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Court Martial (episode)

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Real World article
(written from a Production point of view)
"Court Martial"
TOS, Episode 1x14
Production number: 6149-15
First aired: 2 February 1967
Remastered version aired: 10 May 2008
15th of 80 produced in TOS
20th of 80 released in TOS
68th of 80 released in TOS Remastered
20th of 728 released in all
Kirk on trial
Teleplay By
Don M. Mankiewicz and Steven W. Carabatsos

Story By
Don M. Mankiewicz

Directed By
Marc Daniels
2947.3 (2267)
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For the 1953 short story published in Galaxy, please see Court Martial.
For the military legal procedure, please see court martial.

Kirk is accused of criminal negligence causing the death of one of his subordinates, Lt. Commander Benjamin Finney, and is put on trial for his murder.

Summary Edit

Teaser Edit


Orbiting Starbase 11

"Captain's Log, stardate 2947.3. We have been through a severe ion storm. One crewman is dead. The ship's damage is considerable. I have ordered a nonscheduled layover on Starbase 11 for repairs. A full report of damages was made to the commanding officer of Starbase 11, Commodore Stone."

In Commodore Stone's office on the surface based facility of Starbase 11, Captain Kirk is reading over his sworn testimony as the commodore looks over a wall display, showing the repair status of several starships. Commodore Stone calls for maintenance section 18, which is working on the USS Intrepid, to reschedule and work on the Enterprise, which is priority one.

Captain Kirk says that Records Officer Benjamin Finney was in the ion pod during the ion storm. He went to red alert and warned him to get out of the pod. But he was too late, and they had to eject it, killing him.

Kirk calls the Enterprise, and Uhura tells him Spock should have beamed down already with the computer records confirming his testimony. Spock beams down, unsure of the information on the records, but before he can say anything, Jame Finney walks in accusing Captain Kirk of the murder of her father, Benjamin Finney.

Spock escorts her out, and Commodore Stone asks Kirk if he's sure he jettisoned the pod after calling red alert, which he confirms. But the computer records say he jettisoned it before calling red alert, and thereby placing the blame of Finney's death on him. Commodore Stone restricts him to the base, and opens an official inquiry.

Act One Edit

"Captain's log, stardate 2948.5. Starship Enterprise remains in orbit around Starbase 11. Full repair is in progress. I have been ordered to stand by on Starbase 11 until the inquiry into the death of Lieutenant Commander Finney can be conducted. I'm confident of the outcome."

Captain Kirk and Doctor McCoy walk into the M-11 Starbase Club on Starbase 11, and meet up with several members of Kirk's graduating class, including Corrigan and Teller. Several of them, including Timothy, claim to be concerned about how long they are staying, but Kirk realizes they believe that he was responsible for Finney's (who was also a member of the same graduating class) death.

Just after Captain Kirk leaves, Areel Shaw enters. Dr. McCoy quickly introduces himself, and they go to have drinks.

Starbase11 chart

Commodore Stone and chart of starship repair status

In Commodore Stone's office, the inquiry to decide if a general court martial should be convened against Captain Kirk begins. Kirk starts by describing his relationship with Finney, including the fact that he taught at Starfleet Academy when Kirk was a midshipman, and that his daughter was named after him.

Picasso inspects the Enterprise

But a number of years later, while they both served on the USS Republic, Finney left a circuit open to the atomic matter piles that should have been closed, another five minutes and he could have blown up the ship. Kirk closed the switch, and logged the incident, and Finney drew a reprimand, and was sent to the bottom of the promotion list. Finney always blamed Kirk for his never getting promoted to captain of his own ship.

Discussing the ion storm, Kirk claims he sent Finney into the ion pod just before entering the storm. At the leading edge, he checked in as Captain Kirk signaled yellow alert. Due to pressure, force 7 variant stress, Captain Kirk signaled red alert. This gave Finney the warning to get out of the pod, before it had to be ejected. Commodore Stone reminds him that the logs show he ejected the pod before signaling red alert, a fact that Kirk can't explain.

Commodore Stone stops the recording, and suggests that perhaps stress and time have worn him down offering him a ground assignment if he'll admit responsibility. Insulted by the idea of effectively covering up the incident, Captain Kirk argues that he knew what happened, and the transcripts are lying. Commodore Stone decides that a General Court Martial must be drawn, to which Kirk, knowing the truth would clear him, angrily demands such a hearing.

