Star Trek: The Original Series

"Balance of Terror"

**1/2

Air date: 12/13/1966
Written by Paul Schneider
Directed by Vincent McEveety

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

After a century of silence, the Romulans, a race with whom humans had a war long ago, appear to be on the move again—apparently testing their new cloaking technology—and the Enterprise may be the only ship to stop them from starting another conflict.

The episode is in the tradition of submarine thrillers like Run Silent, Run Deep (or The Hunt for Red October as a more current comparison), but like "The Corbomite Maneuver," it has a tendency to get too wound up in its tactical moments and special effects, which can be confusing and sometimes go on for too long. And, I'm sorry, the set design on the Romulan ship is just not convincing; unlike the Enterprise, it feels too much like a cheap set and little more. And what's with those corny helmets the Romulan officers wear? There are, of course, many strengths here; the episode takes some stabs at relevant issues, especially when the crew discovers the Romulans may be related to Vulcans and a bridge officer's bigoted aggression (aimed here at Spock) emerges.

The Cold War allegory was certainly timely, and the idea of each captains' respect for their counterpart makes for a nice theme, but I wish it had been taken a bit farther. Mark Lenard is good as a Romulan commander who begins to doubt his military's usefulness, but his thoughtfulness isn't utilized nearly as much as it could've been.

The episode's unevenness is its drawback, and it's too bad; there's the potential for greatness here that goes unrealized. Each little theme would've been more effective if given more focus. "Balance" needed more balance.

Previous episode: The Conscience of the King
Next episode: Shore Leave

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52 comments on this review

sci fi nerd
Wed, Apr 13, 2011, 7:15am (UTC -6)
i agree with you on most of your reviews, however, i MUST disagree with you on "balance of terror" i thought it developed it's themes well, and was perfectly "balanced"
Jayson
Sat, May 21, 2011, 5:31pm (UTC -6)
I've never been a huge fan of "City On The Edge Of Forever" and while it's not bad, I actually prefer "Balance Of Terror" because not only is a good old fashioned submarine story, it's also one of those could easily have been told in any of the recent Star Trek series with out losing a beat.

In fact DS9 had a similar episode "Starship Down" but to do to budgetary reasons, it didn't quite live up to the original idea. That being said, I think you should have given "Balance Of Terror" at least 3 stars.
Someguy
Sun, May 27, 2012, 12:01pm (UTC -6)
Love your website and your reviews are consistently solid and insightful. In this case, however, I have to disagree with your review! In this episode, we see Kirk at his tactical and command best, revealing why he is a legendary Star Fleet officer. The cat and mouse drama and tesion is superb, with or without a high budget set. The intro to the Romulans sets a foundation for their race that has endured across the Star Trek universe. This episode was, is, and remains CLASSIC Star Trek. Should be at LEAST 3 to 3.5 stars.
Strider
Fri, Jul 20, 2012, 9:47am (UTC -6)
Strangely, as deeply as I respect Mark Lenard as an actor, I thought he was missing a bit of an edge that I would have expected from a Romulan on such a war-provoking mission. He was so angsty. Not that Romulans don't think deeply about their missions, but they're also decisive officers and ruthless combatants. Lenard really displays more of that do-what's-necessary edge as Sarek.
Lorene
Wed, Sep 18, 2013, 9:10am (UTC -6)
"Someguy" says it best. I'd give this episode 4 stars.
SpyTV
Thu, Nov 28, 2013, 12:39am (UTC -6)
I'm a big fan of your reviews (I started reading with your early DS9 reviews). I disagree with this one. I started watching TOS in the 70's when it was in syndication. This is easily one of my top ten Star Trek (any series) of all time. I completely agree with the Hunt for Red October analogy. Easily 4 stars for me.
Adam
Tue, Feb 11, 2014, 6:21am (UTC -6)
Sorry, but this is just one review where you're WAY off base. Balance of Terror is essential Star Trek. Worthy of 4 stars, or at least 3.5
redshirt28
Thu, Apr 3, 2014, 9:52pm (UTC -6)
3.5 at least
Shannon
Mon, Aug 11, 2014, 4:44pm (UTC -6)
I completely disagree with your assessment of this episode. First off, who cares that the Romulan bridge was cheap looking? We all know they were on a shoe-string budget, and the helmets were obviously to save on the cost of having to put pointed ears on the entire Romulan bridge crew. Star Trek has always been about the story, and this was a damn good one. Yes, the mutual respect theme was great, but they did as much with it as they could have, especially when you have to fit a lot into a 45 minute episode... No question, this was a 4-star episode!
Yanks
Wed, Aug 27, 2014, 7:07pm (UTC -6)
Wow Jammer. I can't believe this earned such a low rating from you. Easy 4 star episode for me.
William
Mon, Sep 8, 2014, 11:20pm (UTC -6)
Jammer, I've got the join the chorus on this one. I usually concur with you, but not this time.

