Recap / Star Trek Deep Space Nine S 04 E 18 Rules Of Engagement

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Worf goes on trial. We should all be so lucky to have Ben Sisko as a lawyer.
Commander Worf is on trial. The cause of which is to establish motive in a horrible tragedy. In the heat of battle, did he purposely fire on a transport ship full of innocent civilians? Or was it simply a case of reflexive action in a heated situation?

Tropes

  • Armor-Piercing Question: Ch'Pok has O'Brien on the stand, and tells him to imagine that he was in command instead of Worf during the same situation. Would he also give the order to open fire? O'Brien says he wouldn't, but also points out that he wasn't in command and that it's easy to throw stones after the fact.
  • Batman Gambit: The Klingon plan required Worf to notice a consistent pattern in their attack, predict the most likely position of the Bird-of-Prey when it decloaks at exactly the right moment, and open fire before completely identifying his target.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Ch'Pok verbally hammers on Worf's honor and pride until Worf rises from the witness chair and knocks him to the deck, to prove that Worf is capable of attacking anyone if sufficiently provoked.
  • The Chains of Commanding: Sisko gives a lesson recap on them to Worf at the end of the episode.
    Worf: Life is a great deal more complicated in this red uniform.
    Sisko: Wait 'till you get four pips on that collar. You'll wish you had gone into botany.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Quark is more concerned trying to figure out who was sitting at the bar than remembering what Worf was doing there.
  • Courtroom Episode
  • Debate and Switch: The situation regarding firing on a civilian ship ultimately goes unresolved (though Sisko, at least, believes Worf was wrong to be so quick on the trigger), as the situation is proven to have been deliberately set up to disgrace Worf.
    • Not to mention the question of why an unarmed freighter would decloak right in the middle of a battle—again, becoming irrelevant once the Frame-Up is revealed. Same can be said of the question of why an unarmed passenger freighter even has a cloaking device in the first place...
  • Don't Answer That: When Ch'Pok asks for Worf's permission to use information gathered from an unsanctioned search of Worf's personal database.
    Sisko: (whispering, to Worf) Don't play his game.
    Worf: I have nothing to hide.
  • Frame-Up: The entire situation was a ploy by the Empire to disgrace Worf. The transport ship was totally empty, and its passengers had already died in a horrific crash in the not-too-distant past.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: With Sisko and two Klingons in the room, this is pretty much inevitable. No wonder they need a Vulcan admiral to keep everyone under control.
  • Hollywood Law: By the episode's own admission, there are no current diplomatic relations between the Federation and the Klingon Empire, which ought to mean that the Klingons have no standing to demand the extradition of an active-duty Starfleet officer for actions carried out in the performance of his duties (particularly duties in combat against the Klingons). However for some bizarre reason the Vulcan (!) judge finds it logical (!!) to not only allow the extradition hearing to proceed, but allow it to proceed under Klingon legal norms (!!!).
  • Invisibility Flicker: Worf's battle plan is to shoot at whatever starts to decloak—just as the Klingon Empire wants.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The witness flashbacks speak directly at the camera, almost appearing to talk to the viewer.
  • Murder Simulators: While Dax is on the witness stand, Ch'Pok questions her about a holodeck program Worf ran shortly before the escort mission, which casts him in the role of one of Klingon culture's greatest heroes, who ordered an entire city put to death after he conquered it. He uses this as evidence against Worf by forcing Dax to acknowledge that Worf does give the order to slaughter the inhabitants, and she is overruled when she tries to point out that this is required in order to finish the program. The argument is presented in much the same way that Moral Guardians use to attack violent video games today.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Everyone's reaction when the transport blows up.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Ch'Pok may be a lawyer, but he proves he's still a Klingon by treating the trial as a fight.
  • Punch Clock Villain: Ch'Pok isn't evil; he's just doing his job, and even offers to defend Worf himself if the ruling is for extradition. (How much he knew about Worf being set up is never totally clear.)
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: When Sisko confronts Ch'Pok with the evidence that Odo found, proving that the Klingon Empire set Worf up to look like a murderer.
    Sisko: Tell me, Advocate...isn't...it...possible?
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: The episode completely falls apart when you factor in that Space Is Big. There is no sane reason for a civilian ship not part of the convoy to come within an astronomical unit of the battle in the first place, which should have clued people in that there was more going on.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Subverted. Decloaking in front of an active warship in mid-battle may seem stupid, but considering the Klingons were actively trying to get Worf to blow up the transport, not so much.
  • The Voiceless: Morn. Even in flashbacks, he's not allowed to speak on-screen.
    Quark: And he was the one who turned to [Rolidia] and said—
    Ch'Pok: Can we get back to the matter at hand, please?
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Sisko chews Worf out for shooting at something before making sure it's a legitimate target. He then treats it as a potential Career Building Blunder by assuring Worf that he'll still make a great captain someday.
  • Would Not Shoot a Civilian: Sisko makes it clear that a Starfleet officer never fires at a target unless they are absolutely sure it is a hostile, even if it means hesitating will cost them their life. (Although somehow nobody had a problem with it when James T. Kirk was faced with practically the exact same tactical situation in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and didn't even wait for the bird-of-prey to decloak before firing.)

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