Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Corbomite Maneuver: TOS Season 1 Episode 10

Plot Synopsis

The Enterprise is once again farther out than anyone ever has been before. They were soon blocked by a cube in space. As they tried to move away from it, the cube compensated and stayed in their way. It was also emitting some kind of radiation so they needed to get away from it. When the situation began, Kirk was getting his quarterly physical, so he didn't see the red alert right away. This was great for two reasons, first, it was an excuse to have Kirk with his shirt off again, and two, it allowed Bones to deliver the line "What am I, a doctor or a moon shuttle conductor?" Great stuff

Kirk gets to the bridge and asks for an update. Spock says they are caught in fly-paper, an apt analogy. Given that communications are not being returned they have a few options. They can sit and wait for whoever put them in that trap, but they throw out that idea as it just shows weakness. This leaves them the options of destroying the cube or trying to get away from it. They decide to first try to get away, but it matches their every move and the radiation gets worse so they are forced to eventually destroy it. Kirk is not deterred and continues moving forward. 

After a bit of time goes by, another ship shows up, a gigantic sphere. It gets them in a tractor beam and scans their ship. It is quickly apparent that it is far superior to the Enterprise, it gives them "ten Earth time periods, known as minutes" to get their affairs in order and then it is going to destroy them. Spock compares their situation to a game of chess and they are definitely losing. Kirk instead compares it to a game of poker and performs a pretty epic bluff. He says that starfleet ships all have a secret material in their hull call Corbomite, any attacking ship will get their weapons bounced back to them. No ship has ever been destroyed, instead the attacker always loses. The big ship decides against destroying the enterprise and instead is going to tow them...somewhere, with a smaller ship.

They figure that the small ship must have limited power and the tractor beam must use up a lot of that power, so they slowly turn their engines on to work against the tow and to drain power from the small ship. At some point the little ship is incapacitated and the Enterprise gets away. They are all set to run off, but they realize the little ship is sending out a distress signal and the big ship is too far away to receive it. Some people still want to run away, but Kirk points out that finding new life is their mission, and they beam over to the little ship. It turns out that this whole thing was a test by an alien (who looks like a little kid) to see how they would react. The scan suggested they would pass the test, but those records can be manipulated, he couldn't know until he really did it. Everyone had a good laugh

Does it make sense?

I really like the idea of this episode. A stronger being pretending to be weaker and seeing how we react. It goes a long way to see someone's true nature when they think they have the upper hand. How do they treat people who are in a position of weakness. Of course they will treat you well if they think you can squish them, but if the tables are turned will they squish you or treat you fairly? But I have a few problems with their execution here.

1. The cube. Their initial contact with these people did not leave them with choices. It didn't let them retreat, it refused to communicate, and it almost killed them with radiation forcing them to destroy it. I suppose there was some aspect of a test here that they kept moving forward after they destroyed the cube, but it seems like with that framework much more could have been done. (the cube could have let them retreat, or there could have been a simple message transmitted that would test them in some way.

2. The sphere. What exactly was the test that was being conducted when the enormous sphere was going to kill them all in 10 minutes? Again, he wasn't letting them get away, and the communication was minimal. Presumably Kirk would have failed the test if he had fired on the sphere, but when the timer was almost gone what other choice would he have?

3. The bluff. Did the alien really fall for the bluff, or was that all part of the plan?

It seems to me the ending of "I was testing you" was just added at the end because they didn't know how else to end it. Kind of a bummer and I really was digging the episode up until that point.



Other than the lame twist ending, I thought it was a pretty good episode

Intense Debate Comments

I've decided to remove intense debate and go back to the default blogger comments. Of course, ID holds your comment threads hostage so you will stay with it, but luckily I don't have too many. I have taken screenshots and edited them into the bottom of their posts so they won't be lost.

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