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Plot Summary

Judge Dredd framed

Shortly after his return form his Cursed Earth mission, Judge Dredd finds himself accused of the murder of a journalist. Judge Cal, the head of the powerful SJS (Special Judicial Squad) which policies the actions of the Judges themselves, is a member of the Council of Five and Deputy Chief Judge, second only to Chief Judge Goodman. In a meeting of the Council of Five, he urges the Judges to find Dredd guilty in light of the extraordinary evidence which shows Judge Dredd on video murdering the journalist. Unknown to Judge Dredd and the rest of the Council of Five, Judge Cal used a robot double to frame Judge Dredd and remove him from the city, with the aim of forcing Chief Judge Goodman to resign due to his support of Judge Dredd. Judge Dredd receives the customary sentence for renegade judges- 20 years of penal servitude on Titan. Knowing he is not guilty, Judge Dredd escapes from his prison transport to Titan and goes rogue in an attempt to clear his name.

Judge Dredd, having a suspicion that the crime was committed by a double, seeks out his informant Max Normal. Max informs Dredd about an engineer who has been behind in debts and a possible subject to be blackmailed into making a robot duplicate. When Judge Dredd arrives at the engineer's house, he finds that he has already been killed. Attempting to find out who could have murdered him, Judge Dredd is met by his robot double who takes credit for the crime and proceeds to try and kill Judge Dredd. Judge Dredd returns back to the Grand Hall of Justice with the head of the robot double and is able to clear his name, but is no closer to discovering who could have framed him.

The Rise of Chief Judge Cal

With his plan to try and remove Goodman quietly foiled, Judge Cal steps up his plan. While Chief Judge Goodman is returning from a medical clinic for his age treatment, he is ambushed by unknown assassins who mortally wound him. Judge Dredd is the first on the scene where the dying Goodman passes him an insignia of the SJS he grabbed from one of the attackers. Judge Dredd deduces that only Judge Cal could be responsible for such an act having the most to gain from Judge Goodman's death and quickly rushes to apprehended him. As he leaves his home, Judge Dredd becomes the target of an SJS assassin and is grievously wounded, but he is found by his servant Walter the Wobot who calls an ambulance to save him.

With Chief Judge Goodman dead, the line of succession allows Judge Cal to become Chief Judge. Judge Cal immediately shows his insanity by passing a whole array of strict and often ridiculous laws on the population of of Mega-City One, made worse by the fact that Mega-City One already had very repressive laws. Judge Cal also makes the extraordinary decision to reinstate the death penalty and makes it a possible punishment for almost anything. Judge Cal declares that the law has grown too "soft" and promises to restore order to the streets. Much to the surprise of the other Judges, Cal appoints his pet goldfish as his Deputy Chief Judge.

Judge Cal prepares to execute Judge Dredd
Judge Cal prepares to execute Judge Dredd

Judge Cal orders the arrest of Judge Dredd after he is found to be alive and recovering from his wounds. He has his loyal Judges bring him to his chambers where he will render Judge Dredd's punishment. He passes the duty to Judge Fish, who he declares to have passed a sentence of death on Judge Dredd. Before he can do the deed, Judge Cal is interrupted by Judge Giant, who asks if he can have the duty of executing Judge Dredd. Giant reasons with Cal, telling him that he will only needlessly get his Chief Judge garb dirtied by Dredd's blood, and that he despises Dredd for what he did to him while he was finishing his cadet training under him. Judge Giant, once clear of Judge Cal, helps Dredd escape from his clutches and reach a safe-house where other Judges opposed to Judge Cal have gathered to make their move. Judge Dredd sees that many of them are wounded Judges or tutors at the Academy of Law, but knows that they must do something to resist against Cal.

First insurrection against Judge Cal

Judge Cal passes more laws
Judge Cal passes more laws

Chief Judge Cal is enraged that Judge Dredd was able to escape with the help of Judge Giant. He passes even more laws out of rage, including making disobedience itself punishable by death, much to the confusion of his own Judges and the populace. Judge Cal is enraged when he finds that the people are protesting on the streets for his removal, demanding that the Judges quickly do away with any sign of dissent among the people.

Judge Dredd, witnessing the discontent among the people, sees a way for him and his Judges to resist against Cal. With his small team, Judge Dredd storms the broadcast center of Mega-City TV where he makes a plea for the citizens to march on the Grand Hall of Justice to try and stop Cal. The broadcast works and soon much of the city is on the march and are able to overwhelm the Judges, completely surrounding the Grand Hall of Justice. Judge Dredd, outside the hall, calls upon Judge Cal to surrender peacefully. Cal takes no notice of the scene and instead calls upon his ace in the hole- a whole fleet of brutal, flesh-eating Klegg mercenaries awaiting in the sky over the city. The Klegg reinforcements overwhelm the citizen mob and pushes Judge Dredd and his team back into hiding.

