Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Devil's Due"

*

Air date: 2/4/1991
Teleplay by Philip Lazebnik
Story by Philip Lazebnik and William Douglas Lansford
Directed by Tom Benko

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

The Enterprise answers a distress call from the Ventaxians, whose world is besieged by its own panic because the terms for a legendary millennium-ago deal with the devil is set to expire — like today. According to said legend, the devil, Ardra, will return to enslave the world (after having so benevolently granted it 1,000 years of peace). Ardra (Marta Dubois) does indeed appear and lay claim to the world, demonstrating powers that would seem magical if this weren't, you know, Star Trek, where technology can do anything. In response to Ardra's parlor tricks, spineless Ventaxian bureaucrat Jared (Marcelo Tubert) is prepared to hand over the keys to the planet.

Not if Picard has anything to say about it. Picard doesn't believe Ardra is really the devil because Picard, you know, has an IQ over 80, which apparently can't be said of any of the Ventaxians. (Is this someone's twisted allegory for the Second Coming? Naturally, any references to human religions are absent.) The Enterprise crew embarks on an investigation to debunk Ardra's assertion and her claim to the planet. Meanwhile, Ardra also lays claim to the Enterprise, since it's in orbit. This is clearly overreaching, because if there's one thing you don't screw with, it's the USS Enterprise.

"Devil's Due" is, in a word, weak. Or in two words, really weak. The plot is a true who-cares scenario: Who cares if the Ventaxians are exploited? (Frankly, given their stupidity, they deserve it.) And who cares about all the contrived tech details of investigating Ardra? And who cares about this woman lusting after Picard? And who cares if the Enterprise disappears (which plays like lame unintended comedy)? The narrative is a choppy exercise in tedium, revealing its utter desperation by finally just becoming a courtroom episode where Data is the judge. Picard turns the tables in utterly predictable fashion, leading to a boring payoff where Ardra is exposed as the con woman she is. I have my doubts that any combination of Neat-O Technology could so perfectly perform the illusions we get in this episode, or if they could, that anyone (okay, maybe Jared, but that's the problem) would be fooled into thinking they're supernatural in origin.

Previous episode: The Wounded
Next episode: Clues

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53 comments on this review

Dude
Fri, Mar 7, 2008, 8:37pm (UTC -6)
Devil's Due is so lame. They say they can't find any technology in use as a scam and then suddenly they do after all. Waste of time.
Liz
Tue, Aug 11, 2009, 9:19pm (UTC -6)
Ahem! In reference to Devil's Due, how can you hate any any episode that includes the quote "Oh Picard, I will enjoy you morning, noon, and night!"?
TheRose
Tue, Jan 5, 2010, 12:12am (UTC -6)
Devil's Due show us a nice insight how easy future generations will expose our faith and believes.

Cant wait tbh.
Elliott
Tue, Sep 7, 2010, 11:24pm (UTC -6)
Oh yes, and "Devil's Due" is one of Trek's very best episodes. It's these kind of stories which make DS9 impossible if attention is paid them. I agree, who cares about the tech, the aliens or whomever, but that's NEVER the point of a Trek episode. Trek is commentary on the human condition, and it is about how characters develop in a universe freed from what Gene Roddenberry saw as extricable negative qualities in that condition (ie religion and money). The allegory is a perfect use of science fiction and your impression of the Ventaxans tells me that you haven't met enough mormons, because their reactions are very, very realistic. One star? No way.
David Hofstede
Mon, Jun 27, 2011, 10:49pm (UTC -6)
I find it interesting how viewers see what they want to see in some episodes. Take "Devil's Due," which a couple of commenters here interpreted as another Trek swipe at religion. I'm a Christian and I didn't see it that way at all; for me, it was a story about trusting false prophets, something that every religion warns against. I also think it deserved higher rating- 3 stars from me.
Josiah
Tue, Aug 2, 2011, 2:38pm (UTC -6)
I actually liked Devil's Due a lot. It had flaws, sure, but it kept me thoroughly entertained. I thought the woman who played Ardra did a fantastic job. There was something quite intriguing and "Q-ish" about her.
xaaos
Tue, Dec 18, 2012, 11:51am (UTC -6)
When Picard caused the tremor, I think he should have considered the possibility that some Ventaxians might got killed because of it.

I didn't like this episode, it was rather lame and bad written. Especially the scene with the disappearing of the Enterprise...
fluffysheap
Fri, Dec 21, 2012, 1:53am (UTC -6)
This is an episode that would have been much better if it had appeared in TOS. There are other such episodes, but most of them happened in the first two seasons. Look at all the recycled TOS elements:
* The Enterprise meets God, who turns out to actually be an alien with some techno-gadgets ("Who Mourns for Adonais," "Catspaw")
* The planet the Enterprise visits lays claim to the ship based on some irrelevant ancient law ("A Taste of Armageddon")
* The alien's plans are thwarted when the alien falls in love with the captain (many episodes)
* The Enterprise visits a planet that believes in a preposterous religion (many episodes)

I seem to remember reading, perhaps in the Star Trek Chronology, that this actually WAS a leftover TOS script. With Kirk in place of Picard and Scotty unraveling the techno-mystery (Data and Spock being mostly interchangeable as the judge), I think the episode would have been much better - I can just see Scotty reveling in figuring out Ardra's tricks, while Kirk's superior sense of humor would have made the use of the alien gadgets to turn the tables much more enjoyable.

