By Christopher L. Bennett, STA Contributor
Art by Nick Greenwood
In my previous column, I mentioned that my Star Trek Adventures entries “Stolen Liberty” and “Better Days” were based on unused episode pitches from the 1990s. My latest adventure, “Native Soil,” has a similarly antique origin. It’s had multiple incarnations as I’ve searched for the right opportunity to tell it – so many that I can’t even remember where it began.
The basic idea has always been the same. A Human colony, thriving for generations and proud of its success, discovers that the planet’s indigenous inhabitants, believed in good faith to have been extinct for millennia, have merely overslept in stasis deep underground and now wish to reclaim their planet. Both sides have legitimate grounds for seeing the planet as their home, so who gets to stay? The debate tests the relationship between two main characters, one of whom has a connection to the colonists, the other of whom bonds with the indigenous leader.
The earliest version I’m certain of was a Star Trek: The Next Generation proposal focusing on Captain Picard and Doctor Crusher. I’m fairly sure I also considered a version with Kirk and Spock at some point. Oddly, though, when I searched my old notes for an outline to base the game on, I found no surviving record of either version. All I found were a proposal for an original, non-Trek prose version, handwritten on a 3 x 5 file card, and a later Voyager episode pitch focusing on Neelix and Kes. Neelix is an odd substitute for Captain Picard, but he was the only one who could have a history with Delta Quadrant colonists and a close relationship with another lead character.
Since “Native Soil” was intended to test such a relationship, it was challenging to adapt for Star Trek Adventures, where I never know who the player characters will be. On the other hand, I’d already been able to plug three or four different pairs of characters into the exact same premise, so I didn’t have to change much. The challenge was to make the story work as a mission by concocting alternatives to the original, rather tragic ending. This required adding a second antagonist so that the threat could come from either side, as well as devising a combat encounter. I also suggested an alternative character dynamic in case the intended one didn’t fit the available player characters. This turns the original idea into just one of the paths the story could take, but the core ethical dilemma is still there.
I’ve always intended “Native Soil” as an allegory for colonialism and indigenous rights, but it feels particularly timely in these days when the age-old practice of stirring up xenophobia toward immigrants for political gain has become prominent in many countries once again. It’s ironic that a concept I’ve had in mind for more than half my life is more relevant now, when I finally get it published, than it was when I first conceived it.
You can purchase “Native Soil” now at
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