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When Wesley Crusher is condemned to die on an idyllic, primitive planet, Captain Picard must face breaking the Prime Directive to save the boy's life.



"Captain's log, Stardate 41255.6. After delivering a party of Earth colonists to the Strnad solar system we have discovered another class M planet in the adjoining Rubicun star system. We are now in orbit there having determined it to be inhabited as well as unusually lovely. My first officer has taken an away team down to make contact and they are in the process of returning to the ship."
Wesley is chosen for away team

Invited to come along

Upon his return back from the surface, Commander Riker tells everyone on the bridge with great enthusiasm about the planet; he explains that the planet's inhabitants, the Edo, are almost identical to Humans, and that it is a class M planet, beautiful and stunning. Doctor Crusher suggests shore leave for everyone, stating that nothing is better than fresh air and open spaces. Lieutenant Natasha Yar states that the inhabitants' laws and customs are pretty straightforward and nothing out of the ordinary. What is special about them, however, says Geordi La Forge, is their great affection for others… and the fact that the Edo make love at the drop of a hat. "Any hat," Yar adds.

The doctor's suggestion of shore leave is approved but only for a small group at first. Among them is Wesley Crusher, whom the captain personally designates as the one to evaluate this planet as a place for young people to relax. If their scans and observations support the report from the away team, then shore leave for the entire crew will be approved, says Captain Picard. He just hopes the planet it is not too good to be true.

Before they beam down, however, Commander Data continues to receive a faulty reading in the sensors, indicating there is something in orbit, despite the fact that nothing appears on the viewscreen.

Act One[]

"Captain's log, supplemental. We are in orbit of a planet designated Rubicun III, the home of a lifeform who call themselves the Edo. Our away team, including Wesley Crusher, has beamed down to make some arrangements concerning some well-earned recreation."
Nice planet

"Nice planet."

Commander Riker, Lieutenant Yar, Lieutenant Worf, Wesley, and Counselor Deanna Troi beam down to the surface where they are passionately greeted and welcomed. Two of the planet's inhabitants, Rivan and Liator, introduce themselves by hugging everyone in turn. Worf compliments them on their planet and uncomfortably accepts the hugs and affections. Wesley isn't sure how to take them and how to react. Overall, these aliens are warm, empathetic, and seem to have thought of everything. Suiting to their fit and joyous lifestyle, people do not walk anywhere, but run and jog along. They wish everyone health and happiness, even passers-by as they run to the counsel chamber. When they arrive, three children take Wesley to play right away, while the adults enter the chamber to find more of a massage parlor, where people are playing games, dancing, exercising, receiving massages, hugging, and kissing.

Meanwhile, aboard the USS Enterprise-D, Data has completed his analysis. None of the internal systems are at fault; the reading, though mysterious, is accurate. It appears to be some sort of shadow, like something that is "neither in nor out of their dimension". When the main viewer is not showing anything out there, Data hails the empty space, requesting that it identify itself. Suddenly, a strange object fully appears and the ship enters automatic red alert.

Act Two[]

The sensor readings do not make any sense, and the response to their transmission is difficult to decode. When La Forge looks out of the window with his VISOR, he experiences the same confusion; it is as if whatever he is seeing is not really there. Data, however, is finally able to make out something, stating that the message they are receiving translates as something like "stand by". Then, a small, transparent, sphere exits the alien structure, and passes right through the Enterprise's hull, moving through corridors and bulkheads.

Edo god communicates with Data

Communicating with Data

The shimmering sphere of light makes its way to the bridge, and then rocks the entire ship as it speaks. Captain Picard speaks with it, explaining, between shakes, who he is, and that he is on a mission of peaceful exploration. It then demands to know why they have come to visit. Picard explains that they have sent down an away team to make peaceful contact and that he does not plan on leaving lifeforms there. It asks about the colony they just planted and Picard explains terraforming, and that they would only do it for uninhabited worlds. It gives a warning not to interfere with its "children" below (on the planet) and then tries to communicate with Data through some unknown method. Data says "I do not understand how but it is asking me if I was constructed for information exchange." Picard encourages him to go along with it and the object then communicates directly with Data, who falls unconscious.

