Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Star Trek: The Next Generation - ''A Matter of Honor''

Spoiler Level: High

Now we're getting some- where!  Riker serves in an officer exchange program aboard a Klingon vessel, the Pagh.  This is the second episode to focus on the Klingons, and while it still suffers from "we don't know how to use Klingons if they're not bad guys," it takes a huge step in the new direction of establishing the Klingons as an honorable race who like to party hearty.

It's also the episode that introduces Klag.  Although this is Klag's only film appearance, he goes on to become the lead character in Keith R. A. DeCandido's excellent IKS Gorkon novels.  Here he starts out as something of a foil to Riker, until Riker wins Klag's repsect by smashing his head into a viewscreen.  (Incidentally, the Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion accidentally refers to Captain Kargan as Klag throughout the description!)

The dining hall scene is probably the best part of the episode, since shortly afterwards Captain Kargan gets it into his head that the space bacteria eating the hull of his ship is somehow the Enterprise's fault, which requires only one response-- he needs to blow the Enterprise up.  On the one hand it does set up some good drama with Riker's loyalties being divided between his oath to Starfleet and his oath to Kargan and the Pagh; the scene where Kargan confronts Riker's loyalty to both oaths, bellowing "They are in conflict!" and Riker bellows right back in his face "No sir, they are not!" is fantastic.  But on the other hand, it still shows the problem early Next Gen had with Klingons; just as in "Heart of Glory," we have to come up with a reason for the Klingons to attack the Enterprise. At least in this case it's out of a misguided sense of honor, and we see Klingons on both sides of the argument as Klag questions Kargan's judgment.  Which is why I call Kargan's offense to his honor misguided-- if every Klingon captain leaped to the conclusions he did here, the peace treaty between the Klingons and the Federation wouldn't have lasted a year.

But the episode still works well.  Twenty-two years after it aired, this episode still stands up as the template for the Klingons we know, love, and dress up as at conventions.

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