Thu
Jun 11 2009 1:24pm

Star Trek Re-watch: “Court Martial”

“Court Martial”
Written by Don M.Mankiewicz and Steven W. Carabatsos (story by Don M. Mankiewicz)
Directed by Marc Daniels

Season 1, Episode 20
Production episode: 1x14
Original air date: February 2, 1967
Star date: 2947.3

Mission summary
After the Enterprise encounters another dangerous ion storm, it puts in at Starbase 11 for repairs. Unfortunately, the damage to the ship is the least of their problems; the records officer, Lieutenant Commander Benjamin Finney, was killed when Captain Kirk was forced to jettison an ion pod with him still inside. You wouldn’t believe the amount of paperwork this creates! Kirk even has to wear a fancy shirt to deliver his sworn deposition to the grim-faced Commodore Stone, who is probably the longest-surviving red shirt in Starfleet. Spock beams down with an extract from the ship’s computer logs to supplement Kirk’s report, and a moment later a girl cosplaying as Sailor Mercury bursts into the room. This is Jame (pronounced “Jamie”) Finney, and she accuses Kirk of murdering her dad. After Spock escorts the sobbing girl out of the office, Commodore Stone accuses Kirk of perjury, since the computer records indicate that the captain jettisoned the pod before calling for a Red Alert. He’s confined to the starbase while they decide whether he’ll face court martial.

 

Kirk and McCoy walk into a bar, but this is no joke. The captain gets the cold shoulder from his graduating class, who all seem a bit miffed that he’s killed their friend Ben. Kirk calls BS and takes off, leaving McCoy without a wingman. He flirts with a lovely lady in a hideous dress and learns she’s already an old flame of Kirk’s: Areel Shaw. Damn, turns out McCoy’s a doctor, not a lover (at least for tonight).

Kirk is questioned in a pre-court martial inquiry on the charges of “perjury and culpable negligence,” with the computer recording his responses. We find out that Kirk and Finney had a history together; they were once good friends at the Academy, close enough that Finney named his daughter Jame after Kirk. But when they were both assigned to the U.S.S. Republic, Kirk discovered a mistake of Finney’s that could have destroyed the ship, and reported it—sending Finney to the bottom of the promotion list. Finney resented Kirk for ruining his chances at a command of his own.

Kirk then describes the events that transpired during the ion storm, and why he chose to place Finney in the ion pod:

He may have blamed me that he never rose to command a ship, but I don’t assign jobs on the basis of who blames me. It was Finney’s turn, and I assigned him. He had just checked in with me from the pod when we hit the leading edge of the storm. Not too bad at first. I signaled a Yellow Alert. Then we began encountering pressure, variant stress, force seven, the works. I finally signaled a Red Alert. Finney knew he had a matter of seconds. I gave him those seconds and more. But apparently it wasn’t enough.

But there’s still the matter of the computer records, which show Kirk is either mistaken or lying, since “computer transcripts don’t lie.” Stone offers him an out, by copping to physical exhaustion and a mental breakdown and accepting a ground assignment, but this is more to protect Starfleet’s image than Kirk, since apparently he is the first captain to be on trial. Kirk is insulted and demands an immediate general court martial.

Kirk runs into Areel Shaw at the bar (still in her ugly green dress) and tries to pick up where they left off “four years, seven months, and an odd number of days” ago. She reminds him that she’s a lawyer, which should really interest him right now, but Kirk is more drawn to her other talents at the moment. She tells him that they’re going to make an example of him to clear the service of the scandal and recommends a good defense attorney, Samuel T. Cogley. Then she finally admits that she’s the prosecutor who has to disgrace Kirk. She doesn’t seem terribly happy about it.

Kirk returns to his quarters and discovers he won’t have to spend the night alone after all: Cogley is waiting for him there to offer him his professional services. As an attorney at law, that is. And he’s brought some bedtime reading, piles and piles of legal books.

Finally—the court martial! With Stone presiding over the trial and three of Kirk’s peers on the court, the computer reads off the charges: “Charge, culpable negligence. Specification in that on Stardate 2945.7, by such negligence, Captain Kirk, James T., did cause loss of life, to wit, the life of Records Officer Lieutenant Commander Finney, Benjamin.” Kirk pleads not guilty and prosecutor Shaw calls Spock to the stand. She asks him some questions about the Enterprise computer, which he is qualified to answer because he sounds like a computer himself. Though he agrees that the ship’s computer seems to be functioning correctly, he maintains that it’s wrong anyway and insists that Kirk is incapable of acting “out of panic or malice,” according to his “half-Vulcanian” logic.