"I have decided to sentence the whole city to death"

Cal announces the city's punishment
Cal announces the city's punishment

Enraged that the citizens of the city rose up against him, Judge Cal announces that the whole city is to be executed. He lays out a plan by which everyone will be executed in alphabetical order, sector by sector, until the deed is done. The decision even outrages his closest advisers who begin to have doubts about Judge Cal's state of mind. One of these, Judge Cal's right hand man SJS Judge Slocum, is abducted by Judge Dredd's team. They convince Slocum to "assassinate" Deputy Chief Judge Fish, who later presents Judge Fish's dead body to a grief stricken Cal. As Dredd anticipated and much to the relief of everyone else, Cal takes Judge Fish's death as a sign that he should not proceed with the execution. Judge Cal decides to pardon the entire city and plans a lavish funeral for Judge Fish. Much to his anger however, no one actually shows up to the funeral.

Cal passes even more laws out of anger, and even appoints the head of the Klegg mercenaries, Grampus, as the new Deputy Chief Judge. Citizens begin trying to leave Mega-City One for the Cursed Earth, but are prevented from doing so by Cal's forces. Judge Cal decides to construct a massive wall along the western border of Mega-City One, effectively imprisoning the citizens in their own city. After launching an attack on a part of the wall under construction, Judge Dredd is flushed out of his hidehout by Klegg mercenaries. A large force pursues Dredd and his allies in their small vehicle, including Cal who tries to kill him in his personal airship. One of Cal's attacks blasts a highway from under Dredd's vehicle, sending it careening down to the ground level of Mega-City One. The vehicle hits the ground with such force that it penetrates into the vast undercity, landing into the remnants of the Ohio River derogatorily referred to as the "Big Stinky".


Judge Dredd fights Fergee
Judge Dredd fights Fergee

Confident that no one could have survived such an impact, Judge Cal gloats over the death of Judge Dredd. Judge Cal later proceeds to prepare for the making of a movie glorifying his life, forcing the cooperation of a well-known actor to play his part while having a midget play his nemesis, Judge Dredd. Unknown to Cal however, Dredd was using a special vehicle with a reinforced command capsule, so while the rest of the vehicle was obliterated, the small cockpit containing Dredd and his allies protected them from death. Judge Dredd however notices that one of their number, Schmaltz, is wounded and nearing death. The judges encounter the devolved human denizens of the underground who attempt to kill them, but are chased away by Fergee, an erratic resident of the Big Stinky. Fergee then proceeds to get into a fight with Judge Dredd, batting him several times before Dredd lands an uppercut and sends him flying into the river. This earns Fergee's admiration who then befriends the judges.

After giving Judge Schmaltz a funeral by burning his body in the remains of the command capsule, Dredd and his team follow Fergee into a small settlement where he makes his home. Fergee declares that he is the "King of the Big Smelly" and welcomes them into his residence. Judge Dredd and his team then proceed to try and plan what they can do about Cal. Judge Dredd and his allies debate as to how Cal could have earned the loyalty of so many of the judges. Judge Giant suggests that Cal could have placed subliminal messages in the daily briefing tapes that every Judge is expected to attend. As Dredd was in the Cursed Earth in the weeks before Cal's rise to power and the tutors not expected to attend briefings, Judge Dredd sees this as a possibility. Dredd decides to return back to the surface, using the help of Fergee to find their way out of the cavernous undercity and sewers.


Once returning to the surface world, Judge Dredd returns to his apartment to find Kleggs have occupied it, making Walter their servant in the process. After defeating the Klegg, Dredd instructs Walter to call the Judges on them and try to earn Cal's trust. After being able to escape once again, Cal attempts to destroy Walter in a fit of rage but is prevented when Walter begins insulting Judge Dredd. Seeing this as an opportunity to smear his rival, Judge Cal has Walter spread stories to the major media of Mega-City One and declares him to be the first robot judge of the city.

Secretly, Walter enters into the briefing room where he acquires a copy of the tape for Dredd to analyze. He is discovered by SJS Judge Slocum, who attempts to report the deed to Cal. Before he can do so, Cal instead has him paralyzed and pickled for no apparent reason beyond Judge Slocum calling him crazy several progs before. This prevents Slocum from revealing Walter's duplicity, who is free to pass along the tape to Dredd. Once receiving the tape, Dredd's team reveals that Cal has indeed placed subliminal messages in the tape, subjecting judges for weeks to obey him without question. Dredd orders his team to try and make a new tape to cancel out the suggestive messages left by Cal and bring the Judges back to normal.

