ack! (recapsule) wrote in __recapitulate_,

Recap of Star Trek TOS 1X09: Balance of Terror

I dedicate this recap to my friend Steve who adamantly insists that this is the best episode ever. I’d even ask him to guest recap it, but I don’t think he’d do a recap, and besides, I have a feeling the entire thing would read like a love letter to Mark Lenard.

I have to admit, it is a great episode. There are Romulans, Bird of Preys, and a Neutral Zone. Also, it features my favorite Leonards: Leonard Nimoy, Leonard McCoy, and Mark Lenard.

In the following episode, Spock's "dad" kills people, I miss Chekov, and Kirk is valiant.

We open in the Enterprise’s chapel. I’m betting it is a non-denominational chapel, since Sulu indicated a few episodes back that his religion worships a giant bird (based on a creed assumably featuring Oscar the Antichrist). Rand is lighting candles. McCoy is leaning against the wall. You know, McCoy does a lot of leaning. He leans against the captain’s chair at the end of almost every episode, he leans on his arm when he’s in the conference room, he leans against walls. I have a theory, which I can’t really support in these first 9 episodes (other than the fact that McCoy keeps an entire wall full of alcohol in his sickbay), that McCoy drinks a little more Saurian Brandy than he lets on.

Scotty is in the back, fixing a seriously gigantic camera into the wall. Kirk enters, and Scotty says, “The ceremony will be carried on all viewing screens, sir,” with a grin. Aw, Kirk and Spock are finally making it official, aren’t they? Kirk saunters into the chapel smugly, like “pshhhh marriage is for sissies”. “There’s a call for you from the Bridge,” McCoy informs Kirk quietly. The captain makes his way valiantly to the intercom.

“Still no answer from Earth Outpost Number 2, captain. And now Number 3 has gone silent,” Spock reports. Well, as long as Number One is okay. Kirk throws a worried glance towards the people in the chapel. “Maintain course to Outpost 4. Keep me informed,” Kirk says in a low voice. Yeah, no reason to inform the crew of your starship that something suspicious is going on. They’re only Starfleet Officers.

Kirk strides valiantly towards the altar. I know I’m using the word valiantly twice, but his stance is so self-satisfied. He’s smirking in that “Oh Man Am I Totally Awesome Or What” way for which he is so famous. The Wedding March begins; Scotty takes the arm of a Yellowskirt, smiling down at her proudly. At first, I was like, Scotty’s getting married? To a girl half his age?! How Shatner of him! But no, he’s just taking her down the aisle. In place of a veil, there are about a dozen or so mostly white feathers in her hair. Aha! She worships the great bird of the galaxy, too! She reaches her husband-to-be. They look so happy... I wonder which one dies before the end of the episode.

“Since the days of the first wooden vessels, all ship masters have had one happy privilege…” Kirk begins. Sexing up their Yeomen? “That of uniting two people in the bonds of matrimony.” Trivia! This is a bald-faced lie. It is not true, and it has never been true, that captains can marry people aboard their vessels. But I wish this were season 2 or 3, because I’d pay good money to watch Chekov discuss the warious priwileges of Captains and their vooden wessels. Kirk goes on with most of the wedding speech, but suddenly the intercom Weeee-oooos and a voice says “Elaaaaaaaaine! Elaaaaaaaine!” Just kidding. A voice says, “Red alert! All decks! Captain to Bridge!” Fair enough, intercom, Kirk hadn’t gotten to the “forever hold your peace” part yet. Kirk rushes over to the intercom.

“Earth Outpost 4 reports that they are under attack,” Spock says. “A space vessel, identity unknown.” Kirk orders that they keep going towards Outpost 4, and that all decks go on Red Alert. Everyone runs to find their station. The still unmarried couple exchange a glance, like “Well, fuck.” Then they run off to wherever. I guess Engineering, since Scotty walked the wee bonnie lass down the aisle though they’re both Yellow Shirts.

