Sunday, June 9, 2013

Balance of Terror: TOS Season 1 Episode 14

Plot Synopsis

We start this episode with a wedding on board where Kirk is officiating, but we get interrupted by a distress call of a ship under attack near the Romulan neutral zone. We soon learn that there was a bloody war between humans and Romulans about 100 years ago. They never made proper contact, we don't even know what they look like, but we eventually were able to negotiate a neutral zone. Either side venturing into the neutral zone would be an act of war. The Romulans are supposedly very good tacticians and relish war, so Kirk is reluctant to provoke them. Any act that could be interpreted as aggressive by the Enterprise could give the Romulans an excuse to go to war. Although we are also reminded that this is speculation as our real knowledge of them is limited.

Somehow they get a video feed from the Romulan ship. I wasn't completely clear how this happened, but I think it was from passive scanning, it was supposed to be a video feed from one part of the Romulan ship to another and the Enterprise picked up the signal (please correct me if I'm wrong). It turns out that the Romulans look a lot like Spock! There was one guy on the bridge that was very suspicious of Spock, even accusing him of being a spy under his breath (and later more forcefully I think, damn, I really need to write these the same day I watch the episode). Anyway, Kirk announces that he implicitly trusts Spock to address the potential thoughts everyone is having (or maybe the explicit accusation thrown around). Spock of course isn't phased by this, and uses the information to guess that the Romulans and Vulcans must have a common ancestor and uses the information to guess at their demeanor. Spock says that the Vulcans were very savage before they found logic and is assuming the Romulans have a streak of brutality.

This is also the first time the crew of the Enterprise had ever seen a cloaked ship. Spock mentioned that the Federation had tried this type of thing, but the power requirements made it impossible. He notes that the Romulans must have found a way to get around them, but they know that power will be a limiting factor for the Romulans. 

Although they can't see the ship, they can detect some signal from it, Kirk decides to follow it, but instead of plotting an intercept course he matches their movements perfectly so that they will appear as a sensor echo. Given the power requirements of the cloak, they figure that even their sensors will not be at full strength, and won't necessarily want to use up power doing full scans. There is a comet up ahead and Kirk figures that once they go through the tail it will give them a target and they can blow them up. As the Romulan ship goes gets to the comet Kirk runs around to the other side and gets ready to fire. But on the Romulan ship the "sensor echo" goes away. The Romulan commander figures out exactly what happened and changed course to avoid Kirk's assault. We have now seen that both Kirk and this Romulan commander are great tacticians.

There are some pretty interesting skirmishes, but ultimately Kirk wins. With the Romulan ship crippled he hails them and offers assistance. The Romulan acknowledges how similar they are and ponders that in another world they could be friends, but it can't happen here. He sets off his ship's self-destruct so the Enterprise can't take their technology. I guess this makes a lot of sense since they have a (potentially experimental) cloaking device.

Alien Races

We get to meet the Romulans in this episode, pretty cool. I'm not sure how much they had planned on these guys being a recurring enemy or not. Perhaps they had just thought it would be a good one-off enemy and they liked them and used later, or perhaps they had intended from this point to use them long term. Either way, it's neat to see where they started from


It was also really cool to see the cloaking device make its debut. As I mentioned above, they talked about how it takes a ton of power, which is a limiting factor. Here, the enterprise was able to detect some signal from it, I guess we can chalk that up to it being an early model. My memory is that in TNG a properly working cloaking device will mask all signals. Also, it is established  in this episode that they can't fire while cloaked, it takes too much power and must be turned off to power up weapons. 

Unique and Non-unique

There was a great little speech from Bones about how there are so many people out there like us (hence we are not unique), and yet there is only one exactly like us (hence we are unique). I love stuff like this
In this galaxy, there's a mathematical probability of three million earth type planets. And in all the universe, three million, million galaxies like this. And in all of that, perhaps more, only one of each of us.
Spock Describes the Romulan mindset 

Spock: If the Romulans are an offshoot of my Vulcan blood, and I think this likely, then attack becomes even more imperative

Bones: War is never imperative Mr. Spock

Spock: It is for them Doctor. Vulcan, like Earth, had its aggressive, colonizing period. Savage even by Earth standards. And if the Romulans retained this marshal philosophy, then weakness is something we dare not show



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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