court_martial.gif (2008 bytes)

by Don M. Mankiewicz and Steven W. Carabatsos
story by Don M. Mankiewicz
FINAL DRAFT, dated September 26, 1966
report & analysis by David Eversole

The script was originally entitled "Court Martial on Star Base 11," perhaps to give the title a science fiction flavor. The short simple title is preferable.

As with so many, this script is full of lines which would get dropped, cut, tweaked and rearranged when shooting and editing. It is said that Elisha Cook, Jr. had a good deal of difficulty memorizing his many long dramatic appeals to the court. This would certainly explain why many of his speeches in the script are not present in the aired version, or why some of those that were filmed frequently cut away from him to court and spectator reactions.


Kirk's initial description of Stone is, "Portmaster of Star Base 11: Senior Captain Stone." If you listen very very closely to the DVD you will hear an audible jump in Shatner's voice over as he dubbed over this with "Commodore
Stone, Commander of Star Base 11." Throughout the script, Stone is referred to in narrative and dialogue as either "Portmaster Stone" or "Captain Stone." In the credits of the aired version actor Percy Rodriguez is credited as "Portmaster Stone."

Bizarrely, it is McCoy who beams into Stone's office to bring the computer extract, not Spock. Why the ship's surgeon would act as carrier for these extracts is anybody's guess. The initial scene with Jame is slightly different by a line or two, nothing major.


This act has been restructured for the aired version. I will go through the act as it was written in the script, and then briefly list the scenes as they aired.

Per the script, we open with the Enterprise in orbit, then show a shot of the matte painting of Star Base 11.

Star Ship Enterprise remains
in orbit around Star Base 11.
Full repairs in progress...


Stone is pouring himself a cup of coffee. Kirk is seated to the side of Stone's desk, showing fatigue and irritation.

Relieved of my command, I have
waived my right to counsel in
the inquiry being conducted by
Portmaster Stone.

(indicating coffee)
Want some?

(slight impatience)
I'd just as soon get

into the inquiry.

Stone nods. He moves to a RECORDER MACHINE at the side of his desk and pushes button to establish it is on. A small light beams directly on Kirk. (NOTE: This is the same recorder - or similar enough to the one we will use later in the courtroom don't panic, Bob).

This is for the record.
(into recorder)
In the matter of James T. Kirk,
Captain of the Enterprise.
Subject: Circumstances of death
of U.S.S. Enterprise Records
Officer Benjamin Finney.

The rest of Stone's dialogue setting up the inquiry is the same as what we saw in the aired episode. The coy parenthetical was directed to Robert "Bob" Justman, Associate Producer, a notoriously efficient and thrifty man who finecombed scripts to eliminate any extraneous props, characters, locales that would inflate the budget.

Stone surmises that Kirk may be growing weary after having been out in space for 19 months on their current five year mission. Also, throughout the script, Finney is never referred to as a Lieutenant Commander as he is in the aired version. In dialogue and narrative he is always called "Officer Finney."

In the script, the inquiry runs until Stone promises to bring the full disciplinary force of Galactic Command down on Kirk. Then we cut to the lounge scene where Kirk is snubbed by his old classmates. In the script, we have this
exchange which was dropped for the "Ben was a friend of ours" line.

Don't worry, Tim. Whatever
I've got, it isn't catching.

McCoy, sensing trouble, steps in with:

In his pleasure at seeing you
gentlemen, the Captain failed
to introduce me. The name is
not important - but my thirst
is monumental. Would you mind--?

He indicates they make a little room at the bar. Too quickly, they comply. Going off into their private circle of chatter. Kirk and McCoy take seats at the bar.

They obviously heard about Finney.

And my "alleged" part in his death.
(trace of bitterness)
What would the service be

without scuttlebutt.

Forget it, let's order.



As they turn to see Jame has come up behind them. She is looking quiet, restrained, downcast. . . a complete reversal of her mood the last time we saw her, when she was accusative, vindictive, full of anger.

Jim. . . I have to talk to you.

You sure you want to?

Please. . . somewhere we can talk. . .

All right. My quarters are right

across the mall. Excuse us, Doctor.

