Written by Robert Sabaroff, Karl Geurs, Ralph Sanchez, Robert Sabaroff, and Tracy Torme
Directed by Corey Allen
The Enterprise journeys to the planet Velara III to witness the terraforming of a planet. Terrafoming is when a scientific team takes a desolate planet which is seemingly incapable of supporting life and creates a livable habitat out of it.
Immediately upon arrival they are greeted with hostility by the Project Leader of the four-person team. Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) is immediately suspicious. Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), the part-Betazed Ship’s Counselor, uses her empathic abilities and announces that he is afraid of them and concealing something.
The crew beam down to the planet to investigate the facility. Soon after, the Hydraulics Engineer is mortally wounded by a malfunctioning laser drill. While attempting to investigate the malfunction, the android Data (Brent Spiner) is also attacked, but his android reflexes allow him to survive.
Now a Federation matter, Picard launches an investigation of the remaining three terraforming crew. He is convinced that one of them murdered the Hydraulics Engineer in an attempt to conceal something. They soon discover that there is inorganic, intelligent life on the planet living in a thin layer of water beneath the surface.
This life is brought back to the medical lab and soon begins to reproduce as it feeds off of the lights in the medical lab. It eventually manages to communicate with the crew using the universal translator, and declares war on the humans for the great loss of life its kind has experienced at the hands of the terraformers.
After manually shutting down the lights, they force the life form to listen to them and agree to beam it back to Velara III and abandon the terraforming project.
There are so many contradictions in this episode that it isn’t even funny. The build-up in the beginning seems to be that the terraformers know about the life-form but try to hide it in an attempt to carry-on their project. However, as the investigation wears on, it is apparent that none of the terraformers had any clue that this life form was on the planet. What is with all of the deception and concealment then? After all the sinister build-up throughout the episode, there is no payoff.
This team is supposed to be a highly knowledgeable scientific team, and yet Deanna Troi talks about the one member, Louisa Kim, almost as if she is an empty-headed ditz. When she can’t get anywhere with figuring out what she knows, she suggests that Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) talk to her instead as he might “have more success”. What is she insinuating here? That the young woman will swoon for the man and spill her guts to him?
It also becomes apparent that there were some signs that were missed by this scientific team, and again I have to question how they can be educated and knowledgeable in something like this and still be able to miss all the signs.
The episode could have been written without all of the defensiveness on the part of the terraformers and I believe it would have worked better. An error in writing was made to build this up as if they are covering up something and then have them all to be clueless about what is going on around them.
The only salvage to some of the episode is the acting. Patrick Stewart does a great job as Captain Picard, having to play off of a dot of light for the last part of the episode. I thought Marina Sirtis as Deanna Troi also came into her own a great deal more during the episode, although I wanted to gag when she said “We think all life is beautiful!” Eaten any meat or vegetables lately? You’ve eaten a living thing then. The writing is more at fault there, though, than her acting ability.
This episode wanted to show how highly evolved the human species had become and how much we value life, but it doesn’t get to that point. Instead, it comes off as far too pretentious and self-congratulatory. It is just another example of a first-season episode with a good premise, yet it completely falls apart in the execution.