TOS: S1 – E20: Court Martial

STARDATE: 2947.3

We join the Enterprise as it was visiting Starbase 11 for repairs after a bout with a severe ion storm, which cost one life and damage to the ship — Lt. Cmdr. Benjamin Finney. Kirk gave Commodore Stone a complete rundown of the damages. Stone asked for computer logs that went along with his sworn deposition.

Spock beamed down with the computer card containing the information, and Kirk fussed at him for taking so long. Stone took the cards, and a girl walked in, named Jame Finney. She said she wanted to get a last look at Kirk, who she blamed for killing her father. She quickly got hysterical and screamed at the captain, calling him “a murderer.” Stone had Spock take Jame from the room.

Stone told him to accept ground duty or the entire weight of Starfleet would land on his “neck.” Kirk angrily demanded a general court-martial.

Stone asked him if he jettisoned the pod (which Finney was in) after he declared red alert; Kirk said that he had. Stone then said that Kirk committed willful perjury.

Later, Kirk and Dr. McCoy sauntered into a bar on the starbase, where he encountered a few officers who made it clear they were not happy about Finney’s death. As Kirk left, a beautiful woman entered, whom McCoy intercepted. It was Areel Shaw, who said she was an old friend of Kirk’s.

Percy Rodriguez as Portmaster Stone

Percy Rodriguez as Portmaster Stone | Courtesy of CBS / Paramount

Back in Stone’s office, the Commodore and Kirk sat as a computer took notes for the start of an official inquiry. Kirk explained that he and Finney used to be close, but fell out. That was due to the time when they both served on the U.S.S. Republic (NCC-1371) when Kirk found Finney had not completed a job. Kirk finished the job and reported the incident. Finney was reprimanded.

Kirk shared that he sent Finney into a “pod” when they encountered an ion storm. Kirk claimed that he gave Finney the time to return to safety. Stone countered with automatic log entries, which did not support Kirk’s story.

Stone turned off the recording and said that he wanted Kirk to agree that he had been mentally exhausted, and that’s why Finney died. But he also noted that no starship captain had ever been tried in circumstances like this, and he did not want Kirk to be the first. Kirk refused and got belligerent.

Stone told him to accept ground duty or the entire weight of Starfleet would land on his “neck.” Kirk angrily demanded a general court-martial.

Afterward, Kirk greeted Shaw in the bar, who said that it had been four years since they had seen each other. It turns out that Shaw was a lawyer in the Judge Advocate General’s office. She advised him not to try to fight the computer record during the trial. She recommended a Samuel T. Cogley for his lawyer and admitted that she was the prosecution.

When Kirk returned to his quarters, he found a man at his table and piles of books everywhere. Kirk told him that a computer with these records would take up much less space. Cogley said that he had a computer with all legal files, but he never used it. He had a different system, which was with his old paper books.

As the court-martial started, the computer read the charges, to which Kirk pleaded not guilty.

The "light" of justice

The “light” of justice? Courtesy of CBS / Paramount

Shaw called Spock to testify, and as he sat down, he held his hand over a light… was this the 23rd Century equivalent of the Bible? Or was it ensuring that Spock was telling the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? Hmmm. Not sure.

Spock said that he did not detect any problems with the computer, but it was in error because it indicated that the red alert was sounded after Finney pressed the eject button on his pod. Spock said that was not the case.

She asked Spock how he would know that the computer was in error. He started to say that he knew the captain… and Shaw swung away, to ask Stone and the rest of the men running the trial to ask Spock not to speculate. Spock straightened up.

“I am half Vulcanian, and Vulcanians do not speculate,” Spock said. “I speak from pure logic.” He said that it was impossible for Kirk to act out of panic or malice.

Shaw said: “In your opinion?” Spock agreed. Cogley had no questions for the witness.

The next witness was the Enterprise’s personnel officer. She also held her hand on the light, which jutted out of the chair she was sitting in. Perhaps if she lied, she’d get a shock. Maybe!

Shaw asked the officer to confirm who reported Finney’s mistake on the U.S.S. Republic. The personnel officer identified Kirk as that officer. Cogley had no questions for the witness.

Shaw called McCoy to the stand and asked him if Finney blamed Kirk for the incident on the Republic, and all of his later struggles with promotion. McCoy said that it might be possible.

