Star Trek: The Original Series

"The Enterprise Incident"

4 stars

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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68 comments on this post

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JAcob Teetertotter
Fri, Dec 17, 2010, 2:05am (UTC -6)
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!
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NCC-1701-Z
Sun, Apr 1, 2012, 4:37pm (UTC -6)
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.
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Paul
Mon, Apr 16, 2012, 10:44am (UTC -6)
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.
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Ben
Tue, Apr 9, 2013, 7:06am (UTC -6)
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.
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SpyTV
Thu, Nov 28, 2013, 1:00am (UTC -6)
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.
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Jamie Stearns
Sun, Mar 23, 2014, 10:22pm (UTC -6)
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.
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mephyve
Sat, Mar 29, 2014, 8:54pm (UTC -6)
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.
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dgalvan
Fri, May 16, 2014, 4:31pm (UTC -6)
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.
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Paul
Mon, May 19, 2014, 10:45am (UTC -6)
@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.
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Dom
Sat, Jun 14, 2014, 1:21am (UTC -6)
"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.
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Jeff
Mon, Aug 11, 2014, 12:04pm (UTC -6)
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.
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William B
Thu, Aug 28, 2014, 9:31am (UTC -6)
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.
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William B
Thu, Aug 28, 2014, 9:32am (UTC -6)
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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Shannon
Fri, Mar 27, 2015, 12:05pm (UTC -6)
I hear ya, Jammer, and the only thing I can think of is that this episode, given the special effects, just wasn't ready yet. Given that, the producers should have aired a rerun the first week! But agreed, this episode was excellent.
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Icarus32Soar
Mon, Mar 30, 2015, 3:45am (UTC -6)
A fabulous episode showing the best of ST and among the best TV episodes of any series ever. A kickass female Romulan commander, played pitch perfect by Joanne, provides a splendid counterbalance to one of Leonard's best renderings of Spock ever. Kirk comes off as second best despite an awesome performance too by William. That's what an episode should be, so much excellence all round you don't know where to focus as a viewer. The complexity and dramatic and sexual tension in the Spock-Romulan commander relationship sizzles all round and is electric till the end, especially at the end, episode endings being so often rushed and problematic in ST. My single favourite episode of all time of any series.I watch and rewatch it forever. BRAVO!
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Walter Dunsel
Tue, May 26, 2015, 12:34am (UTC -6)
Couple of points from a long time listener

- we do not know if Klingon ships are bought or stolen by the Romulans. Kirk's statement that the ships were "of identical design" could mean they were stolen designs

- It is perhaps less important if long time viewers had their credulity strained; it would be less likely the Commander would be aware of the unique relationship between K&S

- They want to keep Kirk alive to test their truth beams on; this they have time for

- Why would the Commander wish to go back ? I suspect her fate was known to her and would find a "scandal " to be a difficult time (although of Romulans had Americans' taste for celebrity rehabilitation, she may have indeed preserved)

-
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Bill
Fri, Jul 10, 2015, 12:24pm (UTC -6)
Loved this episode as a kid and, I'll admit, the commander's description of their ways to extract enemy information as being "both painful and unpleasant" escaped my young mind at the time. As a child, I necessarily linked anything painful as universally being unpleasant. All I'll say now, as an adult having lived a long life, and because this is a PG blog, that I do understand the distinction. ;) Which is to the episode's credit, much like how Pixar creates for both children and adults in the same movie, or how Philip Glass composed for both human hearing and dogs' (much higher registers, undetectable by us) in the same musical piece.
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Kiamau
Sat, Nov 28, 2015, 11:50pm (UTC -6)
Did I miss something? When Kirk and Spock were aboard the Romulan ship, why didn't the Romulans put up their shields? Or at least, once they picked up the alien transmission, why didn't they put them up? Or after the cloaking device was stolen? Surely they would have thought the Enterprise would beam out Spock. I always thought the Romulans were more clever.
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Outsider65
Tue, Sep 20, 2016, 3:14pm (UTC -6)
If we're talking about making sense, it would have made more sense for the Enterprise to have disguised someone else other than Kirk as a Romulan. The Romulans had already seen his face and could recognize him, even if they thought he was dead and he was disguised, it was still risky. It would have made more sense to use another character (Sulu, anyone?) but since Kirk is the star I see why they did it, and he did look pretty cool.

I understood the seduction of the Romulan commander to not be part of the original plan, but something that Spock was more than ok with going along with. This interaction lays groundwork for later developments in the canon and seemed to be the first love interest the series gave him that he was genuinely interested in.

The weird two-finger touching was a nice callback to "Journey to Babel", where Amanda and Sarek(sp?) were constantly doing it to show affection (albeit, theirs was a more appropriate hand holding version, and not the more reminiscent of groping touching Spock indulges in with the commander), and Spock's frequently seen steepling his hands with only the first two fingers when he's thinking in other episodes, implying it has something to do with their mental abilities as well.

My first time viewing, I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. No, I wasn't buying that Kirk would do this unless he was possessed by some space alien or an imposter, and the sudden "it was our plan all along, here are your ears" wasn't too unexpected, though I was surprised that it was the real Kirk who had been acting that way earlier, even if it was for espionage purposes. Although later he admits to the commander that it was a Federation plan all along and not just him going off the deep end, so I guess they plan to keep her a Federation prisoner forever? Or don't care that the Romulans find out, as long as they were initially tricked? Sorry, I didn't pay attention very well.
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Mads Leonard Holvik
Thu, Dec 8, 2016, 3:03pm (UTC -6)
Smug imperialism.
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Skeptical
Sun, Mar 5, 2017, 10:11pm (UTC -6)
Finally, a truly great TOS episode. It's been a while. I shouldn't be surprised that it's a Romulan one; it just seems that they have a way of elevating any episode they're in. Unlike the Klingons, they're smart, and tend to always be portrayed as smart. It usually means the plot is more complex than usual and our characters need to be more clever than usual.

Not that the plot didn't have its problems. After all, it seems that Starfleet planned out its operation with all the skill of the Underpants Gnomes. Step 1: head into Romulan territory. Step 2: ??? Step 3: Profit! I mean seriously, how did that plan actually work? Talk about luck! But I think we're able to suspend our disbelief, because the suspense was high and the characters interesting.

Like others, I do think this was partly what impacted Unification in Spock's mind. It did seem pretty clear that he did actually care for the Romulan, and did wish that there was some alternative other than betraying her. Likewise, I think he recognized that the Romulan did care for him too. There must have been some respect for each other deep down, which would translate, at least to some extent, to a respect for each other's culture. That must have given Spock some inkling that a reunification could be successful, even if he would have known that the odds were microscopic. I think the scene with them touching each other with their fingers extended (reminiscent of Sarek and Amanda) was probably the best scene to reinforce this. It may be alien to us, but it was perfectly natural to BOTH of them. It really reinforced the idea that this was, at one time, a single culture, and that they could relate to each other better than perhaps either of them could relate to humans. Perhaps it was that memory that kept Spock's hopes alive?

Of course, there was also the betrayal. Spock said, clearly, that he was a Starfleet officer, and that he had to do his duty. One questions whether he agreed with the theft and agreed with the deception, given that it seems a bit out of the norm for Starfleet operations and given the whole "Vulcans don't lie!" thing. We know in Unification that he stated he wanted to keep Starfleet out of the loop on this one, in part due to the mixup that happened in ST6. Now, obviously Spock chose a lengthy career in Starfleet even after this episode; even after dying. So it's not like this event made him resign in a huff or anything like that, but it does make it clear that Spock doesn't want to be put in that position again with the Romulans. He knows that, with Starfleet, the political angle will always be there. He knows that working directly through official Romulan channels means the political angle is definitely going to be there from that side. That's why he worked the way he did, away from the official channels. Just going directly to the people. Seeking that connection that he would have had with the Commander if their duty (on both sides) didn't get in the way.

