Star Trek Recaps: “Balance Of Terror”

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Mother. Fucking. Romulans. Y’all.

We begin in a room with a crowd gathered in front of a podium, which Kirk enters. Scotty lets him know that whatever this is will be broadcast throughout the ship before McCoy tells him that he has a call from the bridge waiting.

Said call turns out to be Spock reporting that a couple of outposts have gone silent, which is obviously not a good thing. Kirk tells him to keep going where they’re going, which is in the direction of said outposts. We learn what these outposts are for la bit later.

It turns out that the event in question is a wedding, as Scotty walks the bride, Angela Martine, to the side of the groom, Robert Tomlinson.


Unfortunately, the happy event is interrupted by an SOS from Outpost 4. Seems that whatever destroyed the other two outposts has come back for this one. Kirk calls for a red alert, and the crowd disperses.

After this, we’re treated to a captain’s log, explaining what we just heard and adding that the outposts are observing the neutral zone that serves as a buffer between the Federation and the Romulan Empire.

We go to the bridge, where Uhura tells Kirk that the message cuts off right after “we’re under attack.” Spock confirms this, and Sulu reports they’re going at maximum speed. The navigator, Stiles, adds they’re 8 minutes out. The captain then turns to Scotty, who tells him they’re working on speeding the ship up.

Kirk looks around a moment, then asks Uhura if Outpost 4 has any information on the ship that’s attacking them. She says that the ship has no ID.

Stiles then says they have to know who’s attacking. but Kirk does not answer as he moves to his chair and tells Spock to put an image of the sector on the viewscreen, and then to add their current position to the map before addressing the crew.


Once that’s done, Kirk basically explains that shit’s about to get real, before turning the call over to Spock. Spock explains the map they’re looking at, adding that the zone was put in place through a treaty with the Romulans after a war about 100 years prior. Some more exposition later, we learn that the last time the Federation had any contact with the Romulans was before ship-to-ship visual communication was a thing, so they have no idea what Romulans look like.

He hands the call back over to Kirk, who explains that nothing, even a Romulan invasion, would allow him to violate the zone, and that if it would prevent a war, even the Enterprise and her crew would be considered expendable. Which is comforting.

After ending the call, Stiles decides to speak up again and insists that they need to intercept the Romulans ASAP. Kirk asks him if he even knows what a Romulan ship looks like, and Stiles responds that “they’re painted like a giant bird of prey.” Well, that’s specific.

Kirk asks him how he knows all this, and Stiles tells him it’s a part of his family history, and that a large number of Stiles had fought and died in the aforementioned war. Kirk reminds him that it was “their war,” not his.

Spock lets him know that they’re in sensor range of Outpost 2. This one was the first to go silent, with the third outpost sharing its fate an hour later. Spock scans the area, but finds debris rather than the outposts. Or the asteroids that held them

Which, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you, is extremely bad.

Kirk tells Uhura to send reports on their position and status to the nearest command base every 15 minutes, then calls for for battle stations. Sulu then reports that all decks have acknowledged and are ready to go. The captain then has Stiles call down to the main phaser room, and tell them to turn said phasers up to full power.

Cut to the aforementioned phaser room, where Martine is at her station. She says that all phasers are at full power as Tomlinson stands beside her.


Tomlinson says, “Happy wedding day…almost.” Martine tells him that he won’t get away from her that easily: she’s going to marry the shit out of him when this is all through. I’m sure that all this will end really well for both of them.

Spoiler alert: it does not.

Everything’s good to go so far as weapons are concerned, and we hop back to the bridge. Stiles says that they’re about 5 minutes away from Outpost 4, and Spock reports that it’s showing up on the sensors, which is a good sign.

Uhura contacts the outpost, and the commander, Hansen, asks if the ship is reading him. Kirk says they’re almost there, then asks him for a status update.

Basically, their status is fucked: Outposts 2, 3, and 8 were destroyed by an unknown weapon. He adds that the weapon completely knocked out their protective shield, and that they’re screwed if their attacker decides to have another go.

