Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Original Series

"The Enterprise Incident"

****

Air date: 9/27/1968
Written by D.C. Fontana
Directed by John Meredyth Lucas

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

An undercover mission to steal a Romulan cloaking device takes the Enterprise into the Romulan neutral zone, upon which Kirk and Spock beam over to a Romulan ship under the guise of Kirk being insane and commanding the Enterprise into the neutral zone on his own personal accord. Subsequently, Kirk is imprisoned while Spock catches the interest of the Romulan commander (Joanne Linville).

Given the broadcast sequence, one wonders how this episode can even be the same series that supplied "Spock's Brain," but never mind. "The Enterprise Incident" is an exceptionally skillfully executed spy mission that manages to keep the audience guessing every bit as much as the enemy. Featuring a tight, compelling plot with adept twists and turns and logical action, the story also pushes Spock's character into new territory.

Spock's manipulative liaison with the Romulan commander benefits from an intriguing eroticism that exists outside the human expectations and instead shows a Vulcan form of subdued, cautious, and very mind-oriented sexuality. The fact that Spock got more than he bargained for brings forth a touch of fascinating sentiment where the emotion behind the encounter is evident but never spelled out in performance. All in all, one of the series' best outings.

Previous episode: Spock's Brain
Next episode: The Paradise Syndrome

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13 comments on this review

JAcob Teetertotter - Fri, Dec 17, 2010 - 2:05am (USA Central)
I love the many layers on ENTERPRISE INCIDENT! Like Mr. Jim Kirks eyes shifting wen he says to the Romulan guard there an itruder abouart we must protect the cloaking device/ showing that he has NO idea what it looks like!

all the Spock Romulan Commader stuff is great, the Kirk acting crazy act. EVerything about the is SUPEr fun!

I like the cloaking SEvice it looks like a foam ball from FRANKS crafts! LOL Laughin on Line YO!
NCC-1701-Z - Sun, Apr 1, 2012 - 4:37pm (USA Central)
Wow...I just rewatched this episode, and it just blew me away. So many potential layers, and such good utilization of all the characters, especially Spock. And may I say, the Romulan commander just made the episode. If her acting had failed, it would have taken down the entire episode with it. But it was top-notch, and the guy playing the Romulan subcommander Tal was pitch-perfect too. The evolution of the Spock-Romulan commander reationship was very well played, very subtle.

And of course, who could forget the classic moment when Kirk disguises himself as a Romulan? Truly classic.

And of course, the show is written in such a way that we can sympathize with the Romulans as well. I mean, you could view either the Romulans or the Enterprise as the bad guys, and both views hold merit. Of course, we instinctively root for the Enterprise crew, but we can see the Romulans' point of view too. Very interesting, very intelligent, and very well done.

I also love the use of colored lights on the Romulan ship. Very cheap, but still convincing-looking and alien. They did so much on a shoe-string budget, while many sci-fi shows nowdays have elaborate CGI effects that only succeed in looking cheap.

All in all, very well done. 4 stars, easy.
Paul - Mon, Apr 16, 2012 - 10:44am (USA Central)
I watched this one again over the weekend. Not only is it a great episde, it's one of the episodes that is foundational for the series. The dialog between the Romulan commander and Kirk really puts a lot of pieces in place for subsequent episodes (of all the series).

D.C. Fontana wrote about a half-dozen episodes, but four were incredibly key in setting up the foundation for Star Trek for decades to come.

"Tomorrow is Yesterday" -- Key in establishing the size of Starfleet (the turbolift scene with Kirk and Christopher) and some other details.

"Friday's Child" -- Not a great episode. But it brought the Klingons back for the first time since "Errand of Mercy" and arguably cemented them along with the Romulans as the standard TOS villains.

"Journey to Babel" -- No other episode of TOS really goes into who is already part of the Federation (other than humans and Vulcans). By simply introducing Andorians and Tellarites, this episode set much of "Enterprise" into motion.

"The Enterprise Incident" -- the dialog between Kirk and the Romulan commander and the commander and Spock is key in understanding the known galaxy at the time.
Ben - Tue, Apr 9, 2013 - 7:06am (USA Central)
I love the scene between Spock, Kirk and the Romulan commander. Shatner simply machineguns his angry lines out in that scene:

"Let her rant, there's nothing to say"
"Shut up Spock!"
"You filthy liar!"

