"Star Trek" Balance of Terror (TV Episode 1966) Poster

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The Face of War - and it's Romulan!
Bogmeister1 July 2006
When the Romulans come, they will not be bearing gifts; no, they bring with them war - war and conquest. As any familiar with this episode know, it is a redux of the war film "The Enemy Below" from the fifties. The obvious difference is that instead of a battleship and a submarine (or an American Destroyer & German U-boat) engaged in lethal war games, it is two starships in outer space. In Trek history, about 100 years before the events here, according to this episode, Earth fought the Romulan Wars. After about 5 years of conflict, a stalemate brought about a treaty and the institution of the Neutral Zone, a boundary between us and the Romulan Empire. Now, on this stardate, the treaty appears to be broken, as our outposts are being attacked and destroyed by some weapon of immense power. Yes, the Romulans are back, testing their new war toy, and Kirk must now earn his pay: he must make decisions that would affect this sector of the galaxy, such as figuring out how to avoid a...oh, I dunno - an interstellar war, maybe?

I think what makes this episode so effective is that it doesn't shy away from the grim aspects of war, as one would expect of a mere TV episode from the sixties - especially an episode from a science fiction show. It's all very tense and gripping, like the best war films, such as when Kirk sits down with his key officers for what amounts to a war council. The writers and the actors aren't kidding around here: this is all preparation for a ghastly conflict, potentially the beginning of another years-long battleground. In the final analysis, Kirk's aim is to keep this battleground to just the two ships - but even then it's an endeavor fraught with peril and probable casualties. In fact, I believe this episode holds the record for ship casualties by the end of it. Right at the start of the episode, we see the devastation such battle can produce, in that supposedly well-protected outpost. Then begin the cat-and-mouse war games between the Enterprise and the Romulan ship - it's as exciting as any conflict we've seen on the big screen. Of course, if you're not into war films, you'd have to look for other things to admire in this episode.

What elevates this episode even further is the revelation of just what and who the Romulans are - it's an electric shock of a sort. Now we have even further inter-crew conflict on the bridge of the Enterprise - war does tend to bring out the worst in some people. Due to still nasty attitudes about race in this future, the tension is ratcheted up even further - Kirk has his hands full in this one. I suppose the one weakness in the story is the convenient relenting of the bigotry issue by the conclusion. On the Romulan side, actor Lenard makes his first appearance in the Trek universe as the Romulan commander; he's terrific in the role, the flip side of Capt. Kirk or Capt. Pike, take your pick, done up to resemble Spock more than a little. Surprisingly, his character is not war hungry as we would expect, another eye-opener for this episode. The actor would next return to this universe as Sarek, Spock's father, so he's nothing if not versatile. It's also telling how the first appearance of such characters as the Romulans is usually their best shot, as it is here. They showed up in "The Enterprise Incident" next.
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Evenly matched adversaries
bkoganbing20 December 2014
Things start out on a happy note in this Star Trek episode. A couple of young of the younger members of the Enterprise crew are getting married and William Shatner notes he has the happy duty afforded ship's captains from earth of performing marriages. But a red alert brings everyone to battle stations as a Romulan war bird with functioning cloaking device starts destroying Federation outposts on asteroids near the neutral zone.

We never know what the intention is, to provoke a shooting war or just test the earth alertness. But the Enterprise is the ship on the scene and Shatner enters a battle of wits with a very shrewd Romulan commander Mark Lenard.

Watching these two circle around and try and guess the other's intentions shows us a pair of evenly matched adversaries. Lenard too as does Shatner in every episode shows the strain of command. Both know they're not facing fools. The respect for each other as a representative of a different culture also grows.

In another century Humans and Romulans would still be at each other's throats in Star Trek Next Genertion and Deep Space Nine.

When the phasers and disrupters start firing the tension never lets up.
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Episodes like this one are what makes Star Trek great!
GlennDavidTaylor12 May 2006
This has to be one of my 3 favorite Episodes from the Original TV Series.

What makes it great is the battle of wits between The Romulan Commander and Kirk, as well as the top-notch acting from Mark Lenard, who later went on to play Spock's father in other TV Episodes and movies. This is a case where those around rose to the level of the talent around them, and Shatner, Nimoy, and the whole cast deliver an outstanding performance in this episode.

The writing and plot are also excellent, and I love the direct approach used to show us the characters, and the feelings and thoughts of those characters, and how freely they are expressed by the actors.

