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Star Trek: Enterprise – Judgment (Review)

Next year, Star Trek is fifty years old. We have some special stuff planned for that, but – in the meantime – we’re reviewing all of Star Trek: Enterprise this year as something of a prequel to that anniversary. This April, we’re doing the second season. Check back daily for the latest review.

Judgment is the first episode of Star Trek to do something interesting with the Klingons since Tacking Into the Wind, almost four years earlier.

After all, it never seemed like Star Trek: Enterprise had any real idea what to do with the Klingons. The show had made use of Klingons in Broken Bow, Unexpected, Sleeping Dogs and Marauders – but none of these episodes seemed particularly interested in telling a story about Klingons. Enterprise seemed primarily interested in the Klingons as a connection to the franchise’s long and distinguished history. After all, Klingons are almost as iconic a part of Star Trek as Spock; working a few bumpy-headed warriors into your script was a nice way of acknowledging the Star Trek legacy.

Trial of the twenty-second century...

Trial of the twenty-second century…

Certainly, Enterprise was not interested in committing to the same Klingon world-building in which Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had revelled. There are a lot of reasons for this. Over ten seasons, writer Ronald D. Moore had probably said just about everything that needed to be said about the Klingons; trying to say something new or interesting without his input was certainly daunting. More than that, Enterprise had committed itself quite firmly to episodic storytelling in its first two years; even the Andorians and Vulcans were still barely developed.

So David A. Goodman’s script for Judgment is ambitious, particularly in light of the spectacular failure of his (heavily re-written) work on Precious Cargo. Constructing an episode that might easily be misread as a rehash of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country was a pretty bold choice, particularly given the problems that the show had endured while trying to construct an homage to Elaan of Troyius and The Perfect Mate. On paper, Judgment is an assignment that could easily explode spectacularly. It might not be as crazy a gambit as A Night in Sickbay, but it is a story with lofty objectives.

The court has spoken.

The court has spoken.

With so much of the second season feeling like it is running on auto-pilot, the energy and enthusiasm of Judgment is infectious. Singularity, Vanishing Point, Canamar and The Crossing felt like they were constructed using blueprints of what a Star Trek episode should look like. It is refreshing to watch an episode of Enterprise that seems genuinely excited to playing with these particular toys. In that sense, Judgment sets the mood for the final stretch of the season – despite duds like Horizon and Bounty, the final run of episodes feels like a band playing an encore for a show on the cusp of monumental change.

Although not facing the same threat of cancellation that loomed at the end of the third and fourth seasons, the second season of Enterprise feels like the last gasp of a particular model of Star Trek production, one no longer as viable as it once had been. Starting with Judgment, the show seems to acknowledge that things are going to have to change dramatically and soon; however, there is a clear attempt to bid this particular iteration of Star Trek a fond farewell. As such, any and all references to The Undiscovered Country feel entirely appropriate.

“Don’t wait for the translation! Answer me now!”

Klingons are fun. They are an iconic and memorable part of the Star Trek universe. There is a reason that three of the five Star Trek shows feature a Klingon crew member as part of the regular cast, and why a Klingon character is the only Star Trek character to serve as part of the primary cast in two different series. When Star Trek arrived in cinemas with Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979, audiences were reintroduced to the franchise from the bridge of a Klingon battle cruiser by a bunch of Klingons talking in their own distinctive language.

The word “Klingon” has an incredible cultural cache to it; anybody with even a passing familiarity with American popular culture will recognise the term. The third season of Enterprise is the only one of Star Trek‘s thirty broadcast seasons not to feature a Klingon character. The aliens have appeared in the vast majority of the feature films, even when completely superfluous to the plot. Klingons are featured in the training exercise at the start of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and were even part of a deleted subplot in JJ Abrams’ Star Trek reboot.

Trial and error...

Trial and error…

Klingons have been around from the first season of Star Trek, and they are a nice way to spice up just about any script. Interviewed about his role in Judgment, J.G. Hertzler suggested a reason for their appeal:

I think they’re crucial, in every series. The Klingons were there from the beginning. Whenever a series had a little bit of a problem they’d bring Klingons on. Because they are fun to watch. Simply fun to watch. You don’t know exactly what they’re going to do but you know it is going to be big.

This explains why Voyager would find a Klingon ship wandering the Delta Quadrant in Prophecy and why Enterprise has returned quite frequently to the Klingons for generic roles in generic scripts.

Klingon on in there...

Klingon on in there…

It is interesting to wonder whether the presence of the Andorians in Enterprise made the Klingons largely redundant. Episodes like The Andorian Incident, Shadows of P’Jem and Cease Fire established the Andorians as a warrior culture with their own unique sense of honour. In United, Archer will even find himself locked in ritualised combat to the death with Shran. Given that blue alients with distinctive antennae were perhaps a bit more novel than bumpy-headed Klingons, it makes sense that Enterprise should try to distance itself from the Empire.