One of my favourite scenes.
SpyTV - Thu, Nov 28, 2013 - 1:00am (USA Central)
I completely agree. Not only is this a 4 star TOS episode, I think it is easily one of the best of any of the Star Trek series episodes.
Jamie Stearns - Sun, Mar 23, 2014 - 10:22pm (USA Central)
Ben: Kirk was really just mad that Spock got the girl this time instead of him.

On a more serious note, this episode started the tradition of the Romulans having strong and influential female characters. Interestingly, Joanne Linville's character from this episode was originally going to reappear in "Face of the Enemy" until it turned out the actress was unavailable and Carolyn Seymour's Commander Toreth was used instead.
mephyve - Sat, Mar 29, 2014 - 8:54pm (USA Central)
Wow! Nice stuff! Given the small budget and limited tech of the time, the story had to sell the show. This one did it in spades.
Given Scotty's future revelations to Geordi, I wonder how much grandstanding he was doing in regards to making the cloaking device work on the Enterprise.
dgalvan - Fri, May 16, 2014 - 4:31pm (USA Central)
Great episode.

One point of confusion: Why did one of the roman ships look like a klingon ship in this episode? There is that brief line at the beginning where spock says "The Romulans are now using Klingon ship designs." And that's it.

I am guessing this has got to be production-driven. Maybe they didn't have enough model-footage of the romulan ship, but they did have special effects footage of klingon ships, and they were pressed for budget/time so they just used the existing footage of a klingon ship from a previous episode?

Funny because in the remastered version available on Netflix streaming the special effects are pretty good and they show two Romulan birds of prey and the Klingon battle cruiser in these scenes.
Paul - Mon, May 19, 2014 - 10:45am (USA Central)
@dgalvan: What's interesting about the Klingon/Romulan ship thing is that the model in question first appeared in this episode, as far as original broadcast order.

"The Enterprise Incident" was the second episode of the third season to be broadcast, but it was the fourth episode to be produced. The Klingon ship first appeared in "Elaan of Troyius", which was the second episode produced in the third season but didn't air until later.

Klingon ships in the first two seasons were just points of light, really or "Just out of visual range." The remastered versions have inserted the D7 cruiser into a bunch of episodes, notably "Errand of Mercy."

The Romulan Bird of Prey had appeared in several episodes starting in the first season. But a key part of this episode's plot was that the Romulan ship pursued the Enterprise at warp. The Bird of Prey was not warp-capable.

So, either the creators decided to use the D7 model for the Romulans because they thought it was cooler looking (it is) or because they needed the Romulans to pursue the Enterprise at warp.

BTW, the Klingons and the Romulans apparently forged an alliance around this time, though this is the only TOS episode where it's hinted at. I believe there's a TAS episode where it's mentioned, and it was mentioned in the Star Trek Encyclopedia (at least, in the first edition).

I've always found that interesting considering how much the Klingon/Romulan hatred is played up in TNG and DS9.
Dom - Sat, Jun 14, 2014 - 1:21am (USA Central)
"logical action"

Just rewatched this episode. It has some fun moments, but logic has nothing to do with it. This episode is riddled with plot holes. Given that Vulcans look just like Romulans - and can apparently seduce Romulans with alarming ease - any Federation spy service in its right mind would just smuggle a few Vulcans into the Empire to spy and steal a cloaking device.

At least when TNG pulled this sort of gag of sending key Enterprise crew on a spy mission, the show bothered to come up with an excuse. In Chain of Command, Picard has a specific skill set that's needed for the mission. Contrived, yes, but I at least appreciate the attempt.
Jeff - Mon, Aug 11, 2014 - 12:04pm (USA Central)
Just watched this episode again this morning. After doing so I'm wondering if this is the catalyst for Spock wanting to explore the possibility of Vulcan/Romulan reunification. As he talks with the Romulan Commander he shows a lot of interest in Romulan belief and culture. Part of me thinks that the seed for reunification was planted here. He just had to wait until he was an ambassador before he could start doing anything about it.
William B - Thu, Aug 28, 2014 - 9:31am (USA Central)
This is a lot of fun. It seems to follow the James Bond spy template -- but it splits the Bond role into Kirk and Spock, where Kirk does the action hero material and Spock, for once, is the one to seduce and "use" the attractive enemy woman. It also shows the advantages of working in genre -- because Kirk's transformation, being surgically altered to look Romulan, may in fact be based on Bond having makeup to make him "look Asian" in "You Only Live Twice," which, for obvious reasons, has aged very poorly.

