Star Trek: Deep Space Nine


3 stars.

Air date: 6/6/1994
Written by Bill Dial
Directed by Avery Brooks

Review Text

Miles and Keiko O'Brien's vacation is interrupted when the Cardassians arrest O'Brien from his Runabout and throw him in a cell—following a brutal prisoner processing procedure. They offer him no explanation of the charges against him; they simply leave him confined to a cell for days, awaiting his trial.

This episode depicting the Cardassian legal system has shades of Orwell and 1984 everywhere. The themes running through "Tribunal" are less than subtle, but effective nonetheless. They show a man's futile plight in a society that has already sealed his fate. The Cardassians tell O'Brien that his guilt has already been determined; the trial is merely a display for the public's benefit. The notion that the trial system has been designed strictly to give the public the feeling that "justice is being served"—even in the face of blatantly false accusations—is a chilling prospect.

O'Brien's frustration is completely understandable, as is Odo's, who takes advantage of his membership to the Cardassian court by getting himself appointed as O'Brien's legal advisor. The dark lighting and decidedly Orwellian images (the high architecture of the trial room and large public viewscreens) supply the episode with large and intense visual splendor. Particularly intense is the aforementioned surreal "processing" scene, which highlights Avery Brooks' effectiveness in his freshman directing turn on DS9.

Colm Meaney delivers another strong performance, particularly in a standout scene between him and Constable Odo. Surprisingly, a few moments of unexpected humor finds its way into the darkness of the trial when Kovat, O'Brien's Cardassian defense attorney (Fritz Weaver), exhibits an ironic role of uselessness to the client but dedicated service to the state. Neat. The overall impact of the episode is blunted, unfortunately, by a rather convenient and ineffective deus ex machina ending, but the imagery and dramatic undercurrents of the Cardassian legal proceedings are far too strong to be undermined.

Previous episode: The Collaborator
Next episode: The Jem'Hadar

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90 comments on this post

    Jammer's description of "Tribunal" as Orwellian is dead-on. This episode is also highly indebted to another piece of modernist literature: Franz Kafka's _The Trial_, which is the story of a man who is arrested and brought before the court without being told what his crime is. Great reviews, Jammer!

    There are human courtrooms like this, throughout the world, performing show trials for political reasons. ST themes are based on human behaviour, needless to say.

    Rewatching this episode for the first time in years, I found the use of Odo to be very effective. Even though his character is not the main protagonist Rene Auberjonois steals the show. As he did for most of the series really.

    I just saw this episode for the first time (not sure how I missed it before) and I LOVE this episode. Until sisko walks into the courtroom. First, how did he even GET IN, second, who would this judge-lady know on sight a surgically altered human from 8 years previous in a war she supposedly did not fight in (she was a judge remember).

    But I loved the depiction of the Cardassion legal system and society. One thing I love about this, is it kind of makes sense. He says the poorest poeple can walk around at night and feel safe. And is that really worse than our society where we may be free to do mostly what we want, but we have entire cities you cannot enter at night with a risk of being mugged or worse. is one innocent person blood REALLY more important than a socities safety?

    That is the direction I thought this was going in, I wished it had delved further. I think of the Roman empire, and modern people tend to give it a bad rap, but they forged an empire with bronze age technology. We read about all the horrible stuff the upper classes did to others in the upper class during the Pax Romana and some of it is really bad, but don't forget the in general, the people of the empire were safe for a long time. And the roman legal system was pretty good at protecting the rights of those less fortunate. Maybe the Romans were dictators, but many societies willingly joined, at the end of the day, security does trump all. That is what I loved about Rome, and the Cardassians.

    Even in an ideal situation you would be trading being safe from fellow citizens but add being afraid of everyone connected with your government, who can hand you a death sentence at any moment without any accountability. And sometimes not even safety from the fellow citizens. In at least one case in the Soviet Union, a man murdered a large number of people and got away with it because the authorities felt it was too embarrassing to admit there was a murderer at all.

    It was sad to see that this evil Orwellian Cardassian empire, shocking when the show came out, now seems almost kind. The Cardassians in this episode had tons of evidence to go on, though later it was found to be fake, and his wife was notified of what was happening to him and released back home.

    Many so-called democratic countries today would have taken O'Brien and his wife without any notice to anyone whatsoever. They never would have been given even a mock trial, and would have been imprisoned for life or tortured to death without any chance to prove guilt or innocence, and all this without even the need for any evidence whatsoever, beyond some official somewhere declaring him a "terrorist." It could be based on rumor, bad intel, or because the official didn't like O'Brien's hairstyle. His wife would be guilty by association. Or, more efficiently, perhaps he and his entire family and many random innocent friends would have been killed by a drone bomb, everyone declared guilty of being "militants" because they were there when the drone exploded.

    Even with normal, "non-terrorist" prisoners in democratic countries today, evidence comes to light that they are innocent, the government simply does not care that they are innocent, and fights to keep them prisoners. So even in everyday situations, modern societies are now often just as bad as these TV villains.

    I'm still confused about how the Cardassians were able to effectively kidnap O'Brien from outside Cardassian space, for a crime that ostensibly took place on a Bajoran space station. Why wasn't the Federation pushing through all the diplomatic channels? Where was the official response? This was a blatant violation of Federation/Bajorian sovereignity. Is the Federation supposed to be utterly terrified of reigniting the war, so that they will let the Cardassians do whatever they want to Federation citizens? The Cardassians come off as absurdly hypocritical (an unfair characterization of them, I feel) because they keep appealing to the rule of their legal system while completely ignoring the utter illegality of the kidnapping and prosecution of O'Brien.

    This aspect of the premise just torpedoed the episode for me. It didn't feel plausible in the universe of DS9 at all.

    OK, the premise stretches things a bit but the trial scenes are excellent and Kovat is an absolute riot.
    His last line is inspired.

    I agree with A. Helin; the blatant act of kidnapping a Federation citizen in Bajoran space is an act of war. I wanted to see the political aftermath play itself out (even if it were addressed in a later episode).

    Also, O'Brien's character came across as almost comedic since no one (not even Odo) would tell him why he was in prison. TNG's take on "being captured by the Cardassians" worked so well in Chain of Command I & II because it was 110% serious - being captured is no laughing matter.

    Also, the ending IS a bit contrived with Sisko randomly appearing in court with evidence that could embarrass the Cardassian courts. Between Sisko's surprise appearance and Bashier popping into Enabran Tain's house in "The Wire," is Cardassia Prime really that easy to infiltrate?

    In my opinion, the episode would have been a little darker and a little stronger if the viewer learned that O'Brien DID secretly hide a commited crime, albeit a very small one, and have the Cardassian courts try to impose Execution for that undeserving crime. Sisko/Odo/Federation could have then come to the rescue by discovering a dirty secret about the highly-regarded Kovat -- which would have tarnished his record before retirement while embarrasing Cardassia -- and trading the confidentiality of the information for O'Brien's safe return.

    Knowing that imperfection plagues the main cast is one of DS9's strongest elements, a la when it is discovered that Kira is the true murderer in "Necessary Evil." This COULD have been a 4-star episode if O'Brien did commit a crime and if the ending wasn't so convenient.

    My rating: 2.5 out 4 stars.

    To those incredulous comments above about why the federation would allow one of their citizens to face an unfair trial or to be captured outside of Cardassian jurisdiction rather than go to war:

    As I type this, a British (and by extension European) citizen, Lindsay Sandiford is awaiting execution by firing squad in Indonesia for drug smuggling. At the moment she is struggling to raise the 8000 pounds needed to progress to her appeal. Sounds like an unfair trial to me. The fact that the evidence suggests she was blackmailed and threatened by a criminal gang to accept the drugs package on her flight, makes no difference to the court. Sounds like an unfair trial to me.

    By the logic of the comments above the British should be at war with Indonesia by now. But they're not because they want to protect international relations. I see no reason why the Federation would be any different.

    Kovat was played by Fritz Weaver, who some may remember from the Twilight Zone's The Obsolete Man, where he presided over another Orwellian trial of sorts. One of the best TZ episodes.

    Obviously corrupt legal systems exist. But that corruption, in the real world, takes place completely, or at least mostly behind the scenes. The Cardassian system as depicted here, on the other hand, is a blatant farce. In my opinion, this episode makes the Cardassian people appear either unrealistically brain-dead stupid for believing that justice is actually being carried out (how could entire species of such blithering idiots ever form a functioning society of any kind to begin with?), or collectively evil in a very cartoonish way.

    Nothing is particularly interesting or memorable about this episode.


