“Code of Honor”
Written by Katharyn Powers & Michael Baron
Directed by Russ Mayberry and Les Landau (uncredited)
Season 1, Episode 3
Production episode 40271-104
Original air date: October 12, 1987
Captain’s Log: The Enterprise travels to Ligon II to negotiate a treaty in order to acquire a vaccine. Lutan beams aboard with his entourage, and is greeted by Picard, Riker, Troi, and Yar. Lutan has his second, Hagon, give Picard a sample of the vaccine, which Yar tries to take first in order to check it. When Hagon resists allowing her to perform her duty, she throws him to the floor, embarrassing the crap out of him.
Lutan, of course, views this as an opportunity, because he’s a suspicious-looking alien leader, and if he didn’t view this as an opportunity, there would be no plot.
After a diplomatic exchange of silly niceties, Lutan asks Yar for a demo of self-defense on the holodeck. Yar does well against the hologram, but Hagon fares less well, being tossed to the floor for the second time in one day. When the Ligonians beam down, they kidnap Yar. Data analogizes what Lutan does to counting coup—he’s being heroic by taking something from a superior enemy.
When Picard politely asks for Yar back, Lutan invites him down to the surface, where they meet Yareena, Lutan’s “first one.” She owns Lutan’s lands, which he protects and rules. Picard agrees to again politely ask for Yar back, this time at a big banquet in front of his peers.
Lutan, however, goes off-book by deciding to keep Yar and make her his first one. His existing first one takes umbrage for obvious reasons and challenges Yar to a duel to the death because, well, that’s what people do. I guess.
Result: cat fight in a jungle gym! Yar and Yareena (yes, really) have a particularly ineptly choreographed battle, using glavins—a mace with poisoned spikes. As soon as Yar (of course) wins, she beams herself and Yareena’s body to the Enterprise, where Crusher administers an antitoxin and revives her. Thanks to her dying, however temporarily, her mating with Lutan is dissolved, and she chooses Hagon, as he’s the only other Ligonian male with a speaking part.
The Enterprise gets the vaccine, and warps away.
Thank You, Counselor Obvious: “Lieutenant Yar is physically very attractive.” Good thing she mentioned that, or we might not have noticed!
Can’t We Just Reverse The Polarity?: “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 showing uncharacteristic restraint.
What Happens On the Holodeck Stays On the Holodeck: Yar demonstrates aikido with a holographic fighter. This leads to one of the episode’s better lines, which was sadly not followed up on: “You can create people without a soul?”
No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: Yar does find Lutan physically attractive, and Lutan definitely finds her and her ability to throw his second to the floor pretty hot as well. Yareena loves Lutan because, well, everyone loves Lutan, but not enough to keep him when he tries to have her killed. Hagon has the hots for Yareena, and wins in the end, thus vindicating his constantly being thrown to the floor.
The boy!?: Picard, in order to appease Crusher, lets Wesley temporarily sit at ops. He emphasizes the word temporarily very loudly. Later on, for no reason that the script adequately—or even inadequately—explains, Riker lets Wesley again sit at ops, despite there being an entire crew complement of qualified Starfleet personnel on board.
If I Only Had a Brain…: Data and La Forge’s friendship, which would become a cornerstone of the series, is on display for the first time in this episode. Data tries to tell a joke, and fails rather spectacularly.
Welcome Aboard: Jessie Lawrence Ferguson has tremendous presence as Lutan, which is one of the episode’s few saving graces. The same cannot be said of Karole Selmon, who is painfully overwrought as Yareena. James Louis Watkins falls down well as Hagon.
I Believe I Said That: “I’m sorry—this is becoming a speech.”
“You’re the captain, you’re entitled.”
Picard cutting off his Prime Directive rant, and Troi letting him off the hook.
Trivial Matters: Russ Mayberry, the episode’s director, was fired by Gene Roddenberry partway through filming. Apparently, the casting of entirely African-American actors as the aggressively primitive Ligonians did not sit well with the Great Bird of the Galaxy, and Les Landau—who would go on to become one of the franchise’s most prolific directors—finished the job. Also Katharyn Powers would go on to write a first-season Stargate SG1 episode, “Emancipation,” with several similar plot elements.
Make It So: I’m trying to think of a cliché that wasn’t used in this episode, but none spring to mind. A flat, lifeless hour with no kind of suspense, no interesting character development, and a plot that was aggressively paint-by-numbers. Among the lowlights are clunky dialogue, ranging from the stilted diplomatic backing-and-forthing to the clumsy exposition about the Ligonians, to the Ligonians themselves describing their culture as if it was from a textbook rather than their own experiences. Worst is quite possibly the most unsubtle discussion of the Prime Directive in the history of the show by Picard. Mercifully, he cuts it off before it becomes a tiresome speech.
The accusations of racism against the episode that have been leveled by many—most notably actors Jonathan Frakes and Brent Spiner and staff writer Tracey Tormé—are a bit iffy, only because the script didn’t explicitly call for the Ligonians to be played by African-Americans. If the Ligonians had been played by white people, none of the dialogue would change, and nobody would call it racist.
However, this episode doesn’t need to be racist to be mediocre.
Warp factor rating: 2