Morpheus 02 wrote:
Or is it just that the Tamarians have sufficiently bumpy heads that the audience perceives them as "aliens" rather than "1940s tribal Africans in space"? The Tamarians, after all, do kidnap the white hero and force him into a knife fight.
They had more than bumpy heads -- they had full on make up.
Much different than even the Bajorans.
The Tamarians also had technology that was either equal to or perhaps superior than the Federation -- NOT primitive. And it was the Tamarian captain that initiated the relationship. It put a twist on the usual "Enterprise crew teaches other aliens what is right"
Now, if Darmok had taken the place of Code of Honor, and the characters were in fact black humans and not had the make-up, i think this episode would still be considered one of TNG's best by many (embodying Trek's theme), and we might have seen other episodes with human races that were made up of non-whites.
The basic physical difference between the Tamarians and Ligonians is just some latex on the actors' heads.
The Ligonians had their own transporters, had some medical technology that the Federation didn't, and might even have had warp drive if the Federation that contacted them.
I'm not so certain that, if one replaced the Tamarians' "style" or design with that of Ligonians, "Darmok" would still be the classic it is considered now.
What separates the perceptions of "Code of Honor" and "Darmok" isn't much... and a lot of it has to do with bumpy heads.