Kirk takes Jame's elbow. She doesn't protest. They move off. McCoy, puzzled, watches them go.


As they push by AREEL Shaw, a uniformed beauty, on their way out. Kirk, intent on Jame so much, he doesn't notice Areel. But she notices him. She obviously recognizes him, is about to stop him, call to him, but he passes on. She stares after him.

We then dovetail back in with what aired for the scene between McCoy and Shaw. Then we cut to:


Kirk and Jame are in the middle of a conversation.

I'm sorry about last night.

I was. . . upset.

I understand.

No, you don't. I love my father.
When I heard what happened, I
just. . . flew apart. Even knowing
you as well as I do. . .

Your father was a good officer.
I wish we could have been closer.

You were once.
I read all about it. I was
reading through some old papers
he wrote, letters to mother and
everything. I never really knew
how close you had been.
(looks up)
I'm sorry for the way I acted.
I apologize.

Not necessary, but I accept.

What are you going to do now?
I mean. . . you're not

going to stand trial?

You've been talking to Captain
Stone, haven't you? And he
convinced you to try to get me
to take the easy way.

He didn't convince me of anything.
He told me there was a chance this

could be settled without a trial.
I just want you to know, if
you do decide to -- well, to transfer

to ground duty instead of standing trial,
I won't make trouble.

Kirk looks at her. . . at the simple, vulnerable trust in her eyes. He takes her hand.

Jame, I'll tell you something
I don't believe I could say to
any other human being. . . What
they believe I did, is a lie.
There's not a word of truth in
it. But. . . for the first time
in my life that I can remember,
I'm afraid
(slight pause)
The bridge of a ship - that's
my world, my strength. But a
courtroom. . . Jame, they can take
away my command permanently. And if

they do that, they take away my life.

Then don't let them! Don't ask
for a trial. Let a year, or two, or

three go by. This will be forgotten;
they'll give you another ship.

No, Jame. They don't forget.
They never forget.

Jim, please!

Kirk looks up now, a sudden frightening realization in his eyes.

And you wouldn't forget, would
you? In the back of your mind,
there'd always be that suspicion:
Did he kill my father?
(cupping her cheek in his palm)
That's true, isn't it, Jame?


Her eyes well up with tears. She looks away. Kirk moves abruptly and quickly to the door.

Kirk returns to Stone's office, and despite Stone's pleas, Kirk demands a trial at the earliest possible moment.

In the aired version, the scene in the lounge took place first, then the long scene between Kirk and Stone, which ended with Kirk demanding trial. The entire Jame scene, thankfully was cut. It is one thing for Kirk to admit
weakness and indecision to Spock or McCoy, but not to a teenaged girl, no matter how close he may have been to her father at one time.


This act is structured in the script the same as on air, however a great many speeches were trimmed or tweaked.

Areel Shaw shows Kirk a list of 20 of the brightest "space lawyers" that have expressed an interest in defending him, then tells him she wouldn't have a thing to do with any of them, before recommending Samuel T. Cogley.

In the script, the officers of the court are identified as Space Command Representative Chandra and Star Command Captains Li Chow and Krasnowsky.

Stone reads the specific charges against Kirk instead of the recorder.

Instead of placing their hands on the lighted disk while giving testimony, the witnesses are bathed in a blue light from the recorder.

Spock states his own name, rank and serial number instead of the recorder.

Cogley's calling of Kirk to the stand and the following scenes are cut quite drastically.

(scratching his ear)
Well. . . truth is, I've been holding
back so we could get this early
business out of the way.
(cocking his head, squinting)
And to where I could make a motion.


Alert to any ploys this old codger might try.


(as the court waits to hear it)
Little unorthodox maybe. . . but might

we call Captain Kirk to the stand?

Object! I have not finished presenting

the case for the prosecution.

(gently, with aged compassion)
Miss Shaw, do you think you can
hurt this young man more than
you already have. Do you want to?

Shaw's brow creases. Cogley is going for her weak spot and she knows it. As kindly as she can manage:

I'm doing a job, Sam.
(to Court)
May the court please, I repeat
my objection. Counsel for the
defense may not call witnesses
until the prosecution is finished.
(to Cogley)
One doesn't need a court recorder to be

familiar with that procedural point.


