Jonathan Frakes says that the infamous Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Code Of Honor should be pulled from streaming; he’s right

Jonathan Frakes as Riker in "The Next Generation" Episode 301, Star Trek: Picard on Paramount+. Photo Credit: Trae Patton/Paramount+. ©2021 Viacom, International Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Jonathan Frakes as Riker in "The Next Generation" Episode 301, Star Trek: Picard on Paramount+. Photo Credit: Trae Patton/Paramount+. ©2021 Viacom, International Inc. All Rights Reserved. /

Code Of Honor is a sticky problem for the fandom.

There are many different opinions about what should be done with the notoriously racist episode Code Of Honor. It’s a hot topic, and as such, it’s a question that often comes up in interviews with Star Trek creators.

Recently, when speaking to Trek Movie, creator royalty Jonathan Frakes endorsed the view that Code Of Honor should be pulled from streaming. It’s a controversial view, but it’s right.

The first thing to consider is that it would be a considerably less controversial view if we didn’t sensationalize what is actually being proposed. The Digital Fix reported that Frakes said it should be “outright banned,” but being pulled from streaming services is very different from being banned.

It’s no trifling distinction… While censorship is almost never the answer, this issue is about the right of creatives to control the distribution of their content. If I wrote something that hurt people, I’d want it pulled from distribution, too. Of course, Jonathan Frakes is not the sole creator behind Code Of Honor, but I’m sure the view is not unpopular.

When we talk about offense, we’re not talking about an abstract concept, we’re talking about real-life pain. Code Of Honor is indefensible. The trope in which an alien culture is shown to be morally inferior to the Federation is already among Trek’s most problematic crutches, but when that alien culture is comprised entirely of African-American people and is heavily coded as pan-African, that’s racist. Racist media is hurtful to marginalized people. That’s not theory. It’s fact.

Code Of Honor was a mistake

It is not unreasonable to want to see mistakes like Code Of Honor rectified. Of course, it would be dishonest to pretend that Code Of Honor never happened. Cultural artifacts like Code Of Honour have a role to play in reminding us that while no one thinks of themselves as racist, prejudice can result from the words and actions of well-meaning people. To scrub the episoder from history would be to deny this lesson. But again, no one’s proposing that it be tossed down the memory hole, just that it be removed from platforms where those vulnerable could unwittingly be exposed to it.

There is, of course, another solution. Frakes also proposed including with Code Of Honor a statement disavowing its message. This would be similar to how Disney+ has handled its problematic content such as Gone With The Wind or Song Of The South. It would be a good solution, too, and it would be a good compromise if there was serious pushback against pulling the episode. But honestly, I see no reason not to simply remove it.

I do understand the other side of this argument. I really do. Though this may be very different in spirit to censorship, to anyone who does not own the Star Trek: The Next Generation season one DVD, the episode would be effectively censored. I have a solution to this, too…

Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it. That is why even the most reprehensible historical document has a place in the public discourse. But we relegate those documents to places where they can be studied and seen in context. Museums and research libraries are where we go to experience the darkest parts of our history in a context that ensures they remain safely in the past. Perhaps Code Of Honor should be made freely available somewhere that’s safely isolated from the rest of the franchise that has otherwise stood bravely against hate and division.

At the end of the day, Paramount, or whoever owns TNG has a profit motive. It’s anyone’s guess which option they’ll see as being more profitable. The decision about what happens to Code Of Honor is out of our hands. Whatever happens, I think we can all agree that the decision should lie with the creatives and the fans.

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