Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Enterprise

"Judgment"

***

Air date: 4/9/2003
Teleplay by David A. Goodman
Story by Taylor Elmore & David A. Goodman
Directed by James L. Conway

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"My father was a teacher; my mother, a biologist at the university. They encouraged me to take up the law. Now all young people want to do is take up weapons, as soon as they can hold them." — Kolos

In brief: I liked this story the first time I saw it ... when it was called Star Trek VI. (I liked it this time around, too.)

Are you an optimist or a cynic? Perhaps you can answer that question by answering this one: Is "Judgment" a carefully detailed homage or a blatant rip-off?

Watching the episode, I definitely felt more like an optimist. Much of this episode played for me like a dejà vu experience of the Klingon courtroom material from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. But that's not a bad thing. The courtroom material from Trek VI made for a good scene — dark and menacing and atmospheric. It's the sort of material that seems to deserve its own episode, and now we get it, even if the episode covers much of the same ground in terms of drama and performance ... which, of course, is probably the point.

Part of the fun with "Judgment" is in spotting the familiar lines of dialog and the similar — even identical — set design, camera angles, and costumes. Indeed, it looks to me like the production designer, writer, director, and cinematographer all studied the courtroom scenes from Trek VI with great care before the sets here were built and the cameras were rolling. The creators haven't simply borrowed the trial scene from Trek VI, they've re-created it completely. And well.

Besides, darn it, Klingons are just so much fun to watch, despite — no, because of — all their grandstanding and histrionics. I was watching "Blood Oath" the other day from the DS9 season two DVD set, and so much of the show and its lovely and portentous dialog made me smile with good will and affection. Granted, "Judgment" is no "Blood Oath," but it does capture some of the same entertaining spirit of Klingon pride and ever-seriousness (as well as some annoying aspects of those elements).

In what is no less than the second time in three episodes, Archer is accused of a crime by an alien system of questionable justice. The verdict is easily predicted: guilty as charged. The sentence is just as predictable: death. Can Archer's sentence and/or verdict be averted by proving his innocence? Enter Advocate Kolos (J.G. Hertzler, excellent as always), Archer's weary and cynical defense lawyer, who has all but accepted the inevitability of defeat before the tribunal arguments have started. The deck is clearly stacked against him. The tribunal is little more than a formality with an ending that is a foregone conclusion (although not as hopeless as in DS9's "Tribunal," also in the aforementioned DVD set).

Now, as a Law & Order addict, I sit through television courtroom scenes all the time and watch as plot points are related through efficient exposition. It should be noted that a show like "Judgment" is not in the same spirit of being about facts and exposition — at least, not any more than it must be. Yes, there are facts and there's dialog and also a flashback structure that shows us how the "crime" in question unfolded (from two different points of view, no less). But "Judgment" is more about the idea of a courtroom that assumes guilt and greets its defendant with hostility as a matter of course. The room is a veritable echo chamber, with an audience that chants "enemy" in Klingon in an angry unison. The gavel is a metal sphere that sparks when the magistrate (Granville Van Dusen) slams it down on the table as he calls for "SILENCE!" in the echo chamber. The defendant is not permitted to speak while the prosecutor (John Vickery) presents his case, or the defendant will be zapped with pain sticks while the music swells menacingly. (Side note: I'm taking a liking to Velton Ray Bunch's musical scores, perhaps because they seem more forceful and fresh after so many years of McCarthy, Chattaway, Bell, and Baillargeon, whose scores have become so familiar I can tell you which one of them scored a given episode after about 10 seconds.) Naturally, the courtroom/echo chamber is murky and dark.

Of course, you already know all of this from Star Trek VI. Your mileage for these aspects of "Judgment" depend on whether you want to see them again. I didn't mind seeing them again, because they're well presented.

The case centers on Archer having allegedly helped "rebels" (actually an abandoned Klingon-ruled colony running out of resources to sustain itself), and thus falling into a conflict with Duras (Daniel Riordan, whose character is named Duras merely as a footnote reference for those who have followed the franchise for a long time). Duras was the captain of a Klingon warship who was sent in to "stop" (read: destroy) the "rebel" colonists. The flashbacks show us what happened, and clearly reveal the Enterprise to have done nothing wrong ... unless of course you are the Klingons, who as a rule exhibit stubborn unreasonableness — hence Archer being tried for crimes against the Klingon Empire for his involvement in helping defenseless colonists escape certain death. The show's biggest plot omission leaves us wondering how and when Archer was arrested; there's absolutely no accounting for how he ended up away from the Enterprise and in the hands of the Klingon legal system.

