Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Season 4 Episode 18

Rules of Engagement

Aired Weekdays 11:00 AM Apr 08, 1996 on Syndicado

Episode Fan Reviews (2)

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out of 10
140 votes
  • The gripping drama of Worf sitting in a chair for an hour.

    Star Trek returns to the drama of a courtroom setting with a story that's similar the original series episode "Court Martial" but with Worf as the central figure. An ensemble piece, the episode uses most of the DS9 regulars as witnesses to flesh out the backstory. (Ironically, this gives Worf the least to do, with Michael Dorn spending much of the episode in a chair listening to the others). Directed by Dorn's buddy LeVar Burton, the notable aspect of the episode is its diegetic twist: as introduced in Spike Lee's 1995 film "Clockers", when a witness describes an event, we see a flashback that includes the character offering narration (as if on the witness stand) directly into the camera as he or she progresses through the scene from the past. The technique is initially jarring but serves the episode well, being used for both drama and comedy, giving an average story some memorable moments.

    Dominating the episode is guest star Ron Canada, a former news anchor who sinks his teeth into "Ch'Pok", the advocate for the Klingon Empire who serves as the episode's antagonist. More three dimensional than most other Klingons, Ch'Pok isn't so much an adversary for Worf as he is for Sisko. And while we all know who's going to win this contest, Canada's smugness makes the foregone conclusion quite satisfying.

    Unfortunately, the story behind the trial itself doesn't make much sense. We're supposed to believe that the Klingon Empire is upset with Worf for firing on an "innocent" ship in the middle of a battle and that the Federation would extradite an officer to an enemy for doing so. Knowing the Federation and the Klingons, wouldn't it make more sense if the two were to reverse roles?

  • Worf is tried for war crimes after the Defiant accidentally blows up a civilian ship on his orders.

    Trial episodes have been done a bunch of times on Star Trek and this one is not especially compelling. While commanding the Defiant during an engagement with the Klingons, Worf orders the ship to open fire on a cloaked ship which turns out to be a civilian vessel carrying hundreds of civilians. The Klingons demand that he be extradited, and the bulk of the episode deals with the Starfleet tribunal that considers their appeal.

    As in many trial episodes, our initial sympathies with the defendant are compromised as the episode progresses. The Klingon prosecutor argues that Worf's Klingon nature, as well as his grievances against the people who exiled him, made him suspend his better judgment when firing on the cloaked vessel. Worf is rescued not by the refutation of this argument, but rather by the twist that the destroyed ship was not actually carrying civilians.

    The story itself was unremarkable. However, the way in which it tackles testimony deserves bonus points -- when questioned "on the stand", the characters (Sisko, O'Brien, Worf, Quark, etc) answer the questions in the context of flashbacks* rather than simply describing the past. Also, the Klingon prosecutor did a very good job.

    *What I mean is that O'Brien continues talking to the audience/judge while we see him commanding the Defiant during the incident.
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