This very entertaining episode ranks 10 out of 10. AWESOME!! Desert-Buddha
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Balance of greatness
Mr-Fusion24 May 2016
At face value, 'Balance of Terror' is as straightforward as they come; this is a classic submarine movie, complete with cat-n-mouse and silent running. Enterprise faces off with a Romulan warbird on the edge of the Neutral Zone; it's uncomplicated, but makes for some tense television.

But then there's the sympathetic opponent, less a villain and more a like-minded captain on the opposite team from Kirk (Mark Lenard plays this well, and I can see why they brought him back to play Spock's father; the two don't seem all that far apart). These are two evenly-matched adversaries sizing each other up. This episode focuses on the profound responsibility of being a starship captain, the immense weight of some of these tactical decisions; and it's a great example of the Kirk/Spock/McCoy dynamic as they hash this thing out from all angles.

In the end, it's just a riveting episode from start to finish; the grudges run deep, the conflict's great, and it's one of the more accessible episodes I've seen.

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First time watching the Enterprise do battle is still the best
eti5527 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I didn't realize just how much of this episode was taken from The Enemy Below until I finally saw the movie (it has since become my fave war flick). There were a couple of elements lifted from Run Silent Run Deep as well. Nothing wrong with stealing ideas, as long as you do something cool with them. And Roddenberry and company did something very cool with this one.

Trouble starts right away, as a wedding between two junior officers (presided over by Kirk) is interrupted when the Romulans violate a 100-year old treaty by crossing the neutral zone and destroying a series of Federation outposts along the zone, ostensibly to test their superior weaponry and invisibility screen (and subsequent shift in the balance of power between the Romulans and the Federation, in their view) as a prelude to an all-out invasion. Kirk has to decide whether it's worth risking war to try and stop the Romulan ship, or if in fact the greater risk lies in letting the invaders go after they destroyed 4 military outposts. Kirk wisely chooses the latter.

This is our first look at an enemy of the Federation, the Romulans, a warlike, yet in their own way honorable race who are distant relatives to the Vulcans. However, unlike their peaceful cousins, the Romulans did not renounce their emotions and violent and imperialistic ways, even as they advanced technologically.

None of this matters to Mr. Stiles, the ship's navigator and this episode's chief antagonist on board the enterprise (the Romulan commander has his own problems with a gung-ho junior officer). All that matters to him is he hates Romulans and Spock looks like one..until the end when Spock saves his life (naturally). This contrasts sharply with Captain Kirk and the Romulan commander, neither of whom has any personal ill will towards the other at all. Both men are simply doing their duty. In fact there's a mutual respect. This is the first Trek episode to deal directly with prejudice, and it does so deftly (as opposed to season 3's not-so-subtle "Let That be Your Last Battlefield").

Like The Enemy Below, we have a classic chess match between two ship commanders who are actually very much alike. You see right away that both of these captains are good..VERY good. If you were going into battle you'd want either of these men as your leader. Both are honorable and decent men who are duty bound. Yet even though the Romulan commander is bound by duty to his home world, he still finds himself wishing for destruction before he can make it home rather than start another interstellar war. Yet he still does everything he can to make it home, just as Kirk does everything he can to stop him.

This is, in my opinion, one of Trek's 5 best. It has everything: Plenty of action, suspense, great dialogue, fine acting (I still maintain the Romulan Commander was Mark Lenard's best Trek role), and it manages to make its social commentary without being overly preachy. A pity Roddenberry forgot about the last part when he did TNG.

Watch this episode, then watch The Enemy Below.
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Intergalactic Space Battle
Hitchcoc26 April 2014
It's interesting that so many reviewers are so excited by this episode because it has to do with warfare. I've always enjoyed the more intellectual types of science fiction and feel this is often the lowest common denominator. It's why I see the Star Wars original movies as more Western than science fiction. That aside, this particular offering, with the introduction of the Romulans and a battle of wits between the two Captains is very good. Kirk is probably at the best he has ever been. Because the two vessels are unknown to each other, they must do two things. They must analyze and they must react. We also have a pair of truly contrasting cultures. Throw in the Vulcan angle (a possible split of purposes back in the day) with Spock being seen as a potential traitor and it gets really interesting. The conclusion is well set up and I won't comment on it specifically, but really pulls the whole thing together. All the actors deliver nice performances. We don't mention the secondary people, like Mr. Sulu, often enough, but they are really significant in this episode.
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Great Episode Where The Performances Make You Forget the Flaws
crood11 July 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Let's get the flaws out of the way. It relies really heavily on the "Space is an Ocean" trope. It takes the submarine movie in space bit way to far to where apparently sound can travel through space. Translating other genres to sci-fi is an age old concept, but you need to stray from the source where appropriate.

