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Capn Quirk
Mon, Dec 5, 2016, 3:40pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S1: Balance of Terror

Jammer, I agree with most of your criticisms but categorically disagree with your conclusions. Sure, the sets and props reflect the limits of the art at that time – what of it? It was by far the best of its era (1966, remember? It came on between Gomer Pyle and McHale’s Navy…) and in fact a lot of gee-whiz-effects on their bridge would only have distracted from the story, which was not about technology, or even mainly about introducing the Romulans or the tragedy of war or racism (tho it juggled all those subplots quite adroitly in the time frame allowed).

I don’t think his thoughtfulness was under-utilized so much as it was easy to miss subtle points. I’ve been watching this ep periodically for 40 years and I’m still seeing details I missed before.

He wasn’t doubting his service’s usefulness, he was hinting at doubts about the uses to which it was being put by leaders more interested in their own glory than the well-being of their people.
The limited nature of the picture they had of each other was not an oversight, it was part of the point. (side points: limits on communication is counterproductive… and great minds will overcome barriers).
These two men never knew each others’ name, yet knew each other more intimately than a lover. “He’s a sorcerer, that one. He reads my thoughts”. I don’t think the potential for greatness was unrealized. I think it was quite realized – its just a bit too subtle for TV – a line Star Trek was famous for flirting with, from the first moment.

The stress on the battle (which was quite sparing on special effects shots, compared to modern fare– conveying the necessary points with great economy) was not only entertaining but necessary to make the point that, over and over in a game of military chess, these commanders were evenly matched … that one of them lost everything not because he was out-thought but because he was trapped in a dysfunctional system – one talented man prospered under a good system, another equally talented man was destroyed by a bad one.

This story (and its multiple complementary sub-stories so smoothly interwoven that its easy to miss just how much was comfortably fit into 45 minutes.. even ten second ones like between Rand and the Captain, or our favorite black woman officer taking the helm with authority in the midst of battle –aired in 1966! when there were still "colored" signs on bathrooms!) was so strong that, even with some production flaws, it was not only one of the best of TOS and all Star Trek, it was one of the best in the history of TV. It deserves all 4 stars, or at the very least 3.5 … and another look from you, Jammer.
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Capn Quirk
Mon, Dec 5, 2016, 3:06pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S1: Balance of Terror

RE “Strangely, as deeply as I respect Mark Lenard as an actor, I thought he was missing a bit of an edge …”

Strider (yeah I know its an early post, but I don’t see any other responses!), I categorically disagree. Claiming Lenard’s commander –who use more varied types of tactics than any other military commander depicted in Star Trek, jettisoned his friend and ultimately detonated his whole ship and crew- was not a decisive officer or lacked do-whats –necessary is just not justifyable. The one decision change we saw was despite his character, not because of it. That’s the whole point.

History is replete w/brilliant military commanders who doubted their political leaders’ motives but did their duty as they saw it (Rommel comes to mind) – a weakness not of a person but of a system of thought (the “leader principle” our Starfleet officers referred to in the ep).

Lenard’s commander was just the sort wily survivor that sometimes makes it to the top in a system fraught with intrigue. A 2-dimensional full-speed-ahead character – like his foolish lieutenant who blackmailed the commander into ordering the final attack that got them all killed in the end – would not have lasted anywhere near as long against Kirk, and the ep would have sucked – both because we ‘d miss a good battle and –more importantly- because we’d miss a good point:

A flawed system fails because it forces its most brilliant people to do dumb things against their better judgement –with tragic results and tremendous suffering. This ep makes that point eloquently –in Lenard’s hands, it borders on poetry- with a study in contrast between Kirk’s fate and the Romulan’s.

The irony of a commander sacrificing everything –even desecrating his oldest friend’s corpse- to turn defeat into a measure of victory (bringing his ship and crew home safely after destroying enemy bases, with a report of new military information) …only to be thwarted by an upstart big dumb thug whose only strength is that he has the ear of an even bigger thug back home- was handled with almost Shakespearian subtlety, grace, even poetry in Mark Lenard’s hands.

..and its a theme we’d better reacquaint ourselves with in the age of Putin and Trump. This story is just as timely now as it was in 1966.
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