Kirk asks for confirmation on who did this, and Hansen says that they were only able to get a brief glimpse of the ship that hit them. Which is because the ship, apparently, vanished. Hansen switches from just audio to visual. And, yup, the outpost is completely trashed.


Hansen adds that they’re inside the asteroid, with a mile of almost solid iron between them and the surface, which the weapon managed to completely punch through. Kirk asks if they have any other info on the ship. Hansen says they have jack shit, because the ship had no ID and didn’t respond to any hails. He is, however, able to give more information on the weapon: the ship fired a beam of high-energy plasma at the base before disappearing. Well, not completely: they’re still picking something up, but can’t pinpoint it.

Hansen the reports that they’re getting something on their viewscreen. Kirk asks him to show it to them, and we get our first glimpse at the Romulan ship.


I dunno, I guess it kinda looks like a bird of prey if you squint really hard?

Anyway, Kirk asks if the outpost’s phasers are online. They are, of course, not, and Kirk tells Uhura to try and open a channel to the attacking ship to try and warn them off. Same as before, the other ship does not respond to them. Then the ship fires their weapon. And then Outpost 4 is no more.

Kirk asks Spock for the other vessel’s position, but it’s disappeared. They did notice, though, that the ship was visible just before it fired. So they can’t do that when they’re invisible. Spock gets a blip on their radar, and thinks that it may be the other ship. Which, again, they still can’t see with their eyeballs.

Spock posits a theory that the ship bending light, which is something that would take a shitload of energy. Kirk then tells Uhura to stop trying to hail the ship, and instead send a message asking the other outposts for any sensor data they might have.

Spock notes that the blip he picked up earlier has changed direction, and he believes that the other ship is likely unaware of their presence, since they don’t seem to be in any hurry. Which suggests that because of the power drain, they can’t scan while the cloak is up.

Spock notes that it’s heading towards the neutral zone. Which, of course, a Romulan ship would do if they were going home. So, Stiles was right about it being Romulans. Kirk goes to Stiles and Sulu, and tells them to shadow the Romulan ship, to make them think they’re an echo. And also to, you know, not go into the neutral zone. Because of the whole act-of-war thing.

Stiles, however, seems to have a bit of a problem with the captain’s plan, since, you know, they just obliterated four outposts. He then adds that there might be Romulan spies aboard, which what? How? They haven’t had contact with the Romulans in over a century. Does he think they managed to beam aboard undected within the past 10 minutes? I just have so many questions.

Anyway, Sulu agrees with him for some reason and suggests that they stay on high alert, to which Kirk agrees. Uhura, meanwhile, has picked up some communications from the other vessel, which is a bunch of beeps and squeaks, apparently a code of some sort. Spock gets a lock on where the signal is coming from, and that he should be able to get a peek into their bridge.

And it turns out that the Romulans have a bit of a Vulcan look to them.


This does not go unnoticed by anyone, particularly Stiles, who is a huge dick to Spock for almost the entire episode.

Also, a fun fact:the guy playing the Romulan captain, Mark Lenard, would actually play Spock’s dad Sarek later in the series and throughout the franchise. So there’s that.

Anyway, sometime later we see Stiles staring at Spock with suspicion. Kirk sees this, and taps his console like, hey, pay attention to this now. He then asks Uhura how decoding the signal is going, and she responds that cryptography is still working on it.

Stiles says to give the code to Spock, and Kirk is like, pardon? Stiles says it’s nothing, but Kirk tells him to repeat what he just said. He says Spock could likely translate the signal. Kirk, pointedly, says he must complimenting Spock’s decoding abilities, and not being a bigoted asshole like he clearly is.

Kirk then tells him to knock it off. Stiles concedes, but does give Spock another look before Uhura hands Spock a recording of the transmission.

Spock takes it, puts it into the computer, and listens to it for a moment. Meanwhile, Sulu notes that the other ship appears to have changed course, and Kirk tells him to stay with them.


