Balance of TerrorFor the Cold War policy, see Balance of terror. Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Balance of Terror"
The Romulan Commander agonizes over Captain Kirk's tactical ability Episode no. 14 Prod. code 009 Remastered no. 1 Airdate December 15, 1966Writer(s)Paul SchneiderDirectorVincent McEveety Guest star(s) Mark Lenard
John Warburton (actor)
John Arndt (actor)
Robert Chadwick Year 2266 Stardate1709.2 Episode chronologyPrevious "The Conscience of the King" Next "Shore Leave"
"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. On September 16, 2006, "Balance of Terror" became the first digitally remastered Star Trek episode, featuring enhanced and new visual effects, to be broadcast. The episode has been described as a 1950s submarine movie in space, "borrowing" a great deal from the 1957 World War II submarine movie The Enemy Below.
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.
The starship USS Enterprise under the command of Captain James T. Kirk is inspecting a line of manned Federation outposts, only to find they are being destroyed by an unknown enemy. The latest to fall is Outpost 4 near the Romulan neutral zone. Lieutenant Commander Spock explains that the neutral zone came into being following the Earth-Romulan War treaty a century earlier. (The map of the neutral zone displayed Romulus as well as a second planet called Romii, despite Spock's spoken reference to Romulus and Remus.) Due to the lack of use of visual communications, the two races have never seen each other and only communicated over subspace radio. Captain James T. Kirk fears the Romulans are preparing for another war.
Kirk discovers that the attacker is a lone Romulan Bird of Prey equipped with a cloaking device. The cloak is not perfect; the Enterprise can track the ship, which is returning home to report on weaknesses in the Federation's defenses. The Enterprise taps into the Romulans' internal security camera, revealing that the Romulans appear identical to Vulcans. Lieutenant Stiles, who had family fight and die in the Earth-Romulan War, begins to suspect the Vulcan Spock of treason.
During a briefing over the Romulan ship's capabilities, Spock advises Kirk to attack the Romulans before they can reach the Neutral Zone. Spock believes the Romulans are an offshoot of the Vulcans from their age of savage warfare, before Surak's philosophy of logic took hold. If the Romulans have rejected Surak, Spock concludes, they would infer weakness in the lack of response from the Federation and launch a full scale war.
A cat-and-mouse game ensues with each ship having its strengths and weaknesses. The Enterprise is faster and more maneuverable, while the Romulan ship has the cloaking device. The Romulan ship is armed with immensely destructive plasma torpedoes, but their range is limited and firing them requires so much power that the ship must decloak temporarily. The two commanders are soon locked in a battle of wits; at one point the Romulan commander refers to Kirk as a "sorcerer" who can read his thoughts.
When the Romulans believe they have the upper hand, their commander orders a nuclear weapon dumped along with other debris, hoping the Enterprise will get near enough the weapon to destroy the Starfleet ship. However, Kirk suspects a trap and orders a point-blank phaser shot that detonates the bomb. The Enterprise is badly shaken by the blast; Kirk decides to use this to his advantage, ordering operations to work at minimal power to exaggerate the apparent damage. Although the Romulan ship's fuel is running low, a member of the crew with connections to the Romulan praetor convinces the Romulan commander to finish off a seemingly helpless Enterprise. When the Romulan ship decloaks to launch a torpedo, Kirk tries to spring his trap, but an equipment failure leaves the phasers off-line and Mr. Stiles incapacitated. Spock rescues Stiles and fires the phasers in time for the Enterprise to disable the Romulan ship.
Kirk hails the crippled vessel and at last communicates directly with his counterpart, offering to beam aboard the survivors. The Romulan commander declines, saying that it is "not our way" to accept such assistance. The commander expresses regret that he and Kirk live in the way that they do, pointing out that "In a different reality, I could have called you friend". Then, with "one more duty to perform," the commander triggers his ship's self-destruct, preventing its crew and technology from falling into Federation hands.
40th Anniversary remastering
This episode was digitally remastered in 2006 for high definition television and first aired September 16, 2006 to mark the 40th anniversary of Star Trek's premiere. It was followed next by "Miri" which some network affiliate stations chose to air directly afterward. Aside from remastered video and audio and the newly created all-CGI animation of the USS Enterprise that are standard among the revisions, specific changes to this episode include:
- CGI refinements of the Bird of Prey, showing individual hull plates.
- Phaser bursts and plasma torpedoes have been reworked, and light from the weapons reflects against the Enterprise's hull.
- The comet has been updated, making it look more realistic.
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- In dialogue from the final shooting script, there is speculation that the Bird-of-Prey was designed from stolen Starfleet ship blueprints. This adds fuel to Lieutenant Stiles' tirades against Spock. (See "Script Review" below)
- Kirk's dialog at the (aborted) wedding at the start of the episode is reused by Captain Jean-Luc Picard in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Data's Day".
- Remus is mentioned but not seen on the star map shown during Spock's overview. A nearby planet or system is labelled Romii.
- This is the only episode where a ship's Phasers are set to operate on a 'proximity blast'. The photon torpedo, which would be used later in the series, had not yet been thought of by the writers when this episode was created.
- Balance of Terror article at Memory Alpha, a Star Trek wiki
- Comparisons of the new "remastered" visual effects
- Script Review
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