Act Two Edit

"Captain's log, stardate 2948.9. The officers who will comprise my court martial board are proceeding to Starbase 11. Meanwhile, repairs on the Enterprise are almost complete."

Prosecutor Areel Shaw

Captain Kirk meets with his old friend, Areel Shaw, who he hasn't seen in over four years. She warns him that he's taking the case very lightly, which he attributes to "the confidence of an innocent man". She says that the prosecution will argue "Kirk vs. Computer", on which he'd lose.

He asks her to be his attorney, but she's busy with another case. She recommends Samuel T. Cogley, Attorney at Law. He asks her how she knows so much about the case, and what the prosecution is going to do. She reveals that she is the prosecution, and she's going to try her hardest to see that he is broken out of the service in disgrace.

In James Kirk's temporary quarters on Starbase 11, Samuel T. Cogley has set up shop with a number of old-style "books". Kirk is just about to pour some Saurian brandy, when he notices he has let himself in. Cogley argues that books are where you can experience the law, not in a synthesized computer.


In court

As Captain Kirk's court martial begins, Commodore Stone has assembled a board to oversee the proceedings; Starfleet Command representative Lindstrom, and starship Captains Krasnovsky and Chandra. Commodore Stone, as president of the proceedings, asks if Kirk has any objections to any member of the court, and he doesn't. After the computer lists the charges against him, Captain Kirk pleads not guilty.

Shaw questions Spock

Shaw questions Commander Spock

Lieutenant Shaw calls Spock to the stand. After the computer reads off his service file, Shaw asks Commander Spock how much he knows about computers, to which he responds that he knew all about them.

She then claims that Kirk was responding to an emergency that didn't yet exist, and thereby killing Finney. Spock argues that Shaw's theory is impossible, as Kirk could not have done such a thing.

Cogley has no questions, and Spock steps down.

Lieutenant Shaw then calls the personnel officer of the Enterprise to the stand. The personnel officer confirms that when Captain Kirk was an ensign on the Republic with Finney, it was noted in Finney's record that he failed to close a circuit, which cost him a promotion. Cogley has no questions at this time, either.

Lieutenant Shaw then calls ship's surgeon Dr. Leonard McCoy to the stand. She confirms that he is an expert in space psychology and the effects that long term space travel has on the mind. She then asks McCoy if it was possible, that if Finney hated Kirk, Kirk then reciprocated by hating Finney. Again, Cogley has no questions, and Dr. McCoy steps down.

After an expression of puzzlement by Commodore Stone at Cogley's unwillingness to cross-examine, Cogley then calls Captain James T. Kirk to the stand. After the computer lists off a number of his awards, Cogley asks Kirk if there was indeed a red alert when the pod was jettisoned, despite what the computers said.

Kirk states that there was, and that he would do it again, because he would do anything for the safety of his ship. Cogley then gives the witness to Lieutenant Shaw.

Stone (Commodore)

Commodore Stone presides over the court

Lieutenant Shaw then plays the video playback, from the Bridge of the Enterprise, on Stardate 2945.7. The footage shows Lieutenant Commander Finney being posted to the pod, and the Enterprise going to yellow alert after encountering the ion storm.

Shaw then magnifies a panel on the side of Kirk's command chair. The video shows that Kirk did in fact launch the pod, before signaling red alert. The captain is puzzled, claiming "that's not the way it happened."

Act Three Edit

"Captain's log, stardate 2949.9. The evidence presented by the visual playback to my general court-martial was damning. I suspect even my attorney has begun to doubt me."

Cogley suggests to Kirk that maybe he did have a lapse in memory, and that they can still change their plea. But Kirk, unsure of his own decision, decides that he'll stick to what he remembers. Spock contacts Starbase 11 from the Enterprise, saying that he ran a megalyte survey on the computer, but the results show nothing.

Kirk suggests that maybe Spock will be able to defeat his next captain at chess, and closes the channel. To this, Spock says "chess..." and leaves the bridge.

In the captain's temporary quarters, Jame Finney enters, asking Cogley to make Kirk change his plea, and take a ground assignment. Jame had read through old letters to her and her mother, in which Benjamin Finney talked about how close he was to his friend, James Kirk. Kirk leaves to change into his dress uniform, while Cogley formulates an idea.

