Star Trek

Star Trek

Monday, April 25, 2016

ST:TNG Season One, Episode Nine "Justice"

ST:TNG Season One, Episode Nine "Justice"
Production Order: 9
Air Order: 8
Stardate: 41255.6
Original Air Date: November 9, 1987



Picard's Log 41255.6: "So we just finished helping some Earth colonists settle on a new planet, and we were headed out again when we saw that there's an inhabited planet in the next system over. Riker took some people down to check it out."

Picard and Troi are on the bridge talking about reports back from the away team, and Crusher enters. There's a weird moment here where Crusher interrupts and says, "Sorry, Troi."
"Troi"? It sounds weird, Crusher calling her that, especially because I know that they'll become super buddy-buddy later on, and only refer to each other as Deanna and Beverly.
Troi isn't mad at being interrupted, because her tone is friendly when she tells Picard that Crusher has something important to say to him. It's kind of unsettling, Troi reminding everyone that she can read their emotions. Seems like information she'd mostly keep to herself, and that others would also ignore in turn. More polite that way.
Anyway, Crusher is insistent that the crew get some shore leave. Preferably without giant rabbits. Riker, Geordi and Yar come back from their away mission, and Riker says that the people are super-cool, and confirms that it would be a good place to rest for a bit. Geordi says they're very lawful people, but "make love at the drop of a hat."
"Any hat," adds Yar.
They can't find any bad parts to this place, which automatically means that there's some giant secret afoot, because that's how plots work.
Data and Worf tell Picard that there's some weird anomaly out in space near them, but they can't really detect it fully. There's something there, but also not. Yar thinks it's a glitch in the sensors.
Picard tells Wes that he wants to form another away team, this time with the idea of doing shore leave, and he wants Wes to see if it's a cool place for kids to hang out as well. Wes is chuffed.


Picard's Log, supplemental: "Orbiting Rubicun 3. These people call themselves the Edo, and we're gonna see if we can hang with them for a bit."

The away team beams down with Wes in tow. I actually like Wes' sweater this time. The two-tone pants are weird, but they aren't the fashion crime of last week's orange bedspread. Actually, I would pair this week's sweater with last week's brown pinstripe pants.
Anyway, everyone else looks pretty good except for Troi, who still looks awful. I cannot wait for next season, when she gets a wardrobe change that suits her better. That also seems to be when they ditch those long manicured nails on her, which strikes me as being too fussy for Deanna Troi.

Check out the light poles in the background. There's one above Deanna's head.
These scenes were filmed near the Van Nuys airport.

A male and female Edo approach and greet them. Riker starts to introduce everybody, but they cut him off, because I guess the Edo dry-hump people in greeting. Riker gets a super-erotic hug from a blonde chick, Rivan, and Troi is like, "Okay, y'all, get a room." But then the dude, Liator, hugs her, and she's all "Riker who?"


Rivan says she will welcome "this huge one" and she hugs Worf. Should he take exception to that? I feel like calling someone "this huge one" is kind of rude. Whatever. She also moans "oh, yes" when hugging Worf.
She comes to Wes, and is confused, because he's "young." It's clear she means "not yet fuckable," and asks what the custom is regarding young people.
Wes is awkward and says "whatever you guys do is fine." She hugs him, but it isn't like the way she hugged Worf and Riker.
Dude, terrible wig alert. It's like Rand-bad.


Riker says that the E would like to do shore leave on their planet, and Liator says they can discuss it with the council. Rivan wants to know if they should go now, or stay where they are and start an orgy. Nope, not kidding. She'd really like to hook up with Worf. Liator wants to get into Troi's ugly grey jumpsuit.
Wes awkwardly reminds them that he's standing right the fuck there, and Rivan is like, "Oh, right. Kids. Let's go to the council now instead. We can find you some other kids to play with."
They run to the council chambers, because everybody runs here for some reason, where they conveniently encounter a trio of kids Wes' age. The kids aren't dressed as provocatively as the adults, but the clothes are similar, if a bit unflattering on her. Whatever, close enough. The boys are friendly and invite Wes to join them. The girl adds, "Yes, please!" in a way that's sort of half-way between "friendly teenage girl" and Jessica Rabbit.