Down on the planet, Worf is extremely uncomfortable with the advances of the women, avoiding them as much as he can. He is not much concerned with pleasure, according to himself, as he is a warrior. Plus, he is convinced that these women couldn't handle his Klingon mating habits. When Riker fails to contact Enterprise with his combadge, he gets nervous and orders everyone together, including Wesley, just in case. Troi doesn't believe it is anything these people have done, since they are much too open and friendly. Nevertheless, Riker has Troi head outside with him to look for Wesley.

Yar learns of Edo punishment

"…and just who tells visitors about these rules?!"

Yar, who is just fascinated by the Edo, is talking with Rivan and Liator about their laws as Worf approaches to brief her on the situation. They explain to her that there is no crime in their world and that no one breaks the laws. A long time ago, there was much disorder, but no longer. They explain that they have no police or law enforcement but instead have so-called Mediators who select only one area each day for a certain period of time: the punishment zone. It is a completely random selection, no person ever knows when or where a zone will be and so no one risks death.

The Edo explain to Worf and Yar, who are both very disturbed by this news, that there is only one punishment for any crime: death. While it sounds drastic, the Edo consider it very wise and a basis for their lasting peace. After all, since no one would want to risk execution, no one breaks the rules. Hearing this, the two officers are immediately alarmed and head off to find Wesley quickly, who they realize knows nothing about these rules.

Act Three[]

Wesley in flower bed

"I'm really sorry!"

While Wesley is playing ball with the others, he jumps for it in midair, crashing into a small greenhouse structure past a short white bar, disturbing the new plants within. The mediators then arrive. The Edo youth attempt to cover for him, pleading that he is only a visitor and did not know he was committing an infraction, but the mediators are adamant and insist on applying the law equally to everyone to avoid chaos, crime, and disobedience. It pains them deeply what they have to do, but given the circumstances and existing canon of laws, they have no other choice. As one of them raises a syringe to inject Wesley, Worf and Yar draw their phasers and Riker knocks him down to the ground. The mediators are taken aback by this, not knowing why they are not allowed to simply execute the boy. They are disappointed in the Enterprise crew, stating that they thought they came as friends. Riker tries to contact the Enterprise but there is still no response.

On the ship, the bubble finishes its information exchange with Data and disappears, leaving him unconscious. At the same time, communication is restored. After being informed of the situation, Captain Picard beams down to the planet.

Act Four[]

Picard negotiates for Wesley's life

Picard tries to save Wesley

Picard arrives in the council chamber, and the dialogue begins. They regret that their system of justice is troubling him. Liator explains that Wesley is being held, pending the execution of his sentence at sundown, and they stand by their system of justice. They explain that the tranquility in their lives has been made possible by their laws, for they are a people of law. Picard makes the argument that when Earth executed criminals, they thought for the longest time that it was necessary to do so until they learned to detect the seeds of criminal behavior; capital punishment is, therefore, no longer considered a justifiable deterrent.

Liato feels that Picard is suggesting some kind of a superiority. He suggests that the Enterprise just use their superior powers to rescue the boy, stating that they would just record him as a convicted criminal out of their reach, an advanced person who luckily escaped the barbarism of their "backward little world". But Picard tells them that he wants to honor and respect the Edo's rules and law, referencing the Prime Directive.

Enterprise-D crew on Rubicun III

The crew hears Wesley's fate

He takes the time, since the Edo guarantee Wesley will not be harmed, to ask about the vessel in orbit. The Edo recognize it as their god, who is said to be somewhere "up there"; a protector who is far above them, both here and in another place, with great powers. Doctor Crusher calls in, and says Data wishes to speak with him urgently. Not wanting to involve all of the Edo, and not sure if he accepts their description of god, he beams himself, Counselor Troi, and a frightened Rivan up to the Enterprise.

Rivan kneels before Edo god

Rivan cowers in fear before her God

On the way to a room with a window, Rivan is amazed at "the city" in the sky, and is surprised that with all this power, they do not just take Wesley. When she sees the object in orbit, she kneels and bows down before it immediately, confirming that yes, it is god. Rivan seems to be extremely frightened by the object. Deanna coaxes her to explain that she can identify it because it has appeared before. Suddenly, it then thunders for Picard to "return its child," and begins moving closer. Hurriedly, Picard attaches his combadge to Rivan and has her beamed back to the planet's surface, and the object moves off again.

