Captain Kirk Was Nearly Connected To The Worst Star Trek: TNG Episode

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

Star Trek: The Next Generation was always careful about bringing in characters from The Original Series so as not to overshadow the new cast: that’s one of the reasons that we had to wait until the first feature film with this crew, Generations, to get a cameo from the legendary Captain Kirk. However, we came frighteningly close to getting a Kirk reference in the third episode of TNG that would have connected him to the worst Star Trek episode ever made. In an early version of the “Code of Honor” script, Kirk’s epic battle against the villainous Lutan’s reptilian ancestor would have been explicitly mentioned.

The Infamous Code Of Honor

Before I can fully dive into the bizarre way that Kirk nearly got connected to a TNG episode, it’s important to review what “Code of Honor” is so infamous for. The plot involves a planetary leader kidnapping Tasha Yar as part of a political power play, and it ends with a bizarre fight between Yar and another woman that plays out like a sci-fi version of the girl-on-girl fighting film Caged Heat. All of that would have been bad enough, but director Russ Mayberry’s choice of making the planet’s population entirely Black, complete with a tribal African aesthetic, made it all that much more problematic.

Kirk Name Drop Was Removed From The Final Cut

code of honor

Interestingly, though, the reference to Kirk in this notorious TNG episode came from an earlier version of the script where the aliens in question (the Ligonians) were instead a race of samurai reptiles called Tellisians. The plot about planetary leader Lutan kidnapping Tasha Yar was still in place, and the script would have made it clear that Captain Kirk once did battle with Lutan’s grandfather. The final version of this Next Generation episode had no such reference, but in a notable twist, Kirk was later mentioned in the TNG spinoff Deep Space Nine, referencing how he affected the Mirror Universe at the end of “Mirror, Mirror.”

Star Trekking Reptile Samurai

We don’t know much about what the Tellisians would have been like, but “samurai reptiles” is certainly a striking visual image. Given the rising popularity of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when this episode was being written, it’s possible that they had an influence on “Code of Honor” writers Katharyn Powers and Michael Baron (plus, as a bonus, you can sing “Star Trekking Reptile Samurai” to the 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme song). In all likelihood, however, this was intended to be an homage to the famous The Original Series episode “Arena.”

Callback To The Gorn

star trek gorn

Long before Kirk had to worry about getting connected to this stinker of a TNG episode, he fought the reptilian Gorn in The Original Series episode “Arena.” It’s actually one of the best episodes of classic Trek ever made, but the admittedly goofy Gorn costume eventually turned this episode into a pop culture punchline. For a new Star Trek spinoff trying to appeal to fans of the original show, it would have made perfect sense to include a winking nod to Kirk’s famous reptilian ruckus.

Kirk’s History Of Punching Lizards

star trek gorn

Given how Kirk was originally going to be referenced in the TNG episode “Code of Honor,” I can’t help but wonder if the writers intended for the Gorn to be related to the Tellisians in some way. On the one hand, this race of space samurai sounds pretty different from the Gorn; on the other hand, it’s difficult (though a bit funny) to imagine that getting in epic battles with lizard people is something Kirk was doing all the time. Think of it as Kirk’s special version of the Starfleet motto: “to punch out new life and new civilizations…to boldly throw boulders where no man has thrown before.”

No One Liked The Final Product

With how bad it turned out and what its racist legacy is, it’s probably for the best that Kirk was never name-dropped in this TNG episode. Without his famous name attached, “Code of Honor” could be judged by its own merits, and both the actors and the fandom have judged it as a racist abomination. Or, as Jonathan Frakes memorably put it, “a racist piece of s***.

If only director Russ Mayberry had remembered Kirk’s words of wisdom from “Balance of Terror:” that he should “Leave any bigotry in your quarters” because “there’s no room for it on the Bridge.” Of course, there was no room for Mayberry, either: he was fired even before the episode had finished shooting.

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