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Jonathan Frakes Wants A Racist Episode Of Star Trek: The Next Generation Removed From Streaming

  
Via:  Ender  •  10 months ago  •  54 comments

By:   Witney Seibold (SlashFilm. com)

Jonathan Frakes Wants A Racist Episode Of Star Trek: The Next Generation Removed From Streaming
It's an embarrassment to the franchise.

Sponsored by group STAR TREK

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S E E D E D   C O N T E N T


"Star Trek: The Next Generation" infamously got off to a rough start. The cast was great and the premise of the show was first-rate, but thanks to a lot of drama behind the scenes — Gene Roddenberry's personal lawyer reportedly rewrote scripts after they had been approved — a lot of the stories suffered. Sometimes a script began with a good idea, but was rewritten into oblivion, emerging as bland, confusing, bad, or, in the case of "Code of Honor," chock full of unfortunate racial stereotypes.

"Code of Honor" (October 12, 1987) follows the Enterprise-D to the planet of Ligon II, where the inhabitants, audiences are told, abide by a strict [insert episode title]. In an unwise creative choice, the Ligonians were dressed to resemble, essentially, "African tribesmen" stereotypes straight out of a 1940s theatrical serial. The Ligonian king Lutan (Jessie Lawrence Ferguson) would kidnap Lieutenant Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby) and force her to fight his wife Yareena (Karole Selmon) in a duel to the death. In addition to the stereotypes, there is a lot of sexist language in "Code of Honor" wherein Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) plays along with Lutan's misogyny. It's one of the low points of the series.

The cast even felt that way at the time. In a 2012 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Stewart noted that the series didn't get good until its second season, and cited "Code of Honor" as evidence. Jonathan Frakes, who played Commander Riker on "Next Generation" has remained negative about the episode as well, telling Trek Nation in 2007 that he wanted to see the episode struck from reruns and from home video. In 2023, Frakes repeated that sentiment with TrekMovie, finding it surprising that the episode hadn't been removed from rotation already.

According to Larry Nemecek's indispensable sourcebook "The Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion," the original conception for the episode was to feature a species of reptiles whose code of honor was modeled after that of samurai. According to well-communicated production notes, it was the episode's first director, a man named Russ Mayberry, who cast Black actors as the Ligonians and wanted to dress them in their unusual outfits. Word on the street was Gene Roddenberry fired Mayberry during production. Actor Wil Wheaton, who played Wesley Crusher on "The Next Generation," heard that the director treated the Black actors poorly. Yikes.

Jonathan Frakes, meanwhile, still feels that "Code of Honor" should be removed from rotation. It was racist in 1987, he feels, and it's racist now. When Frakes was told by his interviewer that "Code of Honor" was still readily available on Paramount+, Hulu, and several other streaming platforms, he was a little shocked. Frakes said to TrekMovie:


"It is now. But I was told or I was under the impression that it had rubbed so many people the wrong way that it was pulled. I think they should take it out of the rotation. I think it is a great time to make that kind of — as small as it is — to make that kind of a statement would be fabulous."

The interviewer, Anthony Pascale, suggested that the episode remain, but with the type of disclaimer that now often accompanies 1940s Warner Bros. cartoons with racist imagery or screenings of "Gone with the Wind." Frakes halfway agreed.

Jonathan Frakes felt that a disclaimer might work, provided it explained what the episode was trying — but failed — to do. Perhaps an interview or a brief documentary explaining how the episode fell apart so badly. Frakes said:


"[Y]ou make a good point. Maybe it should be included with an appropriate statement of reason. A proof of concept. This is not who we are. This is not what we stand for. It's an embarrassment to the franchise and Gene [Roddenberry] would want us to do this. Something like that."

