Star Trek

Star Trek

Monday, March 14, 2016

ST:TNG Season One, Episode Four "Code of Honor"

ST: TNG Season One, Episode Four "Code of Honor"
Air Order: 3
Stardate: 41235.25
Original Air Date: October 1, 1987

Another day, another dollar in Monopoly money, another oddly racist episode of Star Trek. It's weird, Star Trek seems to be so accepting of everyone, yet at times the stories they come up with (and then film!) are super-racist. WTF, Trek?
Let's get this shit started!

Gee, looks like Earth.


Picard's Log Stardate 41235.25: "Gone to Ligon II cuz they have this vaccine we need for another planet. We'll chat up the natives, see if they want to friend us on Federationbook."

Picard, Riker and Troi go down to meet Yar in Cargo Bay I, because the Ligonians don't trust the transporter tech of other people, and want to use their own. In the lift, our trio discusses the Ligonians, and how they're just like humans. Troi calls them "exceedingly proud," which is foreshadowing for "someone on this ship is going to fuck up all the shit and piss of the Ligonians."

They make it down to the cargo bay, and then signal the surface to beam the delegates up.
These are the Ligonians.


The dude in the black and gold introduces himself as Lutan, and Picard introduces himself and his officers. Lutan is surprised to find that the E's security chief is a chick. Picard just matter-of-factly replies that Yar's area of expertise is security. Then Lutan introduces his second-in-command, Hagon, the dude in blue. Hagon steps forward with a sample of the vaccine, but it's in a box, and when Tasha says she'd like to inspect it before it's given to Picard, Hagon barks "out of my way, woman!" She flips his sorry ass onto the floor.


Lutan laughs at his second's misfortune while Tasha inspects the vaccine box. Troi whispers to Picard not to apologize, or it'll make them seem weak in the eyes of the Ligons. When Yar says the vaccine box is fine, Picard accepts it and tells Lutan that they're preparing some fun diplomatic stuff.
"Cool, we'll be right there," says Lutan.
Technically, there is no reason for the Ligonians not to follow Picard and the rest, except that he needs to whisper some shady plans to Hagon regarding Tasha Yar.
Dramatic music! Commercial break!


So, since the Ligonians are just like humans, guess which culture they're based on?
That's right, the ancient Chinese!
So Star Trek has decided to baffle us with bullshit again. "Let's make this new race of aliens look human, but a specific race of humans. Let's make them all black. We'll make their planet look like Earth, and dress them in vaguely African-looking clothing. But then, just to prove that we're not just making African aliens, we'll say they're like some other kind of humans. French? No, Picard is French. Let's say Chinese. We'll be super-vague about it, and not give any clues as to why Picard & Co think they're like the ancient Chinese. We'll just say they are."
And that's the other part: Picard gives Lutan this cool horse sculpture and says that they remind him of the ancient Chinese. It's not "this race is like this other race." It's "I think this alien race reminds me of this other human race." Picard gave them that designation. Then he doesn't bother to say why. For comparison, it's like if Lutan told Picard, "You remind me of this other group of people in my planet," and just left it at that. No explanation as to what other group of people, or what about that group reminds Lutan of Picard. Picard and the E crew are projecting their own ideas on the Ligonians rather than really get to know them. Maybe after hanging out with them for a while, Picard will facepalm and go, "Not the Chinese! They're like the Dutch, dammit!"


Anyway, that's kind of a sweet-ass horse sculpture, and it makes me wonder - did they replicate it, or is it actually an authentic antique? The antique would mean more as a gift, but then I'm left with the question of, do they have a bunch of human antiques stashed somewhere in the Federation to give out as gifts to alien races when extending friendship? Do the Klingons own a copy of the Magna Carta? Were the Vulcans given a carved piece of ivory from the Inuit people? Do they start running out of antiques to hand ou5rt when the Federation expands? "Crap, running low on Louis XVIII desks." Do they sometimes re-gift stuff from other planets that they just don't want? "This perfume from Gideon smells gross and is probably full of some plague - give it to the Romulans at the next peace talks"?

