Star Trek : Balance of Terror

January 26, 2015 in Guest Blogs, Star Trek by GuestBlogs

A Guest Blog by Mindless Droid

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This week’s classic Star Trek episode is Balance of Terror. While patrolling along the Romulan neutral zone Captain Kirk officiates at the wedding of two of the crew he receives word that they have lost contact with Earth Outposts number 2 and 3. As Kirk begins the ceremony a red alert is signaled outpost number 4 is under attack. Kirk orders full ahead.

As the Enterprise races toward Outpost 4 Kirk and Spock brief the crew about their mission. Spock explains that the neutral zone and the Earth outposts were put in place after the Earth Romulan war of over a century ago. He also notes that since the war the treaty has been unbroken and that neither side has seen the other due to lack of visual communications back then. Kirk then explains that his orders are explicit they are to defend themselves but they may not violate the treaty and that in order to prevent interstellar war the Enterprise and the outposts are considered expendable. Lieutenant Stiles says that it has to be the Romulans and they have violated the treaty. Kirk asks how they would know it’s the Romulans. Stiles says they are painted like a bird of prey. Kirk asks how he knows and Stiles tells kirk that several of his relatives died in the war.

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The Enterprise finds outposts 2 and 3 have been destroyed but re-stablish contact with outpost 4. The outpost has been attacked and severely damaged. Commander Hansen tells Kirk that the weapon was a sort of energy plasma and destroyed his base even though their shields were up and they are a mile deep in an asteroid of solid iron. Just then a ship appears on Hansen’s view screen he switches the screen over to the Enterprise just as the ship fires its weapon and disappears. Outpost 4 is now totally destroyed. The attacker has vanished. Spock discovers a blip on the motion sensor and the ship is headed back towards Romulan space. Kirk and Spock theorizes that being cloaked uses a lot of power and that the invisibility screen may work both ways. Kirk orders a parallel course to appear as an echo to the Romulan ship to which Stiles objects showing his hatred of the Romulans. Stiles then tells Kirk it’s possible that Romulan spies have infiltrated the Enterprise. Kirk orders a security alert. Just then Uhura intercepts a message from the Romulan ship Spock locks onto it and is able to get a visual of the Romulan bridge. To every ones shock the Romulans look exactly like Vulcans.

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Uhura tells kirk that they are still working on translating the Romulan message. Stiles mutters that they should give it to Spock to which Kirk asks if he is complimenting Spock on his skills to translate it. Stiles says he’s not sure to which Kirk orders him to leave any bigotry he has in his quarters there’s no room for it on the bridge. The Romulan ship becomes visible and changes course Kirk orders them to follow. Aboard the Romulan ship their commander knows they are being followed and consults with his centurion on what they will do next and what the ramifications will be. As they talk Decious who sent the message picked up by the Enterprise reports in. The commander reduces him two steps in rank for breaking radio silence. Centurion warns him that Decious has powerful friends that could be dangerous to him to which the commander replies “Danger and I are old companions”. The Romulan commander is wary of what will happen when they return and have proof of the Earthman’s weakness. Centurion is concerned that the commander isn’t fully on board with the mission but is reassured by him that he will do his duty.

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Aboard the Enterprise Kirk holds a conference on what to do next. Stiles wants to attack while they are still outside the neutral zine. Sulu is wary and asks how they will hit an invisible target. McCoy also voices resignation Spock then adds that if the Romulans are an off shoot of the Vulcans they cannot show fear and agrees with Stiles to attack. Kirk agrees and orders an attack as the Romulan ship turns toward a comet. They believe the ship will become visible as it enters the comet.

As the two ships enter the comet the Romulan commander is told that their shadow no longer follows. He is quick to realize Kirk’s plan and initiates an escape maneuver. When the Romulan ship does not become visible as predicted Kirk realizes this and changes course as well. We see each Captain commending the others skill. Kirk orders the Enterprise to fire at the Romulan ship blindly hoping to score a hit. The Romulan ship is hit and as a piece of ceiling falls toward the Romulan commander the centurion pushes him out of the way and is gravely injured. Back on the Enterprise the phaser control circuit burns out. The Romulan commander decides to attack they de-cloak and fire their weapon. Kirk orders all to stern as the phasers are inoperative. The weapon eventually overtakes the ship but has dissipated somewhat and only causes minor damage. The Romulans go back to their previous course, Kirk resumes a parallel course. Stiles informs Kirk that they’ll be entering the neutral zone in one minute Kirk decides to attack before then. The Enterprise fires and hits the Romulan ship. Kirk decides to continue pursuit into the neutral zone and continues the attack. The Romulan commander deploys a decoy as he has all the debris from the damage jettisoned into space as well as the body of his friend the centurion who has died. Spock scans the wreckage but it is to late the trick has worked and the Enterprise has lost contact with the Romulan ship.

