Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Star Trek: The Next Generation--"Code of Honor"

We have a unique creature here in “Code of Honor”--a TNG episode which would have fit better within the ‘60’s era TOS, but probably would have made for some discomfort even then. I am about as politically incorrect as one can be without embracing full on nihilism, but the alien Ligons, like something straight out of a ’30’s move serial presentation of tribal Africa, made my jaw drop a couple times. The only thing that could have made it worse is if they all had bones in their noses and tried to cook tasha Yar in a huge pot. They already play with ivory tusks.

Ligon has a rare vaccine which can be used to treat a illness ravaging a federation planet at which millions of lives are at stake. Lutan, their leader is willing to give the Federation all they need as long as he is shown the respect he believes he deserves. It is apparently difficult for the crew to do so, as they toss out all sorts of backhanded comments regarding the Ligons’ backwards customs, superstitions, and warlike attitudes because human grew out of thata long time ago.

That thinly veiled contempt for any alien culture not in tune with Federation ideals will be a running theme throughout the early seasons. In this case, it takes on a nastier twist because of the stereotypical view of Africans as two steps away from screaming, ’evil spirits!’ and bashing the Enterprise computers with a club at the slightest hint of a flash of light or ping of a button.

Lutan develops a fascination with TashaYa, not only because she is security chief rather than a barefoot and pregnant housewife, but because she judo flips his bodyguard, attendant, or whatever the heck that guy was. He kidnaps Tasha as a sign of his superiority in the face of the more powerful Federation, forcing Picard into the position of politely asking for her back.

For whatever reason, I find that move to be even more insulting. Picard gave Lutan a wooden horse as a gift of friendship between Ligon and the Federation, which is about as patronizing as you can get. It reminded me of the scene in Blazing Saddles where the governor is going to give Indian tribes ball and paddles in exchange for their land because they have no idea what things are worth. It was a laugh line in 1973 comedy, but done in earnest in 1987 science fiction. Then Lutan has to do his thing in order to gain respect? Ugh.

Picard plays along while the Ligons seem none the wiser condescendingly two-faced he is being. In several private conversations among the crew, Picard pretty much admits if it were not for the Prime Directive, he would raze the place and just take the vaccine.

Lutan’s wife challenges Tasha to a fight to the death when Lutan makes clear he plans to keep her. Never one to pass up an opportunity whop someone upside the head in her repressed anger, agrees.

In a scnee straight out of “Amok Time”, the two engage in a melodramatic brawl with poisoned spikes and a lot of grunting. Tasha eventually wins, beams the defeated, then dead woman aboard so Crusher can bring her back, Lutan thinks it is all witchcraft, but honors his agreement to give all the vaccine if tasha won. To add insult to injury, his wife dumps him for his bodyguard, assistant, or whatever the heck he was in spite of there being no hin the had a thing for her until he showed concern for her during the duel with Tasha. Lutan probably would have beheaded him if he had expressed any interest.

Amid all this was an annoying Wesley moment. Picard had ordered him to stay away completely from the bridge. He stands sheepishly in the turbo lift while his mother asks permission for him to come on the bridge. When he does set one foot in, Riker moves towards him with a reark like, ’I’ll get rid of him, sir,’ like he is taking out the trash. What a contemptuous scene. Trash that saved the ship in the previous episode, to boot. Instead, Wesley gets to man to comm while the ship is in orbit to the surprise of everyone. Wesley still comes across as a wedgie waiting to happen.

“Code of Honor” is definitely not one of TNG’s brighter moments, even by the first season's standards.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

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