Shaw then calls the nameless personnel officer from the Enterprise. The nervous ensign establishes that yes, Kirk’s report on Finney’s negligence is in Finney’s service record. She actually apologizes to Kirk as she leaves the stand. Finally, Shaw calls McCoy as an expert on psychology, and twists his arm into admitting that theoretically, a person who becomes aware that another person hates him may begin to reciprocate those feelings; however, like Spock, he claims that Kirk isn’t “that kind of a man.”

Throughout these three witnesses, Kirk’s lawyer Cogley waives his right to cross-examine. He’s been waiting to question Kirk himself. Once on the stand, the computer begins relaying a lengthy list of Kirk’s commendations. Shaw wants to skip to the good part, but Cogley demands to hear it out to establish the captain’s character and history. Then Kirk is given a chance to explain the situation for the court:

Firstly, I am at a loss to explain the errors in the extract from the computer log. We were in an ion storm. Everyone here in this court knows the dangers involved. I was in command. The decisions were mine, no one else’s. Charges of malice have been raised. There was no malice. Lieutenant Commander Finney was a member of my crew, and that’s exactly the way he was treated. It has been suggested that I panicked on the bridge and jettisoned the ion pod prematurely. That is not so. You’ve heard some of the details of my record. This was not my first crisis. It was one of many. During it, I did what my experience and training required me to do. I took the proper steps in the proper order. I did exactly what had to be done, exactly when it should have been done.

He continues to stand by his actions and take responsibility; more than that, he says he would do it again, exactly the same way, because, he says, “nothing is more important than my ship.” Presumably he also means the Enterprise’s crew, most of them anyway.

Shaw cross-examines and presents a particularly damning piece of evidence: a visual log from the Bridge that clearly shows Kirk pressing a button marked “jettison pod” while the ship is still at yellow alert. (Now we know another of the yeoman’s important duties, running around with a label maker to update the button when its function changes in each episode!) Oh crap. For a moment, even Kirk seems to doubt himself, and Cogley is really confused.

When the court adjourns to arrive at their verdict, Cogley tries to convince Kirk to change his plea, but the captain is still certain of his actions. Spock contacts him to tell him that a megalyte survey on the computer failed to turn up any problems. (When even the megalyte scan fails, you know you’re in trouble!) Kirk thanks his first officer and shows he can still make light of the dire situation: “It’s not all bad, Mr. Spock. Who knows. You may be able to beat your next captain at chess.” Of course! CHESS. Or is it...poker? No, it’s chess! And it gives Spock an idea: they can blame it all on corbomite. No, wait. That would never work.

On the starbase, Jame visits Kirk and apologizes for blaming him for her father’s death. She’s reconsidered, now that she knows they used to be good friends. On the Enterprise, Spock has been playing chess with the ship’s computer. McCoy discovers him and calls him cold-blooded for playing games while Kirk’s career is on the line, which Spock naturally takes as a compliment. He explains that he’s just won four games—make that five—which shouldn’t be possible because he programmed the computer himself. Unless he foolishly programmed it to create an adversary capable of defeating him, which is impossible, the best he could have hoped for is a draw in each match.

Spock and McCoy run to the court room to share their new evidence of computer tampering, just in the nick of time. Cogley launches an impassioned plea, asking to reconvene on the Enterprise so that Kirk can face his accuser: the ship’s computer itself. He argues that it’s his right as a human, and Stone grudgingly agrees.

On the ship, Spock explains his findings and concludes that someone has messed with the memory banks of the computer. The only individuals who could have accomplished such a feat are himself, Captain Kirk, and...the records officer! But that would be Benjamin Finney, the man who died. Kirk says that they searched for the man after the pod was jettisoned, but Cogley really starts to run with the case. He suggests that they might not have found Finney if he didn’t want to be found, and submits that Finney is not only alive, but he’s still aboard the Enterprise.

