by Jeff Bond
“Court Martial” demonstrated about halfway through Star Trek’s first season just how flexible the format designed by Gene Roddenberry was: far from a “planet of the week” or “monster of the week” show, the original series’ characters and the world created for them could support many kinds of stories, from horror to comedy and in this case, a combination of courtroom drama and mystery that also delves into the character and mystique of Captain Kirk.
Things start with a bang as Kirk is accused not only of incompetence but perhaps willful murder for jettisoning the ion pod manned by officer Ben Finney before circumstances seemed to warrant it. Starfleet Commodore Stone (Percy Rodriguez) suggests Kirk simply resign to prevent embarrassing Starfleet, but Kirk, knowing he’s in the right, demands a court martial. To add to the fireworks, one of his old flames, Ariel Shaw (Joan Marshall) is put in charge of his prosecution, and she suggests colorful and experienced trial lawyer Samuel Cogley (Elisha Cooke, Jr.) for his defense.
As is so keenly illustrated by Spock, the episode plays on our certainty that a man like Kirk could never act “out of malice or panic”—clearly there’s something more here than meets the eye, or in this case, the computer record scanners.
“Court Martial” is full of nice moments despite a few raw performances and plot holes. Even on the show’s limited budget, the look at a starbase, and views of Starfleet personnel on shore leave there, is a fascinating change of pace from the usual shipboard scenes and there’s a nice sense of a large and complex organization and civilization sketched out in a few broad strokes. Shatner is subdued and convincing, in his early scenes playing against Percy Rodriguez, later smiling grimly through a strained confrontation with some fellow officers in a bar, ruefully getting to know Sam Cogley and facing cross examination. Rodriguez is a powerful, stalwart presence—this is the actor who became famous for his foreboding voiceovers for movie trailers like Jaws in the Seventies and his casting here, as one of the most powerful men in Starfleet, was both daring for its time and entirely convincing. Veteran character actor Elisha Cooke Jr. brings the same sweaty, irascible quality he brought to his many film appearances, and when all is revealed at the story’s climax Richard Webb, once TV’s Captain Midnight, delivers a crazed tour-de-force as Kirk’s bitter nemesis Finney.
The show is practically a primer in how the character of Kirk is to be viewed, from the laundry list of medals and awards that even his defense lawyer finally cuts off in court to Finney’s simmering jealousy (“I’ve watched you for years…the great Captain Kirk!”). And the teleplay by Don Mamkiewicz and Stephen Carabatsos has some great lines, from McCoy’s introduction to Areel Shaw (“All my old friends look like doctors…all his look like you.”) to Finney’s deranged manifesto in engineering (“Innocent? Officers and gentleman…captains all! Except for Finney, and his one mistake…”). It also shows Spock’s understated concern for his friend Kirk’s reputation and the Vulcan (or Vulcanian, as this still-developing series refers to his race at this point) working coolly to solve the mystery at hand.
There are a few clunky elements: the performance of young Alice Rawlings as Finney’s daughter, a difficult role not quite pulled off; the multiple angles of the computer file records of Kirk’s actions during the ion storm, which always read more like dramatic footage than surveillance camera recordings; and the cheap microphone “white sound device” prop used by McCoy near the show’s climax. And most of all, the manipulation of Areel Shaw’s character, who surely would not have been assigned to prosecute Kirk given their former relationship (Trek tried this same gimmick in TNG’s “The Measure of a Man” when Riker has to prosecute his pal Data)—and who engages in something like criminal negligence herself by meeting with the subject of her prosecution, revealing her trial strategy and arranging for Kirk’s defense. You also have to love Kirk’s log entry (presumably a supplemental) after he’s taken out Finney: “Beaten and sobbing, he told me where he’d sabotaged the main energy circuits…”—talk about adding insult to injury!
Two other observations: the added detail of the remastering gives fans a great view of Commodore Stone’s repair chart of all 12 starship registry numbers (although I’m not sure there’s a clear view of any ship names there). And if you hadn’t noticed it before, that odd-looking plant in Stone’s office is one of the pod plants from “This Side of Paradise.” Maybe they were setting up for a sequel there.
Click to get a HD look at Stone’s chart
The CBS-D treatment of “Court Martial” has to stand as the ideal for what this project was trying to achieve: Not only does it visually answer one of the longest-standing technical questions about the Enterprise ever (where in Hell is the ship’s ion pod?), but it shows us a TOS-era starbase for the first time as we always imagined it—as a hub of activity for numerous starships and support craft as well as personnel. The treatment here, compared to a lot of other episodes, is luxurious, from the opening orbital shot of the storm-damaged Enterprise moving past several other starships and an Antares-style cargo vessel, to the enhanced matte paintings of Starbase 11, with added vehicles and even an office building peopled with multiple levels of visible personnel.
