Given the ongoing conflict between the Cardassians and the Klingons with the Federation off to the side, Deep Space Nine has found a lot of great drama involving Worf being stuck in the middle.
This episode opens with Worf in a holding cell, an interesting change of pace given his former status as the security chief of the Enterprise.
Here’s the situation: Worf, while out commanding the Defiant on a routine escort mission, got into a firefight with a pair of Klingon warships. During the fight, the Defiant opened fire on a Klingon civilian transport, utterly destroying the unarmed vessel. Worf is now wanted for murder by the Klingon Empire, but first, there’s an extradition hearing. A Klingon attorney is arguing Worf needs to be sent to the Klingon Empire for trial, a Vulcan admiral is acting as judge, and Sisko is the defense attorney.
At no point does the episode suggest Worf is not responsible for the destruction of the other vessel. Worf himself is wracked with guilt, and the Klingon attorney is a master warrior with words the way other Klingons are with the batleth. He seems to know just what to ask to make it look like Worf’s accident was no accident, and Worf can only sit there glowering. Along the way, Dax, Quark, and O’Brien all take the stand, and while all three do their best to make Worf look innocent, the Klingon attorney knows just how to get the worst answer for Worf out of each and every one of them. Sisko and Worf also take the stand and the same thing happens. The only difference is Worf is provoked into throwing a punch.
There’s a lot to like about this episode. The testimonials are often shown with the characters standing in the stories they tell while addressing the camera. Heck, Quark’s story keeps changing as he sets it up, adding some humor to an otherwise humorless episode.
But I think the part I liked best was just the Klingon attorney. For what I presume is just a one-off character, he comes across pretty well as a full-developed figure. Yes, the Klingons are obviously up to something, and Sisko has Odo looking into things to see if there’s a hint that anyone on the Klingon side, especially in the transport ship, had it in for either Worf, the Federation, or both. That turns out not to be the case, but there is a trick involved. But what I said above holds true: this guy is a warrior with words. He knows just how to get the answers he wants, and he even offers to Sisko as a plea bargain to be Worf’s attorney at his murder trial. I got the impression that was a sincere offer, mostly because he seemed to enjoy these legal jousting sessions, that he approaches this hearing as a challenge, and no doubt would see defending Worf in Klingon court to be an even bigger challenge.
But yeah, the Klingon passenger manifest is the deal breaker. Odo finds that the list of the dead from Worf’s attack is identical to one where another one where the ship crashed and exploded weeks earlier, prompting Sisko to realize Worf had blown up an empty vessel and not a random civilian ship that materialized in the middle of a firefight at the exact worst moment. The whole thing was really a set-up to frame the only Klingon officer in Starfleet and make matters more advantageous to the Klingons as they seek to acquire more territory from the Cardassians. Worf is free to go.
But he still feels guilty and wrong, and that’s where the other thing I liked about this episode came about: Sisko tells Worf off. Worf made mistakes. He was too eager to go on the mission and wanted to get into a fight, facts revealed during Sisko and Quark’s respective testimonies. Likewise, he ordered the Defiant to fire too quickly. Sisko doesn’t brock fools, and while his anger fades as quickly as it appeared, he still trusts Worf has learned a lesson, saying Worf will have harder decisions when the Klingon eventually reaches the rank of Captain himself. In the meantime, there’s a party for Worf’s acquittal, and even if Worf himself doesn’t feel like celebrating, the party isn’t really for Worf anyway.
So, a nice, nuanced, and political episode of Deep Space Nine that shows how Klingons will fight in any situation, and they all seem to love it, but that’s no excuse for rash behavior.