Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 14 – Balance of Terror

Another good episode with no Shatner mockery score worth mentioning.  In this episode, the Enterprise is operating close to the Romulan Neutral Zone and has to come in aid of the border surveillance bases that the Federation maintains there.  The Romulans have been quiet since a war fought a century ago but a distress call reveals that an invisible ship has destroyed three of the bases.  Surveilling the mystery ship at a distance Kirk discovers that the Romulans have a cloaking device that makes their ship almost indetectable and they have a super weapon that no shield can stop.  But he also finds their weaknesses.  While cloaked the ship cannot use its weaponry and the Romulan ship does not possess warp drive but must proceed at the slow speeds of an impulse engine.  While eavesdropping on a Romulan transmission they discover that Romulans look like Vulcans and are indeed an offshoot of Mr. Spock’s home planet.  And he informs Kirk that these people are not like the modern logical peaceful Vulcans but instead are fearsome warriors.

Kirk and the Romulan commander play a cat and mouse game in which each tries to anticipate the actions of the other and get the advantage needed to survive.  There are several twists and turns and also tension within the Enterprise as an officer whose family was decimated during the century old war with the Romulans suspects Mr Spock of loyalties toward his distant kinsmen.

For fans of old WW II submarine movies, you’ll see some of the same tactics used here.  At one point the enemy jettisons some materials as debris to fool the Enterprise into thinking the Romulan ship had been destroyed.  In another scene silent running is used to fool the enemy into thinking the Enterprise is incapacitated.

The whole episode is very capably scripted and the acting is some of the best seen in the series.  The actor who plays the Romulan Commander, Mark Lenard went on to play Spock’s father in a later episode and in several of the movies.  The interplay between Kirk and the Romulan Commander is the highlight of the show and the final conversation between them is an excellent set piece that Shatner performed admirably and in an unusually understated style.  No exaggerated emoting going on.

This is a 9//0 episode.  Well done.

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Shenanigans. If the Romulans did not have warp drive they would take 3.2 years to get from their home world to the Neutral Zone. Impulse is sub-light speed. In fact, there could not have been an interstellar war fought between Earth and Romulus at all a hundred years before the supposed incident took place. If the Earthers had warp drive and the Romulans did not, the war would have been over rather quickly. About as quickly as one side armed with Sopwith Camels would have in taking on a nation armed with F-86 Saber Jets. But Spock says both sides… Read more »