Rivan takes the rest of the away team into the chambers, where we see people doing some kind of exercise, people dancing, people giving massages to one another, people making out. And everyone is dressed in that same way, like they bleached Andrea the android's coveralls and then ran them through a shredder. Rivan tells the team to enjoy themselves.





Data enters the bridge to tell Picard that they've checked all of the sensor arrays and things, and whatever their sensors are picking up is not a glitch or mistake. There's actually something there, kind of in their space and not at the same time, yet it's not setting off their proximity alarms. He opens the channel (which is weird - can a person who is not the captain contact other ships like that?) and addresses "the ship which is off our starboard side."
A ship half-appears in front of them. Or maybe it's a station. I don't know. Looks like a station, but we can only see parts of it, so I'm just guessing. The proximity alarms finally go off, if only to provide a sense of impending doom.





Data says they got back a response, but none of their language programs have figured it out yet. Picard instructs Geordi to "have a real look." We don't find out until we follow Geordi from the bridge, that he's actually going to a window where he can stare at the thing with his VISOR. I don't know how I feel about that, Picard using Geordi's circumstances to further his own situation. Is it different than his using Troi to "read" people? Are Troi and Geordi okay with using their abilities in these ways? This is the first time we've seen Geordi being instructed to act in this way, but he's compliant, so maybe this has been asked of him before? It's an interesting subject, for me anyway.
Geordi reports back that "spectral analysis" says that the ship-station is only half-there.





The language systems finally spit out a message of "stand by," and a little ball of light exits the station-thing and flies at them. Everyone starts reporting in that the ball of light has entered the ship, but they don't know where. Data says they've lost contact with the away team. They have no idea what's going on or how to describe it, so they have to guess.
Frustrated with the language being used, Picard demands "Why has everything become a "something" or a "whatever"?"
Because this is Star Trek, Picard. And because sometimes, "something" and "whatever" are the closest thing one can approximate to a description on this show.
The ball of light appears on the bridge and flies up to Picard, where it demands in a booming voice "STATE THE PURPOSE." Everybody claps their hands over their ears and the ship shakes.





After a few moments, the ball adjusts the volume, because it recognizes that it's yelling when using an indoor voice works perfectly well, and there's some stumbling conversation before it gets to what it wants to say: the station has noticed that the E left its own people on the last planet they visited, and wants to know if they'll be leaving people at Rubicon 3 as well.
"No," says Picard. "We're just visiting here. Then we'll leave and take all of our people away."
The ball refers to the Edo as "my children." It doesn't particularly want them there, but seems satisfied that they're leaving. It then goes to Data, who relays back that the ball has asked him telepathically if he exists for "information exchange."
"Yes! Make it the fuck so! We need answers!" says Picard. Again, using his crew members' special talents for his own gain. I don't know how much I like Picard this week.
The ball attaches itself to Data's forehead, and he falls over... unconscious? Asleep? Whatever Data does when he isn't awake, I guess. Receiving Windows updates. Let's go with that. He's there, he's supposedly functioning, but you can't turn him off or use him for the next few hours, because you've been telling him to go fuck himself whenever he suggests an update, and now those updates have built up, so you don't have a choice anymore.





Back on the planet, Wes has found himself in an awkward position. After one boy does a walking handstand, he tries to one-up with a series of cartwheels and a round-off. Then the girl approaches him and says she'd like to do something with him, but he'll have to teach her. Wes takes it the wrong way, because this whole planet seems to be encouraging him to walk around with a partial boner, and he haltingly admits in a round-about way that he's a virgin. She says she wants him to teach her how to play ball. Relieved, he says if they find a branch, he can show them a game. They go to the gardens to find something to use.