Unfortunately, we're deprived of any scenes actually showing Ardra's ship, and it's always a waste when a courtroom episode doesn't provide an opportunity for a nice facepalm. I guess the budget for alien ships (and facepalms) was all used up.
MrCase
Mon, Feb 4, 2013, 11:18am (UTC -6)
You should leave your personal beliefs out when reviewing. No way this is one star episode... just like WWTW which is easily 3.5, but you gave it 2.5 because you thought it was anti-religious.
Oh well, as long as you praised Daybreak and its religious nonsense...
Nice site btw.
Jammer
Tue, Feb 5, 2013, 6:05pm (UTC -6)
MrCase, that's quite an assumption you're making there -- that I somehow hated this episode and didn't fully endorse "Who Watches the Watchers" because they are anti-religion, while I praised "Daybreak" for being heavy on religious explanations. It's like you're saying I endorse only those episodes that agree with my views.

I find this odd, since I make my case based on the effectiveness of the episode at hand, while I've rarely mentioned my actual views on religion at all -- and the times I have would not line up with the conclusion you seem to draw here. But I'll just let you read all my reviews and maybe you can find my actual views somewhere -- sort of like an Easter egg (no religious endorsement meant there; it's just an expression).
MrCase
Wed, Feb 6, 2013, 4:12pm (UTC -6)
@Jammer
I just feel that you tend to underrate some "false gods", anti religion episodes, while praising some pro-religion shows like BSG and maybe DS9(how on Earth "Babel" or "Move along home" both have the same rating as WWTW?(i must admit that religious aspects didn't bug me that much in DS9, BSG on the other hand...)). Maybe i'm wrong. Thats all. It's your opinion and i respect it.
Hey, but i'm just one of those who role their eyes every time religion enters in a sci fi show... It would be interesting to read your Babylon 5 reviews though, i hope you will do them some day...
Jack
Thu, Feb 14, 2013, 10:15am (UTC -6)
As Elliot alludes to above, here we have Picard discarding the possibility of Ardra's seemingly deitic powers, but then in DS9 we see similar powers that the Prophets, and to an extent even the Founders (making Odo a "solid"), demonstrate.
DavidK
Fri, Feb 15, 2013, 4:28am (UTC -6)
Well, to be fair Picard had not (yet) heard about either the wormhole aliens or the Dominion. He had however come face to face with Q on several occasions, so you'd think aliens with God-like, seeming reality-manipulating powers wouldn't be *that* much of a stretch. In fact given what they encounter on a weekly basis, I'm not sure how Trekkian crews eliminate *any* possibilities off the bat.
Peremensoe
Sun, Feb 17, 2013, 9:00pm (UTC -6)
"This is an episode that would have been much better if it had appeared in TOS.
...
I seem to remember reading, perhaps in the Star Trek Chronology, that this actually WAS a leftover TOS script."

Whether it was a leftover script or not, it was clearly a TOS-style episode. Why is that a bad thing to have in TNG? I thought it was great fun precisely for this reason.
Adara
Fri, Jul 19, 2013, 3:38am (UTC -6)
YKNEKWYASFSPRT. (you know, not everyone knows what your abbreviations stand for so please remember that) Thank you everyone. :)
Jack
Thu, Sep 5, 2013, 11:03pm (UTC -6)
@ David K...yes indeed, after his experiences with Q, it was absurd for Picard to dismiss even the possibility that Ardra was something approaching what she claimed. Picard bugged me here in the same way as he did later, in "Power Play", when he simply declared that the entity they were dealing with couldn't possibly be a Starfleet captain, as it claimed, because of his behavior, as if Picard would know what 200 years of being disembodied would do to someone's psyche. Of course, both there and here, the story had to end up proving Picard correct, because well, he's Picard.
Nick P.
Fri, Sep 20, 2013, 9:37am (UTC -6)
I agree with this being a delightful episode. I am not cool with critics loving TOS for these type of religious-moral episodes, yet give TNG the same think, and it is hokey. I have noticed that people that knew going in this was a re-hashed TOS episode do not like it, yet people who don't know that seem to like it.

@David Hofstead, I think you miss the point in that the episode is saying YOUR prophets are the wrong ones, because there are NO right ones.
Moonie
Tue, Nov 12, 2013, 6:35am (UTC -6)
Considering how often I don't seem to agree with the Trekkie majority on what episodes are good, and which ones are great and which ones truly suck, I almost expected to come here and read how wonderful this episode was.

Relieved to see this is not the case. Lame is the exactly right word to describe it. One of the my personal zero stars episodes.