    It's obvious to us that their legal system is a farce, but it may not be so obvious to Cardassians, who are used to it. In the Cardassian legal system, the crime is investigated behind the scenes. This makes corruption very easy, but in principle you could have a fair legal system based upon such procedures.

    Most likely, most of the time, the system is fair: the government has a vested interest in finding out who committed crimes. It doesn't do them any good to convict the wrong person, that just lets the guilty go free and causes a lot more problems. If there is a bank robbery, the Cardassian government really does want to know who did the crime. Convict the wrong Bajoran terrorist and the guilty one goes free to make more attacks.

    But when the Government just wants to get someone for political reasons, it makes it quite easy to trump up some fake charges. It also leads to sloppy investigation. One of the biggest things Odo did was to simply insist that the Cardassians actually investigate crimes.

    Good episode and it highlights a difference between legal systems that make Star Trek so interesting.

    I would like to point out to the argument of Socialism in Star Trek Universe and actual Communism that people seem to be unable to differentiate.

    Socialism is actually democratic in its fundamental concepts, Communism is not, because it seeks to put a group of people at the top of a State rather than egalitarianism that Socialism promotes.

    The United Federation of Planets can be considered the apex of what socialism can do under its best outcomes without any obvious drawbacks we see today due to advanced technology.

    The Cardassian Union is what Communism ala the old Soviet Union could accomplish, a state of safety, higher resources from conquered peoples, and higher industrial production.

    As for the legal systems, the Federation is closer to Western Civilization's own trial of peers and equal rather than a trial by the State as Cardassia held in Tribunal.

    "deus ex machina" aye Jammer.

    Good episode, not great.

    Obrien is a member of Star Fleet, a human that is a member of the Federation, serving on a Bajoran space station and the Cardassians basically get away scott free with obducting him outside Cardassian space.


    But I do like the court scenes and the constant references to a legal system that makes my skin crawl.

    Wonderful performances bt Fritz Weaver as "Kovat the Conservator" and Rene Auberjonois as Odo make this episode watchable and slightly above average.

    2.5 star for me.

    This episode started well with O'Brien's abduction but ended up becoming far too absurd. A disappointment for the series, which is nearly hitting its stride overall.

    Some odd things that hurt an episode that ALMOST worked:

    If the trial is broadcast on live Cardassian television, then why is the judge able to casually remark that the charade is just there for the benefit of the population? I get that we're supposed to see the show trial for the authoritarian farce that it is, but it still ultimately comes off as cartoonish and, well, too afraid that the audience (us, not Cardassia) won't pick up on the injustice of it all without being beaten over the head. It also makes the Cardassian population seem more foolish than it needs to me, IMO.

    When the Cardassian judge is speaking with the ops crew, she lays out the judicial process for what it is, apparently oblivious to the fact that literally everyone in the room will disagree. The characters object, naturally, to the pre-emptive decision. Then she drops the bomb that execution is already scheduled and Keiko, for whatever reason, asks how it's possible before the trial is even begun. An odd reaction to the prospect of her husband's execution. Yes, technically she's right I guess, but the lack of a visceral reaction tempers an episode that really needed more weight.

    The judge herself comes off as more smugly oblivious than an experienced Cardassian beaurucrat. Really, with Dukat, Garak, Maritza, Tain, and so many other cunning and compelling Cardassian characters that have been featured up to this point, the Cardassians featured here seem off-kilter. There's so much clever deception that our characters have to regularly wade through to get to the truth of a Cardassian plot, but here the Cardies just behave like a caricature of themselves - all the manipulative, totalitarian notes are there but with seemingly no nuance. They play more like a one-note alien of the week that the writers decided to make Cardassian late in the draft. It would also explain why neither Dukat or Garak are at all consulted in this situation (you'd think the conscientious Julian would try to pry any advice possible from his lunch buddy).

    After all of it, the judge just lets Miles leave and the crew all but laugh it off in the runabout.

    I doubt the writer of this episode did ANY research into real show-trials, and real court politics. It comes across like a high school's idea of how one would work.

    As I type this, a British (and by extension European) citizen, Lindsay Sandiford is awaiting execution by firing squad in Indonesia for drug smuggling

    Are you intentionally ignoring facts? She was caught SMUGGLING DRUGS INTO another country. She was not abducted. It would be like Miles O'Brien being captured as he entered Cardassia with a bomb, or at the least he would have to be entering Cardassia.

    Also, that woman is as guilty as they come, and I haven't checked, but I hope she's been shot. Don't smuggle drugs.


    You don't think execution by firing squad is a bit excessive for a drug offense? The international community certainly thought so. Lindsey Sandiford is a middle-aged mother of two who claimed--and the evidence supports her claim--that she was coerced into helping a drug smuggling ring by threats to her family. She gave evidence that helped convict members of that ring, all of whom received lesser sentences (time in prison). The prosecution team themselves recommended 15 years in prison as her sentence. But she received the death penalty from a judge who believed her trial had threatened Bali's tourism industry (!). She has received no help from the UK government, whose representatives say things like "how very unfortunate!" about her situation. She is now on death row in Indonesia.

    Drug smuggling is a serious offence that blights hundreds and thousands of lives. You clearly have no idea.

    Drug smuggling kills a lot of people and it creates serious organized crime. It also ruins families and lives.

    So no. It isn't excessive. You obviously haven't been the victim of it, and don't know anyone who has. Wake up.

    @ DLPB

    Once could argue that the people DOING the drugs are more responsible for the damage caused than the lady sneaking them across the border. Saying someone needs to be "put to death" for drug smuggling is an extreme overreaction, especially regarding the case you are discussing.

    By the way, this isn't really the place to grind your political axes, especially when you are arguing the pros of "death by firing squad".

    @DPLB: Chris' analogy between the Sandiford case and this episode, which you dismissed so aggressively above, is actually pretty apt. If you watch the ep again, you'll see that Miles is caught with the warheads in his runabout's cargo hold. Of course, as we discover, they were planted there by a Cardassian agent--but you might well say he was caught red-handed smuggling weapons that could endanger thousands of lives.

    In other words, context matters.

    The woman in question was given a proper trial and found guilty. She was also caught red handed and is guilty. It's that simple. She knew the rules, and ignorance of the law is not a defence.

    She should die.

    As soon as I saw the actor playing Korvat I knew id love this one. Just the thought by the writers & casting to use him in this role was awesome. Blind reverence for the soooo goes back to TTZ epsoide he was in. I always enjoyed that one so seeing him in it made me jump out of my seat @ the irony of it. Get epsoide all around.

    Agree with others about the hackneyed ending. How is a random judge supposed to personally know about a surgically altered spy? Even leaving the story the same, it would have been enough to just call up a high-level Cardassian official and threaten to publicize the identity of the Cardassian spy if they don't let him go. Or to threaten war.

    And I, too, didn't understand why they didn't make a bigger deal of the fact that O'Brien was wrongfully arrested (kidnapped in Federation space!) and then sentenced to death under false charges.

    The parallel to the Sandiford case is incomplete. I do agree that drug smuggling charges are not worthy of execution (frankly, I'm generally against the death penalty in most cases, even involving murder). But regardless of my personal stance on the death penalty, the particulars of that incident bear little resemblance to the DS9 episode beyond a foreign government issuing a capital punishment sentence.

    Sandiford was arrested in Indonesia for a crime she admitted to in fact, albeit under extenuating cricumstances. Regardless of her reasons for the crime, she was smuggling drugs, and she was arrested on Indonesian soil.

    For the Sandiford incident to match the DS9 episode, Indonesian government forces would have needed to invade a British territory, arrest Sandiford on British territorial soil, remove her without any extradition hearing, then convict her of a crime in their courts based on physical evidence of drugs that the British government knows was planted in her bag by an Indonesian spy for the express purposes of discrediting the British government. If THAT were the case, I'm pretty sure the Brits would have said something.

    In America, there is no show trial. We just hold them in Gitmo forever, therefore avoiding putting innocent men to death. Hooray !!!

    Your self-hating might have some merit if it were not the case that most of those people are guilty. America should just kill those found in combat operations instead of taking them prisoner.

    One persons terrorist is another persons freedom fighter.

    ... and who asked America to invade Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Cardassia, Libya, Egypt and Romulus.

    I liked this episode a lot. Even Keiko wasn't obnoxious in this one. Odo was OK, O'brien was great and Kovat was a riot.

    I loved when Sisko showed up in court with Boone and the look on the magistrates face was comical. She had to cover up fast. I just wished in "Way of the Warrior" O'brien would have been able to Na Na Na, to the Cardassian when the Klingons was wiping the floor with them.