To me, this is classic and essential "Trek." It's one of the best episodes to me off any of the five series. It stands on its own, plus it gives us the Romulans. For that alone, it gets two of its four stars.
Snitch
Wed, Nov 19, 2014, 12:19am (UTC -6)
If you like this episode I would recommend "The Enemy below"

It illustrates the hide and seek game against submarines, and respecting the enemy and their skill.
Beth
Sat, Nov 29, 2014, 5:42am (UTC -6)
2.5 stars again? (After the last ep.) Jammer, you're a tough customer sometimes. ;)

I didn't even notice the cheap-looking Romulan bridge - I was more focused on the characters and what the Romulans were doing and thinking.

And yeah the helmets are funny looking, and obviously a cost-saving measure - but Romulan wardrobe has always been funny-looking, even when TNG got a much bigger budget than TOS ever had. Perhaps alien sensibilities cannot be expected to match ours? Perhaps to Romulans, those helmets and, later on, the (to us rather goofy-looking) giant grey quilted shirts with giant shoulder pads look the epitome strength and power. They are a warlike people, after all, plus they are also rigidly heirarchical, so it makes sense that they would value a show of strength and status in their dress. Klingons were never fashion plates either, although their Japanese-inspired uniforms look more badass to our human eyes. And Cardassian fashion is no fashion at all - purely utilitarian and, to us, very ugly. A reflection of their highly militarized, and by human standards, oppressively fascistic culture.

Also: Something in the traditional robes of Vulcan culture harkens back to a common culture with the Romulans. Such clothing is also kind of funny-looking to us, and seems to be very concerned (against the logic of modern Vulcan culture) with a display of status and power (esp. in the resplendent robes T'Pau is wearing, compared with the Vulcan guards around her in "Amok Time"). Romulan culture retained some of that, but their clothing perhaps isn't as strangely beautiful as Vulcan traditional clothing because in leaving Vulcan, as much as they did take the violence and obsession with duty and power, they had no room on their ships for beauty and softness and colourful fabrics, not when riding off to conquer a new home and a new empire for themselves.

Anyway, this episode rates as a 4/4 for me. This calibre of a cat-and-mouse space battle is partly what made "The Wrath of Khan" great some 16 years later, and it makes this episode shine too. The acting on all fronts is spot-on. (And I believe much of the "angst" of the Romulan commander is due to him losing his best and oldest friend so rapidly in battle. And even before that, it might reflect a weariness of not knowing whether he can fulfill his duty while also ferrying him and his crew back to home, alive. Maybe he knows, on some level, that his end is near, and his despair shows). I also thought the b-plot of the never-to-be-married Tomlinson and Martin to be tragic, but also helpful as a window to what operations are like in the lower decks. When Kirk yells "Fire!" on the bridge, what actually has to happen to fire that torpedo? It's evidently not like it is in TNG, when presumably the computer does the firing, and more like a submarine in action. (Which helps with the submarine battle theme).

Anyway, I could go on about this episode, but for me, it's one of the best of Trek, and a real gem of Season 1.
Beth
Sat, Nov 29, 2014, 5:46am (UTC -6)
P.S. It just boggled my mind a bit that there's less distance in time between first season TOS and The Wrath of Khan than there is between the final season of TNG and now. O_O
Timothy
Fri, Feb 6, 2015, 12:29pm (UTC -6)
This episode was almost directly lifted from The Enemy Below; watch the back to back and you can almost make a drinking game out of the similarities.