Back in 2008, Wil Wheaton re-watched "Code of Honor" for the Huffington Post, and was prepared to be utterly repelled. While Wheaton did find the episode distasteful, he felt it wasn't the most offensive episode of early "Next Generation." Notably, Wheaton cites an episode called "Angel One" (January 25, 1988) as being more offensive for its outward sexism. He noticed that the script for "Code of Honor" is not outwardly racist in itself, but became that way when someone cast the episode the way they did. Wheaton said:


"'Code of Honor' is not an especially good episode, but it's not as overtly racist as I recalled. I mean, it's certainly not as racist as 'Angel One' is sexist, and if the Ligonians hadn't been arbitrarily determined to be entirely African American, it wouldn't have even been an issue (although someone definitely owes the Sung dynasty an apology)."

Sadly, Jessie Lawrence Ferguson, who died in 2019, never went on the record to discuss "Code of Honor," although Karole Selmon spoke at length about the episode for the video interview series "Trek Untold." She very much recalls the "friction" on the set between Russ Mayberry and the Black actors.

She did, however, admire that the script put Ligonian women in power. Thank goodness for that much.


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Ender
Professor Principal
1  seeder  Ender    10 months ago

Don't remember that episode off hand and I watched all of them.

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
Professor Expert
1.1  sandy-2021492  replied to  Ender @1    10 months ago

It was pretty cringe-worthy.  The show hadn't found its feet yet, and quite a bit of the writing and directing was clunky and didn't send the message Trek generally means to send.

I agree with Wil Wheaton:

if the Ligonians hadn't been arbitrarily determined to be entirely African American, it wouldn't have even been an issue
 
 
 
Ender
Professor Principal
1.1.1  seeder  Ender  replied to  sandy-2021492 @1.1    10 months ago

I hate to say it but I almost want to look it up and watch it again just to see. Then again there are a bunch of them I don't remember until I start watching them again. Then it hits me.

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
Professor Expert
1.1.2  sandy-2021492  replied to  Ender @1.1.1    10 months ago

It might be worth the watch, just so you can see what the issue is.

I think TNG is free on Prime.

 
 
 
Ender
Professor Principal
1.1.3  seeder  Ender  replied to  sandy-2021492 @1.1.2    10 months ago

Is it on Paramount +? I thought the Picard ones were.

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
Professor Expert
1.1.4  sandy-2021492  replied to  Ender @1.1.3    10 months ago

It is.  But if you don't have Paramount +, you can watch on Prime, if you're a member.  I signed up for Prime more for the free shipping, but the video library has been a nice bonus.

 
 
 
Ender
Professor Principal
1.1.5  seeder  Ender  replied to  sandy-2021492 @1.1.4    10 months ago

I do have the P+. I hardly use it. I need to check it out. I loved the series back in the day. My favorite, corny as it may be, was Picard and the flute.

For some reason, instead of prime they keep wanting me to join business class.

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
Professor Expert
1.1.6  sandy-2021492  replied to  Ender @1.1.5    10 months ago

Inner Light.  I don't think that episode was corny.  I think it was one of the best, and gave Stewart a chance to explore a different character while remaining Jean-Luc Picard.

 
 
 
Ender
Professor Principal
1.1.7  seeder  Ender  replied to  sandy-2021492 @1.1.6    10 months ago

It was, there is a word for it can't think of it. He got to experience something he always wanted, that was never in the cards for him in his current life.

Sort of sad and happy as he got to experience it just not keep it.

 
 
 
Dig
Professor Participates
1.1.8  Dig  replied to  sandy-2021492 @1.1.6    10 months ago

Yeah, that one is always at or near the top of fan favorite lists.

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
Professor Expert
1.1.9  sandy-2021492  replied to  Ender @1.1.7    10 months ago

Yeah.  That one actually made me tear up a bit.  To wake up, and find out that the family you thought you'd lived your life with - wife, daughter, grandchildren, were all dead, and had been for thousands of years.  The same with all of your friends, and even your world, despite you warning of its destruction.

 
 
 
Ender
Professor Principal
1.1.10  seeder  Ender  replied to  sandy-2021492 @1.1.9    10 months ago

Plus how do you portray that to everyone else. They would never understand.

