My regular commentator on all matters Deep Space Nine, Astrozac, has already mentioned that series had a habit of dumping on Chief O’Brien from a great height at regular intervals, and this penultimate episode of season 2 is another prime example of this.
It starts with the Chief fretting over going on a week’s leave – his first for five years – with just Keiko, and of course he’s worried about what will happen to the station whilst he’s not there. It’s the old-fashioned comedy open, showing how everyone’s being driven dotty by him. Personally, if I was shooting off for a week with Rosalind Chao, I wouldn’t be packing anything like as many Tech Training Modules, but I’m not a workaholic and I’m fully in touch with my shallow side, so there you go.
And there go the O’Briens, alone at last and she’s finally got him snogging her when the comedy open turns very uncomedic as they’re intercepted by a Cardassian ship, in Federation territory, and O’Brien is arrested and taken for trial.
From this point on the episode is pure Kafka, save for the necessary twist that the Chief will not be executed, indeed will be back next week, none the worse for wear. O’Brien is stripped, quasi-tortured, imprisoned and subject to the Cardassian system of Justice, which adds a layer of Stalinist Show Trials to poor Franz’s paranoia.
The verdict and the sentence are determined and read out in advance, the trail is a recountment of the ‘proof’ and O’Brien’s Conservator, or Public Defender/Duty Solicitor, Kovat, is there to ease his client into acceptance that he is really the worst specimen of humanity (Cardassianity?) ever to walk the earth and hanging’s too good for him. He’s played like a ton of old ham by Fritz Weaver.
The charge, which is never formally announced, is worked out on DS9 when it is discovered that two dozen photon warheads have gone missing from the armoury, conveniently coinciding with the recent Maquis raid that netted them two dozen photon launchers. And as it was O’Brien’s voice that opened up the security…
But you all know it’s a frame. Sure, the voice is the Chief’s, but it’s a reconstruction of sounds, taken from a recording. By Boon, obviously, Boon being an old shipmate of O’Brien’s, into whom he bumps seconds before joining Keiko for their shagfest: Boon lives in the DMZ (hint hint, hint hint).
By implausible means, Odo gets himself into the actual Trial as Nestor, or Prisoner’s Friend, which he then disrupts endlessly by trying to drag in Earth ideas of Justice. The judge, Madame Makbar, continually shoots him down, somewhat undercutting the reality of the situation since such continual disruption of proceedings by going directly against the jurisprudence of the Court would have not been tolerated for half the length of time Odo gets away with it.
Still, it’s needed to give the gang back on DS9 the chance to solve the mystery. Boon is obviously a member of the Maquis. He’s arrested but he won’t talk, not even to save an old shipmate. Shameful, really, but once a representative of the Maquis materialises in a darkened surgery to disclaim Boon, and the theft of the warheads, all becomes clear. Boon isn’t Boon at all: he’s a surgically-altered Cardassian double.
So, back at the Trial, O’Brien defends himself, Kovat throws him to the wolves and it’s about to be off-to-the-scaffold time when yet another breach of Cardassian jurisprudence is allowed (I was a lawyer for thirty years, this kind of stuff annoys me) as in walks Boon, with a silent Sisko.
Andthus our get-out. Makbar takes one look at Boon and launches into an impromptu and convincingly insincere speech about hos O’Brien is clearly a fine, upstanding and moral man and, despite being guilty as sin of the most heinous crime known to man or Cadassian, is a prime example for rehabilitation into a near-Saint by returning him to the Empire’s mortal enemies, so she commutes his sentence to Free to Go Without a Stain on your Character.
All that’s missing is a pound from the poor box to tide him on his way.
Collapse of Kovat in horror that his world record unbeaten run of losing every case has just been brought to an unwelcome end.
After all this, O’Brien is ready to get back to work but Sisko has other plans: he’s got their reservations extended and he’s set a course to drop them off at their resort where they can get on with their plan to make Keiko’s knickers go out of fashion. Ahh, romance!
Overall, an enjoyable episode with a serious theme, but undercut for me by some lazy writing that avoids working out a route to the solution in favour of some improbable but cheap hocus-pocus, especially in the court.
Tune in for the big season finish next week.