Revisiting Star Trek TNG: A Matter Of Honor

Review James Hunt 14 Jun 2013 - 07:30

Our Star Trek: TNG look-back reaches the show's best episode yet by some margin, the gripping A Matter Of Honor...

This review contains spoilers.

2.8 A Matter of Honor

The Enterprise welcomes aboard a group of new crew members who are joining as part of an exchange program, including an eager-to-please Benzite who looks exactly like Wesley's friend Mordock. Don't worry, though, Mordock hasn't graduated in record time! He's actually Ensign Mendon, and looks the same because he's from the same Geostructure as Mordock. Glad that's cleared up. It's definitely nothing to do with wanting to re-use existing prosthetics that already fit a specific actor, anyway.

Down at the shooting range, Riker and Picard play the futuristic equivalent of Duck Hunt while discussing the idea of sending an officer to a Klingon ship through the exchange program. Riker volunteers, ostensibly "because it's never been done before," but more likely because he's sick of being sent to dangerous planets with nothing but a blind guy and a robot for support. Worf explains the command structure of Klingon ships to him, which involves being prepared to kill your superior if he appears to weaken (although again, we ask: who exactly made the famously raised-by-humans Worf the go-to expert on Klingons?)

While Riker prepares for his exchange by eating all kinds of horrible looking food in front of the obviously traumatised Pulaski, Ensign Mendon is getting on everyone's nerves by suggesting improvements and failing to understand the chain of command. As Riker transfers to the IKC Pagh, Mendon notices something eating through the ship's hull, but rather than tell anyone he starts to analyse the data, presumably with a view to creating a kickass Powerpoint Presentation further down the line.

On the Klingon ship, Riker is subjected to various leading questions about his loyalties and eventually has to smack his immediate junior around a bit in order to prove his dominance (if only he could do that with Wesley…). Back on the Enterprise, the bridge crew discovers an organism eating through their own hull, and Mendon casually mentions that he saw it on the Klingon ship, prompting everyone to get upset with him. They continue analysing the problem and chase off after the Klingons to explain the situation.

On the Pagh, Riker enjoys some quality time with the crew, having a joke with the Klingon dudes and hitting on some of the Klingon women. They're all surprised to find out the others have a sense of humour (turns out, Worf's just a very miserable Klingon, rather than specifically representative.) It's all going well until they discover the bacterial hull infection. Captain Kargan decides the Enterprise is the cause and forces Riker (though some well-applied moral technicalities) to aid in an attack on his former ship.

Eventually, Mendon discovers how to remove the hull-eating organism, but Kargan decides he'd rather try and blow up the Enterprise than listen to reason. Riker uses a transporter beacon to trick the Enterprise into transporting Kargan off the vessel, after which he declares himself Captain and decloaks, requesting the Enterprise's surrender. Picard agrees, then helps Riker clean the Pagh before he returns to the Enterprise, the transfer having lasted approximately half a day. Kargan leaves. Mendon is redeemed. Riker gains new respect for Worf. And presumably, somewhere out there, Troi and Geordi are trapped in a wardrobe wondering how long it'll be before anyone notices they're gone, because neither was in this episode at all.

TNG WTF:  The Klingon Command system of "earn your promotion by killing your superior" seems insane, not least because it begs the question of how anyone gets anything done without being killed off. Maybe the idea is that they inherently respect one another enough to not make constant assassination attempts, but still, once you've made Captain how are you supposed to make Admiral? Wait until your boss takes a tour and then knock him on the head while he's inspecting the vents? Klingon society must have one hell of a glass ceiling problem.

TNG LOL: All of the scenes with Worf and Mendon are hilarious, for all the right reasons. Mendon suffers from being fundamentally unlikeable, but that means we can really get behind Worf's total lack of patience with him. Although let's face it, none of us would want Worf as our boss...

Who's That Face?: Obviously, the guy who plays Mendon is John Putch, the guy who played Mordock, the other Benzite from last season's Coming of Age.

Time Until Meeting: No meetings! There is a group discussion at a dinner table, though, which is close.

Captain's Log: This episode is pretty memorable, and for a change it totally lives up to the hype. Okay, Kargan is arguably a little too eager to risk starting a war with the Federation, but it's not like he's the only Klingon who's ever wished for that. What strikes me is that it has two main plots, both of which reflect one another's themes. Riker is struggling with his place in an unfamiliar situation, while Mendon is experiencing the same problems, only he's the fish out of water (literally, given that he looks more like a fish than anything else.) By the end of the episode, the two plots dovetail together and both characters resolve their stories.

It's good stuff! Competent, engaging, full of heart, humour and character interplay. The scene with Riker and Picard down at the shooting range is fantastic, and far superior to the usual venue for this kind of discussion, which involves characters sitting on opposite sides of a desk until one of them is or asks to be dismissed. Also we get moments like Chief O'Brien's brief aside to Riker, and Worf actually succeeding at preventing an attack on the Captain. I can say, with some confidence, that it's the best episode yet. Probably by some margin.

Watch or Skip? Watch. Surprisingly gripping.

Read James' look-back at the previous episode, Unnatural Selection, here.

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