Series: Star Trek: The Original Series
Season 1, Episode 14
Original Air Date: December 15, 1966
|via Memory Alpha|
Commenters on my last Star Trek post primed my expectations for "Balance of Terror." I'd also been looking forward to it myself as the episode which introduced the Romulans, one of the major alien races of the franchise. Having now watched it, I can understand the fuss. Like "The Corbomite Maneuver," "Balance of Terror" showcases the moral/ethical underpinnings of Trek that I find so appealing. This one has a better ending than "Corbomite Maneuver," too.
"Balance of Terror" was inspired by submarine movies of the 1950s. The Enterprise engages in a cat-and-mouse game with a Romulan vessel on the Federation side of the Neutral Zone, a clear treaty violation on the Romulans' part. According to the history presented in the episode, the Federation and Romulus had engaged in a long, brutal war without ever actually having laid on eyes on one another! Great set up. Then the real fun begins.
Through some hocus pocus I don't quite understand, our heroes get a view of the Romulan bridge without being seen themselves. Wouldn't you know it, the mysterious enemies look an awful lot like Vulcans. Lt. Stiles, a one-shot character manning the navigation station, lost loved ones in the Earth-Romulan War and suddenly eyes Spock with great suspicion. There is one extremely poignant shot of Stiles looking askance at Spock with Sulu sitting right next to him. Sulu, of course, is played by George Takei who spent several years of his childhood in Japanese-American internment camps - impossible to miss the message there.
But that's not even the most interesting thing going on in this episode. The Romulan Commander - played by Mark Lenard, a frequent Trek guest star over the decades - is presented as a surprisingly sympathetic adversary. He respects Kirk and acts out of sense of duty and honor rather than hatred. As he points out near the end, "In a different reality, I could have called you friend."
|via Star Trek: Vulcanology|
Mark Lenard was born Leonard Rosensen, October 15, 1924 in Chicago. He started acting while serving in the Army. An accomplished stage performer, he made his big screen debut in The Greatest Story Ever Told in 1965. In total, he appeared in three different Star Trek series and five different Trek films - as three different characters of three different races! Lenard died in 1996 of multiple myeloma.