Lutan accepts the horse, and talks about how his people are not as technologically advanced as humans, but they have this vaccine, and they're willing to play nice as long as the Federation is as well. Everybody claps among platitudes of friendship and crap, but Troi gives Lutan the side-eye. Lutan requests to see the holodeck, and Picard suggests that Troi and Riker show him, but he wants Yar to do it. Riker's hackles go up. Hagon defensively says that women in security is new to them, as Ligon women own the land, and the men rule and protect it.
Yar agrees to show Lutan and Hagon some defensive training programs in the holodeck, sarcastically adding that it's a "sign of respect," as Lutan put it.

She loads an akido program and spars with it while the other two watch.


Hagon doubts the realness of the akido fighter, and decides to take it on. He gets his ass beat again. Lutan tells Yar that he finds her impressive. There's some weird ethnic music here that maybe supposed to be warning music, as Yar looks apprehensive.
Later, they are in the cargo bay saying goodbye. Picard and Lutan are all diplomatic and shake hands, then Lutan extends his hand to Yar. When she goes to shake it, he grabs her, and she transports away with him and Hagon.
Red alert, muthafuckahs!
Picard and Troi head to the bridge, where Picard tries to raise some kind of contact, and warns the Ligonians that they're committing an act of war. When no one answers, he orders some photon torpedoes fired across the bow... of... the planet, I guess. It probably just looks like fireworks from the surface.
There's some quick talk about the differences between the transporter technologies, and Data cheerfully offers up some useless info, then tapers off when he realizes that that isn't helping. When another message to Lutan fails to get a response, Picard asks Troi if she thinks they'll harm Tasha.
"No," says Troi. "Lutan wants to hook up with her."
After talking about what they know of the Ligonians, they decide to wait it out.


Picard's Log Stardate 41235.32: "Been waiting a whole day, and haven't heard back from Lutan, which kind of sucks."

LOL. We still don't have those stardates down, do we? Because you say "one day" but the stardate calculator says "thirty minutes later." (Also, fun fact: this and episode twelve contain the only stardates that end with two numbers beyond the decimal point.)

Dr Crusher bursts into Picard's ready room and tells him that there's no way to replicate the vaccine, that they'll have to get all of it from Ligon, which means that Picard can't just break down Lutan's door and demand Tasha back. They still have to remain friendly enough at the end of the day that Lutan will give up the goods. She's about to leave when she mentions to Picard that Wes is hiding in the lift, and that he's really smart, and couldn't he just let Wes back onto the bridge?
They return to the bridge, and when Riker sees Wes in the lift, he says he'll remove him promptly, like some polite bouncer thug.
Riker: he's got your back against skinny teenage nerds.
Picard barks at Wes to take over at Ops. This is clearly the best day of Wes' life. He deserves it - look at that sweater that his mother dressed him in. It's got tiny teal-green lady parts on it.


Data has more info in the Ligonians, which he tells to Crusher, Picard and Troi. He says that what Lutan did is what the Native Americans called "counting coup." (Notice another deflection there? The Ligonians are like the Chinese, but count coup like Native Americans.) Data makes a remark that the term "counting coup" is "from an obscure language known as French." While I'd like to point out that Data would have looked up Picard's records before transferring to the E and would have known his new captain's background, the idea that he inadvertently offended Picard pays off with this screencap:


Picard gives Data the verbal smackdown about French. Data attempts to argue back, but an almost-laughing Riker advises him not to go there. They resume their talk about counting coup, and Data notes how both Native Americans and Ligonians would consider this kind of behavior to be heroic.
Lutan calls. Data and Riker advise him, based on the study of Ligonian ways, to politely ask for Tasha back.
He does, and Lutan replies, "Cool. Come party with us, bro, and you can have her back."
Dramatic music for some reason! Probably as an excuse for a commercial break!