Riker is checking out the ample ass at the council chambers, and he encounters Worf, who looks uncomfortable.
"What, you don't like sex?" Riker asks.
Whoa, yo. Personal.
"It's not that I don't like it," admits Worf. "It's that I'd need a Klingon female. Human females and Edo are too... delicate."
Riker deflects this by checking in with the E. His comm badge chirps, but no answer is given. He and Worf both look concerned. Troi, sitting nearby, also looks concerned.
...really? You tried one comm badge, but not the others? Maybe yours is busted, Riker. Maybe it got crushed when you were grinding up against some hot piece of Edo. Noooo, instead, there must be something wrong with the situation. He decides to gather up the away team, just to be on the safe side.
Troi thinks the Edo have nothing to do with the loss of communication. Riker decides that he's going to go find Wes, anyway.
"He's wandered off."
No, he hasn't. You guys wanted to get down with the Edo, so you shipped him off to the gardens with kids his own age. Technically, dude was just following orders. Riker goes to find Wes.
Worf approaches Yar, who is talking to Liator and Rivan about the laws on Rubicun 3. They tell her that there is no crime on the planet. They have cops, called mediators, who randomly select one zone each day, and make it a crime to enter that zone. Entering the zone means punishment by death.
"The fuck?" asks Yar.
"It's cool," says Rivan. "There's always a little white fence around the zone to warn people to keep out. So they do. Who wants to risk death?"
"You guys didn't tell us that!" yells Yar.
Now they really have to find Wes.





Shockingly, guess where Wes ends up? One of the boys throws a ball to him, and he trips over the little white fence-thing and falls into a bed of newly-planted flowers.
"It's cool, I'm fine," he says, getting up.
He doesn't realize that his new friends are upset because he's gonna die now, and not because he felt down and went boom.
A pair of mediators comes by, and he tries to tell them that he's fine, but they have no fucks to give. Dude crossed the white fence.
Riker finds them, and says he's sorry, and that it won't happen again, because they know the laws now. The girl is protesting that Wes can't be held accountable because he's from someplace else and didn't know.
Wes is super-confused, because nobody has mentioned that the punishment for tripping and falling into this flower bed is execution. Riker still doesn't know.
The mediators are telling Riker that it's extra-sad, because Wes didn't know, but the law is the law.
Yar and Worf come running up, and Riker accuses Tasha of filing an incomplete report about Edo laws.
"They didn't say anything about punishments!" she protests.
One of the mediators pulls out a syringe of poison and approaches Wes, but Riker knocks him down, and Yar and Worf pull out phasers.
"You were gonna kill him!" yells Riker.
"What the fuck?" demands Wes.





Riker tries to call the E again, but everything is blocked.
Back on the E, Crusher is scanning Data and says that he's otherwise fine. The ball of light lifts off of Data's head and dissipates. This lifts the communications block, and Yar's voice immediately comes in over Picard's comm badge.
Riker and Yar tell Picard that they need him down there ASAP because "there a problem with one of the away team and a strange law they have here."
Picard beams down.

They're having some kind of tribunal or something, and Rivan and Liator welcome them. Riker tells Picard that he's allowed them to hold Wes in detention, in accordance with the Prime Directive.
Liator says the law system they have in place has kept their society from crumbling into chaos, and they're peaceful and happy because of it. Rivan asks Picard if they execute criminal on his world.
Ooh, sticky wicket, Star Trek. How do you do an episode about capital punishment without getting a bunch of angry letters from either one side or the other?
Picard is understandably hesitant. The answer he gives could offend their guests, but in no way does he want them killing Wes.
"Um, we used to," he admits. "And the people who believed in capital punishment certainly felt it was justified. But these days, we've figured out how to detect which people will end up becoming criminals, so we can take care of that situation before it arises."
Ah, vague and polite, Star Trek. Maybe no hate mail for you.
But Liator apparently had a big ol' bucket of ramen for lunch, because boyfriend is salty as hell. "We're not as advanced as they are," he scoffs to Rivan. "Use your advanced powers to save Wes. Go on, then."

Sooo many boob hammocks...




"Yeah, we can't just take him," explains Picard. "We have this Prime Directive thing."
Rivan says that Riker explained the PD to them, and that they'll keep Wes alive until sun down, but after that they have to kill him, because he broke the law.
Picard agrees to this timeline, then asks them what the hell that thing is in space. He describes it as being in two places at once, both "here" and "not here."
Rivan and Liator look at one another in confusion, then Rivan asks, "Do you mean God?"
Hello, plot twist!
"Wait, what?" asks Picard.
Crusher calls Picard. She refers to herself formally as "CMO Crusher." I don't think I've ever heard her use that term before or since.
She says Data is awake and is demanding to talk to Picard. Picard wants to talk to him as well, and says he'll beam back up. He also wants to tell Crusher about Wes in person, rather than over the comm badges. After being reassured that the Edo will not kill Wes until sundown, Picard asks if one of them will come back to the ship with him. Rivan volunteers as tribute, but he tells her that he doesn't want her as a hostage. He just wants her to identify that thing out in space that she called God.





