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September 2, 2015

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Code of Honor

by Wil Wheaton, posted Apr 28th 2008 4:21PM
Code of HonorTitle: Code of Honor
Original Air Date: October 12, 1987
Written by: Katharyn Powers and Michael Baron
Directed by: Russ Mayberry
Episode: S01E04
Stardate: 41235.25

Synopsis: The inhabitants of the Federation planet Styris IV had the fish for dinner, leading to an outbreak of deadly Anchilles fever. With Styris IV's fate in the hands of Acting President Ted Striker and his intern Elaine, the Enterprise pays a visit to the only planet in the entire galaxy that can provide a vaccine, Ligon II.

Picard meets with the Ligonian leader Lutan and his little buddy Hagon when they beam up into the ship's cargo bay. On the way to meet them, Troi and Riker tell Picard that the Ligonians are a proud people with a very structured society. Picard thanks them for waiting until they're in the turbolift, going to the meeting to tell him this important information, instead of bogging down the pre-meeting briefing with it. When they get to the cargo bay, we discover that the Ligonians are also descended directly from a 1940s pulp novel set in deepest, darkest Africa, and that they are amused to discover that the Enterprise's security chief is a woman.

Oh good! We're going to be racist and sexist in this one!

Lutan has brought a sample of the vaccine to give Picard, but when Hagon tries to hand it off, Tasha stops him. When Hagon tries to give her the business, she hands him his ass. When she hands Picard the vaccine sample, Troi tells him that apologizing would be a sign of weakness, so Picard decides to really rub their noses in it with an invitation to the Observation Lounge for one of his patented seventeen-page scenes about nothing.

Nah, I'm just kidding. He actually gives Lutan an ancient Chinese horse statue as a gesture of friendship, because his culture is so similar to ancient, feudal China. (Man, the Sung dynasty really built their shit to last, didn't they?) Lutan tells Picard that, though they're not as technologically advanced as the Federation – well, except for the whole having-their-own-transporter thing, and having the same cool videophones as the Enterprise, and of course digital watches – they can still call the shots, because they have the vaccine and the most sparkly turbans in this part of the galaxy. He tells Picard that if he respects their customs, they'll totally be BFF , even after they all go home from Summer Camp. Picard starts a Slow Clap, a cheesy power ballad starts playing, and John Hughes cashes another residual check.

Everything is going so well, Lutan sends his homeboys back to the 'hood – whoops! Sorry. I mean, back to the planet – and asks to check out the holodeck, which he's heard is used for officer training.

Picard responds with what will be, until Wesley describes Worf's penis in "Justice," the most unintentionally dirty line of the season:

"It's also used for other things. Perhaps Commander Riker and Counselor Troi can demonstrate for you."

Lutan picks up on this and says, "Hey, that sounds great, but I'm not really interested in a swordfight. How about letting Tasha show it off?"

Tasha says, "I'd like to do it."

Lieutenant Butthead says, "Huh huh huh. Yeah, she said 'do it.'"

Ensign Beavis adds, "Yeah!" And they head out to the holodeck, where everyone is disappointed to learn that it isn't running Debbie Does Tasha, but Enter the Ninja.

Tasha spars for a minute with a computer-generated opponent, kicking its ass as soundly as she kicked Hagon's in the cargo bay. Hagon demonstrates how unimpressed he is by attempting to spar with it himself. He is instantly thrown to the ground, and Worf files a union grievance.

(If you'll allow me to stop snarking on this for just a moment: this scene is really cool. The holodeck was one of the truly awesome concepts on TNG, and one of those things that nerds who like to write their own technical manuals – like me, for instance – really enjoyed. Tasha's basic description of the technology is simple and not nearly as expository as it could be, and Jessie Lawrence Ferguson's reaction to the whole thing is honest and connects with the audience nicely. Also, Tasha's marshal arts look real because she and Jonathan spent one or two lunch breaks a week taking actual training, so their characters could use it in the show. And before you ask, no, I didn't take annoying nerd lessons on my lunch breaks. I was already a level 29 master of those particular skills, thank you very much. I spent my free time rehearsing lame dialogue until I could read it without wincing. With the writing in the first season, I didn't have time for much of anything else.)

