(written from a Production point of view)
The Klingons try to extradite Worf after he accidentally destroys a transport full of Klingon civilians.
Worf is in the USS Defiant. He wanders the ship's corridors, which are filled with dead Starfleet officers, and sees a squad of Klingon warriors raising their bat'leths in triumph. Worf then finds himself in front of the door leading to the bridge and he forces it open. Worf looks around and notices that the bridge is littered with many dead Klingon children. Worf wakes up with a scream to find that his vision was only a dream, and he is in the brig awaiting a hearing. Odo tells him to get some sleep as his trial starts in just four hours and that he has a big day ahead of him.
Aboard Deep Space 9, Admiral T'Lara calls the hearing to order. Ch'Pok, the prosecutor and representative of the Klingon Empire, charges Worf with destroying a civilian transport ship and killing all 441 Klingons aboard. He requests that Worf be extradited to the Empire. Captain Sisko, Worf's defense advocate, explains that the Defiant was under attack by Klingon warships, when the transport suddenly decloaked in the midst of the battle, and that its destruction was an unavoidable and tragic accident.
Sisko meets with Odo on the Promenade in an attempt to find more exonerating evidence. Sisko's hunch is that the transport captain decloaked to attack the Defiant, so Odo's task is to find out everything he can about the crew of the transport. Odo leaves, and Ch'Pok approaches Sisko. Ch'Pok tells him that, if Worf is convicted of this massacre, the Klingon Empire will have a pretext to escalate its offensives against the Federation.
The hearing reconvenes. Ch'Pok accepts Worf's account of the situation, noting that, to Klingons, what matters most is Worf's motivation, and whether duty or bloodlust informed his decision. T'Lara allows the hearing to move towards understanding Worf's motives, and Ch'Pok calls his first witness, Lieutenant Commander Jadzia Dax, to the stand. Dax serves as a cultural expert on the Klingons, largely due to the experiences of Dax's previous host Curzon Dax, and Ch'Pok tries to get her to define Klingons as a predatory, violent people. She defends Worf, noting that he is excellent at restraining his passions for battle in the name of duty. Ch'Pok then enters into evidence a holosuite program, "The Battle of Tong Vey." Sisko objects as the file was taken from Worf's database without a search order or permission, and T'Lara is willing to render it inadmissible as evidence due to the violation of privacy. Ch'Pok plays to Worf's sense of honor and requests permission to enter it as evidence. Sisko urges Worf not to, but Worf feels he has nothing to hide and allows it. Dax summarizes the battle, in which Sompek conquered the city of Tong Vey with ten thousand warriors, then ordered the city burned and its people – men, women, and children – killed. Ch'Pok notes that Worf plays the role of Sompek in the holographic reenactment of it, and that he ended it by giving the historical order to begin the massacre. He then asks Dax when was the last time Worf ran the program, and she is forced to admit that it was the day before Worf left on the convoy mission.
Ch'Pok examines Sisko, asking him why he chose Worf for the mission. The Cardassian colony on Pentath III was experiencing an outbreak of Rudellian plague and had requested Starfleet assistance, since the system bordered Klingon territory and the Cardassians didn't have enough warships to protect the convoys from raids. Starfleet agreed due to the humanitarian aspect of the request, with the Defiant being one of the ships assigned to the fleet. Sisko explains that he wanted Worf to have more command experience, and, as a Klingon, he would be well-suited for an escort mission that might involve an altercation with Klingons. He clarifies that it was clear to Worf that he was being sent on a humanitarian mission and not sent looking for combat. T'Lara gives Sisko the chance to add anything else to the record since he's also acting as defense counsel, but Sisko declines.
Next, Quark testifies about how Worf came into his bar in a good mood (which he notes was unusual for Worf) and the two talked. The convoy mission came up, and Quark mentioned that the Klingons would likely attack and Worf said "I hope they do". Worf is embarrassed, as the one statement brings all of his motives into question.
