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The Trek Nation - Judgment

Judgment

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at April 10, 2003 - 3:31 AM GMT

See Also: 'Judgment' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: Archer is called before a Klingon tribunal, where he is charged with attacking a Klingon ship and harboring rebels from the Empire, for which he will face the ultimate punishment. When Phlox visits him in his cell, surprised to find Archer as healthy as he is, Archer insists that no matter what happens, Enterprise must leave Klingon territory at the end of the trial rather than fighting to free him. A defender named Kolos has been assigned to his case; Kolos insists that Archer must not try to speak on his own behalf.

Kolos opposes Orak, a Klingon prosecutor who plays to the bloodthirsty gallery and summons Duras, a former commander who has been demoted to second weapons officer. Duras testifies that he was in pursuit of traitors he had orders to bring to justice, but Archer refused to surrender the rebels and threatened to blow up Duras' ship if he interfered. When Archer refutes this account and claims that the refugees were not criminals, he is assaulted by Klingons with pain sticks.

Kolos suggests that the prosecutor would make a deal -- if Archer tells them where he left the rebels, his life will be spared -- but Archer refuses, asking his lawyer to stand up for justice. Reminded that the courtroom once stood for honour rather than the corrupt values of the warrior class, Kolos goes in and fights for Archer, allowing him to explain how he came upon the nearly starved refugees and fought Duras' ship in self-defense. Having done more research than Orak, Kolos has discovered that Archer rescued a Klingon vessel and once stood before the Chancellor to expose a Suliban plot. His punishment, Kolos insists, should fit that crime.

The magistrate agrees that Archer should not be executed, since he did not intend to foment rebellion, but he sentences him to mine dilithium on Rura Penthe. When Kolos protests, he is sentenced to a year in the mines as well. T'Pol refuses to countermand Archer's orders barring a rescue attempt, but she is able to bribe an official into allowing her to retrieve Archer from the prison. Kolos, however, refuses to leave with him, insisting that he can only restore Klingon honour if he serves out his sentence and returns home, not as a fugitive.


Analysis: Klingon episodes and lawyer episodes have both traditionally done well for Trek, so how can a Klingon lawyer episode fail? Especially a Klingon lawyer episode with J.G. Hertzler, Deep Space Nine's Martok, one of the finest Klingons ever to grace the franchise? Why, it would take a plot hole the size of an asteroid to sink such a vehicle.

Or, say, an episode with a thrilling trial and clever dialogue and lots of nods to the original series, that somehow can't be bothered to explain the details of continuity that would make it fit in with the rest of Enterprise. Like how Archer was apprehended. Why Starfleet apparently didn't have anything to say about it, even though the Vulcan High Command was trying to negotiate his release. What the consequences of having pissed off the Klingons might be for Earth and its spaceborne allies. "Judgment" puts forth a wonderful Klingon storyline, replete with honour and glory, yet doesn't deliver the basic plot structure to hold it together.

This is not to say that it's not a very entertaining hour of television. From the stomping, chanting Klingons appear in the tribunal chamber, it's impossible not to think of both Kirk's trial in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and the Worf-and-Duras episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Hertzler was born to play one of those guys. Kolos has a lot in common with Martok, complaining about the corrupt class of Klingons that have betrayed his birthright, though in this case it's the warriors who are the problem whereas for Martok the warriors didn't get enough credit in an aristocratic system.

And Scott Bakula seems to be channeling William Shatner during Archer's big speeches demanding to know how Kolos can let the magistrate push him around. Funny how in every generation of Trek, the Klingons need humans to remind them how to be better Klingons! Archer knows and we know that he's smarter than the prosecutor, so from the time he starts demanding to have his say in court, we know to expect earnest explanations and frustrated interruptions of the weary magistrate. Klingon trials of this era seem to work a lot like Cardassian trials of the Deep Space Nine era (and probably long before), so there's a comfortable familiarity about the proceedings.

Visually "Judgment" is striking as well, with a magistrate who bangs a gavel that shoots sparks and a Klingon vessel that surfs on plasma explosions. And Rura Penthe! Okay, caves are caves, and an ice planet is an ice planet whether it's the one Zarabeth lived on in "All Our Yesterdays" or the one where Voyager crashed in "Timeless". And how many bad fake prison mining shots have we seen in the years leading back through Voyager's "Faces" to the original series' "The Cloud Minders"...oh no! I mentioned "The Cloud Minders"! But I meant it in a good way, really. There are countless little things that remind me of Trek continuity, from the raw targ to the giant Klingon flag hanging above the magistrate to the presence of a Duras who's lying to protect his family honor. John Vickery, who plays Orak, appeared as a Cardassian Gul in the DS9 concluding arc, and there's a tough female first officer on this Duras' ship who reminds me of my favorite Duras, B'Etor.

Which makes it all the more frustrating that in the end, I have no idea what this episode means in terms of Earth-Qo'nos relations, because we simply don't get that part of the plot...though we easily could have, by inserting two lines of dialogue and removing a few seconds of prosecutorial grandstanding. Were the refugees important for any reason other than their status as refugees? Did Archer make any attempt to get an opinion from Forrest before potentially triggering an interstellar war? It's nice to know that the Klingons are paying attention to Archer's career...is anyone back home as worried about him?

The ending would stretch credulity a bit if we hadn't seen so many other Klingons commit suicide in the name of honor in the past -- or, I guess, the future. Kolos sounds a lot like Kahless, whom he actually mentions by name during the trial, and you just know the writers will look for a way to bring Hertzler back as this character the way they kept bringing Martok back. At least, they will if they're smart. Are they? Rather than risk sounding like a Klingon magistrate, I will wait and let them speak for themselves.


NOTE: I will be out of the country on April 16th, so my review of "Horizon" will be a week late. Apologies.

Happy Easter, Passover or whatever else you may be celebrating this season!


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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Michelle Erica Green reviews Enterprise episodes for the Trek Nation, as well as Andromeda episodes for SlipstreamWeb. She is also a staff writer at Green Man Review. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.