I find it incredibly difficult to write “honour” incorrectly, like the actual title of the episode is. So I won’t.
This was an interesting episode. It was quite obviously an Original Series episode, in the way that it was shot, dressed, the aliens are “really humanoid” (meaning entirely human with no latex). If you swapped out Kirk and Picard, almost nothing would be different. On the other hand, quite a few of these early episodes were in the mould of the Original Series – more omnipotent, wondrous, unknowable aliens whereas later on, it seems that they transitioned throughout TNG to weirder looking aliens but whose godlike powers were limited or explained by technology somehow.
I noticed on the two named male aliens, they appeared to have scars on their faces – is that to show that they’re aliens, or something to do with their culture and tradition?
Honour and Culture
I’m not sure what the point of the episode was – or whether it was designed that way deliberately. The main thrust of the episode seems to be that we must respect this other culture if we want to deal with them, but their notions of “honour” are weird and backwards to me.
The idea that counting coup in a form of ritual kidnap and return can be reconciled – in the end, no harm, no foul. It’ll be something to be more wary of next time. But not returning Tasha Yar after the kidnap seems to be breaking that ritual – it’s clear that the aliens don’t get it, they think that they are doing Picard a favour by allowing him to request her back.
Nor does it seem honourable to me to declare “I’ll take her as my wife” without giving her the chance to break your leg, entirely reasonably. You can’t kidnap someone and then force them to marry you, unless both cultures allow such a thing.
And as much as I understand the bias and highly subjective nature of it, I don’t think that culture or tradition is an acceptable excuse for doing something wrong. Any suppression of a person’s rights, be that because of gender, race, sexuality, health, is just plain wrong and it doesn’t matter if “that’s just their culture”. They’re wrong, and their culture is wrong. That doesn’t need to be respected, even if for the greater good it must be tolerated.
Equality of the Sexes
I feel like in some ways this was a more important part of the episode than the “honour” point. I think it was dealt with well – the only people making a big deal out of Tasha Yar being head of security were the aliens, whereas the Starfleet crew didn’t really make a big deal out of it. Maybe they’re so used to dealing with sexist cultures that they can take others actions in their stride, but they didn’t go to great lengths to make their point of equality to the aliens.
While some points in the episode show a great deal of research about the alien culture has been done, they seem to have completely missed the “ritual kidnap” custom there. That seems like the sort of thing people should be aware of… on the other hand, the one most likely to be aware of it is Tasha Yar and if Starfleet in general has such a culture of equality, why would she suspect that she would be kidnapped? Surely the Captain or First Officer would be better prizes. Perhaps ritual kidnap isn’t that popular, and there’s a lot of more likely things that need to be researched – for instance, how to convince these guys to give up their vaccine.
I loved the fact that this is a race that has customs associated with their transporters – rolling out a red carpet before their leader beams aboard! It reminds me that Stargate SG-1, so much closer to our own time, lines the ramp to the Stargate with a ceremonial guard when they have visiting leaders and adapts some of the tradition and respect of the US military to a completely new context. It’s a shame that this isn’t used so much, and that everyone, from high to low, uses the transporter the same way.
I don’t get the impression that these women really have been training with the dangerous spiked gauntlet weapons – if they have, then their trainers are absolutely rubbish. They’ve forgotten everything they ever knew about using them. I’m not even sure that they’re made correctly. There’s so much apparent weight on them, sitting on the end of the arm, that ideally you wouldn’t be swinging like they do in the episode – you’re far too likely to miss, and end up striking yourself at the end of the arc. If anything, you’d be better off in a sort of fencing pose to keep your killing fist as far from the rest of your body as possible and use jabbing actions to reduce the chance of hitting yourself. It seems much too easy to avoid a swing, then use your own weapon to push your opponent’s weapon back into them. The momentum of their swing will add to your own push, and the humanoid arm is hinged to go back to it’s own body very easily. Could be a short match if you had your timing right.
How would the other captains have dealt with this? I think Sisko would have been much less diplomatic about things. He wouldn’t have chatted to draw out information, he would have followed the letter of his obligation with obvious distaste, and once they’d got the vaccine, I expect he would have told them where to shove their culture. I can’t see him finding a way out of the fight to the death though. I expect that Kira would have been abducted, as the second in command and liberator of her world – Dax, while a more competent fighter (if she could use a bat’leth), was only a science officer. Would she have been such a desirable prize? I can’t see Kira giving in at all. She would be willing to scrap the vaccine to get herself, or anyone else, out. Sisko or the Bajoran government would have to convince her otherwise. Of everyone on DS9 I can see that she would suggest a rescue operation and steal the vaccine – she’s not a long-term planner or a diplomat, and she is used to guerrilla operations to uphold her inflexible principles.
Janeway’s crew is another matter. If the aliens were aware of the Klingon reputation, then maybe they’d have abducted B’elanna. Kes, being a child and not a crewmember, would not be a prize and Seven of Nine would likely have broken his nose before Janeway returned. Janeway herself would be a valuable prize too, possibly the most valuable. Regardless of who is abducted, I can’t see Janeway allowing the fight to go ahead. In the Delta Quadrant, there’s less Starfleet interference so the vaccine mission would be one that they took on themselves and they’d be in the unfavourable position of choosing between appeasing the aliens or giving up on someone they’ve promised to help. If she was abducted, I can see her telling the crew to leave without her rather than acquiesce.
Being in the unique position of not having to maintain diplomatic relations, I expect the Voyager crew would mount a raid and steal the vaccine they wanted (as well as rescue the captive) – as a payback for stealing their crew member. It can all be justified as being for the greater good.
I just wasn’t certain of the point of this episode. Are we supposed to respect other cultures regardless of their customs? Their giving Picard the opportunity to request Yar back, and the last thing we hear from the aliens (“You may excel in technology, but not in civilised behaviour.”) both suggest that they are incredibly tolerant of Starfleet, and Starfleet need to be more polite. On the other hand, Picard and company don’t seem to care too much. They certainly don’t act like they’ve been chastised and they make it clear that their only priority is to acquire the vaccine legally. It isn’t said explicitly, but the impression is given that Tasha Yar would not be given a choice in the marriage. If she was, I doubt that she would have been returned, deathmatch or no deathmatch. “Well, I abducted you, I refuse to return you because I want to marry you, and my wife wants to challenge you to the death. If you survive, I’ll ask if you want to marry me and then respect your decision with grace and dignity.” It just doesn’t make much sense as a motivation.
I didn’t realise that Wesley was allowed onto the bridge so early – we’re only on the third episode! At least he didn’t screw anything up this time.