Star Trek TNG (Season 1, Ep 7): Justice

Welcome back to Star Trek: The Next Generation. I am doing an episode-by-episode watch, recap, and reaction and blogging about it here. There will be no spoilers for the series beyond the current episode. You can find my prior recaps HERE.

For those of you that don’t want to read the long recap, I provide a quick episode summary here at the top. You can also just scroll down to the “REACTION” heading below.

THE QUICK AND CLEAN SUMMARY:

The Enterprise stops at a planet home to the Edo race. They are human-looking and both the people and their world are beautiful. Picard sends an Away Team to the planet to determine if it is an appropriate place for the Enterprise’s crew to take a shore leave. Wesley joins the adults on the mission to determine if the planet is suitable for children.

Unfortunately, and too late, Wesley accidentally tramples a rose bush and learns that the penalty for the transgression is death. The planet punishes all law-breaking with death. Picard must decide if he is willing to violate the Prime Directive to save Wesley. Complicating the decision is the presence of another alien being, in the orbit of the planet, that the Edo worship as a God. The Edo god is far more advanced that the Enterprise. Picard worries that it will endanger his entire ship to violate his own rules in the eyes of this alien. Nevertheless, Picard eventually decides to rescue Wesley, the alien god allows it, and the episode ends.

THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP AND REACTION:

Captain’s Log: Stardate 41255.6

The Enterprise has discovered an inhabited planet. Riker and an Away Team have beamed down to make contact. The people on the planet are almost identical to humans. Dr. Crusher – out of concern for how hard the crew has been working – is petitioning Picard for “shore leave” for the crew.

Riker and the Away Team enter the bridge. Riker tells Picard the planet is startlingly beautiful. Dr. Crusher notes that this sounds wonderful for the children aboard the Enterprise. Picard asks for negatives about the planet and Riker has none to report. Data and Worf report that censors are reading something from the starboard bow of the ship – however when looking nothing is visible. Yar reports that this has been identified as a glitch in the ship’s system.

Picard agrees to send a small group to the planet. He specifically tasks Wesley with evaluating its suitability for young people as a place to relax. Picard then says that if the small group’s reports are good, he will approve shore leave more broadly for the rest of the crew. Picard stares out the window into space, toward the planet, and he says that he hopes things are not too good to be true.

The away teams arrives on the planet. The people native to the planet call themselves the Edo. The Away Team group includes Riker, Wesley, Worf, Yar, and Troi. The Edo are wearing something like togas, if togas only marginally covered chests in an X shape across the front, with bared backs, and separate white wash cloths were tasked with covering pelvises – and then only barely. The Edo are mostly either blonde haired or silver haired. Riker looks around smiling like he’s about to, uh, enjoy his time with the Edo.

Riker: They certainly are fit.
Troi: [with an annoyed glance at Riker] They certainly are.

The young attractive flimsily dressed Edo woman approaches Riker, runs her hands across his shoulders, and embraces him. Troi looks even more annoyed until the young attractive male Edo approaches her in a similar way. He then, uh, greets Yar who looks as happy to see him as Riker was to see his greeter. Riker asks Troi what she feels and she says:

Troi: Healthy sensuality. I feel mainly friendships, and… [long look at Yar] happiness.

The Edo greeter woman then says she welcomes “the huge one” and hugs Worf. “Oooh, yes.”

Worf: [looking at Riker] Nice planet.

When she approaches Wesley, she notes that he is “a young one” and that she does not know human customs regarding love. Wesley awkwardly tells her to do what she usually does. She hugs him briefly and then steps back. Riker asks about bringing more people to the planet. The male says they can go to the council chambers and discuss it. The female greeter offers them that they might “stay and play” first.

As all of this gets increasingly, uh, sensual, Wesley suggests that he should go on ahead. The female greeter Edo says that playing would be unfair to Wesley. As a result, she says they should go to the council chambers where he will find young people his own age there.

The male Edo, Liator, suggests suddenly the female Edo, named Rivan:

Liator: Rivan, perhaps they can’t run.
Wesley: Can’t run?! Sure, we can run, right commander?
Riker: That’s the custom here? Running? Lead the way!
[Everyone starts jogging toward the council chamber]

Outside the council chamber, just as Rivan is wrapping her self around Riker again, they see some young Edo and send Wesley off alone with them. Inside the council chamber, we see more young attractive Edo people. The camera lingers on a man, barely covered, getting an oily massage from two Edo women.

Rivan announces to the room that they brought the visitors. Liator then tells the crew, “please, enjoy what we have.” It is not exactly clear what is meant by that, however, we see a young Edo, of opposite gender of all Enterprise crew members, leading each one away separately and in different directions.