No. But one might as well be a
machine if he lets himself be
handcuffed by a machine. A machine
deals in facts, not justice!

Very neat philosophy, Mr. Cogley.
But you still haven't said why
you desire the procedural change.

Because I am against a machine
pre-empting the ruling of this
court. . . a machine crucifying this
fine man. And that is exactly
what it is doing! Inexorably. . .
without feeling, remorse or concern.
A machine has no conscience!

This court has! I appeal to it!
(beat. . . concentrating on Shaw)
Captain Kirk is a strong man, a good
man, an heroic man who has served
us all long, and well. I ask only that
for a moment we shove the
machine aside, so that you can see
the man who stands there. The
human being, who deserves better
than we are giving him!

There is a pause. A moment. The court stirs uneasily. Then:

Miss Shaw?

(slight pause)
I withdraw my objection.

Cogley then calls Kirk to the stand, and the script agrees with what airs until Kirk first speaks.

I. . . don't exactly know how to. . .begin.
(looking right at the court)
Like you, . . . I'm trained to one
thing. My life has been one
thing. Command. It's what I
know. It's what I do. And it's
a way of life that doesn't
sharpen a man's verbal skills. . .
only his sense of duty. . . and
confidence in himself to
discharge that duty.
(slight pause)
We were in a storm. The worst
kind. An ion storm. And I was
in command. I made a judgment; a
command judgment. And because it
was necessary to make that
judgment, a man died. But the
lives of my entire crew, and my
ship were in danger, and not to
have made that judgment, to wait,
to have been indecisive when it
was time to act, would, in my mind,
have been criminal.
(slight pause)
Gentlemen, I did not act out of
panic, or malice. What I did,
was to perform the one function
all my life, and all my training
had prepared me for. . .
. . . COMMAND!

Though Sulu is written in the script, Lieutenant Hansen delivered all his lines.

The conditions in the script go from Red Alert to Double Red Alert, not Yellow to Red.

Kirk's final shocked line in Act Two, "That's not the way it happened," is not scripted.


Changes in this act also mainly deal with deleted lines and speeches.

Kirk's "my whole life" speech is not scripted.

After Spock explains the anomalies in the chess program to McCoy, the next scene set in the courtroom between Cogley and Kirk is not in the aired version.


Kirk is doodling on a pad. Impatiently, he throws down the pencil. Cogley doesn't seem to notice.

Jim. . . how well do you know that
girl? Jame - Finney's daughter.

Since she was a child.

I suppose that might explain her
attitude. Curious though - children

don't usually take such a dispassionate
view of the death of a parent.

She didn't at first. She was
out for my blood. Almost
hysterical. She kept saying:
murderer - murderer.

(almost a take)
Why didn't you tell me that before.

I didn't think it was important.
Is it?


I don't know yet.

Most of the following was truncated in the aired episode.

The most devastating witness
against my client is not a human
being, but an information system...
(a dirty word)
...a machine! The computer log
of the Enterprise!

Mr. Cogley. . . you surely are not
asking the court to drag the

USS Enterprise into this room for
direct cross-examination.

I do not find the matter amusing,
Your Honor. On the contrary, it
is vital! I ask that this court
adjourn and reconvene on board
the Enterprise itself!

I protest, Your Honor. He's trying
to turn this into a circus!

Yes! A circus! Do you know what
the first circus was, Lieutenant
Shaw? An arena. . . where men met
danger face to face, and lived or
died. In that sense, this is a
circus. . . for in this arena,
Captain Kirk will live or die. . .
for if you take his command away
he is a dead man!


I speak of rights! A machine
has none! A man must. . . or we have

all become machines! I tell you
we must remember our humanity!
(thumping his books)
We have a birthright of thousands
of years, and it is guarded here!
My client has the right to confront
his accuser. . . and it matters
nothing that his accuser is a
machine! If you do not grant
him that right, you have not
only placed us on a level with
the machine, but you have indeed
elevated the machine above us!

Cogley's speech continues and the rest was aired without deletions, drawing Act Three to a close.