Lutan is very impressed with Tasha's abilities. He's so impressed, in fact, that it gets a little creepy, and we wonder if she's going to be using a doll later to show the captain where Lutan gave her the Bad Touch.

They return to the cargo deck to say their tearful goodbyes. Lutan gives Picard a high five, but before Picard can catch him on the rebound, Lutan grabs Tasha and they beam away.

Picard sends the ship to red alert and goes back to the bridge, where he tries to contact Lutan, who is totally ignoring him. That shit don't fly with Picard, so he shoots a whole bunch of photon torpedoes at the planet to shock and awe the Ligonians. Lutan must be in a parking garage or something, because he still doesn't answer his cell. Picard asks Troi if she thinks they'll hurt Tasha, and Troi says they're probably just curious, but, in the case of Lutan, she felt "other needs."

Lieutenant Butthead says, "He wants to do it."

Ensign Beavis adds, "Yeah! Yeah!"

Troi tells Picard that the two animated characters are correct, but she also felt something extra-special from Lutan: something like avarice or ambition.

Picard says, "Again, allow me to thank you for not delivering this important information to me when it would have been useful. If you're interested in a career change, I hear Lost needs writers who aren't wedded to that whole 'answers' thing."

Data adds that the Ligonians respect patience. Ensign Ed Gruberman says, "Yeah, yeah, patience; how long will that take?" But Picard decides to wait it out, because if there's something TNG is really good at in the first season, it's spending pages and pages not going anywhere. Unlike some later episodes, however, we skip over that part here.

A full day goes by, and they still haven't heard anything from the planet. Picard is understandably concerned about the welfare of his chief of security, so it's the perfect time for the doctor to pay him a visit and pester him to allow Wesley to come hang out on the bridge.

You know, because the last time Wesley was on the bridge everything went so well, and in the middle of a crisis is the perfect time to – OH SWEET JESUS FUCKING CHRIST WHAT THE HELL WAS WRONG WITH THE WRITERS?!

Sorry. Sorry. I got a little worked up there. Let me try again.

Doctor Crusher visits Picard and tells him that the plague can kill millions of people, and while the vaccine is awesome and everything, she can't replicate it on the Enterprise. (In a devastating blow to technobabble enthusiasts everywhere, she never explains why, so we're forced to assume that she just doesn't want to infect her sickbay with ancient Sony DRM. Which, to be fair, is totally reasonable.) She's annoyed that Picard isn't as melodramatic as she is about the whole thing, so she changes the subject to her son, Wesley, because if there's one thing that can take Picard's mind off his problems, it's kids. Wesley has been ordered to stay off the bridge by the captain, but really really really wants to come hang out with the adults. Also, he's kinda sitting on the turbolift (holding the Door Open button for the last three minutes, I guess) and waiting, so maybe Picard could just let him, you know, come hang out.

Picard says, "Are you out of your fucking mind? My chief of security got kidnapped and taken down to the planet and we haven't heard from her in over a day, you idiot! Of all the times in the world to drag your annoying little wunderkind up here, you picked now? What are you smoking, and why didn't you bring me any? Get out of here, and take Mary Sue with you!"

Nah, I'm just kidding. He invites Wesley to sit at ops. Next to Geordi. In the middle of a major crisis.

My god, a lot of the hate mail I used to get suddenly makes a whole lot of sense. I have never been more grateful that there wasn't liveblogging in 1987 as I am right now.

