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Recap / Star Trek: The Next Generation S1 E3 "Code of Honor"

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Yeahhhhhhhhhhh this one's not exactly one of the TNG cast's proudest moments. And yet, somehow, it's only the second most racist episode of Star Trek ever.
Lt. Yar is abducted by the leader of a people who abide by a strict code of honor, which requires her participation in a fight to the death.

This episode contains the following tropes:

  • Absentee Actor: Worf doesn't appear. While this was simply because Michael Dorn was unavailable—he also didn't appear in "Haven," the next episode in the filming order—fans like to joke that this is because he would have instantly deflated Lutan's pretensions to honornote  and killed the story.
  • As You Know: The turbolift conversation at the start of the episode is full of it. Either that or Picard is being briefed on this very important mission just seconds before meeting Lutan.
  • "Ass" in Ambassador: While there are technically no Ambassadors, the episode represents the spirit of this trope very well. A planet of barely civilized aliens has a vaccine for a deadly illness happening in the Federation. And so the Enterprise crew put up with tons of crap from them, including the kidnap of Tasha Yar. Picard even mentions that this qualifies as an act of war, but that doesn't mean he'll attempt a rescue.
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  • Back from the Dead: Yar's opponent is killed in combat, beamed aboard the Enterprise and resuscitated, allowing her to divorce her husband and choose a new mate. Talk about your all-time backfires.
  • Badass Boast: Yar tries to get Yareena to call off the fight by telling her that no physical training rivals Starfleet's.
  • Black Dude Dies First: The first on-screen death in the series — the crew of the USS Tsiokovsky had managed to kill themselves in the previous episode, but it happened off-screen — is a random Ligonian extra who gets hit in the gut with Yareena's poisoned glove after it flies off her hand.
  • Captain Obvious: Data, who says that the weapons to be used by the women were designed... to be used by women.
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  • Designated Girl Fight: Tasha has to fight Yareena to the death for the amusement of their hosts. Yareena gets better.
  • Dueling Scar: As might be expected given their dueling tradition, Lutan has a large scar on his right cheek, while his subordinate Hagon has a slightly smaller one on his left. Apparently the men don't poison their weapons.
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • The conference room has a very different decor.
    • This is the first time we see the holodeck in its off mode. Here, the floor is a gray carpet rather than the yellow grid.
  • Exact Words: The fight was "to the death." Not necessarily to the permadeath. Yay for Crusher, she class-upped to Necromancer.
  • Foreshadowing: When Lutan first expresses surprise at Yar's position as security chief, he notes that women usually own the land while men protect it. After a bit of Saying Too Much from Hagon, Picard realizes that Lutan only possesses his wealth and power through marriage.
  • Human Aliens: The Ligonians look exactly like black humans dressed in pseudo-African lamé outfits, speaking English with a generic "African" accent.
  • Informed Ability: Lutan goes on and on about honor, but he kidnaps a foreign dignitary, holds her hostage, wants to force her into marriage, and the only reason the other side puts up with his crap is because he's got something the other side wants that can save millions of lives, and they're at least nominally not the kind to engage in plunder on an inhabited planet even though the Enterprise alone may be more powerful than his entire civilization. He's little more than a bully and only gets by because the other side has honor, and not a warrior code kind of honor. If he tried to pull this crap with the Romulans, Cardassians, or Klingons, he'd either be assassinated and replaced with someone more pliable, or they would conquer him and chop his head off with a bat'leth after making him watch his planet get carpet-bombed from orbit. As SF Debris explains in Worf & Klingon Honor, it's a different form of honor, external reputation instead of an internal code. Sort of like the difference between normal Klingons and Worf. For instance, Data compares the kidnapping to counting coup; it's supposed to be a ballsy act against a superior opponent to prove his courage. The forced marriage is a bluff (after the fight Yar turns him down with no fuss), it's just that his current wife is so incapable of believing anyone wouldn't agree to marrying him that she falls for it.
  • Jerkass: Lutan by far.
  • Just Eat Gilligan: Picard doesn't want to use the power of the Enterprise to threaten Lutan into returning Tasha because he feels that he would be violating the Prime Directive by forcing his way of life onto another culture. However, as SF Debris pointed out, Picard could have diplomatically pointed out to Lutan that if his first act on the interplanetary stage was to kidnap a high ranking member of the Starfleet's flagship and deny them a desperately needed vaccine, then all future politics with the Federation would become impossible and Ligon III would be denied all the protections and advantages the Federation offers.
  • Large Ham: Lutan. On a planet where everyone is at least a little hammy, Lutan is clearly the king.
  • Mondegreen: "Surrounded by such friendship, I feel no need for my guards." As SF Debris pointed out, it sounds like Lutan is saying "I feel no need for my gods."
    SF Debris: Lutan, you're not auditioning to replace Geoffrey Holder for the 7Up commercials.
  • Patrick Stewart Speech: Lampshaded.
    Picard: By our standard, the customs here—their code of honor—is the same kind of pompous, strutting charade that endangered our own species a few centuries ago. We evolved out of it because no one tried to impose their own set of... I'm sorry, this is becoming a speech.
    Troi: You're the Captain, sir. You're entitled.
    Picard: Hmm, I'm not entitled to ramble on about something everyone knows. Carry on.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Lutan's announcement that Picard shall have no treaty! No vaccine! And no Lt. Yar!
  • Revival Loophole: Yar must kill her opponent, but no one said she has to stay dead. As a bonus, this invokes the "'til death do us part" clause of Yareena's marriage, and she promptly picks Hagon as her "first one" instead. Oddly enough, it doesn't work in Lutan's favor as he doesn't inherit Yareena's wealth after she dies.
  • Roll Out the Red Carpet: Lutan's party transports into the cargo bay, so that one of his entourage can do this just before he beams in.
  • Saying Too Much: Hagon accidentally gives away the real reason Lutan is provoking a duel between Yareena and Yar when he lets slip that Lutan doesn't actually own his holdings. If Yareena is killed during the duel, which in all likelihood she will be, her wealth will be his.
  • Schizo Tech: Ligon II looks centuries less advanced than current day, but they have transporters and vaccines that the Federation can't replicate.
  • Skewed Priorities: Okay, Tasha's been kidnapped by a tyrannical leader and a much-needed vaccine hangs in the balance, but Jean-Luc, Beverly just has to talk to you about Wesley!
  • Spectator Casualty: During a fight, an onlooker is killed by a flying poisoned spike glove.


Example of: