DVD Review | Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Full Journey [Part 3: ‘Code of Honor’]

Rounding out the first disc of series one, let’s hope Code of Honor is better than The Naked Now.

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1.04    Code of Honor

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Whereas previous episode The Naked Now was a (pretty poor) sequel/re-telling of a classic Original Series story, Code of Honor sees the Next Gen gang dropped into an episode that feels like it could have actually been an Original Series episode.

Due to an outbreak of a rather nasty strain of Anchilles fever on Styris IV, the Enterprise has been sent to Ligon II to acquire the vaccination from the only known place it exists. In preparation for the visit, the principle crew members read up on the societal structure of their hosts, discovering a likeness to ancient Africa (with aspects of Native American and feudal Japan included too), and that they are notoriously difficult to treat with due to their strict and obscure honour system.

Upon orbital arrival, the crew attempt to follow all appropriate decorum, inviting the Ligonian leadership aboard to pay them respect and to entertain them. After being impressed by a display of defensive martial arts, Leader Lutan (Jessie Lawrence Ferguson), promptly kidnaps Tasha Yar in an event that Data surmises is akin to an Native American ‘counting coup’. It becomes apparent that Lutan wishes Yar to replace Yareena (Karole Selmon) as his ‘first’, to which the latter objects and exercises her right to a hand-to-hand fight to the death with her usurper. Lutan agrees to give ther Enterprise the vaccine once the matter is resolved.

Picard, Riker, La Forge, Data and Dr. Crusher collaborate to form a plan to rescue Yar in such a way that maintains Lutan’s honour, thus keeping their trade for the invaluable vaccine alive. Yar defeats Yareena in mortal combat, striking a killer blow with poison laced spiked club. Immediately, the two of them are beamed aboard the ship, where Crusher manager to resuscitate and cure Yareena. In the final scenes, Picard ‘kidnaps’ Lutan and his bodyguard Hagon (James Louis Watkins) and reveals that, whilst Yareena lives, her death was confirmed and they and she is no longer his ‘first’. In Ligonian society, whilst the men hold the power, the women hold the land and, as such, Lutan finds himself powerless as all his power and wealth came from Yareena’s land. Yareena chooses Hagon as her ‘first’ and Lutan as her ‘second’ and they return home. The Enterprise is given the vaccine.

Code of Honor is the type of episode where you think that, if certain things happened a little differently, it could have been so much better. Whilst the execution is a little ham-fisted, the severe honour-bound system the Ligonians follow is an interesting concept, and leads to some good scenes aboard the Enterprise as Picard weighs up his options. In turn, we get a good example of how Picard differs from Kirk here – Kirk would have jumped at the chance to beam straight down and almost certainly attempt the first fight himself. Instead, Picard reminds everyone that their primary concern is the millions of people dying on Styris IV, as well as strict principles of the Prime Directive. Picard feels more like a disciplined military leader.

There is a moment around this time where Riker points out that – as ‘Number One’ – it is his job to ensure the safety of the Captain and that one of his main duties is to act on his behalf on away missions. It is a nice little reminder of a speech he gives in Encounter at Farpoint. In this instance, the point is moot as the Ligonians’ honour system dictates that Picard is the one to go. Still, it was good to see.

There are other positives too, including a few early interactions between La Forge and Data give an early indication of the friendship that will blossom in later seasons.

However, as much positive as there is, there’s equally (if not moreso) some negative. Firstly, the Ligonians are so one dimensional it isn’t even funny, though Jessie Lawrence Ferguson does his best as Lutan. Additionally, the decision to cast the entire Ligonian group (remember, a race that is semi-barbaric, definitely archaic) as African Americans seems to have been a misstep that left the producers open to criticism. I don’t think the decision was inherently racist (as some reviewers implied) – in fact, if you take the same characters and script, and diversify the actors playing the roles, absolutely nothing changes. Poor judgement, rather than poor taste.

Aside from this, there are other problems. Firstly, Yar has one of the most radical cases of Stockholm syndrome I have ever comes across. Lutan kidnaps her and she… is attracted to him for it? Yar is meant to be a tough security officer that has battled her way through adversity and up the ranks. In the The Naked Now she even mentions attempting to avoid ‘rape gangs’ when growing up. I’m simply not buying it.

The fight scene at the end is very clunky and poorly choreographed. The set is quite wobbly too, leading to comparisons from some of the weaker similar scenes in the Original Series.

Also, whilst not a plot hole exactly, the fact that the doctor cannot replicate the vaccine from the sample seems to be a very convenient plot device for having to stick around. If they wanted to do the kidnap story, it could have been carried out without the Ligonians delivering a sample at all and there wouldn’t have been the need for the doctor’s facilities to seem to inadequate.

Code of Honor shows flashes of what the show will eventually become, as well as being an okay storyline in its own right. Troi and Yar aside, the crew seem much more comfortable with each other. However, the episode is hurt by some poor casting, one dimensional antagonists and a below par execution. More miss than hit, it is at least better than The Naked Now.

2/5

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The Verdict | Code of Honor shows flashes of what the show will eventually become, as well as being an okay storyline in its own right. Troi and Yar aside, the crew seem much more comfortable with each other. However, the episode is hurt by some poor casting, one dimensional antagonists and a below par execution. More miss than hit, it is at least better than The Naked Now.
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