Posted by: rebeccajrobare | June 7, 2017

A New Civilization: “Code of Honor”

Blog Note: When fans of Sherlock Holmes gather, they often “play the Game” — their discussions occur under the premise that Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson were real people, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was Watson’s literary agent. I am playing a similar Game here, and writing these posts as though I were studying the records of Starfleet missions that had actually occurred. Therefore, I am refraining from talking about these episodes in terms of story structure, character development, multiculturalism as practiced in the 1990s, and other aspects of Star Trek that can be considered only through viewing it as a television show, which must necessarily be bound to the time in which it was made, to the words and intentions of its producers, writers, and actors, and to the culture that created it. This is therefore a game of make-believe, and I hope you will enjoy pretending along with me.

Mission Summary: Picard has been ordered to obtain a supply of desperately needed vaccine from a non-Federation planet whose dominant culture has strict gender roles and a strict code of honor that dictate its members’ lives and actions. The planet’s representative, Lutan, is accompanied to the Enterprise by an honor guard and his Second, Hagon. Lutan directs his Second to give a sample of the vaccine to Captain Picard; Lt. Yar attempts to receive it in keeping with her role as Security Chief, to inspect the sample in case of an attempt to harm Picard. When Hagon tries to push past her, she throws him — harmlessly — to the floor, impressing and intriguing Lutan. Following an initial discussion regarding how the vaccine is to be obtained by the Enterprise, Lutan requests a demonstration of the Holodeck’s capability for martial arts training. Yar obliges, demonstrating her aikido program to the visitors. Lutan and Hagon then return to their planet, kidnapping Yar as they beam out. After a day of refusing to respond to hails and a show of force from the Enterprise (a display of photon torpedoes exploding above the planet’s surface), Picard is invited to beam down to the planet and negotiate for both the vaccine, and the return of his lieutenant. Riker objects to the Captain risking his safety, harking back to his initial interview with Picard during the Farpoint mission. However, the code of honor followed by the planet’s inhabitants renders Picard safe as a guest, with Lutan honor-bound to die before allowing harm to befall a visiting leader. No other member of the crew would be assured such safety. Picard beams down, and asks for Yar to be released. Lutan announces a banquet to be held that evening; if Picard requests Yar’s return publicly, she will be returned. They accede, but that evening are surprised when Lutan responds to Picard’s request by announcing his desire to make Yar his “First One” — his wife, the owner of the lands he rules. Lutan’s existing First One, Yareena, objects (as Lutan knew she would) and challenges Yar to fight to the death for the position. After discussion among the crew and with Yareena and Lutan, it becomes clear that the fight is the only way that the Enterprise will be able to get the vaccine; Dr. Crusher has been unable to synthesize it. Yar agrees to the fight — Picard agrees to the fight — and Yar wins, killing Yareena with a weapon like a spiked gauntlet coated with a fast-acting poison. The victory does not come before Hagon cries out to Yareena, wishing for her to be careful. As Yareena dies, Yar has them both beamed to the Enterprise, where Dr. Crusher revives Yareena. Confronted with his formerly-dead First One, Lutan is shocked to realize that she is now his former First One as well, with Yareena’s death having broken their agreement as well as fulfilled the terms of the vaccine negotiation. Yareena as landowner selects Hagon to be her First One, and ruler, with Lutan accepted into Hagon’s former place as Second. The Enterprise then proceeds to the plague-stricken planet carrying the promised vaccine.

On Leadership: This mission presents a number of leadership challenges to Captain Picard, including a Prime Directive-bound encounter with a civilization that has the only source of a needed medicinal substance; the kidnapping and threatened death of a crew member; and the manipulation of both his people and Picard’s by the representative of the aforementioned civilization.

The Prime Directive forbids Picard from acting too directly against the cultural mores of the planet’s inhabitants; more than that, their status as the only source of a plague-stopping vaccine means that they must be handled in a way that obtains the vaccine. It means a delicate negotiation, one that cannot simply be abandoned when Yar is kidnapped. Throughout the mission, Picard turns to Troi, Data, and Riker for cultural analysis and expertise. This is an example of an important component of leadership. Picard does not know everything about Lutan’s culture, nor does the crew expect him to. Instead, he asks for expertise and listens to the recommendations of those experts. Leadership Principle: Call upon experts, and trust their expertise.

When Picard and his crew members visit the planet seeking Yar’s return, they must cope with Lutan’s unexpected declaration and Yareena’s resultant challenge. True to her nature and her calling as Security Chief, Yar is willing to fight, confident in her ability to defeat Yareena. It is Picard who hesitates, refusing to put a crew member’s life at unnecessary risk. Leadership Principle: Value the lives of the people you are responsible for. However, when it becomes clear that this is the only way to get the vaccine, and that Lutan has been manipulating all of them, Picard allows Yar to accept the challenge, trusting in her ability to win. Leadership Principle: Be willing to take risks when they are necessary — with the agreement of the people you are risking. Key in Picard’s willingness to make this decision is the revelation that Lutan has been manipulating the situation, intending to dispose of Yareena but trusting to Yar’s lack of desire to become his First One. Picard learns this by having a private conversation with Lutan. Leadership Principle: Listen to what people want. It’s key that what Lutan reveals to Picard as his desire is different from his stated intention. Lutan is attracted to Yar, but knows she is unlikely to find him more irresistible than her Starfleet career. But what he cannot say to Yareena, Hagon, or Yar he can say to a man he considers to be of similar status to him — a leader of people. Once Picard knows what Lutan wants, he knows it is important that Lutan not get what amounts to the murder of his wife for his own gain. Picard and his crew find a way of fulfilling the code of honor requiring the fight to the death, while keeping Yareena in her position as landowner and obtaining the all-important vaccine. Leadership Principle: Uphold your own ethical principles. Picard resolves the situation by obtaining the much-needed vaccine, keeping Lieutenant Yar alive and in her position, refusing to collaborate in the murder of a planetary leader’s wife, and refusing the (manipulative, abusive) leader from his position, all while maintaining the Prime Directive. The four leadership principles outline above are key to the successful resolution of this complex and unusual situation.

Do you agree with my analysis? What are your thoughts about Picard’s leadership in this situation — and how it contrasts to Lutan’s?

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