Court Martial is the twentieth episode of the first season of the original series of Star Trek. Even if it’s not as innovative as other episodes we’ve seen so far like Balance Of Terror and Tomorrow Is Yesterday, it’s yet another extremely solid episode from beginning to end and it’s one of the countless courtroom story of the Star Trek universe.
The USS Enterprise is heading for Starbase 11 for repairs after having run into an ionic storm. From Captain Kirk’s log we also learn that a crew member died following a storm in circumstances that Kirk reports in detail to Commodore Stone (Percy Rodriguez), the base commander. But soon afterwards the trouble begin for Kirk because the recording of the on-board computer contradicts him by showing that the captain’s negligence led to the death of Lieutenant Finney.
It doesn’t help that Finney’s daughter (Alice Rawlings) theatrically enters the commodore’s room and bluntly accuses Kirk of having killed his father because of the hatred between the two. In fact, Kirk and Finney were old friends (Kirk has countless old friends), but the relationship between the two deteriorated when Kirk reported Finney for negligence, irreparably damaging his career.
Another old acquaintance of the captain, the lawyer Areel Shaw (Joan Marshall), comes on stage and has the unfortunate task of supporting the accusation against Kirk. To defend him here comes a lawyer who seems to come directly from the XIX century: he doesn’t use computers and prefers paper books (he’s played by Elisha Cook Jr.).
The twist that arrives at the end is really noteworthy and much more surprising than the predictable twist in the episode The Conscience Of The King. On the other hand, I found a little too much over the top the character of Finney who, as played by Richard Webb, comes out like a foolish madman who’s hardly credible as a lieutenant commander on the Starfleet flagship!
However, Court Martial remains an excellent episode with many scenes to remember. Roddenberry continues to expand the world of Star Trek by mentioning elements such as the Academy and the different careers within the Fleet, and introduces new institutions such as court martial that enrich the narrative universe. McCoy continues to interact interestingly both with Kirk (as a buddy) and with Spock (as a grumpy friend), Spock continues to solve situations using logic (only in The Galileo Seven did he do more harm than good because of his rigidity)… in short, excellent plot, excellent world-building, excellent characters, and excellent episode! Ciao!
Previous episode: Tomorrow Is Yesterday
Next episode: The Return Of The Archons