On the Romulan ship, the commander notices that the cloaking device is off when it should be on, and orders one of the officers to remedy this. The officer doesn’t see a need to do this, since there isn’t  anyone else around. The commander, of course, disagrees with this assessment, arguing that they’re likely being followed since the outpost got a distress signal out. The officer, however, dismisses them as an echo, since the other ship is staying a set distance apart and matching their movements.

The commander tells him to turn it on anyway, invoking the law of “because I said so.” He then turns to an older officer, henceforth referred to as “centurion,” that he’s glad that they’re almost home, but that he still believes that the “echo” is, in fact, an enemy ship.  The centurion says that it’s odd that they haven’t attacked them if that’s the case, and the commander tells him he thinks they’re sizing them up.

Another officer enters the bridge, saying that he was called for. For some reason, he’s also the only Romulan whose name we learn: Decius. It also turns out that Decius had sent out the signal the ship sent earlier, for which the commander gives him a good dressing down, as well as a demotion before dismissing him.


The centurion warns the commander that Decius has friends in high places, and that he’s probably screwed himself over. The commander brushes this off, and the centurion tells him that even after all these years, he still doesn’t get him. The commander says that he thinks the centurion does understand, and that he knows that the Federation ship will be destroyed as soon as they cross over. Here, he actually sounds rather tired, and bitter: “Our gift to the homeland: another war.”

He adds that it shouldn’t have to be that way, considering how many of their comrades have died, but the centurion basically tells him that theirs is not to question why. The commander responds, “Obedience. Duty. Death and more death. Soon even enough for the Praetor’s taste. Centurion…I find myself wishing for destruction before we can return.”

This shocks the centurion, and the commander assures him he knows his own duty too well to actually permit that. He then orders them to continue evasive maneuvers, and to go back to their original course.

Back on the Enterprise, Sulu and Spock report that the ship is back on its original heading.  Kirk asks Stiles for their current position, and he reports that they’re about an hour away from the neutral zone. And then, because he’s a prick, he snottily adds, “Assuming, of course, that we don’t turn back.”

Scotty chimes in before Kirk can respond to this, stating that they’ve managed to scoop up some debris from Outpost 4. Kirk calls for a meeting, and we cut to Spock, Stiles, Sulu, Scotty, and McCoy in the briefing room.

Not sure why Stiles is here, but OK.


Spock is holding some of the debris, which he identifies as cast rodinium, aka “the hardest substance known to our science.” Which he manages to crush pretty easily in his hand, as a result of the Romulan weapon. He says that their current theory is that the damage was caused by some kind of plasma weapon.

Talk then turns to what they could do if this turns into a skirmish, seeing as how the Romulans have the superior weaponry here. McCoy is less than pleased with where this talk is going, and says that what they choose to do next could cost millions of lives. Spock says the same could happen if they fail to act.

Kirk says they’re getting off track, and Scotty adds that while they’re outgunned, they’re still faster than the Romulan ship. Kirk points out that if it comes to it, they can outrun them. Stiles is not happy about this line of questioning, and asks if that’s to be used in chasing them or retreating, before cutting himself off.

Kirk, however, wants to hear what he has to say, and Stiles tells him that they should attack right now. He thinks that, since the Romulans are still in Federation space, attacking them would be warranted since they broke the treaty. Sulu, however, points out the small flaw in this plan: the Romulan ship is fucking invisible.

Stiles, however, thinks they should be able to aim with their sensors and blanket the Romulans. Sulu thinks they’d be lucky to hit them before they locked onto the Enterprise and destroyed it. Stiles stands up and saysthat if they don’t attack, the Romulans will report back to their superiors that they’re weak, and that running away from them basically guarantees that they’ll come back in force.

Kirk tells him to sit his ass back down, which he does, and the mood at the table is very tense at the moment. Spock breaks the momentary silence with, “I agree. Attack.”

Kirk and McCoy question the ethics of attacking people they’ve never met face to face, and Stiles retorts that they’ve seen the Romulans and know what they look like, clearly trying to get a rise out of Spock. Because, again, dick.