They conduct a simple experiment to test out that theory: they evacuate everyone on the ship aside from Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Cogley, Shaw, Stone, the judges, and the transporter technician. Then they use the ship’s auditory monitors to listen to every heartbeat on the ship and systematically eliminate those of the known parties with a white sound device (aka, a microphone)—and there’s still one left unaccounted for! The tell-tale heart is beating under the floorboards...Engineering section, Deck B. Kirk heads down there alone to confront Finney, while Cogley heads back to the starbase to bring back Finney’s daughter, Jame, in case the man who faked his death is crazy or desperate. Meanwhile, Enterprise’s orbit begins to decay, as it’s wont to do.

Kirk finds a grizzly Finney on the Engineering deck, where all madmen hide. Finney accuses Kirk of ruining his life, denying him command of the Enterprise, so on and so forth. Knowing that Kirk’s death would mean less than the death of his ship, Finney has sabotaged the “primary energy circuits,” which is causing it to lose power and its ability to maintain orbit. When Kirk tells him his daughter is on board, the man freaks out and they fight. Even though Finney has a wrench, Kirk knocks him out easily, though his torn shirt is an unfortunate casualty. The captain manages to “effect repairs” by tearing some power cables out in a Jeffries tube, and orbit is soon stabilized.

With no one dead, the case against Kirk is dismissed. Before the Enterprise leaves the starbase, Shaw says goodbye to the captain on the bridge, leaving him with a book (from Cogley), and a little something from her; she says, “Do you think it would cause a complete breakdown of discipline if a lowly lieutenant kissed a starship captain on the bridge of his ship?” Kirk’s definitely up for this experiment. After they kiss, he replies, “See? No change. Discipline goes on.“ That’s because Kirk runs a tight ship. She leaves and he swaggers back to his seat, where he is flanked by Spock and McCoy who are wearing their poker faces. (Or is it chess?)

KIRK: She’s a very good lawyer.
SPOCK: Obviously.
MCCOY: Indeed she is.

Analysis

This episode was a delightful surprise. I had all but forgotten its existence, but as soon as it came back to me, I also remembered the twist ending. I suspect it was predictable anyway, but I’d love to hear from someone who just watched this for the first time, or people who remember what their original experience of it was.

Admittedly, this one is a bit drier than more action-oriented episodes, but it’s still engaging and it’s interesting to see the military protocol and several aspects of both the operation of a starship and Starfleet Command in general. (Who knew there was a records officer or a personnel officer? Or ion pods, for that matter?) We’d seen a court martial already in “The Menagerie,” but there’s more of a sense of “authenticity” and formality to these proceedings, possibly because of the presence of defense and prosecution attorneys.

I was also excited by the themes explored through the course of the episode. Shaw describes the trial as “Kirk vs. the Computer,” the first of many such encounters in the series. We know he will always win against the machine; even though the Kobayashi Maru test hadn’t been introduced into continuity yet, Kirk’s very character is based on his ability to cheat and best a computer program.

The accuracy and value of computers is questioned several times. Some consider them to be infallible, while others, like Cogley (and even Spock!) don’t trust them and assume they are just as flawed as humans. There seems to be a very real fear, as has been mentioned before, that humans are in danger of becoming machines themselves, as demonstrated by Cogley’s speech near the end of the episode:

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!

And in this case, they’re right not to trust the computer after all, a scary proposition when so much of their lives is controlled by them.

There’s even the still-relevant debate over the value of print books over electronic:

COGLEY: What’s the matter? Don’t you like books?
KIRK: Oh, I like them fine, but a computer takes less space.
COGLEY: A computer, huh? I got one of these in my office. Contains all the precedents. The synthesis of all the great legal decisions written throughout time. I never use it.
KIRK: Why not?
COGLEY: I’ve got my own system. Books, young man, books. Thousands of them. If time wasn’t so important, I’d show you something. My library. Thousands of books.

It’s apparent that Cogley’s a bit of a Luddite when it comes to computers, which is probably a bit rare in the times he lives in, though a hundred years later Captain Jean-Luc Picard still owns physical books, too. Cogley gives Kirk a book at the end of the episode, perhaps a message not to hurry along progress too much and to hold onto what it represents—humanity. The sentiment seems to stick, since Kirk later receives a copy of A Tale of Two Cities from Spock for his birthday in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. (Then again, in “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” Mitchell characterizes Cadet Kirk as a “walking stack of books,” so we know he already likes to read.) I’d really like to know what the title of Cogley’s book is...