 
 
 
Dig
Professor Participates
2  Dig    10 months ago

I remember thinking this one was stupid and a waste of airtime when it first aired, but I don't think they should remove it from streaming. I'm not a big fan of retrofitting old shows to align with what might be considered 'modern' sensibility. It's not like it's the only horrible TNG episode, and people can easily skip it.

 
 
 
Ender
Professor Principal
2.1  seeder  Ender  replied to  Dig @2    10 months ago

I kinda agree with the one dude. Just slap at label at the beginning of the episode, may be offensive, etc.

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
Professor Expert
2.2  sandy-2021492  replied to  Dig @2    10 months ago

Agreed.  Also, if the Star Trek franchise continues, as it seems it will, future writers should have examples of what not to do.  Don't make the bad guys all one minority race.  Don't make another episode like Angel One.  And never have Spock walking around without his brain again.

 
 
 
Ender
Professor Principal
2.2.1  seeder  Ender  replied to  sandy-2021492 @2.2    10 months ago

What sort of turned me off, and I hate to say it was I really didn't like the cast of the last movies.

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
Professor Expert
2.2.2  sandy-2021492  replied to  Ender @2.2.1    10 months ago

I didn't see Beyond.  I didn't have a problem with the cast.  I though Chris Pine did an excellent Kirk.  He out-Shatnered Shatner.  Quinto was a good spock, and Urban was a good McCoy.  I wasn't crazy about Zoe Saldana, but that may have been the script more than the actress.

I had a problem with the stories.

 
 
 
Ender
Professor Principal
2.2.3  seeder  Ender  replied to  sandy-2021492 @2.2.2    10 months ago

I thought Quinto had too much feelings for Spock. He is just way sympathetic.

What I didn't like with Pine is I wanted to see a less cocky Kirk. One a little more likeable. One can be forceful without being a jerk. Plus the whole cheating thing really turned me off.

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
Professor Expert
2.2.4  sandy-2021492  replied to  Ender @2.2.3    10 months ago

I thought Kirk became likeable, but that might also be because I think Chris Pine is just gorgeous, and I'd forgive him just about anything.  And the cheating thing was part of Kirk's backstory.  Before Pine played him, it was part of his legend that he'd cheated on the Kobayashi-Maru.

I think the Spock of the movies was the way the series has been fleshing out Vulcans over the years.  They do have emotions, but suppress them.  We got a glimpse of that in Amok Time, with Sarek suffering from dementia in TNG, and a few times with Tuvok in Voyager. 

TBH, Spock in Strange New Worlds cries a bit too much for me, though.

 
 
 
Ender
Professor Principal
2.2.5  seeder  Ender  replied to  sandy-2021492 @2.2.4    10 months ago
it was part of his legend that he'd cheated on the Kobayashi-Maru

They didn't have to make it true damnit!   Haha

 
 
 
Greg Jones
Professor Participates
3  Greg Jones    10 months ago

"Code of Honor" | Star Trek: TNG | Jammer's Reviews (jammersreviews.com)

Jammer only gives it only a half star. The reviews aren't kind

The series is currently running on BBC-America. Channel 264 on Direct TV

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
Professor Principal
4  Perrie Halpern R.A.    10 months ago

Odd that this episode was so poorly made. Star Trek was always known for it's positive humanitarian views. Kind of surprised this one snuck on through.

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
Professor Expert
4.1  sandy-2021492  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @4    10 months ago

It may have been that the script itself raised no alarms.  If you separate the script from the actors saying the lines, it's a pretty standard plotline for Trek - there's a culture clash/diplomatic dilemma with dire consequences for somebody if it's not resolved.

The problem was with the casting and costuming, and from the sounds of things, the director's treatment of the Black guest cast members.

 
 
 
Ender
Professor Principal
4.1.1  seeder  Ender  replied to  sandy-2021492 @4.1    10 months ago
the director's treatment of the Black guest cast members

One must believe the Wil Man!  Haha

Though it did say he didn't think it was as bad as he remembered. I do need to watch again.