Second is the internal conflict on the Enterprise. Styles is a guy we've never seen before and will never see again. He's supposed to be a bigot, but he's actually got a point, at first. If no one's seen a Romulan, how do you know they haven infiltrated the Federation? His focusing on Spock is a bit less forgivable, given his long Starfleet career and the fact that there's a planet full of Vulcans. However, while an earlier stardate, this episode actually originally aired a few weeks after "The Menagerie", so audiences at the time may have been more accepting of the idea of a Spock betrayal. Styles' attitude shift was a bit far-fetched, but not wholly unbelievable.

Now let's get to what makes this episode ooze with awesome. The chess match between Kirk and The Romulan commander was awesome. It was a match between equals, each with advantages and disadvantages to deal with. I somewhat disagree with another reviewer who called this a clear good guy vs. bad guy scenario. While the Romulans are certainly the aggressors, The Commander and The Centurian are portrayed quite sympathetically. They're not wholly comfortable with their mission, but are experienced soldiers doing as ordered. Mark Lenard did a great job bringing out a brilliant, but somewhat tired old soldier. He got to make a classic line at the end that is really sums up how you feel about his conflict with Kirk,


It's entirely believable from what we've seen. For both Kirk and the Commander none of this was personal. There was no malice. Each was doing his duty and that forced them into a conflict where only one could survive.
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"The Enemy Below"
Blueghost2 June 2009
Nearly ten years before Desilu Studios chanced Star Trek, Robert Mitchum and Curt Jurgens were up on the big screen showing the progenitor to one of Star Trek's more famous episodes in the form of a US Navy DDE (destroyer escort) matching wits with a German U-boat in the South Atlantic. This observation was not my own, but made by a good friend who works for another man that publishes a game based on the classic Star Trek franchise.

Classic Roman society is used as a template for Vulcan cousins, and are assigned a nationalistic and expansionist philosophy, again not unlike Nazi Germany post the Imperial regime from which the Kaiser abdicated power after the first world war.

The episode brings a flavor of the classic U-Boat sub hunt to the science fiction audience, and, remarkably, uses a then recently declassified (and still experimental) technology developed by the USAF; the cloaking device. The idea was to mask bombers (notably the B-51 Hustler if I recall correctly... which I may not) as they drove deep into enemy territory to deliver their payload. It was an airborne mimicry of the submarine concept. It's technical details are too lengthy and esoteric to place in this post (that, and I don't recall all of them now :-)), but the concept, down to its actual name, was used in this episode. And, if memory serves, in Lucas's "The Empire Strikes Back" in a throw away line just after the asteroid chase sequence.

The episode, like the movie upon which it borrows, is rife with tension. One mind is pitted against another in a struggle for life and death. Each is duty bound to vanquish the other. They must act upon their orders to ensure their sides victory. Unlike the feature film, Trek's "Balance of Terror" has a definitive victor. I'll let you guess who it is ;-) But there's more than just a simple WW2 tale put into space operating here. Note the title. Note the period in which this episode and show were made; the Cold War. Marry the two, and keep in mind the various proxy wars both US and USSR waged across the globe, and you'll start to see the larger theme.

Yet, with all this high mindedness, with all the military tactical tension, there are personal costs on both sides. It's not the primary focus of both film and episode, but a reminder of the cost of such conflict among fellow living creatures.

Definitely worth seeing again.

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Enter the Romulans
Max_cinefilo896 May 2009
Undoubtedly one of the best episodes ever, Balance of Terror is 45 minutes of well executed suspense, with intelligent real-world parallels (the title refers to a situation very similar to what was going on between the US and the Soviet Union during the Cold War), spot-on characterizations and the introduction of Star Trek's second most important hostile alien race after the Klingons: the Romulans.

After receiving a distress call from a Federation outpost, the Enterprise is dangerously close to the Neutral Zone which, if crossed, would lead to open conflict with the Romulans, although no one has ever actually seen them in the flesh. Soon enough, a Romulan vessel appears, carrying a new weapon and a cloaking device which makes it nearly impossible to defeat. Facing the threat of imminent annihilation, Kirk must engage in a battle of wits with the Romulan Commander (Mark Lenard) to ensure the survival of his crew. Unfortunately, the task is made more difficult when one of the men accuses Spock of being in league with the enemy, due to the physical resemblance between Romulans and Vulcans, two races that are, in fact, distantly related (a fact that is quite ironic with hindsight, given Lenard went on to play Spock's father Sarek starting with Season 2).