Montage of crewmen running around!

Credits! Space! In Space, the Final Frontier, interference-based violations are considered especially heinous. In the United Federation of Planets, the ship that boldly commits most of these crimes is the USS Enterprise. These are her 5 year voyages. Chung-CHUNG!

It’s 1709.2. Or, as Kirk-log says, “Seventeenohninepoint… two.” For once, Kirk-log actually gives us new information! “Patrolling outposts guarding the Neutral Zone between planets Romulus and Remus and the rest of the galaxy. Received emergency call from Outpost 4,” Kirk-log explains. That didn’t sound like Kirk-log at all! It was enlightening, concise, and didn’t give us facts that Kirk-log couldn’t possible know. And it used a verb in the (gasp) PAST TENSE! Kirk strides onto the bridge. “Outpost 4 reported under attack, sir,” Uhura reports. We know, Uhura. Spock and Kirk-log told us. “The message terminates!” she exclaims. A surprised Kirk looks at Spock, questioningly. “Verified, Captain,” Spock says. Cause no way is he going to trust a woman’s opinion, or a black person’s opinion, or whatever, just get me out of the sixties.

“Did Outpost 4 give anything at all on the attacking vessel, Lieutenant?” Kirk asks Uhura. They did not. “There can’t be much doubt who’s attacking, sir,” exclaims Lieutenant I’m-Not-Reilly-Leslie-Or-Chekov from navigation. Kirk looks at him, like “Do I know you? Shut up!” Seriously, he’s on the Bridge and he doesn’t have a stereotypical racial background. Who does he think he is? Even Uhura gives him A Look. After notably ignoring Angry Yellow Redshirt’s outburst, Kirk asks Spock to put the star sector on screen. Spock does so.


It looks like a game on the Ataris system or a diagram from a high school history book made in 1977. I guess Star Trek deserves some credit, as they managed to foresee at least a decade or two of future technology. Kirk watches heroically for a second, and then asks Uhura to patch him through to all decks: “This is the Captain speaking,” he explains. There’s a shot of a bunch of Redshirts wandering the halls, all of whom pause to listen to his awesome voice. Um, aren’t you guys at Red Alert? Don’t you have stations to go to, things to do? “Listen carefully,” Kirk says, passing the speech on to Spock, the Back Story Officer. “Referring to the maps on your screen,” Spock says, “you will note, beyond the moving position of our vessel, a line of Earth Outpost Stations.” Not anymore! “Constructed on asteroids,” Spock continues, “they monitor the Neutral Zone, established by treaty after the Earth-Romulan Conflict of over a century ago.” Nimoy looks and sounds more like he’s auditioning for the part of Hamlet than like Spock listing off facts. Spock lets “the crew” (read: us) know that there was no visual communication during the time of said conflict, and so no Romulan has seen a human, nor vice versa. I bet the crewmen who froze in the hallways are like, “Didn’t we learn that at Starfleet Academy? Why do we need to know this?” I’ll tell you, Redshirts: because it is important to the plot!

“Earth believes the Romulans to be warlike… cruel… treacherous,” Spock continues. So we're the Good, they're the Bad, and the Klingons are the Ugly. Got it. Entry into the Neutral Zone constitutes an act of war, Spock concludes. “Captain?” he adds. Kirk glances up as though a little surprised. He probably wasn’t even listening. He was just sitting there, wondering what Romulan women look like.

“What you do not know and must now be told,” Kirk begins, “is that my command orders on this subject are precise and inviolable.” I don’t understand why Starfleet even bothers to give Kirk inviolable orders. Everyone knows he’s going to violate them. “No act, no provocation will be considered sufficient reason to violate the Zone,” Kirk continues. “We may defend ourselves, but, if necessary, to avoid inter-space war, both these outposts and this vessel will be considered expendable.” Warning Redshirts that they’re expendable seems a little superfluous. “Captain out,” Kirk says immediately after finishing his last sentence. He does this a lot. Whenever he’s on a communicator and says something kind of dramatic, he always pauses before the last four or five words and then says “Kirk out” really quickly. Like, “If you don’t receive orders from Starfleet within twenty minutes…… then-destroy-the-planet-I’m-on-Kirk-out.

