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

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Yeah, uh, 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.

Original air date: October 12, 1987

The planet Ligon III is about to be brought into the Federation, and right in time for them to provide a local vaccine to a disease that is ravaging several Federation planets. When Picard meets a diplomatic envoy on the ship, the planet's king, Lutan, becomes enamored by Tasha Yar and kidnaps her.

Outraged, Picard demands Yar back, but he learns that the Ligonians have a strict code of honor that prizes cleverness over one's rivals, and therefore Lutan's actions are appropriate for his culture. Picard must navigate carefully to recover Yar without offending the Ligonians enough to withhold their vaccine. Picard meets with Lutan on Ligon III in an effort to negotiate Yar's return, but discovers that Lutan intends to marry her.

Lutan's spurned wife Yareena challenges Yar to a duel to the death for the right to her husband. This was Lutan's plan all along, as he hopes Yar can kill his wife in the ritual duel so that he can be free of her and maintain control of her fortune. Yar is confident that she can defeat Yareena but is told that the weapons they will use in their duel will be poisoned, so one false move will spell death.


Yar and Yareena fight. Yar manages to stab Yareena with her poisoned weapon, and Yareena instantly dies. The Enterprise promptly transports both Yar and Yareena back to sick bay, where Yareena is revived. Once she recovers, Yareena learns about Lutan's treachery and divorces him, granting the kingship to Lutan's aide-de-camp, with whom she has been secretly having an affair. Order is restored on Ligon III, Yar is back home, and the Federation receives their much-needed vaccine.


This episode contains the following tropes:

  • 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. Lampshaded in a later scene where Picard starts going off about why the Prime Directive is so important in this kind of situation despite his personal disapproval of the local customs before apologizing for "rambling on about something everyone already knows".
  • "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.
  • 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.
  • Batman Gambit: Lutan's plan of abducting and marrying Yar counts on Yareena challenging Yar to a duel to the death and losing so that he can have her fortune.
  • 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.
  • Code of Honor: The Ligonian idea of honor averts Honor Is Fair Play but is still fairly strict. Lutan kidnapping Lt. Yar is directly compared to counting coup; a gutsy and audacious move to increase his reputation but as long as nobody is actually hurt not a violation of Sacred Hospitality. Lutan directly boasts about how his following it means he's protected by it in turn.
  • Designated Girl Fight: Tasha has to fight Yareena to the death for the amusement of their hosts. Yareena dies, but 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 is "to the death," but that doesn't preclude the dead combatant being brought back to life with modern medicine.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Ligon III is a rather un-PC version of Space Africa. They are technologically primitive and culturally backward, but their natural resources, which produce a much-needed vaccine, are highly sought by the more developed Federation.
  • 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.
  • 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, 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.
  • Only Mostly Dead: Yareena has been dead for only a few seconds before she's beamed to the Enterprise, allowing Crusher to resuscitate her.
  • Patrick Stewart Speech: Lampshaded, before Picard became known for these kinds of speeches. Maybe he took Troi's advice to heart.
    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.
  • Sacred Hospitality: The Ligonians see visiting leaders as honoured guests. Hence Picard can visit their planet safely.
  • 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.
  • Shutting Up Now:
    • Data starts to go on a technobabble tangent about Ligonian transporters, before getting a glare from Picard and noting how that is not actually important at this time.
    • Before that, Data makes the mistake of referring to the French language as “obscure” in front of a superior officer born and raised in La France.
  • 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.