Well, with TNG over, we’ve got a precious half-season of nothing but Deep Space 9 before Voyager starts up. Let’s get to it.
O’Brien is in civilian clothes and going over procedures, and it seems like he’ll be leaving soon. The worrying part of this all is he’s teaching Jadzia how to do his job while he’s literally on the way out the door. Doesn’t he have a team of Starfleet or even Bajoran engineers he trusts? Or at least trusts more than his users. And with those instructions, O’Brien is off on vacation. Oh no wait, not quite. Sisko has to order him to leave, and on the way out he sees Boone, one of his old crewmates from the Rutledge. Boone’s retired and living on the Cardassian side of the DMZ and makes a living supplying a key component in Cardassian warp drives. O’brien doesn’t know how he can stand talking to Cardassians after what they lived through on Setlek III. O’Brien doesn’t forgive easily.
Keen observers will note that Boone seems sinister, particularly since he seems to have made a voiceprint of O’Brien’s name. Also the creepy string backing. But that’s not O’Brien’s concern. He and Keiko get a whole runabout to themselves, and Keiko changes the subject as soon as Miles accidentally brings up Will Riker. Apparently he forgot to bring a camera, but he did remember to bring tech manuals. He puts them down eventually, once he figures out why Keiko didn’t want them to bring Molly. Sadly, moments later they are approached by a Cardassian scout/attack interceptor run by Gul Evek, who wants to do an inspection. Or rather, to arrest him.
The Cardassian Miranda warning is pretty much exactly what you’d expect. The detained party is given the opportunity to refuse to answer questions, but such refusal can be legally interpreted as admission of guilt. I bet they also have a saying: “It’s better that ten innocents suffer than that one guilty person go free.” It’s been done in a hundred small ways before, but this one is particularly good. To call the Cardassian government a fascism is a vile accuracy: the state is held philosophically to be of supreme importance over the individual. After all, from what we’ve heard before, Cardassia used to be a pastoral paradise, until catastrophe nearly destroyed it. They only survived by forming empire. Cardassia is if an entire planet was the Weimar Republic. I digress. O’Brien resists arrest and is stunned. Keiko is to be escorted back to DS9. After all, they’re space-Nazis, not barbarians.
O’Brien is treated to the first-class accommodations available to Starfleet officers who are remanded into the Cardassian legal system. The interrogator even has a light. O’Brien starts out with Name, Rank, and Affiliation. Since he wasn’t wearing a uniform when he was taken, this is probably as good a move as one could make in this situation. During Processing, his retinal scan, blood, hair sample, and a tooth are taken for the record. Once this is done, a female Cardassian, and clearly the person in charge, comes in to play Good Cop. She’s Makbar, Chief Archon, and here to make sure he’s as comfortable as possible. She’s even gotten him the best public defender there is. Why does this not inspire confidence.
Sisko informs Keiko that The Enterprise and two other powerful ships are deployed along the DMZ to threaten war if they don’t get O’Brien back. This is not good enough for Keiko. She’s very upset and Odo is not helping.
Moments later, Makbar calls Sisko. She’s the prosecution in the case, and a lot less friendly dealing with Sisko and Keiko than she was with O’Brien. Also, Miles is already guilty – the trial is more of a transparency report detailing how it was proven that he’s guilty. Cardassians are very efficient. Odo has some familiarity with Cardassian procedures and steps up to take part in the trial, which will precede his execution. Odo and Keiko head out, and Sisko and Kira begin the process of attempting to prove his innocence as if that’s gonna change anything.
Here to answer the obvious question of “what’s the point of a public defender if the verdict and sentence are already determined, and how does one get to be considered the ‘best’ under such a system” is none other than O’Brien’s lawyer, a grandfgatherly old man wearing tweed. Conservator Kovat explains how important his job is – he’s here not as council, but as councilor to help O’Brien admit his guilt so that the Cardassian population can know how guilty he is, as if there could be any doubt. Of course, we haven’t even gotten to the charges yet. Cardassian justice is explicitly for show. The theory is that crime is thereby reduced since all criminals are immediately caught and put to justice, even if they might technically not be the exact same arrangement of organic compounds that performed the precise acts they’re being pronounced guilty of.
