The Great Star Trek TNG Rewatch: Devil’s Due

When the Enterprise responds to a distress signal from a science station on Ventax II, they discover a peaceful culture in fear of the return of their mythological devil. A thousand years ago, the deity known as Ardra offered them a millennium of peace, in exchange for their enslavement on their return. Now, a being claiming to be Ardra has indeed returned, and she wants not just the lives of the Ventaxians, but the Enterprise as well.

I feel bad for critiquing Data’s Day and The Wounded now, because actually, they aren’t that bad – they just didn’t quite live up to the awesomeness of early season four. But now we’re really hitting some of the weaker stuff, starting with an episode which recalls the days of TOS, when powerful aliens were always being dicks to the Enterprise crew. Picard’s job is, of course, to defeat Ardra with the powers of logic and sneakiness, and naturally, he snatches victory from the jaws of defeat. We sure saw that one coming.

Points of note

  • Since it’s already been stated that the Klingons have no devil, we should not consider Fek’lhr to be their equivalent of Lucifer. As he’s a guardian of an afterlife for dishonoured warriors, we should perhaps think of him more as a humanoid Cerberus.
  • Even though the Ventaxians seem so simple and primitive that open contact with them feels like it must be violating the Prime Directive, they did once have a technologically advanced civilisation, so it’s probably fine.
  • When Ardra tries to seduce Picard, she would have done better to pretend to be Beverly than Troi.
  • The Enterprise is infamous for abiding by local law whenever they visit a world, so if there hadn’t been a legal loophole, would they have just submitted to Ardra’s demands? The line must be drawn here!
  • Picard considers himself an experienced litigator – once again, are there no on-board lawyers?

The many roles of a starship captain

It’s not just about sitting in the captain’s chair and getting your shirt ripped. Since Kirk’s day, starship captains have to become veritable polymaths, as very few members of their crew exhibit the kind of competence that lets them appear onscreen every week.

  • Military strategy and tactics: a must given how often the Federation goes to war.
  • Science: not essential, but highly desirable. Both Picard and Janeway were keen scientists.
  • Oration: a well-timed speech from a Starfleet captain can be the difference between war and peace.
  • Mediation: All captains should be such good negotiators that they can not only hammer out treaties on the spot, but they will be asked to participate in specific talks held many light-years away.
  • Litigation: Lawyers are few and far between in Starfleet, so captains should expect to act as counsel at any time. They must also quickly learn and adapt to the legal systems of whatever planet they are visiting.
  • Physical combat skills: always useful on away missions. Even Commander Riker can’t keep his captain off the front lines.

Summary – Devil’s Due: With the right technology, even non-powerful aliens can be dicks towards the Enterprise crew.

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