(written from a Production point of view)
Riker serves as an exchange officer on a Klingon warship.
- 1 Summary
- 2 Memorable quotes
- 3 Background information
- 4 Links and references
The USS Enterprise-D is passing Starbase 179, where some replacement crew are due to come aboard. Riker and Wesley go down to the transporter room to meet the new arrivals. Among them is a Benzite who is participating in an Officer Exchange Program. At first Wes thinks it is his friend Mordock that he met last year on Relva VII, but he calls himself Mendon, telling Wes that they would look the same as they come from the same geostructure. Wesley asks how his species can tell themselves apart. Mendon simply says they just do. He then tells Riker that he requested the assignment and that he feels he will be a great help to the Enterprise.
Riker goes to the phaser range, where he and Captain Picard get in some phaser practice. Picard comments that Starfleet thinks it would be a good idea for someone from the Enterprise to participate in the exchange program. He also notes that there is a Klingon vessel, the IKS Pagh, in the area. Riker gets the idea, and volunteers to be the one to participate in the exchange because "nobody's done it before".
- "Captain's Log, Stardate 42506.5. We have departed from Starbase 179 and are headed for a rendezvous with the Klingon vessel Pagh. I have informed the staff of Commander Riker's temporary assignment."
Riker talks to Worf about the assignment, asking him while they walk down a corridor if it is true that one of the duties of the first officer is to assassinate his captain when he becomes weak or unfit. Worf confirms this, saying the system has worked successfully for the Klingons for centuries. Riker finds it very different from what he is used to and Worf responds that many things will be different.
On the bridge, Mendon walks around commenting on what the crew are doing and suggesting he has a more efficient way in a pompous manner. He mentions to Wesley that he intends to relay these observations to the captain. Later, Mendon notices something in a scan of the Pagh's hull. From the initial scan, it appears to be some form of subatomic life unknown to the computer. He decides to continue his analysis without informing Picard or Worf.
In Ten Forward, Riker is testing out Klingon food such as pipius claw, heart of targ and gagh, watched by Katherine Pulaski. Picard arrives to wish him well, but isn't tempted by the Klingon food. Riker seems to enjoy it and the reactions of his crewmembers.
The time has come to leave. On his way to the transporter room, Worf gives Riker an emergency transponder, just in case he gets into trouble. The Pagh arrives, commanded by Captain Kargan. As Riker prepares to beam over, Miles O'Brien wishes him good luck and that he would not be interested in going.
The Pagh leaves and Picard heads for the observation lounge. Mendon catches him and tries to tell him about his ideas and suggestions on procedural changes, but Picard brushes him off, telling him that on the Enterprise, the crew follows the chain of command. Thus, he should report this to Worf.
Meanwhile, Riker is brought to meet Kargan on the bridge of the Pagh. He asks Riker if he can trust him in the same way he trusts the rest of his crew. Riker replies that he will serve the ship and obey his orders. Klag, the second officer says that he doesn't believe Riker and that he challenges his authority. Riker beats up Klag in a fight, after which he accepts Riker's position.
On the Enterprise, Worf reports an unknown substance on the hull. It is a subatomic bacteria that doubles in size every fifteen minutes and feeds on the materials in the skin. Mendon interjects, saying he noted it before on the Pagh, and Picard admonishes him that he should have immediately reported it. Mendon is surprised, saying Benzite regulations would have him wait until he has a full analysis. Picard tells him he should have followed Starfleet protocol instead and to continue with the analysis.
- "First Officer's Personal Log. I have been aboard the Pagh a short time but long enough to be impressed with the abilities and single-mindedness of the Klingons."
On the Pagh, Riker is in the mess hall, eating the very Klingon delicacies he studied for the assignment. One of the female Klingons, Vekma, eyes him up, while he eats bregit lung and rokeg blood pie. Klag offers him some gagh, which is still alive. Riker didn't expect that, and Klag teases him, saying that perhaps he would prefer to be breast-fed. They joke for a while, before Riker says that the Klingons were not as he expected, having a sense of humor, for example. The Klingons say the same thing about him.
