Star Trek: TOS – S01E14/15 “The Galileo Seven” and “Court Martial”

“The Galileo Seven”

Season 1
Production Order #14
Airing Order #16
Directed by Robert Gist
Written by Oliver Crawford and S. Bar-David

After one episode last week, it’s time to get back to normal with two episodes. The Enterprise is transporting important medical supplies to a planet beset by a plague. The ship diverts course to investigate a quasar-like phenomenon, Murasaki 312, in keeping with Kirk’s orders to investigate all such occurrences. Frankly though the assertion of Kirk that they can afford to wait two days during a plague is a bit obnoxious. What if supplies there run out early or they fall behind for some other reason? Would we have a sequel to “The Conscience of the King” on our hands?

Onboard the shuttlecraft Galileo, the titular crew of seven (including Spock, Scott, and McCoy) launches into the phenomenon and quickly runs into a number of problems with the coms breaking down with the Enterprise and before they crash-landed on a planet at the center of the event. Kirk has two days to find them before he will be forced to leave to deliver the aforementioned supplies however they are unable to beam anything down or communicate however.

The episode quickly sets up a central conflict of Spock and McCoy that defines this episode. The two have rarely seen eye to eye though McCoy, as he does here, is the far more confrontational of the two while Spock seems largely uninterested in any rivalry between the two. The shuttle has lost too much fuel and will not be able to escape unless they lose 500 pounds, that weight having to come in the form of humans with an immediate resistance forming to the idea of Spock choosing those three. McCoy criticizes Spock’s heart despite the fact that as Spock correctly reasons, there is no place for anything but logic.

The problem with Spock’s logic based command is merely that it’s not exactly motivational nor does it calm the others. He has no desire to put the facts in a manner that would go over well with crew and he’s naturally disadvantaged since they put far too much stock in how they think he feels about the situation. He may be able to control his emotions but they can’t and a proper leader knows how to get the most out of his crew and to cover for their limitations.

Of course the situation starts to sort itself out as one of them is mysteriously killed by a giant ape-like being with a spear but the crew objects to Spock’s lack of mourning for the dead since Spock is too busy trying to save their stupid lives. It rings more than a bit false for a show so relatively unconcerned with deaths to this point to all of a sudden make it a point that the crew needs to hold a memorial service for a dead crewmember despite running out of time on their lives and the fact that McCoy seems content on letting everyone die instead of sacrificing one man (since 150 pounds has been saved in unloading weight) makes me wish they kill him and be done with it. The 100 just pulled this same plot out too proving that in sci-fi, no plotline dies. That situation resolves itself further when it is revealed that all the fuel is gone and leaving crewmen behind is no longer needed since they are seemingly screwed regardless but I’ll give the episode credit for not having the characters immediately forget this and the situation is lost for Spock as Boma and another crewman Gaetano start to verbally undermine his command.

I guess the commissioner onboard the Enterprise is supposed to mirror Spock (not coincidentally I sympathize with both) but his “not relishing” the thought of abandoning Kirk’s crew is practically delivered with a sneer and is hardly believable as he continues to antagonize him and remind him of the time remaining. He seems almost happy that Kirk’s insistence on following the rules and delaying the trip has backfired. The situation does prove a counterpoint in styles as Kirk’s visible emotion seems to get the rest of the crew more behind him with no complaints.

Back on the planet, the men want to kill the giant creatures while Spock just wants to scare them and while this is exactly the kind of thing Kirk would have done, the crew treats this as something only Spock would say because he is a heartless bastard. Even when Spock’s strategy doesn’t work out, McCoy still seems to think the answer would have been to slaughter indiscriminately and in revenge against a force they know nothing about and their intentions. It’s the kind of thing that runs counter to both the voyage’s mission and to McCoy’s responsibility as a doctor.

What I will concede that is that Spock is not great at improvising bringing to mind his loss in chess to Kirk in an earlier episode. When things don’t go the way he expects them to, he doesn’t react well or change his approach. He also doesn’t think outside the box which is why Scott (who is perhaps the one human who behaves like soldier and doesn’t freak out) is the one saving the day with his alternate fuel source (phasers) and not Spock. But Spock does prove he is willing to die for his beliefs, telling the crew to leave without him when he is pinned to a rock. Their determination to save him is admirable in a way but he isn’t wrong that it nearly killed them all and the fact that he was only out there to help give a proper burial makes his anger at them righteous. He’s a true captain who’s willing to make the hard sacrifice and yet he gets no respect. His greatest failing may have been to allow himself to get bullied by his crew and lacking the ability to control them.