When we return, Troi and Data successfully convince Riker that Picard must go on this away mission instead of him. Picard and Troi beam down and are met by Lutan, Hagon, and a woman in gold. Apparently, Ligon architecture is defined mostly by oversized air vents, gongs and weapons hung on the wall.


The chick in the gold is introduced as Lutan's "First One," Yareena. Lutan, all smiles, tells Picard that he can have Tasha back if he asks politely for her tonight at some big banquet or something. Picard politely demands to see Yar right the fuck now. They drag her out, and the Ligonians assure Picard she has been treated well. Picard agrees to wait until later, then ask for her back.

So they all go to this night-time shindig. Picard and Lutan make a bunch of platitudes to each other in diplomat-ese, then through flowery language, Picard makes his request. Lutan is also flowery in his reply, then ends it with, "Naw, bra. I wanna keep Yar and maker her my First One."
Everyone gasps.
Yareena, the current First One, is super pissed off. "The fuck you say! I'm the First One! I challenge Yar in a duel to the death!"
"No way!" yells Picard.
"Fine, screw you guys!" Lutan shouts. "No treaty, no vaccine, no Yar."
So life must be sucking for Yar right about now. She got up the day before yesterday thinking she would work, meet some new aliens, maybe hang out in the holodeck for a while. But no. She got kidnapped, held against her will, and now this love-struck weirdo has decided that he's just gonna marry her. And now his wife is demanding that they fight to the death for this guy. But if she doesn't do any of this shit, peeps on some other planet are going to die because Lutan refuses to cough up the vaccines.
Things must also suck for Denise Crosby, who signed up to the next chapter in a popular sci-fi franchise, only to find that there's no money in the budget for anything, and so far, her juiciest part has been in this racist-ass POS.
Damn.


Riker's Log, supplemental: "Lutan still has Yar, and now Yareena wants her to fight to the death. Also, because there's a tradition on this show of saying unintentionally sexual things:


Picard and Troi go to visit Yar. Troi gets Yar to admit that she kind of likes that Lutan wants her, but then she's pissed off for admitting it.
"This would be easier without that fucking Prime Directive," sighs Troi.
"Yeah it would," Picard agrees.

We switch back to the bridge, where Crusher has gotten a message from the plague planet about how the people there are dying in the millions without those vaccines. This is our weekly Disable the Ship. They call Picard.

In her room downstairs, Yar is telling Troi that she can totes take Yareena. She doesn't want to kill her, but would love to embarrass her. She's outraged that Yareena would accuse her of stealing her man.
Gonna halt this right here, because all of this shit is super-sexist. Not only that, it's sexist crap that females perpetuate against one another all the time. It's that "you stole my man!" bullshit. For whatever dumbass reason, whenever a guy is found to be two-timing a girl (or more), the girls spend an awful lot of energy hating on one another. WHY? That girl didn't "steal your man." Asshole went willingly. Yar thinks Lutan is a dick. She doesn't want him, with that exception of when Troi gets her to admit that it felt nice when he said he wanted her. Bad call, Star Trek. You just muddied some already-cloudy water. She doesn't want to be Lutan's new girl. She wants to get the fuck off this planet. But nooooo. Instead of being pissed off at Lutan, Yareena challenges Yar to a fight to the death. Yar now wants to beat her ass, instead of acting sensibly and going, "Yareena, we have zero reason to fight. Be pissed at Lutan."