William B
Sun, Dec 1, 2013, 5:59pm (UTC -6)
I can see the argument that this episode is in the spirit of TOS and shouldn't be judged so harshly as a result. And it is a Star Trek II script and all. Still, I think the Devil coming onto the captain to offer him sex in exchange for a planet's soulll fits Kirk more than Picard, and the tone of the original show more than this one. More than that, though, I kind of feel like this episode's silliness leapfrogs TOS and ends up at the Scooby-Doo stage, where a supernatural threat, shockingly, turns out to be some weirdo in a costume. I'm all for puncturing religion as hucksterism but there's got to be some less hokey way of doing it. I think 1 star is moderately harsh though.
Jons
Sun, Dec 29, 2013, 9:31am (UTC -6)
@ David Hofstede:

A religion warning about "false prophets" is hilariously ironic (every religion thinks the other's prophet is false, so, who's right?).

If you can't see that it's the equivalent of Coke telling you Pepsi is poisoned so you stay with Coke, there's nothing anyone can do for you. To paraphrase Jammer, "Who cares if [believers] are exploited? Frankly, given their stupidity, they deserve it."
SkepticalMI
Wed, Mar 19, 2014, 9:25pm (UTC -6)
I was expecting to have quite a few objections to this episode coming in, but was surprised to have almost all of them answered:

I figured Picard and company would be overly skeptical of Ardra's claims in order to advance the plot (and agenda), given that they live in a universe filled with god-like beings. Fortunately, that wasn't the case. The possibility that this was a Q was immediately brought up, and Picard's skepticism relied on the fact that Ardra immediately zeroed in on the money aspect of ruling a planet.

I also thought this might be another example of ignoring the Prime Directive. But no, the kidnapped Federation personnel gave Picard a reason to get involved, and Ardra demanding the ship as well gave him an excuse to get rid of her.

As for the possibility that we would get an anti-religion speech, there was none of that here. Picard even mentions the possibility that a real Ardra really did sign a contract 1000 years ago. All told, this is a more open-minded episode than most stuff you'll see in the media.

And then there's the gullibility of the planet. But even that was explained away relatively easily. Ardra did do exactly what was written in the contract, and according to Data she met the legal requirements for identification. It was still a somewhat difficult pill to swallow, but I guess we needed a plot somehow.

So it met some of my criteria, but it was still a bit of a dull show. It was obvious from the beginning that she was using transporters and holograms from a cloaked ship; Geordi even said as much. So there was no mystery. So was it about finding the ship, matching wits with her crew? No, that was practically all done off-screen. Was it about the battle of wits between Picard and Ardra in the courtroom? Not really, it seemed to go that way, but also seemed to imply that Picard was about to lose until he was able to replicate everything. In the end, there just wasn't much of a plot there.

And then there's the other plausibility issues. While her magic tricks on the planet were obviously transporters+holograms, her tricks on the Enterprise were far more Q-like. Are we to assume she beamed herself into the captain's chair without anyone knowing? Or beamed into sitting position at ops? Where's the flashy light thingy? And for that matter, why didn't they just raise shields at that point and throw her into the brig? And how could a "not very good" cloaking device cloak the entire Enterprise without them being able to do a thing about it? Pretty incompetent flagship....

I read somewhere that this was rewritten to be something of a comedy episode, but I just don't see it.
Peter
Tue, Apr 15, 2014, 11:35am (UTC -6)
To fluffysheap and all:

"Devil's Due" like TNG's season 2's "The Child" was actually an episode written for the non-produced late-1970's TV series, "Star Trek Phase II", that yes would have been given to the original series cast.
Tom
Tue, Apr 22, 2014, 3:12am (UTC -6)
"Who cares if the Ventaxians are exploited? (Frankly, given their stupidity, they deserve it.)"
I think that's a very cold-hearted perspective. About 40% of Americans believe in astrology. Many believe in homeopathy or New Age crystals or superstitions, so we have no shortage of gullible people here on Earth. Yet, I don't think that they deserve to be exploited. I applaud people like James Randi who expose fraudsters of all kind.

And I don't think that the fact that this is Star Trek and that "technology can do anything" makes this episode any less relevant. The Ventaxians are less technologically advanced, so what Adra does appears to be magic. There's nothing incoherent about the premise. If Adra came to Earth and used the same technology, most people would probably consider it magic too.

And I don't see the episode as anti-religion, but as anti-superstition.

I think that the episode was still somewhat weak. The trial wasn't clever or interesting and most of the investigation happened off-screen.

I agree with SkepticalMI that Adra's tricks are harder to explain on the Enterprise, though presumably she was able to do what she did because the shields were down. Though, it still doesn't explain everything. And the premise of a contract really being written a 1000 years before isn't explained. I guess that she learned of this legend and tried to exploit it, but that doesn't really seem plausible to me.
213karaokejoe
Sun, May 11, 2014, 11:18pm (UTC -6)
@Elliot,
Imagine my surprise, when I am reading commentary on a Star Trek episode, and someone is insulting me because of my religion. There are a lot of people who believe the stuff that happens in the Bible, including the resurrection of Jesus Christ, whom hundreds of millions of people worship. I'm not sure how you put Mormons in a special gullibility spot because they believe in their religion, which includes that same Jesus Christ.