Another timely topic touched on is the question of human rights, which again, Cogley adamantly defends:

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 Three. 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.

Human rights were of course a huge issue in the 1960s, and we’re still struggling with them today, too. Hopefully we’ll have it all sorted out in another 200 years, but preferably sooner.

Overall, “Court Martial” is an interesting mystery/court procedural with a sense of jeopardy and tension, excellent characterization, and thoughtful themes. But I still find all those references to “Vulcanians” a bit funny now.

Eugene’s Rating: Warp 5 (on a scale of 1-6)

Torie Atkinson: Like in “Conscience of the King,” this episode questions the image of Kirk as a white knight untarnished by the vices of jealousy or revenge. Is it possible that Kirk, the strength of the Enterprise and its crew, is fallible? Could he have folded under pressure? Or worse, did he maliciously send Lt. Commander Finney to his death? Shatner and Percy Rodriguez (who plays Commodore Stone) give stand-out performances and create a tension that is palpable.

I didn’t believe for a second that it was possible for Kirk to be a murderer, and the episode brilliantly toys with that assumption. The computer recording didn’t persuade me, though it planted the seed of doubt, and the video really surprised me. I did a double-take (as did Kirk!). But whether it was true or not, the idea—the possibility—that Kirk could have done something like this is just as damning. When he enters the bar and gets the cold shoulder from all of his classmates, we can see that the real damage is not in the conviction but in the accusation. Kirk’s nobility of spirit and purpose have been poisoned by this event.

Reputation plays a big role here, and not just for Kirk. This whole thing happened because Kirk ruined Finney’s reputation so long ago. Well-earned or not, it prevented the man’s promotion, and in many ways ruined his career. It’s clear with Kirk how incredibly valuable it is to be trusted, and how central that idea is to the goals and image of Starfleet as a whole. Areel Shaw makes it very clear to Kirk that the institution of Starfleet is greater and more important than any individual, and that they would sacrifice him on the altar of loyalty “for the good of the service.” It’s a testament to Starfleet’s supposed perfection as an institution that Kirk believes completely and unreservedly in the system, and is utterly convinced that a court martial will vindicate him. His unwavering faith in transparent justice (he refuses to allow them to “sweep it under the rug”) and commitment to truth demonstrate a nobility that’s difficult to see cracks in, even with damning video evidence.

The big thing that didn’t work for me at all was the trial itself. Shaw is a stupendously bad lawyer, with a weak prosecution—all she’s got that is that since Finney didn’t like Kirk then maybe possibly it’s likely that Kirk could have not liked him back? Please. Kirk’s counsel, Mr. Cogley, is like a senile Matlock—I expected him to start rambling about his youth (or hot dogs) any second. And the conflict of interest with Areel was totally unbelievable. I will say that I didn’t guess for a second the twist ending (my guess was either that Jame set Kirk up or that Finney committed suicide because of his disgrace and framed Kirk for it). Wrong on both counts, and pleasantly surprised that I got a half-naked man-wrestling fight out of it. Simple pleasures, you know.

One final note: kudos on Star Trek for the racial diversity of this episode. In addition to Commodore Stone, the episode included a South Asian man on the court martial panel and an East Asian woman as the personnel officer. Forty years later and our courts still don’t look like that.

Torie’s Rating: Warp 5 (on a scale of 1-6)

Best Line: McCoy to Shaw: “All of my old friends look like doctors. All of his look like you. Well, you might as well join me for a drink.”

Syndication Edits: Initial chitchat between Kirk and Areel Shaw; Spock’s statement during the court martial that he is “part Vulcanian”; two sections from Cogley’s speech on human rights (though it doesn’t note which ones...); the entire sequence at the end of the Enterprise establishing a stable orbit.

Trivia: Commodore Stone’s office is the same one used in “The Menagerie.” This is the first episode to use the term “Starfleet Command,” which became the standard in the Star Trek universe, and also the first appearance of dress uniforms in the series. This episode is later referenced on Deep Space Nine in the episode “Far Beyond the Stars,” as a short story titled “Court Martial” by Samuel T. Cogley in the September 1953 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction magazine, which features the beautiful matte painting of Starbase 11 on the cover.

Other notes: Richard Webb (Benjamin Finney) was best known as TV’s Captain Midnight (1954-1956). The excellent Elisha Cook, Jr. (Cogley) may be remembered for his performance in The Maltese Falcon and many other film noir and crime films, as well as a long career of television guest roles.


