Star Trek: The Original Series

"Court Martial"


Air date: 2/2/1967
Teleplay by Don M. Mankiewicz and Steven W. Carabatsos
Story by Don M. Mankiewicz

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

In an episode of Trek courtroom drama, Kirk is accused of negligence in the death of Lt. Cmdr. Ben Finney and subsequently burdened with becoming the first Starfleet captain to face a court-martial proceeding.

This episode is a bit of a mixed bag, benefiting from some very nicely staged and acted courtroom scenes, including the use of Elisha Cook Jr. as Kirk's interesting defense lawyer Samuel T. Cogley. Watching Kirk in 100 percent "Kirk mode" (as only Shatner could play him) is entertaining, as he demands the court martial when Commodore Stone (Percy Rodriguez) recommends Kirk resign his commission to avoid bringing humiliation upon himself and the uniform. Working against the episode is the concept of why this court martial is taking place in the first place. I find it a little hard to believe that the death of an officer in this particular instance would be so much different in presumed fault than the average "red-shirt" death—at least not to the degree of perjury accusations.

I also find it hard to believe that the excessively crazy Finney (an over-the-top Richard Webb), as it turns out, staged his own death and rigged the whole episode to gain some sort of elaborate revenge upon Kirk. Too bad—it's an enjoyable view; it just doesn't bear much motivational scrutiny.

Previous episode: Tomorrow Is Yesterday
Next episode: The Return of the Archons

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5 comments on this review

Tue, Jul 24, 2012, 1:31am (UTC -5)
What I like about this episode is the utter certainty that Spock and McCoy demonstrate in Kirk's character and command ability. The prosecutor can't shake them into saying that Kirk might have made a mistake--she can only get them to say that it's hypothetically possible that SOMEONE could make that mistake.

Both Spock and McCoy are known to criticize Kirk's decisions frequently, but when someone else tries, they close ranks and step in front of him. That's because they have earned the right, both as proven senior officers and proven friends, to hold mirrors up to Kirk--precisely BECAUSE they respect him so much. They aren't about to let others, even an impersonal system, get away with it.

However, I didn't quite get why Spock beating the computer at chess was the golden piece of evidence. How did it indicate that the computer's program banks were tampered with? Did Finney stop to alter the chess program when he altered the tapes?
Wed, Mar 19, 2014, 9:53am (UTC -5)
Come on Jam Man, this is a four star episode. Absolutely gripping, a nice Man vs Machine subplot, Kirk is magnificent in the way he chews scenery, and the over the top flirting is totally funny. Not to mention that this is the bedrock of all other Trek Courtroom episodes.
Thu, Apr 3, 2014, 10:14pm (UTC -5)
Jammer brings up the same points I always thought as well, but.... I love this episode anyway. Mccoy using a vibrator to silence heartbeats until u hear only finneys, best part.

3+ STARS 4 me
Mon, Sep 8, 2014, 11:36pm (UTC -5)
What I liked about this episode is that except for "The Menagerie," it's the first one that gave you some sense of how this Federation works -- that it was more than one spaceship doing whatever it damn well wanted.

There was a structure behind it all, and we got a brief glimpse at that.
Mon, Dec 1, 2014, 11:01am (UTC -5)
I loved this episode, esp. the courtroom scenes, where Samuel T. Cogley is arguing the merits of man vs. machine. It reminded me of a very different courtroom scene on TNG, where Data's very status as a living being was on trial, in "The Measure of a Man". I wonder what Mr. Cogley would have thought of the JAG's ruling in that case (hell, with life spans the way they are in the 23rd and 24th centuries, he might have been alive to hear about it. Unless he's such a Luddite that he'd refuse medical assistance to stretch his lifespan).

I also enjoyed the fact that the "white noise maker/silencer" is just a microphone. :p Also, that the heartbeats are amplified, but no other bodily organ/process is. We should be hearing a deafening whirr of the computer's instruments, and loud burbles of gas moving through several colons. :D

80 years later on the Enterprise D, all they'd have had to do was ask the computer, "Where is Lt. Cmdr. Finney?" or that didn't work, scan the ship for life signs and pinpoint his location that way.

And you've got a point, Jammer, about why in the heck this particular officer death would be suspect at all. I guess it's because it happened on-ship, not on an alien world or due to any alien/viral influence, and because the computer logs quickly put Kirk's remembrance of the situation into question.

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