But anyway, back to the episode. Like I said, the pacing, suspense, and character stuff just worked, and worked well. The fact that you couldn't really tell the moment that either the Commander started legitimately caring for Spock or vice versa, rather than just using the other for their own gain, is what made it work. That and the poignancy at the end, when both of their plans were laid clear. Neither of them regretted their choices that kept them apart, but neither of them were really happy about it either. And given the emotionless state of Spock and the reservedness of the Commander, the fact that they were able to show it in their words and actions was really quite impressive. Definitely a true classic.
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Rahul
Fri, Jun 16, 2017, 2:11pm (UTC -6)
A terrific episode after the dreadful "Spock's Brain" and the end of Season 2 seeming to run out of ideas.
"The Enterprise Incident" is creative and brilliant with the tables turned as to who are the "bad guys vs. the good guys". Almost wind up feeling bad for the Romulans and their cute commander.
Great scenes with Spock playing the Romulan commander. Linville does a great job - getting a good (non-wooden) guest actor is a huge benefit for this episode.
But this is an episode where everything has to go perfectly right for the Enterprise to pull off their secret mission -- and it does without a hitch.
McCoy being allowed to beam over to the Romulan flagship instead of having a Romulan doctor treat Kirk again makes the Romulans look like idiots. Romulan doctors probably aren't too good at their jobs - being fooled by Kirk's "death".
How does Kirk even know what the cloaking device looks like? And how does Scotty hook it in just in time? And Spock allowed to give his statement and buy the Enterprise time (20 minutes!). The Romulan commander is willing to give Spock his rights that she loses sight of the greater espionage situation.
Unfortunately this episode doesn't jive with "Balance of Terror" in that they should have remembered about the Romulan cloaking device.
Easily 3.5 stars - the female Romulan commander is the star of this episode - her dialogue with Spock is great. A highly enjoyable hour of Trek .
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Derek
Mon, Oct 16, 2017, 7:36pm (UTC -6)
A good episode, but I have never thought quite as highly of it as most of the rest of you. There are many aspects i really like: Kirk faking like he's lost it, the scene when Scotty finds Kirk made up like a Romulan, the dialogue between Kirk and the Romulan commander. What i didn't like was how incredibly easily the Romulan commander was duped, the incredibly awkward and uncomfortably drawn out "romance," how ridiculously easy it was to steal (and install--in 15 minutes no less!) the cloaking device, the fact that the Romulans didn't have their shields up in the middle of a confrontation with the Enterprise and let them beam back so easily. 2 1/2 stars.
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Toony
Thu, Oct 19, 2017, 12:55pm (UTC -6)
Regarding the Romulans using Klingon ships, IDW comics offered an explanation.
In the episode Balance of Terror the ROmulans are shown to have plasma weapons and impulse ships putting them at a disadvantage until they developed the cloaking device, we can infer from TNG dylithium crystals are extremely scarce in the Romulan Star Empire so warp drive may have been reserved for fewer ships until they used quantum singularities. The episode Errand of Mercy which introduced the Klingons, shown them as going to war with the Federation but their war was ended by the Organians and the Organian peace treaty was mentioned a few times afterwards. In the IDW comics, the Klingons provided the Romulans with battleships and weapons in exchange for the cloaking device, they hoped to use them as pawns in a renewed war with the Federation. It all fell apart when the Romulans realised their treachery.
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Trek fan
Tue, Nov 21, 2017, 5:28pm (UTC -6)
Here we have a great espionage-realpolitik Star Trek episode of the type that utopian TNG will later flirt at doing and DS9 will excel at pulling off. What's not to love? "The Enterprise Incident" has great pacing, suspense, and a terrific guest star as the central Romulan antagonist. I give it 3 1/2 or 4 stars.

The Spock stuff works well here, with the Pon Farr finger-touching a nice bit of continuity from Journey to Babel (we'll see it again on Star Trek III with young Spock and Saavik) and the Vulcan-Romulan relationship an ongoing source of fascination carrying over from Balance of Terror way back in Season One. Yes, "Incident" is a linchpin Trek in many ways, tying together many threads of TOS and establishing many things that will carry over into later series.

Following on the same in Spock's Brain, we also see what will become a distinctive strength of Season Three here: Women in the main guest star roles. Joanna Lumley is great in her interrogation scenes with Kirk and seduction scenes with Spock that later turn out to be not quite what she thinks. Shatner's overacting in yelling "I'll kill you" at Spock in front of the Romulan Commander teeters on the brink of "too much" for me, but gets a pass because Kirk is *supposed* to be insane here, meaning we can allow it even as we give Shatner a bit of side eye for quite how far he goes in the scene.

Another thing I love about Enterprise Incident is the way it develops the ensemble feel of TOS that really started gelling on Season Two: Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, Uhura, Sulu, Chekov, and Chapel are the main focus in this episode. (And yes, the ubiquitous Lt. Leslie is in this one too, but he's mainly a stand-in like Billy Bones's helmsman/navigator character.) It's nice to see the show coalescing in these last two seasons around its best characters, increasingly abandoning the bland "Yeoman of the Week" and "female lieutenant of the week" approach. And yet Season Three will also give us some classic Kirk-Spock-McCoy shows, another successful formula.

If Season Three suffered from budget cuts in its day, I'm not sure that's a valid critique anymore, as the remastered special effects and picture-sound of the latest Netflix/CBS Video releases negate these issues. Season Three now looks as great as the rest of the show in the remastered episodes. Granted, it looks a bit more pulpy than the earlier two seasons, with more vivid colors (someone said the uniforms switched from velour to polyester?) and a more daringly creative style in the camerawork and angles. And the writers have changed: On balance, we're going more for "fun" than Big Sci-Fi Ideas in this season, although there are still some strong shows of the latter kind and some great episodes that mix the two. Not too many Godlike Aliens or Earthlike Planets in this season, as seemed to be the case in 90% of Season Two, and that's a good thing.

In fact, Season Three gives us some truly new stuff, mixing truly alien-looking aliens (Medusans, etc.) with more human-based DS9-style universe-building dramas (this one, Cloud Minders, Elaan of Troyius, etc.) about interplanetary disputes and politics. And you know what? I like it! I think Season Three is actually really underrated. It's not as deep as Season One, it doesn't have as many ensemble classics as Season Two, but it's consistently daring and fresh as we see in "The Enterprise Incident."
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ZITA CARNO
Fri, Oct 5, 2018, 10:01pm (UTC -6)
Whoever said that Season 3 stank in comparison to the other two has to be, to put it in Vulcan, "kae-amp"---out of his or her mind---and this episode demonstrates it fully. "The Enterprise Incident" is a top-notch spy thriller from the word go, and I just love the way Captain Kirk pretends to be nuts to get on board the Romulan ship---this guy can act! And Spock---I could listen to him talk for hours; the way he gets under the Romulan commander's skin is incredible, nothing short of hypnotic. Not to mention Scotty and company and their frantic efforts to get the cloaking device properly installed and working, and when I saw it in action I let out a yell of "Go Scotty!" In all, this episode deserves 5 stars at least--and it's joined by some six or seven others every bit as enthralling. I say, "Vaskurik"---Vulcan for "beautiful".
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Debra Petersen
Tue, Oct 30, 2018, 8:57pm (UTC -6)
I've often wondered what happened to the Romulan Commander after this. The cloaking device was a major advantage for the Romulans against their enemies, and the theft of it, on her watch, would have been a BIG deal. If she were returned to the custody of the Romulans I can't imagine that she wouldn't have been...at the least...stripped of all rank and position and permanently exiled. She could have easily faced execution. It would have been especially bad for her if it came out that she had been "fraternizing" with a Starfleet officer (as her Subcommander could have testified) and that contributed to what happened. Knowing what could be in store for her, I'm guessing she would do everything in her power to avoid being sent back. So would the Federation have continued to detain her? For how long, and under what conditions? (I have actually seen fanfic where she somehow had worked her way back into a position of command...which I really can't buy.) I'm very curious to see others' thoughts about this.
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NCC-1701-Z
Wed, Oct 31, 2018, 8:37am (UTC -6)
@Debra Petersen: As far as official canon goes we'll probably never know. However the Star Trek Continues fan series (basically a continuation of TOS if you're not in the know) brought the Romulan commander character back in their finale episode - they even got the original actress's daughter to play the part!
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Rahul
Wed, Oct 31, 2018, 9:24am (UTC -6)
@ Debra Petersen,