Of course, it is impossible to imagine a Star Trek show without Klingons, so they appear quite frequently. In fact, it could be argued that the first two seasons of Enterprise use the Klingons a little too liberally. Having the Klingons appear in Broken Bow provides a nice connection to the franchise’s rich history and legacy, but there is no need to treat them like generic heavies in scripts like Unexpected or Marauders. Even Sleeping Dogs – an episode explicitly about the Klingons – feels disconnected from Klingons as anything other than a piece of Star Trek iconography.

“Known throughout the galaxy as ‘the alien’s mild inconvenience’. I hear they are thinking about rebranding, though.”

However, what makes Judgment so absolutely fascinating is the way that it broaches the topic of Klingon culture. Ronald D. Moore has earned a lot of credit for developing Klingon culture across the franchise; one of his two scripts for Star Trek: Voyager was a Klingon mythology episode. However, the franchise has tended to treat Klingon culture as somewhat monolithic. Star Trek explores Klingon culture through war and militarism, with little time for anything more thorough or profound.

Of course, Ronald D. Moore had great fun exploring the Klingon Empire through the prism of honour and aggression. The saga of the Klingon Empire between Sins of the Father (or even Heart of Glory) and Tacking Into the Wind is the sad story of a culture lying to itself (and everybody else) about the ideals it claims to hold dear. Moore consistently subverted and twisted attempts to canonise the Klingon Empire, suggesting that Klingons generally talk the talk better than they walk the walk. However, most of that exploration was through the military.

“You don’t want a Klingon lawyer… you want a Klingon lawyer.”
Coming this fall, Better Call Kolos.

There are episodes of Star Trek that touch on the rather significant question of what happens to Klingons who are no soldiers. How do Klingon chefs get into sto-vo-kor? On The Next Generation, Suspicions introduced us to Kurak, a Klingon scientist. On Deep Space Nine, the show occasionally teased out how incompetent and under-developed other aspects of Klingon culture must be. Dramatis Personae devoted considerable space to mocking a Klingon scientific expedition; Visionary featured inept Klingon spies.

To be fair, Judgment is not the first piece of Star Trek to feature a Klingon lawyer. However, other portrayals existed to emphasise Klingon militarism. In The Undiscovered Country, Colonel Worf was a minor character portrayed as the only sane man in an insane blood-thirsty world. In Rules of Engagement, Chpok justifies his profession by treating it as another form of military conflict, referring to the court room as a “battlefield.” Judgment is the first time that an episode has really explored what it must be like to be a Klingon who doesn’t wield a weapon.

“You know, I really should stop getting tangled up in alien justice systems.”

David A. Goodman’s script is wryly aware of this, as Kolos teases Archer about his one-dimensional perspective on Klingon culture. When Kolos suggests that the warriors have come to dominate other social classes, Archer seems surprised. “There are other classes?” he ponders, in a wonderful line-reading from Bakula that suggests irony with just a kernel of honesty buried somewhere in there. Kolos responds, “You didn’t believe all Klingons were soldiers?” Archer answers, quite candidly, “I guess I did.”

To be fair, it is not an unfair assumption – if it immediately appears absurd on reflection. Archer has encountered the Klingons on four occasions; each time, they emphasised their warrior tendencies. Archer is not drawing on any of the six hundred episodes of Star Trek that aired before Broken Bow. Even episodes focusing on Klingon characters tended to examine them through the prism of warfare and militarism. A Matter of Honour and Soldiers of the Empire both feature Klingon guest stars more prominently than most of the ensemble, focusing on soldiers.

Courting dishonour…

This is something of a stock criticism of how Star Trek tends to portray alien species. For reasons of convenience and narrative necessity, alien species are frequently reduced to monocultures. As Bernd Schneider has pointed out, this invites uncomfortable comparisons to certain historical attitudes about foreign cultures:

Notwithstanding its possible truth, it may be racist to label the Klingons as a “warrior race”, as it attributes identical individual characteristics to a whole species. It may be factually flawed as well because realistically not every Klingon can be a warrior, probably not even every second Klingon. In essence, it is the same as the casual statement that “The Soviets/Russians are communists”, as it was commonplace during the Cold War. Interestingly, while “the Soviets” never existed as an ethnographic entity, the people of the Soviet Union were commonly identified as such, thus complying with the wish of the communist potentates. Their goal was to get away with or at least obscure the multicultural nature of their country of Russians, Ukrainians, Jews, Muslims, etc. Alternatively, “Soviets” were often simply equated with Russians, leading to much the same result that the still existing diversity inside the Soviet empire was not recognized. (To many people it came as a huge surprise when the single parts of the Soviet Union separated after the end of the communist rule.) The same considerations may apply to the concept the Federation has of the Klingon Empire. And the apparent centralism with episodes repeatedly focusing on the Klingon capital (which ironically has remained nameless) would comply with the impression that there was no news and hence not much perceptible life in the Soviet Union outside Moscow, let alone in restricted areas.