The original, striking Albert Whitlock matte painting from the opening of the episode is retained and so enhanced, but CBS-D doesn’t stop there. They add a night scene with a different angle of the base (culled from a shot originally designed for “The Menagerie, Part 1”) that adds a ringed moon to the planetscape, then consistently add the moon into a later shot of the Whitlock painting as well as several orbital shots, all while retaining the purple/magenta color scheme of the original matte job.
After the first commercial break the episode opens with a zoom in past and under the Enterprise warp nacelles downward to focus on the shuttle bay area and a new ion pod being positioned by some kind of repair crew. The storm damage shown on the ship and the specific look at the ion pod are the kinds of details that would have been impossible to achieve on the original series budget and schedule, and their addition here is the best kind of payoff to the Remastered project. As much as this effort has had its highs and lows, the extra effort made on specific episodes like this one still makes the project worthwhile in my opinion. Before this job was undertaken it would have been considered remarkable to have even a handful of episodes enhanced in this way—the fact that all of them have been tackled is still rather amazing, and given the limitations of time and money, the batting average hasn’t been all that bad.
(higher quality version at YouTube)
Remastered (in HD) v Original
My name is Jame Finney. You killed my father. Prepare to die.
Samuel T. Cogley, esq. Space Attorney at Law
Ben Finney, not playing with a full fizzbin deck
In space no one can see your stunt double, until released on HD that is
Again? What is it with you Jim?
Screenshots via the fine folks at Trekcore.com
Seasons One and Two discounted at Amazon
The Season Two box set is now available at Amazon for pre-order, discounted to $63.99 (Amazon has a low price guarantee that if they drop the price before ship date of August 5th you will get that lower price). Amazon has also discounted the Season One DVD / HD DVD combo disk is to $96.95 (retail is $194.99).
Seasons One and Two of TOS-R ($96.95 and $63.99 respectively)
Very nicely done effects here. The originals were very good too.
I, like others, was interested in the actual location of the Ion Pod. The Remastered Team’s area selection makes sense.
Was there ever an explanation (or rationalization) posited for the ion pod, beyond a plot device?
Why would it be so important to have it manned only during an ion storm? And what danger does it pose to the ship that not only it has to be jetisoned but also that it warrents a dedicated button on the Captain’s chair?
Shatner’s stunt double in this one looks about 15 years old. Seriously, did they ever expect anyone to buy that guy as Kirk? Heh.
Probably my absolute favorite TOS episode besides COTEOF, despite the macguffin of the ‘Ion Pod’ and McCoy’s microphone masquerading as a medical device. Really solid character moments here, especially between Kirk and Spock. And a nice remaster to boot!
I’ve always loved this episode, mainly because of Stone and the Court Martial scenes (a lot of non-white Starfleet higher ups, compared to all the old tubby white guys seen in most TNG episodes). It really gave a great sense of a larger Trek universe (but not a really boring one like TNG’s and Voyager’s, where they all just seemed to hang around with mostly white people and take learning annex courses). I was like 9 going “hey, why would a captain’s log have all those camera angles… hey, couldn’t they just find Finney with a tricorder… hey that’s a microphone!” and so on until my little brother punched me for stating the obvious. Apparently I was a genius at 9. It didn’t last.
Once again, Max Gabl, the matte artist proves his mastery over the craft! A+ Max.
If only all episodes got this level of treatment.
Great episode too.
Good job CBS-D. Now we know where the Ion Pod is located.
Nice Starbase shots as well.
Beautiful episode perfectly executed by the CBS guys!!! Print never looked nicer. Funny how Shatner did most of his own stunts even the more dangerous ones fighting in Vasquez Rocks ect but to my knowledge the two most glaring incidents of not Shatnerian stunts were both in the Engineering bay??? Khan fight and Finney fight both the same stunt double. That closeup of the E with the shuttle zooming past and the two spaceuited techs angling the new pod looked so real and positively cinematic!!!! God I wish they could redo Balance of Terror And I always love “Beaten and sobbing!!!” One of the best Trek lines ever!!!
Seeing all those clips back-to-back made me notice that the stardates are actually sequential, not just random numbers – shows they obviously put some thought into the stardates.