Each ship now plays the waiting game looking for a clue as to where the other one is. Kirk and McCoy discuss the day’s events in Kirk’s cabin. Kirk is starting to feel the strain of command. McCoy reassures Kirk that he is doing the right thing. Back on the bridge Spock making further repairs on the phaser controls accidently hits his control panel and activates a signal that the Romulans pick up. The Romulan ship closes in but Kirk guesses their move and hits them with more phaser fire. The Romulan commander’s frustration grows as he keeps being out maneuvered. He orders more debris into the disposal tubes and also one nuclear device used for self-destruction. Spock scans the debris and picks up the metal cased object Kirk orders a point blank phaser strike. The device detonates one hundred meters from the ship damaging the Enterprise. The phasers are undamaged but only the crewman who was to be married Tomlinson is left to man them. Stiles volunteers to go as his first assignment was in weapons control. Spock tells Kirk that they can move off to make repairs but Kirk decides to play dead.

On the Romulan ship the commander wants to retreat as he does not trust Kirk. Decious reminds him that it is their duty to destroy the enemy, reluctantly he decides to attack. Spock checks on the phaser control room Stiles tells him rather rudely that everything is okay. As Spock leaves Stiles notices that the phaser coolant is leaking. Just then the Romulan ship turns to attack. Kirk orders the phasers to fire but Stiles and Tomlinson are unconscious. Spock hearing Kirk over the intercom rushes in and fires the phasers scoring a direct hit disabling the Romulan ship. Kirk hails the Romulan ship and offers to take on its survivors. The Romulan commander after expressing great respect for Kirk refuses the offer tells him that he has one last duty to perform and self-destructs. Kirk goes to sick bay. Spock had saved Stiles. Stiles expresses regret about his suspicion of Spock and is amazed that Spock would risk his life to save him after everything he said to him. Spock brushes it off as having saved an important crewman and has no other feelings in this matter. Kirk asks McCoy “How many men did we lose?” McCoy says only one Tomlinson who was to be married that day. He tells Kirk his fiancé is at the chapel. Kirk goes and comforts her telling her that there has to be a reason. She tells Kirk she is okay. Kirk leaves and heads back to the bridge.

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This is one of the best episodes of the entire classic series if not the best. The Romulans are introduced in this episode and unfortunately have never really been done justice afterward although The Enterprise Incident wasn’t bad and Deadly Years they really didn’t have a large part in. I often wonder why they never played up the Romulan plasma weapon again being it was so powerful. I never did like the way they were portrayed in The Next Generation they always seemed so stiff and dull it may have been the uniforms and let’s not mention Nemesis. In this episode they were awesome Mark Lenard who went on to portray Sarek Spock’s father was great in this episode as the somewhat conflicted Romulan commander. The interplay with him and the centurion gives some nice background on the Romulans and their culture. Having them also be an off shoot of Vulcan makes them even that more intriguing. The interplay between Kirk and the Romulan commander was great each one out guessing the other until finally Kirk got the upper hand. The final scene in which the Romulan commander shows his respect for Kirk is one of my favorites in the series especially this quote “You and I are of a kind. In a different reality, I could have called you friend.” This episode also lays the foundation for the cloaked ship being unable to fire its weapons unless it becomes visible. The subplots of the wedding and Stiles suspicion of Spock added to the drama of the episode.

Some trivia from this episode.

The episode is said to be based on two movies Run Silent Run Deep and The Enemy Below.

The Romulan crewman all wore helmets to cut costs on making them all prosthetic ears.

Mark Lenard also went on to play a Klingon in Star Trek the Motion picture always hated that title.

The ships phasers are shown more like photon torpedoes here as that term had not been invented yet but it is explained by Kirk ordering the phasers to be set for proximity blast, also this is the only time the phasers are fired through a series of commands to another control center other than the bridge.

A longer portion of Hansen’s transmission that was not used had him saying that the Romulan ship was similar to ours and that he suspects they may have stolen some of our technology this played up to Stiles having suspicion that there were spies on board the Enterprise.

If you watch closely when the Enterprise detonates the nuclear warhead (a favorite scene of mine “Helm hard over, phasers fire point blank!”) not everybody “falls” in the same direction.

The model for the Romulan ship was damaged and that is one of the reasons when the third season episode The Enterprise Incident aired the Romulans were said to be using Klingon ships.

When Kirk leaves the chapel after consoling Angela he is sullen and slightly slumped over but as he walks down the corridor he straightens up and regains his air of command.