Always very critical when it came to the subject of war, Star Trek enjoys one of its finest hours with its most gripping and tense take on the topic. Although the Romulans aren't actually based on the Soviets (the name is actually taken from Romulus, the founder of Rome), the scenario is quite obviously inspired by the very vivid fear American and Russian citizens had at the time that either nation might be able to destroy the other with nuclear weapons (that fear gave birth to the titular concept of "balance of terror"). But even without the subtext, this remains an essential episode, due for the most part to the intellectual battle between the two adversaries, which translates into a thesping duel between Shatner and Lenard. No need to say who wins...
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Possibly the best Star Trek episode ever
MartinHafer5 December 2006
Despite all the hoopla about THE TROUBLE WITH TRIBBLES episode, THE BALANCE OF TERROR might just be the best episode of the series. And, while I have always loved A PIECE OF THE ACTION because it is so much fun, I really do have to cast my vote as this Romulan episode as being the very best.

The episode interestingly enough, is really like a WWII submarine movie in that it bounces back and forth between the cloaked Romulan ship and the Enterprise as it seeks to destroy the Romulans before they sneak back across the Neutral Zone after a raid on Federation outposts. In so many ways, the show is much like the film THE ENEMY BELOW--where the American Captain (Robert Mitchum) and the German Captain (Curt Jurgens) are shown in counter-point as they both try to outwit the other--and in the process develop a grudging respect for their foe.

Interestingly enough, the episode is confined to the Enterprise--and this is amazing because an episode on board ship could easily have been static and dull. But, because the writing was so fantastic and the main characters written and acted so well (Shatner and Mark Leonard as the Romulan leader). Overall it's very tense and exciting. Oddly, for the die-hard Trekkers out there, they'll recognize Leonard as the same actor who later played Spock's father.

The bottom line is this is simply a great and extremely engaging episode that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
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I'm not Spartacus!
tsf-19626 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This is one of the best of the early "Star Trek" episodes, with Kirk and his crew venturing into the unknown to do battle with an enemy known only by name. Imagine their surprise when they find out that the dreaded Romulans are racial offshoots of the Vulcans! Young Mr. Stiles, well-played by Paul Comi, is one of the few truly unlikable characters in the "Star Trek" universe. His barely disguised hatred of Mr. Spock is eerily similar to the post-9/11 hatred and suspicion many Americans have of people of Arab or Middle Eastern origin. The atmosphere of war-time paranoia is all too real. Then there's the Romulans: they're the ultimate Federation nemesis. The Klingons are nasty but basically harmless; more of a nuisance than a serious threat. The Romulans, however, mean business: they're the ancient Romans reborn in the space age; in spite of their Vulcanoid features they're clearly meant to remind us of imperial Rome, with names like Decius and titles like "centurion" and "praetor." The chain-mail armor is really cool. Familiar guest star Mark Lenard, who went on to play Spock's dad Sorek as well as the Klingon commander in "Star Trek: the Motion Picture" is an appropriately grizzled, war-weary commander, a character who bears a striking resemblance to Laurence Olivier's Crassus in "Spartacus." Also, his questioning of the Empire's unquenchable thirst for conquest reminds me of the similar misgivings Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris) expressed at the beginning of "Gladiator." A must both for Trekkies and sword-and-sandal epic fans.
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"Danger and I are old companions" - Romulan Commander
classicsoncall16 October 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Definitely a Top Ten episode of the series, and apparently an overwhelming favorite with fans on this board. The story introduces the Romulans and the Neutral Zone, while setting up a fascinating cat and mouse game between starship captains of virtually equal skill and talent. As Kirk matches the Romulan Commander move for move, he's dealt the ultimate compliment by his adversary - "He's a sorcerer, that one". Knowledgeable viewers have mentioned 1957's "The Enemy Below" as part inspiration for this Star Trek classic, and the plot might have been given an even greater psychological thrust in 1981's "Das Boot". But I digress.

As the series progressed through this, the first season, it's interesting to see how Captain Kirk's leadership and authority were continually developed and expanded upon. Always willing to listen to the advice of his officers, it's never in doubt that Kirk himself will be the final arbiter of any decision to be made. What's interesting here is that Kirk recognizes that his duty might ultimately wind up making the Enterprise expendable. Interesting too, that Spock's logical approach leads him to the same conclusion as navigator Stiles (Paul Comi), who earlier expresses doubts about Spock's resolve. When Spock proclaims - "I agree. Attack." - it's a chilling moment.

