Fair Collective Effort
The Enterprise crew places a lot of importance on how they do things. The main reason they’re out in space is to explore, and a major component of this is developing relationships with aliens.
(Picard even regrets the extra-dimensional aliens disappearance in the end.)
But what’s cool is the fairness with which they go about doing it.
Picard gives each crew member the opportunity to develop their individual talents. Part of that is his knowing what they can do.
When the extra-dimensional aliens appear, Picard sends Geordi to get a real look at it because he knows what Geordi can do, and he’s allowing him to use his talent.
In the same way, he allows Data to interact with the aliens.
I loved the babble conversation. Picard’s not perfect, and he bit Data’s head off, but when he apologized (which was fantastic), he said Data sometimes sees things others don’t.
It was like saying, I was wrong because I did something that essentially stopped you from being your individual self and that robbed the crew of your unique talents.
So most of what they learned about the extra-dimensional aliens came simply because he allowed Data and Geordi to do their own things.
Fair Relationships with Others
I suspect that fairness within your group naturally leads it to relate to other groups more fairly.
This episode seems to argue the same thing because it is about the Enterprise crew trying to do the right thing while being fair to the Edo.
The Edo are described as open. It’s presented as an admirable trait, and it creates fairness because without deception, people are free to decide on their own the correct course.
As a result of the Edo’s openness, Troi insists on being equally open when the captain suggests they talk in private.
We also see a fair relationship between the Enterprise crew and the Edo in the form of Picard’s empathy for them. The most obvious example is his regret for frightening Rivan.
Less obvious is when Rivan kneels to him and says that if he shares the sky with God he must be a god too. But Picard knows that his ship is as weak towards the extra-dimensional beings as the Edo are to the Enterprise. He knows how it feels to be in the presence of someone with superior technology, and he puts himself in her place. That’s why he is quick to correct her.
And of course there is also the Prime Directive itself.
The crew is required to obey the Edo laws, and they do their best to keep that.
(I’m not sure I understand why they were allowed to contact the Edo in the first place since the Prime Directive should’ve stopped them.)
So the way they relate to the Edo is the same way Picard interacts with his crew. They respect their cultural uniqueness and do their best not to interfere with their own expression of themselves.
This fairness within and fairness without informs Picard’s sense of justice.
As soon as he learned of Wesley’s transgression, Picard knows he will not allow them to kill the boy as is evidenced by his telling Dr. C as much. He knows he will violate the Prime Directive.
This is because a notion of fairness led to the creation of the Prime Directive, and it is the intention of the rule that Picard intends to honor. Not the letter of it.
He refuses to resolve the moral dilemma with arithmetic because it’s not the consequences that we should use to determine the correctness of our actions, but the correctness of the actions themselves.
(Which incidentally is probably why capital punishment is gone from the Federation; the punishment doesn’t deter the crime)
If a society tries to use a law to determine the correctness of every individual’s actions and never allows for unique circumstances, it puts the letter of the law above the intention and inhibits the development of unique individuals.
That’s why Picard says, “There can be no justice as long as laws are absolute.” Which Riker rephrases: “When has justice ever been as simple as a rulebook?”
Since Picard already knew what he would do, it really only came down to a question of consequences. He’s worried about the rest of his crew as well.
He assumes they will be judged based on integrity. If so, how would the extra-dimensional beings react to them violating the Edo laws and the Federation’s own law?
But integrity demanded he follow the moral philosophy that guides their collective endeavors, which is not lawfulness, but Justice.
Morals, messages, and meanings
- Openness is a good trait
- Might doesn’t make right
- Life itself is an exercise in exceptions, and there can be no justice as long as laws are absolute.
- There’s more to justice than the law
- The death penalty, no matter what kind of wonderful society it builds, is just bad
Does it hold up
From the butt cheeks on I was hooked.
The messages to the storytelling to the production, all of it is much better than what came before it this season.
Funny that though I remember Encounter at Farpoint and Justice, I don’t really remember the ones in between. That’s probably because this one, the core of the story, stands the test of time.
Maybe my favorite episode this season.
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