Starting a more serious conversation, one of them says they are alike – he also has a father and mother. His mother is still alive, but his father was killed gloriously in battle at Tranome Sar. Riker asks about Klag's parents, and he tells him ashamedly that his father was captured by the Romulans and not allowed to die with honor. However he escaped and will die an old man on Qo'noS, weakened, useless and without honor. He tells Riker he doesn't talk to him anymore, but Riker urges him to try.
On the Enterprise, Data says that the organisms feed on the compounds in the hull, and that the Pagh is more susceptible than they are. Picard orders an intercept course with the Pagh. Meanwhile, Kargan calls Riker to the Pagh's bridge, showing him a hole in the hull. He tells him it's due to a space organism. They have no way to repair it, and in eight hours too much of the hull will have been lost for the ship and its crew to survive. He questions Riker why the Enterprise conducted an intensive scan of the area for two minutes, but Riker doesn't know why. Kargan orders the ship cloaked and an intercept course set to destroy the Enterprise.
Wesley gets up from the helm and goes to talk to Mendon, who feels he made an error and failed in his task. Wes cheers him up, saying that he discovered the organism and that it wasn't his fault, he just made an error in protocol. He reminds Mendon his main goal is to take what he has learned about the Enterprise to his own government. Mendon goes back and eventually isolates the organisms, concluding they can be removed using a tunneling neutrino beam. Picard orders this information be added to the hail being broadcast. The Enterprise still has not found the Pagh, and Data concludes that it is either cloaked or destroyed.
The hole in the Pagh has become bigger and Kargan sends Riker to engineering to check on the situation. Klag tells him he thinks that Riker does not know anything about a plot. He may be a spy, but he's no coward. When Riker returns, the tactical officer reports that the Enterprise is on an intercept course. This convinces Kargan that it is hostile, and he orders a full battle alert and the photon torpedoes armed. Riker tries to convince Kargan that the Enterprise is trying to help them. He won't listen, and tells Riker that since he gave his word he should tell him the best way to attack. Riker refuses point blank, saying he has also sworn an oath to Starfleet, which he won't break. Kargan pressures him, and Riker says he will obey his orders, but won't break the oath. Kargan then admits that if he had told him the Enterprise's secrets he would have killed him where he stood.
When the Pagh notes the new message about the organisms, Kargan still doesn't believe the Enterprise and orders weapons ready.
- "Captain's Log, Stardate 42507.8. Although our search has been extensive, we are still unable to locate the Klingon ship or any evidence of its destruction."
Due to the lack of debris, Data says the Klingon ship must be cloaked, so Picard raises the shields. Kargan orders the torpedoes readied, and Riker tells him to wait until the distance to the Enterprise is 40,000 kilometers. Klag comments that Riker is honoring his promise. Riker says he still questions Kargan's judgment. Then he takes out the emergency transponder concealed in his boot and switches it on. He gives it to Kargan when he demands to see it.
Worf detects the signal, and Picard orders O'Brien to lock on to the signal and beam Riker out as soon as possible. He decides to wait until they are within 40,000 kilometers. Kargan is beamed off before the order to fire can be given. He materializes on the bridge, and pulls out his disruptor, and immediately Worf stuns him with his phaser and Data disarms him. On the Pagh, Riker tells a bemused Klag that he has relieved Kargan of his command. Now he is the captain. He orders the ship to be decloaked, and hails the Enterprise.
He demands that Picard surrender, and Picard agrees with a smile. Picard orders that O'Brien beam a very angry Kargan back to the Pagh, and repairs get started on its hull. When Kargan returns, he tells Riker he is back in command. He tells Riker to return to his station, but Riker gives him a low growl, standing with his chin out. Kargan sends him flying with a punch, regaining some of his dignity in the process. He tells Klag to get him off his ship. As Klag helps him up, he concedes that Riker may know more about Klingons than he thought.
As the Enterprise finishes repairing the hole in the Pagh with the neutrino beam, Riker returns. Picard congratulates him, and tells him to go to sickbay. As Worf escorts him there, Riker tells him that he comes from a very brave and unique people. Worf welcomes Riker home.