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
Professor Expert
4.1.2  sandy-2021492  replied to  Ender @4.1.1    10 months ago

One of the guest stars remembers friction, too.

Wheaton's part was pretty minor in that episode, and he'd have still been attending school at the time, so I don't know if he'd have been on set during the entire production.

 
 
 
Ender
Professor Principal
4.1.3  seeder  Ender  replied to  sandy-2021492 @4.1.2    10 months ago

I just wonder if it is basically what one would actually call cultural appropriation. It kinda mentioned one episode where they relied on Japanese culture. Sort of using what is known and portraying it as alien.

If that makes any sense.

 
 
 
evilone
Professor Guide
4.2  evilone  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @4    10 months ago
Star Trek was always known for it's positive humanitarian views. Kind of surprised this one snuck on through.

There are a lot of misogyny in Trek. Especial TNG. There were several episodes that also lean heavily into negative stereotypes like Ep 7 - Up the Long Ladder where the Enterprise rescues and relocates some colonists. They lean heavily into Irish stereotypes of heavy drinking lazy men and nagging women. Then the leader tries to sell his daughter to Riker. 

Female cast members often complained, especially in earlier seasons they didn't have much to do besides look pretty and/or get rescued.

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
Professor Expert
4.2.1  sandy-2021492  replied to  evilone @4.2    10 months ago

I always thought TOS could be pretty misogynistic.  Too often, it felt like an episode's female guest star was pretty much willing to throw her crewmates under the bus for that episode's villainous man.  Consider Marla McGivers' in Space Seed, or Carolyn Palamas in Who Mourns for Adonais.  A few compliments from a murderous warlord or egotistical Greek god, and the female object of those compliments was putty in their hands. 

There was Scotty's resentment of women in Wolf in the Fold, because a woman caused an explosion in engineering - would he have similarly resented all men if it had been a man who caused the explosion?  And if so, would the best way to get him over that resentment be to toss a male exotic dancer his way?

 
 
 
Gordy327
Professor Expert
4.2.2  Gordy327  replied to  sandy-2021492 @4.2.1    10 months ago

Scotty wasn't resentful of women. It was just a consideration given as a possible motive due to him being injured by a woman. Of course, Scotty was innocent all along.

One misogynistic episode of TOS was the final episode, "Turnabout Intruder," where Janice Lester complained that Starship command was not meant for women and was portrayed as being insane. As I recall, Gene Roddenberry even acknowledged the misogyny of the dialog. Although, that was probably not the intention. 

 
 
 
Gordy327
Professor Expert
4.2.3  Gordy327  replied to  evilone @4.2    10 months ago

Indeed. That's 1 reason why Denise Crosby left the show. But TNG did improve in that regard as the seasons progressed, such as Dr. Crusher commanding the Enterprise and Counselor Troi taking command of the bridge and eventually ranking up to Commander.

 
 
 
evilone
Professor Guide
4.2.4  evilone  replied to  Gordy327 @4.2.3    10 months ago
TNG did improve...

Yes, they did, but in later seasons. It isn't until the final season that Troi takes bridge officer's examination and Crusher becomes more of a Picard contemporary. TNG is my favorite Trek even with all the unevenness of early seasons. 

 
 
 
evilone
Professor Guide
4.2.5  evilone  replied to  sandy-2021492 @4.2.1    10 months ago
I always thought TOS could be pretty misogynistic.

Entertainment is a reflection of the ideas and ideals we hold at the time they were created, which makes sense. 

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
Professor Expert
4.2.6  sandy-2021492  replied to  Gordy327 @4.2.3    10 months ago

My understanding is that Gates McFadden left for a while because she felt she was being undervalued due to being a woman.  And I've heard that Terry Farrell was treated pretty badly, too.