Lt. I’m-Not-Reilly-Leslie-Or-Chekov is still angry. “We know Outpost 4 has been attacked, sir, so if we intercept Romulans now, we…” he begins to say. Start inter-galactic war? Sounds fun. “After a whole century, what will a Romulan ship look like, Mr. Stiles? I doubt if they’ll radio and identify themselves,” Kirk replies. “You’ll know, sir,” Stiles replies confidently. I just noticed how huge his eyebrows are. “They’re painted like a giant bird of prey.” And they’re big enough to hold two whales and 400 tons of water. Also, note to Bridge: in about 5 minutes, you’ll discover that debating what a Romulan ship visually resembles is about as useless as pining after a half Vulcan who your boss constantly ridicules. I’m lookin at you, Chapel.

Kirk had no idea that history was Stiles’ specialty. “Family history,” Stiles’ giant eyebrows reply. “There was a Captain Stiles in Space Service then—- two commanders, several junior officers, all lost in that war, sir.” Listen, kid, it’s been over a hundred years-- I know because I actually listened to Spock’s history lesson, Kirk. To put in perspective how absurd Stiles’ Inigo Montoya complex is, let’s say that the war was 110 – 125 years ago. From today’s date, we’d be talking 1882 – 1897. How attached are you to what happened to your ancestors during that time period? Kirk reminds Stiles’ eyebrows that it was his ancestors’ eyebrows’ war, not his.

They’re nearing Outpost 2 and Outpost 3. Spock scans the area, and only finds debris. “The asteroids [were]… pulverized,” Spock reports, surprised. Kirk looks concerned. “Call battle stations, Mr. Sulu,” he says reluctantly. Sulu starts repeating “Battle Stations!” while Spock and Kirk look at each other meaningfully. I bet the hallway Redshirts are frozen in the halls, listening to Sulu say “Battle Stations!” over and over.

“All decks acknowledge, sir,” Sulu replies. “All stations show green.” Readiness is color-coded, too? So you can be a blue officer at a green station during a red alert. A rainbow of possibilities! Kirk orders that the weapons be brought to full power. “All weapons to full power,” confirms Stiles. It seems like a bad idea to have Stiles and his giant, vengeful eyebrows in charge of weapons. He tells the phaser control room to energize, and down in Engineering, Mrs. Yellow Redshirt acknowledges, looking bored out of her mind.

Her fiancé rushes over to wish her a happy wedding day. “Almost,” he laughs boyishly. “You won’t get off my hook that easily,” Mrs. Yellow Redshirt replies, managing to move around her eyebrows more than McCoy and Spock do per argument. Mr. Yellow Redshirt reminds her that he’s still her superior officer. “Temporarily, at least,” he adds, because soon she’ll be home on Rigel 7 making him sandwiches and popping out the little Redshirts. “So get with it, Mister!” he adds. A touching scene to be sure, but does anyone on this crew take Red Alerts seriously? I mean, these two are down in the Engine Room playing Sleepless in Seattle, and the rest of the crew was happy enough to wander the halls aimlessly while Spock recapped the Romulan-Earth Conflict for them. At least we now know that Mr. and Mrs. Yellow Redshirt met in the Phaser Control Room. In my mind, their first exchange went something like this:

Mr. Yellow Redshirt: Excuse me, how’s your phaser set, because you look stunning today!
Mrs. Yellow Redshirt: Oh, stop it! You're killing me!

