Star Trek: The Next Generation: Justice
Original Air Date: November 09, 1987
Written By: Worley Thorne
Story By: Ralph Wills and Worley Thorne
Directed by: James L. Conway
Synopsis: After dropping some human colonists off in the Strnad solar system, the Enterprise notices a rather nice Class M planet in the nearby Rubicun system, called Rubicun III. Picard sends an away team down to the surface to find out if it's a good place for some shore leave, and they return with some very good news: it's clean, it's beautiful, it's populated with friendly humanoids . . . and they really like to do the nasty.
"At the drop of a hat," according to Geordi.
"Any hat," Tasha says, knowingly.
Picard sends a second, larger team down to the planet to see exactly how many hats they're going to need. Because every responsible Starfleet parent would want to send their children down to the galaxy's longest running planetary orgy, he orders Wesley Crusher to see if the planet is a good place for kids to hang out.
After beaming down to the planet, the away team quickly learn three important facts:
- The planet's inhabitants, called the Edo, like to jog everywhere.
- They are all beautiful blond models, possibly descended from some sort of Maxim/FHM breeding program in the late 22nd century.
- The entire planet is clothed in about 6 yards of fabric.
Before the Edo leaders will tell Riker how many people they can bring down from the Enterprise, they suggest that they "play at love." Rivan, the woman, suggests that Worf play at love with her (Aside: if my memory serves me correctly, Michael Dorn and Brenda Bakke, who played Rivan, spent a little time, uh, playing, together during the production of this episode,) while Liator looks at Riker, jams his true desires deep into the closet, and asks Troi if she'll play with him. Just before Sexual Harassment Panda shows up, Wesley Crusher says, "Dude, this is bullshit. Either hook me up with some fine Edo ass, or let me get away from you creepy middle-aged swingers and find it on my own."
Okay, maybe that's not what he says, but it's certainly what a certain actor who played Wesley Crusher was thinking at the time. What he actually says is, "Uh, erm, uh, I'm a weenie and I can't be too close to this crazy hot woman who wants to go all Mrs. Robinson on me. Can you please take me to some kids my own age, so I can get as far away from the boobies as possible? It would be great if there was some sort of science project I could work on, and some technobabble I could deliver, too. I really need to be in my comfort zone, or at least change into some loose-fitting pants."
Rivan and Liator think they should run to the council chamber, where they can get rid of the kid and head inside for a sexy party. When they arrive, Rivan gives Riker the traditional Edo "Hey, you totally ran a thousand meters" sensual hug and reach around.
Three teenagers show up, two guys and a girl. Liator points to Wesley and tells them that he's brought them a new friend to play with. One of the guys is so excited to play with Wesley, he literally bursts into flames before they can skip off together. Wesley and his new pals jog away, and the away team gets taken inside the council chamber, where the Edo dance, perform sensual massage, and show off exceptionally bad late 80s hairstyles.
Back on the Enterprise, the bridge crew is busy dealing with mysterious thing they can't see that is sitting off the starboard bow. Unfamiliar with The Firm's Star Trekkin', the crew doesn't know that whenever anything is off the starboard bow, it's something bad and should be taken seriously, so they just assume it's some sort of sensor malfunction (they'd better be careful, though. Starfleet charges 325,000 bars of gold-pressed Latinum per malfunction, after a regrettable incident on Superbowlulon XLI.)
After Data addresses the mysterious object, though, it reveals itself: a deadly floating Erector set!
Picard orders Geordi to stick his head out the window and tell him what his VISOR picks up, and then my favorite moment in the entire episode comes up. A crewman, standing in for Tasha, who has been overacting in the background of just about every bridge shot since the episode began, channels Captain James T. Kirk and says, "Sir, my sensors read it . . . as well . . . half! there! And it . . . doeslook as . . . if it were . . . . partly! transparent." (Super happy funtime trivia challenge: that character was played by Josh Clark, who went on to play Joe Carey in Voyager. Some Trekkies have decided that the unnamed character actually was young Joe Carey. I'm Wil, and that's one to grow on.)
Data doesn't know what it is, but Geordi reports that, after complete spectral analysis, it's as if it's not really there. Ah! We get it! It's the script for 'The Last Outpost' that's floating out there!
Whatever it is, it's serious about messing with the Enterprise, because it sends out the universal symbol of "I'm serious about messing with you": a ball of white light, which penetrates the Enterprise and cuts off all contact with the away team, and demands (in a voice which is deliciously similar to the "ghost host" in the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland) that Picard explain why the Enterprise is orbiting Rubicun III. Of course, Picard then spends ten pages explaining why humans are trying to colonize the galaxy, why it's important, and how easy it is to take up some time in the script by talking in a big circle about nothing. This irritates the ball of light as much as it irritates the audience, and it shows its displeasure by whacking Data in the head and pinning him, unconscious, to the ground.
