15 "Court Martial"

(airdate: February 2, 1967)

Story: Don M. Mankiewicz     Teleplay: Don M. Mankiewicz and Steven W. Carabatsos
Director: Marc Daniels

Portmaster Stone: Percy Rodriguez
Areel Shaw: Joan Marshall

Samuel T. Cogley: Elisha Cook
Ben Finney: Richard Webb

Jame Finney: Alice Rawlings

Stardate: 2947.3

Captain's Log: After a recent encounter with an ion storm, the Enterprise arrives at Starbase 11 for repairs. During that storm, Kirk was forced to jettison an ion pod containing Lt. Commander Ben Finney, the Enterprise records officer. Kirk insists that he waited until the last possible moment to jettison; however, the computer indicates otherwise. Kirk is certain he waited as he was supposed to, and so a court-martial is called. Computer evidence shows that Kirk did indeed jettison the pod early, so his fate appears to be sealed. However, Spock discovers that the computer has in fact been reprogrammed by someone. An experiment shows that there is someone unaccounted for aboard the ship, and an investigation reveals it to be Ben Finney, still very much alive. Finney blamed Kirk for an incident earlier in their careers that Finney believed led to his being passed over for promotion, and so framing Kirk for his "death" was his revenge. Finney has also sabotaged the ship, intending to destroy it. Kirk is able to defeat Finney and undo the sabotage, saving the ship.

Whoops!: So Commodore Stone, the head of the entire starbase, just lets anyone wander into his office to berate the people inside? In other words, how is Jame Finney able to burst in and yell at Kirk? There's also the matter of Jame's sudden change of heart regarding Kirk, almost as if she knows something about her dad...except that this potential clue is never pursued in the final episode.
     How is Shaw's prior relationship with Kirk not considered a conflict of interest when it comes to prosecuting his case? And then of course there's the way she details the strategy of her prosecution directly to Kirk in the Starbase Club (but at least we get to actually hear the phrase "Kirk versus the computer"). Of course, she makes up for this by sending Kirk to Samuel T. Cogley, attorney-at-law, a legal genius that nevertheless doesn't cross-examine a single witness or uncover any evidence to help Kirk's case, despite all his speeches about human rights. (This doesn't include the odd moment where he suddenly gets to start calling witnesses for the defense before the prosecution has finished making its case, so apparently Cogley at least has that ability, somehow.) It's a good thing Spock decided to play chess, because Kirk would have been found guilty if he'd had to rely solely on Cogley's abilities as a lawyer.
     And speaking of chess...it sure is lucky that altering the computer records ended up affecting a completely unrelated part of the computer, isn't it? And maybe this is because it's still the 1960s, but how did no one consider checking the computer programming when verifying the integrity of the computer logs? They go over all the physical components but never check to see if there was either malicious sabotage or even just a bug in the code. And once the issue is discovered, Spock and McCoy head down to Starbase 11, as this is a matter of the utmost urgency - although apparently it's not that urgent, since they're willing to stop and change into dress uniforms first.
     Why does Kirk run the experiment aboard the Enterprise to listen for unauthorized heartbeats? He's still on trial at the time, after all; wouldn't it make more sense to have Spock or Cogley run this experiment instead? Oh, and there's the matter of how Cogley chooses to leave the Enterprise while the experiment that might prove Kirk's innocence is being run. Apparently this is because Cogley has gone to Starbase 11 to bring Jame Finney aboard the Enterprise, in order to make Ben Finney easier to deal with - not that we ever see this (a scene featuring Jame and Ben on the Enterprise was apparently shot, but cut for time). Was there no one else who could go get Jame? They could have sent someone like Uhura to do it, rather than sending the defense attorney while in the middle of a key argument for the defense.
     Nitpicks now, but Finney is described as a lieutenant commander yet is wearing commander stripes, and the stunt doubles in the Kirk-Finney fight in Engineering are very obvious at times. According to the visual record of the Enterprise bridge, the captain's chair has five buttons on the right arm, only three of which are labeled - but the three we see are two alert buttons (with yellow and red lights next to them) and one labeled "Jettison Pod" - conveniently, the only three buttons relevant to what's happening on screen. And why is jettisoning the pod a function on the captain's chair, rather than one of the consoles on the bridge?
     A booster on the ship's auditory sensor increases the capability of the sensor on the order of 1 to the 4th power. Er, except 1 to the 4th is still 1. [They probably mean 10 to the 4th power.]

Classic Lines: McCoy: "Mr. Spock, you're the most cold-blooded man I've ever known." Spock: "Why, thank you, Doctor."
     Shaw to Kirk: "Flattery will get you everywhere."