One of the more interesting aspects of Enterprise is a willingness to engage somewhat critically with that idea of Klingon monoculture, just as Deep Space Nine did with the Cardassian Union. Judgment is perhaps the most obvious example, but Affliction and Divergence also touch on similar ideas.

Live feed...

Live feed…

Kolos is not a warrior. Judgment presents him as a member of a more educated and grounded caste; Kolos is a professional rather than a soldier. “My father was a teacher,” he tells Archer. “My mother, a biologist at the university. They encouraged me to take up the law.” Had he been born on Earth, Kolos would probably be upper class; a product of the academic classes, a highly successful member of a well-compensated profession. While Kolos is very much a Klingon through and through (he is played by J.G. Hertzler), he is a different type of Klingon.

After all, it is suggested that Kolos is not quite cut out for soldiering. He seems to tire as easily as Archer on Rura Penthe, somewhat at odds with traditional portrayals of Klingons as unrelenting powerhouses. “Perhaps I spent too much time in the law library and not enough in the battlefield,” he quips – but there is a hint of truth there. Kolos is a Klingon who does not have the physical prowess the audience expects from a Klingon. J.G. Hertzler gives him a different physicality than Martok. There is a sense that his greatest muscle is his mind.

“You know, when I told you to put a good suit on, this wasn’t really what I had in mind.”

On the audio commentary for the episode, writer David A. Goodman explains that he wrote Judgment for a number of different reasons. He wanted to explore the logical inconsistencies of the Klingon warrior monoculture, but he also wanted to write a good old-fashioned piece of social commentary:

I really wanted to write something, when I developed the story. I really wanted to write something about… at the time – I think it was 2002, right after 9/11 – the country was caught up in this war fever. America was at war in Afghanistan and it looked like we were heading towards war in Iraq. There really was a feeling, for me, of a change in our country – that we were becoming more of this warfooted country. For some good reason, I’m not taking anything away from 9/11.

But it was kinda scary. I mean we were going to be at war everywhere; we were gonna go, we were gonna go kill people. I thought that might be an interesting back story for the Klingons, because the biggest problem with the Klingons is that they can’t all be warriors. You can’t have warrior accountants. … You need people to do things in society, but the warriors are the ones who are out in space, so that’s who you know. That’s where the Klingons come from.

But back on Klingon, you needed… I thought it would be nice to fill out Klingon society in a way to say that they weren’t always all warriors, that there were other factions in society and that the warrior caste became dominant. And I thought that some parallels could be drawn to the United States, which was… out in the world, American soldiers are really representing the United States. To a lot of countries, the only thing they know about America is our guys in uniform, our warriors.

And there’s obviously more to us than that – and I’m not taking way from our soldiers, I don’t want to get into trouble with anybody – so that’s really where this started.

What is really interesting and clever about Goodman’s script is the way that he really does flesh out the Klingon Empire, not just as a piece of science-fiction world-building, but as engaging social commentary. Judgment marks a clear transition; the Klingons are no longer a monolithic “other”, they are a fractured reflection of the United States.

“Hm. If only I’d thought to install a tracker.”

Judgment makes an effort to stress the Klingon Empire is a grotesque distortion of the Federation, the franchise’s utopian extrapolation of the United States. An alien refugee recounts a story about a first encounter that seems like a twisted take on the relationship between Earth and Vulcan. “Several years ago, our colony was annexed by a species we had never seen before. They said they’d provide for us in exchange for our allegiance, that we’d become a part of their Empire. But they stripped us of our resources, left us with nothing.”

One of the barely-articulated assumptions of Enterprise is the idea that Archer is a formative figure in the history and the development of the Federation; that his adventures charting the final frontier pave the way for an interstellar alliance of like-minded species working to a common goal. Judgment makes it clear that the Klingon Empire is also expanding outwards, inviting comparisons between the early history of the Klingon Empire and the development of the Federation.

Talk about a hostile audience.

Talk about a hostile audience.

“Empires tend to expand,” T’Pol advises Archer at one point in the episode. Enterprise has largely steered clear of the sort of territorial expansion plots that recur quite frequently across the history of Star Trek. Borders seem to exist in an absolute sense; Enterprise wanders into alien territory, but it rarely encounters territorial disputes. However, the nature of the show as a prequel suggests that Archer is mapping out large sections of space that will soon be claimed by the Federation; they will need to be careful in how they choose to expand.

Judgment aired in April 2003, less than a month after the United States invaded Iraq. It is quite a brave episode to air in that context, because it consciously positions the Klingons as the obvious stand-ins for contemporary United States. Patriotism and pride are just tools to be exploited in the construction of compelling narratives. In Duras’ account of events, he is sure to portray Archer as a threat to the very fabric of Klingon society. It is a delightfully transparent piece of playing to the gallery, but it feels no more surreal than “freedom fries” or “freedom toast.”

“Today is a good day to lie.”

