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Star Trek TNG - Season 1 - Episode 08

Star Trek TNG - 1x08 - Justice

Originally Aired: 1987-11-9

Wesley is sentenced to death. [DVD]

My Rating - 3

Fan Rating Average - 3.16

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# Votes: 50 28 21 39 22 16 9 16 5 5 9

Filler Quotient: 3, bad filler, totally skippable.
- Pretty lame episode with no significant long term continuity.

- In the opening lines of the episode Picard refers to the "Strnad solar system" and the adjoining "Rubicun star system." Both terms are wrong. This is a common error. The term he was looking for is planetary system. The planetary system we live in is called the Solar System because our star is named Sol. As such, the term "Solar System" is a proper noun, not a generic term. The term "star system" is also wrong because that term is supposed to refer to a system of stars, not a system of planets, e.g. a binary or trinary star system.

- This episode establishes that capital punishment was fully outlawed in the Federation sometime between TOS and TNG.

Remarkable Scenes
- Worf: "Nice planet."
- Worf's statement that he would have to restrain himself during sex with a human woman so as not to injure her and Riker's amused reaction.
- Picard: "Data, don't babble." Data: "Babble, sir? I'm not aware that I ever babble, sir. It may be from time to time I have considerable information to communicate and you make question the way in which I organize it..."
- Data offending Beverly with his fascination over her panic about Wesley's predicament.

My Review
The crew enjoys some shore leave on yet another planet whose alien inhabitants look exactly like humans. Picard finds that detail oddly remarkable, but by now we have so many similar examples. The unimaginative blandness of the Edo is further compounded when it turns out they are mindless pleasure zombies exhibiting behavior so shallow it's hard not to spend half the episode groaning at that alone. But worry not, there is plenty else to groan about. Not the least of which is their asinine criminal justice system.

The idea that the Federation should be high-minded enough to respect the local laws and customs of the sovereign nations they visit is a good premise for a story, but it's explored in a mostly sloppy way here. For starters, just visiting the planet to begin with was a violation of the Prime Directive, since they were clearly not a spacefaring civilization. Despite that the Edo seemed oddly aware of the existence of other civilizations, or at least totally unsurprised to receive visitors from outer space.

But even leaving all that aside, the Edo's policy of randomly executing people for trivial and even accidental violations of law—but only sometimes when that law is deemed punishable today by the roll of the dice—is the stupidest idea for a criminal justice system ever. It lacks both consistency as well as justification for the lack of consistency. For any kind of enlightened system of criminal justice to make sense, there has to be equality under the law. And in cases where the law is applied unequally, there tends to be some kind of underlying societal motive, like systemic discrimination, or simply the arbitrary whims of a cruel ruler.

But such motivations are not present here. Instead, the Edo just seem uniformly idiotic. They can't figure out a way to enforce their laws uniformly, so they just do it randomly and don't see any problems with that whatsoever. Given that, it's no wonder Picard chose to violate the Prime Directive to be rid of these people. Their local laws and customs are so idiotic that they simply don't deserve to be respected. The Prime Directive was dreamed up by someone who never expected alien civilizations to be this stupid.

That said, watching Picard wrestle with the ethics was still pretty compelling. It would've been nice if such scenes were set to the backdrop of a more compelling moral dilemma, but they were still well executed all the same. And despite how overwhelmingly lame the Edo were as a concept, watching the crew make the most of the experience certainly resulted in a series of pretty amusing, if at times overly goofy scenes. So while most of this episode is pretty painful, it's somewhat offset by some good stuff here and there.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From DSOmo on 2007-05-28 at 6:02pm:
    - How can Yar review the Edo's laws and customs, but not know the price for violating them (one punishment for any crime)?
    - Picard tells Troi that he wants to speak to Dr. Crusher personally about what has happened to Wesley. When Picard returns to the Enterprise, Dr. Crusher stops him and demands to know what he is going to do about Wesley. She states that she read the away team report. What away team report? The away team is still on the planet. Even if they had made the report from the planet, Picard just told the away team that he wanted to handle the situation.
    - There is a simple solution to the Prime Directive dilemma in this episode. Picard already used this solution in "Code Of Honor." Why not let the Edo inject Wesley, watch him die, beam him back to the ship, warp away, and resuscitate him? At one point, Riker took a syringe from a mediator, they could have used it to make an antidote.
  • From Bernard on 2008-01-16 at 12:46am:
    There are not many episodes that I rate as lowly as this one.

