In the episode "Court Martial," apparent video of bridge proceedings is shown, in order to try and determine Kirk's guilt or innocence.

My question is whether this is actual video footage of bridge proceedings, a re-creation, or a computer simulation. If it is video footage, does this mean that the bridge is always recorded? That seems unlikely, but I'm not sure.

  • 3
    We're already taping everything that's spoken in the cockpit of commercial airliners, aren't we?
    – DevSolar
    Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 7:48
  • @DevSolar: But we're usually not keeping that currently, we've only got recordings of a sliding window of a few (I think two) hours, and the only event in which that sliding will stop is when the plane is destroyed. Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 8:41
  • @O.R.Mapper: Granted, but that's an issue of storage and privacy. A low-res (TV) video feed is negligible for ST storage capacities, and Starfleet isn't a private business... anyway, I am just sayin'.
    – DevSolar
    Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 8:58

2 Answers 2


In Court Martial, they are reviewing actual footage from the bridge, albeit edited by Finney to make Kirk appear guilty of Finney's death.

  • Given our modern Earth's current state of information data shrinkage and increasing information storage, it does not seem unreasonable to consider a futuristic starship recording all bridge proceedings.

  • Modern naval ships log all commands in a bridge log with dates and times in case of disaster to establish a chain of culpability. All information tracked in the Combat Information Center and Radio Central are also logged for tracking purposes.

  • Given the scope of responsibility of all bridge officers in this, the nerve center of a starship, recording everything and backing it up to the Star Trek equivalent of a Black Box seems perfectly logical.

  • A starship has a position called a records officer (and presumably technicians) whose job is to track all communication and ships information regarding missions. It would not surprise me to find that all high security areas of a starship have recordings of activity and console information stored for later retrieval.

A records officer was a position on Federation starships in the 23rd century, responsible for compiling and managing information regarding a ship's mission and assignments. Memory Alpha - Records Officer.

  • In the event of the destruction of a starship, microrecords were stored within a log bouy and could be launched back toward Federation space or could be expected to survive the destruction of the starship even at close range from enemy fire.

A log buoy, also known as a recorder-marker or an emergency buoy, was a type of space buoy that could be launched by starships.

A recorder-marker was designed to relay the ships logs and other relevant information back to its command base. Recorder markers were launched in situations when a ship could not use its communications system to relay the information before the imminent destruction or capture of the ship. The recorder-marker was built to withstand the complete destruction of the starship at close range, with a minimal possibility of external forces causing damage to the data held within.


I don't think we know, in TOS, whether they are always recording or not.

It seemed pretty clear to me in the show that Kirk was not surprised that there was a recording, or that it showed him pressing certain buttons. That indicates to me that it is an actual recording, and not a simulation based on recorded data. One possibility though is that the circumstances, such as alert level, might affect how much recording was done, automatically. They could, but might not want to record everything, or at least erase records after a while for unimportant periods, just to reduce the sense of being recorded all the time (I know that would bug me).

In the episode "The Menagerie", there is a trial where an objection is made about the level of recording presented in that episode, which is much more than in "Court Martial" and includes scenes beyond the ship. They say that no ship keeps that level of detailed recordings. But that also of course indicates that they do keep recordings. (As Michael McGriff kindly looked up and posted in comments, the quote is: "KIRK: Screen off. Chris, was that really you on the screen? (flash) That's impossible. Mister Spock, no vessel makes record tapes in that detail, that perfect. What were we watching?")

  • The recording presented in The Menagerie was being transmitted from Talos IV so isn't relevant to this question. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 13:07
  • @MichaelMcGriff I know the recording was not a Federation recording. That's what makes it useful for contrast. As I alrady explained in my answer, the objection to it's admission as evidence was that it was so detailed it couldn't have been a Federation recording - they say something close to "No ship makes such detailed recordings!", which may actually be one of the most relevant statements we have in TOS canon about how detailed the recordings actually are or are not.
    – Dronz
    Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 17:06
  • I found your quote "KIRK: Screen off. Chris, was that really you on the screen? (flash) That's impossible. Mister Spock, no vessel makes record tapes in that detail, that perfect. What were we watching?" chakoteya.net/StarTrek/16.htm Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 17:17
  • "In that detail" is the key phrase. Given that this is 13 years before the 5 year missions, it may not have been standard procedure to record the bridge and crew with the level they were obviously doing by the time Kirk and Crew were in space. Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 19:33
  • Yes, which is why I wrote "about the level of recording" in my original answer. That was always my reason for mentioning "The Menagerie". Also, it clearly wasn't "obvious" to the person who asked this question, what level of recording they did in Kirk's time. I think it's still not obvious or provable, and my own assumption would be that they only make (or only keep for very long) even the level seen in "Court Martial" when something potentially interesting is going on.
    – Dronz
    Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 20:34

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