So now we have this cut-rate version of "Amok Time", where two people are forced to fight to the death over a person/prize that neither one particularly wants. There are some glaring differences, though, and they have nothing to do with gender switching. To wit, Kirk was never kidnapped by the Vulcans because T'Pring thought he was kind of cute. She had a completely different prize in mind, and pitted Kirk against Spock hoping to get her own outcome. "Amok Time" becomes far more poignant because Kirk and Bones beam down to offer support to their friend, and Kirk ends up being set against Spock in a fight to the death, something that Bones fakes, and that Spock is glad of in the end. It reinforces their friendship. That episode also takes place in the second season when the close friendship of the golden trio has been well-established. You don't know who to root for, because you don't want either to die. Here, we are in a brand-new show, three episodes in, and they've pitted a character we know almost nothing about with a character we've never met before and who has only had three or four lines thus far. What's more, the "you stole my guy/girl" is lessened in "Amok Time"
because neither man wants T'Pring and found themselves in this situation because of her machinations (though they only learn of her full involvement later). Here, there's a clear undercurrent of "you stole my guy/girl" because Yareena and Lutan seem to have been together for a while, and Yareena seems to want to keep him, whereas Yar was dragged into this... literally. This story and its gender-swap are a piss-poor substitute for Amok Time's overall themes and outcomes.



Picard comes in, and they briefly discuss how the plague is worse than everyone thought it was. Troi becomes suddenly adamant that Yar go through with this dumb challenge to the death.
"Ex-squeeze me?" demands Picard.
"Yar can beat her ass, and you still look good at the bargaining table," Troi answers.
Fucking Troi. Why are you now the bad friend in high school who eggs on her BFF to fight some bitch in the parking lot at lunch?
She's super-bitchy about it when Picard asks her why, too.
"I wanna talk to Lutan," he says, and leaves.

He finds Lutan talking to Hagon. Hagon thinks this situation is dumb. He thinks Lutan should stay with Yareena, as she's "worth more" than Yar.  Yaaaay, women as property.
"So what's the deal?" Picard asks pleasantly. "Why are you making them fight to the death?"
"I didn't issue this challenge," grins Lutan. "That was Yareena."
ARGH! MOTHERFUCKER IS ENJOYING THIS! Does he think they'll Jello-wrestle, or start making out in the middle of the fight? So gross, Lutan.


What follows next is pretty awful as well. Hagon lets it slip that Lutan has power, but not wealth, and Picard puts two and two together. Remember: the women own the property, but the men rule it. This asshole has nothing. Which is why when Hagon said Yareena was "worth more" he was talking about the land she comes with as a package deal. It's her fucking dowry. She's desirable because she's cute AND rich.
Lutan: "We understand that they are highly pleasant things, unimportant - except for the land they own."
Pardon me while I go vomit.
Picard pays him some lip service, pretending that he agrees with Lutan's view, but it's obvious that he's just kind of smiling and nodding. He says that Lutan is clever, because he makes out like a bandit no matter who wins. 
Lutan has nothing to lose. He says his code of honor can be wrapped around him like a magic cloak. Again, there's a comparison here to "Amok Time" in that no matter the outcome, T'Pring would get what she wanted. The difference being that T'Pring was clever as hell, and Lutan is just a smarmy jackass.
Picard says he'll order Yar to fight Yareena, and he toasts Lutan, saying he hopes that the leader of the Ligonians gets everything that he deserves. It's a bit like when someone from the Deep South says "bless your heart!" when you know that that actually means "fuck you, bitch!"


Back on the E, Geordi is shaving in his quarters with what looks like some kind of blue cube. Data enters, and asks why Geordi is not using the shaver that he adjusted for better accuracy.
"It's too accurate," Geordi replies.
They touch briefly on "the human equation" and Data says that he has been working on it, particularly humor. He launches into a joke, and Geordi tries running, but dude is not wearing his VISOR, and Data catches him up easily. He then stalks Geordi while telling him a joke. The delivery is wooden, and Geordi advises him that aggressive joke telling is not his forte. Riker calls them to report for away duty.



They beam down next to the weapons wall on Ligon, and Picard tells them that he wants them to study the weapons here and determine which ones will be most helpful to Tasha, because she will be fighting Lutan's wife.
"Is that good joke material?" Data asks.
What, like "Yar and Yareena walk into a bar..."?
"It does sound like a joke," Picard muses.
No, this episode is a fucking joke.
"We have the might of the Enterprise on our side, and we could totes blast them out of the sky and take the vaccine by force," he continues, "but the Prime Directive says we can't." He starts to go on about how humans used to be that way, but then he checks himself, and he and Troi take off so Data and Geordi can do their research.