For what it's worth I liked the episode. It is a little disturbing, even during rewatching and knowing the end, to see how easily the "Ardra" character can get through the Enterprise's shields. But I still thought a lot of the scenes were cute. Hadn't thought about it before, but indeed it might have been a better TOS episode.
Elliott
Mon, May 12, 2014, 2:33am (UTC -6)
If the content and/or commentary of an episode of Star Trek should surprise you in its decrying of religion, I must infer you haven't seen much Trek or haven't been paying attention.

I do not hesitate in stating plainly that belief in the Abrahamic religions is the purview of either the weak-minded, the masochistic, the oppressed or the gullible. The Mormon religion is worth special notice only because the historical inaccuracies upon which its narrative is based is so recent and easily debunked, while its edicts are especially crude and abhorrent.

If you find this offensive, I would, for the official record, be utterly unsurprised.
Buck
Tue, Jun 24, 2014, 1:02pm (UTC -6)
It's just entertainment, and the old STP2 script was used due to the short writer's strike. If it was MY Enterprise, Ardra would have had the keys shortly after showing up in my room.
Buck
Tue, Jun 24, 2014, 1:05pm (UTC -6)
I do think it's funny that Elliot enjoyed the characters being "freed from Roddenberry" ... Since he supervised the script production.
Robert
Wed, Jun 25, 2014, 4:25pm (UTC -6)
For me this is a 3 star episode. There's the theme of the hazard of fear blossoming, and overwhelming, reason. There's the lurid sexuality of Ardra (a well Trek has gone to on several occasions). There's dialogue that makes me smile (ex: when Picard is introducing himself to Ardra she cuts him off with "keep up the good work"). There's Data as a judge.

My only nitpick is that when Ardra asks Picard in court if he can explain her powers he flatly says "no" when earlier he had given plausible explanations.
Dave in NC
Thu, Jun 26, 2014, 1:51am (UTC -6)
I really enjoy this episode: Patrick Stewart's curmudgeonly performance as he sleuths for the truth is wonderful(all that's missing is the Sherlock Holmes cap), Data makes an amusing arbitrator, and the actors playing the leader and the head scientist do a lot with the relatively lean material they are given.

I did notice that head scientist slurred a few words in the ready room scene with Picard, it was an authentic portroyal I thought, but maybe a the actor had a nip of something backstage? :)

The musical score in this one is fantastic: the cues for attempted seduction in Picard's quarters and Feklar of Klingon are deserve attention for being exceptionally cinematic (especially if you have the Surround Sound on).

The script had quite a few positives despite it being a holdover script: the way Ventax II is portrayed (i.e. social upheavels, rioters, history, etc) and the brief glimpses shown of the capitol and various builkdings (the hall of records, the courtroom) were a textbook case in how to build an alien culture on a tight budget and have it turn out completely believable. I didn't even mind the fact they looked exactly like humans.

As far as the main guest star: I absolutely love Ardra and her antics. I belly-laughed at least ten times the last time I watched it. It's a shame we never saw the character again because her scenes with Picard crackle with tension, humor and excitement. That and her 80's video vixen nightie outfit totally rocks.

Also, Patrick Stewart says "Flim Flam".

SIDE NOTE: I didn't notice it until recently, but Ardra is predatorily sexual with Picard right from the start. It's funny within the context of the show ....

However, if this had been a male "devil" acting this way with a female (say Captain Janeway), I can't help but feel it would have come across as much more rapey/stalkery and the episode would have had a totally different vibe.
Dave in NC
Thu, Jun 26, 2014, 1:55am (UTC -6)
Forgive my typos. This is why writing reviews (or anything else) on a cell phone stinks.
Jack
Sat, Aug 9, 2014, 10:46am (UTC -6)
The scene lighting and the guest stars costumes in this episode seemed more in the style of Season 2...I almost found myself wondering where Pulaski was...
dgalvan
Tue, Sep 30, 2014, 3:35pm (UTC -6)
I actually really liked this episode. Great example of scientific debunking of snake-oil salesmen. Also Ardra is played in a very charismatic way. Surprised it is so disliked by so many.

I can see that it may have been more appropriate in TOS than in TNG, but still: good stuff.
Caleb
Thu, Jan 1, 2015, 1:11pm (UTC -6)
It's clear to me that Picard doubts that Ardra herself has these powers, not that any being could have such powers - they've already dealt with Q of course. His skepticism is personal and specific, not philosophical/metaphysical.

Anyway... don't get the 1-star rating at all, this is one rare case in which I don't understand Jammer's opinion. It's a solid and effective, if occasionally silly, TNG episode. Enjoyable and interesting, just a bit lightweight compared to other TNG highpoints.
Eddington
Mon, Mar 9, 2015, 12:19pm (UTC -6)
This episode is anti-superstition, as one commenter mentioned, not anti-religion. An important distinction.

