Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Justice"

*

Air date: 11/9/1987
Teleplay by Worley Thorne
Story by Ralph Wills and Worley Thorne
Directed by James L. Conway

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Here's a bad episode that plays like a severe case of whiplash. What begins as one of the most hilariously unintentional self-parodies in all of Trek (this side of "Spock's Brain") becomes, by the end, a talky and serious affair about the Prime Directive. That shift is not in its favor.

The Enterprise away team beams down to a paradise-like planet inhabited by the Edo, a peaceful bunch known to "make love at the drop of a hat." Their outfits, customs, and manner of speech are so hopelessly corny that it takes sheer endurance not to giggle through all the silliness of the first half of the show. (I encourage you just to laugh out loud; it's much more fun that way.) Does anyone on this planet have a job or a reason for living, or do they just frolic and gambol and laugh all day?

Wesley, aka "The Boy," frolics with some other teenagers and ends up falling into a Forbidden Flower Bed (FFB), the penalty for which is death — because the penalty for all crimes on this world, no matter how trivial, is death ... which, let's face it, is just plain stupid. Watching this unfold, you'd think you were watching a Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker movie about space adventures, but no, this story actually plays itself basically straight.

Back aboard the Enterprise, we have yet another Trek-cliched Infinitely Superior Life Form (best Picard line: "Why has everything become a 'something' or a 'whatever'?") that the Edo regard as God. Picard's dilemma is how to rescue Wesley from his death sentence without violating the Prime Directive and without offending the Edo's god. This leads to some seriously talky debate, and a conclusion that's more obtuse than enlightening. By this point I could regard the story with a straight face, but the opening silliness was frankly more fun to snicker at.

Previous episode: Lonely Among Us
Next episode: The Battle

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25 comments on this review

Mr. Mister - Mon, Sep 26, 2011 - 6:51am (USA Central)
Wow, the Edo episode WAS the episode in which I just laughed so badly I creeped people out. It was a like Q-induced Data laugh.
R.D. - Thu, Nov 17, 2011 - 2:46pm (USA Central)
"Justice" gave us one of the most unintentionally hilarious lines in all of TNG...

Data: "I am reading something off the starboard bow, but there is nothing there."
NCC-1701-Z - Fri, Mar 23, 2012 - 8:05pm (USA Central)
When I first saw this episode, I was so disgusted that I didn't pick up TNG for three months afterward. Luckily, "The Battle"--while not perfect--was miles ahead of this garbage, and restored my faith in TNG. I consider this one of the worst eps in the entire franchise, right down there with VOY's "Threshold", and TOS's "Spock's Brain".

This ep was basically a TOS morality play done badly. In TOS, I always found morality-play-style episodes to be enlightening and worthy of my interest even on the 100th viewing, however obvious and non-subtle the moral was ("Day of the Dove" comes to mind as one of my faves). In 1st season TNG, morals came across as dry and stilted and clunked to the floor real quick. I think part of it was due to the acting; the TNG cast never quite had the same passion and excitement of the TOS cast, although I hear that got better later on (I'm still drudging through 1st season).

That said, where to begin? When I saw the Edo for the first time, it was so cringe-worthy that I couldn't even laugh. Same with a lot of the dialogue early on--I don't want to know what TPTB were thinking that day. The plot device of "trip over a fence and break some flowers" was utterly contrived. The ep got more tolerable as the plot got more serious (the Picard-Data conversation came as a relief), but it was still painful. And the moral at the end just clunked to the floor.

I can appreciate the writers' good intentions, trying to present a good moral and channel the charm of TOS, but they failed this time around. Miserably. If ever there was an episode that derserved zero stars (or even negative stars), this is it.
Rikko - Sun, Jun 17, 2012 - 1:26am (USA Central)
Lol at this episode, most of it was so bad that it's good. From Riker asking Worf about "plain old sex" to the classic Wesley's line: "We are with Starfleet, we don't lie". Actually, there's a lot of bad quotable dialogue here.

