Star Trek: The Next Generation: Devil's Due   Rewatch 
January 28, 2021 4:44 AM - Season 4, Episode 13 - Subscribe

Picard dances with the devil in the pale Ventaxian moonlight.

Better to reign in hell than serve in Memory Alpha:

• A very early version of this story was part of Gene Roddenberry's first draft proposal for Star Trek: The Original Series in the early 1960s. The story was later developed into a script for the unproduced series Star Trek: Phase II. Along with "The Child", it was earmarked for possible recycling for Star Trek: The Next Generation, in anticipation of what became a lengthy Screen Writers' Guild strike which delayed production on Season Two. In the Phase II script, set on the planet Neuterra, Kirk defended the interests of the planet's inhabitants. The Ardra entity was a male being called "Komether" and the Enterprise computer served as the judge.

• During the third season of TNG, Michael Piller commissioned Melinda Snodgrass to do a minimal rewrite of the script, replacing the characters with the Next Generation crew. "That didn't work at all," Piller remarked, "and we started talking about how we could change it to better suit our show." Because the writers didn't manage to find a solution of how to write the episode during Season Three, Piller gave it to Philip LaZebnik over the hiatus between that season and the next one. Piller recalled, "He turned it inside out and made it a delightful show. It was too funny, though, and the people felt it was playing it all for laughs. I loved that draft of the script, but not everybody did. It was put into rewrite by approximately 15 people between Phil's script and the final draft, which I took, changing the male devil into a female devil for fun. [I] put back as much of Phil's original script as I could." David Livingston described changing the Ardra character into a woman as "a great fix."

• Candidates for the role of Ardra were Stella Stevens and Adrienne Barbeau. Marta Dubois, who was ultimately cast in the part, had previously tried out for many other TNG roles. "We brought her in for a lot of sessions and never found the right part for her," remembered David Livingston. "She came in and just blew us all away. Like, how do you do better? Let's just start shooting. Where's her wardrobe? We want more of that. I'm always pushing for more humor on this show. I think we get a little too serious sometimes. It's nice to be a little lighter."

• The writing staff were careful to refer to Fek'lhr as being the "guardian of Gre'thor" in order to be consistent with Kang's statement claiming that Klingons have no devil, in TOS: "Day of the Dove".

• Jonathan Frakes commented, "It was like an old Star Trek. It's ironic that it was an old Star Trek story, because it's really a Kirk story. It was so '60s."

• "Devil's Due" was the highest-rated TNG episode since "Encounter at Farpoint". [I presume this is referring to Nielsen ratings -- ed.]


"Could she be another refugee from the Q Continuum?"
"For that matter, could she be Q?
"Q would never bother with contracts."
"Or economic forecasts."
- Riker, Crusher, Picard, and Troi, while trying to discover Ardra's true identity

"I want your heart, your mind, your soul and I want you to give them to me without resistance, of your own free will. So, do you still wish to pursue this most dangerous game?"
"I agree to your terms."
"Oh, Picard, I will enjoy you morning, noon, and night."
- Ardra and Picard

"Just have Mr. Data fetch me in a shuttle and have him bring along a uniform."
"Did you say uniform?"
"Yes, I did!"
- Picard, after being brought down to Ventax II in his sleepwear, and Worf unable to beam him up


Poster's Log:
A true favorite of the OfBrazil household. It's of course a classic Trekkish story hook (VERY classic, as the background above indicates), but I have to disagree with Frakes in that it doesn't feel all that '60s to me. Maybe that's because the story involves the ensemble a little more heavily than TOS tended to IIRC, and/or because Picard is the focus and is so well-established by this point as a character.

You gotta wonder what "Ardra" had in mind for an endgame; suppose she won the trial and took "ownership" of Picard…since she's presumably just a regular sapient biped with some nifty technology, what's she actually gonna do with him? (Besides that, of course.) My guess: put him in stasis and sell him to the Ferengi or something.

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
Despite her remarks as she leaves, the "Ardra" con artist character never reappears, and MA makes no indication one way or the other as to whether the showrunners seriously considered it. (She appears once in noncanon, a novel in the Prey trilogy.) I wish she and Vash had showed up in the same episode, to really push Picard to the edge of exasperation in a way that only Lwaxana can usually achieve. (Or: Vash, "Ardra," AND Lwaxana! …No, that WOULD risk becoming very '60s.)