There are plenty of anti-religion sentiments, episodes, and exposition throughout Star Trek in general, to say nothing of TNG in particular, which are better fodder for commentary and debate then this dismal, boring episode.

I'm more interested in who the devil the Ventaxians made their original bargain with a millenium ago, and also if that person was the true cause of their long, albeit temporary peace. There was far too little development and characterization of these aliens of the week, and Ardra is only fleshed out in her motives.

The DS9 episode "The Storyteller" is like the bizarro-world, mirror universe opposite of this episode in that it completely characterizes the Bajoran villagers, has no Scooby Doo villain preying on their superstitions, and our heroes don't disabuse the Bajoran villagers of their wrongheaded notions but instead play along and perpetuate the farce for, seemingly, their own good.
Vylora
Wed, Mar 11, 2015, 10:13pm (UTC -6)
Ardra: "Who would you be?"
Picard: "I am Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Federation starship Enterprise."
Ardra: "Keep up the good work." (walks away as Picard is about to respond)

Maybe I'm easily amused but that scene was subtle and hilarious.
Vylora
Wed, Mar 11, 2015, 11:12pm (UTC -6)
Whether this episode is anti-religion or anti-superstition is six in one half dozen in the other, especially pertaining to the plot set forth here. In fact, a definition of superstition is "the irrational fear of what is unknown or mysterious, especially in connection with religion". It seems clear to me that these people had developed a religion, a "contract", that has been handed down over a millennia and had birthed (as it so often happens) superstitions based on said "contract".

That being said, this is one of the very few times I have whole-heartedly disagreed with Jammer on a review. I thought the episode was well-paced, had some humorous moments, and the Ventaxians (through their leader) came off more as unfortunately naive as opposed to "deserving of exploitation". There was some rather insightful (if not sometimes obvious) moments in dialogue throughout as well.

I don't think this is a great episode by any means. It does have a sense of whimsy to it that belies the story being told. But overall, I would recommend it.

3 stars.
Korou
Fri, Apr 17, 2015, 8:33am (UTC -6)
I usually agree with the reviews here, but I have to disagree with this one. I found Devil's Due to be a nicely written story with plenty of suspense (in the Star Trek universe it's quite believable that the entity posing as the Devil could be some kind of superpowered alien; it doesn't have to be the Devil for Picard to be in danger from losing the wager). And I enjoyed the climax. All in all, one of the better episodes.
Troy
Wed, Jun 3, 2015, 8:34am (UTC -6)
This is a 3 star episode for me. Since the Ventaxians were raised on the legend of Ardra, even the one with "an IQ over 80" would likely be predisposed to believe the local mythology as fact. We do have people with "an IQ over 80" in the here in now believe in virgin births, angels and gold disks, and a slew of other quirky religious beliefs that aren't usually considered rational.
I love the actress who plays Ardra, she was also Princess Koji on "Tales of the Gold Monkey" and she plays the sultry dragon lady quite well.
I thought the tie in with Scrooge, and Data as Scrooge were a delight as well. The procedural trial part where Ardra is unmasked with Data as a judge was great, and a great payoff. Yes you could see it coming, but that in no way takes away from the satisfaction.
Luke
Sun, Jul 5, 2015, 9:34pm (UTC -6)
Hey, anybody out there not an atheist? Because if you aren't then you're a brain-dead moron who will fall anything!

The only "believers" in this episode are so unbelievably stupid that I find it hard to believe they can tie their own shoes. The "skeptics," on the other hand, are all rational in the extreme and shown to be so compassionate that they'll risk their own lives for the sake of this alien planet. Nope, no hidden message there! Move along, nothing to see here. Just ask yourself if this would be acceptable if the roles were reversed.

Good grief! I am getting so sick and tired of TNG's treatment of religion. TOS was never this heavy-handed or dismissive. And thank God (oh wait, does that make me stupid?) that DS9 came along and offered an actual balanced look at this aspect of the human condition. While I can appreciate the fact that it's a false religion and a con-artist the crew defeats here, couldn't we have had at least ONE Ventaxian believer that wasn't so damn gullible?!

Add to all of this the the fact that Jammer is absolutely, 100% correct when he says that the episode is weak, choppy, tedious and predictable. God, at least "Who Watches the Watchers" had something of an interesting plot. "Devil's Due" is so weak that it's almost painful to watch, even without the ham-fisted anti-religion message.

Then there are the plotholes. 1.) Why does Picard even get involved in this dispute between Ardra and the Ventaxians to begin with? Once Ardra frees the Federation hostages, the Enterprise should have left. What happens on this planet is no concern of theirs after that point. If these morons what to throw their lives away to this con-artist, that's there business. Doesn't the Prime Directive apply here? Picard decides to interfere in the internal governmental affairs of a sovereign planet because.... shut up, that's why! "A starship captain's most solemn oath is that he will give his life, even his entire crew, rather than violate the Prime Directive.... unless he feels like doing it anyway." 2.) Why does Ardra risk everything just to get Picard into bed? Really, is she just that horny? Lady, you stand to gain an entire planet and all the resources that entails, find another man! I guess it only stands to reason that since the Ventaxians are so dumb that their supposed mythological beings should be as well. 3.) Ventax II is an agrarian based society? Umm, no, no they're not. Does this world really strike anybody as agrarian? They have a unified world government (which again TNG rams down our throat as the only way to end war and live in peace - that's bullshit), a massive capital city, the ability to communicate with orbiting spaceships, etc. This is not a farm based economy, people.