    I find it insulting to my intelligence that picard and the crew spend the latter portion of the episode worrying over breaking the prime directive when by the very fact they have revealed themselves to such a primative culture is surely against the prime directive in the first place!

    Other than that, there are a few small delights such as the first time worf describes something as merely 'nice'. A few nice moments for Gates McFadden to sink her teeth into, and in my opinion Wil Wheaton does remarkably well with some atrocious dialogue.
  • From Sherman on 2016-06-30 at 7:55am:
    I've been watched everything on this list and read every review after I watched an episode and out of everything this episode stuck with me the most because of the absolute law and the captains decision to ignore the prime directive and just take Wesley with him.
  • From Chris Long on 2020-07-25 at 1:24am:
    You know? I like light-skinned folk as much as the next guy, but this race of beings is far more irritating than the TOS Episode, the Apple where everyone was some hunk version of a white Adonis!

    Who thought this was a good idea?!?!?

    ... I'm no BLM guy but come on!!!
    This episode just insults every sense of intelligence of all but the absolute stupidest people in existence!

    How could this crapfest ever get past the producers?!?
    Pure garbage, start to finish. And While I understand they were fleshing out the characters, this is worse than the worst TOS episode by miles and miles!
    Season one of TNG is truly a throwaway season in every sense. I can't believe my kid and I loved it so much when it first came out!!!

    He even had genuine TNG uniform! He'd have been a much better Wesley too!
  • From Azalea Jane on 2021-07-05 at 11:50pm:
    This ep is so silly it should basically be non-canon, like Force of Nature. Many violations of the Prime Directive in TNG are a little bit more circumstantial, but this is one is straight up "we found a nice planet with some horny aliens on it and we're gonna go chat with them and vacation on their planet!"

    They don't seem to have (or even think to look for) any anthropological data on the history of Edo society or any other societies on their planet. They just materialize out of nowhere and the Edo are apparently not fazed by this!

    Agreed with DSOmo above -- Yar says "I've listed my report on their customs and laws, sir. Fairly simple-- common sense things." Not looking at the punishments is a massive oversight for a security chief.

    I also noticed something along the lines of Chris Long's comment above: Every Edo is white, blonde, fit, and apparently straight, living in an orderly society enforced by an extremely authoritarian legal code and protected by an actual god. An Aryan paradise! We're not supposed to respect the Edo, exactly, so it could be interpreted as a subtle dig, but it still rubbed me the wrong way just a tiny bit, even as a white person myself. (Maybe I'm just jealous I'm not blonde.)

    I do like the takeaway: that justice -- and morality -- aren't about blindly following a rulebook. Despite the hamfisted way they delivered it, it's a nice way of stating one of Trek's principles directly.

    Data's emotion-spotting:
    - when the orb appears out of the bridge floor, Data looks scared.
    - his un-self-aware babbling isn't quite an emotion, but it's not logical!
  • From The T'Obum Empire on 2023-04-16 at 8:31pm:
    In the beginning Wesley gets told this:

    LIATOR: "Our rules are simple. No one does anything uncomfortable to them."

    He forgot the part where you get the death sentence if you step on the wrong patch of green at the wrong time.
  • From Chuck the Canuck on 2023-05-19 at 4:27pm:
    Liator, the male Edo leader, responds to the Away Team with dripping sarcasm about how backward their justice system is compared to the Federation's. But take away the sarcasm, and his words are correct. They're in pretty desperate need of some social evolution on this. You would think living in such a leisurely paradise of society is an appealing enough reason not to break the law. Are the Edo so prone to violence or crime that the only way to enforce this idyllic society is to execute even those in the wrong place at the wrong time?

    More interesting to me was the ship, city, being, or whatever you want to call it in orbit of the planet. After being contacted by it, Data speculates they have accepted their role as a deity for the Edo at this stage of their development. Perhaps they even planted the Edo there. What's the backstory on this, and did it happen before or after the Edo became...the Edo?

    In the end, all this episode does is contribute to TNG's gradual chipping away at the logic of the Prime Directive. By the end of the series, it will be in tatters.

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