We continue Leonard Nimoy Week with my favorite episode so far of “Star Trek: The Original Series.” The episode is “Balance of Terror” and is the episode that got me into the “Original Series” in the first place, as the first time I’d seen it I hadn’t been impressed. In this we learn about the Vulcans, Romulans and Humanity’s past and present…and Nimoy’s performance as Spock is a major part of it.
“Balance of Terror,” was directed by Vincent McEveety and written by Paul Schneider.
The story begins with outposts going silent along the Romulan Neutral Zone, where Humanity and Romulans had once fought a war with Nuclear Weapons and have never seen one another as they communicated the treaty. As one of the last ouposts is attacked the Enterprise Crew glimpse the Romulans and one of them suspects Spock as the enemy. From here the crew must stop the Romulan Warbird before it returns to Romulus as it’s victories could re-ignite the war.
The Pros: The Romulans – The Romulans are awesome and this was the episode that made them a favorite to me. They are honor bound, clever, hierarchical and driven to be the best in all things. They are also extremely passionate showing that they left Vulcan because they rejected the Philosophy of Vulcans and went their own way. They are independent and powerful. They are my favorite Empire and Species in “Star Trek,” and it’s a shame they have yet to have a good movie where they are the great antagonists they deserve, like they were this episode.
The Cinematography – The cinematography is really great in this episode, especially in regards to the ship combat where we are shown what each ship is seeing and from it how they are balanced. Both have strengths and weaknesses and those play a part in how the Commanders strategize against one another.
The Newlyweds – There is a couple getting married at the beginning of the episode, and the husband dies in the battle against the Romulans. You feel it too as they have chemistry with one another and we are given time to know them over the course of the episode. He was a good red shirt…and his death establishes just how deady the Romulans are.
The Battle – This is related to the cinematography but both ships are limited in the same way the ships were in “Wrath of Khan.” The Romulans only have impulse power but can cloak, they have one powerful shot but it doesn’t have the extended range federation lazers do, and the Enterprise has speed that the Warbird lacks. This makes for a great battle especially since it has costs in the end with Centurion dying first and later the crew of the Romulan Warbird and of course the husband of the newlyweds on the Enterprise.
Lieutenant Stiles – This guy is the hothead who hates Spock for looking like the enemy as his family was killed in the Earth-Romulan War and he sees this as his chance for revenge. In the end he changes though when Spock saves his life making him realize how small minded he had been.
Centurion – Centurion is the Romulan Commander’s mentor and similar in role to how Bones is Kirk. They are old friends and it seems like their families know each other. They discuss what was done and the risk of war as well as the benefits and fallbacks of what was accomplished.
Spock – Leonard Nimoy is great in this role as he takes on Stiles bigotry by educating Stiles that he is right to fear as the Vulcans were once warlike and similar to humans. He also saves Stiles life and justifies it as the logical thing to do showing that even when he was heroic he was humble and reserved to Stiles who was always arrogant and angry. He is Stiles’s teacher this episode and also helps Kirk in the battle against the Romulan, and sadly due to one of Spock’s mistakes nearly costs them the ship too. We see in this just how imperfect he is, though he is a great person and officer. I chose this episode for Leonard Nimoy Week for a reason.
Captain Kirk – This episode has some of William Shatner’s best acting range. We see the sympathetic happy man who is about to be the overseer of a wedding, we see the good when he stands up to Stiles’s prejudice with, “Leave any bigotry in your quarters; there’s no room for it on the bridge.” we see the conflicted soldier facing off against an equal adversary, we see his goodness when he offers to save the Romulan survivors before the ship is destroyed and when he mourns the loss of life. This is really a fantastic Kirk episode.
The Romulan Commander – This guy deserves his own section and is on par with Kirk as the focus of this episode and rightfully so. In this man we see a man who is driven by duty to commit wrongs (destroying the outposts) when he wants nothing more than to return home. Everything he does is so they won’t be defeated but that they will arrive back to Romulus safely. Sadly it is duty that does him in though he realized how similar Kirk and he were and mourns the friendship that could have existed in another world and time. “I regret that we meet in this way. You and I are of a kind. In a different reality, I could have called you friend,” So glad that Mark Lenard played Sarek later in the series and in “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” The guy is an amazing actor and was a huge part of why this episode was unforgettable.
The Message – There are a few messages this episode. One is the wrongness of prejudice (the Stiles and Spock arc) and the other is that even enemies may find just how similar they are and that war happens when that is forgotten and they only exist as the enemy. It is powerful and we see in the Romulan Commander and Kirk a friendship that might have been as both as seasoned commanders who rule by more than duty and see the bigger picture of all that is at stake in how they act in the Galaxy.
This is my favorite episode of “Star Trek: The Original Series,” and to any person into sci. fi., is the episode I usually recommend. Leonard Nimoy is fantastic at Spock and we come to know the Romulans through him when he reveals the Vulcan’s Colonial past and the wrongness of prejudice in how Stiles treats him. We also see the price of conflict and war with the death of the husband on the Enterprise and the death of the Romulan crew of the Warbird. This is “Star Trek” at it’s best and is a must see for anyone who is a Trekkie and loves the show.
Final Score: 10 / 10.