Star Trek (1967): S01E20 – Court Martial


“Court Martial” is the twentieth episode of the first season of the American science fiction television series Star Trek.

In the episode, Captain Kirk stands trial on charges of criminal negligence after a crewman fakes his own death.


The USS Enterprise has put in at Starbase 11 for repairs after an ion storm. During this storm, Captain James T. Kirk was forced to eject a research pod containing Lieutenant Commander Benjamin Finney to prevent the destruction of the ship; Finney is presumed dead. Commodore Stone, commander of the base, reviews the ship’s records and discovers that Kirk ejected the pod while the ship was at Yellow Alert and not Red Alert as Kirk claimed. Stone accuses Kirk of perjury and warns him that he may be subject to court martial.

Stone first interviews Kirk privately, asking about his history with Finney. It is revealed that Kirk had served with Finney aboard the USS Republic and had reported a mistake Finney had made, causing Finney to be reprimanded and sent to the bottom of the promotion list. Ever since, Finney has blamed Kirk for hindering his advancement. Stone asks Kirk to voluntarily step down as captain of the Enterprise, but Kirk disputes the allegations and demands a trial.

At the trial, both Spock and Dr. McCoy speak on Kirk’s behalf, while Finney’s daughter Jame looks on. Samuel T. Cogley, Kirk’s attorney, puts him on the stand, but again, Kirk’s testimony contradicts the computer logs, which include a visual recording that shows Kirk ejecting the pod while the ship was on Yellow Alert. During a recess, Kirk comments that Spock may find a better chess opponent in his next captain, giving Spock an idea.

Mr. Spock discovers that he is able to beat the Enterprise computer several times at three dimensional chess, despite having given the computer all his knowledge of the game. He concludes that the computer has been tampered with as his best outcome should have been a draw. Spock arrives with his findings before the court-martial verdict can be handed down, and Cogley, following an impassioned speech on the rights of man versus the machine, demands that the court martial reconvene aboard the Enterprise. Once there, Spock notes only three people could have altered the computer records aboard the Enterprise: Kirk, himself, and Finney. Cogley suggests that Finney is not dead.

The crew is beamed down to Starbase 11, and Dr. McCoy uses a sensitive auditory device tied into the computer that can detect a human heartbeat aboard the ship, and masks out those of all known to remain aboard. One heartbeat remains, coming from Engineering. Kirk goes there to find Finney, who draws a phaser and gleefully informs him that he has sabotaged the ship so she will drop out of orbit, killing everyone aboard. Kirk reveals that Finney’s daughter Jame is also aboard, confusing him and giving Kirk time to wrestle the weapon away. As Finney is secured, Kirk repairs the damage.

Captain Kirk is cleared of all charges and restored to duty.

Star Trek TV Series

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Star Trek TV Series, Films, and Documentaries

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Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s): Marc Daniels.
  • Production: Desilu Productions (1966-1967) and Paramount Television (1968-1969).
  • Distributor(s): Paramount Pictures (1966-2006), CBS Paramount Television (2006-2007), and CBS Television Distribution (2007-Present).
  • Original Network: NBC.
  • Release Date: 02 February 1967.
  • Running Time: 50 minutes.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

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