Star Trek: The Next Generation: Justice   Rewatch 
April 27, 2020 7:16 AM - Season 1, Episode 8 - Subscribe

Wesley's junior sports blooper becomes a Prime Directive kerfuffle, pitting Picard against the Planet of the Jogging WASPs and (naturally) their all-powerful god.

But you don't understand; we must obey the laws of Memory Alpha:

- This was the first script to be commissioned for the series after the pilot episode "Encounter at Farpoint" (then known as "Meeting at Farpoint") was written. Due to the extensive rewrites that the story went through however, it ended up being the eighth episode to be filmed.

- Writer John D.F. Black used his pseudonym "Ralph Willis" in the credits, because the televised episode bears little resemblance to his original first draft script.

- The Edo exteriors were filmed at the Tillman Water Reclamation Plant in north Los Angeles, and the section with Wesley's fall at the Huntington Library in Pasadena. The Tillman Plant was used to represent Starfleet Academy and Starfleet Headquarters in later Star Trek episodes.

- Josh Clark, who later went on to play Joe Carey in Star Trek: Voyager, appears here as an unnamed tactical officer. Given the time frames of TNG and VOY, it is possible that this unnamed officer is Carey, assuming a later transfer to Engineering division and departure from the Enterprise-D prior to 2371.

- The Edo God model was later reused as Lysian Central Command in TNG: "Conundrum".

- This episode marks the first time the Captain is believed to be a god by a native inhabitant of a pre-warp civilization. The only other time is Nuria from "Who Watches The Watchers".

- The Prime Directive is violated by Captain Picard by interfering in the Edo's judicial system. This was referenced by Lieutenant Commander Dexter Remmick later in season one in "Coming of Age".

- Additionally, pre-warp civilizations are normally off-limits, yet Picard states in the opening that they discovered the planet Edo only just now. It is never explained on what basis they are permitted to contact the planet to begin with. Later episodes such as "Who Watches The Watchers" and "First Contact" explain the prohibition on contact with primitive civilizations unequivocally.

"Nice planet."
- Worf

"Let's hope it is not too good to be true."
- Picard, on Rubicun III

"We'd better find Wesley."
- Worf, when Liator and Rivan explain the nature of their laws

Poster's Log:
The Fifty-Year Mission suggests that the vicious internal politics surrounding this episode are a large part of the departure of John D. F. Black from Star Trek. OTOH, Wil Wheaton has said that Black disliked him, and that this resulted in Wesley's dopey line "We're from Starfleet. We don't lie."

It's profoundly strange that Geordi straight-up says that these aliens are orgiastic as hell, and then Picard just goes, "Hey, let's send Wesley down," and Beverly is all grinning. I meannnnn.

It's maybe even more strange that Beverly feels the need to explain to Picard that this whole "son on Alien Death Row" business is really affecting her. A newcomer to all of Star Trek might be compelled to conclude, on the basis of this episode alone, that Picard is actually secretly not a Human. (Maybe that transporter-based solution in the last episode didn't actually work.)

Anyway, this is a tough one to sit through, chiefly because of its general TNG-Season-One-ness and warmed-over-TOS-ness (but I repeat myself). I'm actually shocked that the early everything's-fine scenes among the Edo didn't focus entirely, and repulsively, on Yar. Of course, that said, given what the plot of the episode eventually ends up being, there's no reason at all why this planet needed to be this horny, except of course for horny old men being in charge of the show. …Horny old white men, too, which explains the Edo's Eloiesque homogeneity.

Between that and the story here being so tortured and full of holes, particularly toward the end, it's probably best to dismiss this episode as an early draft of the excellent "Who Watches the Watchers." It's like, they approached a genuine thought-provoking philosophical problem, but then steered away from it awkwarldy at the last minute.

Memory Alpha does not seem to know who did the voice of the Edo God, and I thought for a second it could have been Paul Frees because he sounds just like the famous Haunted Mansion narration, but it seems Frees died less than a year before they started production on this episode, so, probably not.

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
"Greatest Generation" episode link.

There are still eighteen first season episodes left. But! I really do think some of them are an improvement. Especially the season-ender, which I genuinely like.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (30 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
"Encounter at Farpoint" (then known as "Meeting at Farpoint")

Now I'm disappointed they didn't call it "Appointment at Farpoint".
posted by Servo5678 at 7:21 AM on April 27, 2020 [5 favorites]

Over the course of the whole show I think Wesley gets kind of a bum rap, but jeezum crow 3 Wesley-ish episodes in the first 8? What were they _thinking_?