Concur with the chorus of people that say Jammer had underrated this episode. This is classic Trek and Kirk right here, in fact I'm pretty sure BoT makes the essential ten episodes list for TOS.
lizzzi
Thu, Mar 12, 2015, 10:11pm (UTC -6)
I just watched this episode again after many years, and was glued to the edge of my chair even though I knew what was going to happen. This is a top Trek episode, and deserves at least 3.5 stars…probably 4 stars. The cat-and-mouse game was gripping, and Kirk was at his best as the legendary starship captain in battle. Mark Lenard was warlike but gave a richly-layered performance. Just the fact that this episode introduced the Romulans made it important. Who cares if their helmets looked stupid and their bridge cheesy. The love story with the tragic ending gave some depth and meaning to what the casualties of battle really felt like for the crew. (No disposable red-shirt death of the week this time!) Classic, top-notch Trek. Jammer, I usually agree with your reviews pretty closely, but not this time.
Eli
Sun, Jun 7, 2015, 1:48am (UTC -6)
Very well done episode. Thrilling and captivating. Banter between captains was a highlight. Also Spock's alien ethnicity and the Vulcan connection to Romulans provided added thematic complexity.
Andrea
Sun, Jul 5, 2015, 8:16pm (UTC -6)
I have to agree with everyone else here. I just watched this episode for about the 10 time and still love it. It's epic Trek, along the lines of The Wrath of Khan and worthy of 4 stars. The sets are cheesy but who cares, the plot and acting are great. The is definitely among the top 5 of my favorite Trek episodes period.
Bill
Sat, Aug 1, 2015, 5:07pm (UTC -6)
Yep, 4 stars for me. I give it that for all the little things, too, like after the briefing the way Sulu tracks just behind Kirk, both faces grim set in determination--it lasts only a few seconds by I found it captivating both in its effortlessness and its portrayal of a war-time commander with his tactical officer on their way to battle. Or McCoy's counsel to Kirk in his quarters, even as he enters the room maintaining a smile in the midst of the possible horror about to unfold. I guess I was more focused on those aspects than on what hats the Romulans were wearing.
A fellow Kalandan
Tue, Oct 27, 2015, 3:48am (UTC -6)
I watch war movies and so I've seen Run Silent Run Deep and The Enemy Below. And I liked the homage paid to them in this episode.

Lots of action, drama and suspense. This is classic Star Trek and is what makes Wrath of Khan a favorite.

4 stars for this episode my friend
Chris Lindsay
Wed, Nov 18, 2015, 8:23pm (UTC -6)
I agree with your comment: "The Cold War allegory was certainly timely." The Romulans represent the Soviet Union in this episode; however, "Balance of Terror" has more parallels with The Enemy Below (1957) than Run Silent Run Deep (1958). I read somewhere that the script was loosely based on the Robert Mitchum film. I wrote a short essay on Balance of Terror called "The Doctrine of Proportional Response." If you would like to read it, here is the link.
BeesBill
Fri, Dec 4, 2015, 4:02am (UTC -6)
This was a great episode of Star Trek - I have just watched TNG, V, DS9 and Enterprise in that order and this is top 10 material across all ST versions. Taken in the timeframe it was made it ranks even higher, Kirks acting range and way his line 'There's no room for bigotry here' was delivered were compelling viewing. Sometimes less is indeed more - I suspect if that episode were made now we would have had endless drawn out special effects battle scenes - as the technology of the time forces the acting and script to the fore it forces them to be very good to carry an episode. And the final shot of Kirk walking haunt consoled the widow speaks volumes - I'm sure that Patrick Stewart took inspiration from it.
icarus32soar
Tue, Mar 29, 2016, 9:40am (UTC -6)
Who cares about how many stars? This ep is so outstanding it stands alone in a class of its own. Understated, naturally acted even by the hammy Mr Shatner, and Mark Lenard just lights up the screen...much better here than the sulky and stilted Sarek elsewhere. Who cares about the silly sets? That's not what eps like this one are about. The depth of characterisation and the dramatic tension are top notch. Better than some of the feature length movies. ST GLORIOUS ST.
Yanks
Tue, Mar 29, 2016, 10:14am (UTC -6)
BeesBill,

I'm with you. Top 10 Star Trek episode for me too.