Onboard the Enterprise, after Cogley tells Stone that he has a vital errand ashore, Cogley and Kirk talk out of earshot of the others.


A conference between lawyer and client in the courtroom, which no one else can hear.

It's in your hands now.

At this point, I'll try anything.
But the idea of Finney being
alive --

I began to suspect that when
you told me about the change of
heart his daughter had about
you. If she knew he wasn't dead,
she had no reason to blame you
for anything.

But how could she know?

You said she had been reading
her father's papers. . . probably
the general tone of what he had
written. A man suffering delusions
of persecution wants to set down
his complaints. She read them
. . . she knows the kind of man you
are. . . and she's fundamentally
fair and decent.
Or maybe it was just instinct.
Thank God there's that much
of the animal left in us.

Kirk, later in the aired episode, summarizes this conversation in a Captain's Log voice over. Which is as well. The above scene would have ruined the suspenseful muting of heartbeats scene had it stayed in the episode. And it makes no sense, really. It is a large leap to say that Jame instinctively knew her father must be alive because he had whined and moaned in old letters. Military men have been bitching about their commanding officers in letters home since the first Private chevrons were handed out. As a nine-year military veteran, I assure you it means nothing. In fact, it, along with complaining about chow hall food, is almost a prerequisite for putting on the uniform.

When Kirk goes to the Engine Room, Finney steps out immediately and confronts Kirk. In the aired version, half of Finney's dialogue is played off screen as Kirk tiptoes around.

The fight between Kirk and Finney is succinctly put in the script.

They fight. Presently, Kirk wins.

Father -- !


as Jame, with Cogley, rushes down the corridor.

(totally confused)
Jame. . .

(going into his arms)
Oh, father.
(moving her hand
over his tortured brow)
It's all right, father. It's all right.

Don't, Jame, you've got to
understand. . . I had to do it. . .
after what they did to me. . .

Ben. . . quickly. . . where'd you
tap the energy circuits?

(dull, blankly)
The circuits. . .
In there. . . the tube. . .

Kirk hands the phaser to Cogley, indicating he should guard Finney, and quickly exits.

A still of Jame hugging Ben Finney is in circulation on the Internet, so we do know the above scene was filmed, but cut, most likely for running time. Too bad, it would have somewhat humanized Finney.

The rest of the script agrees with what aired.

Though I generally like Court Martial, the script is full of plotholes 93 AUs wide. Much has been said, rightly, about the lunacy of allowing an old girlfriend to prosecute Kirk. Any lawyer, worth any salt, would have immediately recused herself.

And what exactly does the great Sam Cogley do for Kirk? At least in the script, he goes to get Jame, but, really, it was Spock who saved Kirk's bacon. Cogley gave noble speeches and. . . little else besides giving up and being on
the verge of throwing in the towel.

And how would Jame logically know her father was alive? For years I always assumed Ben Finney had found a way to get a message to her, perhaps via his communicator, over a secure frequency. It makes no sense in the script, and even less on the air.

At least the script explains how Cogley suddenly interrupted the prosecution's case to call Kirk to the stand and start the defense.

A nice tip of the hat to Erle Stanley Gardner's Perry Mason, but it could have been better with perhaps another pass through someone's typewriter.

DON M. MANKIEWICZ (1922-2015): Film and television writer, nephew of Oscar-winning screenwriter Joseph L. Mankiewicz (Citizen Kane), who worked in Hollywood from 1947 to 1995. Series he wrote for include One Step Beyond, Ironside, Mannix, Marcus Welby, M. D., MacGuyver and The Marshal. "Court Martial" was his only script for Star Trek. He was nominated for an Oscar for co-writing the 1958 film I Want To Live. He was also nominated for an Emmy for writing the pilot episode of Marcus Welby, M. D.

STEVEN W. CARABATSOS (1938-): Writer for film and television from 1964 to 1987. Series he contributed scripts to include Peyton Place, The Big Valley, Ben Casey and Kojak. He wrote the 1980 film The Flight of Noah's Ark. He served as Story Consultant during Star Trek's first season, and in addition to co-writing "Court Martial," he wrote "Operation - Annihilate!".

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