Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Enterprise, Season 2: Judgment

Enterprise, Season 2
April 9, 2003
44 of 97 aired
44 of 97 produced


Captain Archer stands accused of capital crimes against the Klingon Empire, and his fate rests in the hands of his reluctant defense attorney.

 Archer is just as dazzled by the Hertzler of it all as we are.



Matthew: Watching this episode is an exercise in determining whether fan service or storytelling are important to you. The fan service is thick. You've got the Klingon Courtroom and Rura Penthe penal colony from Star Trek VI, Duras from TNG, and J.G. Hertzler from DS9. Honestly, for me, all of these retread story ideas dragged me out of the episode rather than pleasing me. It makes the universe seem smaller to have another Starfleet captain sent there.

Kevin: It's not the most egregious example, but it's in the realm of "if this were true, wouldn't it have come up in the later story?" A literal other captain of the Enterprise was falsely accused and sent to Rura Penthe? That's a pretty big coincidence. It's also one of those stories that gets all its stakes and interest from outside the story. If you had never seen or heard of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, would this episode still feel like anything. Ultimately, I will answer yes, but barely, and it's almost exclusively on the back of Hertzler's acting.

Matthew: The basic courtroom drama had a mildly interesting "Rashomon" style difference between the accounts, but because I knew that Duras was lying, it wasn't as interesting as, say, TNG "A Matter of Perspective." The most interesting aspect of the story was Kolos and his appraisal of Klingon society. When he said his parents were a teacher and a biologist, I wanted so much to hear how and why Klingon culture had changed towards its emphasis on war. Was it politics? Some sort of resource shortage? Ultimately, Archer comparing the struggle of a militarized Klingon society to the "three world wars" of Earth's past rang a bit hollow. Some courageous people stood up and realized things could be different How? What did they do? Was it Liam Dieghan and the Neo-Transcendentalists? Give us this story!

Kevin: In Neutral Zone, Picard hand-waving the solution to war and poverty was fine. But every time someone else does it, it becomes less convincing. I liked the Roshomon style story too, since it's just a fun strucutre, but I agree, we know the truth from jump, and we're robbed of even the interest of Archer saying 'fuck it' and helping people being hurt by the Klingons. He was just helping people, and then there were some Klingons. Maybe with some tweaks this could have been fun. What if T'Pol or Trip or Phlox were also there giving testimony. Maybe seeing the story shift through their lenses could have served both the larger story and been some fun character exploration. As for the insight into Klingon society, I agree that was the one that piqued my interest the most, and in a line, they implied a vast, really interesting story. The most we've gotten about the stratification of Klingon society is Martok's struggles with his working class origins and Kurak, the Klingon scientist who felt disrespected. There's a really fertile story and it reminded of something I saw the most recent time an American proto-fascist said something laudatory about Sparta. Our perception of Sparta in pop culture is a whole society of warriors. Someone pointed out it's not that every Spartan citizen was in fact a warrior. It's that Sparta only defined warriors as citizens. Like every contemporary culture, and plenty since, Sparta's population was a pyramid with a tiny, oligarchic elite at the top lording it over a vast population of poor farmers or slaves. It's the self-conscious PR of that society that they are all noble warriors, not that literally everyone trained their whole life to be a solider. The same must be true of the Klingons. Indeed, no civilization could function that way. Even warriors need food. So, in the plus column, this is a super fun idea that could really add a unique layer of texture to a tentpole Star Trek species. In the minus column, I just spent more time exploring it than the episode did.

Matthew: The alien of the week was pretty boring. Haven't we already gotten the story of the wimpy colonists who are being abused by mean and nasty Klingons? The escape from Rura Penthe was also a pretty rote action story. I sort of don't understand it, either - is Archer now wanted throughout the Klingon Empire as a fugitive? Was his death faked by the corrupt official? And how did Kolos end up? Dead? Courageous and society-changing?

Kevin: I hate to invoke the Temporal Cold War since it's such a mushy plot, but maybe had this been some downstream consequence to the events of Broken Bow, they could have found a way to thread the needle of making Archer an actor in the story rather than to whom the story happened. I really wanted some decision from Archer that he voluntarily took that he knew beforehand would land him here, just because I'm tired of Archer being falsely accused. We literally did it last week.