Odo reports to Sisko that the transport captain was not at all the kind of person who would attack the Defiant and that the civilian ship's course was very close to the border, so it would have only taken a small navigational error to cause it to be caught up in the battle. What still isn't understood is why the transport decloaked in front of the Defiant. Sisko tells Odo to look into the background of each passenger on the transport ship on the extreme off-chance that someone aboard may have taken control and intended to attack the Defiant.
Back at the hearing, Sisko calls Chief O'Brien. O'Brien explains the battle, in which a Klingon Bird-of-Prey and an older battle cruiser would alternate attacking the Defiant and the convoy. The Klingon ships would fire, then cloak, then decloak and fire again. The Defiant was pursuing the Bird-of-Prey when it cloaked. They projected its course and followed it when O'Brien picked up a tachyon surge, signaling that a ship was decloaking. Without hesitation, Worf ordered quantum torpedoes to be fired at it, only for the crew to realize to their horror that the target was simply a civilian transport. O'Brien reaffirms that he stands by Worf's decision and that, knowing Worf for the past nine years, he is an honorable man.
Ch'Pok cross-examines O'Brien. He points out that O'Brien has been in 235 separate combat encounters and has been decorated by Starfleet fifteen times, and asks that he be declared an expert on starship combat. Ch'Pok asks O'Brien if he had been in command instead of Worf, in the middle of a battle with an unknown ship decloaking, would he have given the order to fire. O'Brien objects that the question is unfair as he wasn't in command at the time, but Ch'Pok persists and asks if he would fire at an unknown target. O'Brien admits that he would not have fired, but stresses that it reflects his opinion made now, weeks after the incident, not in the heat of the moment.
In the Replimat, Sisko is drinking coffee when Ch'Pok takes a seat next to him. They reveal that Worf is scheduled to testify next. Ch'Pok offers to defend Worf himself if Sisko concedes now and allows him to be extradited. Sisko counters that Ch'Pok is still only after grounds to invade the Pentath system. Sisko replies that Ch'Pok has revealed one thing--he is worried. Ch'Pok responds to Sisko that it is he who should be worried.
Odo informs Sisko that none of the passengers had any connection to Worf or Starfleet or any perceivable motive whatsoever, but that he will keep looking. In the hearing, Worf is testifying, explaining the mission and the battle. The attack happened suddenly and without warning, and admits he was excited by the opportunity to do battle, but notes that it is typical of many Klingons and he doesn't allow his desire to fight to stand in the way of his duties and responsibilities. He also notes that he respects O'Brien and his opinion that he wouldn't have fired, but points out that he was not in a position to make such a command decision and he is looking back at a decision after the fact. Worf tells Sisko that although he knew the convoy was passing through shipping lanes, he felt the chances of running into a civilian ship were negligible and had decided not to hesitate to fire if a ship started de-cloaking. Sisko then asks if Worf would make the same decision if given the chance, and Worf responds that he would as he had a duty to protect the ship, the crew and the convoy.
Ch'Pok cross-examines Worf. He begins by trying to establish that Worf is angry at the Empire due to being exiled by Gowron. Worf says he is hated by his people since turning against them when they invaded Cardassian space, but Ch'Pok asserts that they hate him on a more basic level, because he is more Human than Klingon. Ch'Pok establishes that Klingons are now his enemies, but Worf says he is not happy with killing civilians because there is no honor in it. Ch'Pok counters that a true Klingon relishes killing all of his enemies, armed or not, and would be happy for the dead children now in Sto-vo-kor, not grieved. Ch'Pok says Worf lives with Humans out of fear of Klingons, to which Worf replies with a martial challenge. T'Lara threatens to hold both parties in contempt of court. Ch'Pok continues, arguing that Worf was eager for the Klingons to attack because he wanted to prove himself to other Klingons, and that one day, his son Alexander will grow up to find out his father is a coward who killed innocent people to prove his own courage. At this, Worf gets up and attacks Ch'Pok with a series of blows. Sisko gets up to restrain him, as Ch'Pok closes his examination with the proof that Worf will attack an unarmed man if he is angry or has something to prove.
