Space Ramblings

Star Trek Enterprise episode review – Judgement

Summary: Archer experiences the unfairness of the Klingon justice system firsthand.

star trek enterprise judgementGreat heroes need great antagonists to confront and oppose. The Original Series created two great antagonist races, the Romulans and the Klingons, which every STAR TREK series has continued to use and which, arguably, none have improved upon. But even though the Klingons were key antagonists for the original Enterprise crew, ENTERPRISE until now has been stuck with a TNG-era view of the pop culture foe: somewhat troublesome allies, not ruthless conquerors and slavemasters. This is probably because the show’s producers date back only to TNG. The Klingon Empire in “Judgment,” however, is shown as a true empire complete with the enslaved races that were there in the Original Series and seemed to have been forgotten about by the 24th century. “Judgement” does not entirely upstage the TNG view of the Klingons but it comes closer to the TOS view, which is a vital necessity if ENTER{RISE is to retool itself into a better TV series.

Where during ENT’s previous Klingon encounters, the ridged-ones could mostly be talked around to the human view of things (“Unexpected,” “Sleeping Dogs”) or dismissed as rogue elements (“Marauders”), “Judgement” is the first Klingon-centered episode where they don’t do the reasonable thing by the end of the episode and instead take a decidedly hostile course of action by sentencing Archer to life in an arctic Klingon gulag. Whether this will translate into a change in how the Klingons relate to humans in future episodes, when Archer has become a fugitive from Klingon justice, depends on whether or not the producers will choose to uphold series continuity or not. “Judgement” itself, though, is certainly full of STAR TREK continuity references, from ‘Captain Duras’ suggesting a relationship to Worf’s antagonist to major elements of STAR TRE VI, including the tribunal set design and the dilithium mines of Rura Penthe complete with abusive guards and a variety of alien scum.

Captain Archer himself is also closer to Kirk in this episode than he’s ever been so far. He displays courage and determination rather than the impulsiveness and obtuseness that have so often characterized Archer. Former Martok actor J.G. Hertzler also creates a better character in the form of ‘Kolos’, an aging and disaffected gruff Klingon lawyer out of place in the new order. Of course Kolos’ speech about the warrior class having taken over Klingon society is rather dubious at best since the Klingons are not the Romulans or the Cardassians. The warrior class hasn’t taken over their society; violent confrontation is the basis of their society, culture, and biology from the times of ‘Kahless’ to the 24th century.

Even Klingons who were part human or raised by humans like ‘Worf’, ‘K’heylar’ or ‘B’Elanna’ inherited it. That speech along with Archer’s cliched homily about the human past smacks of an attempt to humanize Klingons into just another yet-to-be-civilized culture along human lines like the Cardassians or Ferengi.

These days UPN seems to bill just about every ENT episode as an ENT Event, but “Judgement” is one of the few episodes that’s worthy of the name. Everything from the direction to the actors is just right with an episode that appears to cover a lot of ground and with each character, no matter how minor, making a distinct impression. The visual effects and production design departments have outdone themselves again. Money was clearly spent on this episode and it shows in the FX of the exteriors of the Tribunal and the Klingon ship and the Tribunal interior, which does its best to reproduce the original and unique Klingon set design of STAR TREK VI, from a courtroom that’s narrow but sweeps high upwards to the Klingon judge’s alien gavel.

Overall “Judgement” is the series’s first solid Klingon episode. Where prior STAR TREK spin-offs produced filler Klingon episodes as an attempt to boost ratings with the appearance of a popular race, this episode has a decent grasp of continuity, a viewpoint and a message. It has its flaws. Archer’s rescue is more originally accomplished and plausible than a standard starship rescue might have been, but its abruptness and lack of build-up with an offhand comment by T’Pol makes the conclusion seem rushed. Had “Judgement” seen Archer captured and put on trial for any of his prior negative Klingon encounters, it would have boosted continuity and freed up more time for a heartier conclusion to the episode which, like many TREK episodes, now suffers in the reduced running time (39 vs 44 minutes) that UPN has provided.

Next week: Another ENT Event: Mayweather’s family yells at each other.

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