Underneath it all, Gene Roddenberry lays down a not so subtle sub-text involving racial prejudice and bigotry. It's patently clever that he does so by involving two alien races, instead of those we are so generally used to, black and white, North and South, Semitic/anti-Semitic. It helps one step outside the box of common stereotypes to question why one race, religion or nationality is any better or worse than another. Was Spock suddenly suspect because the first time ever seen Vulcan Commander looked similar in appearance? Not fair you say? But it's done all the time. Roddenberry was really well ahead of the curve on this, and he would do it again in future episodes.

Fortunately for the Enterprise, Kirk makes all the right moves to defeat the Romulans. In the hands of less skilled writers, the story might have ended there with a victory for the good guys. However I admired the way the Vulcan Commander accepted his fate, refusing to accept sanctuary for himself and his crew. He says to his rival Kirk - "In a different reality I could have called you friend". It's those defining moments that make Star Trek a classic of Sci-fi television.
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Brilliant Cat and Mouse
chrstphrtully2 December 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Rightly regarded as one of the best episodes of the series, Balance of Terror takes the plot of the 1957 submarine thriller The Enemy Below, and adds strong moral and personal stakes to the battle of wits. The result is a wonderfully suspenseful, and deeply affecting, episode.

The episode opens with a wedding between two crew members, being presided over by Kirk. The nuptials, however, are interrupted by a red alert, as several Federation outposts on the Romulan neutral zone have suddenly gone silent, a century after a war between the Federation and the Romulans, where neither party made visual contact with the other. When the Enterprise goes in to investigate, they come across the latest output to be attacked; just before the outpost is destroyed, the commander tells the Enterprise that the attackers were undetectable, and had weaponry of incredible power. And thus, the cat-and-mouse game begins.

Paul Schneider's script uses the sub hunter/submarine plot line extremely effectively, with Kirk and the Romulan commander (Mark Lenard) playing an elaborate chess game with much higher stakes. The back-and-forth between the two ships is counterpointed with the internal conflicts on both ships -- a bigoted navigator Stiles (Paul Comi) suspecting Spock of espionage, while the Romulan commander's distaste for the repeated martial pattern of the empire brings him into direct conflict with his more bellicose (and politically connected) second-in-command. Vincent McEveety's direction is equal strong, using shadow and extended silences effectively to set the siege-like mood, enhancing the tension.

The performances are superb. Shatner gives one of his best turns, as we can almost literally see the weight of command wearing on him, while at the same time giving full demonstration of why Kirk commands a starship; Nimoy's performance is also exceptional, as his understatement serves to feed Stiles' suspicion of him; and Comi effectively conveys Stiles' bigotry, as well as its source, making his eventual epiphany all the more believable. And then there is Lenard (who would later play Sarek, Spock's father in "Journey to Babel") -- his performance is perhaps the best in the episode, mirroring Shatner's, with his character's "humanity" (for lack of a more apropos word) made all the more striking given the authoritarian upbringing. Those moments - - counterpointed with the character's tactical skill -- makes his eventual interaction with Kirk remarkably poignant. And then there is the finale -- effected without excessive sentimentality and, indeed, Shatner and Barbara Baldavin deliver a scene that is low-key, but equally poignant in its own way about the costs of war, and the need to balance those costs against the consequences.


As a final side note, and in response to one of the prior commenters, Spock's "decision" to save Stiles rather than Tomlinson isn't a real choice (and therefore, not really a failing of the episode) -- it is clear from the scene that, by the time Spock arrives, Tomlinson is unconscious (and, given that he runs directly toward the coolant leak, probably more likely dead already), while Stiles is still alive. Thus, Spock's decision is eminently logical and moral.


One of the best five episodes of the series.
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First "good" episode ?
liquorice2427 May 2015
Warning: Spoilers
One of the first 'good' episodes because of the Romulans. It must have been mentioned on here before, but, the storyline is of course almost an exact copy of The Enemy Below (1957) Robert Mitchum is the US Commander Curd Jurgens the Sub Captain ...

= US Ship trying to defeat Nazi U-Boat. The cloaked Romulan vessel being the U-Boat.

They do the same "wreckage-out-of-the-torpedo-tubes" thing. The same "blind-spread-of-depth-charges". Similar hiding in "oil-slick".