Seriously, this episode is bad, really bad! I thought "Who Watches the Watchers" was bad, but this is worse. The only thing I can point to in its favor are two legitimately funny sight gags. I honestly laughed out loud when Ardra transformed herself into Fek'lhr of Gre'thor and Satan. Though, that's more in the realm of unintentional comedy, as I don't think they meant those scenes to be funny.

1/10
Elliott
Thu, Jul 9, 2015, 11:27pm (UTC -6)
Luke :

"Just ask yourself if this would be acceptable if the roles were reversed."

Meaning what exactly? That the atheistic Federation were shown that all the lack of evidence for God had been a rouse creating by some exploiter? That some charlatan had co-opted the scientific consensus of hundreds of worlds in order to make good on...a contract of some sort? I'm sorry, I can't see how the rôles in this situation could possibly be reversed. Maybe you could explain that to me.

There are some minor issues with the episode, some of which you mentioned, but getting all bent out of shape because the show is anti-faith is a total waste. This is Star Trek. Faith in the supernatural has been slowly declining for most of human history. This is the natural progression.
Luke
Fri, Jul 10, 2015, 1:58am (UTC -6)
What I meant was that it wouldn't be acceptable if there existed an episode where all the atheist characters were presented as blithering idiots while the all the theists were presented as intelligent and compassionate people who just needed to properly educate said idiots. I, as a theist, would certainly find that unacceptable, just as I find it unacceptable when done in the reverse.

In fact, I can give you a perfect example of just such a thing - the movie "God's Not Dead." That movie portrays atheists as cold, ruthless assholes who are incapable of love and compassion and who are perfectly willing to do anything because they have no moral code while showing all the Christians as loving, moral, upright people who have to help these atheists see the light and love of Jesus. It's horrible! I have the exact same problem with it as I do with "Devil's Due" - it treats the opposing side/viewpoint with contempt.

If we're going to live in an actual progressive, pluralistic, diverse society (which, just to be clear, I'm in favor of) then both sides need to stop this kind of nonsense and accept others for who they are, not who the opposing side wants them to be. Theists will have to accept that some people will be atheists - that doesn't make them stupid. I, again as a theist myself, am more than willing to concede that theism is not going to be for everyone. But atheists have to do the same and accept that some people are going to be theistic - that doesn't make them stupid either. Producing shows like this really doesn't help build that diverse society. Instead it just makes atheists look like assholes (just as much as "God's Not Dead" makes theists look like assholes).
Elliott
Fri, Jul 10, 2015, 11:16am (UTC -6)
@Luke :

"What I meant was that it wouldn't be acceptable if there existed an episode where all the atheist characters were presented as blithering idiots while the all the theists were presented as intelligent and compassionate people who just needed to properly educate said idiots."

That's somewhat fair--this is a fairly 2-dimensional morality play, so Ardra's victims are rather superficial. However, remember Picard and co. didn't ever tell the Ventaxians that they were wrong to believe in the existence of Ardra, they simply used deduction to prove that this woman wasn't her.

The thing about most of the theistic cultures we see in Star Trek is that they operate theocratically. The entire policy of Ventax was based upon an accepted religious belief. That is something I and most atheists (and thankfully many theists) find unacceptable. Vulcans practice a kind of Buddhistic religion, but it in no way plays a part in their governance. Klingons (up until Worf's maddening decision in "Rightful Heir") are similar this way.

