Plot Synopsis: A mission to acquire a much-needed vaccine is jeopardized when a planetary ruler decides he wants Tasha Yar as his wife and kidnaps her.
Plot A and B Analysis: The teaser sets up our plot: the Federation needs to acquire a vaccine that only the folks on Ligon II have, and the Enterprise is there to negotiate for it–the Ligonians beam to the cargo bay for some reason, and one of the sexist suckers challenges Tasha only to have the smack laid down, and finally their leader seems interested in using her for some purpose. Plot A is the plot involving the Ligonians, Yar and the vaccine, there is no plot B. It doesn’t take long before we see how the Ligonians (who are all Black) are going to be portrayed. “A woman? In charge of security?!” They look like they’re straight out of a 40’s representation of tribal Africa and we’ll see them as backward barbarians for the entire episode: these dudes literally have spears as weapons and are wearing turbans. Code of Honor has a lot in common with the original series episode “Amok Time,” which features a ritualized combat scene and a death. Yay, another episode which is imitating TOS. The vaccine has the magical quality of being non-replicatable, so now it’s an obvious “justify the plot” device. The plot progresses and the Ligonians’ culture is further confused: first they’re like the ancient Chinese, then once they kidnap Yar they’re like the Native Americans. They don’t seem to respect women though: “We understand that they are highly pleasant things. But after all, unimportant, except for the land they own.” This episode does, however, for the first time hint at how the Prime Directive works in the 24th century. The way that the show moves from trying to get Yar back and the vaccine too resolves itself in a kind of bizzare fashion which seems in line with the rest of the episode.
Favorite Scenes: Wow. Um. I’ve seen this episode lots of times since it first came on in 1987, and have yet to identify any favorite scenes from it. There are a couple of lines I do like though. This takes place after Yar has been taken, and is the first time Picard gets to see her:
Picard: Lieutenant, have you been treated well?
Yar: Fine, captain…*indicates guards with black eyes*…but they’re showing some signs of wear.
I like it because characterizes Tasha’s toughness and her sense of humor at the same time.
Use of Cast/Characters: In the first season you actually see the captain and bridge crew depending on Troi for advice and input. This tends to diminish over the course of the series, but in this one we see Picard consulting her regarding Lutan’s motives and genuinely listening to her responses, as do the rest of the bridge crew. She is also useful later on in getting Tasha to realize something about herself and instrumental in convincing Picard of the benefits of Tasha accepting the duel–stuff like this just doesn’t happen later on. Wesley’s character has some development as well, getting to be on the bridge and having some more awkward conversation with Picard, who clearly doesn’t know how to relate to him. This is also the first of a short-lived series of in-jokes that was supposed to poke fun at Picard’s French ancestry. This episode marks the beginning of the friendship between Geordi and Data in one of the only scenes that doesn’t suck, although I wouldn’t necessarily call it good. Dr. Crusher has a few lines but little else. Riker has nothing to do in this episode, and Worf is conspicuously absent. Tasha Yar shines here, not lying down waiting to be rescued but is in essence the one who resolves the plot. I think this episode is strangely one of her best.
Blu Ray Version: The first thing you see when this episode begins is an absolutely gorgeous planet, which is a vast improvement on the original version. There are several shots of it, and each time it’s just riveting to those of us that are used to the original. Also, when looking at Lutan while he is in the observation lounge, you can see that the scar on his chest is actually not real…one of the drawbacks of HD I suppose. It’s also easier to see the stunt woman standing in for Denise Crosby several times in this episode. The Ligonian transporter effect was faithfully redone and looks gorgeous.
Nitpicks: Uh, why does Picard give a statue of a horse from ancient feudal China to a culture which doesn’t really seem similar to the Chinese at all? Also, isn’t it a bit paradoxical that this society which has fricking spears and has never evidently heard of a person being resuscitated somehow also has transporter technology? After Tasha is kidnapped it should be Worf that is standing at tactical, not Riker. Where the heck is Worf, anyway? And okay, it was alright to see Wesley on the bridge but should he be manning Ops in the middle of a crisis?? In fact it shows him being on the bridge when Picard is off the ship and Riker is leaving it, so we’re sure he’s got some good supervision! Also, what is with that stupid bandanna that Tasha wears during their fight? Is she trying to imitate Rambo or be in an 80’s music video with Olivia Newton-John? Finally, at the end after they have the vaccine to the plague that has been killing literally millions of citizens, they start heading there at warp 3?! We did establish the Enterprise can go warp 9, right? Finally, there are black cardboard cutouts on some of the bridge aft consoles, which will plague season one. I’ll talk about that annoyance in another review.
Overall Impression: Everything about this episode is bad, from the plot devices to the overt racism and sexism, even the awkward camera angles. It’s a terrible entry into the TNG series and is one of the prime candidates for worst episode of the series. It’s not the only one, but is a heavyweight contender. There is some little character development that is happening here, but it’s just overshadowed by the hokey story line, bad dialogue and a feel like we are watching an episode of the original series 20 years later. Remember this is coming right after another episode that was ripped pretty clearly from the TOS presses. If you’re hoping maybe the next episode will be good, you’re probably going to be disappointed there too. I rate this episode 0.5 out of 5 stars.
Behind the Scenes/Trivia: Look closely when you see Dr. Crusher trying to revive Yareena and you’ll see her wearing a 20th-century wristwatch for some reason? Hmm. According to Memory Alpha in the teleplay to this episode, only Lutan’s guards were specifically written as being African. It was director Russ Mayberry’s idea to make all the planet’s occupants African. Disgusted by this decision and Mayberry’s attitude towards the performers, Gene Roddenberry fired Mayberry late in production. The remainder of the episode was directed by Les Landau. This episode shows a variation of Troi’s uniform; still wearing the gray unitard, but this time with a red belt. Who knows why. Dorn in an interview said how grateful he was that he wasn’t in this one, and called it the worst Star Trek episode ever filmed. Frakes called it a “racist piece of $#!+.” Brannon Braga, who joined the writing staff in season four and is responsible for several of the best episodes of TNG named this one as his most hated episode.
Missable/Unmissable? Please don’t watch this episode, avoid it if you can. There’s not much of interest here and you’ll miss nothing by not watching it. Unfortunately the next episode isn’t much of an improvement.