The hearing is placed in recess as T'Lara considers her decision, and Sisko stands in his office looking out at the stars from the viewport, not very hopeful about Worf's chances. As he considers this, Odo brings in a PADD.
The hearing reconvenes and Sisko enters this new evidence, and asks Ch'Pok to testify as an expert on the Klingon Empire. Sisko asks Ch'Pok what the current relationship is between the Federation and the Klingon Empire, and Ch'Pok replies there isn't one and the two powers can neither be called friends nor enemies at this point. Sisko replies that, given the lack of any formal relationship, it is hard for either power to trust the other and leaves open the possibility for deception from either side. Sisko then hands Ch'Pok the PADD and asks him to identify the list of names. He answers that they are the victims of Worf's alleged attack. Sisko then explains that this is actually a list of the victims of an accidental transport ship crash that occurred three months in the mountains of Galorda Prime before the convoy incident. Sisko asks Ch'Pok whether it would be possible that the transport was empty and was giving off false sensor images to make it appear that Worf had committed a massacre, as the fallout of an officer accidentally killing hundreds of civilians would force Starfleet to stop protecting Cardassian convoys, and Ch'Pok admits that it is. The hearing is over.
Worf is in his quarters on the Defiant, lost in thought, when Sisko enters. Worf admits that he should not have accepted the mission, understanding now that he did have something to prove when he took command and, just like when Ch'Pok was goading him during the trial, he was hoping for an excuse to fight and is prone to want vengeance. Worf also understands that he should not have fired on a decloaking ship regardless of the circumstances. Sisko agrees, and sternly reminds Worf that he knew there were civilian ships in the area, but still fired on a target he hadn't identified. Sisko lectures him on taking a command with such a predicament, and reaffirms that a Starfleet officer should never even take a chance of endangering civilians, even if it means the lives of the Starfleet officers or the vessel will be lost. Nonetheless, Sisko says, this time there are no dead civilians on his conscience, and Worf will make a great captain one day. Sisko invites Worf to a party at Quark's; Worf is reluctant, but Sisko reminds him that a command officer must sometimes smile even when it's the last thing they want to do, in order to keep the troops happy. Worf muses that his life has become a lot more complicated since he started wearing the red uniform, but Sisko tells him it's nothing compared to when he gets four pips on his collar. "You'll wish you had gone into botany," Sisko responds. The two then leave the Defiant for Quark's.
"It's an interesting system of justice you have, Captain. It does have its flaws, however. It emphasizes procedure over substance… form over fact."
"I'm sorry if you feel it puts you at a disadvantage."
"On the contrary, I look forward to fighting on your terms."
"This is not a fight. It's the search for the truth."
"The truth must be won. I'll see you on the battlefield."
- - Ch'Pok and Sisko
"I say this: You live with Humans because you're afraid to live with Klingons."
"I fear nothing. And if you would like to pick up a bat'leth and face me with a weapon instead of words, I will prove it to you."
- - Ch'Pok and Worf
- - Ch'Pok, discussing Worf while Sisko objects
"I’m always suspicious of people who are eager to help a police officer."
- - Odo
"441 people somehow survived a crash on Galorda Prime. And then a few weeks later, they all decide to take another trip. On the same day. On the same transport ship. Under the same captain and crew. And then that ship is destroyed too. This is a very unlucky group of people, wouldn't you say?"
"I am not an expert on luck."
- - Sisko and Ch'Pok
"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."
- - Benjamin Sisko
"Life is a great deal more complicated in this red uniform."
"Wait 'til you get four pips on that collar. You'll wish you had gone into botany."