In all seriousness though, this episode seems like there's an inversion built into the script from an early stage. I can't help but thinking that if this were a more conventional TOS episode, Kirk and Spock's roles would have been switched. Spock doesn't have to be surgically altered to pass as Romulan, and so he's the more logical choice from a plot perspective to pretend to be a Romulan. And Kirk had several episodes in season two of seducing women to get what he wants; this would rather obviously be in Kirk's wheelhouse. To be clear, I'm talking not about the plan of the Enterprise crew, but the plan of the writers making the episode. Whether this was considered or not, the inversion -- with Spock getting the girl and Kirk doing the plot gruntwork -- I think enhances the overall feeling that something is unusual and off in this episode, underlining the plans-within-plans aspect of the show. It also means that Spock has the emotional core of the episode, as well as the "romantic lead" aspect usually given to Kirk, which contributes to the feeling that Kirk and Spock's roles (as captain and first officer) have switched, which runs parallel to the Commander's offer to Spock of his own command.

I was trying, while watching this time, to figure out whether it was possible that first-time viewers would believe that Kirk had actually gone insane from being out in space too long, and whether Spock would actually be tempted by his own command and by a relationship with an attractive Romulan Commander. Ultimately I don't think so, and I don't think that's necessarily the episode's intention. I think the audience is meant to intuit that there is some missing information that will explain Kirk and Spock's behaviour, and that all will be revealed at the end. Still, the ruse works by playing up aspects of the characters already present. Kirk's longing for adventure and his edge-of-the-seat intuitive style of leadership is twisted into pure reckless glory-hunting. Spock's rejection of his human half in favour of his Vulcan half and smug sense of his own intellectual, physical and spiritual superiority is twisted into a longing to be rid of humans altogether. And more to the point, the episode also functions by revealing that while Kirk and Spock were indeed playing roles, there was some truth in this. In the Kirk plot, Kirk's motivation was not individual glory-hunting, and he was operating on Starfleet orders; but the morality of stealing the Romulan tech through espionage is actually a little questionable -- insane personal glory hunting is replaced by a minor form of institutional adventurism. And Spock develops real feelings for the Romulan commander, which he admits at the end. The early themes of betrayal -- Kirk betraying everyone for his own ego, Spock betraying Kirk and the rest at the sign of the possibility of advancement with people in some senses more like him -- comes to be twisted at the very end, where the big betrayal of the episode turns out to be Spock's betrayal of the Romulan commander. Vulcans can lie.

D.C. Fontana (from Memory Alpha), wrote this of the episode:

"Overall it was not a bad episode, but I did have a lot of complaints about it and things that weren't approached or handled right...Let's face it, the romantic scene between the Romulan Commander and Spock was totally out of context. Any Romulan worth her salt would have instantly suspected Spock because they are related races. That was wrong. Kirk's attitudes were wrong. A simple thing–the cloaking device was supposed to be a very small thing, about the size of a watch, for instance, and it could be easily hidden. Here's Kirk running around with this thing that looks like a lamp. You know, highly visible. This is stupidity as well as illogical thinking. Visually it was stupid, conceptually it was very bad. There were a lot of things, little things, that were changed, but my biggest objection is the scene between Spock and the woman, because I really did not believe it. And I did not believe that the Romulan did not suspect Spock of something underhanded. She does know enough about Vulcan and Vulcans to know that something's afoot."

