Created By: Nndaia on December 18, 2011 Last Edited By: Nndaia on December 19, 2011

Trial episode

A main character of the series is put on trial, through which the story is told

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Do we have this? I can't find it with the search function...

Sometimes, a main character of a drama series that is not usually courtroom based will go on trial. The trial is used as a narrative device to tell the story of the crime through witness reports or, in a suitably futuristic world, some sort of mind reading device.

Merely containing a trial doesn't make a trial episode. The trial episode differs from simply being an episode involving legal drama in that the trial is used to tell the story; the audience (and possibly other major characters) don't know the story in advance, and learn it through the trial itself. There may be a B plot involving secondary characters striving to prove their friend's innocence.

Results of the trial vary; most commonly, the accused is found to have been framed, but occasionally genuinely guilty characters are pardoned or let off on a technicality.

Compare Recap By Audit.


Examples
Literature
  • The Animorphs book Visser tells Visser One's backstory and the history of the Earth invasion through her trial for various acts of treason.

Live Action
  • Star Trek: The Original Series episodes:
    • "The Menagerie". After hijacking the Enterprise, Spock is court martialed. The trial takes up the last part of Part 1 and all of part 2.
    • "Court-Martial". Captain Kirk is put on trial for negligently causing the death of one of his crewmen.
    • ''Wolf in the Fold". Scotty is tried on the planet Argelius II for the murder of several women.

Western Animation
  • In the Futurama episode Where No Fan Has Gone Before, the crew of the Planet Express tell the story of their encounter with illegal Star Trek merchandise while put on trial by Zapp Brannigan.
  • In the Justice League episode In Blackest Night, John Stuart is put on trial and a witness explains how he blew up a populated planet.
  • An unanimated Invader Zim script The Trial highlights much of Zim's past and expands on the crimes that had him exiled to Foodcourtia, among others. Apparently he was responsible for the deaths of two previous Almighty Tallest. In a rare example involving neither innocence nor pardon, Zim is found unambiguously guilty and survived execution by driving the judge/executioner, who attempts to drain the information from his Pak, insane.
  • An episode of Batman: The Animated Series features three police explaining a failed drug bust and Batman's interference via this method for the first half of the episode.
Community Feedback Replies: 10
  • December 18, 2011
    Arivne
    Live Action TV
    • Star Trek The Original Series episodes.
      • "The Menagerie". After hijacking the Enterprise, Spock is court martialed. The trial takes up the last part of Part 1 and all of part 2.
      • "Court-Martial". Captain Kirk is put on trial for negligently causing the death of one of his crewmen.
      • ''Wolf in the Fold". Scotty is tried on the planet Argelius II for the murder of several women.
  • December 18, 2011
    TonyG
    ^This is what "Where No Fan Has Gone Before" is specifically spoofing, by the way.
    • Other Futurama examples include "Insane in the Mainframe", where Fry and Bender are on trial for bank robbery, and "Overclockwise", where Cubert and Prof. Farnsworth are on trial for violating Bender's user license.
    • The Grand Finale of Seinfeld has the four main characters on trial for not helping a mugging victim.
  • December 18, 2011
    ArtyMorty
    Star Trek The Next Generation: The very first Episode Q puts Captain Picard and the entire human race on a Trial and in kind of a Book Ends style in the very last episode Q continues the same trial.
  • December 18, 2011
    Nndaia
    The first episode of Star Trek TNG is just Humanity On Trial, I think. They don't tell a story via trial so much as just have one; in that episode, the trial itself is the story as opposed to the events related in it. Same for Insane in the Mainframe and Overclockwise. They feature courtrooms but don't use the courtroom to relate a story; the audience already saw the crimes earlier in the episodes.
  • December 18, 2011
    PaulA
    Sometimes an excuse for Recap By Audit.
  • December 18, 2011
    Micah
  • December 18, 2011
    Nndaia
    You sure? I just read Courtroom Episode as any episode containing legal proceedings in a show that doesn't normally have them, as opposed to a specific courtroom-based storytelling strategy.
  • December 18, 2011
    fulltimeD
    I think you're reading Courtroom Episode as far more specific than it's intended to be. This is Courtroom Episode, not significantly different enough that it warrants a split.
  • December 18, 2011
    Loquacia
    The Trial Of A Time Lord is the narritive device of a whole series.
  • December 19, 2011
    HiddenFacedMatt
    ^^^ The phrase "episode" typically connotates a more specific theme than that of the overall series. A Prison Episode implies a non-prison-centered series. A Beach Episode implies a non-beach-centered series. If this is a general storytelling strategy, that can be used in series that normally has trials, then "trial episode" isn't the most fitting name.
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