"He is not very attractive, but I will have him."
- - Vekma
"Ensign Mendon… you may impress…ME."
- - Worf scolding Mendon
"Good luck, Commander."
"You're not afraid, are you?"
"No, I'm not."
"I would be."
- - O'Brien and Riker
"If Klingon food is too strong for you, perhaps we can get one of the females to breast-feed you."
- - Klag
"Uhhh… it's still moving."
"Gagh is always best when served live."
- - Klag and Riker, discussing the culinary merits of gagh
"They are inquisitive. They wonder how you would endure."
. . .
"One, or both?"
- - Klag and Riker, after one of the female officers makes sexually suggestive remarks about the latter
"Enterprise, this is Captain William Riker of the Klingon vessel Pagh. I order you to lower your shields and surrender."
"Lower shields. Surrender as ordered."
- - Riker and Picard, after the former takes command of the Klingon ship
"Actually, I learned quite a bit."
"Apparently, not when to duck."
"When not to duck would be more accurate."
- - Riker and Picard, on Riker's return with a bruised face
"I may be back for you."
- - Vekma
- Final draft script: 28 November 1988
- Second revised final draft script: 2 December 1988 
- Premiere airdate: 6 February 1989
- First UK airdate: 22 May 1991
Story and production
- Maurice Hurley recalled, "'A Matter Of Honor' was just a good idea. It dealt with a social problem. One of the things that the old Star Trek did which the new Star Trek can't do as well, was make comments on issues… You take a show like 'A Matter Of Honor' and say, 'We're going to do a little culture swapping,' so we explore what it must be like to be the only black face in a room of forty white people. That must be kind of tough. That's what Worf, in a sense, is doing. He's the only Klingon on a basically Human ship. So we said, 'Let's spin it. Let's put somebody on an all Klingon vessel and see how that works.' What's it like to be a fish out of water? What is it like to be the only white face in a meeting in Harlem? That's got to be a little funny, a little different, a little tense. That's how that show started, it was a way to look at a contemporary social problem and give it a spin." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 176)
- For Hurley, a key scene was where Riker sits down to a meal aboard the Pagh. "The Klingon says he's surprised at Riker because he has a sense of humor. Riker looks at him and says, 'Son of a gun, I was thinking the same thing.' If Riker had said, I'm surprised you guys have a sense of humor,' it wouldn't have meant anything. But spin it, and all of a sudden it became the point of the whole show." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 176)
- Director Rob Bowman remarked, "Jonathan Frakes and I really got into that episode. That was a fun one to do. I think Jonathan was waiting to do something that was rough and had action, and it also had the bonding between he and Klag. Every day was Jonathan and I doing high-fives and trying to put forth on film all the energy and spirit and adventure that was in that script. It was great to do. I guess there's a spirit inherent in the Klingons that seems to push it forth in a certain direction with the characters and with the camera. I was going through my divorce at that time, and was escaping into the world of space for some happiness. Probably helped me to concentrate a little better. I know I was very aggressive at that point, so we put that on screen. When we did the fight on the bridge, I wanted to be as rough as I could possibly make it. We even had to pare it down a bit, because what we had in mind was too much." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 176)
- A scene filmed but cut for time showed the engineering room of the Pagh. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 75)) A maquette of the engine room was already completed, photographs of which have been published in The 24th Century Technical Manual.
Cast and characters
- LeVar Burton (Geordi La Forge) and Marina Sirtis (Deanna Troi) do not appear in this episode. This is the first episode of the series in which Burton does not appear.
- John Putch had played the identical Mordock in "Coming of Age". On being cast for this episode, Putch recalled, "I was all very impressed by that. I thought, 'Ah, they love me, they love me.' What they really loved was that it was me, because they'd spent all that money on making that blue head and it was form fitted to me…I don't fault them for that. I would have done the same thing, but it's funny how you are naive about these things when you're just an actor." 