Agree Luke, nothing really to nit-pick here. Outstanding trek!!
PackerBronco
Fri, Jun 10, 2016, 2:09pm (UTC -6)
Without a doubt, a 4 star episode. Watched it with my kids the other night and they were all set to leave when I said I was going to watch "classic Trek". 45 minutes later they were still there and commented that that was an amazing episode as it concluded. No one cared about cheesy Romulan sets, they were all captivated by the Romulan commander.

BOT is among the best Trek episodes ever of any of the series.
Skeptical
Sun, Jul 24, 2016, 9:46pm (UTC -6)
Everyone has an episode that they are in complete opposite opinion of the vast majority. Apparently, for Jammer, it's Balance of Terror. Seriously, this is one of the best TOS episodes there is, and certainly the best so far in the series.

Part of it is that this is the first time we see an alien species on par with The Enterprise. Sure, there were the all powerful Talosians and Bartok, also the all powerful, but this is the first real ship to ship battle. This is the first peer to peer battle, not humans justifying themselves against someone more powerful. So it expands the scope of the Trek universe, and does so admirably. We now know what the Enterprise is capable of against an equal crew, and we see how Kirk and company react. Sure, by the time we get to Voyager, this is just standard background stuff they throw in every episode, but for now it feels very fresh.

Part of it is, of course, the performance of Mark Lenard and the Romulan presence. They could have remained enigmas, they could have just been generic villains. But instead, we spent a fair amount of time with them, getting to see different personalities. Sure, they were fairly standard - the eager and blind patriot lieutenant, the aged yet wisened adviser, and the thoughtful, philosophical captain - but Lenard's performance was masterful. He helped to clarify the episode and give depth to the Romulan empire. Watching him doing his duty even when he knew it was wrong, swearing loyalty to leaders he didn't believe in, was immensely satisfying. Even though the morality of the Romulans may be different, you can tell that these are a thoughtful, intellectual people.

As an aside, I'm curious as to the reason why they are a Vulcan offshoot. Trek never did do too much with that relationship (except perhaps the Unification story), and it doesn't add too much to the Romulan people. It seems to exist only as a reason to get Stiles even more riled up against Spock. On the other hand, perhaps it's also there to immediately show that these people are a force to be reckoned with. By now, we know Spock is very intelligent and highly analytical, so presumably it's an immediate hint that the Romulans will be similar.

Meanwhile, I like that there is more going on than just the battle. We see how it affects everyone. We see Stiles still burning with anger. We see Martine struggling with the loss of her fiancee. We see Kirk having to work his hardest to come up with the proper strategies. And we see Spock having virtually no reaction to discovering the Romulans. It focuses the episode rightly on the characters (on both ships), rather than the technical details of the battle itself.

Not that the battle itself was bad, far from it! There was a ton of tension there, particularly when the Romulans fired their weapon on the Enterprise. I like that the two ships were evenly matched, but with different advantages for each. Made the battle more of a battle of wits than just a slug fest. Yes, it was blatantly taken from submarine battles, and that got a bit silly at times (especially the "everyone must be quiet" part), but I think the tension was still there. It's very reminiscent of Wrath of Khan's final battle as well. And really, the mental battle between Kirk and the Romulan matched up fairly well to that between Kirk and Khan, even if the characters have an actual history in the movie.

Enh, I don't have too much more to say. It's just a great episode, y'know?
Peter G.
Mon, Jul 25, 2016, 1:51am (UTC -6)
@ Skeptical,

I must agree about this episode; it's not just great, it's superb. The entire thing is riveting, and the tension is really there. The characters the pacing, everything, as well as meeting a new foe that seemed almost stronger than the Federation ships.

Not that much is done about the Vulcan offshoot thing, but it subtly tell us that these people are as super-intelligent and even strong as Vulcans, but that unlike Vulcans are also wild and prone to temper and deception. In other words, they're pre-Surak Vulcans who are pretty much out of control. I like that tone a lot, because it does put the spotlight on Spock regarding this, and actually even a threat contained within, since in principle if Spock and other Vulcans dropped the logic lifestyle they could have turned out just like the warlike Romulans.

Mark Lenard as well - brilliant. I give this one 4 stars outright, and it's in my top 20 list for all Trek series combined. Top 2 for TOS (along with The Enterprise Incident). I might have to think about that some more but I think it's those two.
Robert
Mon, Jul 25, 2016, 9:03am (UTC -6)
"Everyone has an episode that they are in complete opposite opinion of the vast majority. "

That would make a fun chat topic. Pick the most beloved episode that you hate and the most hated episode that you love.