On DS9, it seems that somebody has stolen a whole bunch of warheads and replaced them with scrap metal – a feat that for some reason would not have triggered alarms the way a simple beam-out would. Apparently the cargo bays operate on the Chachapoyan Temple theory of security. Such transporter expertise would have been hard to come by, but O’Brien is such an expert. Also, his voiceprint is in the security log. It’s worth noting that the voice print doesn’t actually sound like the one Boon got. The current running theory is that the warheads were destined for a Maquis ship which had stolen a bunch of launchers. And that someone framed O’Brien for it.
Odo shows up to explain the situation, as much of it as he knows, to Miles. Now Miles knows the Maquis connection, but despite hating Cardassians, O’Brien is as Starfleet as it gets. We’ll see how long it takes him to think of good ol’ Boone.
Interestingly, this episode seems to be structured a lot like a Cardassian trial. We (or at least, those of us paying any attention whatsoever) already know who’s guilty, but we didn’t find out what the charges would be until everything was well and truly under way. The story, therefore, is about how the guilt was proven. Ain’t that a thing.
We can also see how this proceeding is basically destroying O’Brien’s entire sense of self-worth. His entire identity is built around being an upstanding and forthright man, and even the suspicion of a corrupt dictatorship might unmake him.
Dax determines that the voiceprint was, in fact, a damn good chop-job in Audible, and Kira’s investigation of potential Maquis agents lands precisely on Raymond Boone.
As the trial begins, it is broadcast on the wall-screens that appear to be present on every government building. O’Brien takes the stand. He is offered the chance to confess and save the state the trouble. Keiko is then offered the chance to divorce him and testifying against him. Both refuse, of course, and Odo takes a quick break from propriety to confer with Kovat. As is only proper, Kovat is just a year from retirement, is gettin’ to old for this shit, and other tropes that mean he (or at least his career) are pretty much doomed.
See, the problem with a live broadcast of a trial is that Odo can just talk really loudly and really fast about the evidence that proves O’Brien is innocent. If he is not then allowed to present it, it ruins the people’s faith in the system. If he is and it exonerates O’Brien, then the 100% Cardassian conviction rate vanishes, and it ruins the people’s faith in the system. Makbar’s recourse is to assume that any evidence found will have been fabricated by the Federation. All new evidence is disallowed, and the trial continues.
Sisko and Kira interrogate Burt Reynolds-lookalike Boone, but since they’re reluctant to extract any teeth, it goes nowhere. Bashir, meanwhile finds all the lights in his infirmary offline, and a Maquis agent appears out of the shadows to disavow Boone. The thot, at last, plickens.
As the trial goes on, Gul Evek explains the Maquis menace, but gets to gloss over any inconvenient questions with ‘national security.’ Damn it feels good to be a gangsta. In his pursuit of the Maquis information, Bashir asks to examine Boone. There’s a sudden shift in his behavior starting about eight years ago, and something fishy is suspected. Since this occurred just after Setlek III, it seems they suspect him of being a Cardassian spy wearing prosthesis.
Back to the trial, the longest trial in Cardassian history. The time has come for O’Brien to testify, which he is apparently compelled to do under Cardassian law. After all, the show must go on.
What’s really weird here is Odo’s adherence to what passes for justice in the Federation. He was raised by a Bajoran scientist, made part of the legal system by Cardassians, and has occasionally railed against Sisko for not letting him declare martial law and spy on everyone. Yet he’s plainly disgusted by Cardassian jurisprudence. Where does his sense of justice come from? Is it innate to his species, moreso than memory?
Conservator Kovat is doing his very best to come up with a reason for O’Brien’s criminal nature. On his second try he gets it exactly right without knowing it, but Miles just refuses to take the Out. Instead, Archon Makbar falls back on his war record and the fact that he’s never really gotten over Setlex III. When she asks if he still hates Cardassians, it must be really hard for him not to glibly point out that they’re not doing themselves any favors at the moment. They even pull the whole ‘taking clear statements of predjudice and somehow making them seem innocent by the context in which they are quoted’ thing that we’ve seen before. Just when all seems lost, in walks Boone, accompanied by Sisko.
When he walks in, the Archon immediately about-faces. O’Brien is still guilty, of course, but something something rehabilitation something something strong values something something we may have actually crossed a line the Federation won’t let us get away with this time. Conservator Kovat is terrified to have won a case, and O’Brien is free to go. Turns out Boone was in fact a Cardassian, spying for the Cardassians, and the whole situation was set up to justify a move toward war over the Maquis issue. Boone being brought in put a stop to all that, so now Miles and Keiko get to have post-trial nookie.