Star Trek The Next Generation: Code of Honor

Hagon: “Well as you see captain, you may excel in technology but not at civilized behaviour.”

So far we've had super-intelligent Q, some shiny space jellyfish exploited by nasty village people and now a people whose culture is steeped in tradition and honour that somehow reflects how we were as less civilized earthlings.

I really can't remember my first impression of this episode but I can't imagine how I sat through it without yelling at the screen. It is amazing how many cliches and stereotypes the writers managed to pack into one episode of a show that was trying to challenge such things. To be fair, there were also some lovely bits of character development as well.

The writers have been struggling with how to portray women on the show. Tasha Yar is a great example of a kick-ass woman but she is strangely attracted to the manliness of Lutan? (sorry that almost made me gag). Deanna Troi is still in a horrible jumpsuit with the most severe hair. Perhaps they were trying to respond to complaints about how feminine her first appearance was and they are trying to make her appear more serious. Apparently buns are a great way to signify such things (see Voyager). Yareen who was quite literally willing to kill for her man, at least changes her tune when she figures out that Lutan would happily have seen her die to gain her wealth. Hagon only had to cry out when she was in danger to become the ruler of a whole world. I know that the show broke ground in many ways but it is amazing how difficult it seems to be to portray real, strong women without falling into cliches.

The second issue I have with the writers is their choices of actors, costumes and 'traditions' that seem to reflect African tribal culture in a very unflattering light. This episode needs some serious 'de-colonizing'. The presentation of the ancient Chinese horse wasn't enough to side track the obvious comparisons. My third complaint is that the writing was just lazy. Seriously, if you were contacting a new world and you desperately needed a vaccine that you could only get there don't you think that you would read ALL the briefing notes before you made contact? At the very least have your super intelligent, fast-reading android skim it.

Despite these glaring issues, there were some very nice bits of character development. I loved the bit where Data slags the French and everyone on the bridge smiles while Picard frowns. Picard is obviously French. I also enjoyed the baiting of Riker around letting the captain join the away team. The expressions on everyone's faces were great. We are getting to know the crew better and just starting to see the development of some important relationships - Geordie and Data, Tasha and Deanna, Beverly and Jean Luc. The comments on humans and our civilization are also interesting, if a bit heavy handed at times.

Bits and Pieces

I want someone to roll out a red carpet for me before I materialize. A 'primitive culture" with transporter technology?

Data trying to understand humans is a great way for the writers to comment on us. Human joke number six hundred and ....

I did think it was clever how they re-introduced the prime directive.

You think that the Ligon II civilization might have thought through the dangers to spectators at "right of supersedence" fights and put in some of those plexiglass screens like they have for hockey.

In Star Trek fashion: I thought the headband on Tasha was quite sporty and Yareena's jumpsuits were pretty spiffy as well.


Dr. Crusher: “Where are the calluses we doctors are supposed to grow over our feelings?”
Picard: “Perhaps the good ones never get them."

Picard: “Is the whole ship deaf?”

Data: “That is from an obscure language known as French.”
Picard: “Mr. Data, the French language for centuries on Earth represented civilization.”

Troi: “Those who set their standards too high can kill to meet them.”

Riker: “But I warn you. If you get hurt, I’ll put you on report, Captain.”

Troi: “Betazoid blood is also practical, sir.”

Lutan: “A code of honour protects one captain, like a magic cloak.”

La Forge: “Shaving is an art form, Data. Technological perfection can shave too close.”

Picard: “I’m sorry this is becoming a speech.”
Troi: “You’re the Captain, sir. You’re entitled.”

The show is still trying to find itself. The characters are getting better but the writers need to up their game.

1 out of 4 weird, poisoned glove weapons.


Billie Doux said...

Another original series-like episode with a terrible cultural mish-mash. And of course, we had to have shock that Enterprise has a woman as security chief because it's the 80s.

But the actors feel more comfortable in their roles, and this episode wasn't totally awful. Yar got to be all bad ass and fight to the death on playground equipment to save the day. And Troi is much better here, too and wow, Marina Sirtis is gorgeous, even in that costume. But what is holding that bun up in the air?

Loved your review, Doc. It was perfect. Well, in that it was exactly what I thought of the episode, too. :)

JRS said...

I don't think this episode was racist per se but I do think it's an example of the traps people fall into when writing science fiction. It says something about who the writers see as alien and how they codify difference. Thanks for pointing that out!

Plain Simple said...

Apparently it wasn't the writer at all who put that in, but the director (who was fired and replaced by someone else during the filming of this episode).

Source for that information: the Mission Log Podcast episode on "Code of Honor".