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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
ST:TNG:04 - "Code Of Honor" (Stardate: 41235.25) - this episode of The Next Generation is very much in the spirit of the original series in its feel. This includes the score by Fred Steiner (who was one of the prolific composers on the original series), to the cinematography of the planet, to the natives of that planet (the costume design and the production design), to the storyline - all in all, an okay episode showing that this new series is still trying to find its direction, still relying heavily on the original Star Trek series for guidance. This episode also introduces Wesley Crusher as he begins his training on the bridge of the Enterprise, though in this episode not in a professional capacity (but as a favor of sorts).
In this episode there are first attempts of a character development
visible as well as setting the focus not only around the leading cast
but also trying to include supportive ones in the plot. Data for
example is making his first (of many) attempts to cope with human humor
and his relation to LaForge is founded. Furthermore Riker more clearly
is used as an equally treated character next to the Captain. This marks
the first step on the way of splitting up the action between several
places which will become common procedure in later Star Trek.
The episode itself has not much to mention. The script is classically TOS as is the set design and almost everything except the new crew. Lutan is not much of an opponent neither his acting abilities nor his character and Picard and Riker carry the show almost with routine. Troi as usual is the weak spot in the TNG cast and Wesley seems out of place (once again).
The conflict between the prime directive and the need for a vaccine to cure Federation colonists (one of the many Star Trek McGuffins) seems much too artificial, which robs it of the potential of carrying a message. The prime directive of the Federation is a principle quite similar to German philosopher Immanuel Kant's (1724 - 1804) "Kategorischer Imperativ" which in my opinion is characterized by a tremendous lack of flexibility to be applicable. Its intention clearly is to avoid a new colonial age of suppression of other cultures but as to be seen in this episode (rather involuntarily one might guess) its strictness is its greatest weakness. It downright invites other cultures with different moral standards to trick the Federation into a conflict situation to weaken their position. Surely the Federation stresses the importance of diplomacy but diplomacy is a rather uneven ground and every strictly taken principle would ruin it because creativity is the most important point to it. The Prime Directive taken literally would destroy any diplomatic attempts by the Federation because it would make their actions predictable. Whatever Gene Roddenberry may be he is not a philosopher for his concepts aren't thought-ought and with every attempt of making man better he earns so many problems... I mean, what situation is this? Saving hundreds of lives or respecting an archaic culture's code of honor? Would anyone have been harmed if the crew of the Enterprise would have taken the vaccine by force? How many people died which could have been saved, while Picard's hands were bound and the silly fight took place (exposing a crew member to a great risk)? All that doesn't make any sense to me... Conflicts between cultures and different moral systems cannot be solved by one culture always giving in to the other. This would lead to an endless circle of dominance and submission. Tolerance and respect are high values and should be protected whenever possible... But they can't weigh out responsibility for one's own people. Respect has to be earned and should not be mistaken for accepting other people's ways of living. Conflicts only can be solved with decisions which can't always be made by the book. Acceptance and respect, responsibility and tolerance must be weighed out against each other thoroughly but finally the decision has to be made. On a Starfleet vessel it is the Captain's prerogative. He has his staff (all Starfleet academy graduates, trained in Starfleet procedures what includes a set of ethical values) to advise him and his own experience to guide him. That doesn't provide him from making mistakes but that's a different story. If Picard had to be judged on his decisions during this mission his hesitant way of acting surely would not have been highly appreciated. A Captain's responsibility is first of all to his ship and its crew. All other things come second.
The final solution of cheating Lutan could not be called examplary, could it? This would be a much greater sign of disrespect than (for example) having challenged him to fight or threatening him by a demonstration of power. If someone has such a strict and highly regarded code of honor, why not use it against him? In archaic cultures challenge always was an honorable thing to do...
But don't get me wrong, I'm a great fan of Star Trek. Not because I agree with all of its points but because it almost exemplary (and not always voluntarily) shows how complex life, politics and ethics really are. A model society always will be a model society and nothing more. TNG will go on with its naive and often clumsy dealings with highly complex conflict situations for a while and Star Trek in a whole will never really get rid of that. But one thing's clear. You always can learn something from it, even if it means learning how you shouldn't do it. It creates conflicts but the solutions it comes up with were, are and will ever be only few of nearly infinite possibilities. That's my point of Star Trek. It makes people sensitive to philosophical issues and the more Roddenberry got away from responsibility of its execution the more interesting and sometimes even ambivalent it got...
Tasha Yar is kidnapped by a race who resemble tribal Africans. The leader of this race wants her as his wife and subsequently she is forced to fight it out with his old wife. Quite a bizarre episode,which has far more in common with the original series than Next Gen, a move probably entirely deliberate given that this only the third episode. I have to say as a Star Trek fan, I can put up with a lot of shoddy acting, but something about Tasha Yar always made me grind my teeth. Perhaps it was the haircut, or the tone of voice but I never liked her much and this is a perfect example of why. To be honest I was pleased when she left the series and actually enjoyed her performances in her subsequent and inevitable comebacks. Not essential.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Code of Honor" (Episode 3, Season 1, Air Date 10/12/87, Star-date
41235.25) introduces the prime directive as a recurring theme in 'Star
Trek: The Next Generation', and it has a mature and rare assessment of
the odds of Tasha's success in a fight to the death.
It also has a 'Matrix' style martial arts demonstration in the hologram room. We learn briefly that strikes from holograms cause pain. We also learn that hologram fighters can learn Tasha's fighting tactics and find ways to defeat her at higher levels, so it keeps her constantly striving to improve her skills.
