2.25: “Tribunal”

Geez. I mean, I know that episodes where O’Brien endures some new hellish ordeal are a tradition, but y’all could’ve at least spaced ’em out over once a season, you know? “Whispers” was just a few weeks ago, and hell, I’d count “Armageddon Game” among them, too, seeing as not only is he in hiding and suffering from the effects of a bioweapon, but he’s dealing with all that alongside Julian Bashir.

The entire episode was apparently inspired by Dukat’s line in “The Maquis Part 2” about the Cardassian justice system, that “the verdict is always known before the trial begins, and it’s always the same”. Presumably, after deciding to do something with that, they then decided that, “Whispers” having been nearly half a season ago, they were due for another “put O’Brien through Some Shit” episode, so why not kill two birds with one stone? Thus, Franz Kafka Presents Star Trek was born.

That said…

Cardassian intrigue? Yes please!

Look, y’all know how I feel about Cardassian drama. (I am a fan.)

For a second time, we see the Central Command exploiting the situation with the Maquis for their own political gain, though alas, that thread of the Maquis storyline kind of peters out along with the Maquis storyline itself. Still, I appreciate that DS9 does make the attempt at doing more in the way of political intrigue — it ties in with the stronger sense of continuity from the show in general than in previous series, and the sense that things don’t happen in isolation.

This is the first time on DS9 that we actually see Cardassia Prime — really, the first time we’ve seen much of it in Star Trek, period; The Next Generation went there with the “Chain of Command” two-parter, but the Cardassia scenes in that episode take place entirely in a single room. (One whose design was definitely consistent with both Deep Space Nine’s interiors and those of this episode, as well, which I appreciate.)

It’s also in this episode that it’s established that Cardassians have the medical technology to, essentially, transform one person into another. TNG, again, occasionally had people undercover as other races, but with “Boone”, it’s established that the Cardassians can, in fact, replace an existing person, rather than simply making someone up. (Discovery establishes, with Voq/Ash Tyler, that Klingons were capable of this a century before, including the ability to alter memories; in “Second Skin”, the Cardassians claim to be able to implant another’s memories as well, though we never actually meet a character who’s had it done.)

It’s interesting that more isn’t made of this — the Cardassians can, theoretically, replace anyone. The agent they had for Boone appears to have not been great at blending in, seeing as everyone noticed him acting completely differently after he “returned”, at least, but it’s still a chilling thought. It’s an angle that the show plays with more later, once the changelings’ role in the Dominion is discovered, the notion that anyone could actually be a Dominion agent, but apart from this episode, there’s never really much dwelling on the possibility that anyone out there could potentially be a Cardassian agent, as well.

I actually like Odo in this one!

I’m gonna feel kinda weird complaining about Odo for awhile, even though my problem is pretty much entirely with the writers/showrunners, and it’s frankly down to Rene Auberjonois’s performance that I don’t dislike Odo a lot more.

(Between Auberjonois and Carol Spinney, this past Sunday was rough on my childhood memories, oof. May their memories be a blessing.)

Anyway. I really like that Odo’s past as a collaborator is actually used for good in this episode. I also found his interjection during Keiko and Sisko’s scene kind of darkly hilarious — coming as it does while Sisko is trying to reassure her — and also poignant; Keiko has heard enough about Cardassians that she can’t be reassured, and Odo’s honest acknowledgment that there’s a good chance Miles is, indeed, being tortured, probably at least helps her to feel more like the situation is being taken seriously.

I also enjoyed Odo’s one-on-one with O’Brien in his cell. Hell, from Odo, that’s a relative pep talk. And O’Brien’s startled face when Odo mentions “innocent men, just like you” was a lovely touch. We haven’t really seen much one-on-one interaction between Odo and O’Brien before this, now that I think about it, but O’Brien clearly knows him well enough to be surprised, and perhaps even a little touched, that Odo would take him at his word when he says he’s innocent.

“You don’t know how many times Miles spoke to me about this.”

The scene with Keiko talking to Sisko and Odo back on the station was brutal — I actually thought that this episode’s use of Rosalind Chao is really great overall. Of course one of the interesting things about bringing O’Brien over to DS9 from TNG was that we get much more development for him, but I haven’t talked as much about how we get more development for Keiko, as well. She’s never really fleshed out the way that main characters are, or even the top tier of secondary characters, but she does get more time than on TNG, and a bit more to do.