Oh, well. The plot details don't hugely concern me. What "Judgment" offers as relevant material specific to this series' time frame is the fact that Klingon culture is in the middle of a rapid decline — one that in all likelihood will eventually bring about the conflict between Earth and the Klingon Empire that we know exists by the time TOS rolls around. We see the (apparently waning) reasonable and honorable side of Klingon society through Kolos' character, who is given enough convincing dialog to emerge as a three-dimensional persona. Kolos, once a winning defense litigator, has been worn down into accepting a defeatist attitude as his career has turned into a perfunctory process and a mockery of its former self. The Klingon court doesn't much listen to defense lawyers these days, and is quick to condemn the apparently guilty.

This is a symptom of a bigger problem, one that Kolos explains to Archer in the show's best dialog scene. Klingon society, once honorable, is in a decline where a bastardized concept of honor has turned into an artificially inflated virtue: "We were a great society not so long ago, when honor was earned through integrity and acts of true courage, not senseless bloodshed," Kolos says. "What honor is there in a victory over a weaker opponent?" This is the scene that gives "Judgment" its weight and perspective, and allows us and Archer to see Kolos as a man worthy of real respect. (The way these sentiments are delivered from this wise, old character also makes one wonder if there are real-world social points being made under the surface here.)

Thanks to Kolos, Archer's death sentence is commuted and he is instead sentenced to life at the penal colony of Rura Penthe, in a scene that uses some dialog lifted almost verbatim from Trek VI. Continuity buffs will likely enjoy moments like this, as well as Kolos' earlier defense arguments that connect Archer with having thwarted a Suliban plot against the Klingons ("Broken Bow") and rescuing a Klingon vessel trapped in the atmosphere of a gas giant ("Sleeping Dogs"). Kolos' subsequent diatribe against the Klingon justice system is satisfying, thanks in no small part to Hertzler's performance, which fully unleashes the furies. If there's ever a time for energetic histrionics, a Klingon courtroom is that time. Unfortunately for Kolos, it gets him sentenced to Rura Penthe, right alongside Archer, for a year.

We then head off to Rura Penthe, an ice-cave where Archer and Kolos work side by side as imprisoned allies. Archer's coat was either faithfully duplicated by the wardrobe department, or pulled out of storage from somewhere on the studio lot, because, yep, it's straight out of Trek VI. Some have complained that the ending's simplistic rescue of Archer from the penal colony is too quick and easy, but I think it works okay. If anything, it demonstrates the corruption in Klingon society that has been hinted at, and how a prisoner's freedom can be secured for the right price by bribing the right people. Kolos stays behind, eager to return to the law when he is eventually released. I must say, I wouldn't mind seeing his character again. Yes, he's essentially a lawyer version of DS9's Martok, but Hertzler is always such a strong presence, and he'd be welcome on a series that has yet to carve out any truly strong dramatic forces.

I liked this episode, but I'd better mention that it relies probably more on nostalgia and cross-references than in attempts to develop original Enterprise-specific material. (Of course, in all fairness, how original can your prequel material be?) The strengths here are more in theatrics and directing and performances than in revealing complex or probing ideas. But that's not a problem so much as an observation. "Judgment" ranks as one of this season's better outings.

Next week: A la Harry Kim, Mayweather gets his contractually promised spotlight hour for the season.