The time has run out and Kirk is forced to abandon the search, one of the search parties already being all killed or injured not being justification enough while back with the Galileo, the shuttle is able to take off but not escape orbit. It is only saved at the last second when a flare of sorts that they have sent up is miraculously noticed by the Enterprise.

The episode is one small change away from being a classic and that is to focus on the rest of the crew of the Galileo behaving illogically. By focusing so much on Spock’s command style (and despite my defense of him, he is truly best as a number 2) and not the actions of every other character, the show stacked the deck against Spock and unless every argument it makes against him turns out (which it doesn’t) then the writers are going to look real bad. The episode completely misses how humanity responds to a seemingly hopeless situation and it remains an accidental subtext. I’d say this was intentional if not from the final scene (which I’ll get into below) which drives in just where we are supposed to fall on this matter. Star Trek may be many things but it is never subtle.

Grade: B

Stray Observations
– The 500 pounds that needs to be lost works out to 167 pounds per person and considering they are all generally fit, I can’t imagine it would be very useful to leave the woman behind who is unlikely to weigh close to that and I think some of the guys would struggle to reach that as well. I think McCoy and Boma are just annoyed that they are likely two of the heaviest (and serve no purpose in trying to get the crew off the planet) and assume they are done for.
– Man do the Taureans look terrible. You can basically see the seams on their costume and the hype leading up to their reveal makes them out as far larger than they actually are.
– McCoy’s spends much of what may be his final moments taunting Spock like the huge dick that he is.
– I have a sudden desire to rewatch The Caine Mutiny and I fear my sympathies will be more conflicted this time even after the ending of it
– Making a desperate act is illogical? How is attempting a desperate act when it is the best alternative (even if it has such a slim hope of succeeding) not considered “logical”. Spock even explains this but the smirks from the crew (and presumably the writers) indicate we are supposed to feel this is BS. Even with an emotional outburst accompanying it (and considering Spock is mocked anytime he does who can blame him for sealing that shit up), it doesn’t make it an illogical, emotional act. Read a fucking dictionary you hacks. Sorry about that.
– It may be utopian in concept, but Star Trek is a fantastic argument against humanity.


“Court Martial”

Season 1
Production Order #15
Airing Order #20
Directed by Marc Daniels
Written by Don M. Mankiewicz and Steven W. Carabatsos

We officially move past the midpoint of Season 1 with this episode which aired in the back third. After a metaphorical trial of put-upon leader Spock, it’s time for an actual trial of the actual Captain and leader of the Enterprise, Kirk.

After traveling through a deadly ion storm which kills a record commander, Finney, an investigation is launched into the incident. Kirk swears in a deposition that he ejected the escape pod after the red alert, yet Spock shows up late with “evidence” that he did so before and before this is even revealed, he is confronted by the man’s daughter who accuses Kirk of killing him. As a result an inquiry is launched into Kirk’s actions yet most everyone has immediately assumed Kirk is guilty. Now Kirk may be a sexist, arrogant jerk, but he’s not a liar and not one to hide from his failure so it’s apparent early on that something is off.

Kirk stands by his story even as Commodore Stone offers to either give him a low level posting if he admits to wrong doing or make him the first starship captain put on trial, but also doesn’t try to claim that that the computer is likely to be wrong. Kirk’s old friend Areel Shaw is the prosecutor and considering the fact that she is a blond and various other hints (well that kiss was the most obvious one) it is apparent they were once together. Like all his other love interests though, there isn’t a ton of chemistry between them. Kirk’s attorney however is the older Samuel T. Cogley, a computer hating man obsessed with books and you could hear my groan as I anticipated the “kids these days with their computer machines” argument the episode was going to get into. In general, there’s a conspicuous increase in the use of computers and “digitized” voices this episode to drive that point in more but to the episode’s credit(?) the only proponent of books is a nutter.