Technobabble: Spock found no mechanical faults after running a complete megalyte survey on the Enterprise's computer banks.

Don't Wear a Red Shirt: No one dies, despite Kirk being on trial for murder. He and Finney fight it out in Engineering though, which ends with Kirk victorious - though not before his shirt is very badly ripped.

Alien Love: Kirk and Areel Shaw shared some sort of romantic relationship in their past. They both still care enough about each other to share a kiss on the Enterprise bridge at the end of the episode.

Library Computer: Starbase 11 [the same place we saw in "The Menagerie", though this was made first] is still located on a blue-black planet [a standard Earth-like planet in the remastered version]. We get a similar though not identical view of the starbase to that in "The Menagerie", with a large rectangular tower with large windows, some smaller mushroom-like towers [think the Space Needle in Seattle], and a complex of buildings nearby. The sky is still a pinkish-purple hue. The starbase included an establishment called the M-11 Starbase Club, where off-duty Starfleet personnel could meet and have a drink. The commanding officer of Starbase 11 is Commodore Stone [called "Portmaster" in the credits, though not in the episode itself], a tall black man with greying hair, wearing a red uniform with a starburst assignment patch [the general Starfleet Command one] and two gold braids running along a thick gold band on the sleeve, indicating his rank as commodore. [At some point between this episode and "The Menagerie", there's clearly a change in commanding officer at the base.] Stone at one point captained a starship, before becoming the head of Starbase 11. The Enterprise stopped off at Starbase 11 on stardate 2947.3 for unscheduled repairs, following an encounter with a severe ion storm. Maintenance Section Eighteen was a department of Starbase 11. They were initially working on the Intrepid, but they switched to working on the Enterprise, as that ship was considered priority one.
     On stardate 2945.7, the Enterprise entered a severe ion storm which caused natural vibrations of at least force 7, with variable stress. The ship sustained considerable damage as a result, and one life was recorded lost: Lt. Commander Ben Finney, the ship's records officer, who was inside an ion pod taking readings on ion plates (since it was his turn, according to the duty roster) and refused to leave in time, forcing Kirk to jettison the pod with Finney inside. Kirk jettisoned the pod while on red alert, in accordance with standard procedures. However, the computer records and visual log showed that Kirk jettisoned the pod during a yellow alert, thus giving Finney insufficient time to leave the pod. Kirk disputed this, which led to a court-martial being called.
     Kirk's court-martial was conducted before Commodore Stone and three other officers: Space Command Representative Lindstrom, an older white man with white hair whose rank was captain, dressed in a yellow-green command dress uniform; Captain Krasnovsky, an older white man with greying hair and a mustache, dressed in a sciences blue dress uniform [and who is to date the only captain in a sciences uniform seen in all of Star Trek]; and Captain Chandra, an older man of Indian descent, wearing a yellow-green command dress uniform.
     The prosecutor was Areel Shaw, a blonde lieutenant who was a member of the Judge Advocate's office. She had known Kirk and considered him an old friend, although she hadn't seen him for four years, seven months, and an odd number of days. ("Not that I'm counting.") [The episode strongly implies they were romantically involved at one point, and they clearly still care about each other, but they never explicitly say they used to date or anything like that, so it could have just been a lot of heavy flirting but nothing too serious.] Shaw was dressed in court in a red operations uniform, which was slightly longer than the standard female duty uniform, with a number of seams running toward her starburst assignment patch and a black collar with thin gold trim. [This seems to be a female dress uniform, but it actually looks like a variant of Nurse Chapel's standard uniform (the seams give it away), albeit in red with a fancier collar.] We also see her off duty in a long, flowing green dress with a flowery print.
     Kirk's attorney was Samuel T. Cogley, an older man with grey hair and blue eyes who preferred books over computers, as reading books let Cogley understand the intent of the men who wrote the laws and legal opinions. [The suggestion is that computers provide a summarized report of the law, rather than providing word-for-word transcriptions of the texts, and this is what Cogley objects to. (Well, that, and he probably enjoys the physical books themselves.) Presumably this would be a default setting, not that the computers don't have the full texts in their databases.] Cogley had a reputation for theatrics, but he had come recommended to Kirk by Shaw. After successfully winning Kirk's case, Cogley was set to defend Ben Finney. He gave Kirk a book (not a first edition) as a congratulatory gift for being found not guilty.