In sickbay, Picard then talks to Data about his experience. When Data regains consciousness he explains to Picard everything that was communicated to him. Data says that it's not one entity (it is many) and they know that the Edo worship them as a god thing and feel that said worship is "quite expected and harmless at the present Edo stage of evolution." Data also states that the "god" aliens are inter-dimensional beings and thus can be in several places at once, and due to this the "Edo Gods" consider this entire star cluster to be theirs. He then points out the obvious that it was unwise to place a Human colony in this star cluster and then rambles on about potential colonization until Picard stops him and says "Data! Don't babble. Please organize it into brief answers to my questions."

They continue to talk until Data "volunteers" the information that the Edo God aliens may be observing them now as they know everything Data knows (including the Prime Directive) and may be watching to see what the Enterprise will do next. Finally, Picard asks how the Edo God aliens would react if they were to violate the Prime Directive and Data answers that they would consider the Enterprise crew to be "deceitful and untrustworthy" and subsequently reminds Picard that the Edo God aliens warned them to not to interfere with their children below. Dr. Crusher begins to cry and Data starts to babble on about "the emotion of motherhood" when he is abruptly cut off by Crusher telling him to "Shut up!" It is at this moment that Data realizes that he does, in fact, babble.

Act Five[]

"Captain's Log, Stardate 41255.9. Whatever the object or vessel in orbit with us, it hangs there like a nemesis. It is one thing to communicate with something mysterious but it is quite another to be silently observed by it. I am concerned whether it understands the same concept of reason that we do."
Data and Picard discuss Prime Directive

"Would you choose one life over one thousand, sir?"

Picard sends for Data to ask more questions, as he attempts to try and put together what he knows into some sort of decision. Picard asks Data to help him with this decision and Data asks in response "What level of communication, sir?" Picard smiles and says "Any. My apologies for saying that you babbled. You see things in a way we do not but as they truly are."

Picard is torn between following the letter of the law, and the knowledge that the Prime Directive never intended to cover a circumstance like this. Data states simply that it is the object he should be worrying about. They know of the Prime Directive, but how it will be viewed is the question. How would they react to taking Wesley, especially with regard to that warning? While pondering these questions, Picard asks if breaking the Prime Directive and saving Wesley's life will potentially endanger the entire Enterprise and the 1,000 people who live on the ship. Data answers his question with "Would you choose one life over 1,000, sir?" and Picard responds sternly that he "refuses to let arithmetic decide questions like that."

Data believes that they did exist earlier in our dimension, but now are taking advantage of their present abilities. Perhaps they did share a value system like that of the Federation and existed in some flesh and blood form previously. Picard asks why would such an advanced species feel obliged to protect the Edo. Data theorizes that the Edo are a child race they have chosen to protect just as the Federation puts down colonies and protects them.

When Dr. Crusher arrives, Picard lets her beam down with him, and announces his decision: under no circumstances will he allow the Edo to execute Wesley, regardless of the cost. Picard simply states that he will ensure Wesley will not be executed, but in a way everyone will agree upon. The mediators do not like it, saying he cannot understand what they were like before. Picard knows what they went through and their laws were in the spirit of justice for them, which does not mean being executed for such a minor offense. Risking the wrath of God – and the Federation when he returns – he gives the order to beam up. Nothing happens.

Transporter blocked

"When has justice ever been as simple as a rulebook?"

When the Edo are vindicated, Picard then shouts to the ceiling that "there can be no justice so long as laws are absolute." He elaborates that such laws as these – without degrees of punishment, and with such severe consequences – cannot be just. He argues that rules should also have exceptions, and that rules with no exceptions can never be just. The transporter works.

When they return to the ship, Picard hails the object to inform them they are leaving, and that the colony will be removed at its signal. It dematerializes, which is enough for Picard. With Wesley's life saved, the Enterprise departs.

Log entry[]

Memorable quotes[]

"Nice planet."

- Worf

"Let's hope it is not too good to be true."

