Series: The Next Generation
Air Date: February 4, 1991
Written by: Philip LaZebnik and William Douglas Lansford
Directed by: Tom Benko
The Devil went down to Ventax II, she was lookin' for a planet to steal. Picard was in a bind because a lawyer signed a nearly 1000 year-old deal.
We start off in 19th century England... or a reasonable facsimile thereof. Data's working on his acting skills and is playing a scene from A Christmas Carol with him in the role of Scrooge. I'm not sure how convincing his acting is, but at least he has Sir Patrick Stewart there to guide him. The scene he happens to be acting out is the one where Scrooge, struck by fear, insists to the ghost of Marley that his senses are not to be trusted and can play tricks on him. And it seems we'll have an opportunity to put that assumption to the test, because the Devil has just landed on Ventax II.
See, there's a Federation science station on this planet, and it's being shaken up by the earthquakes and general chaos that's happening, heralding the arrival of Ardra, their sultry, female version of Satan. An angry mob breaks into the science station just as the Enterprise is able to beam up its leader, Dr. Clark, but the rest of the team is taken hostage. Dr. Clark explains that the Ventaxians believe Ardra gave them a thousand years of peace and tranquility in return for her total domination and enslavement at the end of this period. And she's back now to collect on this deal. Picard beams down to see what's up and try to get the science team back, and guess who arrives to meet him...
|A sultry, female devil with an updo.|
Back on the Enterprise, the crew tosses possibilities back and forth. Is she Q? Some other powerful being? No, everything that she did could be done with known technology. Meanwhile, speak of the Devil and she shall appear... in your captain's chair. Cheerily, she explains that the terms of the 1000-year-old agreement specify everything in orbit around Ventax is hers, too. Picard is now fighting not only for the planet, but for his own ship. That night, after Picard is sure that Ardra is a con artist, she appears in his quarters while he's trying to sleep and attempts to seduce him. She says she can be any woman he wants, and even turns briefly into Counselor Troi, which is probably more awkward for Picard than sexy. When he rebuffs her advances, she transports him down to the planet...
|...in his pajamas.|
So they go to court and Ardra once again displays her power. She causes things to disappear and reappear, she changes form, she causes an earthquake, but Picard maintains that all of these things are just trickery. The former leader of Ventrax says she promised 1000 years of peace, and they had 1000 years of peace. Picard, however, tries to convince him that the Ventraxians accomplished that peace on their own because, as Data learned from A Christmas Carol, fear is a powerful motivator. Everything else, Picard says, even he could do. And so he does. Putting Ardra to shame, he causes his own earthquake that she is unable to stop. He causes Ardra to disappear, and she can't come back until Picard wills it. He even turns himself into Fek'lhr, the Klingon Devil.
|DISHONOR ON YOUR COW!|
It's interesting to note that this episode was originally written for the Original Series crew. That's perhaps why Picard has a bit more intimate of a relationship with Data here... Anyway, you can really see the Original Series influences in this story, and it's kind of nostalgic, but still a little out of place. It kind of feels like this episode takes place in an alternate universe. The story is good, don't get me wrong, just... off somehow. Perhaps the characterization borrowed a little too much from Kirk and Spock. In any case, I give the story thumbs up despite feeling... off.