Also, good luck with that, buddy.

Spock doesn’t rise to the bait, and points out that they do indeed know what they look like, and that’s why they need to attack now. See, Spock believes that the Romulans are on offshoot of the Vulcans, and the Vulcans used to be downright warlike bastards. He thinks that they’ve retained that quality, meaning that showing weakness to them is a very bad idea.

McCoy protests this again, and, after another moment of silence Kirk calls the bridge. He confirms with Uhura that they’re still heading to the Neutral Zone, and are in fact 21 minutes away from it. He also confirms that she’s still sending out reports to Starfleet Command, but that they likely won’t receive a reply from them for several hours. Kirk thanks her, and ends to call before telling Spock to check out their current course.

Spock checks a monitor and says that there’s a comet nearby, which the Romulan ship is heading towards. This gets some gears turning in Spock and Kirk’s heads, and they realize that an object passing through the comet’s tail would leave a visible trail. With a new plan in place, Kirk goes to the intercom and calls everyone to battle stations.

The group disperses, but Kirk and McCoy stay behind. Kirk tells the doctor that he hopes they won’t need his services on this jaunt, and McCoy agrees. He then tells the captain that he’s taking a huge risk before leaving himself.


On the bridge, Kirk goes to the pilot station for a status update. Sulu and Stiles each report that everyone’s at their station, and that the phasers are ready to go. Spock says the Romulan ship is heading towards the comet’s tail. Kirk repeats that they should be able to see it when it enters,  and that they’ll go around to the other side of the comet and catch it when that happens.

Back to the Romulan ship, where the commander, looking at the same comet, remarks on its beauty. The centurion asks why they’re doing this, and the commander responds that the particles from the comet should trick their scanners. Then, once that happens, they’ll whip around and engage the Enterprise.

One of the officers, however, notes something that might put a damper on that plan: their “reflection” is no longer following them. The commander knows what this means, and orders evasive maneuvers.

On the Enterprise, Spock reports that they’ve lost sensor contact with the other ship. Kirk asks if the phasers are ready to go. Sulu says they are, and Kirk reminds them they have a short window before the ship goes invisible. They come across one small problem, and that is that the ship put their cloaking device up.

Kirk realizes that the Romulan commander anticipated this, and that they shouldn’t underestimate them again. He then orders stiles to “fire blind” in the hopes that they’ll hit the enemy ship. They do hit something, but not hard enough to take down the cloak.

The other ship, however, does take some damage as debris falls from the ceiling. And then takes more when the Enterprise fires another volley. The centurion pushes the commander out of the way of a falling ceiling slab, which crushes him.


The crew manages to pull the slab off of him, but he’s clearly horribly injured. The commander is, shall we say, not too pleased with this, and orders all power diverted to weapons.

On the Enterprise, a light on the helm starts blinking, which Stiles says means the phasers overloaded a control circuit. Spock quickly moves to a panel to repair it, but says that it’ll take some time. Sulu then notices the ship decloaking, and asks if the Romulans are surrendering.

The answer to this is a huge nope, since it turns out they decloaked to shot the Enterprise with their plasma weapon.

Realizing that being hit by said weapon would be a very, very bad idea, Kirk tells Sulu to get the hell out of there at emergency warp. Unfortunately, the blast is catching up to them. Things are looking so grim that Kirk gives a report for a crew member to jettison.

It doesn’t turn out to be that bad, however, since the weapon seems to lose strength the further it gets from the Romulan ship, so it doesn’t really cause that much damage.

In other news, Spock has managed to get the phasers back up and running. He then reports that it looks like they’re heading back on their original course, and that the commander probably believes that they destroyed the Enterprise. Kirk, however, doubts this, and tells Sulu to go back to shadowing the other vessel.

The Roumlans, of course, notice that their echo is back. The commander tells them to bring the cloak back up, despite their low fuel reserves, citing that it’s unlikely Kirk will make the same mistake twice.