The "Fashion It So" for this episode, and yes, they do indeed talk about the devil's 'do.

Pointless STO Comparison:
Fek'lhr is part of an entire species, the Fek'lhri, in Star Trek Online. They have some quite funky-looking starships which you evidently have to be better at STO than I am in order to acquire.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (20 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
This one did feel very TOSy to me, in the way that "Allegiance" did; yeah, the Phase II version probably would have had a lot more Kirk in it, but still. The FX are nothing that couldn't have had their 60s equivalent. I also would compare it to TAS' "The Magicks of Megas-Tu" with its own devilish character. I would have liked to have seen the funny version.

One thing that bugged me, though, was a detail that makes it easy to believe that this episode went through multiple hands in the writing process. So, even though "Ardra" isn't really the mythological character, they have an actual physical Contract that gets hauled out. I guess that I missed the line where it's said that it's essentially a forgery by the ancient Ventaxians in order to get them to stop fighting each other. But even that doesn't really make sense:

- How does announcing that you've made a deal with the devil to save the world stop the fighting? I'd think that it would actually spark off a holy war.

- How does doing so get everyone to change their behavior? If the devil is going to bring about peace and prosperity, you don't have to bother with that yourself, right?

- Did none of the ancient forgers think to put a sealed envelope in the Contract to be opened on Ardra's "return" or the end of the millennium, saying, "Just kidding!" and explaining the very long con?

Commenter's Log, supplemental: The Fek'lhri Gok'tad Carrier wasn't that hard to get; it mostly meant just logging in and doing at least one of the Q’s Winter Wonderland carnival-type thingies every day for about a month. The carrier itself isn't much of a much IMO; it's the only carrier-class ship that I've got, and it's got a special "ramming speed" type power, and it does look cool (big flames come out of the back, a la this classic TOS episode adaptation paperback cover), but the Risian weather control ship from the summer event was a lot more useful because of the special Purple Space Tornadoes console. The Winter Wonderland activities were kind of fun in and of themselves, especially the one featuring The Kramp’Ihri, a cross between Krampus and a Fek'Ihri; he'd bellow out, "Today is a good day... to cry!" You could pelt him with snowballs or, once you earned sufficient event currency, special "winter" weapons; I had something that was like a cross between a Terminator 2-type minigun and a snowblower. (Incidentally, speaking of special events and ship prizes, there's something going on for the next month or so that can get you a hybrid Klingon/Romulan ship that looks pretty sweet.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:57 AM on January 28


I love this episode because the classic TOS premise offers such a great chance to contrast the two captains.

Sexy lady alien with godlike powers + ancient binding contract = Fate of an entire civilization?

Kirk is in her bed by Act II and the episode is all about his struggle to escape her charms.

Picard: "What? There's a thousand-year-old legal document? Fetch me my reading glasses at once!"

It's the antithesis of conventionally exciting television, but it's true to Picard's character and it reinforces TNG's celebration of deeply nerdy competence. That's something I have come to crave as an adult.
posted by DeWalt_Russ at 7:42 AM on January 28 [13 favorites]


I love it when TNG pulls off great drama with essentially zero action. This episode in particular is very well paced and pretty much flies by despite pretty much being a bunch of talking and a couple of party tricks. Many of the all drama no action episodes drag are not nearly as tight.

I had forgotten how good this one is. It's definitely not one I normally pick for a TNG fix (it's entirely possible that I only ever saw it on the first run, which I did enjoy; unlike other episodes I have no memory of previously rewatching it), but I realize now that has been an ongoing mistake.
posted by wierdo at 8:41 AM on January 28 [2 favorites]


It's weird how this started out as a TOS script but still feels like one of the most TNGiest episodes imaginable. I guess it really is just one of the most Star Trek-y episodes. Just cleverness and teamwork winning the day against a seemingly insurmountable problem. That's Star Trek to me.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 12:24 PM on January 28 [2 favorites]


I don't know why I felt a sense of dread upon the idea of rewatching this; I thought it was going to be a cringefest for some reason and recalled that it was one I tended to avoid watching. But it's delightful! I must have somehow filed this away as a lesser "filling out the season" boring episode when it's the exact opposite. Marta Dubois is having so much fun! It's totally infectious and I for one am here for her objectifying Picard--it might not be right, but it's true. I love how when he's suddenly on the planet in his little bootie short jammies, he refuses to give in to indignity and just rolls with it.