Back on the bridge, Spock confirms that Outpost 4 is still intact. A message comes in: “Outpost 4,” rasps a man’s voice. “Do you read me, Enterprise? This is Commander Hanson.” Kirk tells Hanson that they are an Mmm-bop away. “What’s your status?” he asks. Hanson tells them that Outposts 2, 3, and 8 are gone. “Unknown weapon, completely destroyed, even though we were alerted,” he adds. “If they hit us again with our deflector shield gone…” Kirk asks about the intruder and their vessel. “Space vessel,” Hanson replies. Well, thanks. That narrows it down from all the sea vessels we’ve been seeing up here recently. Outpost 4 only got a glimpse of it, and then it disappeared. “I have you on my viewing screen now; switching to visual,” Hanson says.

On screen, we see a room with wires hanging down, engulfed by flames. Oh, he’s just doing it for attention. “Can you see it?” he exclaims, leaning against his desk. “We can see it,” Kirk says sternly. “What do you have on the intruder?” Oh for Chrissakes, Kirk. He doesn’t have anything on the intruder. “No identification,” Hanson replies, shaking his head. He exclaims that something is coming onto his viewing screen. I thought he was using it to communicate to the Enterprise? “Lock us onto your screen,” Kirk demands. Hanson does so: we are now looking at the Final Frontier. “Can you see it, Enterprise?” he asks. No, Hanson. There isn’t anything there. After about ten seconds, a vessel (space vessel, I should clarify) fades in. Kirk asks if Outpost 4 has weapons power. “Negative,” Hanson says sullenly, realizing they’re going to become a one-hit wonder. The space vessel shoots a great ball of fire at Outpost 4, and thus it too is destroyed in a brightly lit manner. Everyone on the Enterprise is horrified.

Spock confirms that Outpost 4 has been destroyed, and he says it’s interesting how the vessel was only visible for a moment. “When they opened fire,” Kirk adds. “Perhaps necessary when they use their weapons.” Spock finds the intruder as a blip on his sen-sores. Kirk searches the viewing screen. “I don’t see anything,” he mutters, confused, forgetting that he was *just* speaking about the vessel’s ability to attain invisibility.

The blip on Spock’s screen changes course. “And in a very leisurely manner,” Spock adds, surprised. “They may not be aware of us.” “Their invisibility screen may work both ways,” Kirk concludes. Just like your sexuality, Captain! Spock reads out the course of the intruder. “The exact heading a Romulan vessel would take, Jim: toward the Neutral Zone.” You know it’s serious, cause Spock called him ‘Jim’ on the bridge. Kirk orders Sulu to make a parallel course. “Don’t you mean interception course, sir?” Stiles exclaims predictably. “Negative. You and Mr. Sulu will match course and speed with the object on our sensors,” Kirk explains. Stiles’ eyebrows fall in defeat and disappointment.

“Captain,” Stiles then spits out furiously, “may I respectfully remind the Captain what has happened.” No. Please no. “The Romulans have crossed the Neutral Zone, attacked our outposts, killed our men…” “Mr. Stiles,” Kirk tries to say. “Add to that the fact that it was a sneak attack,” Stiles exclaims, interrupting Kirk. Ooo. You’re gonna be in trouble with tribbles now, boy. “Mr. Stiles, are you questioning my eyebrows?” Kirk explains. Sorry, “orders”. Freudian slip. “Negative, sir,” Stiles replies, and then goes on to question the Captain’s orders. “I’m pointing out that we could have Romulan spies aboard this ship!” What? That didn’t seem to be where you were going at all, Stiles. But Sulu agrees. “Respectfully request that all decks maintain security alert,” he says. See, Stiles, that’s respectfully doing something. “Very well,” Kirk concedes. Stiles looks smug.

Uhura is picking up some sort of communication. She listens for a moment. “It’s from their ship,” she says, surprised, piping it in. “Osts-pay estroyed-day! O-gay omulans-Ray!” it says. They can’t break the code, but it helps Spock get a lock on their ship. He says he can get a picture of their bridge up. “Put it on screen,” Kirk commands.

