Benjamin "Ben" Finney was a Human officer Starfleet in the mid-23rd century, and an early friend to James T. Kirk. As a lieutenant commander in 2267, he served as records officer aboard the USS Enterprise.
As a young officer, Finney spent an unusually long period as an instructor at Starfleet Academy, a circumstance that frustrated his ambitions. Finney loved the service, and hoped to command his own starship in the future. In the early 2250s, he met and befriended a young midshipman, James Kirk. The two became such close friends that Finney named his daughter Jame after Kirk. Letters sent home to his wife described their friendship and his esteem for the junior officer. When Finney was finally assigned to a starship, aboard the USS Republic, Ensign Kirk joined him.
At one point in their tour the friends shared the same engineering duties. On one occasion, when Kirk relieved Finney from his watch, he noticed a circuit left open to the atomic matter piles when it should have been closed. If left unattended another few minutes, the error could have destroyed the Republic. Ensign Kirk closed the circuit, but was bound to report the mistake in his log. As a result, Finney was reprimanded and fell to the bottom of the promotions list. His career, already lagging from his extended tenure at the Academy, was dealt a crushing blow that made a chance for starship command highly unlikely.
In the following decade as Kirk became a rising star in the fleet, Finney nursed his grudge into a growing (but concealed) paranoid madness. Though their friendship was effectively over, Finney eventually served aboard the Enterprise in 2267 as records officer, now subordinate to the young Captain Kirk. The embittered officer prepared to sabotage Kirk's career.
Finney's opportunity was the powerful ion storm the Enterprise encountered on stardate 2945.7. The storm coincided with his turn in the ion pod duty rotation; an exposed, potentially hazardous, duty. After the ship hit the leading edge of the storm, Kirk ordered a yellow alert from his panel on the captain's chair. As the storm increased in intensity, Kirk warned Finney of the possibility of red alert, meaning he'd have seconds to extricate himself from the pod before it was jettisoned. When the storm reached force 7 and the ship was at risk, Kirk declared the new alert status. After the appropriate pause, the pod was jettisoned, but Finney did not report in.
Kirk ordered a phase 1 search of the starship that turned up nothing. Finney managed to keep himself hidden from the search parties, a challenge made easier by the crew's assumption that Finney wanted to be found. By the time Enterprise pulled in to Starbase 11 for repairs and to report the officer's death, the logs reflected a different version of Kirk's actions during the storm, contradicting the sworn deposition Kirk submitted to the portmaster, Commodore Stone.
The court martial of James T. Kirk proceeded while Finney lurked in the bowels of the Enterprise. The court's sudden change of venue, followed by the departure of all but a handful of ship's personnel, alerted Finney that the court had become aware of his plotting and his continued presence on board the Enterprise. Meanwhile, in an effort to call Finney's bluff, Kirk had ordered the impulse engines shut down, so that the ship's orbit would begin to decay. Unbeknownst to Kirk, however, Finney had made a final attempt to avenge himself against Kirk and the officer corps that had left him behind. Echoing his "one mistake" of the previous decade, Finney tapped out the ship's primary energy circuits, making it impossible to restart the engines and halt the Enterprise's decaying orbit.
Finney jumped out from his hiding place, holding a phaser to Kirk's back, and the two former friends confronted each other in main engineering. Finney had lost any pretense of sanity, and his demeanor quickly shifted from menacing threat to pathetic melancholy. He ranted about the injustices in his life and jealousy of Kirk in detail while the court monitored every word from the bridge. Kirk revealed that Jame Finney had recently boarded, part of a plan to help calm him down. The realization that he had endangered his daughter sent Finney into hysterics, and Kirk took the opportunity to relieve Finney of his weapon. Beaten and sobbing, Finney revealed the details of his sabotage, allowing Kirk to make the necessary repairs.
Without objection from the prosecution, Stone dismissed the court and the accusations against Kirk. Charges were brought against Finney for his criminal actions, but he quickly found an able defender in Samuel T. Cogley, attorney-at-law - having seen Cogley's skill firsthand, Kirk expected Finney win the case. (TOS: "Court Martial")
"Oh, I wouldn't kill you, captain. Your own death would mean too little to you. But your ship..."
"What about my ship?"
"It's dead. I've killed it!"
- - Finney and Kirk
"Officers and gentleman... captains all! Except for Finney, and his one mistake."
- - Finney
In the final confrontation between Kirk and Finney in engineering, Finney is shown wearing a command division uniform with commander's stripes, although dialog throughout "Court Martial" identifies him as a lieutenant commander, and no full commander besides Spock and Leonard McCoy (promoted in 2269) served on the Enterprise during her five-year mission. In "The Devil in the Dark", Security Chief Giotto is also shown wearing full commander's stripes and is also referred to as a lieutenant commander. Finney did spend several days in hiding, however, and appeared a little gamey in his climactic appearance. In lieu of a shower, helping himself to an extra shirt might have been his best option. Whether he sewed himself into a promotion is another matter, but not inconsistent with his mental state of the time.
Finney was played by actor Richard Webb.
After the events of the series, Finney is sent to a rehabilitation colony, but later recruited by another renegade Starfleet officer working with the Klingons. With their encouragement, he creates a complex computer virus to infect the Enterprise 's computers, believing he is aiding a plot to frame Kirk for the massacre of a ship of unarmed refugees. When he realizes that the Klingons plan to infect every computer in Starfleet, and then conquer the Federation, he balks and his superiors try to have him killed.
Escaping, he finds himself among the very refugees which the Enterprise is about to fire on. Finney hallucinates that he sees his daughter among them, and the experience brings home to him, in a way his years of rehabilitation therapy never quite have, how his hatred of Kirk has driven him to endanger innocent people. After the plot is foiled, with his help, he willingly turns himself over to Federation authorities, ready to give therapy another chance, and to assist Starfleet in creating countermeasures for his program.