In “Judgment,” Enterprise draws inspiration from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country by putting Archer on trial in a Klingon court and sending him to Rura Penthe. What makes this feel like a great episode rather than a ripoff are two things: 1) The casting of two excellent guest-stars: J.G. Hertzler and John Vickery, and 2) The integration of classic Trek values: justice, tolerance and the true meaning of honour.
There is not a lot to say about gender or race in this episode. There are no women (or gender-fluid characters) in the Klingon court scenes or Rura Penthe. The latter is perhaps a minor missed opportunity given how interesting Iman’s character is in Star Trek VI.
But T’Pol is given a fair shake in this episode. Unlike “Canamar,” where she does little to influence the plot, or other episodes in which Archer is away and her command is questioned outright, T’Pol uses her personal Klingon diplomatic backchannels to rescue the captain.
This is also maybe one of my favourite Archer episodes. The premise is this: Archer is on trial for aiding Klingon “fugitives.” The main witness against him is Duras, an ancestor of the TNG Duras’, so us Trek fans will know he’s not to be trusted.
The prosecutor is Orak (Vickery, who played the Cardassian Rusot on DS9).
Archer’s advocate is Kolos (Hertzler) and it’s hard not to think of him as Martok’s great-great-grandfather or something, but that is what head-canons are for.
Kolos at first is jaded and doesn’t even care about Archer’s side of the story. Archer challenges him to put up a real defence, refusing to just hand over the “rebels,” which is what would be required to save his life.
Kolos agrees and convinces the court to let Archer tell his side of the story. Via flashbacks, Archer tells how Enterprise answered a distress call and rescued a ship of starving refugees. Duras then demanded they be handed over to the Klingon Empire, but Archer refused. Duras fired on Enterprise, not the other way around, as Duras had claimed.
After the defence, Archer and Kolos await the court’s decision. This is a lovely scene in which both Archer and Kolos learn more about each other’s people and culture.
Kolos: You didn’t believe all Klingons were soldiers?
Archer: I guess I did.
Kolos: My father was a teacher. My mother, a biologist at the university. They encouraged me to take up the law. Now all young people want to do is take up weapons as soon as they can hold them. They’re told there’s honour in victory, any victory. What honour is there in a victory over a weaker opponent? Had Duras destroyed that ship he would have been lauded as a hero of the Empire for murdering helpless refugees. We were a great society not so long ago, when honour was earned through integrity and acts of true courage, not senseless bloodshed.
Archer: For thousands of years, my people had similar problems. We fought three world wars that almost destroyed us. Whole generations were nearly wiped out.
Kolos: What changed?
Archer: A few courageous people began to realize they could make a difference.
Unfortunately, the Magistrate sends Archer to the dilithium mines on Rura Penthe, and when Kolos objects, he is also sentenced to a year there.
At this point there’s only 10 minutes left in the episode, and it’s kind of unfortunate we don’t get more time in the mines. But we do get to see Archer and Kolos protecting each other. Archer even stands up to the guards on Kolos’ behalf, and gets pain-sticked for his troubles.
Kolos: So, are all humans like this?
Archer: Like what? Fair?
Archer: (laughing) It’s in our nature.
Not long after a figure in a hood comes into the prison and approaches them. It’s Reed, come to bust out Archer.
Archer asks Kolos to come with them but he refuses. He explains:
Kolos: I’ve been an advocate for 50 years, and I spent the last 20 of them standing in that tribunal playing my part, holding my tongue, and all the while honourable men were being sent to places like this without the benefit of a defence. And then I was assigned your case. You told me that on your world a few courageous people made a difference. I’m not sure I have the courage, but I know I’ll never be able to restore honour to my people living as a fugitive.
Archer: You realize what that means. You said most prisoners here don’t survive a year.
Kolos: Most prisoners here have very little to live for.
It’s a really touching 10 minutes that leaves you wanting more. A great end to a great episode.
Bechdel-Wallace Test: Fail