Next episode: Season 1, Episode 21 - “The Return of the Archons.” US residents can watch it for free at the CBS website.
Check the Star Trek Re-Watch Index for a complete list of posts in this series.

17 comments
Sumana Harihareswara
1. brainwane
A comparison of "Court Martial" and the TNG ep "Measure of a Man".

For a television show about humanity finding a better future in the stars, TOS is pretty paranoid and mistrustful of the machines people build to take them there. It's always the insane supercomputer or the malfunctioning space probe or, in this case, the computer whose records have been tampered with and can't be trusted. The centerpiece of "Court Martial" is Kirk's defense attorney, a card-carrying technophobe, giving a speech about how humanity (of whatever species) must always be the master of cold machinery lest we lose our own humanity (of whatever variety). This argument is the direct ancestor of the argument used against Data in "Measure of a Man": that because he's a piece of technology, he does not partake of humanity and must be owned and administered by it. "Measure of a Man" puts one of the underlying themes of TOS on trial and shows that it hasn't held up well.
Torie Atkinson
2. Torie
@ 1 brainwane

While I think that's generally true, I don't think that's true for this episode. Cogley's a technophobe but in the end it's not that the computer is inherently untrustworthy and evil, it's that men are. It doesn't malfunction, it's tampered with. Technology here is dangerous only because men can manipulate it, and in that sense, I don't see how it's any more dangerous than any other kind of tool.

The AIs and malfunctioning probes/ transporters/ computers are a whole other game.
Church Tucker
3. Church
"Shaw is a stupendously bad lawyer, with a weak prosecution—all she’s got that is that since Finney didn’t like Kirk then maybe possibly it’s likely that Kirk could have not liked him back? Please."

Well, there's also that damning bit of video. I think she was just trying to establish motive, there.

I'm amused that the mistrust of the computer record is probably even more relevant (or at least obvious) now than it was then. (e.g., identity theft.)

I'll give this a five. Jamie (just never liked her) and the overly complicated heartbeat-thingy are the only draw backs.
DemetriosX
4. DemetriosX
This is one of the best episodes for all of TOS and in the first season is beaten only by "Balance of Terror" and "City on the Edge of Forever". The verisimilitude of the court martial is excellent and I suspect Rodenberry's hand (since he was an old navy man), though the Caine Mutiny might have been an influence as well.

If Areel Shaw does a poor job -- and she does have rather damning video evidence -- it may be that her feelings for Kirk, and possibly some resentment for basically being ordered to bring the charges, are at play. Sam Cogley, on the other hand, is one of the best one-time characters the show ever had.

My biggest quibble is probably that I can't see why the records officer was in line to perform dangerous repairs during an emergency.

Good news for Torie, Kirk rips his tunic almost EVERY time he gets into a brawl. Speaking of shirts, is this really the first time we've seen dress uniforms? weren't they wearing something at least a little fancier for the cocktail party in "Conscience of the King" or in preparation for their dinner at the beginning of "Arena"?
Melissa Ann Singer
5. masinger
I always figured Cogley was based in part on the Spencer Tracy character from Inherit the Wind (who was of course based on a real person).
Richard Fife
6. R.Fife
The court marshal in The Menagerie had the dress uniforms. I remember thinking the way their ribbons look like a flower was kinda funny.

Anywho, I will admit I was fooled up to the end. I was suspecting Jamie, especially after her little spiel in Kirk's room made Cogley all "Hmmmm" like. Why couldn't the daughter of a records officer be all crazy-good with computers?

The technophobia irked me, probably as I am desk-side support tech and deal with techno-rage on a regular basis (especially as we are "upgrading" to Vista in the office right now). I am happy that it was a human that was the villain, not a computer, but Cogley's whole anti-computer spiel grated on me. That boy needs a Kindle. That he felt the need to make his impassioned speech instead of just saying "I have new evidence that indicates the computer is in error and has been tampered with" was annoying. Theatrics indeed.

The courtroom irked me, both from the weak prosecution to odd courtroom procedure. Did they have a legal-aid helping them with the plotting at all?
Eugene Myers
7. ecmyers
@ 4
You're right--they wear dress uniforms in "The Menagerie." This is another example of the production order confusing the matter, since "The Menagerie" follows this one in production but proceeded it in broadcast.
j p
8. sps49
ecmeyers, that is a funny recap.

