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Star Trek The Next Generation: A Matter of Honor

Riker: “I’m just your average everyday human being who happens to be a Commander.”

The original Star Trek commented on the issues of the day and Star Trek: The Next Generation carries on that great tradition. This episode is about dealing with difference and finding ways to communicate across cultures.

A Federation exchange program brings a Benzite named Mendon to the Enterprise and sends Riker to the Klingon ship, The Pagh. There are some not so subtle call-outs to racism. For example, Wesley mistakes Mendon for his friend Mendock, playing with the racist stereotype that "they all look the same." The lack of understanding of protocol, the reactions of the Captain and the Doctor to Klingon food, the curiosity of Klag when he first sees Riker, are all understood as common cross-cultural responses.

While the theme is a lofty one, I don't think this episode really pulled it off. We get to meet a Benzite but he just seems officious and annoying. There is no real attempt to explain why he might act as he does, only that it is different and wrong on the Enterprise. The Klingon captain is made to look like an overzealous idiot just to give Riker a chance to show that he can deal with a conflict of oaths in a clever and manly way.

I've always had a bit of a problem with how the Klingons are portrayed. This is an ancient culture which has thrived and conquered galaxies but they are often made to appear as crude and unintelligent. That never made sense to me and it certainly doesn't here. A single Klingon warship would declare war on the Federation? Shouldn't there be some chain of command in this case? I sometimes get frustrated with the writers because they take short cuts. It feels like they sat in a room and said to each other, let's send Riker to a Klingon ship, oooh let's put him a position where he has to take on the Enterprise. They don't seem to think it through beyond that point.

Bits and Pieces

Being eager to please is a Benzite trait and apparently this doesn't conflict with showing up your peers and annoying your commanding officer.

This week's new life form is a sub-atomic bacteria that can eat ships. They probably had enough trouble with the already established life forms to have anything more intelligent.

Apparently there is a feast before transfer. That seems like a fine idea.

O'Brien is getting some dialogue and control of the shields.

Riker is ever the ladies' man. It would have been interesting if the Klingon women had followed through.

Maybe Worf doesn't have a sense of humour. It must be a lot of pressure to represent the whole Klingon race.

When the Klingon captain says that Riker will die like a Klingon he thinks he is giving Riker a great gift. But as Klag says, humans don't seem to be as interested in dying as Klingons.


Worf: “Your second officer will assassinate you for the same reasons.”

Mendon: “Didn’t mean to offend you.”
Worf: “You didn’t...yet.”

Second Officer Klag: “A Klingon is his work, not his family.”

Captain Kargan: “Let them charge into their destruction.”


  1. I know what you mean about the Klingons. I don't normally like Klingon episodes, but I am quite fond of this one - I guess cause I do like Riker! But Next Gen Klingons have never really done it for me (including Worf - I don't hate him or anything, but I tend to skip his episodes if they're about Klingon stuff).

  2. I'm not a fan of the Klingon episodes, either, but I liked this one somewhat because it was a good Riker episode. The thing I always liked most about Riker was his curiosity about the unknown, and the way he throws himself into new experiences. It works for him as a character. Much better than making him another Kirk, anyway.

  3. The problem with the Klingons is that, while drawing on historical earth societies as sources for customs and social behavior works well for fantasy shows like Game of Thrones, it's more problematic for superadvanced science fiction societies. While the Klingons are often compared to the Japanese samurai, there's a reason why the samurai (and the Janissaries and other elite warrior castes) failed to survive into the 20th century. It's just not a practical way to organize a state beyond a certain level of complexity.

  4. Agreed on the Klingons to a high degree. They always seem to bounce between honor bound samurai, vicious and deceitful liars, and borderline Neanderthals. I think Magritte before me hits that idea well too. I just can't see them being caught up in honor and protocol while also being Machiavellian to an extreme degree, it doesn't work out well at all.

    I do love me some alien cultural exchanges though, even if has been aptly pointed out, this episode doesn't see it work out all that well. It's fun in RPGs if done decently, but its awesome to see it acted out on shows and movies even more. I'm definitely a bit of a xenophile as I find other cultures and ideas fascinating, something we see taken a bit further than I mean in a later episode of this show, although I can't recall which season it's from till I get there!


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