- - Worf and Sisko
Story and script
- The origins of this episode are to be found (indirectly) in Ira Steven Behr's love for the films of Sam Peckinpah. In 1994, Behr read a new Peckinpah biography written by David Weddle. He was so impressed with the book that he invited Weddle down to the Paramount lot to have a look around. While touring the DS9 sets, Weddle suggested to Behr that he pitch a show, and Behr was thrilled with the idea. Weddle then contacted his film school writing partner Bradley Thompson and asked him if he'd like to join him in putting a show together. At the time, Thompson was studying computer failures and what happens when major computer systems don't work the way they are supposed to. A particularly good example of this was the Iran Air Flight 655/Vincennes incident of 1988 in which the US Navy vessel USS Vincennes shot down an Iranian passenger aircraft, killing all 290 passengers and crew. The US government claimed that the computerized missile system mistook the aircraft for a fighter jet because it wasn't where it was supposed to be and because the pilot wasn't listening to the frequency on which the Vincennes broadcast a warning notification. It was upon this incident that Weddle and Thompson based their story: a Starfleet vessel destroys a civilian ship because it enters a combat zone. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- In the original version of the story, it was Sisko who was on trial, not Worf. The episode also had a different denouement insofar as it turned out that the Klingon ship which had been destroyed wasn't actually a ship at all, but a fake holographic projection. It was Ira Steven Behr who suggested switching it to a Worf show and removing the holographic conclusion. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- According to Ronald D. Moore, this episode was written exclusively to "slap Worf around. "Sons of Mogh" had told him, 'You're not as Klingon as you thought you were, and you're not going back to the Empire.' But inside, Worf thought, 'Well, I've got Starfleet.' Now, I wanted to put that into question, to shake up the character and really make him question where he was, who he was, what he wanted, where he belonged." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- It was Ira Steven Behr who came up with the concept of having the characters speak to-camera, effectively breaking the fourth wall. He was determined not to do "just another trial show" like "The Measure Of A Man" or "Dax", and while trying to decide what to do to make the show stand out, he saw the 1995 Spike Lee movie Clockers. During that film, in a flashback, Detective Rocco Klein played by Harvey Keitel speaks directly to-camera. Behr thought this was an excellent idea and suggested it to Ronald D. Moore, who concurred, and who wrote it into the teleplay. Moore describes this device as "sort of breaking the fourth wall, but sort of not, because the actors aren't talking to the audience, they're actually talking to someone in the courtroom." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion) In the sixth season episode "In the Pale Moonlight", this stylistic technique was taken even further, with Sisko dictating an entire log directly to the camera and audience.
- The script for this episode references a region on Bajor called the "Golar Province", where the Shakaar resistance cell carried out an attack against the Province's administration building, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 20 to 25 innocent people. This information, however, did not make it on screen. In the written scene, Ch'Pok used this incident, and Major Kira's involvement, to discredit her testimony (where she stated that she agreed with Worf's decision to fire on the decloaking ship). By pointing out her terrorist past, Kira came across as an unreliable character witness for Worf. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion - A Series Guide and Script Library)
- A reference present in the script, but omitted from the episode as broadcast, explains why Worf wore his baldric only in the opening scene of the hearing. After the opening statements, Ch'Pok requests that Worf "not be allowed to wear his family baldric until this hearing is over. He is dishonored among our people, and I am… offended by the sight of him wearing Klingon emblems." The scene also sees Sisko request that Worf be permitted to return to his quarters, instead of remaining in the holding cell. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion - A Series Guide and Script Library)
- The final draft script was submitted on 16 January 1996. 