Shaw asked if it was normal for a person, who knew another hated them would return the hatred. McCoy agreed. Shaw asked if that was the case with Kirk over Finney. McCoy said that Kirk was not like that, but that it was theoretically possible.

Cogley had no questions for the witness. Stone then asked Cogley why he had no questions. Cogley said that he’d been waiting until the “preliminary business was out of the way,” and he called Kirk to the stand.

Shaw asked the computer to stop reciting Kirk’s commendations, as there were so many. Cogley objected, and Stone ordered that they would continue. Cogley eventually stopped the list.

Kirk told Cogley that there was a red alert before he jettisoned the ion pod. He spoke for some time about the incident to the court. He also said that he’d do the same thing if he had a second chance.

“The steps I took, in the order I took them, were absolutely necessary if I were to save my ship,” Kirk said. “And nothing is more important than my ship.”

Cogley may have been miscast. Veteran actor Elisha Cook portrayed Cogley like a bumpkin from a period film. He could have walked into a courtroom to assist Atticus Finch. He did not seem like someone from the 23rd Century — and the books thing was just the start.

Shaw then turned the attention of the court to security footage from the Enterprise. She stopped the footage to point out that Kirk signaled a yellow alert. Finney called to the bridge, and Kirk told him to hurry, that due to the storm, he would have to go to red alert.

A few moments later, Kirk told Finney to get out of the pod, and Finney agreed. Shaw then stopped the footage to show that Kirk pressed the “jettison” button, rather than red alert.

Kirk whispered to himself that it was not how it happened.

In his quarters, Cogley told Kirk that he might have had a lapse, since the computer, nor the footage can lie. Cogley told Kirk that there was still time to change the plea. Kirk said that he would not.

Spock called the captain to say that the tests on the computer found no errors. Kirk laughed and told Spock that he might be able to beat the next captain at chess. Spock thought for a moment and said, “chess.”

Spock and Chess

Spock and McCoy argue, right before the “Vulcanian” figured everything out. Courtesy of CBS / Paramount

The Vulcan… I mean Vulcanian’s wheels were turning! Would Spock come up with something to save his captain?

Jame came to see Kirk, and he begged Cogley to change Kirk’s plea. She apologized for how she acted toward him when he arrived at the starbase.

On the Enterprise, McCoy grilled Spock for playing 3-D chess while the trial was going on. Spock beat the computer five times in a row, which proved that there was something wrong with the ship’s computer. It should not have lost, and the best Spock should have been able to do a draw. They beamed to the starbase.

In the trial, both the prosecution and defense rested. Just then, Spock and McCoy burst into the room and started whispering to Cogley and Kirk. Cogley asked the court to hear new evidence.

Cogley then started to grandstand to the court, listing off various historical documents, which protected human rights. He ended by saying that Kirk had not been allowed to question those witnesses against him. Shaw objected, saying that Cogley had been given the opportunity to question all the witnesses. Cogley said that was not so — they did not question the computer.

Cogley asked to reconvene aboard the ship. He said that if they did not question the computer, then it would, in essence, be elevated above humanity. Stone glared at him.

Apparently, Cogley was persuasive, because, after the commercial break, we rejoined the court proceedings on board the ship. Spock explained that he beat the computer five times, which made him think that someone adjusted the computer’s programming.

Cogley asked Spock, who was capable of making such adjustments to the computer. Spock said that only himself, Kirk and Finney.

The lawyer then turned to Kirk and asked what happened after Finney was declared missing. Kirk said they searched the ship. Cogley asked if someone wanted to hide on the ship, could they? “Possibly,” said Kirk.

Cogley said that Finney was not dead. To determine if Cogley was correct, Kirk had the Enterprise evacuated, except for the command crew and the members of the court. Stone agreed to this.

After the ship was empty, Kirk used a sensor to detect all noise from within the Enterprise. The device made a noise, which represented all the heartbeats aboard. McCoy used a microphone-like gadget to filter out all the known pulses of the crew and court. Honestly, the microphone prop was sort of hokey.

When all heartbeats had been filtered out, there was still one noise detected. Spock figured that Finney was hiding on B Deck. Kirk went to find him, and Cogley went to the planet to get Jame.

