Episode 4.18: Rules of Engagement

The battle being played out in the courtroom is not a battle over truth or determining guilt. It is a battle over narrative. At the outset, Advocate Ch’Pok declares that there are no facts in dispute in the case. What the Advocate wants to do is show that Worf’s Klingon nature has no place in the Federation. His purpose is to drive a deeper wedge between the Federation and the Klingon Empire, and ideally leverage that to the Klingons advantage by stopping Federation aid to the Cardassians. The resolution of the episode rests ultimately on Odo finding truth, and not which lawyer tells the better narrative; this is a much more satisfying ending to me than one where Worf is shown to be more Federation than Klingon. What I like about this episode is that it’s a good bit of storytelling. The Advocate weaves his elements well and is able to get into the minds of his opponents.

This episode centers around the telling of the narrative. It pits Ch’Pok against Worf’s collection of witnesses (as even the witnesses Ch’Pok calls are on Worf’s side). I think a tension that the episode attempts to convey is that Worf is absolutely a bloodthirsty Klingon, so if his character is truly what is on trial, then Worf is doomed. All of Worf’s friends are maneuvered into telling the truth: Worf is a Klingon, and he loves being a Klingon. What’s admirable about the Advocate’s strategy is that he uses the witnesses to show that Worf is a Klingon, but calls Worf a coward and a traitor Klingon culture to Worf’s face. Both tactics support his strategy of portraying Worf as someone who cannot be judged by Federation standards. He even plays Sisko, by tricking Sisko into thinking he is afraid of Worf on the stand.  Ch’Pok expertly used that to his advantage. If not for Odo, I believe he would have succeeded in making his case.

The conversation at very end is quite important to understanding Worf, and Worf’s words are something many of us can learn from. Throughout the episode, he’s clearly shown as a passionate warrior who seeks to claim victory through any honorable means available to him. On the battlefield, he lived in the moment. Yet at the end, he’s deeply introspective. He realizes he did have something to prove, and that his actions as an officer in red will reverberate into his crew. Leadership isn’t simple, and it demands sacrifice. In general in Star Trek, it seems like the Klingons that are portrayed positively are those who are warrior poets. Ferocity and spirituality, combined. I think there is something deeply admirable about anyone who can meld such divergent personality traits. They seem to have a holistic view of life that I strive for.

Random Thoughts: 1) Ron Canada, the actor for Ch’Pok, specializes in portraying lawyers and judges. I wonder if he thought anything differently about portraying a Klingon lawyer. 2) I didn’t like the Vulcan judge. She was too passive against Ch’Pok. 3) At one point, Ch’Pok criticizes the Federation legal system as favoring procedure. In the following scene, he uses that to his advantage by illegally searching Worf’s personal files, only to get around it by shaming Worf into permitting him access. 4) Sisko does a terrible job as a lawyer. He never cross-examined the witnesses. The Advocate certainly does this. 5) I’m amused at Quark getting lost in the details of the bar. 6) This is an instance (of many) where it’s the joke that Morn will be about to speak, only to be cut off somehow. This is a recurring joke in the series. 7) As another criticism of O’Brien, he is a non-comm. He hasn’t been trained in leadership like an officer would have. 8) The element where the characters speak directly at the camera during the flashbacks was a good one.  It helps the episode be a bit unique.

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~ by Joshua Black on November 17, 2017.

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