The plot is not very entertaining or complex. But it advances some details about Star Trek and key characters. Picard is a proud Frenchman, Wesley takes ops on the bridge, and Geordi uses an electric razor since the one Data set for him is too efficient. Data tries to learn humor and fails miserably; he keeps striving to achieve the human equation to no avail.
This episode seems a bit more mature since it parts ways with the dare devil and luck against improbable odds episode, 'Encounter at Farpoint'. 'Code of Honor' introduces a risk assessment of the situation for the first time. It openly discuss the odds of Tasha succeeding in a fight to the death. Usually the characters ignore probabilities and just do what is right or sympathetic or fantastic. In this episode they go with the odds; if only Spock was their to calculate the numbers for them!
The whole idea of the prime directive also forces a calming mood on the series. It restricts them from swiftly acting. Picard is not even the leader of away teams up to this episode, but in this episode the customs and emphasis of honor by the Ligonians gives Picard reason to lead the away team.
The Ligonians kidnap Tasha as part of their customs. Picard must play along since he is limited by the prime directive and so he cannot just take Tasha back (Picard also wants the Ligonians to trade a rare vaccine with them and open friendly relations).
Also we get information about the value system of Star Trek. Picard harshly rejects the Ligonian system of honor, but he stops before launching into his reasons.
The prime directive, however, is also an honor code of sorts. I think a better argument is for Picard to attack the unpredictable customs and dangerous taboos of the Ligonians. But this is a very liberal episode and the Ligonians turn out to be quite civilized despite their ways (Star Trek does not define 'civilization' in terms of technology but rather in terms of culture perhaps). Though this is a reasonable concern -- a new species or new civilization may have certain taboos that threaten successful contact with them. So this episode also starts the theme of first contact and its many difficulties.
For example, Picard tricks the Ligonians and saves a death thus violating the conditions of the fight to the death. I'm not convinced this coheres with the prime directive, and it shows that it's probably impossible for Star Trek to refrain from imposing its power over lesser technologically advanced civilizations at least to some extent.
This episode demonstrates that Star Trek is not merely concerned with overcoming impossible odds; it also considers rationality important as well. And it's concerned with cultural respect and not just forcing its own views onto others through the prime directive. But this goal is lofty and rare, usually people just universalize their values and attempt to hold others to them, and Star Trek has major problems faithfully sticking to it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Despite the campy reputation of the first two seasons, I sometimes
prefer the high melodrama here to the soft-focus light drama of the
This episode plays out much better than episode 2: the story contains true suspense as we watch Picard go from one failed solution to another, while sticking to the Prime Directive. There are a few stray ends, some good, some bad. Good: Data's attempt to understand human humour; the bad: Wesley.
One glaring flaw that has stuck with me for years is the first act cliffhanger: *spoiler alert* Tasha is kidnapped right in front of Picard, and his reaction is to calmly turn towards the camera and proclaim 'red alert'. It feels like a dry read through that they accidentally had the cameras on for. Wouldn't a close-up with a helpless reaction have been better? That one moment summed up for years one of the problems I always had with TNG: the lack of 'punch' that the original series had.
In any case, a good episode.
Once again, I feared that such a poor episode might sink the starship Enterprise. Some have called this racist but I think it's just a weak story about a male dominated world. Good heavens, about half our planet acts this way toward women. Tasha is kidnapped and put in a position where she must fight an alien woman for her life. How many times has this tired plot played out. Yar is an interesting character. She is rather masculine in appearance and has a kind of take-no-prisoners mentality. Of course, there is some complexity to this piece. There are negotiations with the indigenous beings in an attempt to solve the issue. The kicker is that these beings control a substance that is of dire importance to another interplanetary culture. The deus ex machina foolishness that eventually comes is quite unsatisfying. The culture seems set up for just such a result.
The Enterprise finds itself at Ligon II--a planet with an honor-based
culture and a look that is very similar to tribal Africans. Picard is
actually amazingly inept dealing with these folks, and when the Lionese
kidnap Lt. Yar, he thinks like a human--not like these people.
Eventually, when he begins to think more like them, relations go much
better--which is important since these people have a cure for a space
plague and the Federation needs it.
This isn't as bad an episode as the dismal current score of 5.2 would imply. It's actually pretty good. However, I do think that some people might be a bit offended by this one, as the tribal folks are all black people and the tone seems a tad patronizing.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When the Enterprise arrives at Ligon to collect a necessary vaccine for a virulent disease the Ligonian leader is welcomed aboard and in a flash of madness and ambition he abducts Lieutenant Natasha Yar. Captain Picard must gracefully ask for her return. The codes of honor and legal systems of ownership and sexual discrimination on this planet are interesting. Lutan's wife challenges Lutan's right of succession when Lutan declares he wants Tasha as his first one. Tasha is opposed to the challenge as it means a fight with Lutan's wife to the death. But, the vaccine is absolutely necessary and the fight is allowed. Tasha eventually defeats Yareena and she's quickly transported to the Enterprise. After giving the vaccine, Lutan is transported to the Enterprise suddenly by Picard and is infuriated to find Yareena alive and well. Doctor Crusher tells Lutan of Yareena's death and of how she brought her back. Yareena asks for Hagon to be her first one, who had cried out during the battle for her safety! Lutan is left without a wife and land. It was good to see Tasha standing up for what was right
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