In "Balance of Terror" the Romulan commander says Romulans are creatures of duty. So I would expect the Romulan commander in this episode to accept her fate at the hands of the Romulan Senate (or whatever governing body). She knows she's a goner and is programmed to accept it. And her punishment would likely be execution. That to me is the most realistic and consistent outcome. I too can't buy that nonsense fanfic about her being given a chance to work her way back to a command position. Her errors in judgment were far too grave.
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Jordy
Wed, Oct 31, 2018, 1:24pm (UTC -6)
@ Debra Petersen

You might be interested in reading 'Vulcan's Heart' by Josepha Sherman and Susan Shwartz. They're two of the better-known Trek novelists and this is part of a series focusing on Spock/Saavik/Vulcan stuff, but can also be read as a standalone. The Romulan Commander features prominently and they do her character and storyline justice, I think. It's about as close to a canon continuation as we're likely to get.

There's even a brief glimpse of what happened to Tasha Yar after she went back in time, showing how she ended up with Sela's father.

The only real criticism I have of this book and others in the series is the excess of Star Trek continuity it suffers from. There are too many familiar characters making cameos for the sake of it and too many shoehorned-in references to Trek history and lore, and it soon gets a little tiresome. To be fair though, this is a common problem in Trek novels when the writers' fannish enthusiasm perhaps inevitably gets the better of them.
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Sean Hagins
Thu, Nov 1, 2018, 3:26am (UTC -6)
@Debra Petersen

In the Shatnerverse (the series of Star Trek books written (well, co-written) by William Shatner, she has this elaborate plan of teaming up with the Borg to take down the Federation using a brainwashed, revived Kirk after the events of Star Trek-Generations. (As convoluted as that sounds, it was actually a really good book! In fact, I personally really like the William Shatner Star Trek novels, although he does lay on the "Kirk is wonderful, and everyone else is there just to tell him how great he is" routine)
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Springy
Sat, May 18, 2019, 12:10am (UTC -6)
Solid hour of entertainment.

A lot of things don't stand much scrutiny . . . The whole plan to begin with (the Enterprise could easily have been blown to bits immediately), The Romulan commander's unlikely outfit, the dependence on The Romulans somehow taking a liking to Spock, the Commander's amazing gullibility, Kirk so easily overpowering all Romulan guards, Scotty getting brand new technology installed and working perfectly in 15 mins . . .

Average to slightly above.
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Sarjenka's Brother
Wed, Jul 24, 2019, 2:56pm (UTC -6)
An excellent episode. Even better than I remembered.

Given the show's financial limitations in the third season, I wonder whether anyone said or even thought:

"Hey, let's take our limited budget and do four or five Romulan episodes so we can recycle sets and parts. Plus, these Romulan episodes are good!"

Vs. reinventing the wheel every single week.
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Chrome
Tue, Sep 10, 2019, 11:30am (UTC -6)
Wow, what a treat! I don't know if it's because the actors started to really be close by the time this was produced, but I start to feel as if we're getting a glimpse of Feature Film TOS out of this episode. Although Kirk and Spock are in admittedly switched positions, much of the episode still feels right as we have the sly winking and good rapport between Kirk and Spock. It's as if their facial expressions and hand gestures are enough to communicate to each other what the plan *really* is. I also loved the bluster from Scotty in this episode, and it was fun seeing him go toe-to-toe with the Romulans in a combat situation.

William B wrote an exceptionally good review here, and I took from his snippet by DC Fontana that she was not happy with many of the things that came out of this. I suppose all great writers are perfectionists, but I don't think she's giving the final product enough credit. I'm not sure I agree that the Romulan Commander shouldn't be fooled by Spock. The Romulans are such a stubbornly prideful race and I can see them blindly thinking that they could get Vulcans to buy into their racial pride using power as a currency. It seems so alien to us, but to the Romulans, political power is everything, so it stands to reason that the Romulan Commander would think her offer to Spock was irresistible.

At any rate, I loved the conclusion of the story with the couple maintaining a relationship despite Spock's betrayal. It's as if why the Commander is mad at Spock for betraying her, yet she still respects a good political gambit. One might wonder if she ends up becoming a Federation citizen thanks to Spock's charismatic love for the Federation shown in this episode.
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Robbie
Sat, May 30, 2020, 3:34am (UTC -6)
There seem to be a few different stories and it’s been a while since I read it, but two reasons for them using the Klingon battlecruiser model for the Romulans:

- One story was that the original Bird of Prey model was lost when a building or garage burned down (!)

- The other is that the Bird of Prey designer, Wah Chang, was not fairly paid for his work for Balance of Terror, and decided to destroy the model as retribution.

It’s curious enough I’ll have to see if I can find more! But at least this gave us the most detailed interior we’d ever see in an alien ship in TOS.
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SouthofNorth
Sun, Aug 9, 2020, 6:58pm (UTC -6)
This episode rates 2 stars at best and certainly nowhere close to 4 stars. Hear me. This story aspires to be serious and significant unlike say “The Trouble with Tribbles” or “A Piece of the Action” which are fun and silly and don’t pretend to be anything else. But just as you would judge “The Trouble with Tribbles” by whether or not it amused you and made you laugh, so too, you have to judge “The Enterprise Incident” by whether it achieves its objectives.

So treating this as a serious story, is the plot credible? Not in the slightest. The basic premise is that the Romulans have cloaking technology that the Federation needs to steal to restore the balance of power. Now, if you want to do something like that you would engage spies and covert operators who could infiltrate the Romulan Empire by stealth and either steal the cloaking device or the plans for one. What you would not do is engage the Federation’s flagship where failure means not only do you lose your opportunity to get the cloaking device but you also lose (perhaps fatally) your frontline crew and your starship, enabling the Romulans to know “everything there is to know about a starship”. Not to mention that very real possibility that you would initiate a war for blatantly violating the Neutral Zone. In other words, you have chosen the action that results in the greatest loss for you if it fails.

Does the plan make sense? Not even close. I’m not even sure I know what the original plan was. There was no guarantee that the Romulans wouldn’t just blow the Enterprise up. Having spared the Enterprise, there’s no reason to think that the Romulan commander would invite anyone aboard her starship. What was in it for her and how could you predict that she would take such an action? But without inviting both Spock and Kirk aboard the ship, there is no way for the plan to succeed and disaster would ensue.

