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July 17 2024


An archive of Star Trek News

Devil's Due

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 30, 2009 - 9:38 PM GMT

See Also: 'Devil's Due' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: A distress call brings the Enterprise to the Ventaxian system, where several Federation scientists have been taken hostage by a group of panicked natives. The one scientist rescued by the crew, Dr. Clark, explains that the Ventaxians believe the legendary Ardra has returned to enslave their planet after granting them a thousand years of peace. When Picard beams down to negotiate the release of the hostages with the help of Ventaxian leader Jared, Ardra appears and announces that the planet belongs to her now. Picard becomes outraged when she triggers quakes, changes form into various incarnations of the devil, and intimates that she desires him. He sends Data to study the scrolls outlining the agreement between Ardra and the Ventaxians and asks LaForge to figure out her power source. Data's examination of the contract reveals that it appears to be valid under Ventaxian law...and worse, that because the Enterprise was in orbit when Ardra returned, she has a legal claim on the ship as well. Meanwhile Ardra sets to work trying to seduce Picard, appearing in his quarters and transforming into Deanna Troi before sending him to the planet in his pyjamas. To give LaForge time to track Ardra's power source, Picard invokes Ventaxian law and demands an arbitrator to rule on the validity of Ardra's claim. Ardra chooses Data to take on that role, though she insists that Picard must willingly become her love slave if she wins. Picard learns from Jared that the mythical Ardra did not, in fact, transform the planet; the Ventaxians did that themselves after agreeing to follow her instructions that they become peaceful and prosperous. Even so, Data is inclined to believe that because Jared accepts this Ardra as the historical Ardra, the contract is valid. But LaForge finds the ship that gives Ardra her powers and prevents her from accessing it, while at the same time allowing Picard to produce quakes and change his form. Having proved this Ardra to be a phony, Picard has her taken into custody and assures Jared that the Ventaxians have proven able to govern themselves without supernatural meddling.

Analysis: "Devil's Due" is a terrible episode, yet a memorable one - Ardra may be a poorly-written, over-the-top villain, but Marta Dubois plays her with real relish and some of her dialogue is delightful. It's too bad that no thought whatsoever seems to have been put into Ventaxian society, and I disagree with Picard that these people should be left alone - on a planet where every single citizen is apparently a brainwashed, gullible religious sheep, some new self-proclaimed messiah is sure to rise and enslave the population soon enough. So many details are omitted, like why a Federation science team failed to investigate planet of such passive, homogenous people during months of...what were they researching, anyway, that they failed to register any change when Ardra's formidable hidden power source arrived? Ardra has apparently done quite a bit of homework about the Ventaxians, which is far more than Starfleet can claim.

"Devil's Due" is just as sexist than a lot of original series episodes without being nearly as much fun. In the same situation, propositioned by an enemy combatant, we all know what Kirk would do. He'd have grinned and bared it; he might have rationalized, as with Sylvia in "Catspaw," that he was taking one for the team, or, as with Deela in "Wink of an Eye," he might have managed to enjoy himself in spite of the dire threat. Whatever he told himself to justify sleeping with the enemy, Kirk would have seen it as an opportunity. He would have gotten her talking, looked for personal vulnerabilities, toyed with her emotions, even as his crewmembers were looking to exploit her technological weaknesses. And while that's no way to treat a lady, at least she'd have become a full person. Ardra is clearly a bookworm and history buff, a scientist, possibly a pilot and engineer (we never learn whether her ship has a crew); she's an explorer like Picard, she appreciates archaeology the way he does. At the start of the episode, Picard is enjoying watching Data play Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, though he believes that Data's emotional limitations make Method acting a poor choice...well, Ardra's ten times as theatrical and doesn't seem to have any emotional limitations!

To borrow a phrase from Method acting, what's her motivation? In a well-told story, Ardra would be far more complicated than just some greedy woman trying to rip off an entire population for personal glory. We'd learn why she can't settle for being an ordinary flamboyant diva who turns heads, but wants in reality to enslave her followers. And we'd also learn why she's such a good sport about being outmaneuvered. There would be laughter, and perhaps some regrets, and we'd get a glimpse of how the captain is able to outsmart her because he understands her - perhaps he, too, sometimes feels like a charlatan, or perhaps sometimes just wants to be respected or worshipped or loved. Picard isn't Kirk, and that's fine; when offered sex by a pushy, self-interested woman, I don't expect him to sell himself so easily. That's admirable, but the way it's played here, it's also boring to watch. How much more interesting if he looked tempted for a moment, or if he shivered inadvertently when asked if he'd had forbidden thoughts about a crewmember! He may not act upon his lusts, but if he doesn't even have lusts, then there's not even virtue in it, and this isn't the first time we've seen prig Picard in action; the man almost turned down Vash for similar aggressive behavior before remembering that he was on holiday.

With neither a strong story nor strong characterization to make this episode interesting, its pleasures boil down to a few fun scenes. "Time's up," announces Ardra with a cheerful smile when she shows up on the planet. "You are not Feklar!" shouts Worf when Ardra claims to be all devils everywhere, which then inspires her to turn into the immortal Klingon who guards those who died without honor. (In "Day of the Dove," Kang told Kirk that the Klingons had no devil, but maybe Ardra showed up and conned them, too.) "I wouldn't put is to melodramatically," sighs Ardra when Troi says she's terrorized a population with a prophecy that they'll be enslaved. She calls Data an unexpected bonus; she calls Picard impudent when he proves that he, too, can make people disappear. In the end, she also tells Picard that he would have had more fun had he lost the case, and I'd be inclined to believe it, if Picard were capable of that sort of fun. Underlying the episode is an arrogance about faith, an implication that anyone who believes in any higher power is as stupid as the idiotic Ventaxans. As entertaining as it was to watch Kirk bring down Vaal, Apollo, "God," et al, Ardra definitely scores a point when Riker says he's not impressed by her magic tricks and she replies, "I pity you. We live in a universe of magic...too bad you can't see it."

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Michelle Erica Green is a former news writer for TrekToday. An archive of her reviews can be found at The Little Review.

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