Sep 8 2011 1:02pm

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “A Matter of Honor”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch by Keith DeCandido: “A Matter of Honor”“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
Stardate: 42506.5

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.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch by Keith DeCandido: “A Matter of Honor”

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.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch by Keith DeCandido: “A Matter of Honor”

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.)

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch by Keith DeCandido: “A Matter of Honor”

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.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch by Keith DeCandido: “A Matter of Honor”

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.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch by Keith DeCandido: “A Matter of Honor”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.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch by Keith DeCandido: “A Matter of Honor”

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.

Margot Virzana
1. LuvURphleb
Thank you for mentioning the hypocritical factor! I really cant stand this episode. Its not thaglts its bad its just there. Whn choosing which star trek to watch i usually skip this one. And it grates on my earnubs that riker goes on and on about "he's your father."
However i do like klag.
2. Pendard
Undoubtedly one of the best episodes of the second season, and one of the best Riker episodes too, in my opinion. Sometimes Riker disappears behind his job and seems like he's all business. Jonathan Frakes does a good job reminding us that Riker's a fun loving guy in his off hours, but it's great to see how enthusiastic he is here.

As Klingon episodes go, I like parts of this and hate other parts. The relationship that forms between Riker and Klag is very fun the watch, and the mess hall scene is also excellent, as you say. On the other hand, the Klingons seem way too suspicious of the Federation. This can't all be blamed on Kargan -- the crew never question him, and when Riker gets him out of the way, nobody seems relieved that a stupid blunder has been avoided. It's hard to imagine that an alliance could endure between the Federation and the Klingons when the Klingons are on such a hair trigger. I preferred the way the Klingons were portrayed in "Heart of Glory," where all but the renegades have chosen to keep their violent instincts in check so they can do their duty. In "The Mind's Eye," in a much more volatile political climate, with much clearer evidence of Federation wrong-doing, the Klingons are still willing to give the Federation a chance to explain itself. Kargan and the crew of the Pagh (except maybe Klag) seem way too beligerant.
3. Chessara
I agree, this is one of the best Riker epsiodes, and I never liked him much! Maybe if the writers had given us a bit more of this Riker through the years...he really does seem to shine when he's away from the Enterprise...hmm, is Picards's shadow too large? :-)

As Keith puts it:

If I Only Had a Brain...: Data gets to be first officer while Riker is away and, frankly, does a better job of it....

LOL!! :p
A very enjoyable episode, love the insights we get about the Klingons, and only have a minor gripe with Riker going on and on saying "He's your father" that has nothing to do with "The Icarus Factor" but more with: Hey! You're supposed to be learning about their culture and view of life, duty, family, etc, NOT passing judgment after being there for all of what, one hour? Please be a little more diplomatic!

I also liked Klag as a character and I was very pleasantly surprised to learn there are novels that expand upon what was seen here...I might check them out! ;)
4. don3comp
I think the concept of the galactic inter-cultural exchange really exemplefies and speaks to the spirit of (Roddenberry's ideals for) "Star Trek."
5. Geckomayhem
Great. Now I have to not only start downloading TNG, but I have to try and find time to actually start watching the series from the start! T'was the best of all Star Trek iterations. But being a child of the 80s, one could say I am biased. I also think MacGyver is the best action/adventure show that exists, The X-files is the best mystery/alien/sci-fi and Stargate SG-1 is the best... Stargate series. ;)
Adrian J.
6. LightningStorm
@3: I don't think Picard's shadow is too big. Patrick Stewart, on the other hand, casts quite a ridiculous shadow to attempt to step out of.

@5: SG1 is absolutely the best Stargate series, Infinity, Atlantis, and Universe just don't even come remotely close.
Keith DeCandido
7. krad
Pendard: You're engaging in cultural relativism. :) Of course the Klingons don't question Kargan, he's their captain. There's very little room for dissent or disagreement. Yes, a first officer can remove a captain permanently if he acts in an irrational manner, but a captain can remove anyone without having to even justify it.

Also, as we've seen plenty of times (Duras's reference to a Starfleet uniform as "a child's uniform" in "Sins of the Father," K'Vada's contempt for Picard and Data in "Unification," etc.), while the Klingon Empire may respect the United Federation of Planets as allies, plenty of Klingons don't think very highly of the people who inhabit the Federation.....

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
8. Fatal_Frost
Nice summary, krad.

One of the things I always respected Riker for in this episode was his willingness to take one on the the end of the episode. I can't imagine standing still and letting someone hit you, let alone a Klingon! And what's funny is it seems Kargan had forgotten procedure, and might have let Riker get by without an honorable hit until Riker reminded him.
9. DLFerguson
Absolutely one of the best Riker episodes. Seeing the way Riker throws himself into his crash course in Klingon culture really gave Jonathan Frakes a chance to shine and show what he could do with Riker when he got the chance.
Clarice Meadows
10. embereye
I have a deep and abiding love for the Riker eating Klingon food and
Picard's amazing facial expressions scene. Riker is great, the Klingons
besides Kargan were great... I just really enjoyed this episode.
Justin Devlin
11. EnsignJayburd
I agree, the mess hall scene was one of the best scenes in all of Star Trek. The dialogue was perfect right down to the Klingon chatter in the background.

And yes, Riker comes off as a hypocrite here in regards to parental relations, but so what? I think that just makes him that much more human and interesting. I keep telling my daughters that they ought to be nice to each other else they may become estranged when they grow up. I should know, I have 2 estranged brothers. Call me a hypocrite.
12. NullNix
The Klingon vessel's name is a tad strange in hindsight. Either the Klingons and Bajorans had contact long enough ago for the Klingons to be borrowing Bajoran words into their language or at least naming their ships after Bajoran religious concepts, or we have a cross-language false friend (quite possible).
13. Sparkforce
I always find it odd when aliens are able to speak and have it sound like their native language rather than being translates by the universal translator. How does the U.T. know when someone wants the word to be heard untranslated? I would like at least some attempt at am explanation.

I always liked the Doctor Who episode where they make a sort of Knox to this problem. Donna Noble and the Doctor visit Pompeii and Donna finds out that the TARDIS is translating for her--making it so that even though she is speaking English, everyone in Pompeii hears her speaking Latin. Then she asks the Doctor what would happen if she said something in actual Latin like veni vidi vici. The Doctor says he doesn't know (and complains the she 'has to ask the hardest questions') so Donna goes up to a shop keeper and says, 'Veni vidi vici' and the shop keeper doesn't understand her (he thinks she's speaking Celtic). It doesn't complelely answer the questions raised by a U.T., but at least in acknowledges that it's sort of weird.
14. Durek
For obvious reasons, I love this episode. It's the genesis of your IKS Gorkon/Klingon Empire series, all of which I have. We have Starscream as a Klingon (the late voice actor Chris Latta aka Christopher Collins as Kargan).
15. Brett Alan
On recently rewatching this episode, every time Kargan spoke, I kept thinking of the same actor as a Pakled in Samaritain Snare. Really ruins the character.
16. Jacob H
Hey, remember back in season 1, epsiode 18 ("Coming of Age")? Remember how that Starfleet Academy proctor told Mordock that he was the first Benzite to get into the Academy? Well, so what's the deal with this Ensign Mendon guy? He's an Ensign, so presumably he has graduated Starfleet Academy...? Is there some other way to become an Ensign besides graduating from SA (beside having the Traveler vouch for you)?

Even if he is some kind of Intern Ensign while he is still somehow in the Academy, he still would have to have been admitted before that other Benzite was told that he was the first.

Maybe that proctor just had old information...

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