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Star Trek: Court Martial

Kirk: "It's not all bad, Mister Spock. Who knows? You may be able to beat your next captain at chess."

Did they forget they were doing a sci-fi show?

Military courtroom drama doesn't do much for me. Unless, of course, it's Humphrey Bogart on the stand losing his marbles or Jack Nicholson yelling, "You can't handle the truth!" But at least some military courtroom drama is well-written and interesting to watch. This episode was not. And there was zero suspense. Did anyone watching this in 1967 actually believe Kirk might be convicted, even for a moment?

So let's see. Lt. Commander Finney was in a pod during the ion storm and Kirk had to jettison the pod after a red alert. No one found the pod afterward, and yet there was a search on the Enterprise to find Finney in case he was injured and couldn't call for help. We never even learned why the pod had to be jettisoned, anyway. Even worse, the supposedly faulty computer was relied upon to find Finney. Evil computers were a continuing theme on Star Trek; at least this time, it wasn't the computer's fault.

The other technologies came off even worse than the faulty chess-playing computer. McCoy spent a significant amount of time on the bridge using a device that looked like a microphone to eliminate heartbeat readings, but Spock was able to block out the heartbeats in the transporter room with the touch of a button. The sabotage to the Enterprise looked like black cables tied to protrusions in the Jeffries Tube. And how likely is it that the only control panel on the captain's chair would contain buttons for "Yellow alert," "Red Alert," and "Jettison Pod"? How many pods does Captain Kirk jettison every week?

My favorite part was the coda, where we learned that Sam Cogley, the Clarence Darrow clone, was defending Ben Finney. I also enjoyed the psychedelic sixties outfit and huge rectangular earrings that prosecuting attorney Areel Shaw was wearing at the officer's club. She was yet another former amour of Kirk's. I don't know... maybe she should have recused herself?

Ben says...

I think Billie is right overall. This is not a great episode on a theme we have seen done better in lots of places. (Although I would love it if my work chair had buttons on it allowing me to signal red alert and then jettison various people. Okay, maybe I am just having a long day today).

That said, you know that speech that Cogley makes when Kirk first shows up about the law being in books and not on your iPad. I can really get behind that. Some of you younger readers may not be familiar with this, but at one time knowledge was transmitted in a system of analog structures made of wood products and imprinted with dyes; they were called books. They were organized and kept by an order of warrior-monks called librarians (wait, I may be getting carried away again). Completely accidentally, this episode gets at the slipperiness of the computer-mediated reality we live in, where we have words like "ground-truth" to describe what is actually happening in the world versus the representations online or on video (which I guess are the new reality). I sound as crotchety as Sam Cogley myself here... wait, I’ve got to go, those kids are on my lawn again.

Back to Billie for bits and pieces:

— Stardate 2947.3. Most of the action took place at Starbase 11. And the pod incident took place on 2945.7.

— The Enterprise apparently has a personnel office. I guess there would have to be, wouldn't there?

— Ben Finney hid in the same spot that Kirk did in "The Enemy Within." Apparently, it's the place to hide.

— Kirk and Finney served together as ensigns on the U.S.S. Republic.

— The Intrepid was mentioned. It'll be mentioned again.

— There was a two pod "receiving" transporter in what appeared to be Stone's office. Why would one be needed?

— The dress uniforms were back, and this time we saw the women's version; Shaw's was like the mini, but it went down to her knees. It also didn't have a spot available for ribbons. I guess female officers don't get ribbons. At least it looked a lot better than the shimmery sailor suit that Finney's daughter Jame was wearing.

— Speaking of Jame, her opinion of Kirk changed radically mid-episode with no explanation. In an episode with so many writing flaws, not a surprise.

— Spock was referred to several times as Vulcanian instead of Vulcan. He even referred to himself that way.


McCoy: "You're the most coldblooded man I've ever known."
Spock: "Why, thank you, Doctor."

Kirk: (after kissing Shaw on the bridge) "She's a very good lawyer."
Spock: "Obviously."
McCoy: "Indeed she is."

One out of four jettisoned pods,

Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.


  1. I have always enjoyed this episode and was (and am still able to) suspend my disbelief to be truly worried that Kirk did make that fatal error and to wonder what will become of him. I enjoy his determination to prove himself innocent rather than, for one second, second-guess himself. That steely-eyed determination mixed with a slight arrogance (well-deserved considering all his accolades and medals) plus his well-developed sense of compassion, has always been the attraction for me to this character. As a young girl growing up (and with so few decent female role-models on tv and film, even in Star Trek), Kirk was as close to the perfect human and leader as I could imagine.

    On another issue altogether, the lawyer for the prosecution wore a dress uniform that should have been the uniform for all the women on board the starship (in lieu of non-genderised pants which would have been more suitable again). Watching this series again from scratch in my holidays, almost 40 years after having watched it the first time, that uniform the female officers are forced to wear with their knickers showing, really pisses me off! I know it was the tv producers that altered the uniform from the original one that Number One wears in The Cage, but it still really annoys me that they were able to get away with that nonsense. The stupidity of most of the female crew, with the exception of Uhura, is mind-blowing. They all really wanted to be princesses and be taken care of by a man. It's as though their chosen careers essentially come a distant second to their hair and make-up.

    Anyway, the female prosecutor was very good in her role and she would, as a character, certainly have been ahead of her time in the late 1960s.

  2. I love physical books, even though I also own a Kindle, and like it too. As a kid who watched a lot of Scooby Doo, Where Are you (among a few others), I've always wanted a gothic castle/mansion with a huge library, preferably with at least 1 secret passage behind the bookcases!

    This is one I haven't seen in some time and I only vaguely recall it well. I do recall enough to largely agree with you Billie though!

    One fun fact, Elisha Cook Jr. who played Cogley was also Watson Pritchard in the wonderful 'House on Haunted Hill' along with the sublime Vincent Price! If you haven't seen, I have to recommend it. Just be wary of which version you get. I have 3 versions and only has good image quality, the other 2 are blurrier than they should be.

  3. Despite being slightly dated and on a shoestring budget is still vastly superior to Strange New Worlds' "Ad Astra". The may not have had much to work with but at least they had good writers.

  4. This episode has a very radical thing for the mid-1960s: the four judges at the tribunal include two men of color, one of them South Asian (Indian, or maybe Pakistani), the other Black (Commodore Stone, who is IN CHARGE of the proceeding). They didn't include a woman judge, but the idea of a very attractive woman as a competent prosecutor was also light-years ahead of its time.

  5. I just re-watched this episode and laughed out loud at the buttons on the command chair. How many pods did Kirk jettison by accident when he set his coffee down in the wrong spot? The amount of money Kirk was costing StarFleet in accidental pod jettisons should have been the court martial :)


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