So who’s privy to this “plan”? Only two people: Spock and Kirk. Does Scottie know about it? No. But wait a second, who’s going to be in charge when Spock and Kirk are on the Romulan ship? Wouldn’t you want him to understand what’s going on and why? And who is responsible for installing the cloaking assuming they do manage to steal it? Scottie again. And you’re not going to tell him his job until 15 minutes are left to avoid destruction? Say, wouldn’t you want to let him in on this absurd plan just so that he could, I don’t know, work out as much as he could ahead of time? And who’s responsible for transforming Kirk into a Romulan? McCoy? And you’re not going to tell him ahead of time so he can figure out what needs to be done to make the change. Seriously?

But this is a very dramatic episode. You know that because every 5 minutes or so, you hear “dumb-dumb-dumb-dumb! dumb-dumb-dumb-dumb!” --- the audio cue that tells you that some serious is happening. “We’re surrounded by Romulans!” (dumb-dumb-dumb-dumb!) “Captain Kirk has been injured!” (dumb-dumb-dumb-dumb!). “The ship’s galley is out of rice pudding!! (dumb-dumb-dumb-dumb). Oh yes, Kirk has been killed by Spock. That’s dramatic, if for one second anyone in the audience actually believes that would happen in this show. I was shocked SHOCKED when I found out it wasn’t true! No, unbelievable events like Spock killing Kirk are not dramatic, only believable plausible events are. The great drama in "Amok Time" came from Spock's heartbreaking response to thinking he had killed Kirk, not from the action itself. Fake deaths are cheap way to create "drama" and are ultimately self-defeating.

I could go on about the stupidity of the Romulans (“don’t go down that corridor Mr. Spock, that’s where we keep our top-secret device which we wouldn’t want you to know where it is”) or the embarrassing romantic scenes that had DC Fontane apologize to Leonard Nimoy, telling him that she didn’t write those scenes in HER draft. But this is an overlong post already. 2 stars at best.
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Kiwi
Sun, Aug 23, 2020, 2:23am (UTC -6)
SouthofNorth I completely agree lmao I’m shocked that so many people on here loved this episode? I thought it was awful. Spock was so out of character the whole entire time it was painful to watch. I could get on with him acting for the mission but at the end when he was all like “oh I actually have feelings for you” like - SPOCK? The man who literally would die of shame before showing an emotion to anyone other than Kirk or Bones, and even then he would feel shame? This man is so balls deep in his Vulcan way of life that meeting one person that’s kind of slightly like him yet a literal commander of an enemy fleet for like half an hour and playing her to get what he needed while the most important person in his life is out and about risking his ass doing an espionage mission with him would not cause him to catch legitimate feelings. Also drinking? What I’m assuming was alcohol? REALLY? C’mon. Again - I could see him doing it for the job but the whole confession at the end put that all out the window for me. I can see Kirk falling for someone like that because that’s who he is - the role reversal isn’t fun. They have roles because that’s how they’re characterized by past actions. That’s how people work. If they wanted to reverse the roles in an episode they should have made it more believable. This episode was disrespectful to Spock’s entire being in my opinion.
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Nolan
Sun, Aug 23, 2020, 2:50am (UTC -6)
@Kiwi

Counterpoint, (and this is with the proviso that I haven't seen this episode in a while - it's coming up on my rewatch with my friend) but that the Romulan Commander is so much like him, and yet as a Romulan, freer to experience her emotions than he is, might very well be the reason Spock does feel he can open up to her. If he felt a strong connection with her, and also potentially felt himself look up to her for being allowed to indulge her emotions he may have in a way felt himself capable of opening up to her in a way he had never done so with anyone in his life.

It's not that she's more important than the other people in Spock's life are, just that, as someone who a) is a reflection of himself and b) isn't one of those people for whom his reputation is important enough to maintain, he might have just felt safe enough and comfortable enough to let his walls down, more than he would in front of his shipmates or his parents.

I feel that the romulan Commander represented a place where he could truly be comfortable with himself. Not some half-human weirdo among Vulcans, or an overly stoic Vulcan among humans. She was a place where he could fully be himself without worry, at least for a time, and I bet he appreciated that.
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Mary Vasilakakos
Wed, Dec 9, 2020, 4:13am (UTC -6)
Great episode till U start to decode the treachery perpetrated by the "honorable" Captain J T Kirk and Spock, he of the "unimpeachable Vulcan integrity". The Romulan Commander is a vastly superior moral creature than all the honorable Federation men put together. She does what she does openly and without subterfuge. Spock's "it is not a lie to keep the truth to oneself" is the rationalisation of a toddler, not logic of any kind. Re-watching the ep I was reminded of Seska's sarcastic comment to Janeway in STV S1 EP "State of Flux": "Federation rules, Federation nobility..." Indeed! It takes these "villains" to point out the true nature of Federation and Star Fleet "ethics". Single best moment in the whole of ST: the Romulan Commander slapping Spock. She just didn't slap him hard enough!
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Mal
Sat, Jan 9, 2021, 8:33am (UTC -6)
Best of Both Worlds for TNG. Improbable Cause for DS9. Scorpion for VOY. Damage for ENT.

For each iteration of Star Trek there is an episode which defines the series. That shows it at its best. That leaves a indelible memory of what that show was all about, and what it was like when everything just worked.

For Star Trek that episode is "The Enterprise Incident".

Four stars doesn’t even start to do justice to what this hour means for TOS and for Star Trek as a whole.

With "Improbable Cause", DS9 went from an interesting idea to a holy fuck what the fuck is going on, this is awesome!?! That part II ("The Die is Cast") was equally spectacular had frankly never happened in the history of Star Trek two-parters. When DS9 kept up such spectacular outings in later seasons, it cemented its place as the preeminent Star Trek of its time - and for some of us (I’m looking at you @Jammer), the preeminent Star Trek for all time.

BoBW did that for TNG. For anyone who was lucky enough to have watched BoBW in real time on broadcast television - well, it is an experience I don’t expect ever to happen again with any show.

"Damage" showed us that a tired and spent Star Trek (ENT) still had something to say in a post-9/11 world.

"Scorpion" gave us two of the most iconic characters in Star Trek - the Borg queen who later featured in the highest grossing Star Trek movie ever (First Contact), and Seven of Nine, who after Kirk, Picard, and Kira, may have been one of the most charismatic characters on any Star Trek show ever. No one on ENT, DISC, or PIC even comes close. Which makes it even more unbelievable how terrible ST: Picard has turned out to be. I guess neither Patrick Steward nor Jeri Ryan have aged as well as The Shat and Nimoy did back in the day with The Undiscovered Country.

So where were we? As yes, "The Enterprise Incident". First of all, let’s remember, this is a Spock episode. I think we sometimes forget that. Sure Kirk puts on the ears - always fun! But it is Spock, who shall we say, gets all the action ;)

And every great hero needs a great villain. If Kirk had Khan, Picard had the Borg, Sisko had Dukat, then Spock has the Romulan Commander (she whispers her name to Spock, but I didn’t catch it. Did you?).

@William B, in his incredible write up, mentions Voyager’s “Counterpoint,” and I was also thinking of that episode when I watched The Enterprise Incident this evening. “Counterpoint" is - along with “11:59” - one of the few times we get a good partner for Janeway to act across from, and as a result, she really shines. And TPTB did an equally wonderful job for Spock in casting the Romulan Commander. Has there ever been a better guest actor? Even the wonderful Andreas Katsulas as Ambassador Tomolok doesn’t hold a candle. Maybe the iconic Jean Simmons opposite Picard when she played Admiral Satie - making The Drumhead one of TNG’s best?