Riker's Log, supplemental: "Still probing the compound. The captain wants us to beam up Tasha if it looks like her life is in danger."

Yareena agrees to meet with Yar. They each throw out some "you can't beat me" shade before Yar tries to tell Yareena that she doesn't want Lutan, which of course, is Yareena's whole beef. Yareena says that's impossible, as everyone wants Lutan.
*humbly raises hand* I don't want that bastard...

Good Lord, look at that eyeshadow. Not as scary as some of the stuff seen on TOS,
but still in the realm of WTH?

Yar says she's fighting for the vaccine only, but Yareena thinks she's full of shit. She threatens Yar one more time before stalking out.

Picard is in guest quarters, talking to Troi. He's looking for another way out involving the vaccine, but she sees none. Geordi and Data enter. They report that the weapons available seem light, flexible and deadly, as well as built for women. They also contain traces of blood and old poisons. Picard asks about some lengths of metal nearby, and Data rattles off a tiny speech about how putting them together, one could make two poles "this long," or one pole "that long." 
I don't know why Data rattled that shit off just now, but it better come to fruition later. So often on this this show, they're like, "Here's the android doing calculations - it's amazing that he can do that!" I feel like it become funnier and more endearing later in the show, but right now, it just seems like filler disguised as character development.
Tasha enters to say that her meeting with Yareena went to hell quickly, and that Yareena is going to fight because she loves Lutan, but is convinced that Lutan and Yar love each other.
Riker calls with the news that they figured out the transporter ruse to grab Tasha should her vitals fail.



Tasha agrees to go forward with the fight, and some guards come in with boxes, instructing her to choose her size. Do the hats on the Ligonian guards remind you of the hats on the Eminarian guards from "A Taste of Armageddon"?


That little Asian Red Shirt can't believe this crap, either.

Guess what's in the boxes? These scary-ass boxing gloves with poisoned spikes and a some kind of talon-thing.
Shit, dude.



They see Yareena practicing outside in the courtyard. Those metal poles that Data was talking about are some kind of jungle gym for you to swing around on and you stab your opponent or something. Force fields are also up around the little arena. It guess they figured it would be easier and cheaper to build this thing rather than force these women to fight in a giant blender. It wouldn't be less bloody, though. Tasha looks less cocky now.



Riker's Log, supplemental: "We need this vaccine, so the captain is letting our security chief maim one of the natives."

As Riker exits the bridge, he catches Wes in the lift and offers to let him sit at Ops again. Data beams back up to brief Crusher and Riker on Picard's plans.

Picard, Troi, Geordi and Yar go to the arena at the time of the fight. There's a sizeable crowd gathered. Yareena shows up in this shiny orange hooded robe, and when she whips it off, you almost start humming the Rocky theme song. Except then you see that she's wearing this shiny, pink, ruched jumper-thing that was either made for this episode, or was discovered in the disco section at the local Goodwill and rescued by the wardrobe assistant. It's accessorized by that Glove of Death thing. Hagon says that everyone already knows the rules, and that there are no Time Outs allowed.
The fight begins.
Yar and Yareena swing around those poles, trying to bitch-slap one another with the gloves. At one point, Yar pushes Yareena into one of those giant glow sticks, and it explodes, sending her glove flying into the crowd. The guy whose lap it lands in keels over dead.



Yareena's glove is returned to her and the Battle Royale resumes.
At one point, Hagon yells, "Careful, Yareena!" and Lutan gives him the side-eye, but then the women end up locked in combat around one of those glow sticks, and he goes back to jacking it to the thought of himself in bed with both warrior women.
So they fight some more. What can I say? Describing every blow isn't terribly exciting. Yar takes a swipe, Yareena ducks, reverse and repeat. Repeat, repeat, repeat.