I also was convinced when Picard and Data were plotting about undoing her con in his ready room that Data would turn out to be Ardra in disguise, so I guess I realllly haven't rewatched this one in a very long time. It's a complete bummer that they never brought her back--what a wasted opportunity!
posted by kitten kaboodle at 1:56 PM on January 28 [5 favorites]


I can’t say I have revisited this recently, but I remember a much younger me opining on the GEnie Star Trek RT back when this first aired that this episode was not very “Trek-like”, and, wow, did I ever get flamed for days after that.
posted by hijinx at 7:00 PM on January 28 [2 favorites]


This one is interesting. Jared the Ventaxian leader's costume is very TOS. The scenes where the senior staff meet Ardra are very interesting, the way they all look at her. The shot where Ardra is interacting with Picard while Crusher is in the background is excellent; Gates' expression as her eyes shift back and forth is a winner.

Always fun to see series regulars acting outside their usual roles, in this case Ardra as Troi.
posted by Fukiyama at 7:13 PM on January 28


This is an interesting Picard episode. As mentioned above by DeWalt_Russ, Kirk would have certainly bedded "Ardra" where Picard isn't interested. But what about S1 PIcard, when the good Captain was coming across old flames left and right? I enjoy "Devil's Due" because it, maybe accidentally, feels like a last grasp at Picard's youthful sexuality.
posted by Stuka at 8:12 PM on January 28


Cards of the episode from the Star Trek CCG:

Premiere featured The Devil, which definitely has a bit of that early 'make this look like Magic the Gathering' type of feel to it. Treaty cards allowed your Federation, Klingon, Romulan, etc. cards to mix and work together, The Devil would stop them. There's also Fek'lhr, one of two Klingon holograms in the whole run. Treacherous, Honorable, 1 Cunning and 15 Strength. It's silly, it's not that useful, but what a flavorful card.

Second Edition made Acost Jared a totally average 1-cost non-aligned skill filler. Presumably because none of the Gatherers look like they should be Law experts. Flim-Flam Artist could work as a stopper, but Programming's usually not hard to come by. The over-powered, under-printed Necessary Evil set featured A Devil Scorned. It has much harder requirements, but a lesser penalty compared to FFA. A decent way stop one of the opponent's Leadership, it appeared in a respectable number of decks.
posted by StarkRoads at 10:35 PM on January 28 [1 favorite]


This one is fun but I have the same problem with it that I have with all “law and order: starfleet” episodes: the so-called legal arguments are utterly fucking nonsensical.

Early on they “establish” that this person is the Ardra of legend because she can make the same kinds of things happen that Ardra could. But Picard has MET MULTIPLE BEINGS who could do the EXACT SAME THINGS. Ardra could be a Q. She could be John de Lancie Q! She could be any one of the huge number of beings with godlike powers we know to exist. Her legal argument - “I superficially appear to have similar abilities so I’m totally her, I REST MY CASE” - has absolutely no valid basis whatsoever, and the fact that Picard just totally accepts it, decides she REALLY IS ARDRA, and starts looking for loopholes rather than saying “look, your argument is facile” really bothers me. If he did, the rest of the plot could still proceed the same way since she seems to have them trapped there.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:42 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]


She could be any one of the huge number of beings with godlike powers we know to exist. Her legal argument - “I superficially appear to have similar abilities so I’m totally her, I REST MY CASE” - has absolutely no valid basis whatsoever, and the fact that Picard just totally accepts it, decides she REALLY IS ARDRA, and starts looking for loopholes rather than saying “look, your argument is facile” really bothers me.