- Brian Thompson would later play another Klingon on another Bird-of-Prey in Star Trek Generations. While conflict with the Enterprise is averted in this episode, in that film the Bird-of-Prey is destroyed in battle with the Enterprise, which is under the command of Riker.
Sets, props, and costumes
- According to prop master Alan Sims, the gagh was actually long brown noodles, while the rokeg blood pie was turnips in pumpkin pies, dyed red. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 75)) He used chicken feet as pipius claw, animal organs as heart of targ, and other things such as fish, eyes, squid, and octopus. Most of the things Sims bought at the Asian market. (TNG Season 2 DVD special feature "Departmental Briefing Year Two: Production – Props")`
- A momentary reference to the Japanese series Dirty Pair is made on a Bridge Science Station monitor when Mendon first observes the sub-atomic bacteria on the Pagh, after being chastised by Worf. The reference takes the form of "OP KEI" and "OP YURI", and is located beneath "QUARK POPU(LATION)" in the lower right hand corner of the screen.
- The Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 75) incorrectly states that this episode is the first to establish Miles O'Brien's last name. The name had already been previously spoken in "Unnatural Selection".
- "The Icarus Factor" later established that Riker had not seen his own father in fifteen years, making his criticism of Klag notable.
- Klingon bloodwine makes its first appearance.
- Commander Kurn would later serve in the Officer Exchange Program aboard the USS Enterprise-D as first officer, and as way of observing and meeting his elder brother Worf in the third season episode "Sins of the Father".
- A Klingon Officer, J'Dan, used the program to serve aboard the Enterprise-D and attempted to gather its information to hand over to the Romulans in "The Drumhead".
- The Pagh is said to be armed with phasers. Typically Klingons have been shown to employ disruptor weapons.
- Despite O'Brien stating that he would be afraid to serve on a Klingon ship, he would volunteer to serve onboard the IKS Rotarran ten years later in DS9: "Shadows and Symbols".
- "A Matter of Honor" was given a 12.2 rating on the Nielsen Television Index, the highest rating to that point on TNG, making it one of the most watched episodes of the series at that time. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 75))
- This was the last of five Star Trek projects to be adapted into View-Master reels.
- A mission report for this episode by Patrick Daniel O'Neill was published in The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine issue 7, pp. 44-50.
- This episode was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Makeup for a Series.
Video and DVD releases
- Original UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 17, catalog number VHR 2470, 1 July 1991
- In the UK video collection Star Trek: The Next Generation - 10th Anniversary Collector's Edition, under the "Riker" section, 29 September 1997
- UK re-release (three-episode tapes, Paramount Home Entertainment): Volume 2.3, catalog number VHR 4739, 3 May 1999
- Both UK individual releases gave the title of this episode as "A Matter Of Honour", using the British English spelling. The 10th Anniversary collection uses the title as broadcast.
- As part of the TNG Season 2 DVD collection
- As part of the Star Trek: Fan Collective - Klingon collection
- As part of the TNG Season 2 Blu-ray collection
Links and references
Special appearance by
- James G. Becker as Youngblood
- Dexter Clay as operations division officer
- Jeffrey Deacon as command division officer
- Nora Leonhardt as command division ensign
- Tim McCormack as Bennett
- Randy Pflug as Ten Forward waiter
- Bob Smithson as Klingon officer
- Guy Vardaman as Darien Wallace
- Unknown performers as
- Dan Koko as stunt double for Jonathan Frakes
- Unknown stunt performer as stunt double for Brian Thompson
- James G. Becker – stand-in for Jonathan Frakes
- Dexter Clay – stand-in for Michael Dorn
- Jeffrey Deacon – stand-in for Patrick Stewart
- Tim McCormack – stand-in for Brent Spiner
- Guy Vardaman – stand-in for Wil Wheaton
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- Graphics: bacterial colony; growth projection analysis; growth rate projection; image; life form analysis; microbiotic colony; neutrino masking interferometry; quantum interaction tomography; quantum state resonance test; quark; subatomic particle analysis; substance analysis
- "A Matter of Honor" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "A Matter of Honor" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "A Matter of Honor" at Wikipedia
- "A Matter of Honor" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
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