I see her point with these criticisms in general. I'm not that bothered about Kirk running around with the big cloaking device, because it's not the type of detail that normally bothers me. I was finding the Romulan commander's credulity with Spock a little hard to swallow, though, and thinking on it. I do think she should have maintained her distrust of Spock all the way through; to give a comparison, check out Janeway in Voyager's "Counterpoint." That said, I think it does work to some degree. She doesn't "trust" Spock immediately; she believes him, to a degree, because it makes sense that humans would be as foolhardy as Kirk is, and Kirk's reputation (from "The Trouble with Tribbles": "an arrogant, tin-plated dictator with delusions of godhood") makes sense of it; and she thinks that she can use Kirk's madness as the occasion to turn Spock to their side, with the possibility of a real emotional connection, impossible with humans, to sweeten the deal. She starts by playing him, and is played on the long run, because she is unprepared for the emotional connection that they share. And here, I think that the episode relies a little on the mysteries of the Vulcan touch. Had they slept together explicitly, this would not work. But Spock and the Commander touching fingers gently to each other is another story. We don't know what intimacy lies in that touch, and on some level neither does she. More to the point, she is a *soldier* and a *warrior*, and while she's practiced in deceit and seduction, I don't think she's prepared for someone with as much mental control as Spock -- so able, and so *willing*, to betray her while also sharing sincere feelings through touch.

That the small touch of fingers that Spock and the Commander share has an emotional import we in the audience can't fully understand -- can only speculate about -- both helps to solidify why she is so taken in by Spock, and reminds us of Spock's fundamental alien-ness. Spock is half-human, but he identifies with Vulcan, and in that sense he may have a closer kinship with Romulans. In case we didn't get it, Kirk's parading around in Romulan(/Vulcan) garb is the subject of a few less-than-generous jokes: Scotty telling Kirk he looks like "the devil himself," McCoy joking at the very end that Kirk should get back into surgery unless he wants to look like his first officer. The Enterprise crew respects and adores Spock, and Kirk and McCoy even love him (though it's a tempestuous kind of brotherly love in McCoy's case), but they are different, and Kirk's putting on Vulcan/Romulan features is just for show; the Vulcan side of Spock remains isolated because the humans can't quite understand it, and the human side of Spock remains isolated because Spock suppresses it. Spock is isolated from Vulcans because of his difficult relationship with his father, because his betrothed betrayed him, and because Spock senses that he is not whole as a Vulcan the way he wishes to be. It is strange to think that he could have a place among Romulans, but Romulans can understand the unbridled power of the emotions that Spock keeps locked down deep within him in a way that humans can't, and Spock's feelings of inadequacy that he is not a complete Vulcan carry less weight among the Romulans who have spurned logic alone. Spock's "choice" is between Kirk, who can only put on a Vulcan-like face for show in a moment, who can only very briefly step into Spock's world, and the Romulan Commander, who does seem to understand Spock's dilemma in a more fundamental way than anyone else, either human or Vulcan. But Spock is loyal. Spock is logical. Spock will not be swayed by what is good for him, because to do so would be betraying himself. He is never tempted -- he develops real emotions, and in a rare moment, perhaps because he is able to let his guard down talking about these things with the Commander who will not judge him for his Vulcanness as a human does or judge him for his humanity as a Vulcan might, he talks about them. But it is certainly not enough to betray the Federation.

In some senses, Kirk and Spock are the villains of this episode: they break into Romulan territory with a complicated deceit in order to steal Romulan technology. In the process, Spock seduces the Commander into believing him. The explanation given is, essentially, that they are under orders; that the new Romulan cloak will be very dangerous for the Federation. Spock admits at the very end that military secrets are the most fleeting of all, and there is a real sadness there: Spock's betrayal of the Commander is not even for any great, long-term victory, but the nature of the conflict between the Federation and the Romulan Empire means that both must stoop to spying, treachery and deceit even just to keep up with one another.

This episode really is very good. I think the Romulan Commander's credulity with Spock still strains credulity a bit, but it doesn't break it, and overall the Spock/Commander material is one of the series' very best, most effective romances. I don't know whether I'd go for 3.5 or 4 stars -- but, well, keeping in mind the season it's in, I don't mind giving this a full 4.
William B - Thu, Aug 28, 2014 - 9:32am (USA Central)
I also *really* like the idea, from Jeff, that this is what plants the seed for Spock to become interested in Vulcan/Romulan reunification. I have problems with the "Unification" two-parter, but the basic idea of it -- that Spock's big final project is to reunite the Vulcan and Romulan peoples -- is a good one and I think a fitting way to close out that character's story. (A better way than "and then his attempts to save Romulus from total destruction send him BACK IN TIME where he's being attacked by vengeful Romulan miners," obviously.)

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