    DLPD, you disgust me. Why are you even on here? Clearly, you have not understood the message of humanism that Star Trek delivers. How could one watch this show and yet not hear what it's saying?

    I understand it and reject it. That does not mean that I don't find Trek entertaining. The point at which human rights should be suspended or retracted is the only debate there can be. Severe drug trafficking is a capital crime in some places, and I am more than happy with that being so.

    Trek is written by left leaning people who don't live in the real world and hardly ever have to battle with crime or the effect of drugs. Taking their stance on law and order would be ridiculous.

    Also, I really don't give a monkey's if you find what I think "disgusting", that merely indicates to me that you are incapable of rational thought without being offended and/or name-calling.

    "Trek is written by left leaning people who don't live in the real world and hardly ever have to battle with crime or the effect of drugs. "

    In this country the majority of liberals live in major cities. The majority of big time drug operations are in major cities. You're going to have to walk me through this one.

    Furthermore drug trafficking disproportionately affects the poor and minorities... the majority of whom are liberal. Unless you just mean that Hollywood writers happen to be liberals who are unaffected by drugs, in which case probably... but I don't know that having the Hollywood writers who live in a bubble and happen to be conservative would make their life experiences any more useful to write about...

    That tells you nothing about where they actually live in those cities, and I know for a fact that this is the case in the UK. Why would it be different in the US?

    Are you suggesting Trek writers live in the heart of downtown Detroit, or some rundown estate? Haha, don't think so.

    It isn't just Trek, it's the government, media and anyone who is making the decisions that ultimately effect everyone.

    But my original post referenced Trek writers and, yes, they are in a bubble. It's easy to decry the death penalty when no-one in your family will ever be affected by serious crime.

    @Nick P. :(quote) is one innocent person blood REALLY more important than a socities safety?

    I feel pretty safe in saying, based on the rest of your post, that your answer to the question you posed above would be "no".

    I have to wonder if your answer would change if YOU happened to be that innocent person.

    When it comes to this episode, the end is what really ruins it for me. I'm left to believe that, with concrete proof of this Cardassian plot to try and incite war, that the Federation would do nothing? Or, that Sisko finds this proof ONLY to free O'Brien and then do nothing with this information? I just can't buy into that. It's a shame, because until this ending I really enjoyed the episode.

    If one grants that the death penalty should be used in some circumstances rather than none, then I think that the application of it to those involved in the knowing manufacturing and selling of illicit drugs would certainly be an appropriate use of that penalty. The horrible crimes committed by gang members in the name of protecting turf and expanding it have brought a very real hell to earth in many places. They have caused untold suffering to hundreds of thousands.

    If Lindsay Sandiford is of sound mind, then, quite frankly, I don't believe her story about being coerced into becoming a drug mule. If someone threatens you, you go to the police with that information. You don't become a mule. And if you were simply an ordinary tourist, what reason would you have to be approached at random by some gang member? I'm not saying the situation is impossible, but I do think it's highly unlikely. I do think Sandiford's situation is tragic for her and her family, but I can think of better causes to get involved in.

    As for the episode itself, it has a certain appeal, but I found Greg's comment, above, about the Cardassians in this episode behaving like caricatures of themselves to be about right.

    I like this episode, but not only the Cardassians were able to effectively kidnap O'Brien from outside Cardassian space, for a crime that ostensibly took place on a Bajoran space station, but also they teleported in the runabout when the shields were up...

    As Jammer and the other commenters pointed out, this drafts not only on Orwell but also Kafka and also The Twilight Zone's "The Obsolete Man" (I did not recognize the actor, thanks Jason and Zprime). Notably, the "wrong man" theme -- of an everyman falling under suspicion and facing punishment for a crime he did not commit, and does not even know he committed -- runs through several O'Brien shows. But this is not Orwell or Kafka, or The Twilight Zone, nor is it "Whispers" or "Hard Time." 1984, The Trial and "The Obsolete Man" (the latter not in the same stratum as the first two, but still good) are serious, but also function as black comedies; nevertheless, they are not quite as broad as this episode's farce. There are show-trials in the real world, and some of them beggar belief as much as or more than the show-trial in this episode, but the episode's particular conceit that everyone in the court, and presumably most of the people watching at home, are in on the joke, and yet still permit Odo to continuously subvert the natural order of the state for no apparent reason makes Cardassians full-on caricatures. It's hard to say why two lines of Dukat describing this in "The Maquis" is totally effective, and seeing it play out just makes it look silly and makes it hard to understand why the populace would buy this engine, which not even the members of the court take very seriously as a real trial. The movement toward justice as entertainment is maybe worthwhile, but, I dunno, would they really release it live and let Odo Nestor his way into disrupting the proceedings again and again? (On my not buying Odo's interruptions as Nestor working: Compare this to Picard exploiting obscure rituals as Arbiter of Succession -- while Gowron and Duras found it annoying, Klingon custom and honour gives Picard power to institute these delays, whereas it seems as if the judge/prosecutor as the representative of the state should have had full power and not even bothered to indulge a lowly Nestor's continued deviations from the script.) Now that is maybe valid for satirically showing up the contradictions necessary for this conscious (self-)deception, etc., but this episode ends up having a lot more in common with middling to weak Ferengi episodes than something like "The Wire." While horror-inflected, the upside-down, crazy backwards-ness of the Cardassian justice system reduces about as much to THOSE WACKY CARDASSIANS as the purely comic upside down crazy backwards-ness of Ferengi gender relations.

    To lay in a bit more, the idea that the Cardassians framed O'Brien in order to embarrass the Federation means that they must have believed that their show-trial evidence, with no official sources given, would convince the Federation at least somewhat of O'Brien's guilt, which makes the flimsiness of their demonstration worse than normal, since not only did they abduct a Federation citizen and member of Starfleet who is a chief of operations for a strategically placed space station, they are planning on using his "guilt" for massive political gain -- which, you know, is maybe a sign that someone besides just Sisko should get involved. Why did Boone hang around on the station just in order to get caught, anyway? Is it really that easy to fake a voice call?

    As a character piece, O'Brien has little to do, putting a man whose resourcefulness is part of what makes him a great screen presence in a situation where he has no control whatsoever. And that maybe could have worked, but...because O'Brien clearly didn't do anything, and the episode never seriously posits he did (though the crew briefly considers it), there's no internal conflict or doubt. O'Brien's defense of himself as a righteous man is delivered with appropriate passion by Meaney, but about all this does is remind us how awful it is that O'Brien is being summarily executed for a crime he didn't commit...because he's such a great guy, rather than that it would be awful even if he's a jerk. The episode sort of gestures to that when O'Brien is almost forced to face up to his soldier-past and prejudice against Cardassians, though "The Wounded" and "Cardassians" already did a lot of work on that and there are no sympathetic, non-foolish Cardassians in this episode. Odo gets some good material fighting the inevitable, and I do particularly like his intense interrogation of O'Brien; but I even found myself getting annoyed with Odo's interruptions, which were so fully blunt-instrument when I would have hoped he could have developed *some* techniques for working within that system all those years -- and I never really bought that Odo could have succeeded at delaying the trial the way he did anyway. Odo has at least some mild plot impact in that it seems as if his delaying the trial gives enough time for Sisko to bring not!Boone to court, which, well, I don't know how much I buy that showing up with Boone is sufficient. Bashir's faith in O'Brien is good follow-up on their developing bond and Bashir's tendency to hero-worship, and I like that all manner of spies assume Bashir is the best point of contact -- as someone who is presumably credulous enough to trust what they say, and not careful enough to be able to catch them. Kira and Sisko considering the possibility that O'Brien really is guilty is good stuff too. I found the jokey tone of the Keiko/Miles stuff at the beginning and end to be pretty painful, low-quality sitcom stuff, and particularly jarring at the end. (My girlfriend pointed out, wouldn't Miles want to visit Molly at least after that ordeal?)

    I guess I shouldn't mention that maybe Sisko could have used the discovery of a years-long Cardassian plant as a better negotiating tool than *just* getting his own man back. Don't get me wrong; I do think that if came down to giving the Cardassians their man back without making a public spectacle and getting O'Brien back in return, or keeping Boone as prisoner/hostage and O'Brien dying, the former is better. Still, it seems like the Cardassians replacing Boone with an impostor and killing the real one is a pretty big smoking gun, and a bigger one than O'Brien, particularly since Boone can disprove their whole O'Brien story before the Federation.

    The acting is generally good and the characterization of the leads is okay but unspectacular. The plot doesn't make much sense to me and the satire is too broad to be effective for me. I think this is the real weak link in the last third of the season, which is otherwise quite good. 2 stars.

