(written from a Production point of view)
|"Rules of Engagement"|
|DS9, Episode 4x18|
Production number: 40510-490
First aired: 8 April 1996
|←||88th of 173 produced in DS9||→|
|←||88th of 173 released in DS9||→|
|←||410th of 728 released in all||→|
| Teleplay By|
Ronald D. Moore
Bradley Thompson & David Weddle
|←||Arc: Klingon War (4 of 8)||→|
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 halls, 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 a holding cell awaiting a hearing.
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 accident.
Sisko meets with Odo 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 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, 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 in the name of duty. Ch'Pok then enters into evidence a holosuite program, "The Battle of Tong Vey." The file was taken from Worf's database without a search order, but Worf allows it to be admitted out of his sense of honor. 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 ran the holoprogram the day before the convoy mission, ending it by giving the historical order to begin the massacre.
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 Starfleet was sending medical aid. However, Pentath III bordered Klingon space, so the Defiant was sent to escort the medical convoy. 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. Next, Quark testifies about a brief conversation he had with Worf prior to the mission, in which Worf mentioned he "hoped" the Klingons went after the convoy. Worf is embarrassed -- clearly, Quark was telling the truth for once.
Odo reports to Sisko that the transport captain was not at all the kind of person who would attack the Defiant. Sisko tells Odo to look into the background of each passenger on the transport ship.Back at the hearing, Sisko calls Chief O'Brien. O'Brien explains the battle – in which a Klingon Bird-of-Prey and a 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 and Worf ordered Quantum Torpedoes fired at it. As the ship exploded, they realized it was simply a civilian transport. O'Brien reaffirms that he stands by Worf's decision and that Worf is an honorable man. Ch'Pok cross-examines O'Brien. He points out that O'Brien has served during 235 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 would have made the same decision had he been in command. O'Brien admits that he would not have, but that it reflects his opinion made now, weeks after the incident, not 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--Ch'Pok 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. He says he was excited by the opportunity to do battle, and that although he respects O'Brien, he was not in a position to make such a command decision and he would have made the wrong choice. Worf tells Sisko that he knew there was a chance that he would run into a civilian ship, but it was a very remote chance, and that he was more concerned with the welfare of the convoy and his ship than such a slim possibility.
Ch'Pok cross-examines Worf. He begins by trying to establish that Worf is angry at the Empire because of his discommendation. Worf says he is hated by his people because of this, 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 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.
Sisko sits in his office, as 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 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 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 justify an armed escalation, and Ch'Pok admits that it is. The trial 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, as 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. He is prone to want vengeance, and 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 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. The two then leave 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
"He is one of us. A killer. A predator among sheep."
- - Ch'Pok, discussing Worf and Sisko
"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
"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
- Strangely enough, 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, and 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, a character 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. By pointing out her terrorist past, Kira would be declared 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)
- 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-four 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 Vol. 20)
- 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)
- Lever 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)
- When Ch'Pok is questioning Jadzia Dax, Benjamin Sisko is shown with the rank pips of a commander. Moments before, and after, he is shown with the correct rank of captain.
- 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.
- When Worf orders to fire quantum torpedoes at the Klingon transport, it can be seen that the torpedoes are glowing orange, while quantum torpedoes usually have a bluish glow.
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
- Cirroc Lofton as Jake Sisko
- Colm Meaney as Chief O'Brien
- Armin Shimerman as Quark
- Alexander Siddig as Doctor Bashir
- Nana Visitor as Major Kira
- Parris Broadus as Klingon child 
- James McCloskey as Klingon child 
- Kent Ostrowski as Klingon child 
- Mark Allen Shepherd as Morn
- Unknown actresses as
advocate; Alpha Quadrant; Bajoran sector; Bajoran wormhole; bat'leth; Battle of Tong Vey; botany; cake; Cardassia; cloak-and-run maneuver; commanding officer; dabo girl; convoy; Dax, Curzon; death wish; defense counsel; Defiant, USS; Earth; emperor; Enterprise-D, USS; Ferengi; Galorda Prime; Gowron; holosuite; House of Mogh; Klingons; Klingon Bird-of-Prey; Klingon-Cardassian War; Klingon civilian transport ship; Klingon Empire; Klingon High Council; K't'inga-class; Kurn; luck; Pentath III; Pentath system; Promenade; prune juice; quantum torpedo; Quark's; Rozhenko, Alexander; Rozhenko, Helena; Rozhenko, Sergey; Rudellian plague; sensor log; sheep; Sompek; Sto-vo-kor; tachyon; Tong Vey
- Rules of Engagement (episode) at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- Rules of Engagement (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) at Wikipedia
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