- Picard, on Rubicun III

"They make love at the drop of a hat."
"Any hat."

- Geordi La Forge and Tasha Yar, on the Edo

"Rivan, perhaps they can't run."
"Can't run?! Of course we can run! Right, Commander?"

- Liator and Wesley Crusher, to Riker

"They certainly are... fit."
"They certainly are."

- Riker and Troi, on the Edo

"When in Rome, eh?"
"When in where, sir?"

- Riker and Worf


- Edo God

"This may be nothing, but let's move all our people together."
"Including Wesley, the boy?"

- Riker and Worf


- Edo God

"We'd better find Wesley."

- Worf, when Liator and Rivan explain the nature of their laws

"Sharing an orbit with God is no small experience."

- Troi, to Picard about Rivan on being on the Enterprise

"I want to do something too! With you."
"Uh... what?"
"Something you can teach me. Will you?"
"Well, actually, there are some games I... uh, don't quite know yet..."
"It's playing ball. Will you teach me?"

- the Edo girl and Wesley

"It was probably unwise of us to attempt to place a Human colony in this area. Of course, there are three thousand four other planets in this star cluster in which we could have colonized. The largest – and closest –"
"Data! Don't babble."
"Babble, sir? I'm not aware that I ever "babble", sir. It may be that from time to time I have considerable information to communicate, and you may question the way in which I organize it –"
"Please – organize it into brief answers to my questions. We have very little time. Do they... accept our presence at their planet?"
"Undecided, sir."
"Data... please... feel free to volunteer any important information."

- Data and Jean-Luc Picard

"The Edo want to execute my son. I will not allow that to happen, Jean-Luc."
"Most interesting, sir. The emotion of motherhood is, compared to all others felt by Hu.."
"You were right, sir. I do tend to babble."

- Beverly Crusher and Data

"I'm with Starfleet; we don't lie."

- Wesley Crusher

"You're not involved in this decision, boy!"

- Picard, to Wesley Crusher

"There can be no justice so long as laws are absolute. Even life itself is an exercise in exceptions."
"When has justice ever been as simple as a rulebook?"

- Picard and Riker

"Seems the Edo Lord agrees with you, Number one."

- Picard to Riker upon leaving Edo

Background information[]

Production history[]

Justice camera report

A camera report for "Justice"

Story and script[]

  • This was the first script to be commissioned for the series after the pilot episode "Encounter at Farpoint" (then known as "Meeting at Farpoint") was written. Due to the extensive rewrites that the story went through however, it ended up being the eighth episode to be filmed. (Creating the Next Generation)
  • Writer John D.F. Black used his pseudonym "Ralph Willis" in the credits, because the televised episode bears little resemblance to his original first draft script. In Black's treatment, the colony of Llarof installed punishment zones to fight anarchy; however, the zones are now enforced to abide the law, but for only those who are deemed not immune to them. An Enterprise-D security guard, Officer Tenson, protecting two children while on shore leave, happens upon a crime scene, and is shot dead by the policeman Siwel, who is also killed by his partner Oitap on the spot, for misinterpreting his duty. In his first draft, Picard decides not to help the rebels led by Reneg who fight against this system of council member Trebor. Finally, it turns out the rebels install a similarly totalitarian regime when they gain power. In the second draft, the rebel leader, called Reneg is put on trial and executed for treason. Picard muses on the topic of people having their right to decide their own justice without interference. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, 1st ed., p. 40; Creating the Next Generation, p.44-45)


Cast and characters[]

  • Josh Clark, who later went on to play Joe Carey in Star Trek: Voyager, appears here as an unnamed tactical officer. Given the time frames of TNG and VOY, it is possible that this unnamed officer is Carey, assuming a later transfer to Engineering division and departure from the Enterprise-D prior to 2371.
  • This episode marks the first appearance of recurring season one background actor Steve Reed who was hired at his local gym for this episode.
  • Guest actor Richard Lavin also appeared in the second season episode "Loud As A Whisper".

Sets and props[]



Video and DVD releases[]

Links and references[]


Also starring[]

Guest stars[]


Uncredited co-stars[]

Stunt doubles[]



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External links[]

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