I don't think Picard ever accepts that she really is Ardra. Data is clear, though, that *by the legal standards of the planet they're on*, her actions are sufficient to establish her identity as Ardra.
ARDRA: Jared. In the contract, does it specify how you would know me when I return?
JARED: Yes by the date.
ARDRA: Anything else?
JARED: by the shaking of the cities, and by the visions.
ARDRA: And all of these occurred on schedule?
JARED: Yes.
ARDRA: Thank you. Your honour, I submit that I have established my identity as stated by the contract.
DATA: Captain Picard, my interpretation of Ventaxian law suggests under these circumstances, this is acceptable. Your objection is overruled.
posted by hanov3r at 9:01 AM on January 29 [3 favorites]


I think when I was younger I really liked this as a wish-fulfillment version of earnest-atheist me arguing with creationists, where Picard gets to definitively win and his audience recognizes that. Now I just want to shout at Picard "Do not engage!" before he starts arguing with any of them. And these days, I also feel like after the Enterprise leaves orbit, a revanchist pro-Ardra faction will probably take over and install the putative Ardra as dictator.

Also, why the hell do they refer to themselves as the people of Ventax-II? We don't all ourselves Sol-3'ers, although maybe I will start now.
posted by skewed at 9:30 AM on January 29 [4 favorites]


Sol-triplings lol
posted by rocketman at 9:36 AM on January 29


It bugs me how often planets are called "Sigma Iota 5" when that's definitely a Starfleet designation and oftentimes there's an indigenous population or at least a colony there. Nobody is going to call their home "Sigma Iota 5" and call themselves "Sigma-Iotians" or whatever.

Likewise, "the Sheliak Corporate" is a cool as hell name for a species, but Sheliak is the human name for an actual star. There's zero chance the Sheliak actually call themselves that. Maybe it's just the same thing as "Germany/Deutschland" or "Japan/日本" but it still seems awfully colonialist to insist on calling other people by a name you assign to them.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 1:09 PM on January 29 [1 favorite]


It bugs me how often planets are called "Sigma Iota 5" when that's definitely a Starfleet designation and oftentimes there's an indigenous population or at least a colony there. Nobody is going to call their home "Sigma Iota 5" and call themselves "Sigma-Iotians" or whatever.

Right? Like, what does Beta-Zed stand for? "Oh, yeah, it used to be short of Bunited Zations, but, just like your KFC, AARP, and BP of Earth, it no longer actually stands for anything."
posted by pykrete jungle at 2:07 PM on January 29 [2 favorites]


Sol-triplings lol

Trippin' with the Sol-Trips, my froods. All about that Sol.
posted by pykrete jungle at 2:09 PM on January 29 [1 favorite]


All aboard... the SOL TREYYYN!!!
posted by Huffy Puffy at 2:29 PM on January 29 [3 favorites]


This is one of my favorites. Ardra is fun, Picard gets to upstage her, plus we get to learn that the real Ardra was inside of us all along and/or the friends we made along the way.

And what about Ardra's ship? They badmouth the cloaking device, but it manages to evade the sensors of Starfleet's flagship, not to mention a transporter that can apparently work through shields along with a transporter jammer of its own.

And for the atheist in me, a bit of an antidote to that TOS episode where they run into Apollo and Kirk explains that they get along fine with just the one God.

The concept of this episode reminds me a bit of something I had heard regarding Haitian independence, though it seems that interpretation of events is much more common among American evangelicals than with actual Haitians.
posted by ckape at 10:10 PM on February 2


I don't think Picard ever accepts that she really is Ardra. Data is clear, though, that *by the legal standards of the planet they're on*, her actions are sufficient to establish her identity as Ardra.

Yeah, and that's where I go, so go ahead Picard, do the exact same things and claim she's here as a claim-jumper.

And yeah, 100% that a revanchist pro-Ardra faction invited her back because what the hell, why not, it pisses off the anti-Ardra faction.
posted by Kyol at 7:54 AM on February 11 [2 favorites]


Oh and while it was determined that she's basically just another sentient biped, I totally don't rule out that she's an unusually long-lived one, so it's entirely possible that she set up the initial contract figuring a thousand years is as but a blink of the eye to her race.

The rest of Jack's points are pretty much spot on, though. Even, what, be good or I'll find you in abeyance and you won't like me when I'm mad *rumble rumble* probably wouldn't change a society.
posted by Kyol at 12:53 PM on February 11


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