“Death to the Empire,” Archer randomly tosses into his final communication with Duras in the Klingon’s account of events. In Archer’s more reliable version of the encounter, Duras seems a bit more honest. The Klingon justifies his aggression with an appeal to his own moral authority. “I speak for the Empire,” he claims proudly while preparing for battle. Duras disguises himself as a patriot, but he is really a cynical opportunist trying to advance his own cause and objectives by claiming to act in the name of his entire culture.

Patriotism becomes a weapon to silence dissent or disagreement. Civil rights find themselves eroded, protection of the state offered as something of an excuse. “Enemies of the state aren’t allowed visitors,” Archer tells Phlox in the first scene after the credits. There is a sense that the war has been used to chip away at core principle. “I am within my rights to present further testimony,” Kolos insists during the trial. The prosecutor, Orak, is having none of it. “You’re speaking of archaic rights.” He stops short of calling Kolos a Kahless-hating hippie, but he comes close.

The cute little paperweight has fallen.

The cute little paperweight has fallen.

In the aftermath of 9/11, patriotism became a tool to silence dissent. Writing in October 2001, Frank Rich observed in The New York Times:

Even so, America’s New War, as CNN has branded it, is already whipping up one of the cold war’s most self-destructive national maladies — a will to stifle dissent. Such has been the disproportionate avalanche of invective about Susan Sontag, Bill Maher and Noam Chomsky that you’d hardly guess they were a writer, a late-late-night comic and a linguistics professor — Americans with less clout and popular standing than a substitute weatherman on the ”Today” show. Listening to all the similar overheated rage about pacifists on and off college campuses, you’d think as well that there was a large and serious antiwar movement afoot to rival that of the Vietnam 60’s. Reality check: polls show that 94 percent of Americans support the war effort, with even a supposed bastion of leftism like the Harvard student body proving pro-war by more than two to one.

That the right can whip itself into a rage about an American left so small and marginalized suggests that it, too, is unhinged by fear, and can only displace it by a knee-jerk refighting of yesterday’s cold war culture wars.

Appeals to patriotism can be used to justify various cynical political ends. It has been argued that the American media allowed itself to be bullied into passive compliance between the 9/11 attacks and the invasion of Iraq.

“A grievously savage child race…”

Indeed, the language of war was used by the Bush administration to justify acts and policies that would be unthinkable in times of peace on a battlefield that seemed to spread across the entire planet:

This language stretches the meaning of the word “war.” If Washington means “war” metaphorically, as when it speaks about a “war” on drugs, the rhetoric would be uncontroversial, a mere hortatory device intended to rally support for an important cause. Bush, however, seems to think of the war on terrorism quite literally — as a real war — and this concept has worrisome implications. The rules that bind governments are much looser during wartime than in times of peace. The Bush administration has used war rhetoric precisely to give itself the extraordinary powers enjoyed by a wartime government to detain or even kill suspects without trial. In the process, the administration may have made it easier for itself to detain or eliminate suspects. But it has also threatened the most basic due process rights.

If anything, Judgment is too kind in its portrayal of this war fever. Archer may be pantomiming through a bizarre caricature of Klingon justice, and his trial might be a travesty; but at least he retains some basic rights.

Mar(to)k his words!

Mar(to)k his words!

Archer may have some of his rights suspended as an “enemy of the state”, but he is not held indefinitely without trial or subject to “enhanced interrogation.” It was March 2003 when the Department of Justice officially signed off on the “enhanced interrogation” of suspected terrorists. When Judgment was first broadcast, prisoners had been held at Guantanamo Bay for almost fifteen months without trial. The detention centre would remain open for over a decade. Archer is treated almost humanely. (Although it is implied he arrived via “extraordinary rendition.”)

Errand of Mercy had introduced the Klingons as a convenient stand-in for the American perception of the Soviet Union – a bunch of aggressive and expansionist foreigner who represent the very opposite of democracy and freedom. The Klingons had remained a metaphor for the Russians even at the end of the Cold War, with The Undiscovered Country proposing détente between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. In the nineties, they became a turbulent and unstable political power – perhaps reflecting American anxieties about Russia after the Cold War.

Lockdown...

Lockdown…

However, Judgment offers a truly terrifying proposal. What if the Klingons are no longer a stand-in for some nebulous “other”? What if the United States has moved to a point where the Klingons are a valid and convincing metaphorical stand-in? As Lori Maguire argues in The Final Reflection?:

Over five series, eleven films, and numerous books, Klingons have changed and developed in parallel with evolutions in American society and foreign policy. Originally representing an extremely negative view of the Soviet Union, reflecting Cold War tensions, the Klingons became over time a mirror of the worries of a multicultural America. In the process, they went from tyrannical dictators to honour-bound warriors who fail to live up to their cultural ideals. In all cases the Federation, that representative of Western democracy and liberalism, is held up as the better civilisation and the one toward which the Klingons should evolve. However, it is also made clear in the later series that Klingon civilisation had been different and nobler in the past – more like that of the Federation – and that departing from this has led to tyranny, dishonour, and endless fighting between factions. An entire history has been created for a fictional people, but this history reflects the reality of American experiences over the last fifty years.

