The Great Star Trek TNG Rewatch: Justice

When Wesley breaks the law on an alien planet and is sentenced to death, Captain Picard says he can’t interfere with the affairs of other worlds, and has no choice but to let him die.

Sorry to get your hopes up, but I couldn’t help it. Let’s start over.

Having helped found a colony on a nearby world, the Enterprise crew decide to stop for shore leave on the world of the Edo, a relaxed and sexually open world where enjoyment is the order of the day. Unfortunately, as they later discover, any crime committed in a “punishment zone” merits the death penalty – too late to stop Wesley from tripping over and falling into some flower beds. Now Wesley faces the death sentence, unless Picard can convince the advanced alien that acts as the Edo god to let them go.

All idyllic worlds in Star Trek come with a price, and in this one it’s that the punishment doesn’t fit the crime – it’s one size fits all. In fact, if you aren’t in a punishment zone, you could commit a crime and get away with it – and no one on the planet’s surface knows where the zone will be each day, so, depending on coverage, the odds may be in your favour. It seems to work for the simplistic Edo, but I can imagine a more cunning race having people who would just manipulate others into risking their lives to commit crimes on the manipulator’s behalf.

It’s a slightly interesting look at an alternative crime system, but not one that’s especially engaging or thought-provoking – after all, we know that Wesley will be fine at the end anyway. And besides, the denouement is, for want a better word, pretty lame; its only real purpose is to demonstrate the difference between TOS and TNG. An advanced alien controlling a world of simplistic people? Kirk wouldn’t have let that stand for a minute! He would have been all up in that alien (or computer’s) face, with impassioned speeches about stagnant societies and letting worlds develop and grow on their own!

Bits and pieces

  • The Edo apparently have sex at the drop of a hat – “any hat”, in fact. It’s clear that Yar got some loving down on the planet, and Riker probably did too. I hope they used protection. Then again, do STDs even exist in the 24th century? Were they cured before or after mental illness was cured in the 23rd century? Although, as we know, that one didn’t stick.
  • All of the Edo are blonde-haired, blue-eyed, Aryan humanoids.
  • When Wesley falls through the glass, he repeatedly says “it’s okay, I’m fine” before even thinking to apologise for breaking the greenhouse. Maybe it’s a British thing, but I’m pretty sure I’d have been apologising profusely even whilst bleeding everywhere and picking shards of glass out of my skin. I’d then be apologising for getting blood everywhere.
  • Why bother with punishment zones at all? Why not just have a flat out death penalty for any crime anywhere? Maybe that was just a step too far.

Summary – Justice: My viewing companion offers “You see, if Wes hadn’t been such a prude, he could have been getting his rocks off”.

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