Traveling into uncharted space, the Enterprise encounters a mysterious alien probe. When the probe poses a threat, Kirk is forced to destroy it, much to the ire of the apparently superior alien race that created it. The alien commander, Balok, subsequently sentences the Enterprise to destruction for trespassing in their space.
Every element is in place to make "Corbomite" a big winner: The mysterious alien ship is intimidating through its immensity and its implacable commander; watching Kirk under such a high-pressure situation gives us the chance to learn a great deal about his poker-game tactics; and crewman Bailey (Anthony Hall) cracking under pressure is certainly a relevant story piece. Unfortunately, it all goes on just a little too long. Under Joseph Sargent's uneven direction, the initial suspense gives way to repetition until the whole crisis runs out of steam. The games with the tractor beam just can't sustain the energy level that the initial countdown to annihilation promised.
The ending, where it turns out Commander Balok (a 7-year-old Clint Howard) was testing the Enterprise crew, is still a neat twist—but it can't quite make up for the pedestrian execution in the latter passages of the plot.