Back on the Enterprise, Spock is playing a game of 3-D chess with the computer in the briefing room. Dr. McCoy walks in, astonished that he could be engaging in recreation at a time like this. When Spock quite casually confirms that, indeed, he is simply enjoying a relaxing game of chess, McCoy calls the Vulcan the most cold-blooded man he has ever known and storms out.

Before he can get to the door, however, Spock explains that he's just won his fourth consecutive game, and when the doctor stops in his tracks and insists that such a feat is impossible, Spock invites him to observe his next match. After defeating the computer once again, he tells McCoy that, while its mechanically "flawless" nature should make it infallible, he could not accept what the computer reported regarding Captain Kirk's decision to jettison the pod - he had been on the bridge during the emergency, and therefore he knew its account of the incident was false. So he tested the program bank, and by winning, proved that the computer had been tampered with.

When McCoy now asks Spock he isn't in more of a hurry to reveal these findings, Spock alerts the transporter room that he and Dr. McCoy are beaming down, and they hurry out of the briefing room.


Defense Samuel T. Cogley

Meanwhile, court has resumed. The prosecution rests their case, but, just as the defense does the same, Spock and McCoy hurry in with new evidence. Cogley pleads that Human rights demand that Kirk be allowed to face the witness against him, the Enterprise's computer.

Cogley suggests the court reconvene aboard the Enterprise. He explains that doing otherwise would lower Humanity to the level of the machine.

Act Four Edit

"Captain's log, stardate 2950.1. After due consideration, the general court-martial has reconvened on board the Enterprise."

Spock explains to the court that the best he could hope for in a game of chess with the computer would be a stalemate, and yet he's won five games to date. Hypothetically, the only people who could have altered the computer are Spock, Kirk, or a records officer, which at present, the Enterprise does not have.

Kirk describes the phase one search they performed to find Lieutenant Commander Finney, after the pod had been jettisoned. When Kirk admits that, on a vessel as large as a Constitution-class starship, it was at least possible for someone to evade such a search, Cogley concludes that Finney may not be dead at all, but hiding somewhere aboard the Enterprise.

To conduct an experiment, all but the command crew and the court are beamed off the Enterprise to the surface, including Cogley, who had important business there.

Court martial officials on bridge

Stone hears Finney's heartbeat

Spock uses the ship's on board auditory sensors to amplify the heartbeats of all aboard. Dr. McCoy uses a white sound device to mask the heartbeats of all aboard the bridge.

This leaves only the crewman in the transporter room, and they remove his heartbeat from the scan. There is still a single heartbeat unaccounted for: Finney's.

The sound is coming from the B-Deck, in or near engineering. Kirk goes down with a phaser to find Finney. Sam Cogley had gone to the planet to bring Jame aboard. The Enterprise's orbit begins to decay.

Ben Finney

Benjamin Finney, alive, but not well

Ben Finney believes that Starfleet conspired against him, to rob him of ever getting his own command. He aims a phaser at Kirk, and explains how he planned to destroy the ship.

Kirk tries to reason with him, but has little success until Finney's resolve is broken upon the revelation that Jame is also aboard and thus also in danger. Spock plans to beam the members of the court back to the planet's surface, but power is failing due to Finney's tampering.

As a fight in main engineering commences, and Kirk finally gets the upper hand. Beaten and sobbing, Finney tells Kirk where he tampered with the controls. Kirk begins attempting repairs.

On the bridge, Uhura takes the helm as power returns. They are able to stabilize orbit just in time. The prosecutor has no further arguments, and Kirk is found innocent of all charges.

As the Enterprise prepares to depart, Areel tells Kirk that Cogley will now represent Finney in his own trial. She kisses Kirk goodbye, hoping they will see each other again.

Memorable Quotes Edit

"All of my old friends look like doctors. All of his look like you."

- McCoy, to Shaw

"You have to be either an obsessive crackpot who's escaped from his keeper or Samuel T. Cogley, attorney at law."
"You're right on both counts!"

- Kirk and Cogley, meeting for the first time

"Human beings have characteristics just as inanimate objects do. It is impossible for Captain Kirk to act out of panic or malice. It is not his nature."

- Spock, during his testimony

"Mister Spock, you're the most cold-blooded man I've ever known."
"Why, thank you, doctor."

- McCoy and Spock, with McCoy unaware that Spock is testing the ship's computer in a chess match (and Spock going out of his way to preserve the misconception)

"I speak of rights. A machine has none. A man must!"

- Cogley, to the court martial panel

"Officers and gentlemen, captains all. Except for Finney and his one mistake."

