11/19/12

Star Trek: Asterisk "Code of Honor"

Vital Information
Series: The Next Generation
Episode: S01E04
Air Date: October 12, 1987
Written by: Katharyn Powers & Michael Baron
Directed by: Russ Mayberry; Les Landau

Premise
An alien gang of black men kidnap Tasha Yar and expect for her to fight to the death to win her freedom.

Review
In an attempt to distinguish himself from Captain Kirk who was more of a warrior and tactician, Picard sets out on a sensitive diplomatic mission to negotiate the use of a vaccine that this relatively less advanced culture had and the Enterprise needed to get to a colony that was dying. The Ligonians are a race of people who hold to a strict code of honor. When they beam aboard, they roll out a red carpet for their leader, Lutan. They hand over a sample of the vaccine, but when Tasha insists on inspecting it first, she flips one of the men over on his back and Lutan is impressed.

Later, Tasha shows the guys around and takes them to the holodeck where she runs a training program with some martial arts guy. She fights a round with the hologram and then one of Lutan's men goes around and gets destroyed. Lutan is again impressed. Tasha presents herself as a risky target, and in appreciation for that fact, Lutan grabs her just as he's transported back down to his planet. This is a show of bravery that the crew of the Enterprise did not expect.
GROUP HUG
Troi suggests later that Picard ask for Tasha back instead of demand, because, in his culture, what he did was totally acceptable. He was expressing his bravery and dominance because that's cool for an advanced culture. Picard tries to express his dominance by firing a torpedo 1,000 meters off the surface of the planet, but then Data says these alien dudes really like patience, so just... wait...

While they're waiting, Dr. Crusher comes to Picard and says the vaccine they have can't be replicated. They have to get their whole supply from the Ligonians. SO DON'T SCREW THIS TASHA THING UP. Lutan finally contacts them and Picard politely asks for Tasha back. But Lutan tells him to get Tasha back they should come and get her. Picard is forced to join an away team to get Tasha. Where as Kirk would have just gone anyway.
Fine! Alright! I'll go!
When they get down, Picard asks again "can we please have Tasha back?" But Lutan insists they join his party first. So they go to Lutan's party where they play some awkward music and see a bunch of people. And Picard asks again "can we please have Tasha back?" And Lutan says "No! I love her now!" In Lutan's culture, the women owned the land, and nothing else. They gave it up to the man in marriage. And Lutan is already married. In order to get divorced, his wife has to battle Tasha to the death. No doubt something many modern-day human men could get behind.

So they spend the rest of the episode preparing for the fight. Tasha obviously doesn't want to kill anyone, and the weapon they're using is a weird brass parrot head type thing with spikes covered in poison. So Dr. Crusher comes up with an antidote to the poison and the battle begins. In between a bunch of stripper poles, Tasha battles Lutan's wife and gains the upper hand. She strikes the woman down and they immediately beam up to the ship. The battle won, Lutan tells Picard that Tasha must now take her place by his side. And Picard says he won't stop her... if she wants to. Understanding that she probably doesn't want to, Lutan is reminded that he already has his previous wife's land and stuff, so he's set for life.
On Earth, he would be investigated for insurance fraud.
Medical teams beam down to get the vaccine and Picard asks Lutan and this other guy to beam up to the ship with him. On board the Enterprise Lutan finds that his ex is still alive! She technically had died and Crusher revived her, so her marriage to Lutan is over, but she still retains all of her wealth and power... which she gives to this other guy who she wants to marry. Now Lutan has nothing. Until the woman offers him a position as her second husband. Now that that's all straightened out and the vaccine is secured, the Enterprise drops the aliens off and goes on their way to save the colony. THE END

Overall Thoughts
Star Trek purports to depict an advanced, progressive human society, but the writer's don't seem to understand what that means yet. There are several racist and sexist undertones in this episode that it would have been better without. The acting is also still a little awkward and the sets staged... It's not the best episode of Star Trek, but we're getting there.