     Lt. Commander Benjamin Finney was a middle-aged man with sandy red hair and blue eyes. He had been an instructor at the Academy while Kirk was a midshipman, but despite that the two of them had formed a close friendship - to the point that Finney even named his daughter Jame after Kirk. [And yes, both the credits and the script spell it as Jame, not Jamie.] However, some years later, when both he and Kirk were assigned to the USS Republic ([NCC-]1371), Finney left a circuit open on the atomic matter piles that could have destroyed the ship; then-Ensign Kirk discovered the problem, fixed it, and then reported the incident. This led to a reprimand for Finney which "sent [him] to the bottom of the promotion list". This, combined with the fact that he'd been at the Academy as an instructor for an unusually long time before being assigned to a ship, made Finney believe that he had been unfairly passed over for promotion, and he blamed Kirk for this, causing their friendship to end. Consequently, Finney devised a plan that framed Kirk for his apparent murder: he made it seem as if he had been inside the ion pod when Kirk jettisoned it, and then changed the computer records to make it look like Kirk had jettisoned on a yellow alert instead of a red alert. Only he, Kirk, or Spock had the ability to alter the computer's programming. [Probably due to permissions rather than skill.] Then he hid inside the ship, avoiding contact with others. Once the Enterprise arrived at Starbase 11, he sabotaged the ship, depriving it of power so that its orbit would decay and it would crash into the planet below. However, Kirk was able to knock out Finney and repair the sabotage to the primary energy circuits.
     Jame Finney was Ben Finney's daughter, named after James Kirk. She was a teenager with brown hair and blue eyes. She initially blamed Kirk for the death of her father, but later she was more understanding, trying to get Kirk to change his plea to guilty and take a ground assignment, rather than completely ruin his career. This was because she read letters Finney wrote to her and to her mother, detailing how close he and Kirk had been. [A scene cut from the final script would have made it clearer that Finney's letter to Jame made her wonder if her father were in fact trying to frame Kirk, thus explaining her sudden change of heart - and that that change would have made Kirk and Cogley suspicious of her motives, thus leading to the idea that Finney was still alive.]
     James T. Kirk's serial number was SC937-0176CEC. Kirk was highly decorated, with commendations including the Palm Leaf of Axanar Peace Mission; the Grankite Order of Tactics, Class of Excellence; and the Preantares Ribbon of Commendation, Classes First and Second. [The script spelled it "Prentares", but subsequent appearances in other series spell it "Preantares".] Kirk's awards of valor include the [Starfleet] Medal of Honor, the Silver Palm with Cluster, the Starfleet Citation for Conspicuous Gallantry, and the Karagite Order of Heroism.
     Spock's serial number is S 179-276 SP. He had been twice decorated by Starfleet Command and had received the Vulcanian Scientific Legion of Honor. According to Spock, Vulcanians [sic] do not speculate.
     Dr. McCoy had received the Legion of Honor, and had been decorated by Starfleet surgeons. According to the record, he was an expert in psychology, particularly space psychology, which covers the patterns which develop in the close quarters of a ship during long deep space voyages.
     The Enterprise's personnel officer was a young female ensign of Asian descent, dressed in operations red. As part of her duties, she was familiar with the service records of all aboard.
     Members of Kirk's graduating class at the Academy who were at Starbase 11 included Timothy, who was a white male lieutenant with dark brown hair, dressed in operations red; Corrigan, an older white male lieutenant with thinning grey hair, dressed in sciences blue; Teller, a younger white male lieutenant with brown hair, dressed in command gold; and Mike, an older white male lieutenant with silver hair, also dressed in command gold. They had all been friends with Ben Finney, and while they believed Finney was dead they blamed Kirk for his death. Kirk hadn't seen Timothy since the Vulcanian expedition [whatever that was].
     A complete megalyte survey will show if a computer has developed a faulty physical component. However, it won't show if a computer has been reprogrammed in some way. A reprogrammed computer can lead to other unanticipated consequences; in this instance, Finney's altering of the logs led to an alteration in Spock's chess program, allowing him to beat the computer five times in a row, when normally the best he could do would be to play it to a draw. (This is because Spock programmed the chess program himself, with all his knowledge of how to play the game.) The ship's computer also has an auditory sensor, which allows it to hear sounds. It can be attuned to focus simply on heartbeats, and a white-sound device (which looks like a cylinder with a sphere on one end [so a microphone]) can be used to mask specific individuals' heartbeats.