As Kirk poked around the engineering section, the voice of Finney boomed from the shadows. Finney spoke to Kirk, as the court and command crew watched from the bridge.

Finney caught Kirk from behind and disarmed the captain. Finney blamed Kirk for all of the problems he had in his career. Kirk told Finney to put the gun down, and Finney laughed at him. He told Kirk that he had ”tapped out the primary energy circuits.”

Spock reported that the orbit of the ship was decaying. Kirk pleaded with Finney, not to hurt innocent people. Finney said that he blamed the people for his woes and that the Enterprise should be his ship.

Meanwhile, Spock tried to get the crew and court officials to leave the Enterprise, but Stone refused, saying that he wanted to hear all of Finney’s testimony.

Kirk told Finney that Jame was aboard the ship and that she would be included among the dead if Finney destroyed the ship. Finney freaked just long enough for Kirk to knock the phaser away.

A fight ensued, and Kirk’s uniform ripped, just like it did when he fought Finnegan. Which reminded me of Galaxy Quest, the excellent Trek parody film, starring Tim Allen. In Quest, the Tim Allen character’s shirt tore and then came off, leaving the rest of the crew rolling their eyes. This scene must have been part of the inspiration for Quest.

After Kirk beat Finney, the captain was able to get the location of thedamaged circuits. Kirk then crawled up a Jeffries Tube and found where the short was. Thanks to Kirk, the orbit stabilized.

Stone dismissed the case.

After all, was over, Shaw and Kirk stood in the entrance to the turbolift and whispered about their next meeting. Then they kissed.


I did not like this one from the beginning. This was the second Trek trial, and very poorly done. The problem was they never explained what exactly what the pod was. Was the “pod” inside the ship or outside? What was the function of the pod? Sigh… who knows? A good courtroom drama gives the evidence upfront. But this episode didn’t explain what exactly happened. It was very confusing.

Cogley was very odd. They even dressed him like an extra from a 60s western film. He somehow figured out that Finney was on the ship without any clues but the chess program.

Usually, I don’t nitpick, but this was the low point of the first season: confusing plot and wasted performances.

RATING: 1.5 out of 5


Directed by: Marc Daniels
Teleplay by: Don M. Mankiewicz and Steven W. Carabatsos
Story by: Don M. Mankiewicz
Produced by: Gene L. Coon
Executive Producer: Gene Roddenberry
Associate Producers: Robert H. Justman
Script Consultant: Steven W. Carabatsos
Music composed and conducted by: Alexander Courage
Director of Photography: Jerry Finnerman
Art Directors: Roland M. Brooks and Walter M. Jeffries


William Shatner as Kirk
Leonard Nimoy as Spock


Percy Rodriguez as Portmaster Stone

Elisha Cook as Cogley

Joan Marshall as Areel Shaw


DeForest Kelley … as Dr. McCoy
Nichelle Nichols … as Uhura
Richard Webb … as Finney
Hagan Beggs … Helmsman
Winston DeLugo … as Timothy
Alice Rawlings … as Jame Finney


Nancy Wong … Personnel Officer
Bart Conrad … Krasnovsky
William Meader … Board Officer
Reginald Lal Singh … Board Officer

Film Editor … Bruce Shoengarth
Assistant to the Producer … Edward K. Milkis
Assistant Director … Gregg Peters
Set Decorator … Marvin March
Costumes created by … William Theiss

Post Production Executive … Bill Heath
Music Editor … Jim Henrikson
Sound Editor … Douglas H. Grindstaff
Sound Mixer … Jack F. Lilly
Photographic Effects … Film Effects of Hollywood
Script Supervisor … George A. Rutter
Music Consultant … Wilbur Hatch
Music Coordinator … Julian Davidson
Special Effects … Jim Rugg
Property Master … Irving A. Feinberg
Gaffer … George H. Merhoff
Head Grip … George Rader
Production Supervisor … Bernard A. Windin
Makeup Artist … Fred B. Phillips, S.M.A.
Hair Styles by … Virginia Darcy, C.H.S.
Wardrobe Mistress … Margaret Makau
Casting … Joseph D’Agosta
Sound … Glen Glenn Sound Co.

A DesiLu Production in association with the Norway Company

Executive in Charge of Production … Herbert F. Solow