Star Trek – Court Martial

★★★★ February 2, 1967 Season 1 Episode 20

If you want to see where we are…and you missed a few…HERE is a list of the episodes in my index located at the top of my blog. 

This show was written by Don Mankiewicz, Steven W. Carabatsos, and Gene Roddenberry

This episode has a low rating at IMDB…I don’t understand that. No, this one does not have much action, but I like courtroom dramas. This is not another 12 Angry Men don’t get me wrong but it’s a smart episode. Captain Kirk is charged with negligence after one of the Enterprise’s officers dies under his command. Kirk pleads not guilty at his trial…his entire career and his command of the Enterprise are in jeopardy. Can Kirk prove that events didn’t go as the computer claims they did?

Star Trek - court Martial 2

The computer and video show the Captain is guilty. This episode has some good performances by William Shatner and guest stars Percy Rodriguez and Elisha Cook Jr, good editing and directing.

The court-martial is set up by Starfleet to find out if Kirk behaved improperly during a crisis. He claims he did everything by the book, but the Enterprise’s computer records – unquestionable evidence by everyone’s standards – seem to indicate the death of a crewman (an old friend of Kirk’s, no less) was the result of the captain’s negligence. Lucky for him, his lawyer doesn’t trust computers and sets out to prove something went wrong, while Spock does the same on the ship.

Looking at it almost 60 years later I appreciate the central point it makes now more than ever, considering technology is now programmed to spy on us, collect our personal information, and gather market research based on our lifestyles. The biggest thing though is now you cannot believe everything you hear or see on video. Video and audio can be manipulated to about anything you would want. In this story the video clearly shows Kirk pushing the button prematurely. 

It is only when Spock discovers that the Three-Dimensional Chess he had programmed into the Enterprise Computer has been altered, also explains why the ship’s computer would record an event incorrectly. It’s a nice twist at the end. 

From IMDB:

Elisha Cook Jr. had great difficulty remembering his lines. The speech of his character, Sam Cogley, was pieced together with editing.

We get a look, for the only time in the series, at a series of registration numbers on the chart in Stone’s office. Gregory Jein associated them with ten names previously used in production memos which will later be assumed to be Constitution-class star ships, 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 Court Martial, the USS Intrepid, the all-Vulcan star ship, is being repaired at Starbase 11. In Star Trek: The Immunity Syndrome (1968), it will be destroyed by the space amoeba.

This is the third and final time Uhura takes over the navigation station. She previously handled navigation in Star Trek: The Naked Time (1966) and Star Trek: Balance of Terror (1966). She can also be seen sitting at navigation at the beginning of Star Trek: The Man Trap (1966), via a recycled shot from Star Trek: The Naked Time (1966).

The picture on the wall outside Stone’s office appears to show the launch of an early NASA rocket. Also seen is the two-person transporter alcove. This is later seen on Space Station K-7 in Star Trek: The Trouble with Tribbles (1967).

Areel Shaw once loved Kirk, but doesn’t let this get in the way of prosecuting him and potentially ending his career in Starfleet. It is not known why this apparent conflict of interest does not prevent her serving as prosecuting attorney. A similar scenario played itself out between Captain Jean-Luc Picard and JAG Captain Phillipa Louvois in Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Measure of a Man (1989).

Chandra would also sit in judgment of James T. Kirk in another timeline, serving on the Starfleet Academy board trying that Kirk for his actions regarding the Kobayashi Maru scenario in Star Trek (2009). That board would also include Lt. Alice Rawlings, named for the actress who played Jame Finney.

The barkeep wears the same costume later worn by the K-7 bartender in Star Trek: The Trouble with Tribbles (1967). The back of the bar contains recycled pieces from the interior of Balok’s ship.

The plants in Stone’s office contain pieces of those seen in Star Trek: The Conscience of the King (1966) and was later used for the spores in Star Trek: This Side of Paradise (1967).

When Dr McCoy individually masked the heartbeat of each member sitting on the Bridge of the Enterprise with a handheld, narrow-band device tuned to around 1 Hz (the frequency of heartbeats), the prop is made out of a 1968 microphone with the cable disconnected. Spock could have masked the sounds on the Bridge with the console switch in the same way the crewman in Engineering was remotely masked. Ben Finney would not have been hiding on the Bridge.


Captain Kirk finds himself facing a court-martial following the death of crewman Lt. Cmdr. Ben Finney. He and Finney had once been good friends since meeting at the academy, even though Kirk later was the man who reported him once while on watch. Kirk also meets a lost love, Lt. Areel Shaw, who, it turns out, will be the prosecuting officer. She recommends he retain the somewhat eccentric Samuel T. Cogley as his attorney, a man who eschews computers in favor of books. The evidence against Kirk is damning and clearly shows his actions caused Finney’s death. It is Mr. Spock’s ability to beat the computer at chess that provides the solution to the mystery.


William Shatner …Captain James Tiberius ‘Jim’ Kirk
Leonard Nimoy … Mister Spock
Percy Rodrigues … Portmaster Stone (as Percy Rodriguez)
Elisha Cook Jr. … Cogley (as Elisha Cook)
Joan Marshall … Areel Shaw
DeForest Kelley … Doctor Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy
Nichelle Nichols Nichelle Nichols … Lieutenant Nyota Uhura
Richard Webb … Finney
Hagan Beggs … Helmsman
Win De Lugo … Timothy (as Winston DeLugo)
Alice Rawlings … Jame Finney
Nancy Wong … Personnel Officer
Bart Conrad … Krasnovsky
William Meader … Board Officer
Reginald Lal Singh … Board Officer
Majel Barrett … Enterprise Computer (voice) (uncredited)
Bill Blackburn … Lieutenant Hadley (uncredited)
Tom Curtis … Corrigan (uncredited)
Frank da Vinci … Lt. Brent (uncredited)
Ron Kinwald … Starbase 11 Bar Patron (uncredited)