The way the O’Briens’ marriage is written can frequently be a bit…odd, let’s say, with some of their conversations seeming really clunky or unnatural, but in general, I do feel like it’s better on DS9 than on TNG, which goes hand-in-hand with both of them getting more depth as characters. To be fair, a lot of that may also be the performances — Chao and Meaney are really solid together, and can bring an element of realism to the weaker writing for them.

Horniness rankings

  1. Keiko and Miles’s horniness for each other is something I generally just find really enjoyable? Like I said, their marriage isn’t always written particularly well, but those moments are totally believable and sweet.
  2. I feel like Dukat deserves an honorable mention, since he isn’t even in this episode and yet his horniness for Sisko is such that he talks about his Starfleet boyfriend to people in entirely different branches of the Cardassian government.
  3. Possibly I need an honorable mention too, since one of my first notes for this episode is that O’Brien’s blue shirt is rather flattering and does very nice things for his eyes.

2 thoughts on “2.25: “Tribunal”

  1. I didn’t think this was a particularly memorable episode, but it was good for what it was. As I’ve mentioned before I love courtroom drama, and it was fun to see a courtroom drama inverted – where there was zero suspense about the verdict. I admire that the episode really put its back into the cultural rationale for the Cardassian justice system/theater, which tracked really well with previously-established themes about Cardassian culture (mostly as relayed to Bashir by Garak or through the literature he shared with him). Playing the key role in this, Kovat (who I never realized was played by an actor who also appeared in one of my favorite movies, 1964’s “Fail-Safe”) is just splendid, like an aging Shakespearean actor striding the stage doing his well-worn, crowd-favorite interpretation of Lear, and not being able to make it work because his supporting cast is letting him down. “Well… I tried.”

    Avery Brooks directed this! It must have been an interesting one for him to do, given how it establishes some of the shots and angles for Cardassia Prime that were used throughout the series from this point forward. The “processing” scene was also pretty innovative for Trek, reflecting a good eye for the camera. It’s no wonder he went on to direct a bunch of other episodes.

    Beyond that, I found the central drama to be pretty weak and beset by a bunch of things that irritated me. Why was Bashir participating in all the investigation scenes? The chief medical officer really does not need to be there for the scene where they’re inspecting a weapons locker to determine if photon warheads were stolen, other than to orate about how O’Brien couldn’t possibly be guilty. (As an aside, Sisko isn’t so sure, is he? “Well, we need to know that too.” That was an interesting moment that probably reflects his shock and humility to discover that his friend Cal Hudson had been a member of the Maquis.) Later, the Maquis agent picks Bashir to sneak up on and deliver his message in the dark. For any reason, particularly? Unclear. Maybe they were confident that alone among the senior staff, Bashir would be too inept to catch or follow the guy.

    The Boone storyline just hit me as silly. O’Brien is a public figure on a public station; there are probably dozens of more sensible ways to get a recording of his voice. How exactly did Sisko and team manage to get Boone to the Cardassian homeworld so they could walk into the courtroom at exactly the right moment? Props to the Cardassians for reading the Archon into their elaborate plan, so she’d know that if this particular dude suddenly shows up, you should pull the plug on the whole thing. (She’s friends with Dukat, so perhaps she’s particularly highly-placed, but the series recently went to pains to portray that Dukat himself was not read into most of what they were doing with the Maquis/DMZ situation, so it strains credibility a lot to imagine that the whole thing could be wrapped up that neatly in a single moment.)

    To end on a brighter note, I appreciated how the writers continually make good use of O’Brien’s established character history from TNG, building on what was disclosed there in a logical way. Forcing him to confront and acknowledge racist remarks he’s made about Cardassians played well off of the way Keiko reflected what he’d told her about the way Cardassians treated prisoners and the other experiences he’d had during the war.

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    1. Later, the Maquis agent picks Bashir to sneak up on and deliver his message in the dark. For any reason, particularly? Unclear. Maybe they were confident that alone among the senior staff, Bashir would be too inept to catch or follow the guy.

      I have been really bad about replying to your last few comments and am trying to rectify that, in part because you need to know that at various points over the last couple of weeks I have thought about this and just started laughing, and I am 100% accepting it as the explanation.

      And yeah, a lot of the Boone stuff was…the idea is really cool, and I think they use the character, and the whole concept, pretty well for it not being the main focus of the episode. Partly it may just be an issue of time limitations — if they’d had his and O’Brien’s run-in an episode or two ago, maybe, or shown a bit more of how information is shared among different branches of the Cardassian government, or just generally spread the entire story out over a two or three episodes, it might have felt a bit less like there were just a lot of lucky (or unlucky) coincidences happening.

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