The Enterprise Incident

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"The Enterprise Incident"
Star Trek: The Original Series episode
Episode no. Season 3
Episode 2
Directed by John Meredyth Lucas
Written by D. C. Fontana
Featured music Alexander Courage
Cinematography by Gerald Finnerman
Production code 059
Original air date September 27, 1968 (1968-09-27)
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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"Spock's Brain"
Next →
"The Paradise Syndrome"
List of Star Trek: The Original Series episodes

"The Enterprise Incident" is a third season episode of the American science fiction television series Star Trek, first broadcast September 27, 1968, and repeated December 27, 1968. It is episode #57, production #59, written by D. C. Fontana and directed by John Meredyth Lucas.

In the episode, the crew of the Enterprise are on a secret mission to steal a Romulan cloaking device.


On stardate 5027.3, Captain James T. Kirk takes the Federation starship USS Enterprise, without apparent authorization, into Romulan space. Three Romulan vessels decloak and intercept the ship, and Kirk is given an order to surrender. Kirk responds by threatening to destroy the Enterprise if the Romulans attempt to board. He is then invited, along with Vulcan First Officer Spock aboard the Romulan flagship. Kirk accepts after the Romulans propose transporting two of their officers over in exchange.

Once aboard the Romulan ship, Kirk and Spock are taken before a female commander who demands an explanation for their intrusion into Romulan space. Kirk claims that instrument failure caused the ship to stray off course, but Spock divulges that the Captain ordered entry into Romulan space, and asserts that he is insane. The Romulan guards lead Kirk, railing against the treachery of his First Officer, to their brig. The Romulan commander orders Chief Engineer Scott to follow the Romulans back to their base but the combative Scott refuses.

Alone with Spock in her quarters, the commander questions Spock about his career. She argues that humans may have shown their disregard for his talents and capabilities by not giving him command of a ship, but the Romulans, if he were willing, would not make that mistake.

In the Romulan brig, Kirk injures himself by lunging against the force field securing the cell. Chief Medical Officer Dr. McCoy is summoned from the Enterprise to attend to him. With Spock in tow, the commander asks McCoy to confirm Spock's characterization of the Captain as mentally incompetent and McCoy does so, whereupon the commander calls on Spock to assume command of the Enterprise. Kirk, calling Spock a filthy traitor, lunges toward him, and Spock defends himself using what he calls the "Vulcan death grip". Kirk slumps to the floor, and McCoy declares him dead.

Back in the Enterprise sickbay, Kirk emerges from the state of suspension brought on by the so-called death grip. His apparent insanity, the unauthorized venture into Romulan space, and Spock's betrayal have all been part of a secret Federation plan to acquire the Romulan cloaking device. Kirk orders McCoy to perform surgery to give him Romulan features, borrows the uniform of one of the Romulan hostages, and has Scott transport him back to the Romulan vessel.

Meanwhile, Spock and the commander dine in her quarters, and their conversation grows intimate. When the commander goes to change into more "appropriate" attire, Spock directs Kirk, via communicator, to the section of the Romulan ship where the cloaking device is located. His signal is discovered and tracked, and Sub-Commander Tal informs the fleet commander of the alien transmission. Spock surrenders himself to the Romulan officers, but they are too late to prevent Kirk from removing the cloaking device and returning with it to the Enterprise.

To stall for time, Spock takes advantage of the traditional Romulan right of statement before his execution. Simultaneously, Kirk re-assumes command of the Enterprise as Scotty attempts to adapt the Romulan cloaking device to the Enterprise deflectors. Ensign Chekov succeeds in distinguishing Spock's life signs from those of the Romulans, and both Spock and the Romulan commander are beamed to the Enterprise. The two are brought to the bridge, where Kirk gives the order to return to Federation space. The pursuing Romulans are ready to fire upon them as Scott, after some difficulty with the Romulan device, successfully activates the cloak and the Enterprise vanishes before their eyes.

Kirk orders the ship to the nearest starbase and invites the Romulan commander to accept Mr. Spock as her escort to her new quarters. Alone with Spock in the turbolift, the commander reminds him of his missed opportunity, and points out that any advantage the Federation gains from the captured cloaking device will be temporary at best. Spock agrees that military secrets are fleeting, but counters that she underestimates herself if she believes he personally gained nothing from the experience. The Commander, however, distances herself from Spock with a gesture and the explanation that he has "made his choice"; Spock points out that she would surely have respected no other, and the Commander appears to agree but comments "That will remain our secret".

