Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Attempt to Recreate a Classic Original Series Episode, and Why It Fell Short

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In the early days of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (TNG), there were notable challenges as the show sought its footing. Even Patrick Stewart, who portrayed Captain Jean-Luc Picard, had doubts about the series’ success, initially believing it would be canceled. Creating a sequel to the original “Star Trek” series seemed, in his eyes, an impossible task.

TNG grappled with some teething problems, particularly in replicating stories from the previous “Star Trek” series. The show faced criticism for its early tendency to reuse plots and narratives, only finding its distinct identity from the third season onward. Among these early episodes, “Home Soil” stands out as a direct adaptation of the classic “The Devil in the Dark” from the original series, albeit falling short of its predecessor’s quality.

Both episodes focus on Star Trek captains encountering unexpected life forms and grappling with humanity’s reactions to the unknown. However, while “The Devil in the Dark” succeeds in exploring these themes compellingly, “Home Soil” falls flat, struggling to inject the same depth and engagement into the concept.

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In “The Devil in the Dark,” the USS Enterprise intervenes at a mining colony on Janus VI, seemingly under attack by an unseen creature, later revealed as the Horta. Through Spock’s mind meld, it’s discovered that the creature acts in defense of its eggs, seeking to prevent their destruction by the miners.

Fast forward about a century in the Star Trek timeline, and the Enterprise-D encounters a parallel situation. A terraforming colony on Velara III faces similar unseen attacks, ultimately revealing an intelligent microscopic life form defending its planet from being reshaped by overzealous scientists.

Despite the similarities in storylines, “Home Soil” lacks the thoughtfulness and emotional depth of “The Devil in the Dark.” The microscopic lifeforms depicted as the ‘micro brain’ fail to evoke the same level of empathy as the Horta.

While “Home Soil” has its moments of humor and impressive visuals, it remains dry and forgettable compared to the emotional resonance of “The Devil in the Dark.” The latter is hailed as close to perfection and could have served as the foundation for an exceptional Star Trek movie.

In a more recent attempt, “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” revisits a similar plotline in the episode “Lost in Translation.” Although an improvement over “Home Soil,” there’s a sentiment that this recurrent storyline, inspired by “The Devil in the Dark,” should have been shelved after the original’s excellence.