Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Code of Honor"

1/2

Air date: 10/12/1987
Written by Katharyn Powers & Michael Baron
Directed by Russ Mayberry

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Absolutely terrible. "Code of Honor" represents a period when bad TNG wasn't bad TNG, but instead bad TOS. In an attempt to negotiate the acquisition of a much-needed vaccine to cure a deadly plague, the Enterprise crew has dealings with the Ligonians, who value customs of ritualistic honor above all else. Play ball and respect their customs, or no vaccine. Now there's an evolved sensibility. And a premise that leads to an idiotic plot.

One of the rituals involves the kidnapping of Lt. Yar by Lutan (Jessie Lawrence Ferguson), who is quite taken by Yar's presence as a Strong Woman (or some such). Picard must subsequently figure out how to get Yar back without offending the Ligonians and losing the vaccine. It's about here where Lutan's wife demands Yar participate in a fight to the death.

The story requires unwavering endurance to sit through, moving at glacial pace and inviting ridicule at nearly every scene. It employs every cliche in the TOS rulebook, including Goofy Alien Customs, a Hand-to-Hand Fight to the Death, Clever Captain Trickery, and Silly Gender Roles Played Stupidly. The fight to the death is particularly inept; stunt sequences have rarely looked so cheesy. One of Trek's worst episodes.

Previous episode: The Naked Now
Next episode: The Last Outpost

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20 comments on this review

Simon - Mon, Feb 28, 2011 - 8:51am (USA Central)
I was watching Stargate re-runs a while ago and saw 'Emancipation', where Carter is kidnapped and forcibly married to a local warlord. The plot reminded me a lot of Code of Honor, so I looked it up:

stargate.wikia.com/wiki/Emancipation

It was written by Kathryn Powers. Not only did she think this story was worth writing, she thought it was worth writing again!
Latex Zebra - Fri, Mar 23, 2012 - 10:27am (USA Central)
I'm sure when I was 16 (ish) watching this for the first time and being so pleased their was a new Trek series I thought all the first seasons episodes were great.
I didn't last 20 minutes when this was on TV the other week.
Dross of the highest order. I think half a star is generous.
NCC-1701-Z - Sun, Mar 25, 2012 - 8:41pm (USA Central)
I didn't find this ep spectacularly bad (unlike "Justice"). It was a fail, but not an *epic* fail. I'd describe it as just "there", just like "Encounter at Farpoint" (although EAF was ahead of this ep by miles, of course).

That said, this is a pretty bad ep. Without going into details, it basically screamed "TOS ripoff" throughout. And the stale acting by most of the ensemble did not help things at all. When Tasha was beamed off, Picard just casually went "Shields up, red alert" and walked out like nothing much happened. If this were a TOS ep, there would have been dramatic music, a focus on Kirk's shocked face for a few seconds to give the audience time to realize what just happened, then he would have yelled "RED ALERT, BATTLE STATIONS!" and ran out of the room as fast as he could.

But it's no use nitpicking relatively little things like this, when the whole script leaves much to be desired. I can't believe that the writer was responsible for another ep just like it (Simon's comment above). 1 or 1.5 stars.
NCC-1701-Z - Sun, Mar 25, 2012 - 8:46pm (USA Central)
Better explanation: The problem I had w/ the Tasha kidnapping scene was, it was basically too rushed. But that's just like singling out a small dent in the hull of a starship after a warp core breach. Next, please.
Rikko - Wed, Apr 11, 2012 - 2:02pm (USA Central)
Couldn't agree more with Jammer. This is terrible. In fact, this is the worst TNG episode I've seen so far (Up to ep 5 of Season 2), for all the reasons said above, and even more: The actress of Tasha Tar is particularly bad at her paper.

At this point everyone is a bad actor, but she's in the leading role of bad actors, and an episode centered around her didn't do any favor.

Oh, and I dont need to tell you how BORING "Code of Honor" actually is. Talk about a bad start for a new show.
The Snob - Mon, Apr 23, 2012 - 10:36pm (USA Central)
I saw this episode again today (after I last saw it some 15 years ago), and I actually quite enjoyed it. I know the episode has an extremely bad reputation, but overall, I found it to be rather entertaining and it is perhaps the best emulation of TOS ever made (not that that should be a goal in itself). I loved some of the dolly shots and the musical score. I also loved the little scene between Geordi and Data about telling a joke, and even the character developement of Picard accepting Wesley as a part of the crew was executed really well. The ultimate ending (where Lutan learns his first wife is not really dead, and her decision afterwards) was mediocre, I will admit that, but overall, I think everyone should give this ep a second (or thirteenth?) chance.....
Van_Patten - Thu, Jun 21, 2012 - 10:32pm (USA Central)
Middle of October 1987, and surely for many Science Fiction fans, this was an unwelcome early taste of Turkey. Difficult to add much to Jammer's review- this was sufficiently bad that the series might well have been cancelled after the First ten episodes had it been airing today!

