Why am I reviewing a 20-year-old episode of Star Trek? Because after Enterprise went off the air, I started rewatching the original Star Trek. I figured I've been watching Trek every week for 18 years, why stop just because it's been canceled? So I've continued watching on the average of one episode a week, more or less. I watched all of TOS in production order, then went on to the animateds, then the TOS films, and now I'm into Next Gen. Most of the Next Gen era stuff I've only seen once, so I'm really enjoying revisiting them.
Joy once asked me why every time they beam down to a planet, the aliens were white people with bumps on their heads. If species are going to have human skin tones, she wondered, wouldn't it make sense that there would be planets where the populations were just as similar to Blacks, Asians, Hispanics, and so on? Why not have a planet where the people all looked like Asians with bumps on their heads?
I didn't really have an answer for her then, but apparently I had forgotten that they tried to do that in this episode. According to the Next Generation Companion by Larry Nemecek, the script was originally written for this episode with the population of this planet being reptilian. In the final version, they're black. (Well, I can't really say African-American since they're all from the planet Ligon II, can I?) I assume this was done because making reptilian make-up for everyone would have been too costly. Larry Nemecek also quotes Tracy Tormé as saying that he was "embarrassed by the show's '1940s tribal Africa' view of blacks." So I guess that partly explains why they didn't frequently try it.
As for the story, it feels very much like a classic Trek episode, even without the obvious similarities to "Amok Time." Nemecek also says it was written by two friends of D.C. Fontana who were classic Trek fans, so I guess that makes sense. Also, heavy similarities to the original Trek are much more welcome now that TNG is done and over with than they were when it was new.
The big thing that stood out to me this episode was the music, which felt totally like it came out of TOS. And wouldn't you know it, it turns out the music was by Fred Steiner, who also wrote a lot of the music for the original show.
And lastly, this was the first in a gazillion Berman-era episodes with the word "honor" in the title. Yet ironically, Worf's not even in it.