And to top it off, it ends with a very preachy speech of the Prime Directive. Even then, that final dialogue between Data and Picard was the highlight of the episode.
NCC-1701-Z - Mon, Jul 23, 2012 - 2:39pm (USA Central)
@Rikko: You're right in that the bits of Picard-Data dialogue were the most bearable parts / highlights of the episode; in fact, I wish they had said what they said in another episode.

I'm about halfway through Season 1 now, and I'm thinking of skipping the rest and going straight to Season 2...
Van_Patten - Fri, Aug 10, 2012 - 6:02am (USA Central)
For many Trek fans, until the advent of Voyager, Season 1 of TNG was the closest equivalent to a perpetual Xmas, with a seemingly endless stream of Turkeys. Following on from 'Cide of Honour' and 'Lonely Among Us' here is arguably one of the most badly remembered (maybe barring 'Angel One') The basic premise is that the Enterprise is looking for suitable planets on which to undertake Shore Leave and stumbles across the Edo homeworld, where the inhabitants live lives of constant running around and apparently having sex most of the time.

If this sounds absurd, then the execution is way off kilter - even taking into account that this aired in 1987' the Edo look absurd and the very concept invites nitpicking, always a bad sign. As Jammer points out, we then shift, following the episode's first half into a stern morality drama regarding the morality if the Prime Directive. It's an uneasy change of tone, and it's hard to take the Edo seriously, especially when dressed in those absurd outfits.

As Rikko points out, some of the dialogue is so laughable, it's memorable (I do believe this is Worf's first reference to the fragility of 'human females') but the performances are fairly poor across the Board. It seems wrong to single out Crosby and Sirtis, as Frakes gives his poorest performance thus far. As always, Stewart and Spiner provide the best exchanges and the most memorable scenes, basically because much of their dialogue takes place without the Edo!

A well-renowned Turkey -1.5 stars from me.
William - Mon, Aug 27, 2012 - 9:06pm (USA Central)
I've seen this several times. Each time I suffer though it, hoping the timeline has been altered and that Wesley is excecuted for his terrible crime with the flower bed. After all, he did wander into a forbidden zone.
xaaos - Sun, Oct 28, 2012 - 5:04pm (USA Central)
Nice planet!

Awful episode!
DPC - Tue, Nov 13, 2012 - 8:11pm (USA Central)
If the original premise wasn't diluted by such inane sexuality, this one might have been FAR better.

But it was rewritten, th4e dialogue is atrocious, the Prime Directly is shoehorned to the side, and is just one stupid joke of a story. Which is a shame as the concept (one penalty for ANY crime) would have been a great trope to really make proper use of...

And I have to agree with others; this episode is intentionally racist because everyone was blond haired and blue-eyed. "Code of Honor" wasn't originally Blaxploitation, became that way, and not a line of dialogue was altered. Had the cast been all white, nobody would have complained...
DG - Thu, Dec 20, 2012 - 12:40am (USA Central)
I just finished DS9, so the comparison of Wesley to Jake Sisko is a little fresh on my mind.

Jake Sisko is a character, a person. Cirroc Lofton was a tolerable, if flawed, actor.

Wesley Crusher is an obnoxious piece of crap, and in this episode especially, Wil Wheaton is a cringeworthy non actor.

Cirroc Lofton got sort of worse as an actor as the show went on, Wil Wheaton got better, but eh...
Landon - Tue, Jan 22, 2013 - 4:32pm (USA Central)
Just recently watched this episode again, as I am watching the entire first season again as its come out on blu ray. I have to say, while obviously inferior to later seasons, I LIKE that its different. Ive found the season to be fun and adventurous, even big in scale. It even has some really deep/philosophical/social commentary points though its overall more superficial in plot thtan later seasons.

Now, maybe Im alone,but I liked the episode. Yes, wesley was horrible but I didnt seem to care. I like the philosphical dilemna. I found the planet people to be reminiscent of perhaps ancient romans or something, reminiscent of TOS. I actually wpuld give it a passing rating...3 stars. Guess Ive gone crazy...
Solinga - Sun, Mar 10, 2013 - 9:24am (USA Central)
One star is too generous for this episode. Terrible at every turn. Bad acting, bad writing, bad costumes, bad hair...
William B - Sun, Mar 24, 2013 - 2:45am (USA Central)
Yeah, 1 star is pretty appropriate.

