Overall Rating: 0.5
This is right on par with the DS9 smash hit (ha) Profit and Lace...and for a few of the same reasons.
A round-up for this farcically bad episode can be found here, thanks to Wikipedia.
I won't rehash the points brought up by many race-conscious observers (and even folks who try to avoid overanalyzing race issues like SF Debris) regarding the bizarre implications of the only all-black world in the Federation being run by African tribesman from the stone age, or regarding the ridiculous references to a rare Native American behavior called Counting Coup (the only accurate reference Trek ever managed to write into a script regarding Native Americans and it's this bit of barbarism?)...but I do think, in this case, the folks are right. It's a documented fact that the director of this episode was an outspoken bigot who was fired before the end of the first season for his views. The script itself was penned by some very amateurish irregular contributors who, I believe, we not attempting to craft a despicably ignorant and racist bit of fiction, but succeeded due to cardboard characterization and inane dialogue which the klan-sympathizer behind the camera ran with.
On top of the not-so-opaque racism, the show should be deeply disturbing to anyone who cares about the rights of women. They tried to solve this problem by placing the women in control of the land and wealth in this society, but that doesn't really work for two reasons. First, these women seem perfectly happy to trade their wealth and their bodies for some bastardized version of power. Even the supposedly impressive wife of Lutam only selects a different man because she is displeased that Lutam would try to possess another woman above her. But they even say that no woman has challenged an arranged marriage in 200 years! So this power play by Lutam's wife is not endemic...and is not a sign that this society reveres women the way it should. Not when Lutam and all of the other men react to the mere notion of a female in a position of authority with obvious disdain. And of course...there is the whole...um...kidnapping of Tasha Yar. For the purpose, originally, of showing how large a penis Lutam has...and later...forcing her to marry him against her wishes (and doubtlessly raping her thereafter). And all of this would still leave room for the episode to function as a pro-female story if the Enterprise crew had reacted with the appropriate respect for Tasha's personal safety. Instead, they hem and haw over how not to violate the prime directive, how to hammer out a treaty to get a vaccine, how to stay on Lutam's good side. Yep...at that point, I check out. If I were in charge, the moment they violated the God given rights of my officer to the sanctity of her body and her freedom...they would have ceased to have any right to my civility. I would have taken Tasha the instant she was located (and that would have included a show of military force if necessary), and then, for good measure, I'd have taken the vaccine and left a beacon around the planet warning the rest of the galaxy that these people were barbarians not to be trusted.
And here's the sticky part. Many Trekkies would scream and call me an imperialist or a thief for my actions. They'd say I violated the Prime Directive (which...haven't I done it already by introducing myself and revealing that I have warp drive capacity and impressive weapons? They're a pre-civilized society, let alone a pre-warp species for crying out loud.). I would say that I can take the vaccine with me without changing their world significantly - at least my way doesn't result in death-matches and direct interference with the natural passing of tribal power. I think the Prime Directive is a basically solid idea...you're not supposed to take advantage of lesser developed species and you're not supposed to interfere with their development. My actions do NEITHER of those things since Lutam's people have no use for the vaccine and I'm not altering their society one iota. But whatever fits your convoluted story, I guess.
On top of the philosophical problems I have with the show, there is the added fact that it is EXCEEDINGLY poorly acted and directed and edited. Whoever told Lutam to sound like the male version of Ms. Cleo (call him now for your free reading!) should be fired just for that. Jesus...Barbados Slim (Futurama reference) is a more believable island native. Even Patrick Stewart - who usually gave heavy-handed performances in the first few seasons - was too FLAT in this script. And when the guest cast gave us emotion...it was so intolerably stilted and overwrought that it caused me to LAUGH, not feel the drama. And don't even get me started on the fight sequence. I don't think I've ever witnessed a battle to the death that was so boring. It doesn't help that they never used poor Denise Crosby's character very well and never did more to fill out her backstory (which could have been fascinating)...but geez...she could have died and I actually yawned while watching the fight...in the middle of the afternoon! All of the attempts to inject humor also whiffed...Data and Geordi talking about human jocularity was about as funny as a wet fart in church. And oh the music...the painful, TOS-style ear-drum-cracking melodrama is offensive to the ear. UGH.
In short...there's nothing good about this episode. Not one thing.
FAIL, guys...FAIL Right down to how the exposition for the story is conveyed...it feels like something a high schooler might have penned.
Awarding just a touch of credit for the performance of Karole Selmon. She was actually not that bad. The rest of the cast...awful.
Now hear this! We respect other peoples' barbaric cultures so much that we'll tolerate them no matter what they do to our officers, up to and including rape and murder! We'll still paint those brown people as savages...but damn it...we respect those savages! We have to remember that they're inferior to us and so hold them to lower standards...because that's how we show mercy and respect in the enlightened Federation! Oh, and you women...your best hope of having real power and influence is to be sexy enough to be desired by the men and then let yourself get passed around to the man with the power like the slutty hookers you really are. That's right...even you, Tasha...the one who survived rape gangs all her childhood...you're turned on by being taken captive by a big native man because he finds you fuckable. The only reaso you're ever upset in this time is because that other native slut dared challenge you!
(and just in case some of my readers missed it...this is derisive sarcasm...the views of TNG's finest early producers and directors, up to and including Gene Roddenbury, do not reflect my own)
What a load of crap this one is.