I'd definitely pick "Genesis" for the second category. I don't know if I hate any beloved episodes, I'll have to think about it.
NCC-1701-Z
Mon, Jul 25, 2016, 12:16pm (UTC -6)
Challenge accepted.

Most beloved episode that I hate:
Hmmm...that's a surprisingly tough one. I'd probably have to go with TNG's "Conspiracy"; a surprising number of people seem to like it, but I don't.

Most hated episode that I love:
Definitely TNG's "Genesis" for me too. I enjoyed it despite the many scientific implausibilities.
Robert
Mon, Jul 25, 2016, 1:10pm (UTC -6)
I think Conspiracy gets graded on a curve. It was really decent for S1.
Peter G.
Mon, Jul 25, 2016, 2:38pm (UTC -6)
For Robert's challenge:

Beloved episode that I hate: Nothing satisfies this exact category but a beloved episode that I think is middling, at any rate, is "The City on the Edge of Forever." It's decent, a bit dated, and certainly has its oddities that don't quite work (such as Bones and Kirk ending up in the exact same building by coincidence). The message is classic sci-fi, but also not even as visionary as a lot of TOS episodes that take their premise in stride rather than announcing it through a proxy. One or two great scenes with Kirk and Spock but otherwise I think a lot of this was overtrumped on account of getting a name actress involved.

Most hated that I love: DS9's "Fascination." Call me crazy but I think it's a lot of fun and gave the actors a chance to goof off in a good way. A few classic moments from Sisko (when Bareil tries to hit him) and Odo (deadpan look when Lwaxana 'dances' with him), and otherwise has such a strange energy from Brook's direction that I can see how it would be off-putting for those who prefer the more standard DS9 tone. This is DS9's version of "The Naked Time/Now", I guess, but where it's about sex for everyone.
Robert
Tue, Jul 26, 2016, 9:36am (UTC -6)
I could do a beloved episode I find middling. I don' t think I hate any beloved episodes.

I find some of the fanatical love for Frame of Mind to be baffling. The direction/atmosphere/music/acting are all amazing, but I think the episode fails to be more than the sum of it's parts. It's a really well presented, but ultimately unsatisfying dish.
Yanks
Tue, Jul 26, 2016, 10:14am (UTC -6)
Robert:

"Everyone has an episode that they are in complete opposite opinion of the vast majority."

Worst: VOY: 'Threshold'. Universally hated, despised, spat upon.... I graded it a 2.5 on Jammer's scale. Only the ending was bad, that episode actually got an award! :-)

Best: I haven't reviewed everything yet, but DS9: 'Rapture' comes to mind. for Jammer this is a 4-star episode. for me, 1 star. (and I was nice)
Robert
Tue, Jul 26, 2016, 10:36am (UTC -6)
@Yanks - Bold choices! I still hate Threshold, but I'm sorry I do because RDM does amazing character work.
Chrome
Tue, Jul 26, 2016, 10:52am (UTC -6)
Let's not overhype Threshold's award here. It was for make-up, not storytelling. No one is complaining about the makeup. :)
William B
Tue, Jul 26, 2016, 11:29am (UTC -6)
Most hated episode I love: I've talked before about how I am very attached to parts of Descent, though I'm aware of its serious flaws. There are some other eps I feel could have been fixed with a few small rewrites.

Most loved episode I hate: uh. Yeah, I don't think I hate any beloved episodes, but some leave me somewhat cold. I'll have to think what the best example probably is. Homefront didn't do that much for me this rewatch (Paradise Lost flowed much better for me).
Chrome
Tue, Jul 26, 2016, 11:44am (UTC -6)
I actually like TNG's "Genesis" despite the science being awfully flawed. It's still a good hour-long horror show, and at least there's fun Sci-Fi "what-if" type concepts with various animal-human combinations floating around.

