In the twenty-fifth and penultimate episode of the second season ofÂ Deep Space Nine, Keiko and O’Brien go on a vacation together. Forty-five minutes later, everything is so fucked up that I can barely summarize it all. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watchÂ StarÂ Trek.
Trigger Warning: For terrorism, torture, nonconsensual medical procedures.
Oh my god, this episode is basically an unofficial sequel to “The Wounded,” isn’t it? ISN’T IT? Like that episode ofÂ The Next Generation, “Tribunal” takes a concept, utterly destroys me with it, and then leaves me sitting here,Â completely unable to deal with HOW FUCKED UP THE CARDASSIANS ARE. Do you truly realize how terrible they are? DO YOU KNOW WHAT LENGTHS THEY GO TO TO UNDERMINE THE TREATY WITH THE FEDERATION?
How aboutÂ surgically altering one of their own in order to be a human spy?
I’ll get back to that later. “Tribunal” isÂ Deep Space Nine’s version of something much more akin to Kafka’sÂ The TrialÂ than anything else, though it’s extremely important to note that there’s a heavy satire here of the American judicial system and the media circus that often delivers a very particular form of “justice” for the state. This is, point-blank, one of the mostÂ brutalÂ scripts I’ve seen in theÂ StarÂ TrekÂ universe because it so plainly skewers what justice actually is. The Cardassian court system detailed in this episode is not just a culturally different entity. Its sole purpose is to serve as an arm of the state, not to discover the truth, but to provide a form of moralistic entertainment meant to reinforce a very specific kind of order within Cardassia.
When O’Brien is finally charged, he’s declared guilty in the same breath. There’s no defense of the client allowed; there is no counter narrative in this space. Thus, to O’Brien, the entire experience becomes much like a waking nightmare. By comparison, it makes the Federation’s form of justice seem perfect. It’s not, obviously, but that’s where the satire works well. This is an exaggeration of the negative aspects of our own court system, and when they’re on display here, they feel monstrous. Terrifying. Deeply unfair. On top of that, it’s a great way to further build Cardassian culture, which promotes uniformity, stubborn loyalty, and homogeneity above most things. Their court system reflects that, doesn’t it? Every trial proceeds in basically the same manner. The advocate exists solely to compel the defendant to confess their crime and beg for mercy. The nestor doesn’tÂ actuallyÂ advise their client in any real sense. That role is also for show. Instead of being a proceeding meant to find justice, it comes off far more like a ritual. Or a ceremony, perhaps! And it seems to hold the same meaning as one, you know?
Therefore, I found it empowering to watch Odo, Miles, and Keiko all refuse to become a part of this machine. In the end, that was their most effective weapon. By simply rejecting the very notion that theyÂ hadÂ to participate, they forced the Cardassians â€“ particularly Makbar â€“ to adapt. As Makbar pointed out here, this was the longest trial in Cardassian history. Knowing how similar all the trials were, that made this a deeply significant event. How much have these people changed the face of Cardassian politics? Or their legal system? What reaction did other Cardassians have to this trial? THE WORLD NEEDS TO KNOW.
Okay, perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself, and we might not ever get that perspective. This is still a vital Cardassian story because it shows just how viciously desperate the Cardassians are. We’ve seen how they’ve been secretly carting in weapons in order to disrupt all the previously-Federation colonies, all so that those colonists will leave their land to the Cardassians. Or, on the other hand, those same people will react violently, like the Maquis, giving the Cardassians ammunition to useÂ againstÂ those very same colonists who they are constantly terrorizing. But this? THIS IS SO SCARY AND I AM NOW WORRIED THAT THIS WILL NOT BE THE FIRST TIME WE SEE THIS. The Cardassians have the ability to SURGICALLY ALTER THEIR OWN CITIZENS TO LOOK EXACTLY LIKE HUMANS. What the fuck?Â What the fuck? That all by itself is horrifying, but think about the lengths they’ve gone just to get what they want. THEY WERE GOING TO LET MILES O’BRIEN DIE FOR THIS PLAN. !!!!!!!! I get why Sisko doesn’t pursue this much further, given that he wanted to get O’Brien home as soon as possible. But I’d consider this attempted murder, wouldn’t you? Okay, maybe that’s not the right legal term, but the Cardassians were intent on using this “evidence” to further discredit the Maquis. AND MILES O’BRIEN WOULD HAVE DIED.
What is wrong with the Cardassians?Â What is wrong with this show?Â That was the worst vacation of all time, oh my god.
The video for “Tribunal” can be downloadedÂ here for $0.99.
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