     A phase 1 search is a painstaking, thorough search in and around the ship to find a person who's unable to respond. It does presuppose, however, that the man in question wants to be found. Kirk ordered a phase 1 search after Finney was allegedly jettisoned, but they were unable to find him because he was avoiding detection.
     The Bible, the Code of Hammurabi, the Code of Justinian, Magna Carta, the Constitution of the United States, the Fundamental Declarations of the Martian colonies, and the Statutes of Alpha III are all documents that detail various civil rights, including the rights of the accused in legal situations, including trial by their peers, right to counsel and to cross-examination, and the right to face the witnesses against them.
     Machines don't have rights. [This will be relevant when we get to the Next Generation episode "The Measure of a Man".]
     The Enterprise has a meteorology department whose duties include detecting ion storms. Part of the Engineering department is located on B Deck.
     Kirk is the first Starfleet captain to stand trial.
     Uhura knows how to man the navigation station.
     Commodore Stone's office at one point displays a chart of starship statuses and their percent complete. The registries are NCC-1709, approximately 73% complete; NCC-1831, 100% complete (and with a green line on the far right side); NCC-1703, approximately 51% complete; NCC-1672, approximately 72% complete; NCC-1864 [possibly; it could also be 1664, 1684, or 1884], approximately 77% complete; NCC-1697, approximately 30% complete; NCC-1701 (USS Enterprise), approximately 83% complete; NCC-1718, approximately 45% complete; NCC-1685, approximately 21% complete; and NCC-1700, approximately 11% complete. [These are most likely starships currently at Starbase 11 for repairs.]
     [This list of starship registry numbers led to a fanzine article in the '70s called "The Case of Jonathan Doe Starship" by Greg Jein. Normally we wouldn't concern ourselves with fanzine works, except this one took on a quasi-canon status, with some of its conclusions later becoming enshrined in the remastered version of the Original Series. To wit, Jein took the registries seen here and matched them up with ships mentioned in TOS episodes and in the Stephen E. Whitfield/Gene Roddenberry book The Making of Star Trek. That gave him eighteen starship names. He removed the Constellation ("The Doomsday Machine"), the Defiant ("The Tholian Web"), the Farragut ("Obsession"), the Kongo (The Making of Star Trek), the Republic (this episode), and the Valiant ("Where No Man Has Gone Before"), arguing that these ships were either no longer in service or not yet in service. This left him with twelve ships (the same number of ships given in "Tomorrow Is Yesterday"), which he then arranged in reverse alphabetical order. Starting from the bottom of the "Court Martial" list, he arrived at NCC-1700 being the USS Constitution, NCC-1685 being the USS Eagle, NCC-1718 being the USS Endeavor, NCC-1701 correctly as the Enterprise, NCC-1697 as the USS Essex, NCC-1664 (which was his interpretation of the number that we think is 1864 - and frankly, it's not completely legible to read even today in HD, let alone in the early '70s) being the USS Excalibur, NCC-1672 being the USS Exeter, NCC-1703 being the USS Hood, NCC-1631 (a misreading of 1831) being the USS Intrepid, and NCC-1709 being the USS Lexington. (This left the Potemkin and the Yorktown unassigned.)
     [Jein also postulated registry numbers for other ships, based on lists D.C. Fontana and Robert Justman had drawn up for potential starship names at the start of season 2. The only relevant one for our purposes is the Defiant, which was given as NCC-1764. Of this list, not counting the Enterprise, a handful have been made official by Mike Okuda, who had worked with Greg Jein on The Next Generation and so used these numbers as a nod to Jein. They are the Defiant, NCC-1764 (as seen in Enterprise: "In a Mirror, Darkly"/"In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II" and the remastered version of "The Tholian Web"); the Excalibur, NCC-1664 (the remastered "The Ultimate Computer"); the Exeter, NCC-1672 (the remastered "The Omega Glory"); the Hood, NCC-1703 (the remastered "The Ultimate Computer"); the Intrepid, NCC-1631 (the remastered version of this episode, seen in the opening moments); and the Lexington, NCC-1709 (the remastered version of "The Ultimate Computer"). The other registries remain currently unofficial.
     [Finally, it may be worth noting that NCC-1864 (what appears to actually be the fifth number down on Stone's chart) eventually became the registry of the USS Reliant in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.]

Final Analysis: "Captain Kirk, you say you jettisoned the pod after the Red Alert? ... Then, Captain, I must presume you've committed willful perjury. This extract from your computer log says you jettisoned the pod before going to Red Alert. Consider yourself confined to the base. Official inquiry will determine whether a general court martial is in order." "Court Martial" is an episode with excellent performances and direction, aided by a script that moves along so well that you don't really even notice all the issues with the plotting unless you really stop and think about them. Thoroughly enjoyable.

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