- LeVar Burton commented, on directing, "That device the writers employed was, for a director, a lot of fun to play with. When I read that, I got excited, because it's not often that you break that fourth wall and have characters directly address the camera. Certainly, I don't think it has ever happened on Star Trek before. It rarely happens in one-hour dramas. So, it was a lot of fun, and very, very challenging because we had so much take place in that one-room courtroom set. My approach to the three major sequences in that room were all completly different in terms of the way we moved the camera. That's what I love about directing. It's an absolute challenge". ("Directing DS9: LeVar Burton", The Official Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Magazine issue 20)
- Burton and Glenn Neufeld were inspired by Rashomon when filming. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- Despite the interesting structural devices in place, the producers were less than thrilled with the finished product. Ira Steven Behr laments, "We got totally focused on structure, and how it was gonna work, all the nuts and bolts. Big mistake, but it happened, and now it's a show that just didn't work. We did a show that is based on the intent of the defendant, just as the American legal system is, but we left the defendant out of the show. Worf just sits there, staring into space. It's clever on a certain level, but ultimately, it's pretty hollow as drama. When we watched the final cut, our collective jaws just dropped. Our basic response was, 'So what?'." Ronald D. Moore agrees, "We got blinded. I was really intrigued by the writer's device. What went by the wayside was Worf: Worf doesn't speak for chunks of the show. The guy on trial is barely in the episode." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- LeVar Burton commented: "I've had a lot of really fine episodes of ST:DS9 to direct. One was the Worf on trial episode. I saw that not so long ago, watched it right through and thought 'Wow, that really worked!' I thought Avery in particular gave one of the best performances I've seen him do. I thought he was really involved". ("Foresight", Star Trek Monthly issue 50)
- Ron Canada (Ch'Pok) had previously played Martin Benbeck in TNG: "The Masterpiece Society".
- Cirroc Lofton (Jake Sisko) does not appear in this episode.
- This episode represents the second time that a Deep Space 9 crewmember is wrongly accused of a crime by a foreign government as a means of discrediting Starfleet or weakening their position (the other being "Tribunal"). Similar situations also occur in TNG: "A Matter of Perspective" and VOY: "Ex Post Facto".
- The hearing takes place on Stardate 49665.3, while the incident occurred on Stardate 49648.0.
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 4.9, 9 September 1996
- As part of the DS9 Season 4 DVD collection
Links and references
- Rene Auberjonois as Odo
- Michael Dorn as Lt. Commander Worf
- Terry Farrell as Lt. Commander Dax
- Colm Meaney as Chief O'Brien
- Armin Shimerman as Quark
- Alexander Siddig as Doctor Bashir
- Nana Visitor as Major Kira
- Ivy Borg as alien on promenade
- Parris Broadus as Klingon child
- Cenita L. Johnson as Glidia
- Norman Large as Neral (display graphic)
- David B. Levinson as Broik
- James McCloskey as Klingon child
- Kent Ostrowski as Klingon child
- Mark Allen Shepherd as Morn
- Unknown performers as
accusation; advocate; Alpha Quadrant; annexation; Bajoran sector; Bajoran wormhole; bat'leth; Battle of Tong Vey; botany; cake; captain (rank); Cardassia; case; civilian; cloak-and-run maneuver; commanding officer; constable; convoy mission (aka escort mission); court of law; dabo girl; convoy; Dax, Curzon; death wish; defense counsel; Earth; emperor; evidence; expert witness; Federation; Ferengi; Galorda Prime; Gowron; heart; holosuite; House of Mogh; humanitarian relief mission; imagination; Invasion of Cardassia; Klingons; Klingon-Cardassian War; Klingon Empire; Klingon High Council; Kurn; legal case; luck; massacre; military base; officer; Pentath III; Pentath system; police officer; Promenade; prune juice; quantum torpedo; Quark's; Rozhenko, Alexander; Rozhenko, Helena; Rozhenko, Sergey; Rudellian plague; sensor image; sensor log; sheep; siege; Sompek; Starfleet; stigma; Sto-vo-kor; tachyon; Tong Vey; traitor; transport; trial; warrior; weep; witness
Antares-class (Cardassian freighter); Bajoran interceptor (Bajoran interceptors); Cardassian vessel (Cardassian freighters); Defiant, USS; Enterprise-D, USS; Groumall-type (Cardassian freighters); K't'inga-class (Klingon battle cruiser); Klingon civilian transport ship; Klingon Bird-of-Prey (Klingon Bird-of-Prey)
- "Rules of Engagement" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "Rules of Engagement" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Rules of Engagement" at Wikipedia
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