Finally, Yar strikes out at Yareena, makes contact, and Yareena falls over backward in surprise. The crowd falls silent and jumps to their feet as Yareena dies. Then Yar counts her own fucking coup and jump's on Yareena's body. Lutan probably comes off-camera. Both women disappear.


They reappear on the transporter pad of the E, and Crusher rushes forward to hypo Yareena.
Downstairs, Lutan is pissed as hell. He calls the match unfair, and Picard questions him on it.
"What's your problem, bro? Yareena died and lost the match."
"Yeah, but Yar is gone! I wanted her to be my First One!"
"And she's allowed to claim that honor if she wants it," Picard reasons.
"It's cool," Hagon says quietly to Lutan. "Yareena died, so you get all her stuff. You're still rich and powerful."
"Oh, yeah!" says Lutan. He's pretty excited for a guy who supposedly loved his late wife. Again, dude has nothing to lose. Yareena is dead, he possibly gets Yar as well, and all of Yareena's stuff reverts to him. 
I'd like to smack the shit of this guy.


Riker calls to ask if their agreement is complete, and they can collect the vaccines.
"Sure," smiles Lutan.
So Picard tells Riker to beam down a medical team to get those, then he calls for a beam-up of five. Lutan and Hagon realize too late that that means them as well.
Picard takes the Ligonians into the observation lounge, where Yareena is being cared for by Crusher. She is clearly fine. Lutan is incensed, and screams that he's gonna cancel the treaty and the vaccines, because the match did not go through to the end.
Crusher tells him that she saw Yareena die, and has the records to prove it. She threatens to stab him with the claw to prove that the poison worked.


But as angry as Lutan is, Yareena is moreso. She yells at him that their mating contract is dissolved, as she died, and just fuck him over further, she chooses Hagon as her new guy. She removes that ugly necklace that he's wearing and puts it on Hagon. Apparently, that choke collar is the sandwich board that he wears that proclaims him to be her owner. As well as being an eyesore, that necklace also carries with it all of Yareena's stuff. So now Lutan is poor and single. At least he has his fantasies of Yar and Yareena to keep him warm at night.
"That's fucking sad," remarks Yar, and she's just barely hiding the sarcasm in her voice.
Yareena points out that Lutan is hers for the taking, but Yar declines. She cites complications, but there's the tiniest, most fleeting smile on her face that clearly whispers, "Fuck yeah."


Just to add insult to injury, Yareena declares that she will begrudgingly take Lutan as her "number two," which is kind of unintentionally hilarious on many levels.
Just to be dicks, Hagon makes one final remark to Picard about how the Federation is more advanced in technology, but not in civilized behavior. Yes, rampant sexism is clearly the winner here.


Later, Picard enters the bridge to find Wes still at Ops.
"Yeah, he's been manning that station for me," shrugs Riker.
"Cool," says Picard. "Maybe you can have another shot at it later."
Data takes Wes' place, and Picard asks why they haven't warped the fuck away from these weirdos and their back-assward culture.
"Fine by me," says Riker, and he gives the word: "Engage."