Down on the planet, Wesley is jogging around with his new friends. Unlike the adults, who are busy getting their freak on in Plato's Retreat, the kids are busy showing off their gymnastic skills. One of the Edo boys walks on his hands! Oh! Wesley got served! But wait! Wesley serves back with some cartwheels and a roundoff, and IT'S ON!
In fact, it's so on, the girl (who was played by a really sweet girl named Judith Jones, who played my girlfriend on an after school special called My Dad Can't Be Crazy, Can He?) gets so hot for Wesley, she asks him if he'll "teach her" how to "play ball."
Oh, you bet, baby. Uncle Wesley will teach you how to play ball. Why don't you just slip into this latex bodysuit and put on this wig first, and then we'll play all sorts of ball, you dirty little bitch.
Uh. What just happened? Sorry about that.
Wesley tells them to get a bat. When they don't know what it is, he describes Worf's penis. It's not awkward at all.
While the kids run off to "play ball," Riker wanders around the council chambers, past a lot of Edo who are dropping a lot of hats. And seriously, the Edo? We can smell the Astroglide all the way from here, guys. If they keep this up, we're relocating them to the Cinemax Nebula.
After a conversation with Worf about Klingon sex (that unfortunately forced a lot of fan fiction to be taken out of cannon,) Riker tries to check in with the Enterprise and finds that his communicator isn't working. He gets the away team all together in one place, just in case something hinky is going on. When Worf goes to get Tasha, he learns that the Edo spend all their time running around and fucking because they have some rather interesting laws on their planet: if someone breaks a rule in a randomly-assigned "punishment zone," they're put to death. It kind of sucks, but hey, free sex!
Meanwhile, in a development nobody saw coming, Wesley unintentionally breaks the law. He doesn't help his case when one of the Edo's police (called "Mediators") asks Wesley if he freely admits to the heinous crime of falling on new plants.
Wesley stands up straight, deepens his voice, and declares, "I'm with Starfleet. We don't lie."
Ah, Wesley may be able to save the ship, but he sure can't save bad dialogue.
Riker apologizes for the mess, Wesley apologizes for playing ball (hey, she said she was eighteen, dude,) and before any of the writers can apologize for the dialogue, Tasha shows up to warn them about the Edo's laws just a little bit too late. (For you Star Trek trivia buffs out there, this would indicate that Tasha attended The Bishop school of arrival times.)
After a quick kangaroo court, the Mediators get ready to deliver some mad justice, Edo style. Celebratory riots spontaneously break out all across America, but before too many cars can be set on fire, the away team totally cock blocks them and saves Wesley from certain death.
Up on the bridge, the glowing ball of light hops off of Data, and communication with the away team is restored. Riker tells Picard that there's a bit of a problem down on the planet. Picard beams down, meets the away team, finds out that Wesley has been left in the Edo's custody, and has a long talk with the Edo about law, justice, the death penalty, and other hot-button topics that would probably be very inspiring and thought-provoking . . . if they weren't delivered to a group of half-naked sex fiends who get really, really petulant when they don't get their way. Apparently, having to talk about tough issues instead of banging the person closest to them really grinds their gears.
Then, because tackling the issue of capital punishment in two pages of preachy dialogue wasn't enough, Picard asks about the mysterious orbiting object, which Rivan immediately identifies as . . . wait for it . . . "God." Oh boy.
Rivan seems to think it's sort of a New Testament, likes-to-hug-you god, while Liator clearly thinks it's more of an Old Testament raining-fire-down-on-your-head kind of god. Luckily, before things can get too preachy, Doctor Crusher calls down from the Enterprise. Data has woken up from his ball-of-light nap, and wants to talk with the captain. After extracting a promise that the Edo won't kill Wesley before sundown, Picard takes Rivan with him back to the Enterprise. Once there, he shows her "god" (this is, quite honestly, a nice little homage to the original series. Whenever Captain Kirk took a hot babe back to the space ship, he showed her god, too. Sometimes, he showed her an entire pantheon of gods. And he never called her back, baby, because that's just how he rolled, leaving broken hearts all over the galaxy. Awww yeah.) The problem is, god is pissed, and shakes the ship until Picard beams Rivan back down to the planet. Poor Picard, he brought her all the way home, and he didn't get to drop a single hat.
Picard and Beverly head out to sickbay so they can talk with Data, and on the way, we see that Wesley gets all his whining from his mother's side of the family. Once in sickbay, Data spews a whole bunch of stuff about the Edo's god thing, which turns out to be more like Liator's version than Rivan's, and has put Picard in quite a bind: while he can totally handle one of those Christopher Pike show trials back at Starfleet HQ if he beams Wesley to safety, that god-thing isn't going to take any "one beep for yes, two beeps for no" bullshit if he interferes. After a long talk with Data (see The Bottom Line, below) Dr. Crusher comes back, and Picard promises her that he'll save her son, accompanied by the obligatory soundtrack, heavy on the melancholy strings.
