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[ENT] Jammer's Review: "Judgment"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Warning: This review contains significant spoilers. If you haven t seen the episode yet, beware. In brief: I liked this story the first time I saw it ... when
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 16, 2003
      Warning: This review contains significant spoilers. If you haven't seen the
      episode yet, beware.

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

      Plot description: Archer faces a Klingon tribunal for an incident the
      Klingons characterize as a crime against their empire.

      Enterprise: "Judgment"

      Airdate: 4/9/2003 (USA)
      Teleplay by David A. Goodman
      Story by Taylor Elmore & David A. Goodman
      Directed by James L. Conway

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
      Rating out of 4: ***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Copyright 2003 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
      Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.

      Star Trek: Hypertext - http://www.st-hypertext.com/
      Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...
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