Star Trek S1E14 – Balance of Terror

Did you know the Romulans appeared in The Original Series before the Klingons did? Well, this is the first episode starring the Romulans, and quite possibly one of the most important episodes in all of Star Trek. This is one of the classics.

Season 1, Episode 14: Balance of Terror

Original Air Date: December 15, 1966

Stardate 1709.2

Planet: None

Featured Alien: Romulans

Main Cast: Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scott, Rand, Uhura, Sulu

Main Guest Characters: Romulan Commander (Mark Lenard), Lt. Robert Tomlinson (Stephen Mines), Lt. Angela Martine (Barbara Baldavin), Lt. Stiles (Paul Comi), Centurion (John Warburton), Decius (Lawrence Montaigne)

Things I Noticed

When Lt. Martine and Lt. Tomlinson were getting married, Rand appeared. While the previous episode was her last filmed episode, this one was filmed before that.

This is the first time the Romulans appear in Star Trek. It’s also the first time we see one of the major enemies of the Federation.

The display of the Neutral Zone and Romulus looked pretty cheap.

When Kirk addressed the ship about approaching the Neutral Zone, everyone looked up, as if looking at the speakers.

Spock spoke of the Romulan War, and it was interesting to note that he mentioned that they used “primitive atomic weapons” and there was no ship to ship visual communication. Of course, since Enterprise has been aired, we know they used phaser and photon torpedoes at that time and the visual communication wasn’t a technical limitation on Starfleet’s part.

Lt. Stiles seems far too free to voice his opinions. The way he acts is insubordination.

Commander Hansen of Outpost 4 said they’re a mile deep inside an iron asteroid. Not metric!

First time we see a Romulan ship cloaking.

First look at the Romulans. As we know, they look like Vulcans, and are in fact descendents of Vulcans.

The recording of the code that Spock tries to decode sounds almost like it has a pinball machine’s bells.

We learn castrodinium is the hardest substance known. I don’t think it’s ever mentioned again.

They’re approaching a comet, which has a tail, but how? They aren’t in a star system. They’re in interstellar space.

When they were firing phasers, the phaser control room had to manually fire them. This is so much like 20th century warships. But the control for phasers should be on the bridge, no need for people to operate them from another room. Also, it seems more like photon torpedoes being fired, not phasers. Oops. The Enterprise even shook a bit when the phasers fired. And they exploded by the Romulan Bird of Prey. Not phasers!

The phaser circuits are under Spock’s science station. I thought they could operate the phasers from the phaser control room. Either poorly designed, or the writers weren’t thinking how illogical this was.

The Romulan weapon can travel faster than the speed of light. So why is the Enterprise fleeing in the exact path of the weapon? Why not move perpendicular to the weapon’s path?

Rand embraced Kirk when the Romulan weapon was about to hit the Enterprise. Seems kind of inappropriate.

I never understood why the Romulans didn’t have warp capabilities. They wouldn’t be able to leave their own system.

Why can Rand just enter Kirk’s quarters without asking for his permission?

McCoy said there’s a possibility of 3 million Earth-type planets in the galaxy. I think he underestimated.

Surprising that of all people to make such a simple mistake, it would be Spock. You’d think he’d know where all the buttons were on his console.

Not sure why a nuclear warhead would cause so much damage on the Enterprise, especially with its shields. In The Next Generation, a nuclear weapon wouldn’t even bother a Federation starship.

Lt. Stiles blatant bigotry against Spock should have resulted in a reprimand.

When McCoy told Kirk that Tomlinson died, he called him “boy.”

My Impressions

Despite the long list of nitpicks (and some more general observations), this was an incredibly solid episode. We were treated to what makes Kirk such a capable Captain. Lots of battle tactics, bluffing, and trying to anticipate the other’s next move. The tension was three, and it was very well done.

The acting was quite good. This was Mark Lenard’s first appearance in a Star Trek episode, though he’s better-known as Spock’s father, Sarek. Outstanding acting by Lenard, though I think he’s better-suited as a Vulcan. William Shatner had one of his strongest performances in this episode, and I was equally impressed by Leonard Nimoy. Watching this episode was a treat.

For such an important episode, introducing the Romulans to us, we have a very compelling story and great tension. I’d rank this as one of my favourite episodes from The Original Series. I wish the Romulans would’ve appeared more often in this series.

Verdict

★★★★★

Your Voice

What did you think of this episode? Do you think it’s one of the best episodes of The Original Series? Let me know in the comments section below.

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6 thoughts on “Star Trek S1E14 – Balance of Terror”

  1. This was basically the WW2 destroyer-vs-U-boat stalking plot as I recall (it’s a while since I’ve seen it). Not a bad episode. I prefer TOS to all the other Treks, actually.

  2. This is one of my favorites. I particularly liked the relationship between the Romulan commander and the centurion.

  3. Yes — one of my favorites too. I remember deliberately using it with my children to ease them into the idea that you could win a victory and still have losses.

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