|O'Brien, on trial for his life.|
O'Brien is leaving the station for a vacation with his wife, Keiko, when his runabout is intercepted by a Cardassian warship. Keiko is allowed to return to Deep Space 9, but O'Brien is arrested with no charge specified. He is assigned a Cardassian attorney (Fritz Weaver), who assures him that his trial and execution will be uplifting for all of Cardassia - which is hardly a comfort.
On Deep Space 9, Sisko determines that O'Brien's charges are related to the Maquis. Somebody used O'Brien's voice print to steal weapons from the station, and it seems likely that some of those weapons were planted on his runabout to implicate him. It doesn't take long for Sisko to determine that O'Brien's voice print was a forgery. But the Cardassian tribunal will hear no new evidence. The verdict has already been established, after all, so only one outcome is possible - Conviction!
Commander Sisko: Is highly protective of his people. When the Cardassians finally contact Deep Space 9, Sisko wastes no time in making a threat, and making it clear that he intends it to be a threat, even though such probably would not meet with Starfleet's approval. He is dogged in pursuing the truth, and in making sure that truth is presented to the Cardassians in such a way as to gain the outcome he seeks. When he walks into the tribunal with his "evidence," he is able to say a lot with a single, grim-faced glare.
Odo: His time on the station during the Cardassian Occupation comes in handy. He is familiar with Cardassian law. While Sisko and Keiko impotently demand to know the charges - which Cardassian law will not allow to be revealed until the tribunal begins - Odo knows to instead ask the penalty. He is able to gain permission to attend the trial, his service to Gul Dukat having made him an officer of the Cardassian court. At the tribunal, Odo acts as the attorney the Cardassian advocate refuses to be, insisting on clarification of vague statements made by the chief Cardassian witness, Gul Evek (Richard Poe). His efforts do not change the verdict, but they do extend the trial substantially, which gives Sisko the time he needs to discover the full truth.
O'Brien: Is trapped inside what has likely been one of his longest-term nightmares: Prisoner of the Cardassian Empire. He receives some rough treatment at first, but an officer of the court quickly puts a stop to that, ordering that he be treated as well as the Cardassians probably ever treat a prisoner - likely to make sure that O'Brien's trial can be used against the Federation, rather than the other way around. Still, O'Brien is left with no allies until Odo is able to push for his appointment to the defense. At the tribunal, O'Brien's own disdain for Cardassians is used against him. Rather than rethinking his prejudices, however, this experience seems most likely to reinforce them, as evidenced by O'Brien's statement at the end that he refuses to submit to the Cardassian Empire.
In The Maquis, Gul Dukat described the Cardassian system of justice. "The verdict is always known before the trial begins, and it's always the same: Guilty." This episode takes that statement and creates a surreal nightmare for O'Brien, who finds himself at the center of a Kafka-esque trial where his own attorney celebrates the idea of his conviction.
The episode is Avery Brooks' Deep Space 9 directing debut. Brooks does a good job, too. The visual element of the episode is very strong, particularly during o'Brien's initial processing. Even after that, O'Brien is left to stalk around his narrow, bright cell, pacing from side to side like a caged animal... all as he waits for the trial to start, in a chamber that is as dark and forbidding as the proceeding itself. It's all very effectively-shot, with the use of lighting particularly good.
The ending seems perhaps a touch too easy, but there is at least some groundwork laid for the final twist. Also, there are implications from that very twist which I suspect will be seen again.
Overall, Tribunal is another good show in a run of good shows. Season Two seems on track to end the same way it began: With an extended run of very high quality.
Search Amazon.com for Star Trek: Deep Space 9