“Court Martial” asks us to believe something about Captain Kirk in order for the drama of the episode to work,
I am not sure that it does.
What Star Trek asks us to believe is that Captain Kirk is somehow incompetent. You know, maybe if this had been one of the first few episodes, it might seem believable. It isn’t. We’re twenty episodes into season one. We haven’t seen Captain Kirk be anything less than a complete professional. Even then, would any TV series make the lead character bad at his or her job? We can’t sympathize with the character’s plight if he or she somehow deserves it. But here we are. Kirk is on trial for the death of a crewman during an ion storm. All evidence suggests he may have done it accidentally because he didn’t follow proper protocol. That seems highly unlikely.
Still, here we are. After said ion storm, Kirk takes the Enterprise to Starbase 11 for repairs. A single crewman, Lt. Commander Finney, died as a result of Kirk dumping a damaged compartment during the storm before Finney could get out. Evidence exists to suggest Kirk might have had a motive for Finney’s death. Finney had been one of Kirk’s instructors at the Academy. They’d been friends, but a dutiful Kirk reported a mistake Finney made later, hampering the man’s chances for promotion. Finney had hated Kirk ever since. That was despite the fact Finney named his daughter “Jame” after Kirk.
By the by, that kid is weird. She first blames Kirk angrily for her father’s death. I guess she can just walk into a Commodore’s office. Later, she apologizes even though Kirk looks even more guilty because she realizes how tough his job is.
The problem is this: if Kirk ejected the pod while the ship was in “red alert,” all is well. If he did it during “yellow alert,” then he jumped the gun and that could cost him his own career. The computer’s records show he did it during the yellow alert. Kirk insists he waited for red. As such, there’s a trial.
And here’s where the episode gets a little odd. Kirk needs a lawyer. He has an ex-girlfriend who works as a Starfleet prosecutor. Can she recommend someone? Well, she can. But she’s also the prosecutor for Kirk’s trial. Isn’t that a conflict of interest? Can she do her job correctly due to her prior relationship with the defendant? I guess she can.
Oh, I did like how McCoy at one point noted all of Kirk’s old friends seem to be attractive women.
But for Kirk’s lawyer, he retains the services of Samuel T. Cogley. Is he in Starfleet? He doesn’t appear to be. Would an organization like Starfleet want an outsider “civilian” lawyer at a trial like this? I found that a lot weirder than the fact Kirk was surprised Cogley had a large collection of paper law books. Then again, old time character actor Elisha Cook Jr. plays Cogley, so I won’t complain too much.
Now, the trial itself is standard TV courtroom stuff. The prosecutor, Lt. Shaw, calls Spock, McCoy, and a never-before-seen personnel officer on the stand. All stand by Kirk, but Shaw finds reasons to doubt all three. Cogley asks no questions of them, instead just questioning Kirk. The computer record contradicts Kirk’s testimony, putting doubt into everyone at the trial except Jame and the Enterprise crew. That includes Cogley. It does appear Kirk did flush Finney during a Yellow Alert.
It is probably worth noting the only harm to Kirk here is to his career. He wouldn’t get the chair or something.
Spock responds the only way he knows how: he plays three-dimensional chess with the Enterprise computer. McCoy seems a bit miffed by that. Then Spock points out he’s winning. Why is that a problem? Spock programmed the computer to play better than that. At best, Spock should only be getting tie scores.
Someone messed with the computer.
Someone who knows the computer very well.
Only three people fit that description: Kirk, Spock, and Finney.
I gotta say, that makes a lot more sense. Finney seemed a lot angrier at Kirk than Kirk did to Finney. Why was Finney even assigned to Kirk’s ship in the first place? I’m starting to think Starfleet doesn’t think these things through very well.
So, yeah, Finney was still alive and hiding in Engineering. Did he plan to stay down there forever? McCoy setting up the bridge to listen to heartbeats of anyone on board the entire Enterprise was rather cool, and it is good to know Kirk is both not a murderer and good at his job, but that really wasn’t the best plan possible. Especially since Kirk can use Jame to get Finney to surrender quietly.
Now, I may be pretty sure this whole trial should have been ruled a mistrial and called it a day, but does Finney get jail time or mental health treatment?
I think I may have put too much thought into this whole episode. I know I put more thought into it than the people who made it.
That’s more my problem then theirs. What’s next?