    DLPB is a perfect example of how a blatant farce of a justice system like cardassia's could exist without resistance. The systems in some countries today, including America are already stepping over the line of credibility.

    Far too often we find people wrongly convicted on so little evidence we wonder how it happened. Yet there is no real call for change or accountability.

    Plant some evidence, have a sham trial, call it a day... All with majority public support. The more this happens, the less hidden the corruption becomes.

    That is how cardassia's system could be as it is, and how ours often is as well.

    @William B and others talking about how the Cardassian people would see through the fact this trial was a farce
    I've been thinking about about this episode and alien ethic/legal systems and I think you might be missing something about this episode. You're assuming that Cardassians assume trials should work the way ours do, which they don't.

    In our society a trial is the place where the defense and the prosecution present evidence which is then considered by the judge/jury and a verdict is reached. And if you assume that that is what a trial is supposed to be then yes, this system is obviously a giant joke. BUT THAT'S NOT HOW THE CARDASSIAN SYSTEM WORKS. The Cardassian system works much more like a cop/detective show. The officials go out, gather evidence, determine who is guilty and then arrest them at which point the show is over. We never wonder, after Columbo or the CSI guys arrest someone whether or not they're going to go to jail/the gallow. Of course they are. They were caught and are clearly guilty. And we're comfortable with this despite none of these people getting an (on screen) trial. The "Trial" is just the final scene where the cops lay out all their smoking gun evidence and the perp either confesses and looks sad or gets dragged off loudly yelling and establishes how awful of a person they still are.

    In the Cardassian system the trial does not exist to DETERMINE who is guilty; it exists to DEMONSTRATE to the populace who was found guilty what evidence they used to determine this as well as to give the guilty party a chance to repent and let everyone know that they can sleep easy at night because justice was done and the system is fair. The criminal was caught and they will be punished. They know the system is fair because the gov't shows them all the evidence and explained ("within reason") how they got it.

    Yes, the trial exists purely as a show for the people's benefit, but that's all the Cardassians think it's supposed to be so there's no reason they would see it as a farce or joke because they don't have the hang ups about how trials work in our society which are painting OUR idea of whether or not this trial is "Fair". I mean, yes, this SPECIFIC trial is a farce because they government fabricated evidence and set it all up, but the entire system is not one. It just serves a different purpose than the trials of the federation. So sure, let Odo babble on and interrupt. He's a strange foreigner who clearly doesn't understand this system and seems to think he can submit new evidence and complain a system never meant to be about determining guilt should have a chance for a defense LIKE THE FEDERATION FOOL HE IS. LOOK HOW STUPID THE FEDERATION IS AND HOW BENEVOLENT WE ARE TO TOLERATE THEIR FOOLISH INTERRUPTIONS AND NONSENSICAL IDEA OF HOW A TRIAL SHOULD WORK. Odo only looks good to us, the viewers, because we know and like him and he's upholding the ideal of a trial WE believe in. To the Cardassians he's not convincing anyone of anything.

    As for whether or not the trial would work to embarrass the federation: They DID catch a man known for his public dislike of the Cardassians with WMDs he denied having near Maquis space which he appears to have stolen and has no good explanation for why he's carrying. If the voice print trick hadn't been figured out and we didn't know O'Brien was a morally upstanding main character then this would be a pretty good scam. That said, this episode still doesn't work for me. The whole "They took him out of Federation space" REALLY ruins this whole thing for me and the ending really stretched credibility, it should have been Sisko walking in with Boone and an embarrassed looking Gul or Legate who would tell the judge that O'Brien was being let go because "mercy/political deal/other reason" to show that someone who reasonably would know about Boone was there and really the whole trial had no tension because we knew from the start that O'Brien was innocent as well as who was actually guilty so it was just waiting for the rest of the cast to stumble around and grab the guy. Also, the Federation didn't leave it to "just Sisko" there's mention in the episode that The Enterprise and 2 other Galaxy Class ships were on their way to the Cardassian border as a show of how big of a deal they considered this but were still all over a week away so O'Brien would be dead by the time they got there requiring Sisko to act alone because he was the only one close enough.

    @Easter, to qualify my position, I agree that the Cardassian trial does not serve the same function as a human trial. That is part of why I said that the audience is presumably "in on the joke"; perhaps a poor choice of words, since the trial is not a joke to the Cardassians, though I think it is one to the writers/audience. I more have trouble with the court more or less allowing Odo to act like it is a real court -- though you raise a good point about this demonstrating bizarre Bajoran/Federation puppet values. You do have a point about the potential for Federation embarrassment. I will have to think about that.

    Good episode.

    To anybody arguing that the Cardassians and their judicial system come across cartoonish: WHAT SHOW HAVE YOU BEEN WATCHING?!?

    Between the Vulcans, Klingons and Ferengi, isn't cartoonishly exaggerating specific human traits in an alien species EXACTLY Star Trek's m.o.?

    Here, Cardassian law is 100% the opposite of orderly Western justice. Every single principle of a Western trial is turned on its head. It gives us an opportunity to reflect on the virtues of them.

    It's these kinds of flawed, over-simplified stories that make the greatest conversation pieces among trekkies, I've found.

    My only negatives about TRIBUNAL are that the setup and the resolution are weak.

    Quite frankly, the cardassian system is more like ours than people realize. That's the whole point. It's an obvious farce, yet is believed in and supported anyway.

    America is the same way.

    America is not the same way at all, and saying it is does not make it so. The tribunal seen in DS9 is so far fetched it's laughable. Even for a show trial. Leave your self hate and American hate at the door.

    @dlpb I'm not so sure that I would not say that there aren't some similarities with the United States military tribunal system. They are not open to the public, they make a presumption of guilt and allow for the use of secret evidence. While I don't imagine it's quite the over-the-top farce such as the cartoonish spectacle we see here, they most certainly do not meet the standards that American civilians believe they are entitled to under their own system of justice.

    I can see valid reasons why one might support such military tribunals, as they certainly do serve American security interests. It is also possible that military tribunals are the very kangaroo courts their critics decry them as. The Cardassian court and military tribunals are not the same, but the idea of a court that violates what many (albeit maybe not you) may consider a "fair trial" is a strong parallel.

    Ultimately something of a disappointment. The main problem is that the patent absurdity of the Cardassian legal system gives nothing for our leads to do. All of the courtroom debate is for naught because we already know the outcome - and we know that O'Brien is not going to be executed so there is no peril to the story.

    What we are left waiting for is only the way out, and the DS9 investigation is handled so perfunctorily and the ending so rushed that it also doesn't add a whole lot to the story.

    Some nice performances, but a chance missed. 2 stars.

    At what point in the future does Starfleet decide that installing video security cameras is no longer useful? Odo's got a random collection of plot-serving cameras, but none in the photon torpedo warhead storage hold...

    Good Lord, I get it! Cardassian society is basically Orwell's worst nightmare plus Kafka's worst nightmare squared. No need to be subtle about it, I guess.

    I kid. Seriously, "Tribunal" is another good outing for DS9, but definitely something of a step down from the run of episodes immediately preceding it. The acting is on-point from everyone, especially from Colm Meaney and Rosalind Chao. Even Fritz Weaver as Conservator Kovat delivers a nice performance as a defense lawyer more concerned with his loyalty to the state than to his "client." The directing and set-design are also top notch. And we get more world-building for the Cardassians, which always earns points from me - even if it comes awfully close to descending into some rather silly territory with just how much the trial is a show trial.

    But, WillamB hits it on the nose - as a character piece, O'Brien really isn't given that much to do. Aside from the magnificently shot "processing" scene and his adamant declaration to Odo of his integrity, O'Brien spends most of the episode passively being acted upon. Those two scenes really allow Meaney to show his acting chops, but nothing more.

    However, the biggest problem with "Tribunal" is the ending. It's not that it's a deus ex machina (I don't think it is). It's that it virtually undermines the entire Maquis story-line. With the outing of Boone and the realization of what he was up to, the Federation has rock-solid proof that the Cardassians are acting in bad faith vis-à-vis the treaty. The Central Command has been caught red-handed attempting to undermine relations with the UFP in order to force more concessions at the negotiations table. If that isn't a clear-cut violation of the treaty, I don't know what is! Even once O'Brien is returned to Sisko, the Federation should have returned to negotiations with the Cardassian Union and hammered out a new agreement. With the new information that have they could have forced concessions and gotten a new treaty that addresses the situation in the Demilitarized Zone more equitably, thereby solving the Maquis crisis. But, of course, they don't do that. After all, VOY was set to premier the next season. We couldn't have the central issue of the show resolved before the first episode airs, could we?! It does, however, make the Federation look like complete morons who don't give a single shit about the situation the Maquis are facing.

