Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987): S01E08 – Justice


Introduction

“Justice” is the eighth episode of the first season of the American science fiction television series Star Trek: The Next Generation. The episode first aired in broadcast syndication on 09 November 1987.

Directed by James L. Conway, writer John D. F. Black originally pitched the story, but after Worley Thorne and Gene Roddenberry modified it, Thorne wrote the script. Because of the changes to the story, Black chose to receive his credit under the pseudonym Ralph Wills.

Set in the 24th century, the series follows the adventures of the Starfleet crew of the Federation starship Enterprise-D. In this episode, Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton) is sentenced to death after inadvertently breaking the law on an alien planet. Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) must deal with the powerful and mysterious protector of the planet while deliberating whether to violate the Prime Directive to save Wesley’s life.

This was the first episode of The Next Generation to feature multiple shots filmed on location, with scenes filmed in Van Nuys, Los Angeles, and the Huntington Library in Pasadena, California. “Justice” was the second most viewed episode of the first season, with 12.7 million viewers. The episode received a mostly negative response, with critics pointing to issues with the quality of the acting and the predictability of the plot.

Outline

The USS Enterprise arrives for shore leave at the paradisiacal, newly discovered planet of Rubicun III. A small advance party from the ship are sent down to meet with the Edo, the native people of the planet. Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) sends Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton) as part of the away team to evaluate the planet on behalf of the young people on board the Enterprise.

Upon their arrival, they are greeted by Rivan (Brenda Bakke) and Liator (Jay Louden) in a very comfortable way, triggering Lt. Worf (Michael Dorn) to determine it a “nice planet”, while Wesley leaves the adults to socialise with native teenagers. On the Enterprise, Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner) reports something unusual orbiting the planet, but nothing appears on the viewscreen. He sends out a communications signal which reveals another vessel in orbit. A small ball of light enters the bridge and communicates with Picard in a booming voice, warning him not to interfere with the Edo, calling them his “children”. The intruder then incapacitates Data.

On Rubicun III, the Edo explain to Lt. Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby) and Worf that capital punishment is used to enforce their laws. The away team rush to warn Wesley, only to discover he has accidentally broken a greenhouse while playing catch with the Edo youths. An Edo mediator, or policeman, attempts to give Wesley a lethal injection for this infraction of the law, but Yar and Worf draw their phasers while taking some Edo hostage legally.

On the ship, the sphere leaves Data’s body and departs. Picard, upon hearing of the situation with Wesley, transports to the surface. He meets with representatives of the Edo in a council chamber and explains that Earth no longer practices capital punishment. Some Edo interpret this stance as an attempt by the Federation to push their superiority and suggest that Picard should mount a rescue effort for the boy. He says he cannot, quoting the Prime Directive.

Picard asks about the mysterious vessel in orbit and discovers that the Edo worship it as a god. He returns to his ship with Rivan (an Edo) and Counsellor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis). Rivan sees the strange ship from orbit and confirms it is the Edo’s god. She is transported back to the surface when the ship threatens the Enterprise for taking her away from the planet, and that the captain and the rest of the ship must now share Wesley’s fate according to the Edo code.

Data reveals that, while he was in communication with the entity, it will protect the Edo as if they were its children. After considering their options, Picard returns to the planet’s surface and announces that he is willing to risk the wrath of the entity. He orders the transportation of Wesley to the Enterprise, but the entity disables the transporters and threatens to destroy the rest of the ship once again. Picard has had enough, and pleads with the Edo god that laws must allow for exceptions to ensure justice, and after this statement the transporters go back online and allows the away team to return.

Upon leaving the planet, Picard communicates with the entity to inform it that they are leaving and that they will remove recently placed colonists at a nearby star system under the entity’s claimed jurisdiction, if the entity expresses so. However, the final offer was refused as the entity informs Picard to steer clear of the Edo before disappearing. Picard regrets they did not communicate more, and the Enterprise departs.

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Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s): James L. Conway.
  • Writer(s): Worley Thorne and Ralph Wills.
  • Release Date: 09 November 1987.
  • Running Time: 50 minutes.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

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