Back to the Enterprise, where Stile reports that they’re very close to the neutral zone. McCoy advises the captain that if they enter, the Romulans could make it look the the Federation violated the treaty first. Kirk decides that they should try to stop them before they get to the neutral zone then. Stiles asks if they’ll be able to actually hit them from this distance, but Kirk says they know the Romulan’s weakness: the plasma weapon takes truly ridiculous amounts of energy to fire. Kirk then asks if the phasers are ready, and Stiles says that they are.

Kirk gives the order to fire, and they do manage to hit the other vessel, causing even more damage. Stiles reports that they’re less than a minute from entering the neutral zone, so Kirk tells Uhura to send a message to Starfleet: they have no option other than to enter the neutral zone, and that he’ll take full responsibility for any trouble this causes. He gives the order to keep firing.

On the Romulan ship, the commander sitting by the centurion while the ship rocks from the phaser blasts. An officer reports the Enterprise is still within range, before offering to take care of the centurion. The commander tells him that won’t be necessary, as he is dead.

The officer then asks him why they aren’t firing back, and the commander says this is a ploy to get them to waste energy. He then comes up with a new plan, and has them jettison debris into space, along with the centurion’s corpse. He’s not happy about having to do that part, and asks his old friend for forgiveness.


On the Enterprise, Spock says the sensors have lost the Romulan ship. Kirk gives the order to cease firing, and Sulu notices the debris mentioned above. He asks Spock for his opinion, and Spock says that it looks like debris from the Romulan ship, plus one dead dude. He also adds that there isn’t nearly enough to be from a destroyed ship, so this is clearly a trick.

There’s a captain’s log, reporting the above, but adding that they think the ship is still nearby. Basically they’re waiting for the Romulans to make the next move, and have shut down all nonessential systems to avoid detection. Spock tells him that he needs to make some repairs, and Kirk tells him to go ahead but do it quietly.

On the Romulan ship, an officer reports that it’s been a while, so clearly the other ship bought their ruse. The commander, though, doesn’t think that’s the case, and that they’re still out there somewhere.

We get another captain’s log saying that it’s been almost 10 hours. The scene shifts to Kirk is in his quarters on his bed, staring up at the ceiling.


Rand enters, asking him if he wants her to get him some food. He thanks her, and asks her to bring it up to the bridge, since he’s heading there shortly. As she’s leaving, McCoy enters, and Kirk says he wishes he was on a long sea voyage, where he doesn’t have any responsibilities, adding that he’s worried his next move will be the wrong one. He then dismisses this, telling McCoy that his question in rhetorical.

McCoy answers the question anyway: “In this galaxy, there’s a mathematical probability of 3 million Earth-type planets. And in all the universe, 3 million million galaxies like this. And in all of that, and perhaps more, only one of each of us. Don’t destroy the one named Kirk.”

On the bridge, Spock finishes repairing the console, then leans on said console to hoist himself up. Which, of course, activates the console. God dammit, Spock, you had one job!


He manages to shut it down, but not quickly enough. The Romulans pick up on the signal, and the commander orders them to move towards the other ship’s position.

Kirk orders them to power back up since their cover’s been blown, as Stiles glares at Spock. He then gives the order to reverse course, then fire on the Romulan ship again.

Back with the Romulans, an officer asks the commander how they managed to turn the tables, and the commander responds, “He’s a sorcerer, that one. He reads the thoughts in my brain.” He is quite upset about all this, as well as the fact that they’re almost out of juice.

He has another plan, though. He has his officers load more debris to jettison, but has them add a nuclear warhead to the mix as well.

On the Enterprise, Sulu reports more debris, scattered directly in their path. Kirk tells them to stop firing, and Spock notes that it’s the same as before, except for one item encased in metal. The captain gives the order to fire at it.

This turns out to be a bad idea as an explosion rocks the ship and leaves it drifting.


This pleases the Romulans, and the commander says that they can finally go home. Decius, though, points out that the other ship is defenseless, and they have a duty to go in for the kill. The commander, however, is tired of this horseshit and just walks away.