Incidentally, in future seasons (c.f. "Pen Pals," "Who Watches the Watchers," "First Contact" the episode, "Homeward" -- yeesh that last one), it's usually taken as read that the Prime Directive actually means having no contact with pre-warp societies, or at least means hiding information about other worlds and spacefaring societies from them.

Within TNG season one, there are three episodes in which the crew openly interacts with what seems to be a pre-warp society: "Code of Honour," "Justice" and "Angel One."

...yeah. So, it's good that they moved away from the "open interactions with pre-warp societies with bizarre laws" trope, because maaaaaan.

(It seems as if the planet Haven might be pre-warp, but it's not a huge component of that episode. And while I know some people dislike/hate it, I generally like it in a low-key kind of way.)
Riker - Tue, May 21, 2013 - 9:06am (USA Central)
I honestly thought this was a good episode. It has a solid plot and I like the fact that the crew has to decide between obeying the society's rules or doing what's morally correct. I find the whole bit about the "prime directive" kind of stupid though. There's a difference between interfering in a society's affairs and not following society's rules and then leaving. Still this deserves a 3 out of 4 stars as it really wasn't a bad episode.
Corey - Tue, Jul 2, 2013 - 11:28am (USA Central)
This was 2 stars for me - entertaining, but flawed. But shouldn't obtaining a copy of a world's laws be the first thing done, before beaming down your children (Wesley)?

Think about it. What if an American wanted to travel to Saudi Arabia? But they said they weren't going to learn the laws/rules before they went? You call them foolish. Having Enterprise crew do that, even though they are "professional" is basically the same thing. It badly weakens the premise of the story. Enterprise crew should only act foolish if it's an integral part of the story -- that isn't intended here, and they look like 1st year cadets, or perhaps civilians.
SkepticalMI - Mon, Aug 19, 2013 - 4:32pm (USA Central)
Tasha has got to be the worst security chief ever. In the beginning of the episode, she said she had a report of the laws and customs of the planet, but didn't bother to figure out the punishment aspect. Not very smart, is it?

One thing I've noticed rewatching these early episodes is that Picard is a highly unlikable character. He's consistently angry, dismissive of his crew, and sounds like a grumpy old man half the time. Given that he's the main character, and played by Patrick Stewart, it's bizarre that the writers wrote him that way. I guess part of it was to build up the creator's pets of Wesley and Riker, but it's part of the reason these first episodes are so bad.

Anywho, one small positive of this episode is to start defrosting Picard. His philosophical conversation with Data in his quarters was nice in that since, especially since he apologized to Data to the beginning and was far nicer to Dr. Crusher at the end.

And I personally enjoyed the sarcastic responses the Edo had when Picard started moralizing. Given how annoying Roddenberry's preachiness is in this first season, it was nice to see some pushback.

Maybe 1.5 stars for me. Hokey setup, hokier aliens, and bad dialog in general. Yet another potentially strong concept (justice vs mercy, different value systems, etc) with terrible execution.
Carl - Mon, Sep 16, 2013 - 5:32pm (USA Central)
My biggest issue with the plot of this episode is that, surely, beaming one of the Edo onto the ship and allowing her to come closer to her 'god' than was ever intended was a far greater violation of the prime directive than rescuing Wesley would have been. Yet Picard felt that it was the correct course of action despite the fact that it achieved very little.
Silvermink - Fri, Oct 4, 2013 - 12:36am (USA Central)
My biggest issue with this episode was how easily it was wrapped up at the end, i.e.,

PICARD: Life itself is an exercise in exceptions.
EDO GOD: Yeah, that sounds reasonable. *disappears*

What? It was like someone looked up and went, 'oh crap, out of time, need to wrap this up really quickly'.
Petrus - Wed, Nov 27, 2013 - 10:53am (USA Central)
Just finished watching this. Don't think I've seen it before; or if I had, it was a long time ago.

Maybe I'm just not as cynical as the rest of you, but I found it interesting; although there are several serious problems with it.