    There's also the problem of how the Cardassians were able to abduct O'Brien in the first place. In that scene O'Brien flat out says that they are NOT in Cardassian space, so how in the name of God did the Cardassians have any authority to take him?! Is that even addressed at any point in the episode? Nope. Given that he and Keiko were most likely still in Bajoran space when the abduction happened, I would think that the Provisional Government would be up in arms over it! But, nope, nothing's ever said. Do we ever hear about the Federation bringing any pressure on the Cardassian Union over the seizure of one of their citizens in non-Cardassian space? Sisko says that the Enterprise and two other ships are deployed along the border (that's actually a nice little continuity bit there, since "Tribunal" was the first episode to air after "All Good Things...") but nothing more is ever said about it. Sisko and his crew basically have to take matters into their own hands to rescue O'Brien. Seriously, were they trying to make the Federation look bad?!

    The acting, directing and world-building save this episode a little bit, but only just a little.


    *groan* It's been so many episodes since I had to include them that I forgot my counters again....

    WTF HAIR - 15 (+2)

    I sort of want to see how Sisko got the fake human to the courtroom on Cardassia prime. Think about it, Someone in the Cardassian central command had to allow Sisko to travel to the heart of the Cardassian Union(and he probably needed a reason good from Sisko) and another person Probably from the Obsidian order (who most likely planned this infiltration mission) had to give him permission to beam himself down to the planet with his prisoner and probably pass dozens of armed Cardassian soldiers in the building. Of course maybe just a glare from The Sisko was enough to frighten them into submission.

    Good episode for Odo and O'brien 3 stars.

    Random fact, the tooth-pulling scene was edited out in the UK version shown on the BBC.

    The issue I have with episode is the abduction and specifically the Federation and Sisko's reaction to that abduction.

    The Cardassians have no authority or jurisdiction over O'Brien. Period. That the federation, Sisko, and O'Brien doesn't spend every second screaming this at the Cardassians is the real farce of the episode. I get that its fun to see the joke that is the Cardassian legal system, but you could do that while the rest of the cast are fighting the concept of the system and not respecting their ridiculous ways.

    I also don't like how most of the Cardassians are portrayed here. I don't mind them acting out the show trial, but their continued reference to Cardassian law in private rings hollow when they know they are framing him and when they illegally abducted him from an area they have no legal authority in.

    And the ending, while it resolves the situation, kinda makes the whole thing pointless. Like the only point of the episode was the show off the Cardassian system. There's no justice or satisfaction in the ending. Just ONCE I want the Enterprise to warp into a system and just empty the photon torpedoes into everything that moves. I know that's not very trek like, but a man needs satisfaction every once in a while.

    ^^ It also kind of lets you know what will eventually happen to poor Tom Riker :( ^^

    Luke S: You have a very good point. Actually, I'd go as far as to call that a giant plot hole. Starfleet should have called it a kidnapping from the start, severed diplomatic relations, then sent a fleet to Cardassia IMMEDIATELY and unloaded a billion quantum torpedoes on them rather than play along with their show trial.

    That said I still enjoyed the trial part of the episode examining the Cardassian system - basically picturing what would happen if a 1984-esque society achieved space travel, much like how TOS's "Bread and Circuses" pictured what would happen if the Roman Empire existed in the 20th century. But now I'll never be able to unsee that plot hole. There should have been a more plausible setup (i.e. O'Brien goes to Cardassia as part of a goodwill mission and gets arrested halfway through rather than getting abducted from the runabout).

    The acting is superb, but the ending is quite dumb. I agree the visual style was excellent, but this episode hit us over the head with the Orwellian themes. The scene where Odo interrogated O'Brien in jail was excellent and continues to highlight one of the show's strengths, the talented cast. I give this one 785/1,054

    Sooo... 1 week with Keiko on vacation or being tortured by Cardassians and sentenced for a crime I didn't commit?

    I'll take the Cardassian option any day.

    Amazing episode--really loved it. Best guest stars ever, and exciting story.

    But I was saddened by so many analogies to modern earth courts in this. The entire setup was almost entirely like what one might see in North Korea at its most extreme, but there were many aspects that might be seen in more "democratic" courts.

    I know of far too many poor people who were found guilty because they did not receive proper representation, and far too many innocent people whose investigators hid evidence that would have exonerated them because they needed a conviction for the "peace of mind" of their districts.

    We pretend in the United States to have such an enlightened legal system, and yet rich people very rarely have to suffer a trial. And if they do, they tend to get off. And if they don't, they get to go to luxury prisons.

    The Cardassian legal system with its show trials was a joke--well, so is ours.

    "The issue I have with episode is the abduction and specifically the Federation and Sisko's reaction to that abduction.

    The Cardassians have no authority or jurisdiction over O'Brien. Period. That the federation, Sisko, and O'Brien doesn't spend every second screaming this at the Cardassians is the real farce of the episode. I get that its fun to see the joke that is the Cardassian legal system, but you could do that while the rest of the cast are fighting the concept of the system and not respecting their ridiculous ways." -- Luke S

    ^^^^ THIS all of this!

    I saw those posts from 2013, people saying that the case of the British woman being arrested in Indonesia is proof of this happening in real life- but that comparison is completely wrong! O'Brien wasn't in Cardassian space, and the Cardassians were violating Federation sovereignty by extending their jurisdiction into Federation space!

    I think Brian S put it best when he said;

    "For the Sandiford incident to match the DS9 episode, Indonesian government forces would have needed to invade a British territory, arrest Sandiford on British territorial soil, remove her without any extradition hearing, then convict her of a crime in their courts based on physical evidence of drugs that the British government knows was planted in her bag by an Indonesian spy for the express purposes of discrediting the British government. If THAT were the case, I'm pretty sure the Brits would have said something."

    You know what is a more comparable analogy? The impressment of American sailors by the British Navy.....that ended up being one of the reasons for the War of 1812! The Sandiford case is a terrible comparison.

    I found 'Tribunal' to be a poorly written episode that misses the mark.

    Mostly about the totalitarian Cardassian regime -- very similar in many respects to the Chinese communist regime and its wrongful imprisonment / torture of prisoners of conscience, people who practice Falun Gong, Christians, Tibetans etc. The episode does a good job on that front and illustrating what "justice" is like in such horrible places. Great performances from Meaney especially, but also Auberjonois.

    The early scenes with O'Brien on Cardassia are reminiscent of "Chain of Command". Really created a terrifying atmosphere for the accused. It was all pretty solid stuff until the ending just let the air out of the balloon, unfortunately. The episode could have been much more, but it chose to focus just on the Cardassian justice system to further flesh out this society.

    Kovat's role is particularly important in showing how totalitarian justice is done and what his role is -- to ensure a "Utopian" society and that criminals are punished etc. But I thought it got a bit silly when he started asking O'Brien if his parents/wife abused him... Nevertheless, a worthy performance from this guest actor who was really a comic figure that showed how ridiculous the totalitarian "justice" system is.

    The ending was a bit of a blur with Sisko/Boone just showing up at the trial (how?) and then the judge releasing O'Brien. The bigger plot of Cardassians trying to undermine the Federation should have been examined at greater length. Instead it's Sisko/Odo talking for like a minute about it at the end. So I didn't fully get Boone's back story -- something about him being Cardassian after the real Boone died in some prior Cardassian attack. That's a strike against "Tribunal" as an episode for me -- bit of poor judgment by the writers.

    The Cardassians are playing dirty and the Federation has to respond in kind (albeit to a lesser extent). But what are the ramifications of the Cardassians' actions? Maybe it'll be dealt with in a subsequent episode. And Sisko/Bashir don't exactly respect Boone's rights.

    2.5 stars for "Tribunal" -- could have been a 3 stars episode for me but for the ending. Yes, this episode is all about the Cardassian totalitarian trial and putting O'Brien through the grinder but there are bigger pieces at work here, which are just as interesting and not explored. Some comic moments too -- don't Miles/Keiko make the worst couple (mostly because of Keiko)? Can't blame O'Brien for taking his tech manuals on the vacay!

    Loved KOVAT, What a character! So invested in his culture that he does not see different options. I like how DS9 is able to establish different cultures leaving us amazed. Makes me wonder: if 100% of the cases are solved in Cardassia at the expense of a few of them using an escape goat... Is it that bad a system?

    This episode exists to further establish Cardassian society's totalitarian tendencies. It was already done far better in "Chain of Command", but you can't really go wrong with 1984/Orwell parallels. You also can't really go wrong with an episode focusing on O'Brien (Colm Meaney can make just about anything work). So, "Tribunal" ends up being a good episode regardless of it being in the shadow of "Chain of Command". Jammer is correct that the deus ex machine ending is unfortunate, but it's not enough to ruin the episode.