It’s a common mistake that the term “Vulcanian” was used until they decided to “retcon” it to “Vulcan,” but if you pay attention to a few of the early episodes, they used BOTH terms within the same episode. That happened a few times.
For years I always assumed that the infamous “ion pod” was that glowy half-sphere right above the shuttlebay. It was never clearly stated (to my knowledge) what that half-sphere was anyway, so I’m surprised they didn’t come right out and establish it AS the ion pod. I like the new one, though, especially the detail of the four burn marks around the pod hatch, showing where the quad thrusters obviously made their mark while rocketing away from the Enterprise.
As a final note, I’d like to point out that “Jamie” is misspelled to say “Jame” in the image caption up there…just rendering a little helpful editorial assistance… :)
No, she spelled it “Jame” despite the pronounciation. The credits say “Alice Rawlings… Jame Finney”.
Too bad they abandoned the bustling space port idea after two shots. The rest of the E shots are her completely alone in orbit like all the other episodes.
Nice review. I agree there’s too much D bashing. Team Okuda should be given more time and dough to pimp our E in the eps where it really needs a second pass, but overall the remastering is a fun reason to watch these great stories again.
You mention plot holes. To me, this is another example of Roddenberry et al playing with our knowledge of what the Enterprise’s technology can do. Here, we’re at the low end. You’re telling me there’s NOTHING on board besides a Mister Microphone that can reveal Finney’s been playing Pleiadese Cluster Possom? Hey, I know… why not ask someone on that big honkin’ Starbase to shine a beam onto 1701 and see how many humanoids on board. I won’t even go into the other ships, since they’re not shown in the original. As I say, this is Starfleet Tech at its most limited. I wish they’d kept it limited, as opposed to Nemesis, where we can cross the Alpha Quadrant before breakfast and find Data’s spare bits and target (!) every ship in Starfleet without getting up from a chair.
Anyway — good ep. Great Kirk / Spock / McCoy moments. And, agreed, Alice doesn’t star here anymore.
Oh, one other silly question… Why DID Kirk have to jettison the ion pod? I mean if the ship is under severe stress, would a tiny pod be causing more headaches than say… two nacelles or a deflector dish or any of the other big chunks?
I know I’m going to get a meanie award for this gripe, but I always liked the ring around the glowing object I shall assume is a star in the original matte painting. You can see a similar atmospheric artifact around the moon sometimes here on good old Earth. I don’t know why they got rid of such coolness in the “improved” matte.
That aside, I do like all the nifty things they did with this episode. Jeff Bond’s review is on-target all the way around.
Scott B. out.
Great review and a great episode. The burned look of the Enterprise + ion pod replacement and matte shots were very well done. This is a case where the remastering really made this episode even better.
You havt to be an obbssive crack pot who escaped from his keeper or samual t cogley attorney at law. Your right on both counts.Need a lawyer. Im afraid so. That was and is one of the best line from tos. I also loved the shot of the ion pod and the burn marks and all the activity at the start of the episode. This was cbs at there best on the remastering. I loved the new shots and loved how everything looked and all the court room drama. I think gene took some things fom perry mason on this episode. Now wheres all my books. not that hamonginised and pasterised and synthiseisd computer.Books!!!
For all of its apparent flaws, this remains to be one of the better episodes of TOS.
I’ve gotta believe that this only going to make Finney’s record look worse.
Man just watching the youtube clip of the new effects makes me really think again how good the music was on the original series. Why they could not get as good as music in the other series always made me wonder. Sure I will not say it was all bad music in the later series. It just to me did not have the power and mood setting of the original series music. I can here just snippets of the musical cues from the original ST and really get emotionally moved in some way or another. I really hope the new film gets some of this. Although I have to say I do like the composer they have working on it.
I’m definately with you on that.
During the Next Generation, there was a directive from Rick Berman (I think) to dtone down the themes in the music, so that every episode would have the same basic sound.
The Star Trek features, before Generations, are some of the best scores in my collection.
Giacchino could do a lot worse than to write something in this vein.
#19 and #20 i completly agree with you. The music on tos was great and it always stuck to you. The first 6 movies and generations to some extent had great music. But the new series even though were good and great was lacking in the music. I think only in the first season of the next generation and the borg episodes did they have great music scores.Can you imagine tos or movies like top gun or flash gorden and other movies not have great music. So lets hope that the new movie has great music to go along with great writing and directing and we will have another great movie.