This episode is awful, you guys. Not only for the rampant racism, but for the rampant sexism as well. The sexism is not generally discussed because the writers tried to make it obvious that that particular brand of sexism was shunned by the E crew, and not upheld by anyone other than the Ligonians, but I feel like it bleeds over.
In another context, it might have been fine for Yar to admit that she liked it when Lutan "wanted her." Here, it fits awkwardly into the story and isn't addressed further, so there was no need to add it. Troi's further insistence that Yar fight Yareena seemed oddly out of character, and while she explained that it would be helpful to Picard in not losing points at the bargaining table, it doesn't explain her rather bloodthirsty attitude about it.
Then there's the whole "you stole my man!" aspect. While Yar tries to talk to Yareena about not fighting for some a-hole that she doesn't even want, Yar also admits to wanting to fight Yareena, if only to embarrass her. It isn't until the very end that Yareena realizes what a complete dick Lutan is, that she decides to throw in with Hagon. She says she's into him as she gives him her choke collar, but a lot of that seems like revenge against Lutan. And let's talk about that damn collar: it denotes ownership, no matter how you try to paint it. The woman puts it on her First One, so she owns him. But he has control over her lands, property and money, so he actually owns her. Yareena, in moving the collar from Lutan to Hagon, simply elected to select another owner. I guess the writers were trying to go for a "Girl Power!" vibe when they had Yareena switch her loyalties like that, but it again just plays off of the idea that these people own one another. Instead of sharing things like wealth and power, they have a dowry system in place. And what is a dowry? Land, money and power offered to the guy who would take a daughter off of a father's hands. Basically, the woman is property, and stuff is thrown in to sweeten the deal. While it's nice that Yareena can move her loyalties of her own accord and needs no input from another male, it's still selective ownership.
This does, of course, play into the other disturbing overtone of this episode, which is the fact that it's seriously racist. Protesting that Yareena chooses her next mate for herself is feminist doesn't hold water when you add in the fact that these people own each other, and that the race that created this show and this episode (humans) have historically engaged in ownership of one another. Specifically, white people have owned black people and non-whites. Now toss in that the Ligonians are all played by black people who own one another, and things become... problematic, to put it lightly. Sure, Picard goes off on a rant to Data about how humans used to own one another and don't any longer, thereby "absolving" this episode of being racist, but it doesn't really work. Wil Wheaton once remarked to a comicon audience that he thought that the reason that this episode was racist lies entirely on the fact that the Ligonians were all played by black actors. Is that true? Quite possibly. Would it have read differently if the Ligonians had been played by Japanese actors? Yes. To my knowledge, the Japanese have never been enslaved by white people. While we know that white people did in fact own others who were not black, it comes down to numbers: Hitler killed gypsies, gay people, the disabled, and thousands of others from different marginalized groups, but who do we remember him trying to exterminate? Jews. White people have owned other races as slaves, but who are they famous for owning? Blacks. Sure, other races have owned other races (the ancient Egyptians famously owned Jewish slaves), but what's the most famous pairing of owners and slaves? Whites and blacks. 
Now add in the fact that blacks were, for a very long time (and still are, depending on which racist piece of shit you ask), thought of as being inferior to whites. It is mentioned that the Ligonians are technologically inferior to the Federation, and that Ligon is only in play here because they have something valuable that the Federation needs. So the casting of all black actors to play the inferior species becomes more suspect, especially when you factor in that most of the Enterprise crew who deal with the Ligonians are white. (Data is white-ish, and Geordi is the lone minority here. Worf is oddly absent from this episode, which will only happen one other time, in an upcoming episode called "Haven." I say oddly because this episode deals with honor and combat, two things that Klingons are known for. It would have been interesting to see Worf's take on the Ligonians, but we don't get it.)
This episode also made me question my earlier complaints about white people being cast to play "brown people," where white actors were painted brown to be Klingons. I bitched about how Star Trek might have hired black actors to play Klingons, basically brown people who play brown characters, but instead hired whites and painted them. My chief complain was, as long as they needed to have a certain skin tone, why not hire actors that were similar in color rather than hire whites and literally utilize blackface? (Brownface? Bronzeface?) In fact, I was okay with there being a mix of races playing Klingons, as is the case today. (I assumed that my favorite Klingons, sisters Lursa and B'etor, were both black actors, but Gwynyth Walsh, who plays B'etor, is white. Make-up application has progressed to the point where I could not tell the difference, which is, frankly, what I wanted: select the best actor for the job, regardless of race. The case of Lursa and B'etor is not going to forward the case against racism in the world - one only has to look at the uproar about POC Hermione in "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" to see that it's alive and kicking - but I feel like it quietly makes it's own mark.) So, given that I got my wish, and an all-black cast appears as one race, was I satisfied? Not even a little. It's possible that, in TOS, the decision to use white actors in brown make-up was made so as not to cast Black people in the role of "the villains." I don't know. But the Ligonians aren't villains, and the Klingons aren't necessarily, either. Sure, Kirk sparred with them, but there were times when they were almost friendly, such as the end of another terrible episode "Day of the Dove," or when Kirk and Klingon leader Kor both get their asses handed to them by the Organians. There's a difference, though. The Klingons aren't thought of as being "inferior" and the Ligonians are. The Ligonians even admit it to themselves and the E crew, bringing to mind those handful of Black people who would declare that slavery and Jim Crows were okay as the status quo, because Blacks were inferior to whites. That kind of thinking makes me want to vomit. No one is better or worse than anyone else, no matter what some asshole spouts. And no one should be thinking that that racist bullshit holds water, because it doesn't.
I feel like my original complaint still has merit, as does Wil Wheaton's. If Star Trek had cast the Ligonians as Japanese, would the episode have been as racist? No, because of that history of slavery and thinking of one race as being inferior. Sure, there were times in our past where whites have thought of themselves as being superior to the Japanese, but again, it's that long-lasting relationship that counts, and we gradually came to know the Japanese as being makers of cool stuff and cute food. The Black community also makes cool stuff (rock music, anyone?) and yummy food, yet we don't hold them in the same esteem as the Japanese. And my original complaint still stands (in my own mind, anyway) because this episode, while it gave me the thing I wanted, is completely racially-loaded. Give me a whole race of Dr Daystroms, and we'll talk. In the meantime, no more episodes like this, please.
It's terrible on so many levels, in so many ways, and I'm shocked it was ever made.