Now, in a Steve’s-love-letter-to-the-Romulans moment… I have to say, one cool thing that Star Trek did here is that the Romulan bridge looks nothing like an Earth ship. It is round, and in the center are a bunch of screens surrounding a pole. The Romulans bend over the screens in a circle. Their captain observes from the side. (Having just started watching Doctor Who, I take this entire love letter moment back. The Romulans are just Time Lords. They have a Tardis.)

Anyway, the Romulan captain is standing with his back towards the camera, which of course means his face will result in a “WTF!!!” moment. All the other Romulans are wearing ridiculously large helmets that suspiciously cover only their ears and their eyebrows. A Romulan officer approaches the captain and salutes him with the typical “This-Is-An-Authoritative-Warlike-State” salute, the one that inevitably looks like a mix between a Roman salute and a Heil. As the officer walks away, the Romulan captain turns around to stare pensively. The camera somehow zooms in on him, even though I thought this was some sort of security camera that Spock tapped into. And it’s...


I'm ready for my close up, Mr. Deville.

Actually, no, it’s Mark Lenard, who will eventually play Ambassador Sarek of Vulcan, but for now, he’s the Romulan captain. Speaking of Spock, however, Captain Mark Lenard does has pointy ears and pointy eyebrows. In fact, he looks exactly like a Vulcan! Star Trek “Oh No!” Music!

Kirk’s jaw drops. Stiles leaps up and stares shocked at the screen, before turning to stare at Spock angrily. Spock raises his much more attractive eyebrows in surprise. After like 30 seconds, there’s a shot of Sulu reacting, going from bored to surprised quite belatedly. What, was he just staring at the screen like “Hmm, this guy looks a bit familiar. Where do I know him from? Did I go to school with him? If only I could place him. Maybe I know him from that summer program on planet M-11, or could it have been OH MY GOD HE’S A VULCAN!”

The rising “Oh No!” Music throws us into commercial break.

We return to find Stiles watching Spock spitefully, while Sulu stares nervously at Stiles, like “Why can’t I ever get a normal guy up here with me?” Spock turns around and sees Stiles’ angry eyebrows. He looks a little awkward before turning back to his post. Why is it a big deal that the Romulans look like Vulcans? Considering how many planets have beings on them identical to Earth humans, it was bound to happen sometime.

Kirk walks past Stiles’ post, tapping his console to remind him where his attention should remain. Uhura reports that Cryptology is working on the coded message. “Give it to Spock,” Stiles sneers quietly. Kirk asks Stiles to repeat what he just said. “I was suggesting that Mr. Spock might be able to decode it,” Stiles says. Spock watches this exchange with a hurt expression. Aw. “I assume you’re complimenting Mr. Spock on his ability to decode,” Kirk replies. “I’m not sure, sir,” Stiles answers honestly. Kirk acts casual for a few seconds, walking towards Stiles’ chair, and then whips it around to face him, growling, “Well here’s one thing you can be sure of, mister: leave any bigotry in your quarters. There’s no room for it on the Bridge!” Unless you’re McCoy. Spock pops an eyebrow and turns back to his station.

Uhura hands Mr. Spock a tape of the transmission. Well, I guess they’re taking Stiles’ advice again? Spock looks a little perturbed and distracted, but he thanks Uhura and begins trying to decode the Romulan message. “Something visual ahead, Captain!” Sulu announces excitedly. A vessel uncloaks on screen.

On board the Romulan vessel, Captain Mark Lenard is asking why they’re not using the cloaking device. Idiot Officer 1 tells him it takes up too much power. “That Earth outpost called to an Earth vessel, now it follows us” Captain Lenard snaps. “It neither retreats nor grows near,” Idiot Officer 1 replies. He thinks that the vessel is just a reflection… which is exactly what Kirk wants him to think! Captain Lenard reminds the Idiot Officer that the captain’s judgement prevails. Captain Lenard’s eyes are perfectly filled with ennui and lethargy. I’m fighting the urge to turn this into a love letter to Mark Lenard.