Any one have any idea will might play finney in the new movie.
Finney’s in the new movie? :)
I don’t know how the new movie will turn out but there’s one element I have great faith in: Michael Giacchino’s ability to give it a great score. Check out his work on Lost, which is the best dramatic scoring done on television in years, or his Speed Racer score–which not only plays with the original theme song brilliantly but also inserts elements of the original cartoon underscore into the new score in very entertaining and exciting ways. For my money Giacchino is the most exciting film composer working today and no one has greater respect for the scoring traditions of the Sixties and Seventies than he does.
Now this is one CBS-D’s better efforts This is one that they thought out. I’m only going to nitpick two details, but don’t get me wrong, still a job well done. #1 For the tallest building on the starbase, the people should have been made smaller. The size that CBS made the people in the windows made the scale of the building look smaller. #2 I agree that there should have been more ships in every shot.
However, I am left with a couple of questions (not necessarily related to the plot). #1 I wonder how crazy the gravity on this planet would be, considering the proximity of the 2 planets. And #2 Where is it that the Enterprise is getting fixed? The starbase is on the earth, but there was never any sort of space station shown.
To answer the half-sphere on top of the shuttle bay, I think that “In a Mirror Darkly pt. 2” made that a rear photon torpedo launcher on board the Defiant. Though it was never established on TOS, I consider Enterprise to be canon, and therefore, now consider that to be a rear weapons launcher.
From the review: “…moving past several other starships and an Antares-style cargo vessel…”
I didn’t see a cargo vessel anywhere in the episode or in the FX video above. A few shuttles and another Constitution-class starship but no cargo vessels.
But I agree, this is one of CBS-D’s better efforts.
I thought it was odd that McCoy had to use the Mister Microphone thingie to “mask” the sound of everyone’s heartbeats on the bridge, yet he could use the computer to do the same thing for the transporter tech! And they had to beam everyone else offboard to accomplish this, as well?!?
Except for the few clunkers like that, and as mentioned above, overall a great episode! Another great job by cbs-d on picking up the loose ends, and filling in the blanks for us! Much appreciate the superb effort here! It really made this into an outstanding episode!
I also really enjoyed the portrayals of Lt. Areel Shaw, and Samuel T. Cogley! What a delight they were! Strong performances indeed! And Areel had a way cool “off-duty” outfit, and her Starfleet uniform was one of the nicest ones I’ve seen!
Poor Finney… you don’t really get much to appreciate about him since his character isn’t really actually seen until the very end. But at least what we do get to see of him and his paranoid madness is played well enough.
In his novelization of this episode SF author James Blish had Kirk testify at his preliminary hearing that the ion pod picks up its own electrical charge during the course of the storm, making it a danger to the rest of the ship and requiring that it eventually be jettisoned. A reasonable explanation for the show’s plot-driver that may actually have been included in the original script and cut for time.
Agreed that this was a nice job on the part of CBS-D, but an orbital repair facility would have solved the mystery of how the Enterprise gets a new paintjob (let alone repaired) in so short a time–even the suggestion of a few drydock girders behind the ship in those close-ups would have done the trick.
Wonderful episode with some particularly impressive scenes and memorable lines.
An orbital platform would have been awesome. Check my name link for an example.
#24. OR Coast Trekkie I agree that the people seemed oversized for the building…unless they just happened to be extra tall humanoids passing by the window at that moment! ;)
#25. Izbot Yes, the Antares-style cargo vessel was there. I saw it. It is in that first opening shot at the very top of the screen, somewhat far away and tiny, and you can only see it momentarily before the Enterprise blots it out of view.
Anyone notice the rings on that planet are tilted the opposite way when seen from space? Oh, unless the Enterprise is upside down and the ringed planet is on the other side of the planet than it was in that establishing shot.
My powers of observation have been increased by a factor of 1 to the 4th power!
8. Lord Garth – “print never looked nicer…”
Am I the only one who’s noticed the flickering brightness of the film stock in the scene where the court martial officers are in the briefing room aboard ship? This goes on interminably and on in to the next scene on the bridge. The film stock quality is poor and is made glaringly so by the great special effects in this episode. Pulsating brightness even more apparent on the dvd.
In comparison, the film stock in the dvd release from 2004 doesn’t have this flickering brightness. At first I thought it was just the lighting of the episode, but it’s not.
