Note: this post is one of a series of STAR TREK episode reviews originally written for the alt.tv.startrek.tos newsgroup. For more information, please read this post.
Episode 20 of 80
February 2, 1967
Teleplay: Don M. Mankiewicz and Steven W. Carabatsos
Story: Don M. Mankiewicz
Director: Marc Daniels
“Court Martial” is one of the most dated STAR TREK episodes. After 25 years of LAW & ORDER shows, as well as series like L.A. LAW, THE PRACTICE, MURDER ONE, etc., we
know so much about how trials and the law work that it's hard to ignore the gaps in procedure in this episode. Plus it's not a very STAR TREK-y plot — it would work for just about any other action/adventure on TV. A series like STAR TREK deserves more imaginative plots and ideas, not standard courtroom drama. However, “Court Martial” is entertaining and features nice acting by the regular cast.
Joan Marshall, whose most interesting performance was under the name Jean Arless in William Castle’s HOMICIDAL, work in “Court Martial” as the attorney prosecuting Captain Kirk (William Shatner) seriously mars this episode. Her performance is stilted and unbelievable. She is beautiful and mature though, and I believe a younger Jim Kirk would fall for her. Richard Webb (CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT) is too over-the-top, even for this series.
But Elisha Cook, Jr. as Kirk’s old-fashioned defense attorney is terrific (“Books, my young friend. Books!”). It has been said that he was hard for directors to work with as he advanced in age, because he wasn't able to remember his lines anymore and had to shoot them one at a time or read cue cards. He has some long speeches in this episode though, and appears to spout them off just fine.
The ship's quartermaster must hate Captain Kirk. Kirk's always getting his clothes torn up. He goes through more shirts...
The show's stunt players are almost always good, but why can't they find one who at least sort of kind of resembles William Shatner? You can spot these stuntmen a mile away...
What do they call it? A "white sound analyzer?”? To quote McCoy, "In a pig's eye!" That, my friends, is a common, everyday microphone.
Writer Don Mankiewicz’s father was Herman Mankiewicz, who wrote CITIZEN KANE with Orson Welles. Story editor Steven Carabatsos and producer Gene Coon polished Mankiewicz’s original script.