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Court Martial (episode)

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Starbase 11
Series: TOS
Episode: 1x14
Original Airdate: 1967-02-02
Production Number: 15
Year: 2267
Stardate: 2947.3
Story by: Don M. Mankiewicz
Teleplay by: Don M. Mankiewicz and Steven W. Carabatsos
Directed by: Marc Daniels

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.



"Captain's Log, stardate 2947.3. We have been through a severe ion storm. One crewmen 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 statuses 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 to 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 there by placing the blame of Finneys death on him. Commodore Stone restricts him to the base, and opens an official inquiry.

Act One

"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 Kirks graduating class, including Argan and Heller. Several of them, including Timothy, claimed to be concerned about how long they were staying, but Kirk knew they believed that he was responsible for Finneys (who was also a member of the same graduating class) death.

Just after Captain Kirk left, Areel Shaw entered. Dr. McCoy quickly introduced himself, and they went to have drinks.

File:Starbase11 chart.png

In Commodore Stones office, the inquiry to decide if a general court martial should be convened against Captain Kirk began. Kirk started by describing his relationship with Finney, including the fact that he taught at the Academy when Kirk was a midshipman, and that his daughter was named after him. 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 5 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 said 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 reminded him that the logs show he ejected the pod before signaling Red Alert, and Kirk had no explanation.

Commodore Stone stopped the recording, and suggested that perhaps stress and time have worn him down. Captain Kirk argued that he knew what happened, and the transcripts were lying. Commodore Stone decided that a General Court Martial must be drawn.

Act Two

"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 met with his old friend Areel Shaw, who he hadn't seen in over 4 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 loose. 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 poor 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.

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, asked if he had any objections with any member of the court, and he didn't. After the computer listed the charges against him, Captain Kirk pled not guilty.

File:Shaw questions Spock.JPG

Lieutenant Shaw called Mr. Spock to the stand. After the computer read off his service file, Shaw asked Commander Spock how much he knew about computers, to which he responded that he knew all about them. She then claimed that Kirk was responding to an emergency that didn't yet exist, and there by killing Finney. Spock claimed this was impossible, as Kirk could not have done such a thing. Mr. Cogley had no questions, and Spock stepped down.

Lieutenant Shaw then called the Personnel officer of the Enterprise to the stand. The Personnel Officer confirmed 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. Mr. Cogley had no questions at this time either.

Lieutenant Shaw then called ships surgeon Dr. Leonard McCoy to the stand. She confirmed the he is an expert in space psychology, or the effects long term space travel has on the mind. She then asked McCoy if it was possible, that if Finney hated Kirk, Kirk then reciprocated by hating Finney. Again Mr. Cogley had no questions, and Dr. McCoy stepped down.

Mr. Cogley then called Captain James T. Kirk to the stand. After the computer listed off a number of his awards, Cogley asked Kirk if there was indeed a Red Alert when the pod was jettisoned, despite what the computers said. Kirk said that it was, and that he would do it again, because he would do anything for the safety of his ship. Mr. Cogley then gave the witness to Lieutenant Shaw.


Lieutenant Shaw then played the video playback, from the Bridge of the Enterprise on Stardate 2945.7. Which showed Lieutenant Commander Finney being posted to the pod, and the Enterprise going to Yellow alert after encountering the Ion storm. Shaw then magnified on the panel, and the video showed that he did in fact launch the pod, before signaling Red alert. Kirk was puzzled, claiming "that's not the way it happened".

Act Three

"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 in his own decision, decides that he'll stick to what he remembers. Spock hails, saying 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 him 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 went to change into his dress uniform, while Cogley formulated 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 playing chess at a time like this. However, Spock explains that he's just won his fourth game, and that he could not accept what the computer reported regarding Captain Kirks decision to jettison the pod. So he tested the program bank, and by winning, proved that the computer had been tampered with. Spock alerts the transporter room that him and Dr. McCoy are beaming down, and they hurry off.


Defense Samuel T. Cogley

Meanwhile, court has resumed. The Prosecution rests their case, but the 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. He suggests the court reconvene aboard the Enterprise. He pleads that unless doing so, would lower humanity to the level of the machine.

Act Four

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

Spock explained 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 5 games to date. Hypothetically, the only way the computer could have been alter would have been by Spock, Kirk, or a records officer, which at present, the Enterprise did not have. Kirk described the phase one search they preformed to find Lieutenant Commander Finney, after the pod had been jettisoned. 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 were beamed off the Enterprise to the surface, including Mr. Cogley who had important business there.

Using the ships onboard auditory sensors, they set it to listen to the heart beats of all aboard. Dr. McCoy used a white sound device to mask the heart beats of all aboard the bridge. This left only the crewman in the transporter room, and they removed his heart beat from the scan. There was still a single heart beat unaccounted for, Finney.

The sound was coming the B-Deck, in or near engineering. Kirk went down with a phaser to find him. Sam Cogley, had went to the planet to bring Jame aboard. The Enterprise's orbit began to decay.

Ben Finney

Benjamin Finney, alive, but not well.

Ben Finney believed that Starfleet conspired against him, to rob him of ever getting his own command. He had a phaser on Kirk, and explained how he planned to destroy the ship. Kirk tried to reason with him, but had little success. Spock planned to beam the court down, but power was failing due to Finney's tampering.

As a fight in the main engineering commenced, Kirk finally got the upper hand. Beat and sobbing, Finney told Kirk where he tampered with the controls. Kirk began attempting repairs.

On the bridge, Uhura took the helm, as power returned. They were able to stabilize orbit just in time. The Prosecutor had no further arguments, and Kirk was found innocent of all charges.

And as the Enterprise prepared to depart, Areel kissed Kirk goodbye, hoping they'd see each other again.