It is a fascinating twist – one quite provocative for April 2003. It also manages to find a new approach to the Klingons, perhaps updating a somewhat overplayed species for the new millennium. It is almost a shame that Enterprise only does a couple of Klingon episodes after this point; it would be interesting to see where show would take them.

In hindsight, having he judge sit through Unexpected as part of Archer's defense strategy might not have been the best move.

In hindsight, having he judge sit through Unexpected as part of Archer’s defense strategy might not have been the best move.

Then again, there is also something quite reflexive and introspective about Judgment. Kolos is a fascinating supporting character, and it is not too hard to read his own anxieties and insecurities as an attempt at meta-commentary from the show itself. The second season of Enterprise has struggled to find its own identity, retreating from some of the more novel and distinctive experiments of the first season into a very familiar and generic routine. Long stretches of the second season feel like they are simply going through the motions.

Kolos has found himself in a similar position. He mourns the passing of the golden age of the Klingon Empire, perhaps reflecting the passing of the golden age of Star Trek. When he tells Archer that those were “different times”, Archer suggests, “Then maybe you should remind them of those different times. Nothing like a good history lesson.” Kolos seems defeated and exhausted, entrenched and depressed. “I’m an old man. Too old to challenge the rules.” After all, the Star Trek franchise was pushing forty; that is a phenomenally long life-span for a pop culture property.

“This is nothing. I’ve faced Les Moonves.”

It is not too hard to imagine that conversation between Kolos and Archer mirroring behind-the-scenes conversations between the production staff and the network. In early May 2003, word would leak out that things were going to change; that The Expanse would push Enterprise in a bold and provocative new direction, one distinct from what came before. Perhaps the writing staff on Enterprise were trying to recapture that same sense of adventure and excitement that Kolos claims to have lost.

After all, Judgment is a delightfully candid piece of work. It is a script that is hugely sympathetic to Archer as a character, but one utterly unafraid to admit his weaknesses and limitations. In way, it seems almost like Enterprise itself is being put on trial here – reflecting the sort of siege mentality that would have developed in response to vicious on-line criticism and dwindling ratings. Once Kolos decides that his cause is worth fighting for, he makes a convincing defense of Archer – even as he acknowledges Archer’s flaws and weaknesses.

“Impulsive? Me? Never!”

Kolos stresses – time and time again – that Archer is not particularly competent or brilliant, but that his heart is in the right place. “Yes, he may be self-righteous, but his meddling has saved a Klingon ship and perhaps the fate of the Empire itself,” Kolos advises the court. “If Captain Archer is guilty, he is guilty of nothing more than being a nuisance, and hardly worth the attention of this tribunal.” As he declares sentence, the judge seems to agree, “Based upon his arguments I am inclined to believe that the accused was a victim of his own foolishness.”

For all that Judgment stresses Archer’s foolhardiness and impulsiveness, it seems to genuinely respect his optimism and underlying decency. Enterprise has had a tendency to play Archer’s fundamental decency as absolute and above reproach, turning him into something of a self-righteous ass in episodes like Terra Nova and Fortunate Son. In contrast, Judgment is smart enough to approach Archer’s idealism from a more questioning and cynical perspective. Rather than assuming that Archer understands how the universe works, Judgment puts him in conflict with it.

“J’accuse! … em, I mean… pum! Wait… ‘pum’?”

In the episode’s somewhat rushed final act, Kolos and Archer have a meaningful and considered conversation. After Archer spares Kolos the vicious attentions of the guards by offering himself as a sacrificial lamb, Kolos asks, “Haven’t you learned your lesson? This is why you were sent here in the first place. For interfering in affairs that have nothing to do with you.” Archer responds with a bit of home-spun wisdom underscoring that his own moral centre. “We have a saying on Earth. You don’t kick a man when he’s down.”

“So, are all humans like this?” Kolos asks, setting up the sort of pay-off that could easily veer into the cheesy or sentimental. “Like what?” Archer inquires. “Fair?” Cleverly avoiding the trap of trite sentimentality, Kolos is rather blunt in his assessment. “Stupid.” It is a lovely moment, all the more effective for avoiding heavy-handed dialogue expressing how special and brave and brilliant Archer is. Archer’s decency works better when the show responds to it with cynical realism (masking sly admiration) instead of gushing praise.

Ice to meet you, Jonathan...

Ice to meet you, Jonathan…

The version of Archer presented in Judgment is much more compelling than the paranoid and suspicious individual featured in The Crossing. It is a version of Archer that accepts that the universe is a complicated place, but that doesn’t prevent him from operating according to his own moral compass. It is a version of Archer that is flawed in interesting ways, but which is fundamentally likeable. It is also a version of Archer that plays to Scott Bakula’s strengths as an actor; the well-intentioned do-gooder out of his depth.