Cal's descent into madness

Cal admires his work
Cal admires his work

Judge Cal takes a moment to witness the completion of his massive wall, and complements himself for the achievements he has brought to Mega-City One. However, he begins to receive frequent hallucinations of betrayal by his own allies and the whole city. Fearing that his achievements will forever be lost, Cal decides to gas the entire city so as to preserve it as a monument to his reign. He announces his decision to gas the entire city on the television, prompting Judge Dredd to accelerate their plans.

Using a secret entrance under the tomb of the first Chief Judge, Dredd and his team infiltrate the Grand Hall of Justice. They are able to enter into the briefing room and subdue the guard team within. They replace Cal's tape with their own, and within a few hours of various Judges receiving their briefings, Dredd is able to gain the support of much of the Judges. Realizing that Chief Judge Cal is preparing to gas the city very soon, Dredd rallies the Judges behind him and attempt to storm the Statue of Judgement where Cal hopes tobe in the best position to see the gassing of the city.

Judge Dredd is able to break through the Klegg mercenaries guarding the statue, who were planning to leave before the city was gassed and were in no mood to fight. The Klegg are gunned down mercilessly in revenge for their actions, among them Grampus. Dredd and his allies are able to breach the reinforced doors blocking the entrance to the statue, allowing them to ascend the statue.

Fergee saves the city
Fergee saves the city

Cal meanwhile enjoys the view from the statue, with his remaining aides whispering to themselves that they should try and take down Cal in order to avoid retribution from the other Judges. Cal offers them a toast of wine that is spiked with poison, and gleefully proclaims to him that he knew they would backstab him as he saw in his hallucinations. Shortly afterwards, Fergee leads the assault of the Judges into the chamber but is gunned down by Cal. Dredd orders Cal to stand down but he refuses, showing that he still has influence on the Judges despite their attempts to counteract his brainwashing. Before he can push the switch to gas the city, Fergee rises despite his wounds and grabs Cal, throwing the both of them off the balcony along with several Judges Cal ordered to try and save him. With his death, Judge Cal's reign of terror is ended and his attempt to kill the population of Mega-City One narrowly averted.


Statue of Fergee
Statue of Fergee

With Cal Dead, the Judges go about recreating the Council of Five and elect a new Chief Judge. Despite popular demands for him to stand for the position, Judge Dredd passes the honor to one of his tutor allies, Judge Griffin. Judge Dredd states that Griffin is better suited for the job than he is due to his experience and age, and pointing out that he is better suited for the life of a street judge. Dredd, aware of the importance that Fergee, a reject of the undercity and underclass criminal element, was the one that ultimately saved the city, has a memorial built for Fergee.

Many of Judge Cal's actions would leave a deep scar on the city due to the implied economic damage and high death toll from executions, though it would later be overshadowed by the consequences of the Apocalypse War and Necropolis. The actions of Judge Cal would be felt nearly 17 years later when Judge Edgar, the head of the Public Surveillance Unit, is found by Dredd to be in possession of highly sensitive files belonging to Judge Cal during his time as the head of the SJS. The files contained the sum of Cal's investigations into the lives of all the Judges, including major ones, in an attempt to amass material for blackmail. The danger of the documents ends up setting the downfall of Judge Edgar when Dredd realizes that she could also use the files to increase her power much like Cal did.

Most notably, the massive wall that Judge Cal constructed to prevent escape from the city would end up becoming in its own right an iconic feature of Mega-City One in future progs, mostly as a defensive feature and as a means to enforce their mutant segregation laws by preventing the entry of mutants from the Cursed Earth. While implied that Judge Cal's reinstatement of the death penalty would be repealed, the sentence would end up being used by Judges again in later progs as another way the writers of Judge Dredd to emphasize the repressive nature of Dredd's world.


The 1995 film Judge Dredd took inspiration from different story arcs of Judge Dredd. Judge Cal's insanity and rise to power is somewhat filled by the actions of Judge Rico in that movie, as well as Dredd being framed for a crime. Fergee is also a main character, though he is simply a common criminal and has no relation to the comic Fergee beyond occupying a role of comic relief.

In the 2012 film Dredd, the police crime reports mentions a riot at "Fergee Memorial Park", a reference to the parks commissioned in honor of Fergee by Judge Dredd after the events of the Day the Law Died.

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