As a result of the luminous Romulan Commander, Spock too shines at a whole new level.

I’m not going to get into all the socio-political ramifications of this episode, or how the Romulans using Klingon designs reflects a fear of a Chinese/Russian alliance during the Cold War. I touched on all that, including Spock’s fascination with unification, in my write up for Balance of Terror ( https://www.jammersreviews.com/st-tos/s1/balance.php ). Suffice it to say, Spock’s journey with the Romulan people is a long one, and Discovery has added very little to it (just as DISC has added very little to Star Trek as a whole).

It would have been very interesting if a prequel to TOS had actually examined the other half of the alpha quadrant.

We know that Vulcans, logical and cold, allied themselves with the Humans, just as in real life after WWII, the Japanese were defeated and were allied thereafter (and even to this day) with America. But if the Romulans are the cousins of the Vulcans, just as the Chinese are the cousins of the Japanese, then it would have been fascinating to see the alliance of the Romulans and the Klingons during this era. A view from behind the Iron Curtain. That would also have shed real light on the Duras family and the events of Redemption parts I & II, as well as Khitomer.

But alas, we are no longer in an age that gave us DS9 and Babylon 5 and nBSG.

Hoping for such a textured and intricate long-form of story telling from Star Trek in this day and age is a fool’s errand. If you want that today, you’ll have to check out The Expanse.
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Jason R.
Sat, Jan 9, 2021, 9:34am (UTC -6)
@Mal just a correction: the Borg Queen never appeared in Scorpion. Her introduction was in First Contact which I think preceded Scorpion didn't it? If that is correct I am grateful she was excluded from Scorpion.

I actually thought she was a decent villain in First Contact but for me she will never be equal to the Borg as they were in BOBW and Scorpion: just a single disembodied voice speaking from a vast collective consciousness.

I was lucky enough to view BOBW in its original broadcast and the line "Death is irrelevant" still sends chills down my spine.
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Mal
Sat, Jan 9, 2021, 10:04am (UTC -6)
@Jason R., you're right, good catch! I think I was traveling when First Contact came out, and I didn't get to see it till a few months later, over summer - so I actually saw Scorpion part I before First Contact. Funny how memory plays tricks with you after a quarter century. Thanks dude :)
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Rahul
Sat, Jan 9, 2021, 11:02am (UTC -6)
@Mal

Interesting writeup as usual, but I have some qualms with what you say.

As far as the 1 episode that defined each of the 5 classic Trek series, this is a vague concept. Do you mean the best episode or one that really encapsulated the primary aspect of the series best? In any case, I'd agree with you on your selections for TNG, VOY. "Damage" for ENT also works for me, though I consider "Regeneration" a slightly superior episode. For me, "In the Pale Moonlight" is DS9's series-defining episode. You could even say "Duet" regarding the Bajoran/Cardassian arc pre Dominion War arc.

But when it comes to TOS, there are probably half a dozen episodes that I think fit the bill better than "The Enterprise Incident". TOS had a number of themes from Alpha Quadrant geopolitics to the bond between the Big 3 etc. "The Enterprise Incident" is not even in my top 10 of best TOS episodes as I think it suffers from a really pushing the suspension of disbelief that Kirk & co. can pull off their heist. Also, making the Romulans look like fools doesn't help. Yes, we have the memorable scenes with Spock and the Romulan commander (her name is not provided here but in Star Trek Continues, it's given -- can't remember it). Bottom line, holes can be poked in this episode, but it is still a 9/10 for me.

But just on the topic of Alpha Quadrant geopolitics at the time of TOS, "Balance of Terror" is clearly a superior episode and makes a better use of both Kirk and Spock, whereas this episode is a Spock episode. I find "Errand of Mercy" also touches on this AQ geopolitics theme + deals with humanity as an inferior species when compared to the Organians -- so I think that episode also does a better job of defining the series TOS.

On the guest actor issue, Linville is excellent, but TOS has had even better performances like from Montalban, Joan Collins, Bill Windom, and Mark Lenard (as the Romulan commander).
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Mal
Sat, Jan 9, 2021, 12:33pm (UTC -6)
Hi @Rahul, these threads are interesting in huge part because you all have been engaged in wonderful discussions for the last few years - I'm just happy to join in the fun.

I think you've already got a handle on what I mean by series defining - it isn't necessarily the best episode of the series (which for DS9, I agree with you, is In the Pale Moonlight), nor is it my favorite - which for TOS, for me, has always been "Journey to Babel".

Series defining is an excellent episode that sets the tone and sets the standard for the series. Where the series really comes into its own. A touchstone if you will.

So while I agree with you on ENT that "Regeneration" is a great episode, the Borg were by no means central to ENT (they were central to TNG, and even more so for VOY). Regeneration is really a "special" episode for the series. "Damage" is a more "work-man-like" episode, if you know what I mean? It marks the point where ENT came into its own with the crescendo of the Xindi arc.

As with Regeneration, something similar is true for In the Pale Moonlight. It is not quite typical for DS9. If nothing else, the format of Captain's Log retrospective is quite unique.

My favorite from DS9 is Inter Arma Enim Silent Legis, but that too is not an ordinary DS9 episode. Section 31 was always a little out of the ordinary for the show.

The reason I picked "Improbable Cause" is because it is so normal, and yet, it can be argued that that is where DS9 finally came into its own. It is an absolutely excellent version of normal DS9. No fancy gimmicks, no time-travel, no Q, no prophets, no visions. In that way, I completely agree with you that "Duet" could easily be the right touchstone for DS9. I guess it is just hard to accept that DS9 got into its groove so early in its run.

Which brings us back to TOS.

On Balance of Terror, I think we're going to have to agree to disagree ;) Obviously that episode's thread has a couple of factions,

- the @Jammer faction that says it is 2 1/2 stars,

- the second faction (in which I include myself, @Robert, @Startrekwatcher, @Paulus Marius, and @Tim C) that puts the episode at around 3 stars, and

- then there is you, @Rahul, who sees something in that hour that I suppose the rest of us haven't seen yet, giving it, what 4 stars?

But that's the thing about Star Trek: every time you watch it, you see something new. Maybe when I go back to the well in a few years, Balance of Terror will rise again in my estimation.

That said, I think it is fair to say that Balance of Terror is not "clearly a superior episode" ;) At the very least, opinions differ.

As to "Errand of Mercy", I agree, it is awesome. The reason I don't think of it as a touchstone for TOS is because it has the super god-like beings in it, the Organians. Then again, you probably have a point, godlike beings really are in the core-DNA of TOS! But @Jammer gives "Errand" only 3 stars. Probably not high enough to be an exemplar.

Why I chose "The Enterprise Incident" as the touchstone for TOS is because it is 4 stars and yet everything is so normal. No super natural powers. No mirror universe. No comedy special, like Tribbles. No deus ex machina. Just good character work coming together in a great story.

Finally, how can I argue with praise for Montalban?!? The man was gold. To be fair, I did already say that "If Kirk had Khan, Picard had the Borg, Sisko had Dukat, then Spock has the Romulan Commander." Isn't that an admission that they are at least on par?

I agree that Windom (Decker) was also exceptional, and I wouldn't mind calling The Doomsday Machine TOS' touchstone, except for the fact that large parts take place where Kirk is not in the big chair. In any case, Khan is still Khan ;)

I have never been fan of Mark Lenard, but I respect that people seem to like him a lot. Finally, I think it might be unfair to include Joan Collins on the list - hers was a very un-Star Trek like role. But she is a gem. Still, I don't think anyone would say that "City" was typical for the show in a way that would make it a touchstone.