 
 
 
evilone
Professor Guide
4.2.7  evilone  replied to  sandy-2021492 @4.2.6    10 months ago
I've heard that Terry Farrell was treated pretty badly....

Terry Farrell accused Rick Berman of sexist and derogatory behavior.

"The problems with my leaving were with Rick Berman," Farrell explained. "In my opinion, he's just very misogynistic. He'd comment on your bra size not being voluptuous."
 
 
 
Gordy327
Professor Expert
4.2.8  Gordy327  replied to  evilone @4.2.7    10 months ago

Terry Farrell wanted to cut back to a more "part time" role so she could focus more on films. But producers would not let her so she quit. In response, her character Jadzia was killed off.

 
 
 
Gordy327
Professor Expert
4.2.9  Gordy327  replied to  sandy-2021492 @4.2.6    10 months ago

Gates left because of disputes with producers. Patrick Stewart (and fans) advocated for her return 

 
 
 
evilone
Professor Guide
4.2.10  evilone  replied to  Gordy327 @4.2.8    10 months ago

Yes, that's true too. Her contract was up and they didn't want to renew it for a part time slot. She still didn't like Rick Berman and the quote about him came from the book, The Fifty-Year Mission: The Next 25 Years.

EDIT: Doing a little cursory digging online on Rick Berman - I did not know how much some fans really dislike the man. More than one writer has come out and said Berman is the reason there were no LGBT characters in TNG and DS9 and Berman himself says rather than have 2 women or 2 men holding hands in 10 Forward he wanted the shows to tackle those subject metaphorically like through alien AIDS or some garbage.

 
 
 
Gordy327
Professor Expert
4.2.11  Gordy327  replied to  evilone @4.2.10    10 months ago

DS9 did feature the 1st lesbian kiss with Dax and a partner of a previous host. TNG tackled LGBT issues my introducing a race who lacks sexual orientation and any expression of male or female attractions is taboo.

 
 
 
Gordy327
Professor Expert
4.2.12  Gordy327  replied to  evilone @4.2.4    10 months ago

It did have a shaky start. But it found its legs in season 3.

 
 
 
evilone
Professor Guide
4.2.13  evilone  replied to  Gordy327 @4.2.11    10 months ago
TNG tackled LGBT issues my introducing a race who lacks sexual orientation and any expression of male or female attractions is taboo.

Rick Berman from startrek.com (emphasis mine)

...when Michael and I were involved with the concepts of the stories on the show, we just felt it would be better to deal with concepts of prejudice against homosexuality and topics like AIDS metaphorically, in ways other than human gays on board the ship .

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
Professor Expert
4.2.14  sandy-2021492  replied to  Gordy327 @4.2.2    10 months ago
Scotty wasn't resentful of women. It was just a consideration given as a possible motive due to him being injured by a woman. Of course, Scotty was innocent all along.

My understanding was that that was his diagnosis, rendered by Bones.

Anyway, it was a pretty misogynistic episode all over.  The idea that the "spirit" of Jack the Riper fed off of the fear of women because we're more scared than men is pretty misogynistic.

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
Professor Expert
4.2.15  sandy-2021492  replied to  Gordy327 @4.2.9    10 months ago

In a 2018 interview with   SBS Australia , McFadden said the following:
"I had been in conflict with one of the male writer-producers about certain things I thought were sexist. What I’ve heard is that he said 'Either she goes or I go.' I was shocked that they let me go, because I knew my character was really popular. But he was going to be writing more and more and didn’t want to have to deal with me. What was great was they got rid of him and asked me to come back."
 
 
 
Gordy327
Professor Expert
4.2.16  Gordy327  replied to  sandy-2021492 @4.2.14    10 months ago
My understanding was that that was his diagnosis, rendered by Bones.

Not quite. Bones only suspected Scotty might be having some resentment towards women. But this was before the 1st murder took place.

Anyway, it was a pretty misogynistic episode all over.  The idea that the "spirit" of Jack the Riper fed off of the fear of women because we're more scared than men is pretty misogynistic.