Not that it's a bad thing.....as I say it makes for one of the first GOOD episodes of Original I reckon. :-) FatS.
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More critical and positive comments on a great episode
hkrueger-128 May 2006
To start off, this happens to be my favorite of the ST OS.

In addition to StuOz's critical comments I'll throw in some more: Getting technical, when the Enterprise fires it's photon torps at a blind target, they'd have to be mighty close to direct hits (I believe) in order to cause any disturbance much less damage to the Romulan vessel with the vacuum of space to contend with.

I had somewhat of a problem with the Romulan commander questioning his faith in the Romulan "protocol" or their leadership, unless it has to do with attacking vulnerable targets (outposts in the neutral zone) that are not at war. Also, I don't think commander would fall for the basic, or simple tactics that Kirk played, such as "playing dead," or falling for the ploy that the subordinate puts on him about whether or not to attack the Enterprise when it is playing dead.

On the Enterprise: I'm surprised that after seeing the Romulan vessel's method of attack earlier, that Sulu would say, "Are they surrendering?" when it attacks the Enterprise the first time.

Funny how Spock can only get the repair done on the weapons control right when the emergency is over.

Also in the final attack, I thought the Romulan vessel was uncloaked too long (so long that Spock could run down a couple aisles and back to the weapons room and activate and fire the photon torpedoes. I would have used phasers at this point, but I'm sure it had to do with the technicians and budget).

On the positive side: It's a good drama played on the Romulan vessel, in which to introduce us to the Romulans. Great scenes with Stiles telling a good deal of the human knowledge of the Romulans. Also his conflict with Spock is right up there. I wished Stiles' character would have stayed on the show for a while, if for nothing else than the energy he added.

It's only in fun that I point out the negatives and goofs, (I'm sure there are more). But for me this is as good as it gets!! "Balance of Terror" is always the one I place at the top in my ST rankings.
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The Enterprise meets the Romulans face to face for the 1st time
cmmckee118 May 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I agree that this is ONE of the very best episodes of the entire series--my only detraction would be the somewhat jarring appearance of Mark Lenard as the Romulan Commander. My reasoning is this--if you were not around for the first run of this episode, then you know Mr. Lenard as Sarek, Spock's father. And for the 2nd generation Trekkie (or Trekker--your preference) it takes you out of the scene at first. Yet he's an excellent commander as well as opposite for our captain and this episode is strongly written and well-acted by all. There are excellent points made by both sides about the cost of war vs.the price of peace and certainly does remind one of some of the best of the WWII and later era movies. Those are not my favorite genre but I certainly would recommend a fan of such to view this episode through that filter. You'll see it holds up. I'll never understand why Sci-Fi gets so little respect--the best drama comes out of placing ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.
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First Romulan Appearance - Great Episode
Rainey Dawn3 January 2017
Season 1, episode 14. The Enterprise answers a distress call from the Federation Outpost #4 - they have been attacked. When the Enterprise heads that way, they witness F.O. #4 being destroyed on their viewing screen. The Romulan vessel remains cloaked until ready to fire, very much the way the Klingon Bird of Prey does. Stiles is at the helm and tells Kirk that he's sure it is Romulans - he's learned this from his family. Romulans have not been seen in more than a century so no one knows what a Romulan looks like but the Enterprise does catch a quick view on their monitor of the Romulan Commander, this gives Stiles a reason to sneer at Spock who never has seen a Romulan either. Kirk must decide on what to do, they are at the Neutral Zone - do they attack or let the Romulan ship go after witness first hand the attack on and disintegration of F.O. #4?

One of the better Star Trek episodes that you'll ever see. It seems to really capture what the series is all about in the brightest light possible.

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larson4862522 October 2016
This show is basically a remake of the 1957 Movie "The Enemy Below." There are some subtle differences, but the basic plot is the same. The Captain of a ship pursues the Captain of an opposing forces ship. In the process, besides the inter-personal relationships, there is the display of command personalities from both vessels, each Captain showing leadership attributes over his crew. In the end, it is the "winning" Captain that wins. One factor that ties it into the mentioned movie is the "enemy" Captains refusal to deviate from his planned course and heading in any attempt to evade the pursuing ship. In the end, there is a "face to face" meeting of the Captains and a show of mutual respect, even though they were adversaries in the story.
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Star Trek Introducing the Romulans
Tweekums15 September 2015
Warning: Spoilers
When outposts near the Neutral Zone between Federation space and the Romulan Empire are attacked the Enterprise responds. We learn that a century before a war took place against the Romulans but at no point did anybody from either side see the other; nobody even knows what the Romulans look like but they do know that entering the Neutral Zone would precipitate a war. Navigator Stiles, who lost relatives in the previous war, is certain that the Romulans must be to blame but Kirk is more cautious. When another outpost is attacked it soon becomes clear that it is the Romulans and that they have a new weapons system and a device that renders their ship invisible. The crew of the Enterprise manage to hack into the Romulan ship's bridge cameras and they are quite shocked to see that they look like Mr Spock… he cautions that if they are indeed related to ancient Vulcans they are likely to be very dangerous. It appears that the Romulans are effectively blind while they are cloaked and what follows is a game of cat and mouse as each commander tries to anticipate the others next move.