The scenes involving Yar are initially not as bad as the later ones. I liked the exposition on how the holodeck worked as a concept. However the scenes involving Crosby/ Sirtis when discussing Lutan's obvious attraction for Yar are beyond cringeworthy. Jesse Ferguson, memorable as the self-loathing Black Cop from 'Boyz in the Hood' (subsequent to this I think) plays the role in hammy, entirely inappropriate fashion. The guest Actors playing his henchman and wife are if anything,even worse.

Surprisingly Wil Wheaton is proving weak but far from the weakest link here. Crosby ad Sirtis are far poorer in ths episode, and to make Crosby the lead in the third episode was a 'Bridge too far'. As 'The Snob' says, there's a good scene with Data and Geordi and Patrick Stewart is pretty reliable, but overall this merits it's less than stellar reputation -1star....
xaaos - Sat, Oct 27, 2012 - 3:04am (USA Central)
What a pile of crap! Enterprise should have just left when Ligonians kidnapped Tasha :P That would be awesome. I mean, she is such a terrible actor. Especially, when that Ligonians guys (I wonder how they managed to get technology like teleporting) brought their vaccine thing, Tasha jumped in front of them like retard and grabbed it instantly before it reached her captain...

Bad writing, bad acting, cheesy music.
DPC - Tue, Nov 13, 2012 - 8:20pm (USA Central)
It wants to be big, but it falls all over the place.

First off, kudos to Jesse Lawrence Ferguson puts in a scene-stealing performance at every turn. His presence makes the story far better than what it otherwise would have been, regardless if the guest cast were black, white, brown, or neon green. His confidence as an actor, and vocal cadence, are admittedly magnetici and he rises above how one-dimensional his role is. The role of Lutan is, obviously, as much cliched as anyone else's, however.

The other saving grace is how the Geordi/Data relationship is nailed from the get-go. One can't say that about many things in TNG's early days, but for the Geordi/Data double-act, they got it right.

Now, the story is one big walking cliche.

Picard's use of blowing up torpedoes around the planet is something Kirk would not be stupid enough to do.

Yar's holodeck stuff was good, but the assumption all women would consider Lutan (or any male in general) to be "their type" is indeed cringe-worthy and off-kilter. I want to like it, since Troi is trying to trip Yar up and be more than the usual "I'm saying what's already obvious to you, captain and to you viewers as well" but somehow it doesn't work. B+ for effort, and Marina Sirtis looks like she's enjoying the dialogue since it's not the samey-lamey claptrap...

Even Picard accepting Wesley was decently handled.

All in a story that is otherwise one big warp bubble of a cliche.

In Blu-Ray, this story looks VERY impressive.

I'd give it 2 stars. "Justice" is readily the worst excuse of an episode, which is a shame...
The Romulans - Wed, Feb 6, 2013 - 8:15am (USA Central)
Sure, this is a bad episode but I don't feel it's the worst in season 1, surely 'Justice' or 'Angel One' should hold this honour.

I enjoyed the campy nods to TOS, and didn't get the mild racism.

Imagine this on a darker show... I don't think Captain Picard would be sitting around (was it a whole day?!) thinking Tasha Yar was A-OK. Anyhow, that was my main story related gripe.

2 stars from me.
Patrick - Wed, Feb 6, 2013 - 10:20am (USA Central)
I thouht actor Jesse Lawrence Ferguson was a campy delight as Lutan. His enunciation made an otherwise forgettable bit of dialogue one of my favorite quotes from TNG:

"Then you shall have NO treaty, NO vaccine, and NO Lieutenant YAH!"
The Creamiest - Tue, Mar 5, 2013 - 10:40pm (USA Central)
Is it just me or has anyone else thought to themselves while watching this - why don't they just beam Tasha up after she's abducted? When Picard and his party beam down to the surface and he makes the demand to see Tasha to be sure she's all right, the guards bring her in and she's still got her combadge.

Couldn't the Enterprise have simply locked on to her com signal and beamed her up straight away?

I mean, I realize this is a Roddenberry episode and all but that just seems like a real oversight.
Kang - Mon, Mar 11, 2013 - 7:02pm (USA Central)
Just saw this episode for the first time in almost a decade due to recently purchasing the first season on blu ray. Unfortunately, it has become shockingly apparent as to why I have stayed away from it for all these years. This is not TNG. It is a crummy rip off of TOS, executed without any of the charm or humour of its predecessor. It is littered with stereotypes (verging on racism), and features one of my least favourite characters in the Star Trek universe, Lt. Tasha Yar. (I was so glad when they finally killed her off in Skin of Evil). Your review basically hit the nail on the head, Jammer, except that I would not give it the reward of even half a star. Finally, I wish to give my accolades to the blu ray which manages to make even a terrible episode like this look great.
William B - Mon, Mar 18, 2013 - 4:18am (USA Central)
To me, this is probably the worst episode of TNG. I couldn't put "Shades of Grey" anywhere near it -- "SoG" is simply pointless and difficult to get through, not also offensive (though we'll see when/if I rewatch that).

My girlfriend cheerfully pointed out how ridiculous it is that we learn at the end that "all women train" for the possibility of a life-or-death fight, to the point where Yareena [whose name is really similar to Yar's, weirdly] is nearly on the same level of strength as Yar, and yet the men are still shocked that a woman can be strong.