Previous episode: The Crossing
Next episode: Horizon

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17 comments on this review

Jakob M. Mokoru - Sun, Oct 19, 2008 - 12:46am (USA Central)
I agree that this episode is one of the better if not best outings in this season of Enterprise - but isn't it kinda sad, that the seasons highlight had to be a ...erm... homage on a great Star Trek Movie?
Straha - Tue, Nov 18, 2008 - 3:59am (USA Central)
I'm sorry, but I couldn't warm up to this episode. It's a ripoff rather than an homage, and the story is going through the motions in utter predictability. What finally ruined it for me was the writer's ridiculous idea to have the DEFENSE ATTORNEY sentenced to death (for all intents and purposes, one year on Rura Penthe is a death sentence)for "showing disrespect to the court".
Murphy - Tue, Dec 2, 2008 - 6:59pm (USA Central)
ST VI was one of the best movies in the entire franchise, and my personal favorite. The tension built in the movie's court scenes was very effective. In the movie, I think the usage of the hand held translators and the dialog written with those translators in mind was clever -it made those scenes more interesting and intense. Now since Judgement is a blatant copy of ST VI, but they don't have the hand held translators (and get off the penal colony with such ease), it makes Judgement feel like kiddie ride situated next to a real roller coaster. I love it when ST connects to older scripts (such as Trials n Trib.) but Judgement seems like too much work with much too little pay off. At the end I actually said "WTF?" to the screen. Was this supposed to be cute? Was it supposed to be intense? I didn't feel any 'homage'. All it did for me was ruin my memory of ST VI.

Alexey Bogatiryov - Sun, Mar 22, 2009 - 11:10pm (USA Central)
While I liked Star Trek VI - I did not appreciate the blatent rip-off. THis episode proved to me that the Enterprise writers had no imagination to create plot lines without violating the time line (as they would do later on). The only way they could stay tru to the spirit of Star Trek was to copy it directly - pathetic in retrospect.
Katie - Sat, Apr 17, 2010 - 10:28pm (USA Central)
I have to agree with most of the previous comments. Star Trek VI was one of the franchise's best films, if not the best--which is exactly what makes it so irritating to see it dumbed down into something much less impressive. If you've done something well on film, what's the point of ripping it off poorly ten years later for TV?
Nolan - Sat, Jun 12, 2010 - 4:36pm (USA Central)
Once again, this episode was written by the writer of Futurama's parody episode, who was a huge fan of Star Trek. So at least we know it was probably intended as an Homage.
Paul York - Sun, May 13, 2012 - 8:07pm (USA Central)
what I liked about this episode -- and also what distinguished it from ST IV -- was the depth that Kolos brought to it. The real story is not the trial but Kolos' turn of heart and his renewed mission to bring needed reform to the legal system and by extension the Empire. This episode also revealed, for the first time that I recall, another side of Klingon culture -- that its rule by the warrior class and resulting corruption -- was not always the case -- that teachers and scientists and philosophers and lawyers once had a greater role to play.

Also the distinction between justice and "positive law" (laws without content, to protect parochial interests) was well-done, and certainly an issue we see in our own legal system, where the laws are written for the benefit of the rich and to the detriment of the poor in almost all societies.

The continual theme of humanity bettering itself, however, seems improbable. As long as humanity exists, there will be corruption and war -- especially when there is advanced technology to facilitate it. The states that portray themselves as peaceful are often the greatest aggressors. Archer is right about one thing: the only thing that changes all this is the actions of a few courageous individuals (a la Marg. Mead).
Cloudane - Sat, May 26, 2012 - 7:56pm (USA Central)
Aw man! It's been so long since I finished DS9 that I didn't even realise it was Hertzler.

He does great as Dumbledore. Hehe. (Anyone who has seen the Harry Potter movies- this is so reminiscent of Potter on trial). I guess there are only so many courtroom things one can do.

I care not what it was ripped from (yes I saw the movies). It kept me fixed to the screen for an hour, and that's what it's all about.
Captain Jim - Tue, Aug 21, 2012 - 9:54pm (USA Central)
Very much in agreement with Jammer and with Paul's first paragraph. (And while what Paul says in his final paragraph is true, this is nonetheless a staple of Star Trek and was the vision of Gene Roddenberry.)

All in all, a very satisfying episode. Hertzler was awesome, as usual.