- Finney, as he confronts Kirk

"She's a very good lawyer."

- Kirk to Spock and McCoy, after kissing Shaw

Background Information Edit

Script Edit

  • The first draft for this episode's script, titled "Court-martial on Starbase Eleven," was turned in on 21 September 1966, with the final draft and revised final draft turned in on 26 and 29 September, respectively. The episode was filmed during early October of that year.
  • Producer Gene L. Coon contacted writer Don M. Mankiewicz with a proposal to write a compelling dramatic story which could be filmed using a single and easily constructed set. (For the final episode, of course, four new sets were constructed: Commodore Stone's office, Kirk's quarters on the starbase, the bar/lounge and the courtroom itself.) Mankiewicz came up with the idea of a courtroom drama, and wrote "Court-martial on Starbase Eleven". The script needed to be heavily re-written, but Mankiewicz was not available further, so story editor Steven W. Carabatsos got the job. It was Carabatsos who shortened the title to "Court Martial". [1]
  • The changes made in the script make it less apparent as to why Jame Finney's attitude toward Kirk changes back to one of respect so quickly. In the script, she has been reading her father's old letters, and his attitude in them makes her believe that he might pull a stunt like this to get back at Kirk.
  • In the shooting script, there was a scene (filmed but cut) where Jame Finney comes into the engineering room at the end of Kirk and Finney's fight. The appearance of his daughter and his wish to save her are why Finney tells Kirk where he sabotaged the Enterprise. The scene was presumably deleted because the episode was running long. However, the cut necessitated Kirk's voice-over log entry wherein he relates that a beaten and sobbing Finney tells him about the sabotage. [2]
  • It is never clearly explained why Kirk is under pressure to jettison the pod. In his adaptation of the script in Star Trek 2, James Blish establishes that the pod is directly exposed to the vacuum of space, allowing its instrumentation to take accurate readings. However, its plastic construction picks up radiation from dangerous ionization particularly quickly and must be jettisoned when its contamination begins to pose a threat to the rest of the ship.

Props and sets Edit

  • The picture on the wall outside Stone's office appears to show the launch of an early NASA rocket.
  • Also seen in Stone's office is the two-person transporter alcove. This is later seen on Space Station K-7 in "The Trouble with Tribbles".
  • The plants in Stone's office contain pieces of those seen in "The Conscience of the King" and was later used for the spores in "This Side of Paradise".
  • The starbase courtroom contains the large reflective Starfleet Command insignia that appears behind all of the admirals the ship communicates with in future episodes.
  • The abstract wall decoration in Kirk's starbase quarters is composed primarily of brightly painted blocks of wood.
  • The same bell was used in TNG: "The First Duty". (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)
  • The arm rest/sensor on the court room witness chair later shows up in the Enterprise briefing room in "Wolf in the Fold".
  • The door through which Spock and McCoy enter the courtroom is one of the few hinged doors seen in the original series.

Cast and characters Edit

That board would also include Lt. Alice Rawlings, named for the actress who played Jame Finney.

  • Elisha Cook, Jr. had great difficulty remembering his lines. The speech of his character, Sam Cogley, was pieced together with editing. (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
  • The actors who portray the members of Kirk's court martial are seen in the bar before Stone even considers convening a court-martial. This incongruity is the result of the shifting of scenes from their order in the script. [3]

Costumes Edit

  • The dress uniforms debut in this episode.
  • The Starfleet crewmen and officers at the bar are seen wearing uniforms with the Enterprise arrowhead insignia, despite the fact that many (if not all) of them serve on other ships (this is made apparent in dialog – Kirk has not seen Timothy since the "Vulcanian expedition"). Earlier in the series, we saw the crew of Antares with an assignment patch for their ship in "Charlie X". In later episodes, the series officially established that each Starfleet ship would have its own unique insignia (as seen in "The Omega Glory", "The Doomsday Machine", and the two-part Star Trek: Enterprise episode "In a Mirror, Darkly".
  • The barkeep wears the same costume later worn by the K-7 bartender in "The Trouble with Tribbles". The back of the bar contains recycled pieces from the interior of Balok's ship.
  • Areel Shaw sports the only female dress uniform in the series. It has gold braid on the cuffs as well as a Starfleet breast patch, which the male uniforms do not. The hemline is also somewhat lower than the usual female duty uniforms.
  • Finney is clearly referred to as a lieutenant commander throughout the episode, but when he finally appears in engineering, he is wearing commander's braid.
  • The courtroom computer gives Spock's rank as lieutenant commander, but he wears the braids of a commander. Such was Spock's uniform throughout the first season (except for "Where No Man Has Gone Before"), even though he was twice more referred to as lieutenant commander in "The Menagerie, Part I", "The Menagerie, Part II" and "Tomorrow is Yesterday". This rank discrepancy appears to have been corrected as of "Amok Time", when Vulcan Space Central asks for "Commander Spock."