The Romulans turn their cloaking device back on. An older Romulan resembling Bilbo Baggins comes onto the bridge, and Captain Lenard expresses his relief that they approach the Neutral Zone. “Not too soon for me to see the stars of home,” he continues with a sigh. He and Bilbo exchange a glance. “I know they are following,” Captain Lenard assures him. “But if an Earth ship, why does he not attack?” Bilbo asks. Captain Lenard quotes some Art of War catch phrases about studying enemies and seeking weakness and whatnot.

Idiot Officer 2 comes onto the bridge and reports to the captain. Captain Lenard turns and looks at him slowly. “A message was dispatched. You’ve broken the rule of silence!” Lenard says. “Only in Pig Latin, Commander,” Idiot Officer 2 explains. “To inform our Praetor of this glorious mission.” Ah, so they’re going for the more honorable Roman-type authoritative government. Lenard still does not approve. “You’re reduced two steps in rank, now return to your post,” he says angrily. Well, if he’s reduced two steps in rank, won’t he have a different post?

Bilbo points out that Idiot Officer 2 has friends in high places, which is dangerous. As Bilbo is later revealed to be a centurion, it looks like Lenard might have friends in pretty high places himself. “Danger and I are old companions,” Lenard replies offhandedly. Mark Lenard manages to make this line less corny than it sounds. Must not… turn… recap into… Love Letter to Mark Lenard. Bilbo adds that he does not understand Lenard, even though they have seen a hundred campaigns together, which seems unlikely, as it doesn’t appear that the Romulans have any other serious enemies, and the Neutral Zone treaty hadn’t previously been broken in over a century. What sort of campaigns would they have seen? “I think you do,” Lenard retorts. He points out that when the Earthman attacks, they will destroy him, and then they will bring home proof of his weakness. “Our gift to the homeland,” he finishes bitterly. “Another war.”

Bilbo thinks that if they are stronger, they have to fight. The close up on his face reveals that he is wearing enough eye shadow to make Uhura jealous. “Must it always be so? How many comrades have we lost this way?” Lenard asks helplessly. “Death and more death!” I think maybe he was born in the wrong pointy-eared community. He tells Bilbo that he finds himself hoping that the ship be destroyed before they get home. Bilbo takes this rather well, considering that the Captain of the vessel just told him he’s hoping that everyone aboard dies. Lenard gives a little irony laugh. “Worry not,” he tells the centurion. “I, like you, am too well trained in my duty to permit it.” The centurion smiles lovingly at him. Excessively lovingly. Shippers, welcome aboard the HMS Pointy.

Back on the Enterprise, Sulu is still following the Bird of Prey. Kirk asks for their position. “We’ll enter the Neutral Zone in less than an hour, sir. Assuming, of course, that we don’t turn back,” Stiles says grumpily. Someone, get this kid some Zoloft or get him off the bridge. Scotty somehow intercoms the bridge with no “Weeeee-ooooo”. “We now have the debris from Outpost 4, Captain,” he reports. Kirk orders everyone to the briefing room. Evidently, this includes Stiles, but not Uhura.

In the briefing room, Spock is showing everyone what looks like a paper mache mirror. “This is the hardest substance known to our science,” Spock explains. With his bare hands, he breaks it. Oh, Spock! Now you have seven years of bad paper mache luck! Everyone stares at him like “We’re screwed” except Stiles, who still is staring at Spock like he has six fingers on his right hand. “Obviously their weaponry is superior to ours, and they have a practical invisibility screen,” Spock reports. That’s what Starfleet gets for sticking with Apple when the Romulans switched to PC. “You’re discussing tactics,” Bones says angrily. He points out that there are millions and millions of lives hanging on what the Enterprise does next. No pressure, Jim. “Can we engage them with a reasonable possibility of victory?” Kirk asks. Scotty declares that the Romulans only have impulse power, so they can certainly outrun them. Yeah, unless something goes wrong with the engines, or the anti-matter pods, or the crew, or the power, but I’m sure that never happens on the Enterprise.