Back aboard the Enterprise, Data announces to Picard that there no glitch with the censors. There is an object which he says seems to be hovering between their dimension and another. Picard has Data hail the object. Data sends a message requesting that the object identify itself. It suddenly appears on screen. Picard asks if the object replied and Data tells him the message was unintelligible. He is running the message through language and logic circuits. An unnamed officer on the bridge tells Picard that his censors read the object as though it is half there and that it appears to be partly transparent.

Picard: Data, what the h*** is it?
[Data just shakes his head.]

LaForge has been studying the object and he tells Picard that after a complete spectral analysis it is as though the object is not really there. He says that he does not understand it. Data translates the message from the ship as saying “stand by.” Then the crew notices something leaving the ship. A small orb of light leaves the ship and enters the Enterprise. Comms with the Away Team are cut off. The orb enters the bridge and approaches Picard. The ship shakes as it asks “STATE THE PURPOSE.” In a smaller voice, it repeats, “State the purpose of what you have done.”

Picard explains that they have sent an away team to the planet to create peaceful relations with the Edo. The orb with a voice that booms loudly enough to shake the ship asks if Picard plans to leave life forms on the planet. Picard says no. The orb asks why they left life forms after their previous stop and Picard explains that their previous stop was uninhabited. Picard states that humans are driven to protect themselves by seeding themselves as widely as possible.

Abruptly the orb warns Picard not to interfere with its children below. The orb then approaches Data. It is silent but Data tells us that the orb is asking if he was constructed for the purpose of information exchange. It then approaches Data’s head. Data collapses to the floor with the orb attached to his forehead.

Back on the planet, we see Wesley jogging with a group of young Edo. One of the Edo walks down the jogging path on his hands. Wesley then says “watch this” and begins doing cartwheels down that same patch. One of the young Edo girls runs up to Wesley when he is finished, puts her hands on his arms, and says there is something she wants to do with him. When he asks what, she says it is something he can teach her. He tells her awkwardly that there are some games he does not know how to play. She says that she is referring to “ball.” He asks the group if one of them has a bat. Everyone seems confused. He suggests finding a large stick and she says they can get one from the garden.

Back in the council chambers, Riker is walking around, his hair slightly out of place, smiling. He runs into Worf. Riker asks Worf why he is not partaking and Worf says that he is a warrior. He says he needs a Klingon female for love. Rikers then asks him “what about sex” and Worf explains that earth women are too fragile for Klingon sex.

Riker decides to check in on the Enterprise and he realizes that his communication device is not working. He tells Worf that they should gather the Away Team together. Worf says “even Wesley?” Troi approaches the two of them and tells them that she knows the Edo have not cut off communication with the ship because their minds are open for her to read. Riker and Troi then set off to find Wesley. Worf finds Yar.

Yar is talking with Liator. He tells her that there is no crime whatsoever on their planet. Yar notes that she has not seen any law enforcement on the planet. Rivan says their local law enforcement is called Mediators and that Yar has not seen them because there are so few of them. They are only needed in the punishment zone. The punishment zone moves around. Nobody but the Mediators know what place it will be or for how long.

Liator: We are very proud of our ancestors. Nobody ever knows when or where a zone may be..
Rivan: And so nobody risks death.
Worf: Death!?

It turns out that “death” is the punishment on the planet for violations of any and every law. Rivan explains that nobody breaks even small rules, like being on the grass, because nobody wants to risk execution. Yar and Worf are suddenly worried that nobody has told Wesley about these rules.

We see Wesley and three youths tossing a ball around while jogging. One of the Edo boys tosses a ball too far ahead of him. Despite their yells for him to stop, he jumps through a small white barrier and into some flowers to catch the ball. They run up to him, yelling about him trespassing the white market. Wesley states that he is fine. However, we suddenly see two men in all gray (still flimsy togas, though) running toward their group. They announce themselves as mediators and tell the group to speak the truth. The Edo youth complain that Wesley is from another place and does not know the rules. The Mediators state that it is always sad and now doubly so. Just then, Riker and Troi run up on the scene. Wesley admits to falling into the bush, says that Starfleet does not lie, and Riker seems pleased. However, Yar and Worf also approach. Yar tells Riker that the planet has strange laws.

Riker: I thought you reviewed the laws.
Yar: But they listed nothing about punishment.

One of the Mediators state that they have a crime, witnesses, and an admission of guilt. He pulls out a syringe and asks Wesley if he is ready for punishment. Riker asks “what punishment?” and a Mediator replies, “death, of course, don’t make it difficult for the boy.”

