dark" is a much better take on the concept in a thoroughly space-opera-baroque way: the Horta itself--like a cross between a deep-dish pizza and a bearskin rug--racing through solid rock; NO KILL I; Leonard Nimoy emoting like crazy to convey the Horta's agony and despair when Spock mind-melds with it; and McCoy, going in grousing that he's a doctor not a bricklayer damnit Jim, and coming out with his hands covered with cement and grinning from ear to ear, proclaiming that he could cure a rainy day. "Ugly bags of mostly water" is a nice turn of phrase, and that's a pretty incredible guest star set (a KGB chief, a Polynesian explorer, and a Metron walk into a bar...), but otherwise it's just not much of a much compared to its predecessor. At least the people who worked on the MA article had fun, i.e. "Microbrain, macro problems".
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:15 PM on June 1, 2020 [6 favorites]

Sounds like maybe I wasn't the only one rewatching this and waiting for the exocomps to show up.
posted by ckape at 6:16 PM on June 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

I’m surprised Data never took a moment to observe that he himself was also inorganic, and alive. Or… actually by the criteria they set out in the lab, maybe he isn’t?
posted by rodlymight at 8:09 PM on June 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

in episode, there is a dialog joke that the crystal thing is in effect a computer. One wishes to review the script drafts. Say, seems like a good time to rewatch “Devil in the Dark”, hunh?

posted by mwhybark at 8:52 PM on June 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

So my favorite Devil in the Dark story is many years ago while recuperating from one of my surgeries mom suggested putting on some TOS to cheer me up. I'm not sure why- but she had a mild bee in her bonnet about how good the effects looked when she'd watched them the first time in the 60's. (these were the non-updated DVD's I think) I was sceptical to say the least. We were watching "Devil in the Dark" and she kept pointing out how futuristic the sets looked as I- completely baked on pain and pain meds was giggling about how wrong she was but ok mom. But then- the Horta. She grimaces. I grin. and then- from my mom who's nostalgia of the 60's was just punctured by Roddenberry's lack of budget says: "Oh my god it's a blanket with some fake rocks glued to it." I- who was basically a being entirely filled with percocet and post-operative pain started laughing so hard we had to pause the DVD. To this day anytime we see a bad special effect my mom will mutter "not as bad as the Horta."
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 8:57 PM on June 1, 2020 [10 favorites]

Re DITD rewatch: Spock identifies the Horta right off the bat as “a life form”, “silicon”, no big blah blah about how or if silicon life might exist.
posted by mwhybark at 9:14 PM on June 1, 2020

And well, shit, I’d be remiss if I
posted by mwhybark at 9:17 PM on June 1, 2020 [3 favorites]

mwhybark- I did not know a star trek punk band existed until today- and today is a good day.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 10:12 PM on June 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

posted by mwhybark at 10:19 PM on June 1, 2020


The No Kill I, seemingly pretty defunct. Lots to dig into.

The YT is by fellow MeFite ChurchHatesTucker.
posted by mwhybark at 10:21 PM on June 1, 2020

the m u r d e r e r s

h a v e

w o n



posted by mwhybark at 10:22 PM on June 1, 2020

damn, TOS, you go girl! Awesome episode, vomit blanket and all. Anti imperialist, sorta? I mean maybe not - now the miners have an infinite native labor supply!
posted by mwhybark at 10:24 PM on June 1, 2020

Original FF DITD thread.
posted by mwhybark at 10:30 PM on June 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

I still refer to people I don't like as "ugly bags of mostly water."
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:17 AM on June 4, 2020

Generally middle of the road, marred by the inertness that is so typical of this season. There is an awful lot of shots of people standing around going “our technology isn’t working; we can do nothing.” Kirk would’ve had Scotty up a Jeffries Tube so fast…
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:57 AM on June 4, 2020

I actually really actively dislike this episode, maybe more than the previous ones that are bad and offensive. This one was just shitty TV and like GenjiandProust said, inert, presumably due to the production issues. Elizabeth Lindsey has such an amazing presence and is completely wasted in the back half. It feels like Mandl is confronted about what he knew and when 30 times. It's as though he was supposed to be a knowing villain but for whatever reason they backed off from that angle, leaving the whole thing a half-baked mish-mash of red herrings and damp squibs.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:39 AM on June 8, 2020

It’s kind of like they had half an hour of plot they had to stretch to an hour.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:50 PM on June 8, 2020

There's a line here, Picard saying to Riker "looks like we're detectives after all" or something like that.

It was mentioned in a previous thread that the Dixon Hill episode was meant to come after the Bynar episode. Was this meant to be the episode immediately after that one? That would make the line make more sense, and be a neat bit of continuity if they'd pulled it off.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 1:55 AM on August 17, 2021

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