Background Information

  • The "white sound device" is a very 20th century microphone!
  • Also amusing is Kirk's reference to amplification of sound "on the order of one to the fourth power." One to the fourth power Not much amplification there!
  • The gorgeous painting of Starbase 11 is well-rendered.
  • The cut-outs of the starbase buildings seen through Stone's window are much more realistic here in a "nighttime" view than in their reappearance in The Menagerie, Part I.
  • Kirk refers to the silver-haired officer at the bar as "Mike." A character named Corrigan is sitting at a table and nods coldly to Kirk. The credits refer to Corrigan as being played by Tom Curtis. Since it is a speaking part, it seems likely that Tom Curtis played "Mike." This actor supplied the voice of Captain Daily in The Conscience of the King.
  • "Star Trek" often had very 1960s attitudes toward women, in spite of their presence as equals aboard the starship. Areel Shaw is a refreshing exception to this — she once loved Kirk, but she's not going to let this get in the way of prosecuting him and ending his career in Starfleet.
  • In The Menagerie, Kirk questions the authenticity of Spock's playback of the events from The Cage because no starships keep records of such detail. This is a direct contradiction of events in this episode, in which we are even able play back records which can zoom in on Kirk's finger pushing buttons on his chair!
  • The original script had Finney surrendering when Jamie was brought aboard and he saw her. This was changed to allow Engineering's large floor space to be used for a fight, instead. 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-- she has been contacted by her father and knows he is actually alive.
  • Commodore Stone is the highest-ranking person of color to appear in the original series. He also commanded a starship at one time.
  • We get a look, for the only time in the series, at a series of registration numbers on the chart in Stone's office. They will be associated with ten of the twelve Constitution class starships in the fleet, by Greg Jein, 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 will later be destroyed by the space amoeba in The Immunity Syndrome.
  • The picture on the wall outside Stone's office appears to show the launch of an early NASA rocket.
  • Although Sam Cogley's stirring and well-written speeches are lovely to hear, in reality they are the result of good editing. Elisha Cook, Jr. had great difficulty remembering his lines.
  • In addition to being a good defense attourney, Sam Cogley also provides a rousing defense of books in the face of modern technology, claiming he never uses the computer in his office. Some have criticized Cogley for being a fairly weak attourney, as he is ready to give up at one point, but as Kirk says, the evidence against him was damning.
  • 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.
  • The plants in Stone's office contain pieces of those seen in The Conscience of the King and would later be used for the Spores in This Side of Paradise.
  • Stock footage from The Naked Time is used on the viewscreen shots as the Enterprise re-establishes its orbit around Starbase 11.
  • The starbase courtroom contains the large reflective Starfleet Command insignia that will appear behind all of the admirals the ship communicates with in future episodes.
  • Several of the court-martial board members can be seen in the first scene at the bar.
  • 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.
  • The arm rest/sensor on the court room witness chair will later show up in the 'Enterprise' briefing room in Wolf in the Fold.

Memorable Quotes

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

- Dr. McCoy to Areel Shaw

"Mr. Spock, you're the most cold-blooded man I've ever known."

"Why, thank you, Doctor."

- Dr. McCoy, Spock

"You have to be either an obsessive crackpot who has escaped from his keeper or Samuel T. Cogley, attorney-at-law."

"You're right on both counts. Need a lawyer?"

- James Kirk, Sam Cogley

"Rights, sir, human rights — the Bible, the Code of Hammurabi and of Justinian, Magna Carta, the Constitution of the United States, Fundamental Declarations of the Martian colonies, the Statutes of Alpha III — Gentlemen, these documents all speak of rights. Rights of the accused to a trial by his peers, to be represented by counsel, the rights of cross-examination, but most importantly, the right to be confronted by the witnesses against him — a right to which my client has been denied."

"Your Honor, that is ridiculous. We produced the witnesses in court. My learned opponent had the opportunity to see them, cross-examine them — "

"All but one! The most devastating witness against my client is not a human being. It's a machine, an information system. The computer log of the Enterprise. I ask this court adjourn and reconvene aboard that vessel."

"I protest, Your Honor — "

"And I repeat, I speak of rights. A machine has none. A man must. My client has the right to face his accuser, and if you do not grant him that right, you have brought us down to the level of the machine. Indeed, you have elevated that machine above us. I ask that my motion be granted, and more than that, gentlemen, in the name of humanity, fading in the shadow of the machine, I demand it. I demand it!"

- Sam Cogley, Areel Shaw


  • An officer in a gold uniform is sitting at a table in the bar when Kirk and McCoy first walk in. He is then seen right after Kirk leaves walking past in the hallway with an admiring glance at Areel Shaw. Seconds later, he is seen sitting at the bar.

Links and References

Main Cast

Guest Stars


Bible; Code of Hammurabi; court martial;Fundamental Declarations of the Martian Colonies; Grankite Order of Tactics; Intrepid, USS; ion pod; ion storm; Justinian Code; Karagite Order of Heroism; Magna Carta; midshipman; Mike; Moses; Palm Leaf of Axanar Peace Mission; Phase 1 Search; Prentares Ribbon of Commendation; records officer; Red Alert; Republic, USS; Starbase 11; Starfleet Academy; Starfleet Command; Starfleet Citation for Conspicuous Gallantry; Starfleet Legion of Honor; Starfleet Medal of Honor; Starfleet Silver Palm; Starfleet Surgeons Decoration; Teller; three-dimensional chess; Tribunal of Alpha III; United States Constitution; Vulcanian expedition; Vulcanian Scientific Legion of Honor; white sound device; Yellow alert.

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The Galileo Seven
Episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series
TOS Season 1
Next Episode:
The Menagerie, Part I

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