As for dislikes of loved episodes? DS9's finale is probably near the top of that list. Hugely disappointing on so many fronts. It's actually not a bad episode per se, it's just that it falls short of potential so many times that I wish they'd just scrapped it and rewrote the ending. Like, the war ends in a 20 second conversation the audience CAN'T hear. Sisko did not deserve to die, or is he in purgatory? Who knows? Oh, and finally, why was Bajor's Federation question never brought up?
William B
Tue, Jul 26, 2016, 12:17pm (UTC -6)
I wonder whether What You Leave Behind counts as a "most beloved" episode -- not to dispute you, Chrome, because certainly a lot of people love it. But it does seem to me to be pretty controversial, and, indeed, maybe even viewed more negatively in the current thread than positively. I can kind of see both takes on it -- while I was in the middle of DS9, I was pretty convinced I would dislike the finale from what I remembered, but it ended up working okay for me, though not great.
Chrome
Tue, Jul 26, 2016, 1:33pm (UTC -6)
@William B

Well, I was looking more at the Jammer scale (since people on this site tend to agree with Jammer) and he gave it a nice 3.5 stars.

If had to pick a runner up, I'd go with DS9's "The Children of Time" from recent memory. It's a cool sci-fi time concept, but I think the crew is way too easily convinced to side with the temporal civilization. A lot of commenters go on about the "6000 lives" figure which justify them staying, but all of those lives are there *by mistake* to begin with, and there's no way to calculate how many more thousands of lives were lost by the DS9 crew not returning. It's a safe bet that in fair conditions with access to the Federation that crew will naturally live on to create 10 to 100s of thousands of people through their families over a couple centuries.

So even using Spock "needs of the many" logic, the crew was doing the right thing by trying to get off the planet.
Robert
Tue, Jul 26, 2016, 2:06pm (UTC -6)
Enough of the fan base considers DS9's finale to be as good as All Good Things as far as I can tell. For me, even though I'm a Niner, I'll admit to liking AGT more, but WYLB is really perfect to me.

I love Vic's song, I love Odo/Kira's ending, I love Jake staring out the wormhole, I love Bashir/O'Brien, I love Garak/Bashir, I love Damar's end...

I really get why some people don't like the end to the war. It's a bit rushed, but ok for me. In the end the conversation basically amounted to "Your people will go extinct if you don't end this." And I could see almost anyone agreeing to that.

Dukat is the weak point for me, and I usually am a fan of the Prophets and such. I even loved Kai Winn's arc. Although it's not AGT fault, I think DS9 ends better than any other Trek except TOS. TNG ends with Nemesis, ENT with the Pegasus retcon, VOY with Endgame and TOS with "second star on the right and all til morning". 2nd place isn't so bad.
Peter G.
Tue, Jul 26, 2016, 3:03pm (UTC -6)
You can count me in amongst those who find WYLB to be "perfect" as Robert said. In that light, I'm happy for it to be categorized as "beloved" :)

(I think it and "All Good Things..." are equal to each other in quality)
William B
Tue, Jul 26, 2016, 4:15pm (UTC -6)
Well certainly WYLB is *beloved*. This is undeniable. "Most beloved" has a certain something else. I think it lacks the near-universality acclaim among fans that, say, AGT has. OTOH, if we consider "most beloved" by how intensely it is loved and by how many, WYLB would certainly qualify, even if (using this site as guide) it has a higher proportion of detractors than AGT or Balance of Terror or something like In the Pale Moonlight (which of course has detractors too, just at a lower rate).
Skeptical
Tue, Jul 26, 2016, 9:32pm (UTC -6)
Heh, actually Peter, while I agree 100% on the fact that the Romulans being a Vulcan offshoot means they're highly intelligent, the fact that they AREN'T prone to emotional outbursts is one of the things I was thinking about when I mentioned that Trek never did much with this relationship. I'd consider the Klingons (even pre-Viking TOS Klingons) more of an emotional race than the Romulans. They seem to be fairly measured in their actions in practically every engagement we've seen.

This, to me, seems to suggest that the Vulcan claim that only pure suppression of emotion can control their emotions is wrong. The Romulans can clearly do it without resorting to pure logic. So how do they do it? I think there might be some external suppression from the government that acts as a substitute for the Vulcan's internal suppression. By keeping society rigid, the Romulans impose a sense of order on the people and tell them where their place is. The lack of freedom combined with a strong patriotic fervor towards that system leaves the Romulans with less of an outlet for their emotions. As such, they remain placated. Even the upper class can keep emotions in control by being loyal to the state, so even though they may have more freedoms than the lower classes they also end up with more of a reason to maintain the desired order. An unwillingness of anyone to upset the Romulan State is enough to keep everyone in line. This even seems to be the case with Mark Lenard here. He clearly hates his mission and could fly off the handle because of it, but his sworn sense of duty prevents it.