So where does that leave us?

Like I said, if I wanted a single episode to fairly stand for all of TOS, I would pick The Enterprise Incident. No tricks, no gimmicks. The show knows exactly what it is.

That said, TOS was so much more complex and multifaceted than TNG, there are bound to be other opinions. I think with TNG, there will never be any doubt what the single episode exemplar is.
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Rahul
Sat, Jan 9, 2021, 1:14pm (UTC -6)
@Mal

The only thing I'd add is that you seem to be putting a lot of weight on Jammer's ratings to determine whether or not an episode is series defining. Out of all the series, TOS is the one where I have the most problems with his ratings -- they're literally all over the place.

He's got "Balance of Terror" and "The Conscience of the King" as 2.5 stars but "I, Mudd" and "Shore Leave" as 3 stars?? And "Arena" at 1.5 stars?? I think enough other posters have remarked about these inconsistencies. Jammer's reviews for Balance and Conscience are also off the mark. I'm not the only person thinking Balance is one of the series best -- and I've seen it called that elsewhere too.

We'll have to agree to disagree on "The Enterprise Incident". But in general, it's very hard to pin down a series-defining episode for TOS. And ideally, such an episode should come from its 1st season or at least the early part of the 2nd season. I think you are probably aware of the major changes for S3 and how it is a step or 2 below the first 2 seasons -- so I would not choose a series defining episode from that season. Cheers!
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Mal
Sat, Jan 9, 2021, 8:24pm (UTC -6)
@Rahul said, "The only thing I'd add is that you seem to be putting a lot of weight on Jammer's ratings to determine whether or not an episode is series defining."

Oh man, @Jammer's rating drive me up the wall! You point out "Conscious of the King," which @Jammer gave 2 1/2 stars to, and I gave 3 1/2 stars and called it a "classic" and "easily the best episode of Star Trek up to th[at] point in the show".

In fact, @Jammer's TOS ratings have been so off, that half way through the show - season 2 episode 13 ("Obsession"), I actually joked:

"Well, I suppose it was bound to happen eventually: I actually agree with @Jammer’s rating for an episode ;-) Though after two decades and hundreds of reviews, the chances of absolutely no agreement were fast approaching zero."

LOL

So, @Rahul, please don't think I take @Jammer's rating as anything other than his opinion, to which he is entitled, and frankly, given his expertise with all things Trek and the longevity of this site, is actually a very valuable opinion.

But for a series-defining touchtone, don't we want something that most of us who are, shall we say obsessed with Star Trek, can agree was the epitome of that show?

In my review of Conscious of the King, I said that the reason I didn't give it 4 stars is "Because it is not a crowd pleaser. This ain’t a story that is “guaranteed to satisfy the whole family.” This is a slow and brooding monster..."

And one thing @Jammer's reviews are very helpful to us for, is picking out the universe of episodes from which we can chose the touchstone.

I propose that unless an episode gets at least 3 1/2 stars from @Jammer, as much as we might love it for our own reasons (after all it is art, and with art, the only opinion that matters, is our own!), still we can't go so far as to claim that that one episode speaks best for all of that series just because we love it?

I just got through watching "The Paradise Syndrome". In it, I talk about Paul Gaugin's Tahiti Syndrome. If someone were to ask what is the epitome of a Paul Gaugin painting, a lot of people who love his work would say this one:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/When_Will_You_Marry%3F

There are others equally popular, equally good - maybe even some I like more. But if I had to pick just one, that would probably be it.

I see in "The Paradise Syndrome" you talk about a Van Gogh white iris in connection with something called "Star Trek Continues" (which I have to admit, I don't know anything about).

But let's take Van Gogh. I have my favorite. You have yours. But I think most people would accept that the epitome of his work would probably boil down to picking one from a small handful.

I think we'd settle on Starry Night by the end of it, but I could be convinced of another if need be. He was so talented, and there are so many 4 star paintings to chose from!

Same for Star Trek. There are so many 3 1/2 or 4 star episodes to chose from.

So if you had to pick from an episode that @Jammer gave at least a 3 1/2 stars to, which would you chose?

For me, I would to go with "The Enterprise Incident." Every other highly rated episode of TOS is special because of some special feature of that episode that does not necessarily translate or carry over to the rest of the show. But "Incident" is 4 star without anything added. Just pure ordinary TOS gold.

https://youtu.be/dipFMJckZOM
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William B
Sat, Jan 9, 2021, 10:50pm (UTC -6)
Far be it for me to deny that Jammer is a major tastesetter for Trek, and certainly this is his site we're on. But at the same time, he's one guy, which also means that his tastes are going to have individuality.

To take another metric, check out IMDb episode ratings. The top ten episodes as of today are:

1. The City on the Edge of Forever
2. Mirror, Mirror
3-4 (tie). The Trouble with Tribbles; Balance of Terror
5-6 (tie). The Doomsday Machine; Space Seed
7. Amok Time
8. Journey to Babel
9. The Enterprise Incident
10-11 (tie). The Devil in the Dark; The Menagerie Part 1.

All right why am I using the IMDb rather than a more Trek-centric place? I don't know! I picked a website, and it's bound to reflect something of popular tastes of people dedicated enough to rate individual Trek episodes. I could pick a different one.

It dovetails with what I gather is generally true: that Balance of Terror is generally held in extremely high esteem as one of the series' high points. Tied for 3rd is pretty high!

When the SPACE channel in Canada had an original series vote-in marathon, I remember the top five were Tribbles, City, Mirror, Doomsday Machine, and then Balance of Terror at 5. I remember this because I was quite young at the time, and had not seen all of TOS, and so was pretty rapt with attention at a chance to see some of these classics.

For what it's worth, I am not personally taking a stand on how good Balance of Terror is. I like it but I have always felt like there is maybe some dimension of it that I'm sort of missing. I don't feel that way about The Doomsday Machine, say, where I am pretty sure that I'm getting the full effect, though perhaps not with the same visceral thrill of someone watching it for the first time and in an age more inundated with the fear of looming doomsday machines of the time.

Along those lines, I think that a set of the definitive TNG episodes could well include The Offspring, Family and Darmok -- episodes which don't make the 3.5 cut for Jammer, and in which (in each case) Jammer makes a point of emphasizing that he's outside the consensus in those reviews. I say "could well" because, hey, depends on who you ask. (Those three are all ones that I think people who love *really* love, but which leave others a little cold.)

What's interesting, given Mal's statement, is that I kind of disagree with "Enterprise Incident" -- an episode I really dig and which I think is in the series' top ten -- as a definitive TOS episode. It is pretty far off-format, plays the worldbuilding/interplanetary politics stuff which the series actually addresses pretty rarely, and doesn't seem to be as pointed in its real-world implications as most TOS. It is a spy thriller, intrigue, action piece, and of course a character piece for Spock, with worldbuilding implications, but while those elements are all present in TOS I don't really go to TOS for worldbuilding the way I do for DS9 or TNG, though the Spock material is close to the series' beating green heart.
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Mal
Sun, Jan 10, 2021, 12:45am (UTC -6)
@William B, that's a great list. IMDB has "Journey to Babel" - my favorite - as a top 10 episode :)

Here is a combined list for 749 Star Trek episodes:

https://www.imdb.com/filmosearch/?explore=title_type&role=nm0734472&sort=user_rating,desc&mode=detail&page=1&title_type=tvEpisode&num_votes=1000%2C&ref_=filmo_ref_typ

In the Pale Moonlight is #1. TOS doesn't even break the top 5. How do we feel about that?
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Rahul
Sun, Jan 10, 2021, 9:01am (UTC -6)
@Mal

With respect to IMDB's list and TOS not even breaking the top 5, I don't agree with that, but we can take the list for what it is and gather that it is probably tilted toward a younger audience who hasn't spent time on TOS like they have on TNG/DS9 etc.