Torie, good catch on the reputations thread. I never consciously got that.

In the real life 60s in America, there did exist diversity in courts, Personnel Officers, and such- the US military. Although some in the media at the time blamed "society" for forcing people of color into the military because of the dearth of civilian opportunity (and it made good copy to claim that blacks were being sent to die for Whitey, disregarding their percentage in the combat branches), the fact remains that people were getting along.

Sure, it could've been done sooner and better, but the military has generally been better at this than the rest of US society. Growing up on bases (which are only segregated by rank in housing) and attending the same schools as others can tend to make one color blind.

Records Officer in the pod- I am sure that, like submarines, spaceships will have crews that cross-train in other specializations.

I suppose that, with the reboot, we will never learn what happened at the Axanar Peace Mission.

I like books if I want to look for a particular passage- flipping through pages is still faster than searching text.

Especially with early 1st season episodes, I like to watch in production order. So much is still evolving that out of sequence events are more noticable here. The DVD set does not make this viewing order easy. At all.
Church Tucker
9. Church
Oh yeah, note the upgrade to the witness chair's software when Mudd shows up.

@6 R.Fife

"The technophobia irked me, probably as I am desk-side support tech and deal with techno-rage on a regular basis (especially as we are "upgrading" to Vista in the office right now)."

You're upgrading to Vista *now?* You could use a little more technophobia. Wait for 7. ;)
Richard Fife
10. R.Fife
@9
We're a big company, and the test-lab/engineering team has been working on the "Vista Image" since Vista first came out. It'll be years yet before they have one for 7. I honestly don't know what we left XP...
C C
11. Hatgirl
I read the Blish novelization of this as a child, long before I saw the episode. The end was a total surprise - I had been suspecting Jame. And the heartbeat detection was much cooler in print. But it is a great episode to see as well as read. It is also the one time I prefer airing order to production order, as this is followed directly by The Menagerie in production order which results in two courtmartials in a row.

@8
I like books if I want to look for a particular passage- flipping through pages is still faster than searching text.

Not always - I recently found myself absentmindedly trying to CTRL+F a paper book.

@10
I never liked XP. I miss my ZX Spectrum. All programs still should be recorded on audio tape (oh God, I'm Cogley).
Torie Atkinson
12. Torie
@ 3 Church

Yeah, but that argument was weak considering she refused to allow anyone else to speculate. "Don't speculate! Except right now to prove my dubious point!"

@ 4 DemetriosX

I just love how badly edited those fight scenes always wind up being. First they're in a shoulder grip, then suddenly Kirk's shirt is torn! What?

@ 8 sps49

Oh I'm not making a judgment about the military, I'm saying how astonishing it is to see that kind of diversity on television. And having worked in the (civil) legal world, it's changing slowly now, but it's still quite white and male.
DemetriosX
13. c3kio
the fact we now live in the age of googlefacebook and twitter and that some "believe" that the ideas of human rights are old and shown "out of date" by "misunderstanding" the intent of "measure of man" is sad.

its also why trek is now left only as comedy adventure summer fluff.

cogley for supreme court. we need him today more than in 1968.

laugh all you will as your identity is lost to a single button push by a facebook worker in india:)

this is one of the most "important" tos episodes ... youll see.
Jeff Soules
14. DeepThought
@masinger #5 --
Every "cranky weirdo crusading lawyer" character does draw to some extent on the legacy of Clarence Darrow (Henry Drummond in Inherit the Wind), but I think in this episode it's more the trope than a direct reference.

@1 Brainwane, 6 RFife --
I saw the episode as more reminding everybody that "Garbage In = Garbage Out." People have way too much reverence for information that comes from computers (though the computers themselves may never be at fault).
DemetriosX
15. MarcN
I enjoyed the episode, but the motivations are nuts. But first, the lawyering.

Shaw had the killer evidence, so the McCoy bit was unnecessary. I would have likes Cogley to object to the speculation, or at least to cross examine McCoy: "How long has Finney served on the Enterprise?" (x years) "Have you seen him interact with Kirk?" (yes, frequently) "Have you noticed any animosity from either one to the other?" (none whatsoever). Motivation destroyed.