This is probably the best episode to date; indeed one of the best episodes in the entire series. The opening, where Kirk is preparing to perform a marriage ceremony for two crew members but is interrupted by red alert effectively flags that something tragic is likely to happen… and makes us care when it finally does. The story serves to introduce one of the 'Star Trek' universe's best known villains; the Romulans are only topped by the Klingons in this department. The Romulans get a great introduction; at first they are mysterious and dangerous but as the story progresses we see that they have a degree of nobility; this means they aren't pantomime villains. The scenes where the two ships hunt each other was top notch; it felt like a classic war film but with spaceships rather than submarines. If there is a weakness it is Stiles; we are meant to believe he holds a bitter hatred for the Romulans because of family members who died in a war that ended decades before he was even born. The cast do a solid job; Mark Lenard, who plays the Romulan commander, is particularly good and Paul Comi, who plays Stiles, does a decent job despite the flaws with his character. Overall this is a superlative episode from this classic series.
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Now Season 1 of ST: TOS gets good!
Pytheas2023 May 2015
On a re-watch in production order, up to this point we've had some great episodes. But this was the first that me stop what I was doing and want to soak it all in. It's the equivalent of submarine warfare. Both are strong but thoughtful leaders, each carefully seeking the other.

Kirk showed a true calm and calculating command, and so it was this episode that really built up his image for me.

Up to this point in production order this is my favorite episode so far, even above "Man Trap" (which I thought was an excellent episode, too).
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Pretty good episode but a few serious flaws
intp28 May 2014
Warning: Spoilers
This was a pretty good episode overall, I thought. The Romulans are introduced to the Star Trek mythos as one of the major threats to the Federation. Kirk has an interesting 'duel' of sorts with the Romulan commander, played here by Mark Lenard, the same guy who would play Sarek, Spock's father, in later episodes. Kirk ends up preventing a likely war that would have ensued if the Romulan ship had safely returned to Romulan territory, so the stakes were high.

There was at least one major flaw, though, which bothered me a lot even as a kid. The bigoted navigator, Stiles, even says that a "phaser hit" against the cloaked ship, at far range, would be "the wildest stroke of luck", and Kirk says "I'm aware of that". Yet, the Enterprise, again and again, seems to hit the Romulan ship at will with their phasers. The cloaking device seems almost useless under these conditions.

A possible explanation is that the Romulan commander indeed wanted to die, as he directly suggested to the Centurion, in order to prevent an otherwise inevitable war, and so deliberately did things to make his vessel visible to the Enterprise; but that's not what seemed to happen. I never felt like there was a good explanation for the Enterprise's seeming ability to hit the Romulan ship repeatedly despite the supposed cloak. A better script would have come up with some clever maneuvering by Kirk and Spock that somehow defeated the cloaking device; their repeatedly hitting the enemy "by the sheerest stroke of luck", over and over again, seemed quite ludicrous by the end.

The second flaw was the thoroughly unsatisfying ending. Spock has a choice between saving two men's lives-- and he chooses the bigot rather than the young man who was to be married. I guess they were trying to give the bigot his 'moment of realization' while also creating a sense of tragic loss, but it's just too irritating-- why was it just the two of them, and why did Spock pick the jerk? I actually think it would have been more interesting if Spock had shown emotionality and picked the less offensive man to save, since he apparently only had time to save one of them.
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Balance of Terror
cambridgejohnny17 September 2006
This particular episode of the original series "Star Trek" perhaps best represents the "old west" and/or military conflict (American style)film/television program of the twentieth century, wherein it's pretty obvious which are the "good guys," and which are the "bad guys."

Back in those relatively simple times, it was always so easy to take sides. The Americans, or in this case, the Federation military were simply going around trying to set things "a-right." And it seemed so clear in those days who the bad guys were.

