|"Balance of Terror"|
|Star Trek: The Original Series episode|
|Episode no.||Season 1|
|Directed by||Vincent McEveety|
|Written by||Paul Schneider|
|Featured music||Fred Steiner|
|Cinematography by||Jerry Finnerman|
|Original air date||December 15, 1966|
"Balance of Terror" is the fourteenth episode of the first season of the American science fiction television series, Star Trek. Written by Paul Schneider and directed by Vincent McEveety, it first aired on December 15, 1966, and a repeat broadcast was aired on August 3, 1967.
On September 16, 2006, "Balance of Terror" became the first digitally remastered Star Trek episode, featuring enhanced and new visual effects, computer generated (CGI) spaceships, and high definition format.
The USS Enterprise, under the command of Captain Kirk, is investigating a loss of communication with a line of Earth outposts near the Romulan Neutral Zone, formed under the terms of the peace treaty that ended the Earth–Romulan War a century earlier. Because there were no visual communications at that time, the two races have never seen each other. While Kirk officiates at the wedding of Lieutenant Tomlinson and Ensign Martine, Outpost 4 comes under attack. The Enterprise comes to Outpost 4's aid and contacts the base commander, Hansen, who reveals he is the only survivor of an attack by an unknown enemy with weapons of immense power. A single shot destroyed the base's shields and killed the phaser crew. As they speak, the enemy ship reappears. The ship fires before disappearing again. The shot destroys the outpost and kills Hansen.
The ship's sensors locate the attacker, which remains invisible. Kirk surmises that the attacker is equipped with a cloaking device. A coded message from the intruder provides a view through one of its internal cameras, revealing humanoids with an appearance like Vulcans. Lieutenant Stiles, the navigator, son of a service family that lost several members in the Earth–Romulan War, begins to question the loyalty of the Enterprise's half-Vulcan first officer, Mr. Spock.
During a discussion of the Romulan ship's capabilities, Stiles suggests the Enterprise attack the vessel before it can reach the Neutral Zone. Spock agrees; he reasons that if the Romulans are in fact an offshoot of the Vulcan species and have retained the martial philosophy of the Vulcans' ancient past, they would surely take advantage of any perceived weakness.
A cat-and-mouse game ensues. The Enterprise is faster and more maneuverable, while the Romulan ship has a cloaking device and immensely destructive plasma torpedoes. However, the range of these torpedoes is limited, and firing one requires so much power that the ship must decloak first. When the Romulans head into the tail of a comet, Kirk tries to head it off, hoping to target it as it becomes visible. However, the Romulan commander guesses Kirk's plan, and takes evasive maneuvers. Kirk, seeing nothing, orders phasers to be fired blindly before the Romulans can counterattack.
The Romulans, almost beaten, plant a nuclear weapon amidst jettisoned debris. When Spock detects a "metal-cased object", Kirk orders a point-blank phaser shot that detonates the device. The Enterprise is shaken by the blast and much of the phaser crew are incapacitated, requiring Stiles to act as backup. Kirk orders operations to work at minimal power to exaggerate the apparent damage and lure the Romulans in for a kill shot. Although the Romulan commander suspects Kirk's trap, Decius, a politically well-connected member of the command crew pressures him to attack the Enterprise. When the Romulan ship decloaks to launch a torpedo, Kirk tries to spring his trap, but a coolant leak in the phaser room incapacitates Stiles and Tomlinson. Spock rescues Stiles and fires the phasers in time to mortally wound the Romulan ship. Kirk hails the Romulans and at last communicates directly with his opponent, offering to beam aboard survivors. The Romulan commander says that it is not the Romulan way to be taken prisoner and triggers his ship's self-destruct system.
The battle's only fatality is Lt. Tomlinson. Kirk goes to the chapel to provide comfort to a grieving Ensign Martine.
The music played during the opening scene of the wedding ceremony is the 19th century English song "Long, Long Ago."
Mark Lenard, the Romulan commander is better known for playing Sarek, Spock's father, and has the distinction of playing a Romulan, Klingon and Vulcan over the course of the series. He would reprise the role of Sarek in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
In 1993, The Star Trek Compendium stated the episode was essentially a science fiction version of the submarine film The Enemy Below, depicting a cat-and-mouse game between the Enterprise as the American destroyer against a Romulan vessel as the U-boat.
In 2009, Zack Handlen of The A.V. Club gave the episode an 'A' rating, describing the episode as "one of TOS's strongest, introducing us to a new alien race, as well as providing us with a very important piece of Trek mythology" and noting that, "watching Kirk out-maneuver his enemy, even to the point of earning that enemy's respect, is very cool". In 2012, they ranked "Balance of Terror" as one of the top ten "must see" episodes of The Original Series.
Io9's 2014 listing of the top 100 Star Trek episodes placed "Balance of Terror" as the number one episode of all series up to that time. "The Best of Both Worlds" and "The City on the Edge of Forever" were ranked second and third, respectively.
2016 was the 50th anniversary of the first broadcast of Star Trek, which triggered a large amount of press including TV Guide's review of top original series episodes. They ranked "Balance of Terror" the series' second-best episode.
In 2016, Newsweek ranked "Balance of Terror" as one of the best episodes of The Original Series. In 2016, IGN ranked "Balance of Terror" the second-best episode of The Original Series. In 2016, CNET noted that "Balance of Terror" was rated one of the top ten episodes of all Star Trek episodes in an audience-based rating at the Star Trek 50th anniversary convention.
In 2016, The Washington Post ranked "Balance of Terror" the second-best episode of the entirety of Star Trek and noting that it investigates the connection between wars and race, and also that it shows both sides of a conflict in deep space, introducing the Romulan aliens of Star Trek for the first time. A 2017 article in The Washington Post which ranked the greatest spacecraft captains of Star Trek, included a special mention for the captain of the Romulan vessel. They note the performance of actor Mark Lenard, who went on to play Spock's father, Sarek, in the franchise, for his role in his confrontation with Captain Kirk of the Enterprise, whom they rated as the best Star Trek captain overall.
In 2016, Business Insider ranked "Balance of Terror" the best episode of The Original Series. In 2016, SyFy ranked guest star Mark Lenard (the Romulan captain), as the eighth-best guest star on The Original Series. Mark Lenard returned to the series as Spock's father Sarek in "Journey to Babel".
In 2017, ScreenRant ranked this episode the 10th thematically darkest episode of the Star Trek franchise, noting it lacks the light-heartiness of many other episodes in the series as it explores various themes.
Comic book publisher IDW Publishing released a prequel, Star Trek Alien Spotlight: Romulans and a sequel, Star Trek Romulans: The Hollow Crown.
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|Wikiquote has quotations related to: "Balance of Terror"|
- "Balance of Terror" at StarTrek.com
- "Balance of Terror" on IMDb
- "Balance of Terror" at TV.com
- "Balance of Terror" at Memory Alpha (a Star Trek wiki)
- "Balance of Terror" Comparisons of the new "remastered" visual effects
- "Balance of Terror" Revised Script July 19–22, 1966; report & analysis by Dave Eversole
- "Balance of Terror" Screenshots before and after remastering at TrekMovie.com