Balance of Terror
|"Balance of Terror"|
|Star Trek: The Original Series episode|
|Episode no.||Season 1
|Directed by||Vincent McEveety|
|Written by||Paul Schneider|
|Featured music||Fred Steiner|
|Cinematography by||Jerry Finnerman|
|Original air date||December 15, 1966|
"Balance of Terror", written by Paul Schneider and directed by Vincent McEveety, is the fourteenth episode of the first season of the original science fiction television series, Star Trek, that first aired on December 15, 1966. It was repeated on August 3, 1967. The episode is a science-fiction version of a submarine film; writer Paul Schneider drew on the film The Enemy Below, casting the Enterprise as the American destroyer and the Romulan vessel as the German submarine.
This episode introduces the Romulans. Additionally, Mark Lenard, playing the Romulan commander, makes his first Star Trek appearance. Lenard later played Spock's Vulcan father, Sarek, in several episodes and movies, and appears as the Klingon commander in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. These roles made Lenard the first actor to play characters of three prominent Star Trek races.
The starship USS Enterprise under the command of Captain James T. Kirk is inspecting a line of manned Federation outposts, only to find they are being destroyed by an unknown enemy. While Kirk officiates a wedding, an alarm sounds and they learn that Outpost 4, near the Romulan neutral zone, has come under attack.
Commander Spock explains that the neutral zone came into being following the Earth-Romulan War treaty a century earlier. Due to the lack of use of visual communications, the two races have never seen each other and only communicated over subspace radio. Kirk fears the Romulans are preparing for another war.
They come into range of Outpost 4 and contact the commander, Commander Hansen, who informs them he is the only survivor of an attack by an unknown enemy with weapons of immense power. A single shot blew out the base's shields, killed the weapons crew, and Hanson is suffering from terrible burns. As they speak Hansen tells them the enemy ship is re-appearing. He shows them the view as the ship materializes and fires before disappearing again. The shot destroys the base.
Kirk discovers that the attacker is a lone Romulan Bird of Prey equipped with a cloaking device. The cloak is not perfect; the Enterprise can track the ship, which is returning home to report on weaknesses in the Federation's defenses. The Enterprise taps into the Romulans' internal security camera, revealing that the Romulans appear identical to Vulcans. Lieutenant Stiles, who had family fight and die in the Earth-Romulan War, begins to suspect the Vulcan Spock of treason.
During a briefing over the Romulan ship's capabilities, Stiles suggests the Enterprise attack the Romulan vessel before it can reach the Neutral Zone. Spock agrees with Stiles' suggestion, believing the Romulans are likely an offshoot of the Vulcans from their age of savage warfare before the discipline of logic took hold. Spock reasons that if the Romulans retained Vulcan's pre-logic martial philosophy, they would surely infer weakness in the lack of response from the Federation and launch a full-scale war.
A cat-and-mouse game ensues, with each ship having its strengths and weaknesses. The Enterprise is faster and more maneuverable, while the Romulan ship has the cloaking device and an arsenal of immensely destructive plasma torpedoes, but their range is limited and firing them requires so much power that the ship must decloak temporarily. The two commanders are soon locked in a battle of wits; at one point the Romulan commander refers to Kirk as a "sorcerer" who can read his thoughts.
In the final act the Romulans, almost beaten, dump a nuclear weapon along with other debris in hope that the Enterprise will get near enough to the weapon to be destroyed. However, Kirk suspects a trap and orders a point-blank phaser shot that detonates the bomb. The Enterprise is badly shaken by the blast; Kirk decides to use this to his advantage, ordering operations to work at minimal power to exaggerate the apparent damage. Although the Romulan ship's fuel is running low, a member of the crew with connections to the Romulan praetor convinces his commander to finish off a seemingly helpless Enterprise. When the Romulan ship decloaks to launch a torpedo, Kirk tries to spring his trap, but an equipment failure leaves the phasers off-line and Mr. Stiles incapacitated. Spock rescues Stiles and fires the phasers in time for the Enterprise to disable the Romulan ship.
Kirk hails the crippled vessel and at last communicates directly with his counterpart, offering to beam aboard the survivors. The Romulan commander declines, saying that it is "not our way" to accept such assistance. The commander expresses regret that he and Kirk live in the way that they do, pointing out that "In a different reality, I could have called you friend." Then, with "one more duty to perform", the commander triggers his ship's self-destruct, preventing its crew and technology from falling into Federation hands.
Zack Handlen of The A.V. Club gave the episode an 'A' rating, describing the episode as "one of TOS's strongest, introducing us to a new alien race, as well as providing us with a very important piece of Trek mythology" and noting that "watching Kirk out-maneuver his enemy, even to the point of earning that enemy's respect, is very cool".
Comic book publisher IDW Publishing released a prequel, Star Trek Alien Spotlight: Romulans and a sequel Star Trek Romulans: The Hollow Crown.
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: "Balance of Terror"|
- "Balance of Terror" at StarTrek.com
- "Balance of Terror" at the Internet Movie Database
- "Balance of Terror" at TV.com
- "Balance of Terror" at Memory Alpha (a Star Trek wiki)
- "Balance of Terror" Comparisons of the new "remastered" visual effects
- "Balance of Terror" Revised Script July 19-22, 1966; report & analysis by Dave Eversole
- "Balance of Terror" Screenshots before and after remastering at TrekMovie.com