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Justice

Review

Series : The Next Generation Rating : 2
Disc No : 1.2 Episode : 7
First Aired : 9 Nov 1987 Stardate : 41255.6
Director : James L. Conway Year : 2364
Writers : Ralph Willis, Worley Thorne Season : 1
Guest Cast :
Brad Zerbst as Medical technician
Brenda Bakke as Rivan
David A. Combs as 1st mediator
David Michael Graves as 2nd Edo boy
Eric Matthew as 1st Edo boy
Jay Louden as Liator
Josh Clark as Ensign Joe Carey
Judith Jones as Edo girl
Richard Lavin as 2nd Mediator
Moral :
Justice : Some things are more important than laws
YATI : Yar tells Picard at the start of the episode that she has fully reviewed the local laws. Yet Wesley didn't seem to know he wasn't allowed to go into the flowerbed, and nobody knew what the punishments for breaking a law were. So Yar seriously undertook a review of the local laws, and never once thought to ask how those laws were enforced or what the penalties for breaking any of them were?
Great Moment : Gotta love those Edo costumes.
Body Count : Unfortunately, Wesley is not actually executed and the body count is zero.
Factoid : The Edo "God" seen in this episode is later re-used as the Lysian command centre in "Conundrum".
Quote : "Nice planet." - Worf to Riker; hugging Rivan

"I'm with Starfleet; we don't lie." - Wesley to the Mediator

"Sharing an orbit with God is no small experience." - Troi to Picard

"There can be no justice so long as laws are absolute. Even life itself is an exercise in exceptions." - Picard to the Edo god

Plotline

The Enterprise is visiting a planet in the Rubicun system, planning to spend a little time visiting the relatively primitive natives for shore leave after establishing a colony in a nearby system. All reports indicate that the natives, who call themselves the Edo, are friendly and more than happy to have visitors. Riker beams down with Wesley for a final look-around before leave commences. Meanwhile, in orbit the sensors show some sort of presence nearby - nothing definite, just a trace of something there.

On the surface, talk turns to law and order. The Starfleet officers are surprised to find that there are virtually no police on the planet - only one area is ever policed at any given time, with the location changed at random intervals. Since nobody knows what area is covered when, even the small number of police that do exist can comfortably police the entire planet. However, Riker is horrified to learn that the automatic penalty for [i]any[/i] crime is death. Wesley, playing with some children nearby, accidentally tresspasses in a forbidden zone and destroys some plants - and the police turn up immediately to enact the penalty. Riker and Yar hold them back from executing Wesley - an action which would have merited the same penalty for them except that the enforced zone has shifted in the meantime - hoping to negotiate some other settlement.

In orbit the unknown presence appears as a huge structure of some sort, possibly a trans-dimensional artefact or intelligence. A small ball of energy emerges from the thing and touches Data, incapacitating him for a time as it shares information with him. He learns that the object regards the Edo as its "children", and is highly protective of them.

Picard manages to convince the Edo not to harm Wesley until nightfall whilst the situation is discussed. He tells them about the object in orbit, only to have them ask if he means god, whom they believe is a powerful being in space. He beams one of the Edo up to view the object, and she confirms that it is indeed god - but the object reacts to their removal of the woman by threatening the ship, and she is quickly returned.

Data suggests that the Edo god object may well judge the Starfleet officers by their own rules, which require them to be judged by the laws on whatever planet they are visiting. Picard, after much thought, decides that Wesley will not be sacrificed and tries to beam him up over the objections of the Edo. When the transporter fails to work the locals angrily proclaim that god will not allow their actions. Picard makes an impassioned plea to whomever might be listening, arguing that justice is more important than simple laws and executing Wesley would not be just. The entity apparently agrees, as it allows them to beam up. Still lacking any definite answers as to the nature of the entity, Picard decides to leave the planet behind.

Analysis

An interesting episode on several levels, this is another of those that suffered a little from a lack of subtlty. The Edo are meant to be childlike innocents, but the writers take it so far that they lose some credibility in the process. Still, it is nice to see a culture which is noticably different from Human standards (either of now or the 24th century).

Interestingly, I find myself a little at odds with the conclusion of the episode. The writers have many times established that Starfleet officers are sworn to uphold the prime directive even if the ship and crew are lost because of it. Picard was once willing to let an entire civilisation die because of it, saying "The Prime Directive is a principle we've all sworn to uphold. Until that is changed, we cannot follow any other course of action." Yet here, he wantonly violates it in order to save a single life. He argues that Justice must take precedence over law - but even if that were true in the Federation, it is not true on the Edo world (and it isn't true in the present day for that matter), and it is Edo law that applies. If Picard is right in his claim then Starfleet needs to abolish the rule that they follow local laws when visiting, and instead declare that they will do so only when the Captain deems it just - and if he doesn't, he can feel free to help the accused to escape the local jurisdiction.


Copyright Graham Kennedy Page views : 3,422 Last updated : 24 Nov 2014