On the Enterprise, Kirk calls McCoy to ask about casualties. The doctor responds that there are currently 22, suffering from radiation burns, from the ship’s outer areas. He adds that it could have been much worse, considering. The captain then asks for Spock’s report, and he says that a nuclear weapon detonated less than 100 meters from the ship. The damage, however, is really not that bad, and is mostly overloads.

Scotty reports that only the forward phaser room is currently operable, and Tomlinson is the only one down there since they don’t have any standby crew. Stiles says he has experience in that area, and Kirk tells him to go help him as Uhura takes over navigation.

Spock tells Kirk that, since the engines are operational again, it might be good for them to, you know, leave. Kirk rejects this idea, thinking that they can lure the other ship back to Federation space by playing dead.

Back with the Romulans, an officer reports that the other ship still isn’t moving. Decius again urges the commander to destroy them, but the commander doesn’t trust the Enterprise’s captain. However, Decius is confident that the other ship won’t break the treaty by entering the neutral zone, and that if the commander won’t start the attack, he will. The commander stops him by saying that they will attack, but only when he orders it.

Back on the Enterprise, Spock goes to the phaser room to get a report. There isn’t really anything to report, so Spock asks if they need any help. Stiles, dickishly, responds, “This time we’ll handle things without your help, Vulcan.” Spock responds by writing something down, and leaving the room.

It’s here that Stiles notices a box on a nearby wall spewing some kind of pink gas, which is not something it’s supposed to be doing.


On the bridge, Sulu reports that the other ship is decloaking. Kirk gives the order to fire on them, but firing does not happen. The captain then calls to the phaser room to see what’s going on.

Spock is still near the phaser room and overhears Kirk’s message. He realizes that something is clearly very wrong, and runs back the way he came to see Tomlinson and Stiles unconscious in the now gas-filled room. He fires the phasers before, presumable, extricating the other two men.

This turns out to be a direct hit, and turns out to be the final blow. Kirk gives the order to move to the disabled ship, and we see the Romulan commander on the viewscreen, console sparking behind him.


Kirk offers to beam any survivors to the Enterprise, but the commander refuses before saying he says that he wishes to have met Kirk under other circumstances, and that he thinks they could have been friends. The captain asks the commander why he’s so insistent on dying, and he replies, “We are creatures of duty, Captain. I have lived my life by it. Just one more duty to perform.”

He pushes a switch, and the Romulan vessel explodes.

We cut to sickbay sometime later, where Spock is standing by as McCoy tends to Stiles. Kirk enters and asks Spock if he’s all right. Spock says that he’s fine, and Kirk asks after Stiles. Stiles says he’d be dead now if Spock hadn’t shown up when he did. Also, he’s surprised that Spock bothered after how much of a dick he’s been.

Spock responds, “I saved a trained navigator so that he could return to duty. I am capable of no other feelings in such matters.”

However, it turns out that things didn’t turn out so well for Tomlinson. McCoy tells the captain that Martine, his fiancee, is in the chapel.

Kirk finds her kneeling in front of the altar. Martine gets up as he approaches, and hugs him. The captain assures her that what happened, happened for a reason. Martine responds by unconvincingly telling him she’s alright before leaving. Kirk stays a moment before leaving himself.

So, that was a bit of a downer ending, huh? Either way, I actually really enjoyed this episode. It was extremely tense in a lot of places, and I thought that the Romulan commander was a really interesting foil for Kirk.

Like all good science fiction, Star Trek often makes commentary on its time. This episode, which came out at the height of the cold war, is no different. Switching frequently to the Romulan vessel served to (for lack of better word) humanize the enemy. Though I do find it weird that the only Romulan that gets a name is one of the more minor characters. Apparently the commander’s name is Keras, but that came from the trading card game, and isn’t mentioned in the episode.

Also, I just get a kick out of the fact that the Romulan commander also played Spock’s dad.


Oh, god dammit.

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