In the thirteenth episode of the fourth season of The Next Generation, the crew must contend with a being who appears to be a specific culture’s version of the devil. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Trigger Warning: For mention of slavery and discussion of consent.
Oh my god, this was such an unexpected and delightful episode. I was fully convinced this would be about one thing, and then NOPE. Wrong. So wrong it is almost impossible to be WRONGER.
Seriously, I was ready to write a review of this episode that addressed a precarious premise: What if the people on Ventax II truly believed that the end was near? What if they were convinced that their deal with a “devil” a thousand years prior was really coming to an end, despite all the evidence to the contrary? At the heart of this is the show’s commitment to the Prime Directive. Would the crew be able to get involved in the destructive nightmare on Ventax II if their culture and religion dictated it? What’s the protocol here?
I was so ready. I was so ready.
And then Ardra appeared to everyone, in plain fucking sight, and in an instant, this was not what I thought it was about. I gotta say that this is an incredible subversion of this trope because WHO EXPECTED THIS TO ACTUALLY HAPPEN? You can see the shock on all the characters’ faces because this could not possibly be real, could it?
And for a good portion of “Devil’s Due,” I was convinced that Picard was wrong, that Ardra was truly some sort of immortal being who truly did give Ventax the perfect world that it wanted. SHE CONTROLLED EARTHQUAKES. SHE COULD TRANSFORM HER APPEARANCE AT WILL. SHE COULD MAKE PEOPLE DISAPPEAR. How the hell was I supposed to argue with that? Or, for that matter, an ironclad contract written in the precise legal language of the Ventaxan people?
This was one hell of a premise, and I’m very pleased that the rest of the episode was just as good. I have one bit of criticism here to add to this before I talk about this being a Leverage crossover. I enjoyed Ardra as a sort of trickster trope, one who uses her powers to constantly irritate and infuriate everyone around her. Just watching her piss off Picard was a joy in and of itself. Only to a point, however, and that point? The threat of sexual violence on Picard. It’s completely unaddressed within the script, particularly that moment where she strikes a deal with Picard. If she wins the arbitration, Picard will become her “willing” love slave, which… you can’t? You can’t be a slave and be “willing” at the same time, and this is largely portrayed as funny and quirky. She’s just seducing him, right? Except that she truly would have taken him against his will forever if no one had figured out a way to contradict her and expose her as a fraud.
Thankfully, that does happen, so we get to avoid the horrifying implications of Picard’s deal. Instead, this episode transforms into a reverse con as the crew struggle to expose Ardra for who she really is. Picard’s theory about how she was able to trick everyone seemed solid, but there was virtually no proof of what Picard proposed. So what do we get instead?
PICARD AS A LAWYER AND DATA AS A JUDGE AND IT’S SO RIDICULOUS AND ABSURD AND I LOVE EVERY SECOND OF IT. Like, I do understand that they were working within Ventaxan law, but it’s still so much fun that I won’t even question why it happens. Part of my enjoyment came from watching Picard try to find a way to logically explain why Ardra’s contract is bullshit. The plan was brilliant because Picard wanted to come up with a method of saving the Ventaxans in case Geordi never found evidence of the con. It honestly made me want to watch an actual court drama with Picard and Data on opposite sides. HONESTLY, ISN’T IT A FANTASTIC IDEA? Fanfiction, make this happen. It is absolutely necessary.
Anyway, this was kind of a silly episode at times, but I had a blast watching it. It was a lot of fun to see these characters in such a weird situation, and Marta DuBois was a delight.
The video for “Devil’s Due” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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