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The Controversial Star Trek Episode That Jonathan Frakes Calls An Embarrassment

Not every episode of "Star Trek" can be a classic, but even among the less-than-stellar entries in the franchise, some are more misguided than others. And when it comes to one episode in particular — the "Star Trek: The Next Generation" entry "Code of Honor" — Jonathan Frakes wishes it had never been made, calling it out for racial insensitivity.

Frakes has been a key figure in the "Star Trek" franchise since being cast on "Star Trek: The Next Generation" as First Officer William Riker. In addition to playing the charming Starfleet officer, Frakes has directed prolifically across the franchise, most recently on several episodes of "Star Trek: Picard." Suffice it to say his voice carries more weight than most, and he has used that voice to vocally deride "Code of Honor," an episode from Season 1 of "The Next Generation."

Speaking at a virtual GalaxyCon event in 2020, Frakes took the stage with co-stars Denise Crosby and John de Lancie, where he paused the conversation to make his opinions on the episode known. "Code of Honor" finds the crew of the Enterprise traveling to a planet called Ligon II with a culture similar to that of ancient China, with all the aliens played by Black actors dressed like African tribesmen. To top things off, the Ligonians kidnap Crosby's Tasha Yar after she demonstrates martial arts skills. The episode has been widely criticized for racist tropes, and Frakes couldn't agree more. "The embarrassment heaped upon us in Season 1," he lamented, "mostly on Denise" (via TrekMovie).

Season 1's Code of Honor had troubling racist tropes

Jonathan Frakes has made his negative opinion on the "Star Trek: The Next Generation" episode "Code of Honor" known multiple times in the past, and other alumni of the series have agreed that it fell short of the franchise's well-known standards for and commitment to diversity and equality. Frakes went on the record in 2011 referring to it as a "racist piece of s***" (via TrekMovie).

The episode is a hotbed of racist tropes mix-and-matched into something more bafflingly grotesque than the sum of its parts, from the Orientalized string music that plays over the opening shots to the strange emphasis the Ligonians place on martial arts prowess. In 2016, "Star Trek" fans celebrating the franchise's 50th anniversary at Star Trek Las Vegas ranked "Code of Honor" the second-worst "Star Trek" episode of all time, outpaced only by the "Enterprise" series finale, "These Are the Voyages." Though not the only time "Star Trek" has misfired, it's among the hardest to watch.

So strong is Frakes' distaste for the episode, he has even called for the episode to be removed from streaming services, though he also said he would be placated by a disclaimer placed at the start of the episode. "Maybe it should be included with an appropriate statement of reason," Frakes said. "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, the creator of "Star Trek"] would want us to do this" (via TrekMovie).