Down on the planet, the sun is about to set, and Trekkies are crossing their fingers . . . but Picard gives the order to beam up, and they'll have to go back to listing all the different ways Wesley could get wasted on the Enterprise. But wait! What's going on? Oh shit! The Edo god has blocked the transporter! The clock is running down, but Picard throws a hail mary with an impassioned speech to the sky about truth, justice, the American way, puppies, ribbons, warm apple cider on a frosty New England morning, and makin' out at the drive in with your best girl. The band is on the field, but the Edo god is always a sucker for a John Cougar Mellencamp song, and he lets them beam away into the end zone.
When they arrive back on the Enterprise, everything returns to normal . . . almost. There are cargo bays full of hats, and nobody knows what to do with them.
And I welcome this huge one.
She gives him a long, sensual hug.
I want to do something too . . . with you.
Uh . . . what?
It's something you can teach me. Will you?
Uh . . . well, actually, there are some . . . games . . . I don't quite know yet.
Obligatory Technobabble: "Don't babble sir? I am not aware that I ever babble sir. It may be that from time to time I have considerable information to communicate and you may question the way in which I organize it . . ." -- Data, explaining to Picard that he does not, in fact, babble.
Behind the Scenes Memory: Our exteriors were shot at two primary locations. The scenes where we first beam down were shot at a water treatment facility in the San Fernando Valley, right under the flight path for the Van Nuys municipal airport. There were so many planes flying over us, rather than wait for the sound to be clear before we rolled, we just shot straight through the day, and re-recorded all the dialogue in ADR sessions a few weeks later. I have this involuntary habit as an actor of not talking when there are loud off-camera noises, so the sound is clean during editing; this was a really hard place for me to film (not only because I was surrounded by gorgeous nearly-nude models, with the boobies and the hineys and the I'm in spandex muh-hay, ga-hay) because we just kept filming no matter what. It was surprising to me then, as it is now, how tenuous an actor's concentration really is. However, the powers that be liked that location so much, they went back there several times, and it even became the standard location for Starfleet Academy. You Alias fans may also recognize it as the building Sydney blew up with all the special forces inside in season one.
Our second location, where Wesley recklessly plows through the white barrier, was at the Huntington Library in San Marino. In addition to all the flora and fauna, the Huntington also has a very impressive art collection, which includes The Blue Boy. My teacher really wanted me to see that painting, and, being 15, I was entirely unimpressed. However, by bizarre coincidence, in the third season holodeck spectacular 'Hollow Pursuits', Wesley was dressed up as The Blue Boy in Barclay's holodeck fantasy. I impressed exactly zero people with my knowledge of the costume's inspiration, proving that 18th Century British art trivia is not the best way to get laid, guys. This location was also very popular with the powers that be. They liked it so much, in fact, they used it again just three episodes later in 'Haven'.
These two locations were internally compared to Vasquez Rocks, where a lot of the original series episodes were filmed, including 'Shore Leave' and 'Arena', because we used them so many times.
The Bottom Line: Once you get past the wigs on the ladies and the camel toes on everyone, there's some very good Star Trek in this episode, especially when Data and Picard talk in sickbay. Even though it has the obligatory Data babbling (they even talk about him babbling) there is some very good -- and important -- character development between them. This is just the 8th episode of the series, and in all the pointless meetings and long-winded scenes where they just talk about nothing, there hasn't been a scene like this where Picard truly seeks information from one of his officers, and truly looks for ways to solve a difficult problem. In fact, this is the first time Picard really listens to someone when he asks for advice, instead of chiding them for not giving him the answer he was looking for. The entire scene is given a bit of emotional weight (I say "a bit," because we know that Wesley is going to somehow escape execution before the end of the show) by the presence of Wesley's mother, who is forced to sit there and listen to Picard and Data talk in an academic way about her son's life, knowing that saving him is as simple (and as complicated) as Picard giving the order to beam him up. When they move to Picard's quarters, the discussion the two of them have about playing god (har) isn't much more complicated than a first year ethics class, but it's still cool, because it's a very Star Trek scene. This is the sort of thing that set the original series apart from other sci-fi shows during its first run, and it's the sort of thing that makes Ron Moore's Battlestar Galactica so extraordinarily watchable today.
Ultimately, there are really only two weak points: Picard takes a member of a developing civilization (who has had no prior Federation contact) onto the Enterprise for a quick peek at her god, which would appear to be a clear violation of the Prime Directive, and Wesley's whole "check out how mature I am" thing, which is more bad direction and weak acting than anything else (sorry about that, I recall doing what they wanted me to do, but if I could make different choices now, I would. Someone fire up the Delorean and meet me at the clock tower.) But it's entertaining, and believe it or not, we were really pushing things with all the skin, making out, obvious sensuality, and other things that I actually find pretty creepy and kind of gross when I watch it today. It's never easy to tackle things like capital punishment and religion, because you're bound to offend someone, but we did it pretty fearlessly in this episode. But most importantly, it's an entertaining hour of television, all of our "bridge regulars" act intelligently and logically, and there's great character growth for Picard, which the show desperately needed.
Final Grade: B+