Riker knocks down the Mediator as he approaches Wesley. Worf then points a taser at the man with the syringe and tells him to drop it. The Mediators seem bewildered but they comply. They tell the crew of the Enterprise that if this zone were still in effect, they would all deserve death.

Mediator: It was announced that you come as friends. Is this how friends act?

Riker tries his comms device again and again it does not work.

Aboard the ship, the orb is still attached to Data’s forehead. Dr. Crusher says that Data’s vital signs seem normal and Picard speculates that he believes this to be some type of information exchange.

Suddenly the orb leaves Data’s head and leaves. Yar and Riker finally get through with comms messages to the bridge. Riker tells Picard that they are having an issue with a member of the away team and some unusual laws on the planet. Dr. Crusher reports that Data is not yet showing signs of consciousness. Picard tells Riker that he is beaming down.

Picard arrives at the council chamber. Picard, Rivan, and Liator have a debate about capital punishment. Picard says that humans no longer kill criminals but concede that they once did. Rivan asks that in the time when they executed criminals if people believed it was necessary to do so.

Liator sarcastically states that humans are more advanced than they are so they should rescue Wesley from their backwards little world. He states that they will record him as a convicted criminal beyond their reach. Picard states that unfortunately the Federation has a law known as the Prime Directive. He asks if they plan to harm Wesley immediately and they tell him that they will delay enforcement but only until sundown.

Picard then changes the subject and asks if they are aware of the object in their planet’s orbit.

Rivan: Do you mean God?
Picard: God?
Liator: God is said to be somewhere out there protecting us.
Picard: Exactly how would you describe God?
Rivan: Exactly as you just did. As existing her and in another place also.
Liator: But when God wants to show its power, it can make itself felt most fully.

Dr. Crusher sends a message to Picard. Data has regained consciousness and insists upon talking with Picard. The Captain decides to speak on the ship. He asks if any of the Edo will return to the ship with him. Rivan volunteers to be his hostage. He tells her that she is not a hostage. He wants one of the Edo to identify something for him from orbit. Picard, Troi, and Rivan then beam away.

On the ship, Rivan exclaims that their ship is a great city. Dr. Crusher approaches them to say that she has just seen the Away Team report about Wesley. Picard tells her to wait a moment. She repies, “In a moment?!” and he says “exactly!” Dr. Crusher is not happy.

In the earshot of Dr. Crusher, Rivan asks Picard why they do not simply take Wesley from them. He replies that it is not that simple. Picard takes Rivan to a viewing window. When she sees the orb’s spaceship, she drops to a knee and crosses her arms in front of her chest. They ask her if she can tell her what it is and she nods. Picard asks if it is God and she again nods yes. Picard asks how she recognizes what it is and Rivan seems frightened. Troi kneels down beside her and promises her that nothing will harm her. Rivan states that it has appeared before.

Suddenly the ship begins approaching the Enterprise and a booming voice says “RETURN MY CHILD!” As the ship bears down on them, Picard hurriedly calls for Rivan to be transported back to the planet. She is returned and the ship backs up. Picard regrets the necessity of having Rivan identify God to him because of how frightened the experience made her. He then asks to go see Data.

On the walk, Dr. Crusher asks what he intends to do about Wesley. Picard points out to her that they are sharing an orbit with a powerful alien entity.

In the sick bay, Data describes the alien orb as multiple entities. He tells Picard that the beings accept that the Edo worship them as a god and that they view that worship as acceptable in their current evolutionary development. Data informs Picard that the orb aliens view all of the planets in the star cluster as being their planets. Picard asks if they accept the Enterprise’s presence and Data says that is unclear. Picard asks what might happen if the violate the Prime Directive and Data tells him that the aliens might consider Starfleet deceitful and untrustworthy. He also reminds Picard that the orb aliens did warn them not to interfere with their children below. Dr. Crusher begins to cry and Data asks what has happened.

Dr. Crusher: The Edo want to execute my son. I will not allow that to happen, Jean-Luc.

When Data begins to comment on the emotion of motherhood, Dr. Crusher yells “shut up” at him and storms off.

Alone in his office, Picard is concerned that the alien vessel might not understand the same concept of reason as they do. Data enters. He and Picard discuss the Prime Directive. Picard states that the Prime Directive never intended for a Federation officer to be executed over something like this. Data points out the obvious – that the problem is the aliens in orbit with them. Picard worries that if he refuses to allow the laws on the surface to be enforced that he might be endangering every life aboard the Enterprise.