    3 stars.

    Teaser : ***, 5%

    Miles—remember him?--is going on holiday. For some reason, he's having Dax look after the maintenance of the station while he's away. Did you know that Neil DeGrasse Tyson spends his weekends fixing toilets? Yeah. Kira is finally able to get him to relax and leave by barking at him. Apparently, he's been irritating the entire senior staff.

    On his way to the airlock, Miles bumps into an old acquaintance (“Boom?”). Uh oh, he might be a Cylon. They had served on the Rutledge, crazy Captain Maxwell's ship from O'Brien's first character piece, “The Wounded.” Apparently, Boomer here has given up his commission AND his citizenship as he's on one of the colonies traded to Cardassia from the treaty we discussed in “The Maquis.” After their brief reunion, ominous music accompanies Boomer to a dark room where he plays back a recording he made of Miles' voice. The nods to continuity are nice here. The character stuff is hovering on the border of DBI (DS9 banality indulgence), but are brief and the setup is interesting.

    Act 1 : ****, 17%

    Yay, Keiko is back! The O'Briens shoot the shit in their runabout. It looks for a moment like we're about to get a marital squabble, but Miles puts on some soothing Japanese music and Keiko fries Miles some potatoes. It's all good. I have noticed others complaining about the O'Briens' marriage, and Keiko in particular, but I find the interaction entirely believable and well-portrayed. I'll be the first to complain about character interaction that violates the continuity of human evolution, but the what the O'Briens deal with feels very plausible and timeless. They haven't taken a vacation in five years—not because they are behind on mortgage payments, but because they love their work so much, it's taken this long to need a holiday. Before the making out can begin, the runabout is pulled over by a Cardassian patrol vessel. State cop Evek is back and demands to send a boarding party. The party searches the vessel and arrests Miles.
    I have to interject here. This couldn't have been what the writers were going for in 1994, but Miles' arrest, the whole flavour of it, bears disturbing parallels to the images of police brutality we have slowly begun to become aware in the US. The obvious contempt for personal rights, the racism, the entitlement, and the violence all painfully reminiscent of the unjust arrests, assaults and murders we have seen (especially) black men and women endure under the blessing of the state...let's just say I found this scene more difficult to watch than the ensuing torture.

    Act 2 : ***.5, 17%

    I'm not going to comment too much on the obvious 1984 allusions which populate the rest of the episode. Others here have done so pretty exhaustively, and I don't think there's any contention about this aspect of the story. I will say that I wonder if O'Brien's name is what ended up having the writers choose him for the irony factor. After a pretty brutal scene of Miles being “processed” (including a gnarly tooth-removal), Chief Archon Let's call her Maytag enters and plays good cop, promising comfort, apologies and a lawyer, sort of. No one will answer any of his questions.

    On DS9, Sisko tries...and fails to comfort Keiko. Rosalin Chao is called upon here to deliver in a way never yet asked of her on either series, and she really does. Maytag hails Sisko in Ops. She is remarkably arrogant and condescending, even for a Cardassian. The frustrating conversation concludes with Odo volunteering to serve as Nestle or whatever, having served as a witness of some kind in Cardassian court while under the employ of Dukat. This means that he will be able to accompany Keiko to Miles trial, where it will be “revealed” just how guilty Miles has already been determined to be before they execute him.

    After they leave, Sisko asks Kira to review the security logs.

    KIRA: Commander, Chief O'Brien's attitude toward the Cardassians is hardly a secret. What if he actually has done something?

    Um, Kira...did you forget your backstory? Pot meet kettle.

    Act 3 : ***, 17%

    Miles is awoken in his prison cell by a man called Conservator Kovat. “Lawyer” is really an inappropriate title for this man. He tells Miles that his purpose is “to accept the inevitable with equanimity”--meaning his own death. Kovat is really more like a priest visiting a man on death row. He admits rather freely, and without a whiff of irony that the kind of moral superiority granted a citizen when he bears witness to the confession of a “guilty” man is a vital resource in the Cardassian system of oppression. It helps to mask the authoritarian injunctions, media blackout and hunger pangs. What is most clever in Kovat's wistful little speech about the glories of Cardassian society is that many of the achievements he boasts about sound similar to the Federation's. At a glance, one could mistake Kovat's remarks for Picard's to Jeff Bezos or whoever that was in “The Neutral Zone.” In the Cardassians' case, this is a house of cards, however, as we are going to find out.

    On DS9, Dax and co. figure out that a bunch of Federation photon warheads have been stolen by “a transporter expert.” They also discover that Miles' voiceprint was used to access the weapons locker. Now, I'm reminded of a different, much more terrible season 1 TNG episode (“The Naked Now”) and Wesley's Picard-Voice-Generator. Ugh. The scene is further tanked by Bashir's theatrics in defending Miles' character, although the sentiment is appreciated. What we soon piece together, between the name-dropping of the new treaty, the presence of Evek and the information from the teaser, is that Boomer is a member of the Maquis, and has somehow framed Miles for the theft of the warheads. Why he needed to do this remains a mystery. And the characters haven't gotten that far yet.

    On Cardassia, Nestle Odo visits Miles in his cell next. Odo seems to have it in his head that O'Brien may very well be guilty of aiding the Maquis. Meaney delivers an impressive soliloquy about the need for this remarkably unremarkable man to live a life of integrity. We can glean that on some level, the embarrassment of being accused of dishonesty and disloyalty wound Miles far more than the pains of torture or the threat of death. Odo doesn't doubt Miles' innocence, which is nice, but Odo doesn't really seem like the type to be swayed by a heartfelt speech. He has decided that they need to play along with the theatre of Cardassian jurisprudence; he and Keiko need to display their certitude and morality for the public.

    Act 4 : ***, 17%

    Dax and Kira together gather more evidence to prove what we already figured out at least an act ago about the voice-fake and Boomer the Maquis. Okay, good.

    On Cardassia, a couple of extras overhear Maytag on the giant state TV TV screens introducing the trail of Miles Edward O'Brien. Of course, Cardassian trials are held in dark, shadowy dutch angles. It is at this point, as William B noted, that the episode becomes a dark comedy, and a pretty effective one. The over-the-top personalities of Kovat and Maytag against Odo's straightman, all while we get this Reality TV ratings vibe is amusing. But...I will say that at this point, the drama over whether Miles might actually be execute pretty much vanishes. I can't say yet whether this exchange is in the episode's favour.

    On DS9, Sisko is interrogating the Cylon Maquis guy. He claims innocence, but that porn-stash pretty much guarantees he's lying. Bashir, meanwhile, is confronted in his darkened office by a Maquis agent who claims Boomer isn't one of them. Now that the tone has shifted, the whole man-in-the-shadows bit, along with the absurd Batmaneque walk off frame feels pretty goofy. The story has officially lost its weight.

    Act 5 : **.5, 17%

    Evek offers “evidence,” which is mostly a tirade against the Maquis. I'm with you, there, but you're still a thug-cop, Evek. If any #Resistance people are reading this, please take note that Evek crawls behind the obscurity of “national security” in his refusal to identify his “reliable sources.” We don't need a fictional inspiration for this doublespeak, as we have seen a lot of this from the CIA in recent months, per their idiom.

    Boomer is brought into the infirmary. Turns out he's been lying for about 7 or 8 years about his identity. Hmm...

    Back at the trial, Maytag forces Miles to testify after an hysterical and tragically absurd exchange between Kovat and Odo (“Think of the children, sir!”). To the episode's credit, what follows honestly confronts Miles' genuine prejudice against the Cardassians, which we have seen on the show(s). In the knick of time, Boomer is brought into the court by Sisko and co. Just the sight of his moustache immediately causes Maytag to rule on Miles' behalf (she does not acquit him his guilt, of course, but she does commute his sentence), and spin-doctor with the expected adulation to the state.

    Turns out Boomer was actually a Cardassian spy, working to publicly discredit the Federation, through Miles, but making it seem as though Starfleet condoned the activity of the Maquis. This seems really dubious for a couple of reasons: 1. There are already lots of Federation officers who have joined the Maquis (including Cal), so why would Miles being another one change the political dynamics here at all? 2. I still want to know WHY the Cardassians are so intent on evacuating the rogue humans from their colonies.

    Anyway, the episode closes out with a return to Keiko/Miles stuff from before—they're still going on holiday, but see, Keiko got what she wanted because Miles can't read his reports or take pictures. Lol, he got his tooth ripped out, beaten and psychologically tortured. Cue that studio audience and roll credits!