Bakula is a different kind of lead actor than Shatner, Stewart, Brooks or Mulgrew. He is an actor who feels a bit more naturalistic and casual. He is not an actor who can sell big philosophical monologues, but one who works very well in small casual conversation. It takes a very particular type of actor to sell “oh boy” as a catchphrase for five years on a television show, and Bakula is that sort of performer. Judgment captures that sense of Bakula’s Archer quite well, the man whose first instinct is to help – only to land in trouble for it. No wonder Bakula considers it his favourite episode.

“Do you think I get them to chant AR-CHER-CHA-CHA-CHA?”

Indeed, the cast dynamic on Enterprise comes out of Judgment particularly well. Archer and T’Pol have not enjoyed a consistently close relationship across the first two seasons, with even the writing staff unsure whether they disagree completely or harbour a mutual sexual chemistry. Judgment presents T’Pol as a competent first officer who has come to understand her commanding officer almost better than he understands himself. She knows that Archer will feel compelled to help the refugees out of a sense of moral decency even before he gives the order.

“Some of the crew will have to double up, but I think we can accommodate all of them,” Archer reflects. T’Pol responds, “I’ve already given the order. Considering the alternative was to set the ship adrift, I anticipated your decision.” There is no animosity there, no second guessing. In The Crossing, the two could not agree on how to approach new life forms; here, the two are in such perfect harmony that giving an order almost seems redundant. It is a much warmer and more confident dynamic than the two have enjoyed to date, and one that suits them.

“I mean, some of my best friends are Klingon!”
“Shut up, Archer. You’re not helping.”

In fact, T’Pol emerges from Judgment a much more dynamic presence than she appears in her own character-driven episodes like Shadows of P’Jem or Stigma. She never offers any suggestion of respecting Klingon law. When Trip plots to break Archer out of captivity, T’Pol does not object. She simply observes that there will be better opportunities to make a jailbreak. T’Pol uses her own experience in dealing with the Klingons to help rescue Archer from their clutches.

On his audio commentary for Judgment, David A. Goodman reveals that he lobbied hard to extend Judgment into a loose two-parter – with the second part resembling the plot that became Canamar. He makes a compelling argument for a number of reasons; the rushed last act does undermine Judgment, and there’s no real sense of consequence to Archer’s escape. However, it would have been worthwhile simply to have a subplot with T’Pol commanding the ship as the crew plan a jailbreak on a prison transport. The sort of plot Shockwave, Part II promised but didn’t deliver.

“Justice is a dish best served cold.”
“Klingons tend to think everything is a dish best served cold.”

Judgment is also notable for the sheer volume of continuity on display. In fact, there is so much continuity on display that not all of it appears on screen – though never named, the planet featured is meant to be Narendra III from Yesterday’s Enterprise. Writer David A. Goodman was a long-time fan and loved working the references in:

Judgment was all me, I shoved as many TNG Klingon references as I could into there, and most of them stayed in so I was very happy about that. I like linking it in. It was fun for me to write this episode that was an attempt to explain… the Klingons in the Original Series are very different to the Klingons in the Next Generation, and I was sort of saying that the Klingons themselves were undergoing a kind of crisis as a culture that would lead to the Original Series Klingons but that the basis for the Next Generation Klingons would be under the surface.

It is a delightful use of continuity, where knowledge of Klingon history and Klingon culture only enhances the core themes and metaphors. It is clear the Goodman is loving the chance to work with the Klingons. “I was always a fan of Klingon episodes as a kid, and I got to write a Klingon episode,” he boasted years later.

“This is the last Klingon-centric episode for quite some time. Let’s make it count.”

The use of continuity here is fascinating. It is never overstated – nobody needs to know the intricacies of Klingon legal history to appreciate the storytelling – but it is very clearly assembled with love and affection. Enterprise has spent a significant stretch of its first two seasons wary of the weight of continuity. There is something quite compelling about watching an episode seize that continuity with both hands and use it to construct a compelling and intriguing story. In a way, Goodman seems to pave the way for the continuity flood in the show’s fourth season.

However, Judgment arguably does a better job managing its own continuity than many of fourth season episodes. The fourth season could occasionally seem a little indulgent, a little esoteric. That was arguably the point, but Judgment remains an accessible piece of television in a way that something like In a Mirror, Darkly is not. It is a delicate balance – acknowledging almost four decades of history without feeling slavishly devoted to it. There is very little in Judgment that feels like continuity for the mere sake of continuity; most of the references serve a purpose.

The spotlight is on Archer.

The spotlight is on Archer.

For example, the decision to set Archer’s trial on Narendra III adds a layer of dramatic irony to those who care about the name of a random planet and know their Star Trek continuity. This moment on Narendra III potentially sets the Federation and the Klingon Empire at odds with one another; however, another moment at Narendra III will bring the Federation and the Klingon Empire together. There is a wonderful dramatic irony in the fact that both events rely on the commanding officer of the Enterprise wading into a situation that does not concern them.