Spock testifies that he found no evidence the computer was malfunctioning but maintains it was wrong as he testifies that it is impossible for Kirk to act out of malice. It’s a small moment, but a huge one to continue to establish the respect he has for his captain despite how the crew often treats him as an other. The man who was killed had had a disciplinary report filed on him by Kirk which I get would give him motive against Kirk but I just don’t see how the reverse is true or why this is supposedly evidence against him (for good reason but the show tries its hardest to play up this lousy misdirect). Also there really should have been an objection or more to leading a witness to speculate on the mental state of both Kirk and the deceased (I’ve seen enough shows/movies to know this is true). It’s not until midway through the episode that we even see a version of the events, leaving us to trust Kirk the way Spock and McCoy do, and even then this evidence only seems to prove Kirk is lying.

As Star Trek is wont to do though, it almost immediately then has to undercut this suspense by revealing that Kirk and the man who died were close and his daughter quickly switches sides to defend him. I get that it was obvious the entire time what happened, but the show always gives up so abruptly half way through that it’s maddening.

Spock beats the computer that he programmed repeatedly at chess which is proof to him that someone altered the computer since the computer should theoretically beat or draw him every time since it is equal to his skill and should never make a “wrong” move. I kinda like that it implies that programming a computer to play optimally (something that can’t be done yet but can be programmed to beat any human reguarly) can be done by one person, even if that person is Spock. Only three people could have altered the computer, Kirk, Spock, and the deceased which indicated that the Finney is the man who altered the computer to make it look like Kirk killed him. It’s a predictable result that the show has to struggle to try and make an alternative seem plausible but hey, it makes sense which is not something every crime show is concerned with.

After isolating everyone’s heartbeats, they are able to find Finney’s heartbeat and trap him. Kirk goes to confront Finney who tells him that he has drained the engines and has clearly gone mad as a result of Kirk logging his mistake. He wants to take away from Kirk the thing that he thinks was stolen from him, the Enterprise, even at the expense of everyone else. Kirk is able to repair the engines just in time to save everyone and everyone lives happily ever after and alive.

I criticized last episode for its over focus on putting Spock and his logic on “trial” but I would have really loved to see something like that here. A frame job is much less interesting than say a legitimate trial of a captain’s tactics and whether Kirk did the right thing. Hell, it would have been a nice follow up to last episode with only minor changes to it in order for a legitimate claim to be made that Kirk may have acted irresponsibly. Basically, I wanted Batman: TAS’s “Trial” but done in this universe and instead we got boilerplate mystery. It’s well executed boilerplate, but nothing I haven’t seen a hundred times before or since with the sole change being the then presumably unique variation that it involved a computer.

Grade: B

Stray Observations
– Writer Don M. Mankiewicz is a member of the Mankeiwicz family with writer/director Joseph Mankiewicz (No Way OutAll About Eve) being his uncle, writer Herman Mankiewicz (Citizen KaneDinner at Eight) his father, TCM host Ben Mankiewicz his nephew, and writer Tom Mankiewicz (Superman, his work on Bond movies in the ‘70s) his cousin. He was also an Oscar nominee for the solid I Want to Live!
– The list of Kirk’s achievements is quite long and you get the sense of just how he earned his captaincy especially since all of these likely predate the show.
– I appreciate that the prosecutor and judge are just doing their jobs and doing it to the best of their abilities for a cause they believe is just (which if Kirk was guilty in the end, it would be). It’s very My Cousin Vinny reminiscent, the highest compliment a courtroom movie/episode can receive.
– I do not appreciate a plea to a number of sources including the Bible indicating the rights to a fair trial. Kirk’s lawyer is obnoxious as hell and his technophobia off-putting.
– This is the second episode in a row with talk of decaying orbits
– I love Uhura’s almost eyerolling look at Kirk after he kisses Shaw on the deck.

Next Up: On Monday, we introduce ourselves to the Yeti and the Great Intelligence on Doctor Who with creatures similar to those in “The Galileo Seven”, “The Abominable Snowmen” and I’ve already checked to make sure it’s hanging out online. Star Trek: TOS will be back next Friday with the two part recycling of “The Cage”, “The Menagerie”. If for whatever reason I have spare time and the will (ha!) I’ll try to knock out “Shore Leave” too but don’t count on it.