Indeed. Spock is the one who made that particular, shall we say, observation. I remember the camera shot focusing on the female Yeoman in the room as Spock was saying that too, as if to drive the point home.

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
Professor Expert
5  sandy-2021492    10 months ago

I'm watching it right now.  It doesn't improve on repeat viewing.

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
Professor Expert
5.1  sandy-2021492  replied to  sandy-2021492 @5    10 months ago

Data still used contractions at this point in the series.  That part wasn't part of his character Bible yet.

 
 
 
Dig
Professor Participates
5.1.1  Dig  replied to  sandy-2021492 @5.1    10 months ago

That sent me searching and I found this. Someone on Trek BBS put together a list of Data's contraction usage. Looks like they made mistakes all through the series. I don't think I ever noticed it at the time. I never paid much attention to it and was never watching for them.

Trek BBS discussion thread – Complete Guide to Data's Contractions

It's a little funny that voice-to-text translators and AI chatbots today have no problem dealing with contractions, and they are seriously low-tech compared to what Data was supposed to be.

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
Professor Expert
5.1.2  sandy-2021492  replied to  Dig @5.1.1    10 months ago

I wish closed captioning were so accurate.  I've been using that quite a bit, both because dentistry is hard on the ears, and because could the background music please not suddenly be loud enough to rattle the windows when I've turned up the volume enough to hear a whispered conversation?  Some of the mistakes in closed captioning are pretty hilarious.

 
 
 
Ender
Professor Principal
5.1.3  seeder  Ender  replied to  sandy-2021492 @5.1.2    10 months ago

I hate that. It sounds like they are mumbling and I can't hear them yet some background noise will break my eardrums.

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
Professor Expert
5.1.4  sandy-2021492  replied to  Ender @5.1.3    10 months ago

Me, too.  My son complains about it when I watch TV while he's trying to sleep, and his room is on the other side of the house.

 
 
 
Dig
Professor Participates
5.1.5  Dig  replied to  sandy-2021492 @5.1.2    10 months ago
I wish closed captioning were so accurate.  I've been using that quite a bit

I've been using it for the past several years, too. Not because of hearing issues, but because actors today don't seem to be concerned with speaking as clearly as they used to. I don't have that problem with older shows, back when it was considered proper form to enunciate properly. And yeah, CC get's a lot wrong, even rewriting lines to save space.

 
 
 
Gordy327
Professor Expert
5.2  Gordy327  replied to  sandy-2021492 @5    10 months ago

I found it to be one of the more forgettable episodes.

 
 
 
Tacos!
Professor Guide
6  Tacos!    10 months ago

My unpopular opinion: The hate for this episode is overblown and based more on social internet pressure than organic reactions to the episode. If anything, the episode is more sexist than racist.

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
Professor Expert
6.1  sandy-2021492  replied to  Tacos! @6    10 months ago

TBH, I think it was a bit of both, but I found it more racist than sexist.  I didn't feel like it showed either sex as systemically inferior to the other, and it actually felt like it called out misogyny.  It was a little uncomfortable seeing Picard play along with it, but it was clear that he was doing so to gain Lutan's trust, not because he actually held those views himself.  It did feel like it was purposely casting Black actors exclusively as members of a less civilized, more misogynistic, and less honest society.

 
 
 
Tacos!
Professor Guide
6.1.1  Tacos!  replied to  sandy-2021492 @6.1    10 months ago

The thing is, Star Trek is full of stereotypes and homogeneous cultures. Vulcans are logical, Klingons are violent, Romulans are devious, Ferengi are greedy, etc. This time, the culture happened to be all black people, but there’s nothing about them that really fits a black stereotype.

Any color of people can be tribal, traditional, or primitive, and Star Trek has certainly done that with white actors multiple times. It’s only racist in this case because Americans are particularly sensitive to how black people are portrayed. It’s not as if Star Trek doesn’t cast black people in other types of roles. 

 
 

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