Data: Would you choose one life over one thousand, sir?
Picard: I refuse to let arithmetic decide questions like that.

Data and Picard speculate that the alien race has planted the Edo on this planet, as a child race, much like they plant human colonies on Class M planets. Dr. Crusher enters. Picard invites her to join him on the planet when he beams down and he tells her that he will not allow them to execute Wesley, regardless of the cost. She thanks him.

Picard gives command of the ship to Data. On the planet, Riker notes that it is almost time and requests that the boy be brought to him now. Yar accompanies Liator to retrieve Wesley. Picard and Dr. Crusher arrive. Rivan approaches Picard and kneels before him.

Rivan: Captain Picard! I saw you share the sky with God. You must be gods.
Picard: No. No. We’re not gods. [He lifts her to her feet.]

Picard announces that he will now allow Wesley to be executed. He then discusses the law with the Mediators. They are adamant about executing Wesley, in accordance with their laws, and they warn that Picard may have to answer to God. Picard concedes that he may have to either for that or for violating the Prime Directive. Wesley interjects and states that he does not want to be the reason for the Enterprise to be placed in danger.

Picard: You’re not involved in this decision, boy.

Picard sends comms to the Enterprise to prepare to beam six – including Wesley – back aboard.

Liator complains about the violation of their laws and asks about justice. Picard apologizes and says that he must have justice for his own people, too. He says energize and then nothing happens. Picard receives a message from the ship that the transporter is not working.

One of the Mediators then gloats that God has prevented their escape.

Dr. Crusher: Then your god is unfair. My son had no warning that his actions were criminal.
Mediator: We cannot allow ignorance of the law to become a defense.

Picard then gives a monologue toward the sky about justice, arguing that it cannot exist so long as laws are absolute. He states that life itself is an exercise in exceptions. Riker chimes saying since when has justice ever been as simple as a rulebook.

The crew of the Enterprise suddenly beam back aboard their ship. From the bridge, Picard hails the alien ship and offers to remove the human colonies from the adjoining solar systems of they request it. The alien ship just disappears.

Picard: I was hoping we might learn more about it. But since we can’t, take us out of here number one.

The Enterprise flies away.

REACTION:

The writing for this show for these first seven episodes has been frustratingly… bad. The actors are great. Everything looks great on screen – even 30+ years later. But these stories… smh.

In this episode, we start out with a planet filled with young people who stay fit and have sex all the time. They are willing to extend that custom (?) even to alien humans. The crew of the Enterprise is happy to partake.

Where does this episode go wrong? I mean.. beyond the above. Oh, let’s see.

  1. Riker sent a non-adult human off on his own, on an alien planet. How do we think Wesley’s medical officer mom would have felt had she known they were going to send Wesley off by himself on an alien sex planet? Not too happy, I’d guess. Why did they send him away? So that the adults could have sex on the alien sex planet. I mean… what is even going on at Starfleet? Worf seems to be the only crew member who did not… partake… and that was entirely because he felt the Edo women, like human women, are too fragile for sex with a Klingon.
  2. What else… oh yeah, the CHIEF SECURITY OFFICER of a Federation Starship read through a planet’s local laws but did not bother finding out how they punish anyone until after she had… spent some time… with the locals.
  3. What else, what else? Well, the planet of the Edo people have a moving target punishment system. If you happen to not be near the guys in gray, you do not have to worry about punishment. If you are near them, then they will execute you for breaking literally any law. Why don’t people just keep an eye out for the “Mediators?” They aren’t hard to miss in that all gray. Do they hide? It looked to me like they had to come running around a bend when Wesley broke the law.
  4. No society would achieve any kind of sexy Utopia if its residents can be executed for the most minor infractions imaginable. There’s just no way that the Edo have not staged uprisings. Is that why there were so terrified of their “God”? Is that how Rivan recognized their God? Maybe God has to periodically show up and enforce the law, too. That might have been useful information but the episode did not tell us about any of it. In any case, even if that was the *real* backstory, Troi should have picked up on it from the local and she absolutely did not. They were just a fun-loving sensual honest people.
  5. For most of this episode, Picard worries about what might happen if they violate the Prime Directive. He eventually does violate it. The planet’s “God” aliens do absolutely nothing, do not communicate further, nothing happens with Starfleet, and the show ends a moment later. (Yes, you can read into events that the god aliens let them transport and let them leave… but like Picard, at the end of the episode, I was also hoping to learn more. I did not.)
  6. The show’s story wasted a perfectly good opportunity to remove the Crusher family from the Enterprise.

Anyway, there’s not a lot of positives to take from this episode. Hopefully the show improves sometime soon.

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