Wesley, decked out in a smashing green cable-knit sweater and smart grey stretch pants, takes a seat at ops. While he puts his hands in his lap to hide his boner, Data tells Picard that the Ligonians live by a strict code of honor, and what Lutan did is similar to an ancient Native American ritual known as counting coup. Lutan considers his kidnapping a brave and bold act – almost as brave and bold as portraying an offensive, 1940s stereotype in 1987.

Lutan, having finally charged his cell phone battery, calls the Enterprise to see if Picard is impressed by his daring display of manliness. Picard tries to get up in his grill, but Riker and Data tell him to ask nicely for Lutan to give Tasha back.

Picard, certain that nothing can be as humiliating as letting Wesley hump the ops console, says, "Would you please, pretty, pretty please with sugar on top, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, let Tasha come home? Please."

Lutan, impressed by Picard's eloquence, says they should come over to his house, where they'll play some wicked Street Fighter II before he lets them take Tasha back home. Riker gets really excited, and says that he totally knows all of Dhalsim's moves, so he should lead the away team. Troi and Data tell him that, even though he's wicked good with Yoga Fire, they have to send Picard down this time because the Ligonians will respect his authoritah more than Riker's. Riker agrees, but says that if Picard gets killed on the planet, he's going to put him on report. Ah, what a wacky bit of gallows humor! Everyone has a good laugh, except Wesley, who asks if anyone has a towel he can borrow.

When they get to the planet, Lutan introduces his lovely wife Yareena, who is seriously rockin' the Rick James hairdo and wants to party all the time.

Picard acknowledges that she is quite the Superfreak, but he really wants to see Tasha. Lutan relents, and we learn a little bit more about Ligonian culture, and the importance they place on honor and ritual. If you'll allow me to stop snarking again for a moment, this is also a decent scene – grading, as always, on a steep curve – where we see Picard's diplomacy and strength on full display. Oh! Snark back on: It's too bad he can't seem to access this particular skill when dealing with Doctor Crusher and Wesley. Maybe he constantly fails his save vs. hot redheads with boobies. Thank you. Snark off. The writing in this scene isn't horrible, and the acting is quite good, so what could be painful exposition is instead a chance for the characters to develop while we all learn something together. Also, this is great misdirection. As we'll see in a few minutes, Lutan isn't interested in counting coup at all, and actually just wants all of Yareena's money and power (hey, it's just like John Kerry! Wait. McCain? Tell you what: apply your own politics, and have a good laugh at the other side.)

Tasha shows up, and though she is clearly unhappy with the whole "hey, I was just kidnapped by the 7*UP guy" thing, she's obviously okay. Which may explain why, even though she has her damn communicator on, she never once tried to contact the Enterprise so she could be safely beamed away.

After a few tense moments of delicate diplomacy, Picard and Lutan agree to chill out for a little bit, until they can have a little party, where he swears to Zombie Jesus he'll give up Tasha and the vaccine.

The party is a high class function. Food is served, and Picard's stone cold munchin'. Tasha walks in at the end of the show, and sits next to Lutan , who's sportin' a really sweet 'fro. She's dressed in yellow, she says "Hello, beam me the hell out of here you fine fellow." Picard does his best to incite the groove, but Lutan won't let him bust a move.

Er, what I mean is, they have their banquet. When it's over, with great dignity and grace, Picard follows Ligonian custom, and asks – politely and with great humility – for Lutan to let him take Tasha back to the Enterprise.

The thing is, Lutan isn't all that interested in letting Tasha go, because he's got Jungle Fever.

Yareena thinks Mandingo is a little out of line, so she says, "Hey! I have a great idea! Since TNG is only three episodes old, and we've only rehashed one original series episode so far, let's do it again! A show of hands: who here has seen 'Amok Time'?"

Picard says that he is so not cool with a fight to the death, and Lutan delivers the most quotable line of the episode, and maybe the first half (at least) of the first season: "Then you shall have no treaty, no vaccine, and no Lieutenant Yar!"

