Star Trek 376: Rules of Engagement

376. Rules of Engagement

FORMULA: Court-Martial + Tribunal + The Battle

WHY WE LIKE IT: The clever direction.

WHY WE DON'T: Matlockisms.

REVIEW: The success of Rules of Engagement is mostly on director Levar Burton, as far as I'm concerned. Oh, the cast is as good as ever, and Odo is, as always, the king of private eyes, but it's the direction that really makes it sing. A courtroom drama, in itself, can be pretty boring to look at. You need to liven with up with big speeches and behind the scenes machinations. Or you can flash back to witness accounts to mix it up a bit. Burton goes farther than that by having the witnesses be "in the moment" and then break the fourth wall and testify in the middle of the action. It's a brilliant device, comically subverted by Quark when he keeps amending his story.

But the story itself is hogwash. The idea of a Klingon lawyer that is only in it for the fight is interesting, but seems at odds with their view of such things (like accounting). The plot against Worf is convoluted enough that it would make a Cardassian or Romulan proud, but from the Klingons? I'm not even sure the desired effect is credible.

And then you have Ch'pok's laughable arguments that never get shut down by the oh so boring judge. Not only would a Vulcan throw out a case based solely on emotion, but she wouldn't let illogical arguments to stand unchallenged. So Worf killed civilians in a historical holosuite program the night before he left. So what? Dax shouldn't even feel guilty for telling the court about a game. I've played Grand Theft Auto countless times without ever feeling the need to commit crimes. Asking O'Brien a hypothetical question (when Ch'pok himself objects to the same later) isn't nearly as damning as everyone's pained looks make it out to be. And the fact is, he WOULDN'T have taken command if Worf had been taken out. Kira was sitting right there! And when Worf attacks Ch'pok, I'm not saying it's a good thing, but the lawyer isn't exactly a "defenseless man", or at least, he's as armed as Worf is.

Odo is as good as ever as Sisko's best agent, and the final solution with the duplicate ship manifest is at least fun. It's also interesting that Ch'pok doesn't seem to be in on the plan. Worf on the command track remains an interesting thread, and the last scene where he gets chewed out by Sisko is a strong one. He learns not only about the immense responsibility Starfleet officers have on their shoulders, but about crew morale and when it's important to go to a party when you don't feel like it.

LESSON: Being of a Worf-Odo disposition, I've taken that last advice more than once.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium: Logic is out the window in this one, but strong performances and clever direction cover up the spotty writing.


De said...

Ron Canada (Ch'pok) used to be the late-night anchor for the ABC affiliate here in Washington, DC when I was a kid. He's a decent actor when he isn't playing villains.

Anonymous said...

Is it me or aren't all the ST court episodes a bit lacking? I think most every incarnation has had at least one (some of the series more than one.)

And they all seemed a bit weak on the legal logic side of things. Rules of evidence, etc. they never really seem to rise to anything that should have ever come to court.

Siskoid said...

It's not just you. The Measure of a Man works best in part because it's a hearing, and not a trial. But the rest, eeech, pretty far from procedural.

LiamKav said...

Does "The Drumhead" count as a court episode? Because that one's pretty awesome.

Siskoid said...

As is Measure of a Man. Both are interesting thanks to the "big speeches" clause.


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