This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe. An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here.
back to Character Insight! Having recovered from the epic hangover caused by hanging with all those Irish in the pub of Fair Haven last week, we now go back to the movies to profile Admiral Cartwright, from The Voyage Home and The Undiscovered Country.
(Yet another "Badmiral", what a shock, courtesy memory-alpha.org)
Cartwright first appears as Starfleet Command's escort to the Federation President as Earth suffers from the attack of the whale probe on Earth. Cartwright helps explain the crisis to Admiral Kirk on the stolen Bird-of-Prey from The Search for Spock, allowing Kirk and the Enterprise crew to attempt the time travel mission to save the whales. So in a rare twist of fate, this Admiral doesn't start out as a complete jerk.
Apparently that mission broke Admiral Cartwright, however, or he just couldn't help himself from becoming the stereotypical Badmiral. Thus, when we see him two movies later at a security briefing on the weakening of the Klingon Empire at the beginning of The Undiscovered Country, he strongly advocates for an attack on the Empire to bring the Klingons to their knees rather than opening the door of peace between these factions. When Kirk agrees with Cartwright, the pieces are put in motion of a conspiracy to murder the Klingon Chancellor and Federation President to avert the peace effort once and for all.
To this end, Cartwright works with others like Valeris and General Chang to frame Kirk and Dr. McCoy after Chancellor Gorkon is killed. But of course, even with Kirk and McCoy sentenced to life in prison on work prison planet Rura Penthe, Cartwright and his cronies still couldn't avoid getting caught thanks to the efforts of Captain Spock and Captain Sulu on their respective ships to sniff out the conspiracy and save Kirk in time to prevent the Federation President's assassination.
Admiral Cartwright: Arrest those men!
Captain Spock: Arrest yourself!
It's a pretty quick and shocking change from the President's right hand man in one movie to plotting his assassination two movies later, but that's the character arc the writers provided. Considering the script also originally called for Saavik to be a co-conspirator, perhaps this quick turnaround was supposed to shock us into taking deep thoughts about how deep convictions and beliefs can lead people to unbelievable behaviors and actions. It's an interesting allegory you also see in everything from real life to current shows like The Walking Dead.
Cartwright was played by Brock Peters, who also played Joseph Sisko in Deep Space Nine. He had a long acting career highlighted by roles in To Kill A Mockingbird and Soylent Green.
Feedback can be sent to me with future segment suggestions on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy. Until next time, live long and prosper...