A little while later, Tasha assures Picard that she's going to kick Yareena's ass from her head down to her toenails (down to her feet!). Picard isn't entirely comfortable with this freaky scene, so he has a friendly "God, women are soooooo lame" talk with Lutan and Hagon, where he discovers that Lutan's a deadbeat, totally leeching off of Yareena. Lutan is pretty proud of the little situation he's created for himself: If Tasha wins the, uh, kal-if-fee, he inherits Yareena's money and her power; if Yareena wins, he still gets to keep it, and her, and everything will be crisp and clean, with no caffeine. Ha ha ha ha ha.

Back on the Enterprise, we find Geordi giving himself a shave. Data drops by to see if he can tell Geordi a joke. It's not funny, but the scene is actually quite charming and gives us a hint of the relationship that will eventually grow between the two of them. I don't think it's a coincidence that the real life affinity that was already growing between Brent and LeVar was mirrored by their characters.

Riker orders them down to the planet, where they meet up with Picard. The Captain wants them to check out the Ligonian weapons, so they can figure out how Tasha would use them in combat against Yareena.

Data says, "Would it not be more appropriate for them to fight with pillows? Or perhaps a tickle fight?"

"Sorry, Mr. Data," Picard says, "we're not on cable."

Data says that the whole thing seems like a joke. We're not sure if he's talking about the fight, the script, or if he's looked into the future and seen the first draft of Lonely Among Us. Whatever it is, Picard agrees with him, and then they have a talk about the Prime Directive that isn't nearly as annoying as it could be, mostly because Picard says, "I'm sorry, this is becoming a speech," about two seconds after the audience begins to wonder why he's making a speech. Sadly, the writers will completely forget this important insight and abandon its resulting self-restraint for the rest of the season.

Meanwhile, Tasha tries to talk Yareena out of the duel. She tells her that she doesn't care about Lutan, and is only fighting for the vaccine, but Yareena is really into her deadbeat husband, and tells Tasha that she is going to claw her fucking eyes out if she has to. Yeah, it's a little harsh, but Tasha's never had him, never will, and Yareena would like to keep it that way. She storms out of Tasha's quarters as the Temptations sing, "Woah oh oh oh oh oh oh."

Tasha meets up with Picard and the gang and gives them the bad news as some Ligonians drop off her weapon: the unholy metallic marriage of a sea urchin and a pirate's hook, lovingly covered with a deadly poison. It's called a glavin, provided by our good friends at Frink Industries, who remind you that the glavin is perfect for the nice lady with the poisonous spines and the sharp hook and hey hey hey it hurts because it's deadly.

So, Tasha and Yareena are finally ready to fight, but the arena isn't ready, so they settle for some playground equipment surrounded by deadly beams of light (that were created with fluorescent tubes, one of which exploded during filming and nearly caused some serious injuries, if my memory hasn't been too dulled by Arrogant Bastard Ale over the years.). The two of them go at it with the ferocity of a Women in Prison movie, but before they can get to the sexy shower scene, Tasha kind of kills Yareena. Whoops.

But not really! She falls on Yareena's corpse, and the two of them are beamed up to the Enterprise, where Doctor Crusher gives her the old McCoy maneuver and brings her back to life with a hypospray.

Meanwhile, on the planet, Lutan is a little upset that Tasha isn't around to become his new wife, until Hagon reminds him that he now has all of Yareena's money and power, and probably doesn't need to be all tied down to just one lady, if you get my drift. He also agrees to give Starfleet all the vaccine they need, and Picard shows his gratitude by beaming them all back up to the Enterprise, where Lutan discovers that, contrary to what he saw on the planet, Yareena isn't quite ready to go on the cart.

This really unravels his turban, and he declares that there will be "no treaty, and NO VACCINE!"

Noticing that her husband is less than thrilled to see her still alive, Yareena stands up, makes a note here: HUGE SUCCESS, and tells Lutan that because she technically died, they're not married any more. She's taking her money and her land, and giving it all to Hagon, who will be her number one. As a consolation prize, though, Lutan can be her number two.