I've put together my top 50 Trek episodes (I've taken care to review/rate each one as objectively/dispassionately/consistently as possible -- and then revised/reviewed it a few times) and 2 of my 5 top 5 are TOS episodes ("The Doomsday Machine" and yes, "Balance of Terror"). The other 3 are BoBW, "In the Pale Moonlight" and "Duet".
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Mal
Sun, Jan 10, 2021, 10:15am (UTC -6)
@Rahul, I don't think I've ever put together a "top Trek" list.

I did enjoy the video RLM did on top 5 TNG episodes recently:

https://youtu.be/m-hGLHOzvgs

But I suppose if I was to start putting together a top 5 episode list, it might go something like this,

1. The First Duty (TNG)
2. In the Pale Moonlight (DS9)
3. Journey to Babel (TOS)
4. The Drumhead (TNG)
5. Living Witness (VOY)

What do you think?
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Rahul
Sun, Jan 10, 2021, 11:27am (UTC -6)
@Mal

I fully admit I'm a bit of a nerd in that I have this pet project (with a spreadsheet!) for compiling my list etc. All to say that if somebody were to put together a top 5 or top 50 list etc., I think it would be hard not to let something slip thru the cracks without being able to keep track of everything! So I don't think you can necessarily just go off the top of your head in coming up with such a list.

Obviously I'm with you on "In the Pale Moonlight". But for the other 4, I think their respective series have stronger episodes, all factors considered. "The First Duty" is an interesting choice -- not sure why you rate that one so highly as I think there are 15-20 better TNG episodes!
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Chrome
Sun, Jan 10, 2021, 11:54am (UTC -6)
@William B, Rahul, Mal

My problem with these types of conglomerated review lists from IMDB and the like is that we're bound to get a result that substitutes quality for popularity. One thing to consider is whether an episode's popularity really is an indicator of quality or if there's some overlooked gem in all these series that hasn't hit mainstream popularity yet. Like sure, City on The Edge of Forever and Mirror, Mirror are obviously the most popular TOS episodes, but are they the best? That's not so clear cut.
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Paul M.
Sun, Jan 10, 2021, 5:11pm (UTC -6)
The topic of series-defining episodes is an interesting one.

While The Enterprise Incident is indeed a very good episode, I wouldn't exactly call it series-defining. I don't think it represents what TOS is best known for and what may be its lasting legacy, namely the vaunted Trekkian morality play. In that sense, The City on the Edge of Forever is a fine pick.

TNG, I feel, is a bit harder, as that show went beyond the storytelling format of TOS. Darmok maybe? The Drumhead? Measure of a Man? Something that captures the intellectualism that sets TNG apart from all other Trek shows (and that preferably has a Picard Speech(TM) in there somewhere ;)

Deep Space Nine... While my heart wants to say Duet, Visitor, or Far Beyond the Stars, those are nevertheless episodes of a more "classic" Trek bent. For authentic Niner experience, I'd probably go for something that combines politics, character drama, and high stakes. In the Pale Moonlight is an obvious choice, but for the sake of variety and in order to pick an episode from an earlier season that sets the tone for what's to come... say... The Wire for a more intimate episode or maybe the Improbable Cause / Die Is Cast two-parter for the epic war drama stuff.

The Voyager is at its heart a slickly produced action-adventure show that has the Borg fetish. I haven't seen it in a long time, but from what I can recall the best episodes in that particular vein are probably Scorpion and Dark Frontier? I think? There are surely better episodes around, but stuff like this is what I remember about Voyager.

I am not sure that Enterprise has a definitive series-defining episode. That show was all over the place. The first two seasons were poor man's Voyager, the third one was something else entirely, and then the fourth season was a total retooling of the show once more. The Azati Prime three-parter I'd say comes closest, but how representative of the entire show is it really? Not sure it is.

With Discovery, I have the opposite problem. That show is so consistently samey in tone and theme from episode to episode that it almost feels like one big huge movie that doesn't slow down for a second. I mean, go and pick an episode at random and chances are good that the one you picked is a perfectly fine example of just what Discovery wants to be. I don't know. It's a heavily serialized show so an arc episode would probably be the one that's the most series-defining. The only problem is that on this series arc episodes are hands down no contest the worst of the lot. That leaves us with... If Memory Serves, I guess. An outstanding episode that utilizes the prequel status of the show to great effect in a very smart way. And since DIS is kinda ape-y of certain elements of TOS -- in Kurtzman's view of what would TOS look like if filmed now -- it fits.
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Chrome
Sun, Jan 10, 2021, 5:44pm (UTC -6)
@Paul M.

For TNG, I think one could make a really strong argument for "All Good Things..." being a series-defining episode. You've got all the TNG eras working together with their particular quirks, the lovable Q being both ominous and thought-provoking, and then of course the "if the Enterprise D crew puts their mind on it, they can fix any problem" situation which defined the show.
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William B
Mon, Jan 11, 2021, 9:59am (UTC -6)
@Chrome, I agree that the IMDb ratings aren't a great metric for talking about The Best episode. The reason I brought it up is that Mal was suggesting (as I understood it) that a definitive episode of a show should be something many people can agree on, at least to a degree. Balance of Terror in particular is one that seems to be generally popular, and less so with Jammer (and others), so it's worth using another metric just to point out that Jammer's take isn't universal (in case it isn't obvious).

@all, I think the cross-series IMDb ratings are only so useful, because I think you get into weird effects; for instance, the number of ratings for City on the Edge as of today is 4556. The number of ratings for In the Pale Moonlight is 2865. That's a big difference and IMO I suspect that people taking the trouble to rate famous DS9 episodes are more DS9 fans than people taking the trouble to rate famous TOS episodes are necessarily fans of the show rather than people aware of a generally famous episode. Does this mean that if the same set of people watched both episodes, we can conclude they would rate ITPM higher than TCOTEOF, regardless even of whether they should "objectively"? Hard to say.

Anyway to repeat, I'm not advocating for IMDb ratings to be taken seriously as anything but a barometer for popularity of episodes, which is useful to a degree for gauging "definitive" ones. I do also think that it means something in that if an episode does significantly better than I would expect, it makes me want to revisit the episode to see if I missed anything. A part of me rebels at that because it's a form of bias, but because this is for fun I am willing to give things extra chances if others see something. And even then I would rather hear good arguments from people I respect than a crowd sourced number. The number is fun but it doesn't mean much.
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Chrome
Mon, Jan 11, 2021, 11:07am (UTC -6)
@William B

Yeah, I think there's some use to the metric of popularity when considering a definitive episode, We may even have to go back a bit further and agree what a definitive episode is. For example "In The Pale Moonlight" is unquestionably a popular and amazing episode of DS9 but is it definitive? If you think about it, it's an atypical entry in the series. Contrary to what Sisko's haters may believe, he isn't usually engaged in subterfuge and shrugging off his morals to win a war. The episode depicts Sisko's actions as a very extreme instance in the series that notably troubled the character deeply.

