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.
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