Director: Joseph Sargent
Writer: Jerry Sohl
Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Anthony Call, Clint Howard, DeForest Kelley, Grace Lee Whitney, George Takei, James Doohan, and Nichelle Nichols
Composer: Fred Steiner
Air Date: 11/10/1966
Production #: 6149-03
While charting an unexplored region of space, the Enterprise is obstructed by a multi-colored cube of alien origin. Having no choice but to destroy the object, Captain Kirk invokes the wrath of Balok (Clint Howard)—commander of an extremely large and powerful ship known as the Fesarius. A secondary problem arises when Lieutenant Dave Bailey (Anthony Call), a newly promoted officer, suffers a nervous breakdown while manning his post.
A classic episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, “The Corbomite Maneuver” benefits from a compelling and suspenseful atmosphere. Specifically, the central conflict in Jerry Sohl’s narrative forces Kirk—an extremely resourceful, intelligent man—to address an existential problem while disciplining an unruly subordinate.
Anthony Call deserves praise for his portrayal of Bailey, whose behavior comes across as a realistic, understandable response to the pressures of navigating a starship. Especially worth noting are the warning signs (e.g. fear, agitation, and unresponsiveness) exhibited by Bailey in advance of his outburst, which evoke sympathy for him as he continues to struggle with basic operational procedures. (Star Trek fans will likewise enjoy the verbal exchanges between Bailey and Spock, who, despite lacking a traditional sense of humor, embarrasses the lieutenant with many clever and amusing one-liners.)
(Spoilers beyond this point)
In the final scene, Kirk beams aboard the Fesarius with Bailey and McCoy at his side. Expecting to encounter an alien monstrosity, the men discover that Balok is nothing more than a small, childlike entity who relies upon smoke and mirrors to ward off potential invaders. Though highly unexpected, the twist ending of “The Corbomite Maneuver” will likely prompt snickering from the majority of viewers.
Faced with annihilation, Kirk seeks advice from Spock—who employs a chess term (i.e. checkmate) to describe the situation with Balok. Kirk, on the other hand, believes that a good-old-fashioned poker bluff will deter the enemy commander from attacking the Enterprise. Moments later, Kirk threatens Balok with a fictional substance called “corbomite,” which, when activated, will supposedly eliminate both the Enterprise and the Fesarius. In response to the maneuver, Balok ceases hostilities for a short while, unable to proceed without risking harm to himself in the process—a veiled commentary on mutual assured destruction, the Cold War doctrine that prevented the U.S. and Soviet Union from obliterating each other with nuclear weapons.
For generating a thick layer of tension with which to absorb the audience, “The Corbomite Maneuver” should be commended. A bizarre and silly revelation concerning the nature of Balok may, however, result in puzzled reactions from those of a critical mindset.
Overall Quality: 9/10
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