Mary and I have been going through all the Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes from the beginning. I yell at the screen at least once per episode. Now that I have a blog, I can air my grievances about each and every episode.
The writers scraped the bottom of the tv trope barrel and came up with an exchange student episode! Riker goes to work on a Klingon ship while an alien of some other race you’ve never heard of is temporarily stationed on the Enterprise. Cultural misunderstandings! Gosh!
Yell at the Screen Moment:
– Before Riker leaves the Enterprise, he has some time alone with Worf to learn about Klingon culture. Worf informs Riker that while he is serving as first officer, it is his duty to murder the captain if the capt should seem to weaken in the slightest. This relationship with one’s subordinates apparently holds at every level of command on a Klingon ship, and results in Riker getting in a fight with the second officer mere moments after assuming his post. But this is not what I have a problem with. Riker tells Worf that this sounds not so great for the Klingons, or something like that, to which Worf replies that this has worked for centuries and is “the Klingon Way.” *record scratch*
Can you imagine yourself ever telling an alien that something is “the human way”? If not, the reason is probably because we don’t identify ourselves based on our entire species, but rather in how we compare to other human races. One of many, many glaring flaws with TNG writing is that the idea of nations and tribalism within alien races is almost completely forgotten. Races are treated as monolithic and single-minded (for the most part). This reminds me of the same problem applied to climates rather than cultures, the Single-Biome Planet. Forget about diversity of climate: On Hoth it snows always and everywhere. And forget about diversity of culture: Every Klingon fits into a stereotype that can be described in a paragraph or two.
This makes especially little sense with a race like the Klingons who are obsessed with combat. You’d think they’d be among the most factionalized and cavilling species in the galaxy. For a race of warriors obsessed with fighting, on the whole they get along with one another pretty well.
I have to say this episode was above average. The plot was contrived, but it was delivered reasonably well and you come away with a sense that Riker is now more in touch with Klingons than he was before, in a way that other crewmembers won’t be able to necessarily identify with. I hold out hope that the writers will take advantage of this planted seed at some point in the series’ future.