Friday, March 24, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 87 (Devil's Due)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

There are a lot of episodes that I remember fondly from when they first aired.  Many have held up over the past 20 years or so while others haven’t.  Devil’s Due was one of those that haven’t, even though I didn’t particularly like it the first time around.

The episode starts with the Enterprise getting a distress call from a science station on a planet called Ventax.  There’s tons of looting and vandalism and whatnot and the station is in danger.  Legend has it that Ardra (their version of the devil) granted the planet 1,000 years of prosperity.  After the thousand years are up, she’ll be back to take possession of the planet.  Guess when the thousand years are due to be up.

The planet’s leader, Acost Jared, is pretty certain that she’s coming back.  The earthquakes and visions that were foretold are coming true.  He’s even seen a vision of her.  Picard tries to reassure Jared that this is all superstition.  Jared is at least able to free the hostages in the science station, but matters aren’t helped when Ardra shows up.

Picard quickly realizes that this can’t really be Ardra.  Yes, there may have been someone a thousand years ago claiming to be Ardra or it may all be a work of fiction.  Either way, it looks like someone’s trying to take advantage of the legend.  So, Picard and Ardra go through mediation with Data as the mediator.  Data objects, as he may be forced to rule against Picard and the planet.  Picard points out that as an android, Data can‘t be intimidated by Ardra.

Since the ship, the crew and an entire planet are at stake, I think we all know that Picard and crew are able to save the day.  They manage to find Ardra’s ship in orbit using a cheap knockoff of a Romulan cloaking device.  She’s been using technology to impersonate the legend, after all.

When I first watched the episode, I didn’t particularly like it.  There was something off about the whole thing.  It was awfully convenient that the Federation happened to have a science station on the planet.  If they hadn’t had an outpost, the planet would have been screwed.  Had it not been a science station, Ardra may not have been found out so easily.

Then there’s the issue of the leader rolling over so easily.  If someone came to Earth claiming to be some deity or god or whatever, I think I’d want a little more than parlor tricks.  Why not have some sort of special code handed down through the generations that only the leader would know?  Yes, she’s powerful, but the Enterprise is there, also.  Why not ask for help?

From what I understand, there was a writers’ strike at the time and the show had to pull a script originally intended for Star Trek: Phase II.  This may explain some of the shortcomings, but it’s still not a great episode.  I wonder what would have happened if the science station hadn’t been there.  How many planets have fallen to a similar fate because no one else was there to notice?

IMDb page

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