(I know, I know, that he's a first-class member of the cast etc & so forth, but still. yeesh.)
posted by Kyol at 11:25 AM on April 27, 2020

This episode is. SO. Farking. Bad. It's just- the planet of the half-naked white-ass crackers? With terrible wigs? Picard being a fucking robot? Just a terrible usage of the Prime Directive which even in other interpretations NEVER is used like this- of COURSE you don't let someone execute a child for something minor- Thats... not how any of this works! The completely unwarranted tension- The implications of orgys- well, it is Riker... that scans. It's like 3 bad episodes thrown together badly. The podcast on this one is very good- largely because the episode is so bad.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 12:06 PM on April 27, 2020 [3 favorites]

This is another one of those episodes that gave me a bad impression of S1 overall; it starts out as the crew's Erotic Adventures on Sexulon Six and turns into a combo of the Too-Good-To-Be-True Town With a Dirty Little Secret and TOS' "The Apple", complete with ultra-Caucazoid natives (and, boy, is that ever a bad look after "Code of Honor"). There's only one really honest moment in the whole episode, when Yar says, "And just who tells visitors about these rules?" She doesn't get an answer, although later one of the cops says primly that ignorance of the law is no excuse. The Edo go from being eager-to-please DTF types who are so mellow that a first-time watcher of this episode could be excused for wondering when the Morlocks would come out and start picking a few of them out for dinner, to these fatuous well-everybody-knows-the-law fools.

And, of course, the planet's version of Vaal doesn't intercept the ship until they've already visited the surface more than once--good job there, eye in the sky. But there's more than a little inconsistency and things that don't really make sense in this episode. The places where the death-penalty-for-everything are supposed to be chosen at random and a secret... but they're also marked off with the white barrier... but then the one kid throws the ball directly at one. (Good job, kid!) There's a weird scene between Picard and Data where Data's notional point on the autism spectrum gets cranked way over. Beverly Crusher has to make a point of pointing out that she'd really like it if her son wasn't executed. The main DTF Edo guy is suddenly like "well, no one asked you to come here."

I will say that there are a few very modest good points to this episode: the orbital guardian isn't taken out by a few phaser blasts as Vaal was; Wesley is a lot more like a kid in this episode than he has been so far, and when he asks if his rescue could be risking the lives of the entire crew and Picard responds "You're not involved in this decision, boy" (hell of a way to speak to your new acting ensign, Captain), Wesley says that actually he is. And there's nothing wrong with doing a commentary on zero tolerance policies. It just needs to be handled with a lot more care than this episode did.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:26 PM on April 27, 2020 [4 favorites]

On review, COB already made a couple of my points. Sorry, still had to get my rant on.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:30 PM on April 27, 2020

What’s that, another godlike entity? The fourth this season, in only 8 episodes? That’s a deus rating of 50 percent! Space is half god.

I’m kinda with Edoguy when he was like “Oh, so we’re primitive are we? You’re so advanced, why don’t you just take you criminal kid and fuck your condescending asses right off of our planet?” And Picard’s like “No, we don’t do that.” Then he does that.
posted by rodlymight at 6:04 PM on April 27, 2020 [9 favorites]

While this episode touches on the banality of "lawful good," I think it could have also explored a more Eloi-equse the consequences of having no strife - nor anything to strive for.

When Troi was talking about how everyone's minds are so open, the sequitur in my head was... that their brains fell out.

The shooting location is pretty amazing, but too highly groomed, like the Edo God takes care of their landscaping for them too. I wonder if it takes care of their manscaping as well?
posted by porpoise at 6:09 PM on April 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

a ha ha oh man THIS episode, GAWD

On initial broadcast we COULD NOT BELIEVE the squick at the top of the episode. We proceeded to laugh incredulously to the point I recall little of the plot.

What a mishmash of reheated TOS and terrifying Peak Genespermia!
posted by mwhybark at 7:11 PM on April 27, 2020 [2 favorites]

Let’s see... “The Apple,” “Return of the Archons”, “The Cloud Minders”, hell, LOGAN’S RUN!

“Who Mourns for Adonais”, TAS “How Sharper Than a Serpent’s Tooth” (a fave of mine from TAS), “Assignment: Earth”...

Hell, I’ve probably missed some!
posted by mwhybark at 7:16 PM on April 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

Ha! Philip José Farmer’s Riverworld books!
posted by mwhybark at 7:17 PM on April 27, 2020

ha ha ha Prime Directive much there, J-L? Oh man.
posted by mwhybark at 7:18 PM on April 27, 2020

“Data, don’t babble!”

Also I think this might be the first appearance of a baseball-like sport in Trek? Anything in pre-TNG?
posted by mwhybark at 7:20 PM on April 27, 2020

Oh, and farking “Shore Leave,” of course. I was presumably distracted by the acres of flessssh.
posted by mwhybark at 7:23 PM on April 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

Heh, I didn't even think about Logan's Run, but that's also a great example. Sexytimes until you turn thirty (twenty-one in the book; the authors apparently thought that the baby boom would just keep boomin' along until most people were under 21), then the crystal in your palm turns black and you dieeeeeeeeee. Funny how you don't really see any old or even middle-aged Edo. Also, they remind me a bit of the pah-lezh-oore people from this early VOY episode; a bit less sophisticated, but likewise so seemingly focused on their funtimes that they ultimately come across as just kind of jerks. (That's kind of a recurrent sin in Trek, if your planet has other priorities than building starships or whatever, with the exception of Risa, which of course is seen more as a shore leave planet.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:18 PM on April 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

also, the godlike entity appears like a sportsball and takes out Data, while Weslely chases a sportsball (and a “bat” about yea long and so big around) and gets taken out. Let that be a lesson to you provisonal ensigns and androids out there.
posted by mwhybark at 11:49 PM on April 27, 2020

do not taunt omnipotent sports ball?
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:07 AM on April 28, 2020 [6 favorites]

Wil Wheaton has said that Black disliked him, and that this resulted in Wesley's dopey line "We're from Starfleet. We don't lie."