I do think the worst part of this episode -- and it's an episode with many "worst parts" -- is Yar's reaction to the whole thing. This is a woman who grew up on a world where she had to, as we learn in the previous episode, run away from and dodge rape gangs, but she somehow swoons at the notion that her kidnapper wants to marry her and needs to have Troi drag that out into the open in order to realize how her attraction is clouding her judgment. What? At the episode's end, Yar seems almost to consider marrying Lutan, dismissing it as being too "complicated" rather than dismissing him on the basis of having kidnapped her and manipulated her into a kill-or-be-killed situation. It's possible Yar doesn't know that he did it all because he wanted his wife's land, but she should maybe be able to figure out that that is part of what happened. Troi seems to act as if Yar's attraction to Lutan is normal, rather than framing it as some kind of Stockholm Syndrome-type psychological defense mechanism, the latter of which would have made some kind of sense.

But anyway, the overt racism of the Tribal African tone (reportedly, the original script didn't call for an all-black cast; that was the director's decision and he got, understandably, fired -- but too late), the nonsensical plot, the casual sexism, the silly sets and costumes, the constantly shifting definitions of "honour" to mean "whatever the plot requires the Ligonians to do at this given moment," etc. It is baaaaad.
mike - Sun, Mar 24, 2013 - 10:14am (USA Central)
like most first season episodes, this episode was all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. Not that anyone's acting is Emmy material but Denise Crosby as Yar is at it's worst. "Troi , you tricked me!" Star Trek as a franchise has always been a little too self congratulatory about it's racial diversity. It might be true of the regular cast but rarely were they any guest stars of color. So I'm especially dismayed that the one time they actually use black guest actors it's just to play on African cliches with shameless abandon. Why not just call the episode Black Snake Moan?
Moonie - Sun, Sep 15, 2013 - 6:20am (USA Central)
Absolutely cringeworthy. When Yar said "of course I am attracted to Lutan!" I just about wanted to smack her. Or rather the writer who came up with that.

I wonder if an actor has the power to tell a writer that they just can't SAY their lines because they're utter bullshit. I can't blame Denise Crosby for being bad in that episode, because, let's face it, her script was crap.
Kevin - Wed, Jan 8, 2014 - 5:34pm (USA Central)
One more sign that They Just Didn't Care to add to the pile: when Yar is abducted, NOBODY reacts to it with the least bit of surprise. I'm guessing this was because Yar and her abductors were filmed separately from Troi and Picard for the shot, but the way it comes off, it looks like Yar's abduction was pre-arranged by both sides with only Yar herself not in on it.

Also, the ending is total bull: somehow Yareena's momentary death annuls her marriage but not her property ownership. But then again everybody was probably fed up with Lutan by now so they all just went along with it.
Adara - Sat, Mar 1, 2014 - 2:10pm (USA Central)
I watched this for the second time today with an open mind and I can't believe how bad it is. Tasha spent her adolescence dodging rape gangs, so why would she be attracted to a kidnapper? In real life that actually could be a response - lots of people who endure sexual abuse fantasize about rape - but I don't give the writers enough credit to have thought of that, and if they did, they're sick f***s. Beyond that, there is no Prime Directive issue here. If aliens kidnap a crew member, beam them back. Anyway, this isn't a primative world. They have transporter technology ffs. The whole thing is just a terrible mess that's better off forgotten. I agree with Jammer's rating. I give it a half star for camp value. I would give it another half star for all the sexy men, but the racism used in depicting them makes it kind of hard to enjoy the eye candy.
Joel - Fri, Jun 27, 2014 - 6:21pm (USA Central)
One of my favorite episodes.

When I first saw this, I was pretty intrigued that they had a planet of dark-skinned aliens - being a dark-skinned individual myself - and I wished that they'd revisited the Ligonians in a later episode. (Not too mention, this episode featured Tasha Yar, who I had a crush on at the time).

While it could have been stronger, being that that 1st season episodes were a bit shaky, I would give this episode a 3 out of 5 stars.
Dave in NC - Wed, Jul 2, 2014 - 11:08pm (USA Central)
It's easy to criticize this episode, one could focus on the wooden plot (and plot holes) and write paragraphs. One could criticize the cheesy acting, such as Lutan's ridiculously over-the-top emoting. That's not what makes this episode so bad.

This is a Minstrel Show, plain and simple. I believe the audience is meant to laugh at the primitive nature of this "native" space culture, and that's not what Star Trek ever has really been about. I was pretty offended watching this, and I'm still surprised that this was greenlit and filmed.

The only way this episode could possibly be defined as a success is as a subversive comedy. Other than the offensiveness, the only emotion I felt watching this was stupified bemusement. When Lutan said "then you shall have no treaty, no vaccine, and no Lieutenant Yar!" I admit I laughed, and laughed hard. Some definitely campy moments.

Side note: extremely distinctive old-school Star Trek music for this episode. Truly a VERY evocative score.

1 star if taken seriously, 3.5 stars if viewed through John Waters's eyes.

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