||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.
||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.