Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Justice”

“Justice”
Written by Ralph Willis and Worley Thorne
Directed by James L. Conway
Season 1, Episode 7
Production episode 40271-109
Original air date: November 9, 1987
Stardate: 41255.6

 

Captain’s log. The Enterprise stumbles across an inhabited Class-M planet occupied by humanoids. Crusher has been agitating for the crew to take shore leave, and the planet seems well suited to it.

The locals, the Edo, are all blond and tanned and fit and scantily clad—it’s like being in Los Angeles, basically. The welcoming committee asks if they want to go to the council chambers, or have sex first.

Meanwhile, the Enterprise keeps finding an odd sensor shadow. Data tries the direct approach of hailing it and asking it to identify itself, and it appears—sort of. Both sensors and La Forge’s VISOR show it as partly in and out of reality. It sends a probe, which shows up on the bridge and asks what the Enterprise is doing there. After they explain themselves, the probe warns them not to interfere with its children, then communes with Data.

Back on the planet, the Edo either play really silly games, or smooch a lot. The away team gets nervous when they realize they’ve lost contact with the ship—and get more nervous when it’s revealed how the Edo maintain peace. There are “punishment zones”—if one violates the zone, one is condemned to death. One such zone is over new plants, which Wes falls into while playing ball with some of the kids, blissfully unaware that he’s just committed a capital crime.

The away team stands off with the Edo Mediators, who are prepared to kill Wes, which Riker refuses to allow, punctuated by Worf and Yar’s phasers. The Enterprise finally regains communication, and Picard beams down to negotiate.

The Edo agree to await carrying out Wes’s sentence until sundown, and even suggest the Enterprise free Wes by force, which Picard refuses to do. He takes Rivan, one of the Edo, onto the ship to identify the thing in orbit, which the Edo refer to as God. God then threatens the ship until they return Rivan to the planet. (At no point does anyone ask what God needs with a starship….)

Data explains to Picard that God is a collective being that exists in several dimensions, and it has set itself up as a caretaker to the Edo. Picard agonizes over the decision he must make—unwilling to sacrifice Wes (or any crewmember), but needing to respect the power of the Edo’s caretaker, which will take a dim view of Picard breaking the Prime Directive. The Edo themselves plead with Picard to obey their laws.

The caretaker refuses to allow them to beam out, and Picard finds himself pleading as well. There can be no justice, he says, when laws are absolute, that life is a study in exceptions. That does the trick, and the away team beams up and leaves orbit. One hopes they dropped a few interdiction beacons on their way out….

Thank you, Counsellor Obvious. “Sharing orbit with God is no small experience.” Yup.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? The Enterprise crew is amusingly incapable of determining the nature of the Edo’s caretaker, leading to a frustrated Picard asking, “Why has everything become a ‘something’ or a ‘whatever’?”

Troi admires Liator

A hunka hunka burnin' love….

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. For a planet filled with people who “play at love,” their actual interactions are more akin to high school students in the back of a sedan.

The boy!? Wes violates local laws, is condemned to death, and intones “I’m with Starfleet—we don’t lie” in what may be the worst line delivery of Wil Wheaton’s entire career. He also justifiably calls Picard out when he tries to tell the boy that he’s not involved in the decision about his own execution.

If I only had a brain… Data is rather shocked to discover that he babbles.

There is no honor in being pummeled. Worf explains that recreational sex is a bad idea with human women, as they are too fragile. WOO HOO!

Yar and the EdoWelcome aboard. For all that “Code of Honor” was decried as racist, the description applies much more to this episode, where the planet of pretty people is entirely populated by blond-haired, blue-eyed white folks, starting with Brenda Bakke and Jay Louden as Rivan and Liator.

Also the relief tactical officer is played Josh Clark, who would go on to the recurring role of Assistant Chief Engineer Joe Carey on Star Trek: Voyager.

I believe I said that.

“And they make love at the drop of a hat.”

Any hat.”

-La Forge and Yar enthusiastically describing the Edo.

Trivial matters: This is the first of three occasions where Picard brings a woman from a primitive planet to the ship and impresses the crap out of her by letting her look out a window—the next two coming in “Who Watches the Watchers?” and Star Trek: First Contact.

Make it so. An episode that has occasional moments—Picard and Data’s philosophical discussion of matters with immediate practical consequences, Worf’s deadpan reactions to the Edo (“Nice planet”), Picard’s frustration with the Enterprise‘s inability to determine specifics about the caretaker—but collapses under the weight of its own ridiculousness. The Edo are caricatures, and Eurocentrically offensive ones at that, the Edo’s deity is simplistic and underdeveloped, and way too much time is spent standing around talking. Wes being the one to accidentally break a law was so predictable that Worf went ahead and predicted it in the script.

And then in the end, Picard saves the day by speechifying. It isn’t even all that much of a speech, and its brevity just makes it even more unconvincing. A very anticlimactic end to an endlessly long buildup.

Having said all that, I will say that I absolutely and unreservedly loved Picard’s response to Data’s query as to whether or not he’d sacrifice one life to save a thousand: “I refuse to let arithmetic decide questions like that.” That line helped cement Jean-Luc Picard as a great character.

(Added bonus: Check out Wil Wheaton’s recent recap of “Justice” at the Phoenix Comic-Con.)

 

Warp factor rating: 2


Keith R.A. DeCandido‘s most recent Star Trek work includes the Captain’s Log comic featuring Edward Jellico, the novel A Singular Destiny, and stories in Seven Deadly Sins and Mirror Universe: Shards and Shadows. Follow him online at his blog or on Facebook or Twitter under the username KRADeC.

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