    Episode as Functionary : **.5, 10%

    So, this episode has some major tonal issues. I think the comedic take on Cardassian trials works, and I think the seriously dark look at Cardassian trials works. I just wish the writers would have picked one. While many of the elements of the story—the intrigue with Boomer, the theatrics with Kovat, the interrogation by Odo, the peek at Cardassian society—are very effective in the moment and entertaining on screen, crowding these different and somewhat contradictory takes on the tone of the story into a single episode kind of sabotages the character work. Meaney and Auberjonois give excellent performances, but there really isn't anything new revealed about Miles, nor any growth for him. I feel that this would have been possible in either a serious piece or a dark comedy, but in the confusing amalgam we got, the arc for him feels surprisingly cheap for a man who endured so much in this episode (that final eye-roll-inducing bit on the runabout pretty much sums it up). While the complexity and interconnectivity of all the different political elements—Cardassian law, Cardassian spies, the Rutledge and the Maquis—is fun, the lack of explicable motivation for the CCC continues to be a problem as it was in “The Maquis.” I hope they fix this soon.

    Final Score : ***


    "Anyway, the episode closes out with a return to Keiko/Miles stuff from before—they're still going on holiday, but see, Keiko got what she wanted because Miles can't read his reports or take pictures. Lol, he got his tooth ripped out, beaten and psychologically tortured. Cue that studio audience and roll credits!"

    Yeah, I came to despise Keiko-this might have been the beginning of it. I'm so glad that they got rid of her in "The House of Quark". Nothing about the relationship feels earned. It's too bad that the DS9 writers were stuck with her, and couldn't write Miles a new love interest.

    I also agree with you on this episode-it's really effective at times, but you get the feeling that it could have been better had they stuck with a specific tone.

    It's that easy to overcome security on the weapons locker??? Just record O'Brien and use his voice? A padlock would work better.

    As always, Meany is absolutely great, as is his "lawyer."

    The weirdness and alien-ness of the Cardassian "trial" procedures was good. Execution is already scheduled!

    Keiko was great and I love the realness and strength of the O'Brien marriage.

    Ahh, the Cardassian officer can't provide needed info because it risks National Security. A classic. Not so alien and unfamiliar after all . . .

    I liked this ep very well. Bears closer scrutiny, but too tired to accommodate.

    Cardassian Propaganda Announcement:
    Look to the children
    They are the Future of Cardassia
    And they will lead the way
    Invest in their minds
    Teach them carefully

    Whitney Houston: The Greatest Love
    I believe the children are our are future
    Teach them well
    and let them lead the way
    Show them all the beauty they possess inside
    Give them a sense of pride

    Conclusion: Alternate Universe episode in which Cardassian Ministry Of Propaganda Officers have swapped places with 1980's Earth Pop Divas.

    Cher paints 200 foot pictures of Gul Dukat that hang on the walls of the assembly

    Entertaining episode, but as far as the abduction of O'Brien goes, if I had been in charge of Starfleet, my response would have gone something like this:

    Me: "Assemble a task force of a hundred ships, put them under the command of the Enterprise-D, and send them to the Cardassian border where the Cardassians will see them. Draw up a list of strategically important Cardassian border military outposts."
    [calls Cardassians]
    Me: "Yo, Cardassians! You kidnapped one of our officers IN FEDERATION SPACE. You have six hours to release him. This is not open for negotiation. You now have five hours, fifty-nine minutes, and thirty seconds." [hangs up]

    [Six hours later]
    Me: "Have the Cardassians released O'Brien yet?"
    Ensign Ricky: "No, sir."
    Me: [sighs] "All right then." [contacts Enterprise-D] "Captain Picard, take your fleet and hit Cardassian military outposts 47, 42, 70, and 64 simultaneously. Leave nothing standing."
    Worf: [cheers silently in background]
    [One hour later]
    Me: [calls Cardassians] "Are you sure you don't want to reconsider?"
    Cardassians: "How dare you - "
    Me: "Don't blame me, you started it!" [contacts Enterprise-D] "Captain Picard, flatten another ten Cardassian military outposts, and any ships that get in your way."
    Cardassians: "All right! We'll release O'Brien!"
    Me: "See, that wasn't so hard!"

    @ NCC-1701-Z,

    Despite how much I like this episode I tend to agree with you on the literal logic of the situation. I actually feel this way even more strongly about Hard Time (later in the series), even though in Tribunal the situation is significantly more uproarious in the grand scheme. Ah well, the price we pay for a special O'Brien episode. Let's not even get into the literal logic of Whispers...but all worth it for Torture O'Brien #27.

    It's an okay episode I guess, my guess they sort of tried to do like ''chain of command '' maybe that explains why I wasn't surprised of the Orwellian approach to their legal system sort of expect this from the Cardassian's at this point.

    @ Zanki,

    "It's an okay episode I guess, my guess they sort of tried to do like ''chain of command '' maybe that explains why I wasn't surprised of the Orwellian approach to their legal system sort of expect this from the Cardassian's at this point."

    If you ask me, this episode is more of a satire than another dark drama like Chain of Command was. I think at the start we're meant to be outraged and horrified, but as it proceeds I can't help but feel that it devolves into comedy at times, making the proceeding look increasingly ridiculous, especially in light of the Conservator and his antics, especially at the end. I think while Chain of Command shows us to an extent the steep price Cardassians pay for their type of society, this one shows us in a way how fragile it is as well. They need this kind of theatre to keep it going, and the Conservator is probably rightly terrified of what will happen when he fails in his duties. I think the system of 'justice' we're shown here shows us cracks in the Cardassian system, which sets up stuff for later in the series.

    I agree that the courtroom scenes in this episode is definitely structured a comedy. IMO it basically plays like a Ferengi episode -- the bizarre, upside-down rules of the Cardassian system play out similarly to the way that Ferengi society runs, where the society has seized on certain ideals to such a strong extent that lots of common sense gets inverted, and then that leads (hypothetically) to yuks. I mentioned this above, though I think I was too harsh in my rating. What's interesting is that while the Cardassian system is heavily satirized, and we don't have any Cardassians in this episode we are meant to take seriously, I think we are meant to see O'Brien in a dramatic light. I think this owes a lot to Kafka's "The Trial" (and maybe Orson Welles' movie adaptation of it), or "Brazil," the everyman in a crazy, incomprehensible system.

    @Peter G

    Oh definitely, it's absurd to assume (in Western civilization to my knowledge) that you're deemed guilty before the trial even starts, probably why the viewers crack a laugh, and yes like some have said, it does plays along the lines of Kafka's '' The Trial'' where we see first hand the absurdity bureaucracy can take some times.

    This episode wastes a great premise. We have Miles charged with a crime and tried in a Cardassian court. This court places the state above the individual, presumes guilt without evidence, and uses the law as a tool to inculcate obedience and submission within the population.

    Because all this is obviously bad stuff - unfree, corrupt and with no concern for the rights of individuals - Cardassian culture has evolved to justify the aforementioned.

    And so the trials and publicly broadcast, exalted, and used to blind the population to the ways in which the law serves the whims of a corrupt party or military bureaucracy. On Cardassia, Justice is for YOU, the Law is for the GREATER GOOD, show-trials are a means of instilling a sense that the all-knowing state, discipline and the greater good go hand in hand, and this must all be incessantly shouted from the rooftops, because the truth is the precise opposite.

    The portrayals of the Cardassian system recalls George Orwell, with his totalitarian portrayals in "1984", and his Kafkaesque critiques of capitalism in "Keep the Aspidistra Flying". The episode also works as an unintentinal critique of contemporary China, in which "activists" and "dissidents" are routinely "detained" by the state, forced into giving taped confessions, forced to make apologies and swear Party allegiance, and sometimes sent to what are essentially modern re-education camps. The episode also evokes things like Western war-tribunals, designed to legitimize very specific results or ends, or in a sense, even racist courts in the American South, results a foregone conclusion.

    In short, this episode alludes to BIG and IMPORTANT things. And such BIG and IMPORTANT things need to be handled with a greater level of skill and depth than we see in this episode. While there are a few great scenes here and there - Odo visiting Miles in prison, Miles amazing monologue where he says how he has always tried to live a good life (one of Trek's best speeches) - the Cardassian court-scenes aren't long enough, complex enough, threatening enough and frustrating enough.

    The episode's resolution - like most DS9 "court case episodes" - is also too neat and tidy. Too often, DS9 resolves its court cases by a character walking in at the last minute with new information.