Well it worked for me. The line does stand out in my memory as a key moment I started to hate Wesley. Is it the same for everyone?

Die, die, die!
posted by biffa at 2:52 PM on April 28, 2020

I tend not to feel the requisite quantity of antipathy towards Wesley, but the fact he causes careless damage to the garden and yet, instead of saying ‘oh fuck guys, I’m so sorry!’ keeps reassuring everyone that no really he’s fine is pretty fucking annoying.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 5:31 PM on April 28, 2020 [6 favorites]

Stay tuned for “The Battle,” Ferengi episode NUMBAHHH TWOOOO

DAIMON BOK, the tiny terror of Ferengenar VERSUS the myth, the legend, the chromiest domiest CAPTAIN JEAN LUC PICARD of the USS ENT AH PRIZE


cortex, please write a song
posted by mwhybark at 7:31 PM on April 28, 2020 [2 favorites]

I've already commented on the Wesley Problem, but so many other aspects of early S1 were problematic that I couldn't hate on him personally. And, at least in parts of this episode, we've seen that Wheaton knew how to act like a kid, and only needed people who knew what real kids were like (as opposed to being the wish fulfillment character for certain executive producers) to write decent lines and scenes for him.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:31 PM on April 28, 2020 [4 favorites]

posted by mwhybark at 7:32 PM on April 28, 2020

I've only seen this once, when it first broadcast and I will not, cannot watch it again. I admit I'm a little fascinated from a "how does human memory" work standpoint because also, to this day, I remember so much of it whereas other great episodes not so much.
posted by juiceCake at 9:39 PM on April 28, 2020

posted by mwhybark at 2:03 AM on April 29, 2020

I was definitely a member of the 'I Hate Wesley' club back during the original run. I think the only time I actually liked the character was in his final episode -- the most sure-fire way for a show to get me to like a character is to make them suffer and trigger my 'oh, poor woobie' response. I think one of the big mistakes TNG made was they kept trying to get people to like Wesley by having him save the ship and be boy genius, which just made most of us hate him more.

Watching him now, with the knowledge of all the stories Wheaton has told about his experiences with Trek at the time and over the years, I just feel a sort of sad tenderness for the character, that sort of cringe when you look back at your dorky childhood and just want to give child-you a hug.
posted by oh yeah! at 4:26 AM on April 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

FWIW I didn't even know hating Wesley was a thing until I got on the internet years after TNG was over. He certainly wasn't my favorite character but I held no Ill will for him.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 5:22 AM on April 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

The problem with Wesley is the weird shoehorning of him into scripts and the general “only Westley can, say, get the atmospheric controls back on!” and the audience is like “why don’t you have a crew of people who are trained to do that specifically? Does Starfleet run on teen interns?” It’s so incongruous that it’s hard to not get irritated when he shows up “what exceptionally unlikely thing will happen now?” On top of that, since Yar, Worf, and La Forge are desperately underused, the screen time spent bugging up Westley hamhandedly is... well, not great.

This episode is another weirdly inert one. I can’t escape the sense that Kirk ET al would have solved this as a B plot in about 10 minutes, while the NG crew all kind of stand around and look solemn while the Prime Directive gets wildly misapplied (didn’t they already break it by beaming down and saying “we’re from Space!”?). Plus, Westley gets sent off with some very adult-looking “children.”
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:25 AM on April 29, 2020

Yeah, it's really sort of these early episodes where he's just a child prodigy in the foreground that kind of get me - once he enlists and gets his tricolor sweater and is reasonably engaged in the ship's activities, it's less annoying.

Speaking of child prodigies, the wife and I binged SeaQuest DSV the other year, and Jonathan Brandis's Lucas _could_ have been just as annoying as early Wesley, but I wonder if they took the backlash to heart when writing his character, because they never quite seemed to fall into the same traps.
posted by Kyol at 8:16 AM on April 29, 2020 [3 favorites]

Fortunately not to much if any Wesley hatred on MeFi, at least that I have seen. Actors do their best with what they are given and very few can shine beyond very poor writing, particularly if they are young. His character improved as much as it could as the writing and production did. I recall Ted Danson saying much the same about Fargo season 2 and sure enough, every actor in that series did brilliantly.
posted by juiceCake at 5:33 PM on April 29, 2020

Watching this episode some 30+ years after it was made, the aggressive heterosexuality of the Edo seems out of place with their overall vibe.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 11:47 PM on July 30, 2021

Geordi: "They make love at the drop of a hat."

Tasha: "ANY ... hat."

Uh, what? I mean, I get what she's trying to say, but what the hell kind of innuendo is Yar going for with "hat"?
posted by Saxon Kane at 7:03 PM on October 11, 2021

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