Effects Edit

  • Stock footage from "The Naked Time" is used on the viewscreen shots as the Enterprise re-establishes its orbit around Starbase 11.
  • "Court Martial" was the last episode in which the sound of the ship's engines could be heard during fly-bys. However, in the DVD releases, this sound has been added in for all of the rest of the episodes.

Other information Edit

  • This is the first episode in which the names "Starfleet" and "Starfleet Command" were used.
  • This is also TOS's first trip to a Federation starbase.
  • Areel Shaw once loved Kirk, but doesn't let this get in the way of prosecuting him and ending his career in Starfleet. A similar scenario played itself out between Captain Jean-Luc Picard and JAG Captain Phillipa Louvois in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Measure Of A Man".
  • Commodore Stone is the highest-ranking African-American to appear in the original series. He also commanded a starship at one time.
  • Several musical scores are reused in this episode, including some cues from "The Naked Time" by Alexander Courage, romantic themes by Joseph Mullendore from "The Conscience of the King", used for Kirk and Areel Shaw, and music from "The Enemy Within" by Sol Kaplan, accompanying the fight between Kirk and Finney.
  • We get a look, for the only time in the series, at a series of registration numbers on the chart in Stone's office. Greg Jein associated them with ten names previously used in production memos which will later be assumed to be Constitution-class starships, despite the numbers ranging lower than the USS Constitution. The wall chart disappears in a later scene in Stone's office. At the time of this episode, the Intrepid, the all-Vulcan starship, is being repaired at Starbase 11. It is later destroyed by the space amoeba in "The Immunity Syndrome".
  • Although stated to be located around the same place as a Human liver in later episodes, in this episode McCoy places the white noise device to Spock's chest as if his heart were in the same place as a Human's.

Production timeline Edit

Video and DVD releases Edit

Remastered informationEdit

When the episode was remastered for the TOS Season 1 HD DVD, an opening shot of the Enterprise clearly reveals the hole where the ion pod used to be.

Links and references Edit

Starring Edit

Also starring Edit

Co-starring Edit

Featuring Edit


With Edit

Uncredited co-stars Edit

Stunt doubles Edit

References Edit

2250s; 2254; 2262; Agena target vehicle; Alpha III; atomic matter pile; auditory sensor; Axanar; Axanar Peace Mission; Bible; "Bones"; Code of Hammurabi; court martial; deposition; Fundamental Declarations of the Martian colonies; Gemini 8; Grankite Order of Tactics; Intrepid, USS; ion pod; ion storm; Justinian Code; Karagite Order of Heroism; logic; M-11 Starbase Club; Magna Carta; megalite survey; midshipman; Mike; Moses; Palm Leaf of Axanar Peace Mission; perjury; Phase 1 search; Prentares Ribbon of Commendation; records officer; red alert; Republic, USS; signal booster; Starbase 11; Starbase 11 Planet; Starfleet Academy; Starfleet Command; Starfleet Citation for Conspicuous Gallantry; Starfleet Legion of Honor; Starfleet Medal of Honor; Starfleet Silver Palm; Starfleet Surgeons Decoration; Teller; Titan II; three-dimensional chess; Tribunal of Alpha III; United States Constitution; Vulcanians; Vulcanian expedition; Vulcanian Scientific Legion of Honor; white sound device; yellow alert; Yorkshire

Starship repair references Edit

NCC-1685; NCC-1697; NCC-1700; NCC-1718; NCC-1831; USS Excalibur; USS Exeter; USS Hood; USS Lexington

External link Edit

Previous episode produced:
"The Galileo Seven"
Star Trek: The Original Series
Season 1
Next episode produced:
"The Menagerie, Part I"
Previous episode aired:
"Tomorrow is Yesterday"
Next episode aired:
"The Return of the Archons"
Previous remastered episode aired:
"Assignment: Earth"
TOS Remastered Next remastered episode aired:
"A Private Little War"
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