    I feel this episode should have started with Miles and his wife captured and tried together. They're shunted into the macabre Cardassian legal system, lost in low level bureaucracy, and forced to deal with low level clerks and lawyers, which all seems trite and not too scary ("Let's get this over with so we can get back to our vacation"), until they see where this is all inexorably leading: a televised show trial in which they'll be sentenced to death.

    Sisko turns up - you don't need any scenes on DS9 - with Odo and tries to weasel Miles and Keiko out of this labyrinth. He makes appeals to truth and justice, cites the ways Earth courts evolved over hundreds of years, how English common law and civil law evolved, maybe mentions how contemporary Federation laws are chill and probably not even punitive, maybe even launches into tirades about free-will and stuff (anything - just put some meat on the bones of the episode). And still the Cardassians resist. This is all utter nonsense to them.

    How to get out of this pickle? I think the episode actually hints at the right philosophical approach. A legal system which presumes the infallibility and the rightness and the innate fairness of the state or Party, doesn't want its schemings and duplicity exposed. Sisko literally walks-on a man who epitomizes everything Cardassian Law pretends not to be.

    Bobbington said: "Whitney Houston: The Greatest Love: I believe the children are our are future, Teach them well and let them lead the way, Show them all the beauty they possess inside, Give them a sense of pride"

    lol, I noticed this too. And there are other allusions to "children" in the episode. The Cardassians are constantly justifying their evil with "but think of the children!" rhetoric. We need to appear strong for the kids!

    The fact that these episodes are still relevant after nearly 30 years; that we're still critiquing and dissecting them decades later, speaks to the universality of the core issues the writers examined.

    @Easter @Wes and @Trent all nailed this. We can quibble about the tone and the plot contrivances. But I tend to wave those criticisms off, by just looking at the standard of most broadcast TV shows in 1994. How many can you think of explicitly discussed moral themes about political hypocrisy and warmongering? And compressed them into 45 minute, crisis-of-the-week, self-contained episodes?
    Even the fumbles of episode to episode plot consistency, makes sense when you think that this was the beginning of serialized Trek/TV, instead of one-offs.

    Most importantly, to viewers like DLPB...
    I couldn't agree more with @TheSisko: "DLPB. Why are you even on here? Clearly, you have not understood the message of humanism that Star Trek delivers. How could one watch this show and yet not hear what it's saying?"

    Star Trek isn't a show to hate-watch for laughs at 'dumb Trekkie liberals,' even if there *are* some hammy moments. The whole point of the show is to speculate on how we might behave in a possible technologically utopic human future, with aliens as allegories for our various flaws and cultural histories. These 'mockable', 'liberal' caricatures, are so accurate to our history, that every viewer comes away with their own analogies for which culture/regime AlienX reminds them of.
    It's not as if the writers were tone deaf to this idealism
    The defining plot of DS9 is to deconstruct and mock the idea that post-war, post-scarcity utopic humanity, is so sanctimoniously perfect they don't even realize when they cant live up to their own ideals, (Re: authoritarianism, warmongering vendettas, and mob psychology). That's the whole Maquis / DMZ fringe colonies arc.

    My only real criticism of this episode is how jokey and rushed the ending was after escaping the near-death of kangaroo court. Symptom of 90s sitcom tv formulas.

    Odo and O'Brien were wonderful in this episode, and the Cardassians were delightful in their portrayal of a sham legal system. It was comical how they were surprised by the human reaction to the pre-determined outcome of the process.

    But, in what seems to be the modus operandi of Season 2, where are the consequences? O'Brien was basically kidnapped and a spy was caught, which must be treat violations if not acts of war. Where are the Federation diplomats banging their fists on the table? Where is the cloaked Klingon ship with a rescue team? Starfleet is portrayed as a bunch of wimps all too often.

    Tue, Jan 12, 2021, 3:12am (UTC -5)
    The fact that these episodes are still relevant after nearly 30 years...

    30 years!? What are you talking abo...oh god. I suddenly feel so old.

    Good episode, albeit with some flaws that others have pointed out.

    But I have to say that Keiko and Miles have zero romantic chemistry. Watching them kiss in the runabout was so awkward it made me cringe.

    Why is this kind of thing always described as "Orwellian" ? Orwell is the least effective communicator of tyrannical regimes. This episode is much more effective at echoing the discoveries of Franco Basaglia who called psychiatrists "special agents of public consensus" much like the way Conservator Kovat describes the proceedings as a way to placate Cardassian societies fears and insecurities. As always in the UK, USA and Australia this kind of thing allows us to smugly criticize foreign regimes and tyrannies from afar through the lens of this kind of episode, while avoiding tyrannies at home in places like the psychiatric system that has as equally as terrifying "guilty before proven innocent" ethos. Great episode.

    Well, let's keep in mind that Basaglia was an Italian psychiatrist and was more against the way psychiatry worked back then but less and less does nowadays. Before it reflected the wishes and anxieties of societies to punish and silence people who behave differently than society believes one should behave. These were often not institutions of healing. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest dealt with that subject.
    Conservator Kovat on the other hand is there to make the whole trial more enjoyable for the public. A psychiatric facility in the 1950s for example was about doing the opposite. It was supposed to make the public forget that certain people exist.

    Everyone's missing the most important thing. The O'Briens get to take one of the station's runabouts to go on vacation?

    I know, I know. It's for both plot and production reasons that O'Brien was found on his own ship where he could smuggle the goods that also happens to be a standing set.

    But it's yet another example of missed opportunities for worldbuilding in Star Trek. There should be an extensive network of travel routes akin to modern train and airline routes or less modern steamer routes. Any Starfleet service person out of uniform should be using them for their personnel journeys.

    "... another example of missed opportunities for worldbuilding in Star Trek. There should be an extensive network of travel routes akin to modern train and airline routes or less modern steamer routes."

    You're so right! They never really did the 'Thomas Cook & Son. agent' character ...could have been a Ferengi person, maybe some guy who ticked Quark off as chiseling-in perhaps? Or Rom could have attempted such an endeavor since he was pretty tech-savvy and got into trouble toward the beginning of the Dominion War. Marooned tourists threatened by the Jem'Hadar could have worked out as well, in a two part deal as the mixed group of non-combatants have to work together to survive after the agent dude meets an unexpected end on some desolate world known for its lovely ruins. Lots of possibilities.

    Haha this is such a great classic episode that really marks the beginning of DS9s "O'Brien must suffer" tradition that seems to encompass the entire series lol

    If Boone was a good Cardassian spy, he would've disappeared long before the DS9 crew had a chance to track him down. In general, writers hands are tied when they have to come up with a way for the good guys to come out on top. Too often, this results in the antagonists being unbelievably absent-minded.

    Now THIS is a great episode!

    Of course, there are maddeningly frustrating absurdities, especially with the Cardassian legal system.

    Brian (not a standout character by any means) and his wife, who is the very personification of blandness, elicit zero sympathy or even mere interest in either's fate.

    Brian's attorney is a joke, not because he's useless as a lawyer but because he CAN. NOT. ACT. I know precisely zero about theater but I can tell from a lightyear away that this guy was picked straight off the boards of the Great White Way. I wish they'd leave folks like him to spout their Othello and King Lear lines because they SUCK at T.V. acting.

    Aside from the antecedent, I very much enjoyed the story. The resolution, hurried and literally last-minute as it was, left me seriously wanting though.


    You can't compare the lack of any diplomatic action by the Federation to the British not going to war with the Indonesians. I don't know anything about that case but the British do try to put political pressure on foreign governments when a citizen is captured. In this episode the Federation did absolutely nothing.

    There are many problems with this episode discussed above (except maybe the short timeline of this heist).
    The basic premise is also questionable. In order to embarrass the federation and have legitimate reason to violate the treaty, Cards have to at least try to appear legitimate in federation eyes. Instead they perform an illegal seize in federation space (which makes anything they find questionable), they make a non perfect copy of the voice of a federation officer , they leave the spy behind to be found, and they perform a trial that cannot convince anyone except their own people.

    There are a couple serious authoritarians in here. Go live in Saudi Arabia,I think they chop your hand off for stealing, your kind of place.

    There are also a few people on here who sound like they would give up civil rights for security. That's fine until you're the one who's under the gun, or your kids. Then I think you'd sing a different tune, unless you are so altruistic that you'd be willing to take the fall so that your fellow citizens can be "safe."

    I always wondered what Garak would say over lunch. Perhaps he would chalk the result up to the planners’ incompetence rather than some kind of moral objection to framing O’Brien.

    A fair premise even if the ending is contrived. We have cases in the decades since, like Jamal Khashoggi, where morality and geopolitics clash. Odo’s jurisdictional objection was enough for me.

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