It’s time for Star Trek Saturdays #14!
This week’s episode is “Court Martial” and while it starts out like the sort of story you’d expect from a title like that, it also combines some fast-paced adventure into the mix.
The story starts off with Kirk explaining in the Captain’s Log that they’ve just survived going through a severe ion storm that’s left one crewman–Lt. Benjamin Finney, records officer and estranged friend of Kirk’s–dead and they are on Starbase 11 for repairs. The commander of the base, Commodore Stone (Percy Rodriguez), calls Kirk into his office and demands to know precisely how Finney died.
Kirk tells him that, during the ion storm, Finney was in the ship’s ion pod taking some sensor readings and, when the Enterprise went to red alert, was told to get out of the pod by Kirk. But it became too late, and Kirk had to eject the ion pod, killing Finney in the process.
Spock then beams down into Stone’s office with the Enterprise computer’s records of the events Kirk talked about and Stone asks Kirk if he’s sure that he jettisoned the pod after signalling red alert. Kirk says he is, but Stone looks at the records, which say that Kirk ejected the pod before calling red alert, making him culpable for Finney’s murder. He confines Kirk to the base and schedules an inquiry to see if a court martial should be held.
Inside the officer’s club at the starbase, Kirk and McCoy meet several of Kirk’s graduating class from Starfleet Academy. Kirk realizes that they think he killed Finney and he leaves. Right after he does, Areel Shaw (Joan Marshall) enters and introduces herself to McCoy as a old friend of Kirk’s. “All my old friends look like doctors,” McCoy says in one of my favorite lines from this episode. “All of his look like you.”
(Shaw, left, and Stone)
Back at the inquiry in Stone’s office, Kirk explains that he and Finney became friends because he taught at the Academy when Kirk was a midshipman and that Finney even named his daughter Jame after Kirk. Years later, they both served aboard the USS Republic; when Kirk succeeded Finney on one shift, he noticed that Finney had left a circuit open to the atomic matter piles that could have easily blown up the ship; he closed the switch and reported Finney, who was reprimanded and sent to the bottom of the promotion list; Kirk says that Finney always blamed him for never getting command of his own ship.
Kirk then explains that he sent Finney into the ion pod as it was his turn just before the ship entered the storm. On the edge of it, Finney checked in as Kirk issued a yellow alert. As the pressure of the storm began rising, Kirk signaled red alert, which warned Finney to get out of the pod before it had to be ejected. Stone reminds Kirk that the computer’s logs show the pod being ejected before the red alert, which Kirk simply can’t explain. Stone suggests that maybe Kirk has been worn down by the stress and time of his command and offers to give him a ground assignment. Kirk refuses and insists that the records are lying; Stone then tells Kirk that a general court marital will convene at the starbase to determine his fate.
Back in the officer’s club, Kirk meets up with Shaw, who is a lawyer with Starfleet. He asks her to represent her, but she says she’s busy with another case and recommends Samuel T. Cogley. She also tells him that he shouldn’t take the case so lightly because the prosecution will argue “Kirk v. Computer,” a stance Kirk stands to lose. When asked how she knows so much about the case, she tells Kirk that she is the prosecution.
Kirk returns to his room only to find that Cogley (Elisha Cook, Jr.) has already set up camp by surrounding himself with a ton of law books. Cogley says he has all these books because that’s where the law is found and not inside of computer banks.
At the court martial, Shaw questions Spock, the personnel officer of the Enterprise and McCoy about computers, Kirk and Finney’s history and any possible resentment Finney might have harbored respectively, but Cogley declines to cross-examine any of them. He then calls Kirk to the stand and asks him if he’s sure that he told Finney to leave the pod before going to red alert. Kirk says so and that he would do it again because above all else, he cares for his ship.
Shaw then plays video footage from the incident showing Kirk pressing the eject button before the red alert, deliberately, it appears. “But that’s not the way it happened!” Kirk insists. And all this intrigue has gotten Spock thinking just what might have happened to the computer…
WOW; that was the longest plot summary I’ve written here yet and there’s a reason for that; usually, when I describe the plot of the episode, I try to do it without spoiling events as much as possible. But here, I had to explain so much to get to that point because this is one very complicated story.
And to me, that’s a good thing. The courtroom elements of this rank right up there with any good crime procedural and, although I’ve never watched it, the fact that this also has undertones of a military organization (which Starfleet is, in one respect) makes me wonder if this is what the best episodes of that old CBS drama JAG are like.
Now like I said, this starts off as a nice courtroom drama and what sells it are the new characters we see here. Rodriguez is a deft commanding presence, Marshall is great at subtly suggesting a past history between Shaw and Kirk and Cook Jr. (a character actor who, according to Memory Alpha, popped up in everything from The Maltese Falcon to Bonanza to Blacula) is best of all as the quirky, endearing Cogley, who has a great monologue about the rights of man in an age of machines.
Overall, this is a nice, complex episode that stands as a nice example of both court drama and fun space adventure. Recommended.
Thanks to Memory Alpha, the official Star Trek wiki for the pics and episode information, as well as Amazon Instant for hosting the show. We’ll see you next Saturday and until then, live long and prosper.