World’s Worst Trekkie: Carlie Takes On “Court Martial”

Well, now that Halloween is over–sob–is it time to get back to Star Trek?

In this episode, Kirk is on trial for murder! I wonder what the verdict will be.

DISCLAIMER

There will be SPOILERS for this episode and probably the Star Trek franchise in general. You’ve been warned.

WHAT GOES DOWN, BASICALLY

An officer on the Enterprise is dead. That’s hardly anything new, but this time his death is questioned, as Lt. Finney had a contentious relationship with Captain Kirk. Kirk naturally insists that the death was a terrible but unpreventable tragedy; unfortunately, the computer doesn’t back up his account. When he refuses to resign, Kirk is off to face a court martial where one of his old flings, Areel Shaw, is the prosecutor. Because of course she is.

The trial goes poorly for Kirk. Despite loyal testimony from his crew, the computer clearly shows Kirk jettisoning Finney’s shuttle too early. Even Kirk begins to doubt himself. However, Spock forever believes in his bro, so he tests the ship’s computer to several chess matches and wins every single one, something that shouldn’t be possible. Someone has clearly screwed with the computer, and only three people on the Enterprise have the ability to do so: Kirk, Spock, and Supposedly Dead Finney.

The whole trial then reconvenes on the Enterprise. Kirk orders the vast majority of his crew to evacuate the ship before a white sound device is used to isolate everyone’s heartbeats onboard. Quickly it becomes apparent that Finney, not so dead after all, is hiding on the ship. Kirk goes by himself to confront him and emerges victorious from the inevitable fistfight that follows. (Also, he saves the ship, as it was in danger from crashing into Earth because, like, sabotage and shit.) Kirk is found innocent, kisses the prosecutor–because of course he does–and all ends happily ever after.

MY TAKE

My general opinion is that you should really try and limit yourself to one trial per season. Spock faced court martial only what, eight or nine episodes ago? Admittedly, that was for abduction, treason, and traveling to Stupidly Forbidden Planet, not homicide, but still. Maybe Kirk shouldn’t have been suspected of murder until Season 2.

That being said, “Court Martial” works fine until the third act. Well, okay. The trial gets a little silly at some points. Like, it’s obviously ridiculous that one of Kirk’s old girlfriends is prosecuting, especially since neither she nor Kirk wants this, and either one of them could stop that shit pretty easily. Also, I sincerely doubt some of her prosecutorial skills. She uses Bones as a psychological expert, which, ah, feels like a stretch, especially since she just wants him to give expert testimony that if Dude A hates Dude B, Dude B can become so resentful that he starts hating Dude A.

Seriously. This is pathetic.

Still, it’s the third act where things just get totally ludicrous. Finishing the trial on the Enterprise–instead of, you know, just putting the trial on hold and sending some officers to find and capture Finney–is dumb. Individually singling out each heartbeat with a special device when you can apparently use the computer to do the exact same thing is also dumb. Kirk going down to face the bad guy on his own is incredibly dumb, like, there is no rationale for this, none. TOS was a groundbreaking show full of new SF concepts and progressive ideals (well, for the 60’s), but sometimes I watch these episodes and can’t stop imagining an antsy producer running around, yelling, “But you put in a scene where Kirk fights someone, right? PEOPLE WON’T WATCH OUR SHOW IF CAPTAIN KIRK DOESN’T RIP OFF HALF HIS SHIRT WHILE FIGHTING SOMEONE!”

It should be said that the stunt actors are even more obvious this episode than normal. Good Lord. I’m sure this shit is hard, but, like, try.

RANDOM ASIDES

Kirk’s attorney, Cogley, is played by Elisha Cook Jr., who I recently just watched in House on Haunted Hill. I enjoy him much more in this role, though the script forces him to lay it on absurdly thick when he’s defending Kirk, speechifying about how a machine doesn’t have rights but a man must, and humans being brought down to the level of the machine, and so on and so forth. He actually says, without any irony, “in the name of humanity.” Honestly, I’m kind of embarrassed for him, although it is pretty cool to hear him speak of important documents written post-1966. The Fundamental Declarations of the Martian Colonies, for instance. I wanna hear more about those.

Here’s a weird problem: Jame, Finney’s annoying daughter, screams at Kirk in the beginning of this episode for murdering her father. However, she later changes her tune, insisting that Kirk could never have killed her dad, which is a rather strange position for her to take, considering the evidence against him is stronger than ever. Kirk, not especially observant, doesn’t think anything of this; Cogley, on the other hand, is suspicious as hell. It seems like he has the inklings of an argument now, evidence to prove, a strategy to use in court . . . but then they return to court, and Cogley has nothing and has to rest the case. Shit, Jame doesn’t even appear in the episode again; Cogley leaves the Enterprise to grab her (in case they need to talk Finney down) but then Kirk takes care of Finney in a more aggressive, manly way, so . . . that’s it. Like, why? Why did we waste our time with any of this?

Fashion Report: Well, Areel Shaw first comes on scene wearing some kind of bright green, yellow, and pink patterned mullet dress with big matching earrings and canary yellow leggings, so that’s certainly a look. Jame’s costume is worse, though: Mek accurately describes it as a “shiny, galactic, sail girl” outfit, matched with white leggings that basically scream “look how young I am.” And apparently men’s fashion hasn’t much improved, either, taking Cogley’s brown jacket into consideration: it comes with a deep-V leather collar and ugly matching leather pockets.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve become a bit frustrated with Bones’s attitude towards Spock; in this episode, however, their dynamic is on point. It probably helps that Bones has actual reason to be agitated, like, his BFF might be going to jail for murder and Spock’s just sitting around, playing chess. Admittedly, Bones should definitely be smart enough to realize Spock’s not just playing chess, but still. The reaction feels genuine enough.

Spock is referred to as “half-Vulcanian” in court, rather than “half-Vulcan,” which I find interesting.

Richard Webb’s performance as Finney is not what you might call subtle; rather, he definitely goes for the bug-eyed crazy approach. Presumably, though, this is what the director wanted, considering today’s weird and intrusive voiceover from Kirk: “Beaten and sobbing, Finney told me where he had sabotaged the prime energy circuits.”

One of the funniest things about this episode is the video evidence that seems to condemn Kirk. Where, exactly, is the camera that’s recording the bridge? From one angle, it appears that it’s positioned above the view screen, but when the prosecutor wants the footage magnified, it completely flips direction, no longer facing Kirk but behind him. What, is there another secret camera? Are the very walls recording everything? And what the shit are these controls anyway? What drunk starship designer put the Red Alert button next to the Jettison Pod button anyway?

Oh, and that special white sound device? Yeah, that’s a microphone with a band around it. I understand your terrible budget, Star Trek, I really do, but good lord.

Apparently, it’s not just me getting fed up with all of Kirk’s “old friends” popping up every episode. Bones, too, takes the time to snark about it, although I sorta wish the exchange went like this:

Bones: All my old friends look like doctors. All his look like you.
Shaw: Actually, I am a doctor.

Then she could’ve slapped him and moved on. (Yes, I know she wasn’t a doctor. But since she shouldn’t have been prosecuting the case, either, I’m okay with the career change.)

LINE OF THE EPISODE

“Spock, you’re the most cold-blooded man I’ve ever known.”
“Why thank you, Doctor.”

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