In the E corridors, Rivan exclaims that the ship is a city. Crusher approaches and tells Picard that she's just read the reports about Wes, but he tells her he'll talk to her in a moment.
Yeah, that's smart, Picard. Make the mama bear wait to hear about her son being executed at sundown, while you talk to the half-naked chick. Because that's not a good way at all to get your throat ripped out.
Rivan rephrases Liator's nasty comment form earlier: if they have all of this power, why don't they just take Wes back? He answers both women at once by saying that the PD complicates matters.

What's up with Rivan's wig here? It's sitting further back on her head, and they've
curled the actor's hair underneath to make weird two-toned bangs or something.


They take Rivan into the room where Geordi went to "check out" the station earlier, and when she sees it through the window, she genuflects, terrified.
"Is that God?" asks Picard. "How do you know? Does it speak to you?"
She haltingly says yes, that is God, and that it has appeared before and has spoken to them.
The station immediately rushes toward the E and that booming voice yells, "RETURN MY CHILD!"
"Whoa, fuck," Picard says, and he slaps his comm badge on Rivan, yelling at the transporter chief to beam her the hell off the ship, post-haste.
As soon as she's gone, the station backs off.





Picard and Crusher go to talk to Data, who is still in sick bay. In the corridor, Crusher demands info about Wes. She starts to go off on him, then backs up, regaining her composure, and apologizes. She says she is scared.
"So am I," he answers.
Nice. I like this building on history here. Picard is an old family friend of the Crushers' and while he struggles to relate to Wes, he understands that that is his friends' kid. He's also the CO of this ship, and is directly responsible for the well-being of both mother and son, as well as of inferior officers, of which they are also. His position right now sucks, and his brief vulnerability showing through is awesome. Truthfully, I kind of liked those moments in Kirk as well.





Data tells Picard and Crusher that the station connected with him in such a way as to take all of the information stored in Data's brain. Everything he knows, they know. And the station is most definitely a "they" rather than an it. He says the station exists in several places at once. So these Schrodinger aliens pretty much own all of the surrounding star systems, and Data says that it was probably not a good idea to set up a colony in the area. He starts to offer better suggestions for the settlers, but Picard barks at him to stop babbling.
"I was not aware that I babble, sir," he replies. He starts to talk about how he takes in information, sorts it, and returns it in verbal form, and Picard interrupts him to say that he needs to only pick out the most pertinent information to answer his questions.
The Schrodinger aliens are aware that the Edo worship them as God, and recognize that this is an okay thing for their current state of evolution. When Picard asks Data if the aliens are okay with the E being there, Data responds that they haven't decided yet, and they're waiting to see if the humans will violate their own Prime Directive.
Crusher gets upset at this, and yells at an unknowing Data that the Edo want to execute her son. Data is fascinated by the motherly emotions that Crusher is experiencing. She screams at him to shut up, and runs from the room.
"Huh," says Data. "I do babble."
I know it's mostly meant as a throw-away joke here, but I think that it's good character development for Data to recognize that he often offers up too much information, or outwardly wonders things that he should be keeping to himself, and possibly inquiring about, privately, later. Dude's ambition is to become more human-like, and humans will sometimes babble. Body language and verbal clues will tell another human when babbling is not appreciated, but Data has not picked up on that. It's actually something he'll struggle with for a while.



Picard's Log 41229.5: "So now on top of everything else, I have to figure out how to fix this shit with the Schrodinger aliens watching my every move. Lovely."

