Friday, November 09, 2018

Star Trek -- Season 1 Episode 20 (Court Martial)

Any sort of military or military-type organization is probably going to be dangerous.  Starfleet, as the name implies, is an organization, ostensibly modeled after the Navy, that travels between star systems, so you have the added danger of being sucked out into space.  It’s not a pleasant thought, but I would think most people sign up understanding this.

This isn’t to say that someone’s death wouldn’t trigger an investigation.  When Lieutenant Commander Benjamin Finney is killed in action, Captain Kirk is held responsible.  Kirk ejected a pod while Finney was still in the room.  Kirk was supposed to go to red alert before ejecting the pod, which he claims he did.  The computer records show otherwise.

Kirk is assigned Samuel T. Cogley as his lawyer.  Kirk has witnesses in his defense, but it still doesn’t look good for the defense.  How do you argue with the computer?  Well, it turns out that the computer might not be operating normally.  Spock had programmed the computer to play chess.  If Spock plays against the computer, he should get a draw at best.  He beats the computer four times in a row.  This means that the computer has been tampered with.

Cogley has the court martial moved to the bridge of the Enterprise.  A minimal crew is on board, so that the can hear what few heartbeats there are.  McCoy uses a device to remove the sound of one heartbeat at a time until one remains:  Finney’s.  It turns out that Finney faked his death, altered the records and was hiding out in engineering the whole time.  Kirk is acquitted and Cogley is off to his next case, which happens to be defending Finney.

I think this may have been an attempt by the show to try something different.  Kirk is put on trial for something we all assume he didn’t do.  We know by now that Kirk is experienced enough that he followed procedure.  He’s also honorable enough that he wouldn’t lie.  I suspect that the script may have been pared down from a slightly longer one.  There are some aspects that are lacking any sort of explanation.

The most obvious is that Finney had to somehow fake his death and hide.  It’s possible that he was stockpiling food, but he still would have had to do something that would have meant risking being sighted by someone else.  At the very least, he would have had to go to a terminal to fake the evidence.  At some point, he would have had to go to the bathroom or take a shower.

I’m assuming that, at some point, he would have had to get off the ship.  I don’t know how he would have done this without being noticed.  If, at any point, someone realized who he was, Kirk would have been set free.  The entire point seemed to be to get Kirk stripped of his command.

There’s also something else I noticed, which no one else seems to have brought up.  Finney had a daughter.  In this respect, one of two things would have happened.  One possibility is that Finney was going to basically abandon his daughter, who appears to be a teenager.  He would leave the ship with Jame thinking that her father was dead.  This is a pretty cruel thing to do to someone.  The other possibility is that he either told her or was planning on telling her at some later point.  This would be, at the very least, a difficult position to put her in.  I don’t know how any father could do either, but Finney did.  I’m not sure how father and daughter handled the situation afterward.  That should seem like a pretty big betrayal to Jame.

Another thing that has been brought up is that the third act seems a bit overdone.  It seems like having McCoy account for the heartbeats one at a time was done just to draw it out.  There aren’t that many people on the ship and only one person wasn‘t on the bridge.  It should have been easy to ask the computer how many life signs are on the ship.  If they have 10 people on board and the computer says 11, ask to locate and/or identify the life signs not on the bridge.

One thing I’ve noticed about The Original Series is that it didn’t seem to pay attention ot detail as much.  I’ve heard that there was more of a focus on the story and the moral.  I could probably go through all of the episodes and find some sort of technical fault with each one.  It’s just that in some episodes, the faults are more glaring.  One thing that always bothered me was that Finney’s plan was unraveled because Spock played chess.  How is it that Spock happened to do the one thing that was also affected by Finney tampering with the computers?  I would have thought that several other problems would have come up.  If Finney was that lazy, why not have a problem with the transporter logs or communications?  Maybe have the food dispenser give someone the wrong order.  It seems odd that Finney would leave one obscure fault that someone happens to find out.  (It’s also possible, although unlikely, that Spock got better at chess.)

It’s still a good episode, even if it’s not perfect.  It’s still enjoyable to watch.  However, I don’t see this being a lot of people’s favorite episode.  It’s the kind of episode you might watch if you were already committed to watching the series.  I don’t think it’s going to be a good episode to introduce someone to the series.

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