Of course, this is only a hypothesis on my part, as it is never mentioned in the various series. That's one thing I would have liked to have seen explored.

As for the other topic:

While I have issues with Tapestry and Chain of Command, two beloved classics, I still like both of them. So instead, I think the one I disagree with the most is DS9's The Visitor. Maybe it was a deep and emotional story, but the framing narrative (It was a dark and stormy night. Inside was the wizened old brilliant author who only published one story, because that's totally how authors work. He is visited by a young, attractive, wide eyed novice writer on accident who just so happens to be his biggest fan! And on the night when the wizened old author is planning to meet his destiny, no less) made my eyes roll so fast I simply couldn't concentrate on the rest. The fact that I was never a big fan of Jake probably didn't help either.

On the flip side, I will go with TNG's Emergence. Sure, it's dumb, but I was just happy to spend some time with the crew working out a very silly problem. Also, while I do think Threshold is downright awful, I don't think it is its own special category of atrociousness that a lot of fans seem to put it in. Not that that's saying much...
Peter G.
Tue, Jul 26, 2016, 10:03pm (UTC -6)
@ Skeptical,

I've thought about the Romulan/Vulcan thing from time to time, and I like your theory. I wonder, though, whether people wouldn't boil over frequently if they really were that emotional, fear or no fear. Creating a contained, boiling cauldron seems like a recipe for chaos. But on the other hand, the Romulan commanders we see do appear to be extremely measured, beginning with Mark Lenard and the commander in "The Enterprise Incident", who are both passionate but in control, and ending in DS9 where the Romulans are downright stonefaces who reveal almost no emotion at all other than disdain. So I'm not that inclined to believe either one of two things: 1) That the Vulcans are telling the whole truth about how emotional they are without logic, or 2) That the Romulans are at present identical to the Vulcans. I prefer (2), and my suggested explanation for this is that while the Romulans left to avoid being forced to adopts the teachings of Surak, they still experienced the old emotional problems upon reaching Romulus. Since they have no problems with violence, I would expect they massacred every Romulan who was overly emotional, in a long term eugenics plan to weed out the most emotional of them and breed calmer people. The Romulans we know may be passionate, but barely more so than Humans, and hardly the maniacs we see during the Pon Farr.

Regarding your other point about "The Visitor":

"Inside was the wizened old brilliant author who only published one story, because that's totally how authors work."

Jake in the episode is a deliberate reference to J.D. Salinger, who shares exactly the features you just described; was famous for exactly one book, which was a classic, went into seclusion for unspecified reasons, and wouldn't allow interviews once he did. This episode is a kind of "what if" nifty sci-fi explanation for why such an acclaimed author would quit writing. To study subspace physics and save his father, of course :)

Chrome
Wed, Jul 27, 2016, 11:05am (UTC -6)
@William B

You're right, WYLB is definitely not as beloved by fans as "Duet", "Improbable Cause" or even "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges". But it's really hard for me to complain about classics like those. I feel like I'm nitpicking shows that don't deserve it when there are *really* bad ones out there that do.
Paul M.
Fri, Jul 29, 2016, 12:07pm (UTC -6)
Ooooh, best/worst debates! I'm always up for those!

Worst episode I love (or at least enjoy): Genesis of course! It's so corny, silly, stupid, and outrageous that it's actually phenomenally fun. For the same reason I have a soft spot for a lot of TNG Season 1 episodes. They are generally so goofy that I can't help but be entertained.

Most beloved episode that I hate (or am cold towards): First Contact (TNG episode). I dunno, its clinical and dry hand-wringing morality always leaves me blase and eager to move on. I Borg is another. Very didactic and ponderous. I can't stand all those childlike kindergarten lessons with Hugh.
RJ
Mon, Oct 17, 2016, 2:12pm (UTC -6)
When I see 2/5 stars for this episode, most of my respect for Jammer's opinion vanished.
Jammer
Tue, Oct 18, 2016, 1:22pm (UTC -6)
That's a little harsh, no? Even a good umpire occasionally makes a bad call.
Robert
Tue, Oct 18, 2016, 3:09pm (UTC -6)
@Jammer - Agreed! Are you admitting it's a bad call though? I'm curious... considering we were playing our little game above.