Lieutenant Butthead says, "Huh huh huh, you said 'number two.' "

Ensign Beavis replies, "Hey, let's go check out the poop deck! Yeah! Yeah! I am Cornholio! AHHHHH!!!"

(I can't believe I kept that joke going all the way until the end. Go me.)

Quotable Dialog: "Then you shall have no treaty, no vaccine, and no Lieutenant Yar!" - Lutan, layin' it down.

Obligatory Technobabble: "It reads similar to early Starfleet efforts but uses the Heglenian shift to convert energy and matter in different . . . which is actually not important at this time." –Data, explaining how the Ligonian transporter works, which is really not important at this time, or any other.

Behind the Scenes Memory: The sad truth is that I don't recall much of anything about this episode, other than how unhappy everyone was to be doing it. In fact, until I watched it for the first time in twenty-one years for this review, I'd completely forgotten that I was even in it.

I've read that the Ligonians were not explicitly described as entirely African American in the script, but were cast that way at the behest of director Russ Mayberry, who apparently went on to be so offensively racist and treated the actors so poorly that Gene fired him before the episode was completed and handed the directing responsibilities over to then – First AD Les Landau. [Citation Needed] (Ironically, Mayberry went on to direct quite a few episodes of "In the Heat of the Night," which proves either that he learned something from this experience or that he's really good at directing stories about racists.)

However, in place of my nonexistent personal memories, I'd like to share this, from Twitter:
wilw: Attempting to review Code of Honor for TV Squad. Please send anti-nausea medication.
Etherlad: @wilw No! You will have no anti-nausea medication, no treaty, no Lt. Yar, and NO VACCINE.
Gudlyf: @wilw Guinness: the cure-all
wordwill: @wilw Is that the episode with the primitive wannabe "Amok Time" battle with poisoned Mega Man gloves? Totally forgot that one existed.
Angiek42: @wilw Sweet Zombie Jesus! Good luck!
Matthancocknz: @wilw Garrett Wang tried to watch TNG several times when he worked on VOY. Somehow, the episode was always CoH and he always turned it off.
Wordwill: @wilw Please let me go back to forgetting it.

The Bottom Line: Code of Honor is not an especially good episode, but it's not as overtly racist as I recalled. I mean, it's certainly not as racist as "Angel One" is sexist, and if the Ligonians hadn't been arbitrarily determined to be entirely African American, it wouldn't have even been an issue. (Although someone definitely owes the Sung dynasty an apology.)

The premise isn't all that bad, really: the captain has to carefully deal with an alien civilization's complex and unique code of laws and personal conduct so he can save an important officer, as well as millions of people on Starbase Macguffin. Lutan's duplicity is an interesting and unexpected plot twist, and the way they solve Yareena's death is moderately clever.

The episode had promise, but it just couldn't overcome one of science fiction's most overused cliches, even though Patrick Stewart's and Jessie Lawrence Ferguson's commitments to Picard and Lutan make their scenes quite watchable. The rest of the episode? Not so much. (Don't even get me started about putting Wesley on the bridge in the middle of a goddamned crisis that -- sorry. Sorry.)

To put it into context, though: This is only our third episode, and as I mockingly pointed out in the synopsis, it borrows way too heavily from "Amok Time," immediately after an episode that was essentially a rewrite of another TOS classic. We were still proving that we deserved the right to carry the Star Trek mantle, and when I look back at "Code of Honor" and see that it came between "The Naked Now" and "The Last Outpost," I'm astonished that we weren't canceled by mid-season. In fact, if we hadn't been first-run syndication, and if the core audience of Trekkies hadn't been as patient as the Ligonians – not to mention incredibly forgiving – we almost certainly would have been.

Final Grade: C

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Funny stuff, makes me want to read more.

