Jammer's Review

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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30 comments on this review

Dude - Fri, Mar 7, 2008 - 8:37pm (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
@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 (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
"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 (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
@ 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 (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
@ 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 (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
"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 (USA Central)
@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 (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
Forgive my typos. This is why writing reviews (or anything else) on a cell phone stinks.

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