Similarly, the decision to feature the Duras family helps create a clear sense of continuity to the corruption and moral decay in the Klingon Empire. Actually naming the character Duras feels a little heavy-handed, but there is precedent. After all, Worf’s grandfather was apparently called “Worf” – something that might make family gatherings awkward; you know, if they weren’t all dead. Indeed, Judgment reveals that Ent!Duras father is named Toral, the name of NextGen!Duras’ illegitimate son. It helps to create a sense of almost cyclic history to it all.

“I could have been an accountant, but no…!”

(In another nice bit of irony, it is revealed that Ent!Duras commanded the Bortas. The Bortas would serve as High Chancellor Gowran’s command ship in Redemption and Rightful Heir. It makes sense that Klingons would reuse abstract nouns like “revenge” as ship titles – how many versions of “enterprise” have there been? Given that Gowran defeated NextGen!Duras for the High Chancellorship, only to become as self-interested and power-hungry as NextGen!Duras, Judgment creates a nice cyclic dynamic; a cynical view of power and corruption in Klingon culture.)

The guest cast on Judgment do great work in bringing the story to life. It seems like the production team recognised this. Despite appearing towards the tale-end of the season, Judgment had a tremendous influence on what followed. Archer’s escape became a recurring plot element in episodes like Bounty and The Expanse. More than that, Rick Berman and Brannon Braga even brought Ent!Duras back for The Expanse. Already a Star Trek veteran, Enterprise would bring back actor J.G. Hertzler to play another Klingon character at the start of Borderland.

“What, they don’t have alcoholic lawyers where you come from?”

In contemporary interviews – and confirmed by David A. Goodman’s commentary – J.G. Hertzler actively lobbied for Kolos to join the primary cast on Enterprise:

So I’m hoping that they’ll add a Klingon to this bridge and group of people, mainly because of Bones. You know Bones played that role. Bones was the person that kept advocating the passionate aspect of events. I think a series needs that. They could use an old curmudgeon like me to balance all the hot young men and women on the show!

Although it was probably never considered by the producers, it might have been fun. Star Trek has already had two Klingon characters as part of the regular cast, but Kolos comes from a different place than Worf or B’Elanna.

Playing to the gallery...

Playing to the gallery…

Coupled with the rumours about adding Jeffrey Combs’ Shran to the ensemble for a hypothetical fifth season, it would certainly have made the regulars on Enterprise a bit more diverse. (Although the actors would still have been predominantly white and male.) There is something quite appealing about a speculative version of Enterprise that features J.G. Hertzler and Jeffrey Combs offering two very different perspectives to those espoused by Archer and the rest of the cast. Alas, it was not to be.

Judgment easily ranks as one of the very best episodes of Enterprise, and it seems a rare early episode of the show that generates consensus among on-line fans and the production team. However, there is a cruel irony in the fact that Judgment had truly terrible ratings. Ironically, audiences seemed to have made their own judgment on the show; Judgment received the lowest ratings of any Enterprise episode to that point. In fact, the episode beat out the previous record-holder, the equally ironically-titled Vanishing Point. Maybe the audience was vanishing, not Hoshi.

Case closed.

Case closed.

It is a shame. If the rest of the first and second season had been more like Judgment, the show would have been the stronger for it.

You might be interested in our other reviews of the second season of Star Trek: Enterprise:

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10 Responses

  1. So THAT’S why Bakula named this one has his top pick.

    Ever the gentleman, he stopped short of saying, “I like this one because Jonathan doesn’t patronize or kill anyone”, so I was left scratching my head.

    • I can see his logic. It’s a very good showcase of Archer not being everything he needs to be, but trying a bit harder than usual. It helps that the script is pretty overt about the show’s problems to this point. “It’s really not worth picking on him” is a pretty damning defense, even if it comes with “he’s really trying” as a caveat.

  2. These reviews have been fantastic. Thanks a million… and keep ’em comin’.

  3. Darren’s sterling effort with this review is much appreciated. Alas, as with most second season episodes, “Judgment” remains a sadly muddled affair, which in this instance gets so lost in fancy flashback techniques that it fails to address major plot points. Archer’s capture by or surrender to the Klingons is never explained. He just magically appears in front of a Klingon tribunal. The first act opening scene with Phlox visiting Archer’s holding cell could have easily solved the oversight with a simple throw-away line: “Do you think it was wise to surrender yourself, Captain?” How did the Enterprise arrive at the unnamed Klingon planet when it was transporting the Klingon-oppressed refugees to a safer world away from that region? And how does Reed casually waltz in and out of a deadly planetary penal colony, on the back of a surreptitious bribe, to free Archer and wrap everything up so conveniently in the last two minutes? Nonsense, really. Shame on executive producers Berman and Braga for allowing their monster egos to dominate a potentially ground-breaking series that failed to draw on the talents of many skilled writers in the SF field who could have transformed the show and justified its fine production and acting talents – all of whom, for the most part, were wasted on tepid and trifling third-rate dribble plots. The series remains eminently handsome and watchable (especially on Blu-ray) but could have been so much more.