August 06 2012 at 2:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


I have just been reading the Trek-pedia's article about Star Trek V. Please do not worry, I am not a *fan*, if you get my drift. What I found interesting about this article, though, is that it claims producer Harve Bennett blamed part of the box office failure of Trek V on viewer dissatisfaction with TNG. I do not know if you are ever going to post about this series ever again, but I would really like it if you could shed any light on this matter. As I would like to emphasise, I am not a *fan*, but I did purchase Trek V on DVD way back when I actually watched that format, and I am hoping like hell that Bennett never really said any such thing, because although TNG was frequently awful as you rightly point out, blaming Trek V's failure to bring home the bacon on anything but Trek V seems like a major, major case of passing the buck.

November 26 2011 at 9:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm African American, and it's one of my very favorite ST episodes because it features an all-African planet. I wonder what LeVar Burton and Michael Dorn thought of the episode at the time.

May 16 2011 at 3:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Where's the next one, dammit?? *g* The waits are cruel and intolerable!!

June 28 2008 at 7:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Whilst marking statistics papers (yes the nerd factor increases) I'm re-watching STNG:Season 1. Got to this episode & decided to read Wil's review.

Now I'm cracking up and the papers are lying on the side.

June 09 2008 at 11:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Wil, that was one of the best reviews you've yet written. Hilariously funny--I hope you keep this up for years to come. I was in my sophomore year of college when TNG began, so I've been with the series since the beginning, and although I was never a fan of Wesley's character, I was also never one to bash you as an actor, as it was fairly obvious the problem with Wes wasn't you, but rather the inept writing of his dialog and his inappropriate use in the series (this episode being a perfect example, as you so hilariously point out). When I came across your blog, and then these reviews, I was happy to find that despite all the flack you took in the '80s and '90s, you're a great guy and one hell of a funny writer. Your self-deprecating recaps make my day, and although I wish they came out more frequently, I'm sure you need a lot of time to write these gems and am happy to wait for them to come (cue Beavis and Butthead: "huh huh huh huh huh"). And if you don't continue wiriting these, then you shall have no treaty, no vaccine and no Lieutenant Yar.

May 13 2008 at 9:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Great review again. Perhaps "Angel One" was more offensive in terms of stereotypes, but personally it's hard for me tell which episode worse even in terms of writing. They are two episodes that stand out for me as the worst of modern Star Trek, among others such as Voyager's "11:59".


May 08 2008 at 6:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Ensign Ed Gruberman says, "Yeah, yeah, patience; how long will that take?

Ah, The Frantics... I'm such a nerd for knowing what you were going to say the second I read "Ed Gruberman"

May 06 2008 at 4:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

OK, first, hilarious. Because this was *always* such an awful piece of evidence of ample leftover racism/sexism in the industry, even in a smart forward-thinking vehicle like ST....

You cracked me up with your B&B references. Always keeping me on my toes, reference-wise, Wheaton! Nice work....many hahas...

But one question;

"Picard responds with what will be, until Wesley describes Worf's penis in "Justice," the most unintentionally dirty line of the season:

"It's also used for other things. Perhaps Commander Riker and Counselor Troi can demonstrate for you."

Lutan picks up on this and says, "Hey, that sounds great, but I'm not really interested in a swordfight."

Doesn't this imply that Counselor Troi has a d*ck?

That would TOTALLY explain the posture, emoting, and big perfect hair.
Not a comment on Sirtis...she could definitely take me in a fight, she strikes me as a hair puller....


May 05 2008 at 10:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Matt Adams

Hi Wil. I have been a fan of ST:TNG since it's inception in 1987. hard to believe nearly twenty-one years have come and gone since then. I still fondly remember the early episodes and actually burned out on the series around 1991-92, but followed the films in the years after. Really, Nemesis is what drew me back. Great to see you on here and may you know you got a true fan in NC!

May 02 2008 at 8:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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