“My name is Jame Finney. You killed my father. Prepare to die. ”
LMAO!! Nice job on the Princess Bride ref. :-)
I’ve always wondered about the wrench Finney picked up during the fight scene with Kirk in Engineering. A wrench, just laying there…always seemed strikingly anachronistic for the 24th century.
CBS pulled out all the stops on this one. It’s a beauty to behold in HD.
Kirk explains that the computer can amplify the sounds on the ship to “1 to the 4th power.” So that would be 1X1X1X1=1 correct?
I enjoyed the re-do of this one, as well.
One thing I CAN’T stand is how edited these are to allow for commercials. Especially on dialogue-heavy episodes like this one. There was so much chopped out from the original, the story barely made any sense.
Luckily, I’ve seen it about 655 times, so it wasn’t a big deal, just annoying.
32 – I noticed that flickered brightness as well. You’re not the only one..
# 24, I agree … The first thing I noticed was that the figures moving around in the main Star Base 11 building appear to be too big. They sure would have a tough time fitting in the round building in the foreground. Maybe that structure was designed by Balock of the First Federation and they have to bend over to get around.
What would have been really cool would have been to see either the Intrepid or the Enterprise in an orbital dry dock. Overall a nice job.
There are things that made no sense in this episode. For one thing, They knew how dangerous an Ion Storm was so why even go in it in the first place. Another thing is, Kirk could issue alerts with buttons on his chair? Why was he never able to do that before or since? Also is an Ion Pod something that can only be used once?
Another thing that made no sense. There was a whole bridge full of officers and nobody could vouch for Kirk that the ship was on “Red Alert” when the pod was jettisoned?
Where is picture #4 supposed to be taken from, in relation to picture #5? It doesn’t look like it’s the same base, unless the base stretches for miles behind the camera, for pictures #2 & 5.
That kind of bothers me, as well as the fact that this remastered planet doesn’t match the remastered planet in “The Menagerie”. It’s supposed to be the same planet, right?
Other than those things, I didn’t really have a problem with this one.
The stately Constitution class ships, the spry little shuttles, the camera’s (“camera”) slow approach of the Enterprise hull—the old gal’s never looked so real. Great job.
eagle219406 — You’re thinking with your brain. Stop that. Think with your pancreas. Then, Trek is wondeful.
Bond, Jeff Bond (sorry, couldn’t resist – I ‘m sure you have heard that too many times) I always enjoy reading your reviews. Thank you.
Samuel T. Cogley, esq. Space Attorney at Law – I was thought he was the guy who aimed Kirk down the road of loving books.
As Spock later sez in ST2WOK: “I’m aware of you fondness for antiques…”
Also Finney – was he William Dafoe’s example for the Green Goblin in Spiderman?
Hey, it’s Monday morning – Gimmie a break!
If that’s where the ion pod is, then where is the starboard side blinking running light located???
#24 – To answer the half-sphere on top of the shuttle bay, I think that “In a Mirror Darkly pt. 2″ made that a rear photon torpedo launcher on board the Defiant. Though it was never established on TOS, I consider Enterprise to be canon, and therefore, now consider that to be a rear weapons launcher.
“Enterprise” ain’t canon, son. It started out as a non-canon show, and as far as I’m concerned it ended as a non-canon show. You’ll pardon me if I disobey your order to consider the half-sphere a torpedo launcher.
#34 – A wrench, just laying there…always seemed strikingly anachronistic for the 24th century.
I might agree, except for the fact that we’re talking about the 23rd century, not the 24th. The 24th century is inhabited by old bald white guys floating around in their Hilton Hotel equipped with stubby, deformed-looking warp nacelles, with soap-opera crews obsessing over virtual reality, since space obviously isn’t exciting enough for them.
One must remember that Star Trek was made when small televisions were the norm. When I was a kid in the mid-70s, I watched Star Trek (uncut, I might add) on a 19 inch television.
Bad day today?
THIS JUST IN:
THE 24TH CENTURY IS INHABITED BY OLD BALD WHITE GUYS IN HILTON HOTELS…WITH SOAP-OPERA CREWS.
“Yes, Katie, it’s true. Modern demographic research has shown that, by the 24th Century, we’ll all be old bald white guys. And we’ll be sitting, or even floating, in the lobbies of Hilton Hotels as our soap-opera crews obsess over virtual reality-based situations instead of their shipboard duties.”
Commander LaForge of Enterprise: “I’d rather watch Oprah than deal with my stubby, deformed-looking warp nacelles.”
The Doctor: “Please state the nature of the medical emergency”
Picard: “Come out, come out, wherever you are…”