Second Union

Second Union

STAR TREK REWIND: “Court Martial”

“All of my old friends look like doctors. All of his look like you.”

I’ve gone on record before proclaiming “Court Martial” to be one of the worst episodes of Star Trek ever produced, but now I have to explain myself. There are so many problems with the story, I don’t feel I could do it justice in three fat paragraphs, but I will try. We have an “ion pod” and an explosion and the death of a pathetic crewman named Ben Finney (“… and his one mistake!”). Kirk thinks it’s an open-and-shut case when he makes his report to Commodore Stone at Starbase 11, but the computer log extract is a different story.

Kirk swears he jettisoned the ion pod after going to red alert. The computer says he did it before going to red alert, thus making Kirk a murderer. The story gets complicated when it is revealed Kirk had a prior relationship with the deceased. They were good friends until Finney (“… and his one mistake!”) screwed up big time and nearly destroyed a ship on which they both served at the time. Finney was reprimanded and sent to the bottom of the promotion list (he seriously should’ve been booted out of the service).

Stone can only assume Kirk is lying (because computers never screw up) so he convenes a general court-martial. Funny how easily Kirk can be made to look like the bad guy, even if the “evidence” is dubious at best. Kirk tries to catch up with his old class, but they’ve all made up their minds too. I sense less of a biased view against Kirk than professional jealousy. His former classmates look about 10 to 15 years older than he. They probably resented the whiz kid, the “stack of books with legs,” Jim Kirk. Kirk then discovers an ex-girlfriend, Areel, is to be the prosecuting attorney in his case, and Stone is to preside over the court-martial.

Areel recommends defense attorney Samuel T. Cogley (iconic character actor Elisha Cook, Jr.) to represent Kirk’s interests. Does this make sense? Does any of this make sense? This is called a “conflict of interest.” Add to this the “evidence,” which consists of obviously altered footage of the bridge, complete with medium and close-up shots that show a hand (not necessarily Kirk’s hand) hitting the “jettison” button on the arm of Kirk’s chair. Would you really put a “jettison” button on an armrest right next to your coffee?

Is Kirk not to be offered any defense? Cogley doesn’t even bring in actual witnesses (Uhura, Spock, or MMMBop Hansen) to either confirm or deny Kirk’s actions. Instead, Cogley rants and raves about man’s ultimate superiority over machines. I would suspect Areel has a score to settle with Kirk based on her suggestion that Cogley represents him. Ultimately, Spock figures it out. Why did it take him so long, you ask? Apparently, he’s so good at playing chess (and there’s absolutely no way he could ever lose a game of chess, even though there are two documented cases of Kirk beating him) that any chess program he designs to play against himself will only result in a draw, yet Spock is kicking the computer’s butt.

Hence, the programming has been altered. What?! How any of this would affect computer playback of an incident that should have been closely monitored on the bridge is anybody’s guess. Remove all the trademarked names, terminology, and hints of future space exploration, and this could be an episode of Perry Mason or Judd for the Defense. I would think the writer had no prior knowledge of Star Trek before writing this episode, but Steven Carabatsos was the show’s script supervisor. What a mess!

Star Trek Rewind explores the Star Trek universe. From Archer to Janeway, Kirk to Picard, and Georgiou to Sisko — boldly read what no one has read before!

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