Thursday, May 21, 2009


From Wikipedia:

"Balance of Terror", written by Paul Schneider and directed by Vincent McEveety, is a first-season episode of the original Star Trek series that first aired on December 15, 1966. The episode is a science-fiction version of a submarine film; writer Paul Schneider drew on the films Run Silent, Run Deep and The Enemy Below, casting the Enterprise as a surface vessel and the Romulan vessel as a 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.

More here.

This one is great. It's probably not in my top five, if only because of a few weird inconsistencies, like Lt. Stiles' xenophobia toward Spock, or the Vulcan science officer's dunderheaded accidental breaking of radio silence. But it's definitely in my top ten.

"Balance of Terror" is a straight up Federation war story, something we see far too little of in the original series. Like the Wikipedia article says, it's a submarine tale, and quite well done, at that. There's also some great Trek mythology established. We get to see a Star Fleet wedding. We get some Vulcan history; we get some Earth history. The cloaking device is introduced. We get to meet the Romulans, who are almost as compelling of an alien foe as the Klingons.

Quick digression. Of all the different varieties of Star Trek out there, I feel like the only time they ever got the Romulans right was the first series. Part of that is the above mentioned portrayal of the Romulan Commander by Mark Lenard, which is fantastic--no actor of his caliber ever played a Romulan again, excepting maybe the guy who played that defecting admiral in a mid-series episode of Next Generation, but the only other original series Romulan episode, "The Enterprise Incident," took Lenard's lead in how the actors approached the race. But the biggest reason for the later failure of Romulans in Star Trek is that writers just didn't seem to understand them: Kirk's Romulans are clearly modeled after the Romans--they're bloodthirsty warriors, yes, but they also have culture and sophistication; they enjoy battle, but they also appreciate art and beauty. Later versions make them out to be not much more than Machiavellian assholes. And who the fuck can dig a Machiavellian asshole?

Anyway, check it out. It's great.