    • Hi Peter!

      To be honest, I don’t know if I’d consider those to be fatal flaws with this particular episode.

      Certainly a great deal of classic Star Trek has those sorts of logical issues and potential plot holes in order to get into or get out of the plot quicker.

      In particular, the Klingon plots on TNG rely on a similar sort of hazy internal logic. It seems highly unlikely that the Federation would let Picard meddle in Klingon succession as thoroughly as he does in Reunion, let alone without a visit from (or a tense conversation with) an admiral or several. Similarly, Worf’s honourable dismissal from (and later readmission into) Starfleet in Redemption feels like it’s just a way for the show to transition to and from the Klingon story that the writers wanted to tell.

      Here, the conceit of Archer starting the episode in Klingon custody gets the plot moving quicker than something like Marauders or Vanishing Point or The Catwalk, where it feels like you wait half the episode for the story to start. Getting him out just tidying up because the story isn’t really about Archer in Klingon custody, it’s about Archer getting a glimpse of Klingon culture.

      Of course, it would be an even better story if those elements could be handled smoothly – if, for example, it fed in from something like Marauders and fed out to something like Canamar, as David Goodman originally intended? – but I don’t think they are huge writing problems. I think they are excusable necessities.

      It’s like Darmok or The Inner Light; both stories it would be quite easy to nitpick on the level of internal logic, but which work beautifully regardless. (Not that I’m sure Judgment is on that level, even if I do think it’s one of the strongest episodes of Enterprise.)

      I’m not the biggest fan of the first two years of Enterprise, but I’m also not a big fan of the “shame on Braga and Berman” philosophy, if only because it ignores the larger historical and social context around the series – in terms of the aftermath of 9/11, but also in terms of the evolving televisual landscape and the politics at UPN. I don’t think Berman and Braga were the best showrunners the franchise ever had, but I also have trouble believing that any of the other showrunners would have done better under these circumstances.

      (As much as I enjoy Coto’s year, it was still the last year before the show was cancelled. It’s very hard to argue that he would have had a meaningful positive impact on the ratings had he taken over sooner. Similarly, the free reign that Behr enjoyed on DS9 was largely down to what Moore described as being the ugly stepchild of the franchise.)

      • Why do you think Enterprise failed, and do you think it was doomed from the start or executive meddling strangled it in the crib?

      • Combination of factors, any one of which could have been terminal on its own, but which combined to ensure the series simply wasn’t viable from the outset:

        a.) it was tied to UPN, which was a network in trouble from the outset; while Voyager had been a jewel in UPN’s crown, shifting demographics and changing ownership made it clear that Enterprise did not fit the network’s “brand.”
        b.) declines in television viewing figures across the board, even affecting such stalwart genre shows as The X-Files; there was a massive change taking place in how viewers watched television, and the particular nature of those changes (more interest in reality television, time-shifted viewing for scripted shows, the rise of home media) meant that Enterprise’s ratings would always be brutally hit.
        c.) even more than that, audience interest in Star Trek had been in decline since the end of The Next Generation; Enterprise suffered by virtue of being at the tale end of that graph.
        d.) network politics ensured that although UPN had no real interest in Enterprise succeeding, the executives were very interested in meddling; this was particularly true during the second season, when a change of ownership meant that the new management was very keen to flex their muscles by doing things like suggesting boy bands could play on the Enterprise or sitting in pitch meetings and saying things like, “just one question… what’s a hull?”
        e.) the fact that Brannon Braga had been working on Star Trek for over a decade, and was pretty burned out by the time the show started;
        f.) the decision to staff the writers’ room with writers who had no idea how to write for Star Trek, ensuring Braga spent most of the first season exhausted and rewriting even the scripts without his name on them;
        g.) the fact that the “veteran” or “senior” writers on staff (Sussman, Strong, Bormanis) were generally quite inexperienced, having spent less time on staff on Voyager than Braga or Moore or Echevarria had on TNG before navigating to the other spin-offs, for example.
        h.) the fact that Berman and Braga had allowed the DS9 writing staff to become an evolutionary dead end in terms of the long-term development of the franchise; put Behr, Moore, Wolfe or Echevarria in a senior staff position on Enterprise, and the results would have been very different in terms of quality and tone.
        i.) a lack of strong vision from Berman and Braga, and a generally conservative attitude towards storytelling once their original “tell the first season on Earth” story was vetoed;
        j.) there were larger questions about the relevance of the Star Trek franchise in the wake of 9/11; did Americans want an optimistic version of the future, and could the staff provide it?

  4. This was the first really good episode in a long while. It got back to something I liked about the first season, picking apart at the monoculture crutch.

    • It really is a superlative episode. One of Enterprise’s best, by a considerable margin. Which is particularly notable given that it feels very much like “let’s do The Undiscovered Country!”

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