The Great Star Trek DS9 Rewatch: Tribunal

The O’Briens are about to go on their first holiday in five years, but no sooner have they left DS9 than they find a Cardassian ship in hot pursuit. The Cardassians are going to put Miles on trial, but not only do they refuse to tell him the charges, by the time anything comes to trial on Cardassia, it means the defendant has already been found guilty.

The latest in the “unfortunate life of Chief O’Brien” series, Tribunal is an episode which doesn’t really stand up to close inspection. After a barely plausible setup, we’re thrust into a courtroom drama which lacks drama; Cardassian trials only have one outcome, so nothing can be decided by carefully weighing up the evidence, and O’Brien is main character, so deus ex machina can only be a stone’s throw away. We’re essentially left with both a stupidly rushed ending, and the feeling that we’re meant to be mocking Cardassia for not being as enlightened as the almighty USA United Federation of Planets. Like the Romulans, the Cardassians are crying out to be complex and nuanced adversaries, but all too often the plot can’t cope with this, and just turns them into cartoon villains.

Everything wrong with O’Brien’s trial

  • Why were the Cardassians even allowed to get away with essentially abducting O’Brien? Is there no extradition treaty between the Federation and Cardassia, and if not, why not? Must innocent Federation citizens really live in fear of being snatched away from within their own borders?
  • Was Boone hanging round on the Promenade for the exact moment when O’Brien decided to go on leave?
  • Kovat actually falls back on the old “won’t somebody please think of the children?” in all seriousness.
  • Is O’Brien really so important that his supposed crimes would have discredited the Federation.

Other points

  • Why does it matter if O’Brien forgot the holo-camera? He could just replicate another one, either on the runabout or at their destination.
  • Similarly, why does he need so many PADDs in order to read some technical manuals? I could download and read many technical manuals on my iPad or Kindle. And even when he ends up going on holiday without any of them, he could easily find a 24th century internet café, or probably even replicate a new PADD. It may of course be that PADDs have some components that can’t be replicated, but this has never been made explicit.
  • What if Boone’s change in personality had actually been down to PTSD, and his encounter with Sisko and Bashir just traumatised him further?
  • Cardassian warp drives require ladarium, although it’s unclear whether it’s fuel or as part of the drive assembly.
  • I hope Bashir has some medical magic for restoring O’Brien’s molar. I hate to see teeth removed on TV shows, because it’s generally such a permanent loss.
  • Why has Starfleet allowed O’Brien to go without taking leave for five years? Does the 24th century no longer have laws that limit the number of hours people can work? Or is it just that, up until now, O’Brien has always used his time off to read technical manuals?

Summary – Tribunal: The trial of O’Brien.

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