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DS9 4-18

DS9 4x18
"Rules of Engagement"

Original airdate: 4/8/1996
Rewatch date: 3/6/2014


The Klingons attempt to extradite Worf for being responsible for the deaths of civilians killed by the Defiant during a combat situation.

Spoiler-free notes:

It feels like there has been a lot more focus on Worf in this season than any other character, especially in this and the last few episodes. He has been the driving force behind either the A-story or the B-story in more than his fair share, not that I'm complaining.

Finally, an interesting teaser.

I wonder how many Federation judges are Vulcans. They seem like a natural fit for the job.

Though we've seen the Klingon justice system before (in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country), and are pretty familiar with Federation jurisprudence from multiple episodes of TNG, this episode does a good job demonstrating the cultural divide between the Federation and the Klingons when it comes to the law. It is similar to "Tribunal" in that regard, though that episode dealt with the Cardassians instead of the Klingons.

Still, putting Worf's Klingon-ness on trial feels like this episode is trying too hard to replicate the success of TNG's "The Measure of a Man." Also, the actor who plays the Klingon plaintiff Ch'Pok, Ron Canada (he also plays a genetically selected human in TNG's "The Masterpiece Society), just doesn't feel very Klingon to me.

Talking to the camera is too distracting to be effective here.

"Care to step into my battlefield?" is a good line.

The final scene, in which Sisko dresses down Worf for his mistakes and calls him lucky that he doesn't have the blood of children on his hands is easily the best and most surprising scene in the whole episode.

DS9 has done the courtroom drama thing before--not only in "Tribunal" but also in "Dax"--and hasn't been able to pull it off as well as TNG does in episodes like "The Measure of a Man" or "The Drumhead." To be fair, though, TNG does have a few courtroom episodes that aren't terribly successful either ("Justice," "A Matter of Perspective"). Still, this is a vast improvement over "Dax" and "Tribunal," especially towards the end of the episode. The first two-thirds get bogged down in gimmicky flashbacks and obvious set-ups for the final pay-off, but even though everything about the climax is incredibly predictable, it is still effective and poignant. This story succeeds in shaking up Worf as a character without contradicting what we know about him, really stripping him of his established identity and grooming him for bigger things like command. But where "Rules of Engagement" fails is in deciding not to follow through on the idea of collateral damage in a combat situation. This would have been far more powerful and relevant--and would have had far more long-term impact--if the Klingons had been brutal enough to actually put civilians in the line of fire.





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