Picard invites Data back to his quarters to babble some more. He's stumped by the lack of answers, and is hoping that data might have more information to share. What they end up talking about is moral relativism. Data says that at one point, the Schrodinger aliens were much like humans in that they had blood and flesh bodies, and probably values very similar to Terrans. Picard doesn't want Wes to die, but if he breaks the PD, the aliens might decide that the Enterprise crew are no good, and the station could descend upon them, putting 1000 other lives at risk.
"Is the life of one worth more than the lives of 1000?" Data asks.
Whoa, damn. Data went all Spock there.
But instead of pulling out a Kobayashi Maru, Picard snaps back that he refuses "to allow arithmetic to decide in these matters."
Crusher comes in to request formally to be allowed to beam down to the planet's surface. Picard grants it, and puts Data in charge. He and Crusher transport down.



Rivan rushes forward the moment they appear on the scene. She gives Picard his comm badge, the genuflects.
"You share the sky with God, so you must also be gods."
"No," he says. "We're not gods."
Liator and the mediators bring in Wes. Crusher starts forward, but catches herself. I'm not sure if she stops because she doesn't want to embarrass Wes, or because they are all Starfleet officers, and rushing to hug him is not really becoming of any of their ranks.
Wes asks Picard if he's going to let them kill him.
"No," he answers, " but I have to make the Edo understand why."
The mediators are pissed. If they don't kill Wes, then the laws are undermined by strangers. One of them angrily implores Picard to look at how they were before enacting these laws.
"They seem to work very well for you," he replies. "But I have my own laws to follow and I'll catch hell from Starfleet for violating the Prime Directive."
"No way," says the mediator. "You'll have to answer to God for this."
"Yeah, they may kill us all as well," says Picard.
"If you save me," asks Wes, "is it possible that everyone on board the E would die?"
"STFU, Wesley," says Picard. "You're not involved in this, boy."
"The hell I'm not!" says Wes.
Good for you, Wes. Assert yourself, buddy.
Unfortunately, it comes to nothing.

Picard gathers the away team and Wes, and calls for a beam-out.
Really, Star Trek? You're not going to come up with a solution? You're just gonna leave? What crap.
But then nothing happens. The transporter chief says everything works, but the transporter is not transporting.
"Ha!" says the mediator. "God is not letting you leave!"
Wow, that's some unearthly schadenfreude right there.



"Okay, look," Picard addresses the ceiling. "I know it's shitty of me not to obey the laws here, but I also have to follow the Prime Directive, and let's be honest: the law doesn't work when it's absolute. Even life itself had to have loopholes in order to progress."
Riker makes a muttered comment about how life is never as well-laid-out as a rule book, and the away team shimmers and beams up.
The Schrodinger aliens agreed.



Everybody tromps back to the bridge, and Picard calls the station one more time. "So hey, we're leaving, and if you want us to go get those colonists, give us some kind of sign."
The station turns slightly, glows a bit, and vanishes.
"I guess that was a sign," shrugs Picard. "Let's get the hell out of here."



So this episode had some good stuff and some bad stuff. Let's get that first thing out of the way right out of the gate: the Enterprise should not have made contact with the Edo in the first place. The Edo appear to have been largely un-contacted, not to mention pre-warp. They don't even seem to have any kind of space capabilities at all (Picard tells the Edo their ship is in orbit, but corrects himself to say that they are "circling" the planet). Talking to them is a major no-no as far as the Prime Directive is concerned. If they had stumbled upon the Edo accidentally, this would be one thing, but they found the planet, decided it was nice, then introduced themselves and asked if they could stay.
Since the writers decided to go ahead and film while ignoring that part of the PD in a PD-centric episode, we'll have to do so when talking about it, otherwise we end up having to assign alternate universe status to this episode, and it's way too early in this series to be dealing with AUs. We'll just ignore it, too.
We're dealing with a couple of things here. As well as the prime Directive, we also butt heads with the law and ignorance of it. The mediator is right - not knowing the law exists doesn't excuse you from being punished by it when you break it. While this seems like a shitty argument, the fact of the matter is, if you just let it go anytime anyone claimed that, then the law would be no good. "Officer, I'm sorry you caught me doing 55 in a school zone. I'm from out of town and didn't know!" Naw, dude. Know what the laws are before you venture someplace new. Sometimes it catches you off-guard, but the alternative is that there are no laws, and people can just mow over kids in a school zone.
HOWEVER, the Edo should have been clearer about their law system when they invited the E to stay for a visit. I'm not gonna blame Tasha for turning in an incomplete report on laws and customs, but why did that never come up when she was talking to them initially? Seems like it would have.