In my experience, most atheists (although I claim no particular solidarity with them as, we are not an organised group) have little interest in disproving your god's existence until your beliefs start infringing upon their lives. The problem with your suggestion about pluralism and the like is that nearly all religions (especially the Abrahamic faiths) mandate that their followers actively evangelise, promote and even impose their beliefs on others. We don't want to replace "In God We Trust" with "In No One We Trust," we just want the concept stricken (how about our original motto "E Pluribus Unum" ("Out of Many, One"?).
Brian
Thu, Sep 10, 2015, 6:12am (UTC -6)
Elliot- while you don't try to "disprove" anything in your posts here, and while I am agnostic myself, I do find it funny how despite the (often well earned) reputation of evangelicals being annoying and too zealous in "forcing" their views on those who aren't interested and being over eager to voice their views, in many of your posts you Elliot are just as if not more obnoxious and overbearing than any posts made by pro-abrahamic religion people that I have read on this or other message boards in my recent memory. It would be one thing if it just seemed like you were simply giving your take on the episode in question and that happened to reflect your atheistic views, but no go to most any episode involving religion to some extent and there your are, loudly and obnoxiously clearly going well beyond commenting on the episode and seemingly taking a snide delight in an opportunity to trumpet how you feel about religious issues in an over the top, hyperbolic if not straw man way, and in a manner that I am more than a little suspicious reflects your desire and adolescent-like pleasure in making your posts as abrasive as possible to read for people with differing views and seeming to enjoy doing so. And yes, it does go beyond what I what "expect" to see on Star Trek comments (for example, ever notice how if it wasn't for your posts the Jammer's Reviews comment threads wouldn't have nearly as many- and on some episodes, none- comments against religion made in such over the top and needlessly abrasive/annoying fashion? THAT is actually what I would expect from a Stat Trek board/comments section. Like here, pretty much directly calling anybody who reads one post of yours who is a Jew/Christian/Muslim gullible/masochistic/oppressed/whatever else. And on a thread with nobody even arguing with you really. Talk about having a chip on your shoulder. If that is your idea of an appropriate post for here, I trust you will also think it appropriate when I say that (like someone else said first somewhere) after reading many of your posts (not just those involving religion) one gets the impression that you likely fall on the "autistic" side of the autistic/mentally healthy spectrum? To be more specific, much of what you say conveys the attitudes/limitations/disabilities on someone with asperger's. If that is the case, know that I don't judge you for being annoying/inept in some ways since you can't help it. If it's not, get over yourself, dude, and whatever it is/was that gave you that massive chip on the shoulder. Like I said above, I'm agnostic, so your comments don't refer to me so it's not like I'm insulted, I'm just irritated by classless, immature behavior in general and sympathize with those who are targeted/insulted by it.
Elliott
Thu, Sep 10, 2015, 10:20am (UTC -6)
Hi Brian, thanks for the note.

I have witnessed/suffered enough myopia on these threads myself, that the accusation you make is distressful to me--the last thing I would want is to be considered one of "those" kinds of people. I obviously don't try to hide my biases, but try to be logical, critical and genuine in my responses. That said, I obviously fail in that sometimes.

To your points :

"ever notice how if it wasn't for your posts the Jammer's Reviews comment threads wouldn't have nearly as many- and on some episodes, none- comments against religion made in such over the top and needlessly abrasive/annoying fashion? THAT is actually what I would expect from a Sta[r] Trek board/comments section. Like here, pretty much directly calling anybody who reads one post of yours who is a Jew/Christian/Muslim gullible/masochistic/oppressed/whatever else. And on a thread with nobody even arguing with you really."

Post made before my first :

TheRose : "Devil's Due show us a nice insight how easy future generations will expose our faith and believes."

So, in fact, on this page at least, I was not the first person to bring up or decry religious belief. My first post took umbrage with Jammer's star-rating which I still find very unfair.

Every other post I have made on this thread (including this one) has been in direct response to a comment or question from another commenter.

The first came in response to my insinuation I found the Ventiaxans to resemble, in terms of Earth religions, Mormons most closely. 213karaokejoe said that my comment insulted him, specifically because Mormons believe in Jesus' resurrection, and so does he along with billions of others. In response, I clarified *exactly* how I feel about religion and the religious--not because I have a chip on my shoulder but because it was prompted. If responding to such a comment is "classless, immature behaviour," then you will have to explain that one to me.

You say you are an agnostic, which is your right. I say that agnosticism on an issue gives one a pass on making a commitment to any cause or perspective. True, it may be wise to practise agnosticism about subjects with which one is insufficiently familiar to take a position; for example, I am an agnostic when it comes to quantum theory. I am aware that there are debates and disagreements on the subject, but don't know enough about it to form an opinion. Maybe, when it comes to religion, that is where you stand, but I highly doubt you would peruse the quantum physics pages and accuse advocates of quantum determinism of being autistic, no matter how forcefully or even myopically they pushed their perspective.

To be perfectly clear, I have no intention of evangelising (or "de-vangelising) any person on these reviews or elsewhere. I happen to believe that any religious view (including an athiestic one) not arrived at through personal introspection and deliberate Sehnsucht is faulty. The reason you see me popping up so often on the pages dealing with religion (and economics and militarism, if you bothered checking) is because nearly all the episodes in which the *writers* take an anti-religious stance are belittled, nit-picked and generally dismissed by both Jammer and a large section of the commenting community, whereas the pro-religion episodes are generally praised. If there is a chip on my shoulder, THAT would be it, not being anti-religious per sæ.

Please know that I am not trying to insult you or anyone else by saying so, but the gentle agnosticism which you profess often arises from an intellectual fallacy that non-alignment is automatically morally superior, for which there is no evidence. Discussions can often become heated, but I always try to keep discussions civil and on-topic. But I will also not mince or obfuscate the issues under discussion in order to spare someone a possible feeling of insult.
Robert
Thu, Sep 10, 2015, 11:21am (UTC -6)
Elliott is often the first person on any random board to bash religion, but the religion is usually Bajoran, so I'm not sure that counts :P
Diamond Dave
Sun, Sep 13, 2015, 4:02pm (UTC -6)
Something of a throwback this, with all the feel of a TOS episode (and thus somewhat unsurprising to learn that its genesis was in TOS).