Nowadays, things have gotten SO complicated.

Anyway, in this particular program, Balance of Terror, as another respondent on this website mentions, there are no weird personality profiles--no tribbles (which, don't get me wrong, was very, very funny) no one on the surface of some weird planet with impossible parallels to our planet; this is straight out military battle in space.

And you know, over time, in this series, and the subsequent spin-offs--you really don't get that, that often. It's particularly enjoyable with an excellent sound system. One actually gets about as close to a feeling of "being there" as you can get." The original series is going to be available regularly come November ('06), on T.V. Land, and in some local markets, so anybody out there, I highly recommend it to a whole new generation, and of course to us old-timers who remember watching it in its original run.

Good, clean fun.

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Classic Star Trek- Balance of Terror
Scarecrow-8817 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
"Balance of Terror" is, to this Star Trek fan, what the series is all about. The story is tense, compelling, and thought-provoking. It deals with two strategic, tactical generals, using their intellect and cleverness in a game of cat and mouse, Captain James T Kirk (Shatner, in my mind, has rarely been better as Kirk than here, where we literally see the cerebral chessmaster contemplating and debating within himself the next move to make)directing the USS Starship Enterprise to the Neutral Zone after reports of destroyed outposts which guard said zone (built on asteroids that surround the NZ) leading him to believe that perhaps the Romulans (a warring race who engaged in combat with Earth vessels a century ago) have attacked in a breach of a peace treaty that ended the war between the two races.

Mark Lenard is exceptional as Kirk's equal, the Romulan commander in charge of a warbird that has cloking capability (a first for the United Federation of Planets) and a devastating weapon that can render the most powerful metal obsolete ( a type of plasma that can disintegrate asteroids is pretty damn scary). The key to this episode's power is Kirk's back-and-forth with the Romulan Commander and the pressure placed on both leaders as they determine what the next move needs to be. Each strikes, damage on both sides (casualties and ship damage), and we see how both Kirk and the Romulan Commander react, deep-thinkers planning on what the next cause of action should be. I love the way both crews are at alert, operating their posts, the seriousness of the situation, as life and death factor/weigh heavily on attention to detail and not making miscalculations. Even Uhura must operate the console at one point which someone like me thought was really cool, as Sulu reacts with a smirk…in battle, you never know what might happen.

Lots of memorable scenes, so many, such as the first glimpse at the Romulan race, with Lenard turning around to unveil Vulcan pointy ears and eyebrows, with vocal, emotionally charged con Hansen (Garry Walberg, a rare chance to see a crew member of the Bridge openly voice his opinion on matters such as Spock's similarity to the Romulan race being a danger to ship (clearly the script's indicting of racism) and his open hatred for this enemy because of the loss of ancestors at their hands, not to mention, his discouragement at not engaging the enemy after they destroyed the outposts in an open act of war) vilifying Spock due to his likeness to the Romulans. I think the best examples of this show, compared to the many campier episodes, are when we see Kirk challenged by a race with the Enterprise and its crew in peril. There's this marvelous scene (similar to Captain Pike's in "The Cage") where Kirk is in his quarters lamenting on the difficult task of having the lives of a crew resting on his decisions to Bones, with the good doctor providing words of wisdom when needed the most. Spock even gets to save the day when the detrimental need for phasers leads to saving his most livid critic, Hansen, as well as, providing the ship with weapon capability at the most imperative time. There is a bit of tragedy (most of us could see this coming a mile away) in that a wedding was to take place, interrupted by the Romulan conflict, resulting in those plans never coming to fruition. In my opinion, "Balance of Terror" is one of the greatest Classic Star Trek episodes of the series—and of all the various other series for that matter. I think the template for Captains under pressure in strategic situations come from "Balance of Terror".
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Uncommon moment
Steven Potter12 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I just thought I would add another observation, here. While there are a couple of visual sub-references, in this episode, to the possibility of unexpressed feelings between Jim Kirk and Yeoman Janice Rand; there is a special, physically tender, moment, toward the end. When the Enterprise is reversing at emergency warp speed in an attempt to outrun a possibly fatal Romulan plasma ball, Janice, perhaps fearing that their life is about to come to a dramatic end, seeks comfort by placing her head on Jim's sympathetic shoulder as they observe the aproaching instrument of their impending doom on the main viewer. I thought it was sweet (and Janice, of course, is gorgeous!).

(P.S. Goof:- Several times, while supposedly firing phasors, the film shows photon torpedoes being launched)
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