Captain Archer stands accused before a Klingon tribunal of conspiring against the Empire, and his only hope of escaping a death sentence or life in the dilithium mines of Rura Penthe is an aging and disenchanted Klingon lawyer with little energy or enthusiasm for the case.
On Narendra III, Archer stands before a Klingon court magistrate and a crowd of blood-thirsty Klingons. The captain is charged with conspiring against the Klingon Empire, and will stand trial. He is banished to his cell, where Dr. Phlox pays him a visit. The doctor, who is tending to Archer under the ruse that the captain is suffering from a mysterious illness, quietly lets Archer know that T'Pol and the rest of the crew are working on a way to free their captain. As Phlox leaves, Archer meets his Klingon advocate Kolos, who warns him not to speak during the tribunal.
The trial gets underway, and Prosecutor Orak calls his first witness - Duras, the former captain of the battle cruiser Bortas. After a skirmish with Enterprise, Duras was demoted to second weapons officer. Duras explains that Enterprise was harboring Klingon fugitives, and he asked Archer to surrender them to the Bortas. Duras insists that the captain was very aggressive, and ordered an attack on the Bortas. Archer is appalled by Duras' account and wants a chance to explain himself, but Kolos tells him to keep silent. Orak notes that Archer was clearly the aggressor in the matter, and that the captain was obviously conspiring to disgrace Duras and incite a rebellion. In short, says Orak, Archer is an enemy of the Klingon Empire. Archer insists that Duras' account of events isn't correct, but once again, Kolos refuses to respond to the accusations.
Later, Kolos visits Archer in his cell - he's spoken to the magistrate, who is willing to offer Archer a deal. If the captain will give up the location of the fugitives, his life will be spared. Archer, however, doesn't believe the fugitives are guilty of anything, and refuses. Archer insists that he be allowed to defend himself, and expresses outrage the Kolos isn't willing to do more in order to attain justice. Kolos explains that he became an advocate many years ago, when things were different. Times have changed, and he feels that he's too old to change the rules. Archer accuses him of being afraid, shaming the honorable Klingon.
A short time later, Kolos seems to have a change of heart, and presents Archer's case with flair. He even convinces the magistrate to allow Archer to give his own version of the events. Archer describes finding a vessel with a small group of aliens aboard, many of them barely clinging to life. The crew brought the refugees onboard Enterprise, offering them food and medical assistance. The refugees explained that they were "annexed" by the Klingon Empire, only to be stripped of their resources and abandoned when they requested aid. When Duras showed up with the Bortas, Archer was reluctant to turn the refugees in. He tried to reason with Duras and negotiate a diplomatic outcome, but the Klingon captain wouldn't listen and the Bortas fired on Enterprise.
As Archer recounts his story, Kolos feels the trial turning in his favor. He offers further evidence that Archer is not an enemy of the Klingon Empire - after all, the captain has helped the Empire in the past. He exposed a Suliban plot to divide the Empire and later rescued a Klingon Raptor. Kolos' defense is convincing enough that the magistrate agrees to spare Archer's life. However, he sentences the captain to life in the dilithium mines on the penal colony of Rura Penthe. When Kolos objects to the sentence, the magistrate sentences him to a year on the colony.
On Rura Penthe, Archer and Kolos work side by side in the frigid mines. The duo is surprised when Archer's crewmates show up to rescue the captain - T'Pol managed to find a few Klingon officials to bribe. Archer asks Kolos to come with them, but he refuses. Kolos reveals that Archer has made an impression on him - he wants to restore honor to the Klingon people, but he cannot do that as a fugitive. As Archer and his crewmates escape, Kolos returns to work in the mines. Perhaps one day, he can help his people to a better future.
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 rip-off?
Watching the episode, I definitely felt more like an optimist. Much of this episode played for me like a dejà 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...
Now that's more like it. "Judgment" doesn't try to be any more complicated than it is, but it wins a lot of points for being a solid story well told. The main characters were fairly compelling, the story was (on the whole) well thought out, and unlike most of its recent fellow episode, "Judgment" stands up to repeated viewings with very little loss of entertainment value.
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Klingon episodes and lawyer episodes have both traditionally done well for Trek, so how can a Klingon lawyer episode fail? Especially a Klingon lawyer episode with J.G. Hertzler, Deep Space Nine's Martok, one of the finest Klingons ever to grace the franchise? Why, it would take a plot hole the size of an asteroid to sink such a vehicle.
Or, say, an episode with a thrilling trial and clever dialogue and lots of nods to the original series, that somehow can't be bothered to explain the...