Trips to Starbase 11 always seem to involve legal troubles. Last time it was Spock on trial. This time, Captain James T. Kirk Faces “Court Martial.”
Tags: Areel Shaw, Ben Finney, Commodore Stone, Court Martial, ion storm, jettison pod, Lt. Commander Benjamin Finney, Marc Daniels, Sam Cogley, Samuel T. Cogley, The Original Series, The Original Series Season 1, TOS
Just listened to this episode. Many great points, as usual, in this conversation. Every time I watch Court Martial, I cannot help but notice how much Alice Rawlings, who plays the daughter, looks like Elisha Cook Jr. I don’t know if anyone else noticed this. In any case, thanks for the podcast!!
Thank you, Dave!
Another fine podcast, and I had a few thoughts about the episode:
1. Was it filmed at the same time as The Menagerie, Where No Man Has Gone Before and A Taste of Armageddon? The film stock looks different from the majority of other episodes, as well as minor touches (such as the use of ‘Vulcanian’).
2. Cogley’s legal tactics always seemed ineffective at best and criminal at worst, until recently when I grasped that with the evidence against his client, all he had was emotion. And sometimes, that can work. Just ask Johnny Cochrane and OJ.
3. The initial hostility Kirk received from his fellow captains felt strange when I was younger – they can’t be mean to my hero! – but now I wonder if they held some resentment towards Kirk for originally reporting Finney, one of their own, for his mistake, rather than settling it between “gentlemen”. The dark side of loyalty…
4. McCoy’s line to Areel was priceless: “All of my old friends look like doctors. All of Jim’s old friends look like you.”
It was filmed out of order, but closer to its airdate than, say WNMHGB which was shot in 1965. Some of the inconsistencies could just be the quality of available stock, the lab work then the editing/duplication at the time.
2. As they said, if Spock doesn’t find something wrong with the computer, Cogley seemed to be ready to lose. He reminded me of the lawyer defending Maxwell Smart on Get Smart when he was falsely sent to prison. At least there it was funny. This is embarrassing. (And infuriating. I HAD a lawyer like that when I fought my landlord. Against the other lawyer she folded like a cheap suit, as it were.)
3. Think of Kirk as a cop reporting abuse by another cop. here is just one recent example.
Imagine how he would be treated TODAY, never mind then.
4. Again, think of get Smart and Dr. Steele and Simon. Not all doctors are created equal. And even on Trek, Dr. Ann Mulhall and Dr. Jones were very fine looking.
I know it’s not trivia, but I thought I’d help.
Here I am again with an alternate take on the message! I submit that there IS a message in this episode, and it is “Don’t put all your faith in technology. It’s not infallible, even though it promises to be free from human error.” You kept dancing around so close to that idea without quite hitting it, and I kept wanting to call out to you on the podcast!
This was possibly more relevant at the time of the original broadcast, but when computers (and even calculators!) were new, people were in awe of their accuracy and consistency. Computers would never, ever, EVER have a momentary brain lapse and say 2+2=3–or at least that was the perception. This episode, then, reminds us that a computer is only as accurate as its programming, and programming can be changed.
You kept saying, “Why did it take so long for them to think that the computer might have been tampered with?”–and I think that’s the point: people *didn’t,* at the time, think immediately of that. They would assume that the computer was infallible and could not lie. You used the analogy of DNA evidence today, and I think that’s similar. If an accused man says he was never at a crime scene, but DNA evidence points to him, I think people are more likely to believe the DNA evidence than to assume that it’s been tampered with. And to the degree that they do consider that possibility, I think it’s partly a legacy of learning that supposedly infallible computers can also be made to “lie.”
Umm, Homicidal was actually made a year after Psycho and is generally thought of as an imitation of the latter; it was not a precursor. Sorry to nitpick, but as a tremendous Hitchcock fan, I could not help myself.
In the podcast, you mentioned Spock and McCoy’s honours being as long as your arm. I dispute that. The computer STOPS SPEAKING after THREE (yes, three) mentions of each of their honours. That MAY be as long as a baby’s arm but that’s it.
Now KIRK, that’s different. Cogley DOES have to stop the computer. But although we’d like to believe that Spock and McCoy are saints, in terms of ACTUAL AWARDS or commendations, there are only three.
A more important question is, when in the galaxy could Spock have POSSIBLY won his fifth chess game? He wins his fourth, shows McCoy, and goes STRAIGHT to the Court Martial! No? I didn’t see any place he could have taken time to play a chess game.
I don’t see how anybody can be “on the fence” about the death penalty. It’s glaringly obvious that the American criminal justice system is deeply flawed. Law enforcement officers have lied on the stand, coerced false confessions and manipulated evidence in hundreds of cases to get quick and easy “wins” for their statistics. Prosecutors have manipulated and suppressed evidence. Judges played along with it. Dozens of innocents had to be released from death row over the years after non-governmental organisations researched their cases and found out the truth. They were lucky, some wrongfully convicted people only turned out to be innocent after their executions.
We don’t even have to discuss whether capital punishment is morally right or wrong in general. It can never even get to that stage of the discussion. The system has killed innocents, that’s an irrefutable fact. How can a justice system that killed people to further careers, bolster false statistics and provide the illusion of being “tough on crime” for ideological purposes and election victories, or sometimes just by mistake, judge other possible killers and decide if they get to live or die? The second the first wrongfully convicted, innocent person was executed, the system lost every moral right to do so because its decisions can’t be trusted 100% anymore. And anything less than that is unacceptable when it comes to human lives. Its authority to take lives as punishment because other lives were taken has been irreparably undermined by unjustifiable actions and mistakes that can’t be rectified. We as a society can legally “heal” years of a person’s life lost to wrongful imprisonment through financial compensation, as incredibly cynical as that may be, but we cannot bring back the dead.
Isn’t it remarkable that the average American doesn’t trust their government with anything anymore, some even claim they need guns to fight it in case it “gets even more out of line”, yet its demonstrably defective judiciary branch is allowed to continue to decide whether fellow Americans live or die?
How can there be any pro / contra discussion when the pro side is morally indefensible to begin with?
And to people who still try to argue in favour of the death penalty in spite of this, let me ask you one question: If it doesn’t matter to you that servants of the justice system have caused the deaths of innocents for unjustifiable reasons with no repercussions, why do you care whether we punish anybody for killing another human being at all?
Sorry for the rant, I get angry sometimes…
Did anyone else notice that when the trial switched to the Enterprise, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy were no longer wearing their dress uniforms, but everyone else was? They are all still part of a court procedure, so why would they switch to their regular duty uniform? I also thought it odd that Kirk gave the command for everyone to beam off the ship. I think command would temporarily be given to Spock, but I guess that is a real small nit to pick. I saw this episode on METV last night and I noticed in the opening scene a dark hole on the side of the Enterprise and shuttles zipping around. On Memory Alpha, it mentions the special effect of the dark hole was added to show where the pod was jettisoned when the show was remastered for HD. The problem with the remastered episodes is I can no longer trust my memories. I am watching the classic series seeing background shots amazed at how good the show looks, but I later discover most of the best effects were added in the remastering process. I feel like I am in the Twilight Zone. Oops, sorry to cross genres….
Hey Robert – no problem to have a little “show hopping” – we love Twilight Zone too! The good news about the HD remasters is that they were also very careful to preserve the original shows. You can see the original effects pretty readily (unlike, say, the other sci-fi franchise with “Star…” in the title!).