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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?


  • 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, being a non-commissioned officer, couldn't have been unless things had really gone to hell) and that it's easy to throw stones after the fact.
  • Artistic License – Military: As competent and experienced as O'Brien may be, he is a non-com. Would he really be able to take command of a warship without an officer's commission? And for that matter, if he's an engineer, why isn't he in the engine room?
    • 1) Temporarily. While even an ensign would outrank him, as of this episode O'Brien's expertise in starship combat is official on the record. Any reasonable ensign familiar with his record would ask him to take command in such a situation. 2) For the same reason Geordi was often on the bridge during certain situations, to coordinate the ship's needs during combat with Main Engineering.
  • 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.
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  • Broken Aesop: Sisko's lecture to Worf about how Starfleet never puts civilian lives at risk even for self-defense falls apart since the Defiant was protecting a civilian convoy; had they been destroyed, the convoy would've been next, and the people they were trying to help would've also died.
  • 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.
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  • Continuity Nod: In "Return to Grace", Bashir mentioned that the Cardassians were suffering from numerous epidemics. One such plague is what led to the humanitarian convoy that Worf and the Defiant were escorting.
  • 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 In-Universe Fridge Logic 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. Sisko and Odo even discuss how nobody seems keen on answering those questions.
  • Derailed for Details: Quark's testimony. He keeps interrupting himself by trying to remember which dabo girl Julian was hitting on, and when he finally remembers that it was actually Morn doing the talking, Ch'Pok tells him to just skip ahead to what Worf told him.
  • 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.
  • Dream Intro: Involving Worf and a bunch of other Klingons on the Defiant.
  • Fantasy Conflict Counterpart: The episode was inspired by the Iran Air Flight 655 incident where, during the Iran–Iraq War, the USS Vicennes shot down an Iranian airliner that was misidentified as an Iranian Air Force F-14 on an attack run.
  • 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.
  • Hit-and-Run Tactics: The Klingon attack on the convoy. One ship de-cloaks, attacks, and re-cloaks while another ship de-cloaks and does the same thing.
  • 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.
  • Klingon Scientists Get No Respect: A rather fascinating aversion from the trope namer. Advocate Ch'Pok is a Klingon lawyer... but as he makes clear to Sisko during a confrontation early on, the fact that he works in a theoretically non-violent profession doesn't mean he feels shame about it. It means that he performs his duties with the enthusiasm and the mindset of a warrior in combat, therefore every speech becomes a bat'leth fight and every lawsuit a glorious battle.
  • 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'
  • 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 (much less de-cloak right in the middle of said battle), which should have clued people in that there was more going on.
  • Stepford Smiler:
    Sisko: Part of being a captain is knowing when to smile. Make the troops happy, even when it's the last thing in the world you want to do, because they're your troops, and you have to take care of them.
  • 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. (Of course, nobody apparently told that to Jim Kirk...)


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