"I think the cross-series IMDb ratings are only so useful, because I think you get into weird effects"

Another funny example from the list is "Trials and Tribulations" from DS9 being in top 10 but "The Trouble With Tribbles" barely makes top 30. Either there's a disproportionate number of DS9 fans on IMDb, or "The Trouble With Tribbles" has fallen off hard with Trek fans. That people would like Trials and Tribulations but not the original TOS episode seems more than a bit suspect though.
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Mal
Mon, Jan 11, 2021, 6:59pm (UTC -6)
@Chrome, I noticed that weirdness with DS9's Tribbles rated higher on IMDB than TOS' Tribbles.

And I got to asking myself why?

But I have to admit, although TOS' Tribbles is one of the very best in all of Trek, DS9 actually manages to be one of those rare tributes that actually adds something more and is lots of fun. It is actually super well done.

For example, there are the great scenes with Dax. I mean, she lived through this era - it's not history - it's nostalgia. For those of us who say TOS before TNG ever aired, that's a really wonderful perspective to see up on screen.

https://youtu.be/rA210N8Y1iM?t=124

Also, the crew - Sisko, Julien, O'Brien, and Dax, look incredible in the old uniforms. The episode did an unbelievable job recreating the TOS sets, and they look better than ever. Contrast that with Discovery, which looks nothing at all like the old TOS sets when we get a glimpse of the Enterprise.

Compare Sisko and Dax on the bridge of the Enterprise

https://youtu.be/8XF4OH2JJaA?t=160

With Burnham and Pike on the be bridge of the Enterprise

https://youtu.be/z2MMXRIiPsA

You can't even tell its the Enterprise - it looks exactly like Discovery!

There are also some great comedic touches in DS9's Tribbles that gel well with the original's very funny tone. In the original, Kirk spars with a Federation bureaucrat. In the DS9 version, Sisko is questioned by Federation bureaucrats - and they kick it up a notch, by naming them Dulmer and Lucley!

And then there is the famous Worf quote:

https://youtu.be/rA210N8Y1iM?t=234

I mean, DS9's version was so good, that ENT picked up on it and actually ran with the Klingon-Augment story line!

So @Chrome, that's a long - very long - way of saying that I understand why some people like DS9's Tribbles even more than TOS' Tribbles. It has everything TOS did, plus even more - which almost never happens with a tribute episode.
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Chrome
Mon, Jan 11, 2021, 9:30pm (UTC -6)
@Mal

Just to be clear, I wasn't trying to weigh one way or another on which episode is better. If you look into the numbers like William B pointed out above, there's significant flaws in the data from one series to another. It's interesting that the IMDb list comes out that way, certainly, but we should take the list with a huge amount of salt.
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Andy
Mon, Mar 15, 2021, 9:04am (UTC -6)
Good episode but way too many plot holes for my liking. First off shields would render the whole plan moot. Keep them up and Kirk can't get back to steal the lamp ;-). Why is Spock allowed to keep his communicator. And why oh why is the Romulan commander so trusting. On repeat viewing its a 2.5 to 3 star.
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Tidd
Thu, Apr 29, 2021, 2:08am (UTC -6)
If Series 3 had started with this instead of Spock’s Brain , would it have garnered such a bad reputation? I think not. This is Trek at its finest: unexplained behaviour hidden from most of the crew, a military expedition of subterfuge for a valuable prize, Kirk getting Romulan ears and eyebrows!, great interplay between Spock and the Romulan commander... what’s not to like and admire?

Obviously there were a few things that served the plot rather than logic: Scotty being able to so quickly adapt alien technology to the Enterprise, the shielding device being so casually guarded, etc - but these are forgivable. The one thing I found less good was the character of the Romulan commander - though brilliantly acted by Joanne Linville, I thought they made her “too human” (!) in her putting her attraction to Spock on the same level as her command responsibilities. A true Romulan would have been more subtle, more circumspect, and more suspicious.

However, that doesn’t detract from what was a brilliant episode. Do I award 4 stars? Yes, I think so.

Footnote: good to see Spock so prominently featured in the first 2 episodes.
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Tidd
Thu, Apr 29, 2021, 2:30am (UTC -6)
@Trek fan

Joanna Lumley?!?!?!?!
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Jeffery's Tube
Sat, Jul 3, 2021, 12:30am (UTC -6)
To everyone talking about the transporter, remember that you can beam through shields if you have the shield frequency. Starfleet clearly had intelligence about the Romulans that led them to send Kirk on this mission. Let's assume they somehow had the shield frequency, or that they had some method of determining it that would only work once because the Romulans would figure out how they did it as soon as they realized they were transporting through the shields. Just because the episode didn't find it necessary to tell us this information, doesn't mean it didn't happen. Right?

I also feel like the Romulan Commander was targeted. It seems she had a pre-existing infatuation with Spock. It seems like such in the scene where they meet for the first time and she talks about how "some Starfleet officers are known to us." She's never met a Vulcan before. On some level she expects a Vulcan to act like a Romulan. Everything she asks of him, to betray Starfleet, to take command of the Enterprise--it's what a shifty Romulan would do. She had a romanticized idea of what Spock was like in her head from reading intelligence reports about him before she ever met him, and Starfleet became aware of that through the same espionage that led them to find out about the cloaking device in the first place, so they targeted her ship to be the one to steal it from, and sent the Enterprise on purpose, and Spock played into that for the mission. She's "so taken in" by Spock because she wants badly to believe that their Vulcan cousins are just like Romulans.

Although apparently she didn't know Spock was assigned to the Enterprise. Maybe Starfleet leaked some things about him, but left that out so she'd be taken aback when confronted by him. Have her off-balance.

It's interesting that she chooses to grab onto Spock once the cloaking device has been stolen and he's being beamed out, rather than remain with her ship. At that point, she knows it's over for her in the Empire. She'll be executed, or worse. So she does what she's been asking Spock to do for her all along. What a Romulan would do. Yes, she does order her Subcommander to destroy the Enterprise. She must be seen to be doing her duty when word gets back to the high command, after all, in case she should ever want to try and return home someday. But she's not hoping they succeed. She's going to take asylum in the Federation and work that angle, like an opportunistic, scheming, clever Romulan.

This is all subtext. I think it's there. I think Joanna Linville and Nimoy played it that way. Good thing they cast an extremely talented actress to play her rather than some playboy bunny with two facial expressions, because I don't think the episode would have worked at all if she hadn't delivered the performance she did.
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Jeffery's Tube
Sat, Jul 3, 2021, 12:35am (UTC -6)
"She's 'so taken in' by Spock because she wants badly to believe that their Vulcan cousins are just like Romulans, and because she already has preconceived notions about who she thinks Spock is." is how I'd rather that sentence read.
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Star Bird
Mon, Aug 23, 2021, 6:01pm (UTC -6)
Do you relalize that the USS Enterprise becomes a cloaked ship and can cross the Nuetral Zone back into Federation Space
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Burger
Mon, Sep 20, 2021, 1:09am (UTC -6)
So the Enterprise was surrounded because it couldn't go forward/back or left/right. What a shame they weren't in SPACE, or they could have gone UP or DOWN! 😉
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Anonymouse
Fri, Mar 18, 2022, 6:12pm (UTC -6)
He didn't have to be so mean to Chekov.
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Gary
Mon, Jul 25, 2022, 7:40pm (UTC -6)
2 stars

Just watched this ep again last night in July 2022 on handi channel which is showing tos 6 days a week

Just too many holes in the plot logic and deviation from character development of the past 2 plus seasons to earn a higher rating

Some scenes especially early are more telenovela than sci fi
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matt h
Sun, Nov 27, 2022, 10:59am (UTC -6)
Joanne Linville manages to combine class, intellect, and hotness - all going up to 11-- simultaneously.

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