And everybody needs to inscribe Jammer's parenthetical comment in stone, so far as Enterprise is concerned: "In all fairness, how original can your prequel material be?"
Zane314 - Fri, Sep 7, 2012 - 8:23pm (USA Central)
Sure this was a replay of the movie Klingon trial but J.G. Hertzler and great sets and a decent story really made this enjoyable. I didn't mind the quick escape but I did like Kolos staying behind and his reasoning. Also, it was neat to see him remembering a time when Klingons weren't quite to warrior obsessed and that their culture is still more heterogeneous than it was depicted in TOS.
John the younger - Sat, Dec 15, 2012 - 9:07pm (USA Central)
I would agree with Jammer and the last few posters.

I've had so few positive sentiments about this series so far (currently [re]watching) that this episode does stand out.

I also quite liked the scene of Enterprise outwitting the (boringly dumb) Duras as told from a Klingon perpective.
Arachnea - Mon, Feb 11, 2013 - 7:44pm (USA Central)
I couldn't agree more with the review and the last comments. I see the tribunal scenes as an homage, not a rip off this time. The story, in my opinion, wasn't about the sentence or the trial, but a comment about the rise and fall of a society and how some people can change (or not change) it.

It answers a lot of viewers who asked how the Klingons ever could become space faring. Apparently, the Klingon Empire was an educated and very diverse society. When the balance started to be too much in the caste/camp of the warriors, the Klingons started to corrupt everything, included honor. We witnessed the rise and fall of great civilizations in our own history, so it rings very much true. Plus, Hertzler is always a welcome addition !
mark - Tue, Feb 19, 2013 - 5:18pm (USA Central)
I share the Hertzler love, but I thought Kolos's change of heart came a bit too abruptly in the script (Archer's speechifying isn't at a Kirk-like level yet and it was hard for me to believe his comments to Kolos completely changed the man's outlook.) Still, I agree with the three stars: it's the first Enterprise episode in awhile that doesn't just lay there.

I also really liked T'Pol's behind the scenes deal-making to free Archer: if ENT's Vulcans are going to have feet of clay the show should at least be able to take advantage of it once in awhile, so T'Pol's knowing just the right backs to scratch as she was part of the Vulcacn diplomatic corps made sense.
T'Paul - Sat, Aug 17, 2013 - 7:51pm (USA Central)
Yes... a bit poor in comparison with STVI, and odd how Archer has an invisible translator around about one hundred years before Kirk is in the court without one... This time I did like the view over the Klingon capital although it seems to get more mountainous with every Enterprise episode.
Michael - Wed, Aug 28, 2013 - 3:37pm (USA Central)
Seeing this episode again, I really like it. The Klingon court had been established very well in ST VI, so to me it's probably necessary to rely on that material. I'm not even sure it's an homage, seems more like continuity (albeit in reverse). I like that Archer was still convicted despite a spirited defense. It would have been too easy and hard to accept if he had been acquitted. Kolos gives Klingon culture more dimensions here than we see anywhere else in the franchise (sadly), even in series that featured Klingon's in the main cast. I wish we had seen more of these Klingons and fewer generic space barbarians. The ending is a necessity, but it seems very plausible that an empire as corrupt as this could be circumvented in such a way. Kolos staying is also a nice touch. Archer also gets to make a moral stand that is both admirable and reasonable in refusing to give up the location of the refugees. All in all, this might be my favorite episode of Enterprise.
Jack - Sun, Nov 24, 2013 - 11:51pm (USA Central)
Not just "Duras" but "Duras, son of Toral" felt like epic pandering and namedropping.
Kate - Mon, Mar 31, 2014 - 5:20pm (USA Central)
Talk about deja vu. Star Trek 6 finally made it to the top of my Netflix DVD queue last week, so I just saw it for the first time.

I've also been making my way slowing through the streaming episodes of Enterprise, also for the first time. Imagine my surprise this week when I clicked on "Judgment" and found myself back in that Klingon courtroom! It was as though Netflix, in some creepy big brother way, had made note of my return of the ST6 DVD, and queued up the corresponding streaming episode from the series for me.

Even though I thought this was a better than average episode for the Enterprise series, it suffers mightily from comparison with the movie. It comes across as a ripoff ("Look, we still have these costumes, let's use them.") but even worse, like most other Enterprise episodes, it lacks all humor. The mention of Rura Penthe immediately brought to mind the shape-shifting woman flirting with Kirk, but in Enterprise we don't get any of that fun to relieve the bombastic speeches.

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