And it's not without its charm - Ardra is deliciously over the top, and some of the dialogue is wonderfully en pointe ("The advocate will refrain from making her opponent disappear", “Mr. La Forge, my reputation as a litigator, not to mention my immortal soul, is in serious jeopardy.”).

But while we get at least a brief mention of Q as a possibility, Picard is on to the flim-flam from the start so any tension is solely in finding out how the con is carried out - which as usual is wrapped up neatly in short order at the end. 1.5 stars.
Dougie
Mon, Sep 14, 2015, 1:08am (UTC -6)
There is a reason for the saying: Never discuss religion or politics in good company.

As a country, we've stopped being good company. Ask me for whom I'll vote and my answer is ... shove off, go suck an egg.

Ask me what I believe ... shove off, go suck an egg.

You kids need to go run with scissors. Or grow some damn respect. Personally I'd remove all your comments.
Dougie
Mon, Sep 14, 2015, 1:13am (UTC -6)
A tremendously funny episode. 3 stars. Keep up the good work, a timeless classic.
Brian
Wed, Sep 23, 2015, 3:54am (UTC -6)
Elliot, I appreciate your polite response and how you seemed willing to consider what I had to say, and to you and all who may have been offended by the severity of my comment I apologize; I may have been carried away, although I stand by my core points (and am glad that you were willing to consider them, Elliot).

As far as the nature of being agnostic I have to say that I see it and have read it defined in a broader nature than what you consider it to be, Elliot; it includes those who have certain inclinations or hunches on theology and metaphysics but not enough conviction to "have faith" as the expression goes. There are also strong and weak agnostics; the strong are more in line with what you said, the "weak" may believe in certain general ideas and reject others but believe that they don't have enough evidence or inherent conviction and belief to declare that anything specific is correct and even on their stronger beliefs admit that they could be wrong on everything, despite having what ill call semi beliefs. And I'll admit your hunch was correct Elliot, I suppose I somewhat downplayed my theological beliefs (I use that term instead of religious beliefs because my beliefs don't fall into any organized religion but have some general things common with them). I am something of a hermetic and I believe in some sort of "divine" true source and the existence of some cosmic/metaphysical reason for being but recognize that that reason and the true nature of other aspects of the divine may be beyond human logic. I also don't like to argue my views because my logical side admits they may be wrong in part or even in general, but I do admit I have a fairly strong bias against atheism (ie I feel that if my beliefs are wrong it is still the least likely possibility that the atheists, as in those who believe in no sort of higher power or existence beyond this life and what current science can explain, are correct). Also in the past I have know "temporary" atheists (who later changed when they encountered better times in life, and less of a need to rebel-not that I am saying all atheists are like this) who in a similar pattern to what I saw you doing liked to rudely and with a deliberate lack of respect for others (and a fondness of having a "shock value" to what they said) interject their views whenever they got a chance to, and seemed to go beyond expressing themselves to bitterly courting controversy and offense on purpose. Two that I particularly remember were raised as Catholics and understandably rebelled in college, but took it too far and with excessive histrionics in my and many others' opinions. I mention this to say to help explain my reaction to you that you reminded me in some ways of them (but not in others ways like general personality). I'm not trying to start an argument again by saying that, just trying to shed some more light on my reaction.
Lorene
Sat, May 14, 2016, 9:43am (UTC -6)
This episode starts out with Data acting the part of Scrooge and trying to understand fear. I wouldn't consider Dicken's ghosts in Christmas Carol religious figures. Insofar as some religious mythology references fear, there is a parallel, but this is hardly a story about religion.

The episode was trivial but cute. The actress who played Ardra carried the show - she was delightful.
Aaron
Sun, Aug 14, 2016, 8:17am (UTC -6)
This is a fun fly-weight episode, about as close to camp as any post S2 episode can be. It does play/feel like a S2 ep, without the horrible stop-motion sfx, thank Ardra.

The one thing I find curious/odd is that toward the beginning that they mention that the planet used to be highly advanced but "turned their back on technology" to eventually create an agrarian society. It would seem unlikely to me that an advanced society would come up with such a myth. It would be like our planet making up something similar a couple hundred years from now (assuming we make it that far). Then again this was originally written in the mid-late 70s...

Also, I'm surprised that nobody mentioned it, but Patrick Stewart has been performing "A Christmas Carol" live off and on since the late 80s in both the UK and the states. My mom sent me a two cassette copy of it years ago and Stewart, of course, is absolutely spellbinding.
David
Tue, Nov 1, 2016, 8:27am (UTC -6)
Jammer, I think you really need to consider re-rating this episode. The majority of people commenting here seem to strongly disagree with your rating, as do I. There is no way that this episode is less than 2 stars, in my view, and comes very close to 3. Ardra is a great, fun, character, with very many similarities to Q. Your negative rating seems to be solely based on the fact that the people on the planet are stupid/ignorant, but you should be looking at the episode it as a whole rather than focusing on just one or two small points.
Rob
Fri, Nov 11, 2016, 9:40am (UTC -6)
The episode is daft and silly, but I like courtroom episodes.

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