Was it cruel for Kirk to have Finney serve on the Enterprise under him? Kirk acts as if it were chance that saw Finney serving. I would have prefered it to have been an effort from Kirk to get Finney away from a desk job, in a position that would allow him to rise in the ranks again.


Now to motivation. There are big problems with Jame and her father.

Jame (how does she happen to be on that starbase?) goes from accusing Kirk of murdering her father (that makes sense) to realizing that they were great friends (that could make sense too).

But how can they be such good friends and at the same time mortal enemies (from Finney's point of view)? Finney hates Kirk so much that he is willing to fake his own death (how's he going to get off the ship? where's he going to go? what's he going to do?), and abandon his daughter, who he clearly loves. No sense at all!!!!!

My fix: Finney recently transfered to Enterprise. This brings up all his bitterness to Kirk. A medical exam shows a turmor that affects his brain. (I like the solution, but we need to find a way for McCoy not to have had the opportunity to detect the tumor yet, hence the recent transfer, which allows Finney's crazy to fin a focus in resentment of Kirk.)
DemetriosX
16. Ivan Offalich
I am watching TOS on Netflix, which happens to be the remastered version. I stumbled across TOR while looking up some info about the episodes. I thought I'd make a comment or two here. I'll also note that I am watching this series fresh with 44 year-old eyes. I've never been a fan of TOS, but I did like the even numbered movies, especially VI, which I wish the others had been more like.

This episode had a lot going for it, but it was held back by a lot of things. It has a great plot twist that really isn't obvious, for a change, considering it's television and all. The red herring of Jame being the one setting up Kirk to fall, even at the end when she apologizes to him really pointed at her to be the "villain" in the episode.

My problems with it are the hamfisted way that it was done, which is pretty much why I don't enjoy TOS as much as some of the other series or some of the movies. Here are some of them:

- The railroading courtmartial. Kirk's boss goes from being comforting and friendly to wanting to end his career in two seconds flat. Pretty much everything else in the episode is in favor of prosecuting him, including his so-called friends at the bar who snap-judge him based on rumors that are going around. That doesn't come across as being a progressive (or progressed society at all). Could anyone actually get a fair trial in that kind of environment? As Torie mentioned, the prosecutor basically wouldn't let anyone give a real answer to her questions because it was speculation, but she could say anything she wanted, no matter how damaging or speculative. Hamfisted 60's drama. It's hard to watch.

- The captain's chair console, which should have important things on it like shields, communication, alert modes; basically critical system interface, has a button to eject a completely unimportant part of the ship on it, where it could accidently be depressed. Yeah, it's a plot device, but therein lies the problem with many of these episodes. Instead of coming up with a plausible reason for the situation, a half-assed one like this was concocted. Pretty much anyone could take that basic scenario and make a more realistic way of having it be done. Instead, a silly big button like that is on the captain's chair for no reason other than laziness of the writers.

- A ship with over 400 people in the crew which depend on the computer system for life support, food, knowledge, etc., etc. could only possibly be programmed, or more specifically reprogrammed, by three people aboard the ship. What if those three people were incapacitated? Not bloody likely that so few people would have the knowledge and skills to handle a computer when it's so important. Again, silly damned plot device. Also, the fact that Kirk was one of them was quite difficult for me to buy. He's not a programmer type.

- The heartbeat thing was ridiculous too. I get the dramatic reveal of it, but there are holes in it. The first one being that it was said that it was picking up noises on the ship and that their heatbeats were almost too much for them to bear listening to, yet their talking wasn't deafingly loud to them in contrast, in fact, it wasn't even being picked up by the ship's "microphone". On top of that, even though they can pick up the presence of a life form on a planet, or in a ship that is quite a distance from the ship with their technology, that same technology wasn't used to scan internally for the person who wasn't on the bridge.

- Although it's probably nitpicky, what they hell do they need a big-ass crescent wrench for in engineering? Why is is sitting on a pedestal waiting for Finney to grab it in desperation? Because that's the way they did it back then, that's why.

Don't get me wrong, for the most part, this is one of the more enjoyable episodes. As I said, the plot twist is very good, it's just the execution that's hard to swallow.

I am trying to enjoy TOS, but it's these little things that make it an effort sometimes.
DemetriosX
17. Robert B
Nobody mentioned my favorite line of the episode, where Kirk explains that they can amplify the sound on the ship on the order of "one to the fourth power". :D

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