Back on the bridge, Spock overhears McCoy teasingly invite the Captain to sickbay to have his ears bobbed. Spock urges the Captain to go, finding the pointed ears unbecoming on humans.



  • D. C. Fontana based this story very loosely upon the Pueblo incident, in which a United States Navy ship and its crew were captured and held on charges of espionage for almost one year after they allegedly strayed into North Korean waters.[1]
  • The first draft script had Spock "raining kisses on every square inch above the shoulder" of the Romulan Commander, but this was changed, at Leonard Nimoy's insistence, to the more demure finger caresses. Fontana has pointed out in recent years that the "raining kisses" scene was actually an embellishment by Gene Roddenberry—one of the few he applied to third season scripts—and that the original script submitted had only an embrace and kiss, with most of the passion being delivered by the Romulan commander.[2]
  • Originally, both Kirk and McCoy were disguised as Romulans and went aboard the Romulan ship to steal the cloaking device.[2] This was dropped not only due to cost concerns, but after Robert H. Justman pointed out that having McCoy doing plastic surgery on his own ears would have stretched believability a bit unless another actor was hired—costing more money—to perform the surgery on both Kirk and McCoy.[citation needed]


The D7 models for the Romulan warships are actually Klingon ships, used instead of the Romulan Bird-of-Prey model seen in the episode "Balance of Terror". Although in production order the model was first used (as a Klingon ship) in "Elaan of Troyius", in transmission order it is first seen in this episode. It was stated in the first draft of the script that the Romulans and Klingons had an exchange of technology, where Romulans received four Klingon heavy D7 battlecruisers and the Klingons were given Romulan cloaking technology.

There have been two different explanations over the years for this apparent exchange of technology. According to one account, the show's production staff had just finished new Klingon ship models and wanted to show off Matt Jeffries' work and help boost sales on the about-to-be released model kit from AMT. Another report - one considered most likely by Trek historians and somewhat confirmed by model master and sculptor Wah Chang in a 1982 National Public Radio interview - was that the original Bird-of-Prey model was destroyed after its initial use in "Balance of Terror". According to Wah in the interview, there were some issues over payment for the model - which he had designed and built - following a complaint by one of the special effects unions over Wah's non-membership. Desilu and the Star Trek production staff used his talents anyway, claiming that the props he made were already made and "bought off the shelf". However, the local guild had evidence that Wah had built the Bird-of-Prey model specifically for the show, and after some negotiation agreed to drop the grievance if Wah received no payment for the model. Desilu capitulated, and returned the model to Wah. In a fit of anger, Wah took the model into his back yard, and proceeded to bash it to bits with a sledge hammer.[citation needed]


  • The actual name of the Romulan commander, and her ultimate fate, are not known for certain. At least three different explanations are given in Trek novels—The Price of the Phoenix, My Enemy, My Ally and Vulcan's Heart (in the early days of Trek writing, many novels tended to contradict each other, and so the commander has had many different names and fates). The latest explanation is given in the novel Vulcan's Heart, by Josepha Sherman and Susan Shwartz, in which her name is given as Liviana Charvanek. Apparently, some time after the events of this episode, Charvanek was returned to Romulus and resumed her military career.
  • D. C. Fontana co-wrote a sequel: Star Trek: Year Four—The Enterprise Experiment, a graphic novel published by IDW Publishing in 2008.
  • This episode is referenced in the video game Star Trek: Tactical Assault. During a Federation mission the player's ship is equipped with the Romulan cloaking device stolen by Kirk and ordered to launch a sneak attack on a Klingon starbase.
  • The Romulan commander and Subcommander Tal are central characters in the two-part series conclusion to Star Trek Continues. The part of the Romulan Commander (who went by the name Charvanek) was played by Amy Rydell, the daughter of Joanne Linville, who played the role in the original episode.


  1. ^ Sarantakes, Nicholas Evan: Cold War Pop Culture and the Image of U.S. Foreign Policy: The Perspective of the Original Star Trek Series, in: Journal of Cold War Studies, Volume 7, Number 4, Fall 2005, pp. 97-99 (74-103).
  2. ^ a b Dave Eversole. "'The Enterprise Incident' Report & Analysis". Archived from the original on February 17, 2012. Retrieved March 26, 2012. 

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