Season Four - TNG

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Devil’s Due

Written by Philip Lazebnik, William Douglas Lansford, David Carren, J. Larry Carroll, Joe Menosky, and Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Tom Benko

Every now and then you come across an episode that just feels like the writers had to put together something really quick. The reason could be because of the production schedule or because everyone happened to have writer’s block at the same time. In the case of Devil’s Due, I think one of the writers fell asleep while Damn Yankees was on.

The Enterprise receives a distress signal from a group of Federation scientists stationed on the planet Ventax. It seems that the Ventaxians are preparing for a doomsday scenario. Their legends have it that a thousand years ago the planet was being torn apart by war when a mysterious being known as Ardra promised the inhabitants of the planet a thousand years of peace and prosperity. In exchange, at the end of that time, Ardra would come back and rule the planet however she saw fit.

Ardra, in case you haven’t yet figured it out, is the Ventaxian equivalent of the devil. Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) and the Enterprise race to Ventax to rescue the science team. As they are trying to reason with the Ventaxian leader, Ardra makes her appearance.

In this case, Ardra is a slinky, sexy siren (portrayed by Marta Dubois). At any moment I expected her to break out into Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets…. After Ardra makes the Enterprise disappear stating that anything in orbit around the planet she also considers her, Picard challenges Ardra to a trial. The android Data (Brent Spiner) is designated the judge since his programming will make him impartial.

Picard believes Ardra to be nothing more than a con artist, as he and the crew systematically begin to debunk all of her stunts such as the seismic activity, her appearing and disappearing, and her changing form.

The episode felt to me like someone who is not religious trying to debunk all of the religious myths out there. Suffice it to say, since our technology cannot do what the technology on Star Trek does, it seems a dumb angle to take. Having the audience question what we believe has been done before but in a much more intelligent and thought-provoking way. If this was the angle of this episode, it really is an insult to the fan’s intelligence.

To their credit, the actors do seem to make a concerted effort to try to do something with what had to appear to them as a horrible script. Brent Spiner and Patrick Stewart do the best they can with how their characters are written, but it just all feels wrong.

Suffice it to say, I’ve read fan-fiction that is of much better quality than this episode. Not quite as bad as The Royale, Devil’s Due is just plain stupid. The only redeeming feature I could find was seeing what the Klingon’s idea of a devil looked like. This episode is not worth the time spent watching it.

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  1. This episode, along with Season Two’s “The Child,” was one of two scripts that were originally written for the planned-but-never-produced “Star Trek II” (aka “Star Trek Phase II”) TV series that Gene Roddenberry and crew were working on in 1977. “Star Trek II” (not to be confused with the 1982 theatrical film of the same name) would have starred most of the Original Series cast except for Leonard Nimoy, who at the time was reluctant to reprise his role as Spock. The premise of the series was that a few years after Captain Kirk’s Enterprise returned from its historic five-year mission, the starship was redesigned and refitted, Kirk promoted to Admiral, but a sudden crisis at the edge of Federation space (which turns out to be V’ger) sees Kirk back in command of his famous ship, and with a reunited crew and a new young Vulcan science officer, Xon, they set out on a new trek across the stars.

    “Star Trek II” was going to be the flagship show of a proposed Paramount Television Network which. at the time, would have been the fourth major network, pretty much like “Star Trek: Voyager” ended up being the cornerstone for the late United Paramount Network in the mid-90s. Sets were designed, famed conceptual artist Ralph McQuarrie – best known for his work on the original Star Wars trilogy – did some designs for the refit NCC-1701, some of which informed the design of the USS Discovery from the new series on CBS All-Access, scripts were commissioned, costumes and props were re-designed, and several new cast members were hired, including David Galtreaux, Persis Khambatta and Stephen Collins.

    The series was well underway in pre-production when two events occurred to derail its production. The fourth network Paramount wanted to create failed to launch, and 20th Century Fox released George Lucas’s “Star Wars.” Paramount’s executives, faced by the success of Fox’s space-fantasy mega blockbuster, felt compelled to come up with a space opera to compete, but what could they probably offer moviegoers that would rival “Star Wars”?

    The story goes that when one of the studio execs pondered aloud “What do we have now that could be our ‘Star Wars’?” a junior staffer said, “I think we have something called ‘Star Trek’.”

  2. This is such an awful episode, it surprises me and yet does not surprise me. As you have said before, this harkens back to Roddenberry’s control. I think, perhaps, that is one of the reasons I do like Babylon 5 more than Star Trek – it is much for respectful of the concept of belief and faith, even as it fleshes out where the faith came from. I have no problem with atheists – people can believe anything they want as far as I’m concerned (or not believe). I have a problem with militant atheists the same way I have a problem with militant Christians (or militants of any faith).

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