Stiles asks them if their superior speed will be used in “chasing them or retreating…sir.” He adds the last word with no small touch of contempt. Stiles needs to get over himself. Kirk tells Lt. Eyebrows to go ahead and state his opinion. “We have to attack immediately,” Stiles declares. Stiles wants to attack the Romulan vessel? What a fantastic plot twist! “They’re still on our side of the Neutral Zone! There will be no doubt that they broke the treaty,” Stiles explains. Sulu wants to know how they can attack without a visible target. “Hope for a lucky shot before they zero in on us?” he asks. “And if we don’t?” Stiles retorts angrily. Stiles points out that if the Romulans report that the Enterprise saw their weapons and ran, they will be back with “everything they’ve got”. He stands up and turns to Spock. “You know that, Mr. Science Officer! You’re the expert in these people, but you’ve always left out that one point. Why?!” he exclaims furiously. He actually had some good points in that speech, but he completely invalidated them with his racist ending. Spock stares at him expressionlessly. “Sit down, mister,” Kirk commands.

There is an awkward pause. “I agree,” Spock finally states. “Attack.” Everyone looks surprised. McCoy points out that they are basing this all on what the Romulans were like a century ago. “We know what they look like,” Stiles says, glaring at Spock. With hate. Which is beginning to get old. “Yes, indeed we do, Mr. Stiles,” Spock replies. He thinks that the Romulans are probably related to the Vulcans, which makes attack even more imperative. “Vulcan, like Earth, had its aggressive period, savage, even by Earth standards,” Spock continues. “And if the Romulans retained this martial philosophy, then weakness is something we dare not show.” “Do you want a galactic war on your conscience?” McCoy asks, incredulously. Spock stares back at him without answering, like ‘There’s no room for our petty arguments in this episode, I’ve got another racist guy giving me shit.”

Kirk intercoms the bridge to ask Uhura about their status. They are 21 minutes from the Neutral Zone. He then asks Spock for their position. “A comet, magnitude 7, dead ahead. And the intruder changing course toward it,” he reports. Kirk asks for its composition, handing Spock a book that’s on the table. What, “All About Comets” just happens to be hanging around in the debriefing room? Why wouldn’t they just use the computer library? But Spock needs neither; he pushes the book away, reporting, “Quite ordinary. An ionized mass, a trail of frozen vapor particles.” Scotty smirks at Spock’s awesome ability to remember things. Kirk surmises that when the intruder’s invisible vessel passes through the tail, it will become visible. “Prepare to attack, all hands to battle stations,” Kirk commands. The lights start-a flashing, but battle stations alert just isn’t the same when Sulu isn’t at the helm.

“I hope we won’t need your services, Bones,” Kirk says as they leave. “Amen to that,” Bones replies. “You’re taking a big gamble, Jim.” Kirk walks valiantly through the montage of crewmen doing things, and we valiantly go to commercial break.

We open act 3 with a shot of the Deus Ex Comet. Kirk asks for their battle status. Sulu and Stiles report ready, with Stiles sounding like a normal person for the first time in the whole episode. Well, they’re about to kick some Romulan ass. I bet inside he’s as giddy as a child on Christmas morning. Spock exclaims that the intruder is now heading directly for the comet’s tail. This seems so stupid of Lenard and Romulan Co., but maybe it’s just Lenard wishing for destruction. But Kirk’s next idea is pretty stupid, too: instead of just attacking him when he enters the tail and becomes visible, Kirk has decided to swing around the other side of the comet and catch him at that moment.