I really like the episode, but if it was only alright for you, I can respect that. I mean... it's not like you gave it a 1.
Peter G.
Tue, Oct 18, 2016, 3:29pm (UTC -6)
In Jammer's defence, while I don't agree at all with the rating, at the same time I think it might be incorrect to construe the rating as an absolute standard on the 'objective' quality of the episode. If there was such a standard, and if Jammer's rating meant that, then perhaps a case could be made that he got it 'wrong.' However I take review ratings to be a combination of personal enjoyment and satisfaction from the episode, as well as some objective criteria as well (design, production values, editing, internal logic, etc.).

For example, I noticed that Jammer's reviews tend to take the series' strengths and weaknesses into account, which already suggests to me they are not meant to be absolutely objective. There are episodes of Voyager which have the same rating as TNG episodes that are simply far more enjoyable. But when reviewing Voyager it seems that the standard shifted in the direction of "are they trying something new? are they taking a step in the right direction? Is this something that helps the characterizations more than we usually get?" In such cases the rating seems to reflect Jammer's satisfaction that the writers were making strides that he appreciated. Objectively, the episode may still be inferior to a TNG episode of the 'same calibre', but again, the rating isn't an objective scale.

I'm not at all disturbed that Jammer sometimes likes or dislikes episodes that I don't. Although to be fair in this case I disagree strongly, but hey man, to each their own.
Jammer
Tue, Oct 18, 2016, 3:48pm (UTC -6)
@Peter G: I would say that there really is no such thing as an "objective" review. My reviews are all probably subjective. I try to be "fair" to the degree that I can, but it's all ultimately a sum of my overall feelings.

@Robert: I haven't seen this episode in many years, but I can't shake the feeling that I might have gotten this one wrong and that I might have a different reaction today. I am certainly willing to go against the general consensus, but I don't know that this would still be one of them.
Robert
Wed, Oct 19, 2016, 8:04am (UTC -6)
@Peter G. - I believe part of the reason that the reviews of the different shows seem to be a bit different, and sometimes be very subjective in the context of where they lie in the season/series is because DS9/VOY/ENT were done "live" while the show was running and TOS/TNG wasn't.

It's really a totally different measure how something affects you on the first run. I can tell you that I'd personally rate both "The Nagus" and "Broken Link" lower now than on the first run. "The Nagus" because Rom's characterization feels so WRONG to someone who's seen the whole show and "Broken Link" because the Odo is human and Gowron is a changeling both felt like such huge OMGWTF!!!! reveals and then neither of them really stuck. Gowron wasn't a changeling, Odo isn't as human as he seemed and the next episode was really good (a personal favorite for me even now) but it didn't seem to pay off "Broken Link" in the way that I was hoping for. I'd still probably give it a 3, but at the time I might have felt like 3.5 or 4. Likewise episodes that I might have rated abysmally like the yawn-fest that is "Storyteller" is worth a drop more now because of the glimmer of the start of the O'Brien/Bashir friendship.

And as to Balance of Terror... well I agree with Jammer. You can't have totally objective reviews because those would be wrong. I actually think Balance of Terror is not, objectively, as good as people think it is. The individual parts amount to a 3, whereas people rate it 3.5 or 4 regularly. I don't think the individual parts add up to that mathematically. Instead the factor of subjectivity allows acknowledging when an episode somehow adds up to more or less than the sum of it's parts. And I think this episode is one of those. I'd probably boost it from a 3 to a 3.5 for that "je ne sais quoi". As an example of the opposite I've always felt that "Where No One Has Gone Before" had some nice moments but was ultimately less than the sum of it's parts (I'd probably knock it from a 2.5 to a 2).

I think that if you don't allow for subjectivity in your reviews one would do a disservice to those episodes that have an extra special charm or whatnot, that'd you'd miss if you tried to be totally objective. Obviously subjectivity should be within a range (I'd say a range of about a star). I mean... if Jammers gives something a 1 I think it's fair to interpret that to the fact that he thinks it objectively sucks. Whereas a 2.5 could certainly be objectively decent but not the reviewers cup of tea. Earl Grey. Hot.

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