“A Matter of Honor”
Written by Wanda M. Haight, Gregory Amos, & Burton Armus
Directed by Rob Bowman
Season 2, Episode 8
Production episode 40272-134
Original air date: February 6, 1989
Captain’s Log: Some crew replacements come on board the Enterprise, along with Ensign Mendon, a Benzite, who’s part of an officer exchange program. Riker volunteers to participate in the program as well, serving on a Klingon ship. He is assigned as first officer of the Pagh.
While Riker does research into Klingon culture, cuisine, and protocol, Mendon wanders the bridge, with his ego entering the room about twenty seconds before he arrives.
When the Enterprise rendezvouses with the Pagh, Mendon detects a bacterial colony on the hull of the latter ship, but doesn’t report it. However, he does try to make some recommendations to Picard, who cuts him off at the pass, saying that he must observe the chain of command. Mendon reports to Worf, who is less than impressed with the eager young twerp. Worf also gives Riker a transponder as a security precaution.
Riker reports to Captain Kargan on the bridge of the Pagh. Kargan questions Riker’s loyalty, and Riker assures him that he will serve the vessel Kargan’s second officer, Klag, doesn’t believe him. Riker beats him up in order to make it clear that he’s the baddest mother on the block. Only then does Klag say he’ll follow Riker’s orders and Kargan makes it clear that Riker will follow his orders.
Worf detects the bacteria on the Enterprise, at which point Mendon mentions that he already saw it on the Klingon ship. Picard upbraids his protocol breach which actually was not a protocol breach by Benzite standards and then tells him to examine the bacteria. Mendon does so, bemoaning his inability to learn the Enterprise protocols. Wes gives him a pep talk, which gets him back to his old egotistical self.
Riker shares a meal with the crew of the Pagh, exchanging stories, jokes, and innuendo with Klag and the others. Riker learns about Klag’s estrangement with his father, eats live serpent worms, and gets hit on by a Klingon woman named Vekma.
Shortly thereafter, the Pagh gets a hole in their hull from the bacteria. In a leap in logic that the Hungarian judge gives a 9.5, Kargan decides that this was an attack by the Enterprise. Riker tries to be rational on the subject, but Kargan’s not having any of that. (It doesn’t help that Mendon focused an intense sensor scan on the very spot that has the bacteria, which makes things a bit suspicious.) Even when the Enterprise broadcasts a solution come up with by Mendon Kargan refuses to believe that this is anything other than an attack.
Riker refuses to give up any secrets of the Enterprise to help destroy her, but he will fight and die with the crew. But then he takes out his transponder, which Kargan immediately snatches from him. Riker had been counting on that; O’Brien locks onto the signal and beams Kargan onto the Enterprise bridge. Riker then takes command of the Pagh and orders the cloak dropped, and he asks Picard to surrender.
In short order, the Enterprise is able to fix the Pagh, Kargan is beamed back, he beats Riker up to remind everyone who has the largest penis, then kicks him off the ship.
Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity?: The bacteria is a sub-micron organism that is removed by a neutrino pulse. Neutrinos don’t actually do anything, since they’re completely inert, so it’s unclear how this works, but hey, the word “neutrino” sounds really cool.
If I Only Had a Brain…: Data gets to be first officer while Riker is away and, frankly, does a better job of it….
There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: Worf explains Klingon methods of attrition to Riker (I love the euphemism of “honorable retirement” for assassination for sucking at your job), then gets to intimidate Mendon a lot, but his best moment is when Kargan is beamed aboard. Worf’s hand goes right to his sidearm, and he takes the Klingon down before Kargan has a chance to whip out his own phaser.
Welcome Aboard. The episode has an impressive collection of Klingons. The weak link is Christopher Collins as Kargan, whose bluster is overplayed, but Peter Parros, Laura Drake, and especially Brian Thompson (in the first of five roles on modern Trek) absolutely shine as, respectively, the tactical officer, Vekma (the woman in the mess hall), and Klag. Colm Meaney returns as O’Brien and in this episode, his personality starts to come to the fore, particularly in two exchanges with Riker. Finally, John Putch returns, playing another Benzite like Mordock in “Coming of Age,” who is apparently from the same geo-structure “so naturally, we look alike.” (When Wes asks how they tell each other apart, Mendon shrugs and says, “We just do,” a delightful reply.)
I Believe I Said That: “I’m familiar with the practice of the feast before the transfer, I’ve done it dozens of times. However, I usually made more palatable choices.”
“Well, these are the more palatable choices.”
Picard and Riker discussing Klingon cuisine.
Trivial Matters: Klag would return in several novels by your humble rewatcher, starting with the TNG novel Diplomatic Implausibility, where Klag gets his first command, and continuing in The Brave and the Bold Book 2, in the four I.K.S. Gorkon and Klingon Empire novels, and in A Singular Destiny. His estrangement with his father established in this episode was expanded upon in those novels, and he was the main character in them.
While Kargan isn’t seen in any of those novels he is established as being killed during the Dominion War his actions in this episode are somewhat explained….
Vekma also returned in the Gorkon novels, as well as A Time to Kill by David Mack.
The exchange program in this episode would be used again in “Sins of the Father.” Riker’s criticism of Klag not speaking to his father for years would be revealed as incredibly hypocritical in “The Icarus Factor.”
Make it So: “Many things will be different.” The episode that truly set the tone for all the Klingon episodes that would come after it, this is a brilliant episode that has the Trek hallmark of different cultures working together and trying to understand each other. Riker’s eager diving into Klingon culture is a joy to behold, and Mendon’s roller-coaster through arrogance and comeuppance and back to arrogance again is entertaining as well.
The mess hall scene is one of the best scenes in all of Trek, at once funny, informative, clever, and enjoyable, a wonderful meeting of human and Klingon cultures. So much of what came later was informed by this episode particularly with regards to Klingon attitudes toward dying in battle and their food but even if we never saw the Klingons again, this would’ve been a wonderful episode.
The only weak link in the story is Kargan. He really does come across as an imbecile who’s itching for a fight for no good reason. It’s the classic idiot plot: a character acts like an idiot in order to make the plot work.
Still, this is an excellent episode, Star Trek at its Star Trekkiest.
Warp factor rating: 8
Keith R.A. DeCandido wrote Klag in the novels Diplomatic Implausibility, A Good Day to Die, Honor Bound, Enemy Territory, A Burning House, and A Singular Destiny. His latest books include the fantastical police procedurals Unicorn Precinct and SCPD: The Case of the Claw. He’s working on sequels to both books for 2012 release: Goblin Precinct and SCPD: Avenging Amethyst. For more about Keith, go to his web site, from which you can order his latest books, and check out his blog, his Facebook page, and his Twitter feed, not to mention his twice-monthly podcast Dead Kitchen Radio.