Un-Fun Facts:

- This was the only episode of Star Trek directed by Russ Mayberry, and though his name appears in the credits, he never finished filming. He was fired most of the way through by Gene Rod for being a racist POS to the Black cast members. The rest of the direction was completed by assistant director Les Landau.

- The lamps used in the living quarters of the Ligonians are reused multiple times in TNG and DS9. You can see them in the screencaptures featuring Yareena, and Yar, Picard and Data. The consist of white tubes grouped together and biased cut to make shapes, which are then lit from the inside. I like these a lot, and keep hoping that IKEA might make something similar so that I can buy them for myself. The round one was recycled from the set of "Scarface," and others have appeared in the third Star Trek film, and on "Babylon 5."

- This episode is rather universally hated and filed under "racist" by the regular TNG cast members. Along with Wil Wheaton, Michael Dorn also condemned it publicly. In 2007 at a Toronto comicon, Jonathan Frakes said it was so awful and racist that he wished they would remove it from the rotating syndication schedule. Brent Spiner thought it was "fortuitous" that this episode aired third in the series, and "never got that bad again."

*******

I don't know if I've reviewed Good Earth's Sweet and Spicy tea before, but if I haven't, here goes:
pretty good, but tastes like Red Hots. It's supposed to be a spiced orange, but I never got any orange, just that huge burst of cinnamon. If cinnamon is your deal, this is the right tea for you! It's a rooibos base and an herbal, so it won't keep you up all night if you have one last cuppa before bed.
Something new for me here: I was at my sister's this weekend, making myself this tea, and I asked if she had any honey to help with my sore throat, She handed me a tiny Tupperware filled to the brim with a very dark honey and bits of honeycomb. I hadn't had honeycomb before, and wasn't certain how to deal with it beyond chucking it into my hot tea like regular honey. I let it sit to cool and came back a bit later to find that the wax in the comb had melted a re-solidified as tiny wax dots floating in my tea. My sister was no longer in the house to consult about the consumption of that wax, but does one eat that? I dunno. I fished it out as best I could. The honey seemed to be just honey. But that comb baffled me. Think I'll just stick to the little bottle shaped like a bear, thanks.

*Edit: looked it up, and it looks like you can chew the wax like gum until it loses flavor.











1 comment:

  1. One thing that I never got was why Data said "Includdling the kiddleys." It was a bit of unintentional humor on his part, and it made not sense for him to say it.

    But, yeah, bad episode.

    ReplyDelete