Star Trek: The Next Generation – “A Matter of Honor”
Just a few short episodes ago we were treated to utter disappointing stories like “Loud as a Whisper” and “The Outrageous Okona,” but the show hit a solid home run with this tale where Cmdr. Riker participates in an Officer Exchange Program and serves as first officer aboard a Klingon vessel, a first for a human. And the B-Story wasn’t a lame “Data tries yoga/pudding/painting his toenails to be more human” bit, but followed an inexperienced alien exchange officer on board the Enterprise. In other words, the A and B stories had themes that overlapped!
Jonathan Frakes’ Riker really came into his own here. Riker was often stiff in the first season but Frakes found his stride here (compare his work here with 1st season’s goofy "Angel One"). Worf gives Riker some tips before he beams over in a nice show of comraderie and male bonding. Plus Worf shows he’s on his game as Chief Security Officer when he gives Riker a special locator device that he can activate in case of emergency. (This is something the captain should have on his person at all times, but of course that would cut down on the dramatic factor whenever he was abducted or captured.)
The Klingons of the ship Pagh are some of the better ones featured during the TNG era. They often went overboard with all the general rowdiness of the Klingons in future portrayals, but here they have a nice balance of smarts and kick-shit-over attitude, thanks in large part to actors Brian Thompson (who has appeared in several ST episodes) as Klag the first officer and Peter Parros as the tactical officer. The scene of them teasing Riker in their mess hall was fun, especially when they asked him if he wanted something softer or easier to eat instead of all the live wriggling Klingon chow, and Klag suggests breast milk. Also, when a couple of female Klingons express an “interest” in the human Riker, the men ask if he could “endure” them and Riker quickly replies, “One…or both?” getting huge props from the Klingons.
I thought that Klingon Capt. Kargan (Charles Collins) was a bit of a weak spot. The actor sounded like he was putting on a cartoon voice to match his makeup instead of simply acting in his normal voice, like Brian Thompson does.
The B-Story follows the catfish-like Benzite alien Ensign Mendon (John Putch) as he tries to impress Picard and the crew during his officer exchange tenure. I liked that his people follow a different protocol than our Starfleet folks (you mean EVERYONE doesn't do it the way we do?)), and that difference initially causes some friction, especially between Mendon and his immediate supervisor, Worf.
One aspect of the story that was a bit hard to swallow was Kargan’s rationale for wanting to attack the Enterprise after they found the hull-eating bacteria on the Pagh. Both Riker and Klag bring up that it makes no sense for the Enterprise to infect their ship in order to destroy it when Riker is aboard. Here's a way to give Kargan a better reason to attack: in the mess hall scene, during a discussion of Klingon honor, Klag tells Riker he is estranged from his father because his father was once captured by Romulans and then escaped, instead of dying in battle which is the Klingon ideal. Perhaps if this story concerned Capt. Kargan’s father instead, it would explain his wanting to engage the Enterprise in battle, hoping to lead him to the honorable death his father can never receive. A simple change of dialogue could have seriously justified Kargan’s actions.
This episode has a great little moment that slips by a lot of people. When Kargan takes Riker’s locator, he is quickly beamed onto the Enterprise bridge. Kargan, thinking treachery is afoot, wheels around drawing his weapon intending to shoot Picard. As he turns Worf draws a small phaser (the "cricket" returns) and shoots Kargan, while Data simultaneously steps in front of Picard to shield him from harm. Data stepping in front of Picard was such a correct thing to do: this is like a Secret Service agent shielding the President from an assassin’s bullet. I liked the fact they didn’t overly draw attention to it, which just makes it even cooler.
This episode was written by Burton Armus, Wanda Haight and Gregory Amos and directed by Rob Bowman. Awesome job, people!