Director: Vincent McEveety
Writer: Paul Schneider
Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Mark Lenard, Paul Comi, Lawrence Montaigne, Deforest Kelley, Grace Lee Whitney, George Takei, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, Stephen Mines, Barbara Baldavin, Garry Walberg, and John Warburton
Composer: Fred Steiner
Air Date: 12/15/1966
Production #: 6149-09
While officiating the wedding of Lieutenant Tomlinson (Stephen Mines) and Ensign Martine (Barbara Baldavin), Captain Kirk receives a distress call from Outpost 4—now under attack by a Romulan Bird-of-Prey. Hoping to prevent a full-scale war, Kirk pursues the enemy vessel through the Romulan Neutral Zone—with a tragic outcome.
Featuring epic starship battles, fascinating character moments, and subtle allusions to the Cold War, “Balance of Terror” earns its reputation as one of the greatest Star Trek episodes ever made. Also compelling is the narrative structure of this offering, which, though set in outer space, resembles that of a World War II submarine film.
The quintessential foil for Kirk, the Romulan Commander (Mark Lenard) deserves praise for his exceptional cunning. By anticipating Kirk’s every strategic move and responding with appropriate action, for example, the Romulan Commander manages to outmaneuver his opponent while using clever sneak attacks to cripple the Enterprise—all with the assistance of a brand new cloaking device and powerful plasma torpedoes.
“Balance of Terror” should likewise be commended for its individual character conflicts, especially between Spock—physiologically similar to the Romulans due to his Vulcan heritage—and Lieutenant Stiles (Paul Comi), who harbors an intense personal hatred of the Romulan race. Specifically, Stiles makes a number of bigoted remarks about Spock and his “connection” to the Romulans—likely written as a nod to the real-life prejudice, paranoia, and irrational fear that plagued America during the 1960s.
Depicting battle carnage in a raw and personal manner, “Balance of Terror” offers a haunting statement on the devastating impact of war—much in contrast to “Errand of Mercy,” which relies mainly on exposition and off-screen casualties to portray a Klingon-Federation conflict.
Combining war movie tropes with a science fiction theme, “Balance of Terror” should be requisite viewing for fans of Star Trek: The Original Series. Especially worth noting are the parallels between Kirk and the Romulan Commander, which provide tremendous insight into the thoughts, motivations, and inner struggles of two brilliant starship captains.
Overall Quality: 10/10
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