The first major issue that I had, was the fact that everyone visible on the planet, was white and blonde. Given Gene Roddenberry's usual commitment to diversity in Trek series, (and he was presumably still alive at the time this show was made) I find that surprising, and disappointing. Beauty can and does exist among other human phenotypes.

Another major issue that I had with this episode, was the exaggerated sensuality when the crew were first greeted, and their equally exaggerated awkwardness in response to it. I did get a chuckle out of one of the male Edo saying that he could see that Troi enjoyed, "play," however; many of TNG's fans would probably agree that she had the body for it!

I found this episode's examination of hedonism in comparison with harsh justice to be interesting. Given my reading of channelled material, I've come across at least one other account of a supposed ET race which was at least partly dedicated to such persuits. Sex is a contradiction for me; I love the idea in theory, but not in practice.

I also very much agree with Silvermink that we got a Hollywood ending, and one that was dealt with far too quickly. All in all, though, I certainly would not have rated this only one star, as it was not painful to watch. The talk about the alien entity kept me interested. I'd give it 2-2.5 stars, personally. Nothing Earth shattering, but not unpleasant, and certainly not unwatchable.
David M - Sat, Jan 25, 2014 - 11:43pm (USA Central)
Why has NO one commented on the most obvious mis casting flaw in this episode? Were there THAT many flabby character actors in 1987? OMG, so many of them WERE flabby and seriously NOT toned OR tan. The teenaged girl was a Heifer who must have had to cut between running takes because she obviously must have been wheezing and huffing and puffing. Then there were the two "Mediators"..FLAB BEE! And the one male Edo lead...double FLABBY. No WAY had these guys run more than to the buffet in their lives. Those costumes showed a LOT of skin and granted, some of the non speaking women extras were stunning, and SOME of the males were simply OK...a LOT were down right EMBARRASSING to look at. What did they think later in life to look back on themselves cast as athletic Greek like figures when in reality they could be candidates for weight watchers! Oh, they were not THAT bad, but they were FAR from even being TONED. I can't watch any more. I am done and moving to eppy 9.
Andy's Friend - Sun, Jan 26, 2014 - 10:16am (USA Central)
@David M:

"Were there THAT many flabby character actors in 1987?" No, but there were THAT many people who really couldn't care less.

Jons - Wed, Feb 19, 2014 - 3:54pm (USA Central)
Besides the obvious ridicule of that episode, I agree with David M.

The obvious answer being that ST is a show made by and for straight men. They not only don't care about male physique but would probably feel threatened by guys who look too good. Hence the flabbliness fiesta. Too bad because the male Edo lead had a very nice face.
Niall - Wed, Feb 19, 2014 - 4:27pm (USA Central)
Oh come on, this is just yet another example of gay male body fascism, holding men's bodies to ridiculous standards. What disgusting comments. The men in this episode were fine. (img.gawkerassets.com/img/19dgltmi4bpyjjpg/ku-xlarge.jpg)
Elliott - Sat, Jun 14, 2014 - 5:38am (USA Central)
What's sad is that the music in the episode is so damned good--just listen to that lurking harpsichord during the reveal about the Edo's laws. Or the scene from quarters where "God" is getting pissed off.

There's just so much to love...like the light-grey barely there tunics which flutter so casually in the breeze holding a lethal syringe right next to the enforcer's junk...to the fact that the Punishment Zone moves to another location 2 minutes after Wes' offence...to the fully-clothed dry-humping on the floor while others sit around giggling (but not at the dry-humpers)...

I THINK the idea here was to demonstrate the dangers of extremism: the Edo are simultaneously liberal (in terms of social customs...there are no stigmas or taboos it seems) and conservative (in theological and legal terms).

The Prime Directive debates and the music actually make this episode rather watchable for me. I like it a hell of a lot better than the later season snooze-fests like Aquiel or Interface.
Paul M. - Sun, Jun 15, 2014 - 2:42am (USA Central)
@Elliott: "What's sad is that the music in the episode is so damned good--just listen to that lurking harpsichord during the reveal about the Edo's laws. Or the scene from quarters where "God" is getting pissed off."

Yeah. I'd like to add that in general the music during the first three seasons was miles ahead of blandness we got afterward.

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