(airdate: November 9, 1987)
Story: Ralph Willis [pseudonym for John D.F. Black] and Worley Thorne
Teleplay: Worley Thorne
Director: James L. Conway
Rivan: Brenda Bakke
First Mediator: David Q. Combs
Edo girl: Judith Jones
Liator: Jay Louden
Second Mediator: Richard Lavin
1st Edo boy: Eric Matthew
Conn officer: Josh Clark
Captain's Log: The Enterprise discovers a previously unknown race of humanoids, the Edo, living in apparent paradise on their world. A small party beams down for shore leave, but while there they discover that this paradise is achieved thanks to very harsh and absolute laws: any transgression committed in a certain, constantly moving area (the identity of which is known only to the Edo's law enforcement, called Mediators) is punishable by death. Wesley accidentally falls on some flowers while in one of these zones and is sentenced, but the other members of the away team prevent the judgement from being carried out. Picard - who has been dealing with an orbiting alien race that considers the Edo its "children" and forbids any harmful interference with them - attempts to negotiate with the Edo, explaining how the Federation's laws are different from those of the Edo but that they are also bound by the Prime Directive, which prevents them from interfering with another species's culture. Picard ultimately decides that violating the Prime Directive to save Wesley's life is more important than ensuring that the Edo's form of justice be carried out, and he's able to convince the orbiting alien race that this is an acceptable thing to do; thus, the aliens allow the Enterprise to depart unmolested.
Whoops!: Why does the Enterprise make contact with the Edo in the first place? They're pretty clearly pre-spaceflight, let alone pre-warp, and so you'd think this would be the sort of society that the Federation would either leave alone or at best covertly observe, rather than just beaming down and saying, "Hey, we're from space! Let's be friends!" This might not be so obvious if it weren't for the fact that the Prime Directive makes up a major part of this episode - albeit under a "can we interfere with laws that threaten our people?" stance rather than a "should we make contact at all?" stance. But it's still strange. (You might want to argue that at this point in the series the Prime Directive only covers direct interference such as violating laws, not indirect interference such as announcing one's presence - except the Original Series episode "Bread and Circuses" makes it pretty clear that announcing their presence to a pre-warp society is also a violation of the Prime Directive, so this version of non-interference has been kicking around for a while.)
Classic Lines: Worf to Riker, after getting a very friendly hug from a scantily-clad Edo woman: "Nice planet."
Data, questioning whether Picard is justified in saving Wesley at the potential expense of the entire crew: "Would you choose one life over one thousand, sir?" Picard: "I refuse to let arithmetic decide questions like that."
Picard expressing annoyance: "Why has everything become a 'something' or a 'whatever'?"
"I don't know how to communicate this, or even if it is possible, but the question of justice has concerned me greatly of lately. And I say to any creature who may be listening, there can be no justice so long as laws are absolute. Even life itself is an exercise in exceptions."
Cringe Lines: "I'm with Starfleet. We don't lie."
Casualty Report: Data is temporarily knocked out by the Edo god's probe. Wesley is sentenced to death for trampling some new plants, but Picard refuses to let the Edo carry out the sentence (much to the disappointment, one imagines, of large parts of the audience).
Alien Love: The Edo are apparently very sexually free, although we don't see much of this beyond heavy kissing sessions.
Library Computer: Rubicun III is a class M, Earth-like planet in the Rubicun system. The planet is described as "unusually lovely", with lots of greenery and a temperate climate at the part of the surface we see. Rubicun III is home to a humanoid race called the Edo. The Edo appear more or less the same as humans, with generally fair hair and pink skin. They dress in skimpy white or pale pastel-colored wrappings, and they are free with their sexuality, apparently having sex "at the drop of a hat". However, despite this they're also extremely law-abiding, and their rules include doing nothing that would make others uncomfortable. Troi sensed that they were open and honest, and that they were generally happy and friendly, with feelings of healthy sensuality. Their grounds are well kept, with lots of manicured lawns and flower beds, and generally pleasant architecture. They have a council chamber, and the two main Edo we see, Liator and Rivan, seem to be councillors. The Edo like to run everywhere. We see them engaged in various forms of entertainment, including dancing, playing music on exotic-looking stringed instruments, and games, although we don't really see any of them at work.