Matthew: J.G. Hertzler has his voice and his stature working in full effect in this episode. I want to hear him expound upon the moral decay of Klingon society. His line deliveries in both quiet scenes and dramatic courtroom scenes were most excellent. Bakula played off of him well, too. 

Kevin: So for all my complaints and wishing the writers had decided to use the episode to work on their BA thesis on Spartan social inequities, it kind of doesn't entirely matter. I would honestly watch Hertzler read the ingredients on a shampoo bottle. His presence and voice is such that he invests material with depth even where there is none or little. 

Matthew: The other major Klingon guest stars were all pretty good. Granville Van Dusen (now there's a name) was good as the judge, John Vickery was excellent as the prosecutor, and Daniel Reardon, who played Duras, has come a long way from the web-fingered brute Rondon, who hassled Wesley at his  Starfleet Academy entrance exam. It's a shame they weren't given more to do in portraying the decay of Klingon values.

Kevin: I liked the judge since judges do tend to present in a largely similar way. I was more annoyed with them making Duras a Duras. It seems to stipulate the point that the whole family is somehow genetically corrupt and that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It's like the Slytherins. Why do we have them? But agreed, all the actors brought it. Vickery in particular was really good for me. He was also the catatonic Betazoid in Night Terrors and Gul Rusot, Damar's asshole second-in-command in the war arc on DS9. He plays a similarly militant asshole in a run of Babylon 5 episodes. So, when you need an aggressive, sanctimonious prick, you call John Vickery. 

Production Values

Matthew: The low-rent versions of the courtroom and Rura Penthe both looked pretty good. The real star effect of the episode was the digital matte of the Klingon planet - it is one of the very best so far in the series. The Klingon costumes were also suitably textured and rich, with lots of leather and fur. 

Kevin: Yeah, despite not being the movie set, it looked good, and even the smaller scale works given that this is supposed to be some kind of backwater. Hertzler's wig in particular was really good this time. He reminded me of John Shuck's Klingon Ambassador from the movies. The judge reminded me I really want one of those flinty metal ball gavels, which watching it this episode appears that the glove is permanently affixed to the ball. So dramatic.


Matthew:  This is somewhere in the 2-3 range. Despite its conspicuous fan service, it had a baseline entertainment value which is hard to dismiss, and I was never bored. I think this was mainly on the strength of the acting, because the story left me wanting more and yet again emphasized the wrong beats for me (e.g. the action). I think I'm on a 3 for this one, just barely.

Kevin: The plot is a 2, just from repetition. We have done this several times now, including last week. There was some fun to be had with the Roshomon recollections, but without any hint that Archer's version isn't the real one, there's no energy to them. The saving grace is, of course, the presence of J.G. Hertzler. The man just knows how to fill a space with his voice and his body in a way that is just delightful and compelling. I would honestly have listened to him tell me stories about his teacher father and biologist mother for the whole 42 minutes and been a happy camper. Hertzler's presence nudges this into a 3 for me as well, for a total of 6.


  1. One of the joys of following you guys going through the episodes systematically is that you put the finger on so many things I only partially realized. Archer under accusation, e.g.
    On a meta scale, it's about how badly ENT needs a shake-up. Now, I'm not much of a fan of the Xindi season as a whole, but I can certainly appreciate that the producers realized that what they had so far was not living up to the name of Star Trek. And that the problem was with the writing much more than anything else.

    1. I'm quite looking forward to Season 3, for exactly that reason. It's different, focused, and reasonably memorable. So much of these first two seasons feels like spinning wheels.

    2. First, thanks. :)

      Second, I dipped my toe in Season 3 while I was out with a (thankfully mild) case of covid last month. I was surprised by how grim it got so fast. I didn't watch really any of season 3 when it first aired, so I'm curious what it will be like. That said, at least they were doing SOMETHING. It may not end up being my cup of tea, but I can't deny it feels like they had an idea that invigorated them a little.