Let's hop into our Prime Directive issues. Picard never really followed it. In the end, he decided against it, and made the choice to follow his own rules about keeping his crew safe, despite the costs. And also, despite the fact that the PD would have called for letting the Edo kill Wes. He went a bit Kirk here. I'm not saying it was the wrong decision by any means - any time someone is allowed to escape death, I'm on board - but the PD does call for the culture's wishes to be followed so as not to interfere with development. And here, the Edo now know that appealing to a higher power can sometimes get them what they want, and that each transgression they make can now come with the option of not being punished. That's a crazy-direct violation of the Prime Directive.

One thing that Star Trek does well (really, really well) is to sometimes leave things open-ended. To point out that sometimes, there are no easy answers. Here we get a taste of that. Instead of grabbing onto a plan and putting it into action, Picard sits in his quarters with his head in his hands, lamenting the fact that cultural and moral relativism has him stymied this time. He ended up having to make a decision to break one law over another, but in the meantime, he bounced a lot of ideas off of Data. (Frankly, who better to bounce ideas off of? Data has probably studied a whole library of philosophers on these issues, and he is the most likely to be objective. It's the one time in this episode where I didn't question his utilizing a crew member's abilities.) When he finally arrives back on the surface, he has an outcome in mind (Wesley living to see another day), but not a solution. The solution only arrives when he breaks the PD in favor of saving Wesley, and points out to the Schrodinger aliens that things are never so black and white as the law frequently allows. Even then, it is not strictly a solution, but a compromise: the Edo punishment does not go through, but the Prime Directive is violated as well.
Things are, as Riker put it, never so cut and dry as a rule book.

Fun Facts:

-This episode shows a striking resemblance to the TOS episode "The Apple" in that the E crew finds an Eden-like planet and encounters it's naive people, who are under the thumb of a God-like machine.
- Gene Rod originally wanted the costumes for the Edo to be even skimpier, but they would not stay on when the actors moved, and more fabric was needed to be functional. (What do you want to bet that the actors playing the Edo were "gifted" those costumes when filming was completed? There's no room for underwear of any kind in those costumes, so I can't imagine the costume department saving those to use again.)
- Starfleet's possible policy of just stopping "wherever" for shore leave is crap. Starfleet is patterned after the Navy, which plans things far in advance, and assigns people leave in the same way. There is no "this place looks nice, and the crew is tired," like exists on Star Trek.
- There's a line given by Wesley when being interrogated by the mediators, "I'm in Starfleet. We don't lie," that Wil Wheaton didn't like. He later conceded that it works well enough to point out how naive Wes is.
- This is the first episode since the holodeck scenes in "Encounter at Farpoint" to utilize location shots. Most of the outdoor scenes were filmed at the Tillman Water Reclamation Plant, and the place where Wes falls into the flowers was filmed at the Huntington Library.
- This episode was actually the next to be commissioned after "Encounter at Farpoint" had been written, but went through so many re-writes that it ended up being filmed eighth.
- Filming near the airport meant that many of the outdoor scenes had to be re-dubbed in post-production.


*******

Bottle Two of the Third Street Tea:
This time I tried the "lightly sweetened" Black Tea. While not quite as sweet as the Peach tea, this one was still fairly sweet, enough so that it might turn off people who don't care for sweetened tea. It's lightly spiced, but not so much that it's overpowering. I would totally drink this tea again.











Curie and Mo

2 comments:

  1. It's never bothered me that Picard would use Geordi or Deanna's special abilities to gain info. In fact, I'd never thought about it. I guess my reasoning would be "They're under my command. Why WOULDN'T I make use of these abilities?"

    Yeah, it's weird that Starfleet officers would just decide to contact a pre-warp civilization to arrange shore leave. If they're just helped set up a colony, why not have the shore leave THERE?

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    1. The thing with Picard, Data and Geordi had never bothered me previously, either. For some reason, it got under my skin this time. Maybe I've just been used and abused by too many employers and it came home to roost? I guess we'll see. This is certainly not the last time he makes use of this kind of thing, and it's never bother me before. I'm actually curious if it continues to bug me later or not.

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