The reason the Edo were so lawful was due to the rather extreme form of justice administered in their society. Special punishment zones, randomly selected and constantly changing, with their identity known only to the handful of law enforcement - known as Mediators, dressed in light blue-grey - exist throughout the Edo land. The punishment for any infraction inside one of these zones is death via a lethal injection of a painless poison; as the general Edo population don't know where the zones are and don't want to risk death, they instead choose to obey all laws. This system was devised a long time ago, when the Edo were lawless, savage, and hurtful to each other; since its implementation, the Edo have been peaceful and calm. While many laws are common sense things, some are a bit less obvious to outsiders, such as white fences indicating new plants that are not to be disturbed.
Orbiting Rubicun III is an alien vessel, consisting of a disk with three legs protuding down from its edges, with one of the legs folded inward. This vessel appears semi-transparent, due to its existing partly in and out of our dimension; it reads as a shadow on the Enterprise sensors until it materializes more fully. Data states that this vessel - and her crew - exists in multiple places at once. The aliens once existed, possibly as flesh and blood, in our dimension, but they have subsequently evolved to exist in multiple dimensions at once. They consider the entire local star cluster to be theirs, although, while they're curious as to why the Enterprise has left colonists from Earth on an uninhabited planet in the neighboring Strnad solar system, they don't ultimately seem to object to their presence. They can send a soap bubble-esque sphere of light as a probe to the Enterprise and can transmit vocally with a power that can shake the entire ship (though this appears to be unintentional, at least initially). This probe can interface with Data, allowing exchange of information between the two - although this incapacitates Data for several hours afterwards. The vessel has appeared to the Edo at times, and consequently they treat it as their god - a fact which the vessel's crew are aware of but consider harmless at this stage of the Edo's development. The aliens consider the Edo to be their children; Data theorized that this could be because the aliens had at one point planted the Edo race on Rubicun III. They brook no interference with the Edo, at one point becoming aggressive when Picard beams Rivan aboard to help identify the alien vessel, and they judge humanity based on its own rules - although they are ultimately willing to let Picard violate the Prime Directive in order to save Wesley's life, suggesting they understand the reasoning behind Picard's actions.
The star cluster which includes the Rubicun and Strnad solar systems contains 3004 other planets that are suitable for human colonization. Establishing the colony in the Strnad system was an exhausting experience for the Enterprise crew.
Humanity (and thus, presumably, the Federation) no longer executes criminals, as it's not seen as a justifiable deterrent. Instead they have learned to detect the seeds of criminal behavior [and thus address those seeds before they bloom, as best as they can].
Worf, as a Klingon, finds human women to be too fragile to be suitable sexual partners. He also would prefer a Klingon woman as a partner for the Klingon version of romantic love. He is unfamiliar with the phrase "when in Rome, do as the Romans do".
Wesley's favorite game is baseball. [See also "Evolution", but compare with comments about the sport in various episodes of Deep Space Nine.] He's of the opinion that members of Starfleet don't lie.
According to Picard, people still want to form colonies for, among other reasons, the challenge of creating new lifestyles and societies, and that humanity is driven by the need to seed "itself as widely as possible" by settling on other worlds. He also believes that the Prime Directive isn't intended to allow a member of his crew to be "sacrificed" according to the laws and customs of another culture.
Data tends to organize information in ways that can sometimes come across, he later admits, as babbling. Sickbay has the ability to look after him. [This will change later on.]
The Enterprise has a human male ensign manning the conn and tactical here, dressed in operations yellow, with a mop of curly red hair. [We mention this because the actor, Josh Clark, will go on to play the occasionally recurring role of Lt. Carey on Voyager; it's therefore not unreasonable to think this is in fact also Carey, back when he was an ensign.]
Final Analysis: "Let's just hope it's not too good to be true." The central idea of a society with extreme absolute laws coming into conflict with the Prime Directive is actually reasonably interesting. The problem is that they start off the episode on the wrong foot with the sexually open society of beautiful people, which throws the whole thing off-kilter when they then want to interrogate this culture that we've been thus far encouraged to treat shallowly. It also doesn't help that the Edo god plot is treated rather perfunctorily, there just to add a couple extra obstacles rather than for anything more satisfying. It's admittedly better than its reputation, but that doesn't mean it's particularly good.
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Page originally created: February 18, 2021
Page last updated: February 22, 2021