Written by Worley Thorne, Ralph Wills, and Tracy Torme
Directed by James L. Conway
A good Star Trek episode, in my opinion, is one that makes you think; one that makes you ask questions; while at the same time entertaining you. Sure, that’s a higher standard than we’ve come to expect from most other television programs, but I have always felt that Star Trek usually rose to that higher standard.
Enter the first season episode of The Next Generation titled Justice. In this episode, there are two important questions that stop and make us think. One is about the punishment fitting the crime. The other is about whether one society has the right to impose its values on another when the handling of a situation varies so greatly.
Having just helped settle a new colony on a planet in a distant solar system, the crew of the Enterprise happens upon the planet Rubicun III. At first, the place seems to be an ideal location for a little bit of rest and relaxation for the crew. Things soon take a much different turn, however, when Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton) accidentally crashes through some new plantings. All crime on Rubicun III is given the same punishment: death. Wesley’s accident is considered to be a crime.
Does the punishment fit the crime? In this case, it would surely seem not. Yet as Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) is talking about Earth’s past, I am thinking of how many people are given 20 years on the “three strikes an you’re out” drug charges for possessing a small amount of illegal substances while murdered and rapists oftentimes see less than that.
Picard then is faced with deciding whether or not to break the Federation’s own Prime Directive pledging non-interference with other cultures. Saving Wesley from death will certainly do that, yet he is also obliged to protect his crew and their families.
Add to this a ship orbiting the planet near the Enterprise which appears to be able to occupy multiple dimensions at a time. The people of Rubicun III look at this caretaker ship as their “God”.
All of this sounds like a wonderful set up for a great show. So what went wrong?
The Edo – the people of Rubicun III – are humans just like us, except they seem to come from Hitler’s concept of a “master race”. Every single one of them is blonde, blue-eyed, and beautiful. All women are perfect shapes and all men have tremendous muscles. Their culture is the 60’s freelove movement run amok – in the beginning they are described as “making love at the drop of a hat”. They run everywhere (which looks dumb most of the time, to me) and wear skimpy clothing which barely covers them. More believable would be that they wear no clothes all the time, but I guess that wouldn’t make it past the censors.
The Edo seem to have no concept of personal space. We are treated to scenes of well-muscled men being oiled down by multiple females. Picard often describes them as “child-like” because of their innocence. Yet I cannot believe that with all of this “love” being spread around, they don’t have a problem with people getting angry over who is sleeping with who. Of course, there is the death sentence hanging over them, but considering how many people kill their wives/husbands/lovers and then turn the gun on themselves, I’d think this would be a bigger problem.
Their race did not ring true to me, and I felt uncomfortable watching them. I kept wondering if the “God-ship” would suddenly turn out to be manned by people in Nazi uniforms – as Kirk found on a planet in one of the original Star Trek series episodes.
I don’t know who to place the blame on here – the writers or director for running amok with the Edo culture, but it tears down what would otherwise have been a great episode.
Maybe, now that CBS All-Access allows the F-bomb to be dropped on Star Trek: Discovery, some writer will revisit a less “Aryan-race” version of Rubicon III (named after a famous river in Italy) with naked people (shown tastefully, of course).
And yeah, why DID the Edo jog everywhere? What’s up with that?
It was so ridiculous. There was so much so wrong with this episode. The idea of having to live by the Prime Directive in a situation when the punishment did not fit the crime is intriguing, but the execution was horrible.
Wil Wheaton has listed Justice as one of his least favorite episodes. It’s not that hard to see why.
By the way, Wheaton is a pretty good writer. He wrote a short story for an anthology of Star Wars stories (canonical, by the way) titled From A Certain Point of View: 40 Years of Star Wars.