On the Bird of Prey, Lenard is admiring how lovely the comet looks. It is a rather attractive graphic. “Behold, a marvel in the darkness,” he sighs. But Bilbo won’t be distracted by aesthetics or poetry: “You spoke of entrapment,” he reminds Lenard, who reluctantly pulls himself away from the monitor. “Its many particles will obscure their sensing device, Centurion,” he explains. “Once fully obscured, we will turn suddenly back upon our adversary.” “At last… our reflection no longer follows us,” Idiot Officer 1 reports, seeming stupidly pleased about this. But Captain Lenard knows this is not a good thing. “Escape maneuver 1! Quickly!” he exclaims. The ships tilts radically to the left. Lenard grasps a wall and looks around apprehensively.

Back on the Enterprise, Spock reports that they are losing sensor contact. Kirk doesn’t care. “Phaser crews ready?” he asks. They are. “He’ll only be visible for a moment.” They wait.

But he stays invisble. Everyone looks taken aback. “In the last moment, he must…” Spock begins. “Must have guessed our move,” Kirk snaps. “Hard a-starboard!” Sulu does so. “He did exactly what I would have done,” Kirk says to himself. Don’t flatter yourself, Kirk. He just totally beat you at your own game. “Fire blind, lay down a pattern,” Kirk orders loudly. As luck would have it, they hit the Romulan vessel! (Steve points out that the weapons being used throughout this episode are actually photon torpedoes, and not phasers) Aboard the shaking vessel, Captain Lenard and his crew look around nervously as they realize that their set is made out of plastic and cardboard. Bilbo notices that a falling piece of Styrofoam is about to hit Captain Lenard, and pushes his friend out of the way, which results in it crushing him. Lenard and three other crewman struggle nobly to lift the Styrofoam. “Divert all power to weapons,” Lenard orders, obviously distressed.

Back on the Enterprise, Sulu is reporting a Phaser overload. Spock dives under his station to find a bunch of wires sparking. You’d think the bridge would have some sort of circuit breaking to stop things from sparking. I mean, even the first Mac my family owned had that technology. The Romulan vessel decloaks onscreen. I guess Bilbo took the ring off. “Captain, are they surrending?” Idiot Offic—I mean, uh, Sulu asks. Kirk, however, is not deluded by optimism. “Full astern!” he demands. “Emergency warp speed!” Sure enough, goodness! gracious! a great ball of plasma! comes directly at the Enterprise. Even with full emergency warp, the red ball is overtaking them. “If we only had one phaser to detonate…” Sulu exclaims. Stiles’ eyebrows go from angry to horrified, as he estimates the impact to occur in two minutes. “Phasers, Mr. Spock?” Kirk asks hopefully. “Impossible, Captain,” Spock replies.

Kirk starts preparing for his ship’s destruction as Yeoman Rand scurries on to the bridge. “Captain, should I continue log entries, or—,” she begins, but Kirk interrupts her. “Yeoman,” he says solemnly, but then doesn’t say anything else. Yes, Kirk. That’s a Yeoman. After looking at her for a moment, he tells her to continue log entries. Right around ten seconds to impact, Sulu reports that it’s dissipating. “It must have a range limit!” Stiles exclaims, hopefully. As their situation worsens, Kirk grasps Rand tight to him. “Three… two… one… IMPACT!” Sulu reports, and sure enough, the camera is thrown violently to the right. But they survive! “Limited range,” Kirk says wonderingly. Just then, Spock reports the phasers operational. Right, three seconds off and you thought it was “impossible” before. If I were Stiles, I’d be all over that shit.

The Romulan vessel is back on its original course. “He may think we’re destroyed,” Spock theorizes. “I wouldn’t make that assumption. And I don’t their captain will, either,” Kirk replies pensively. Probably not, but his Idiot Crew Members will. They continue to follow.

Back on the Romulan vessel, Lenard is tenderly wiping Bilbo’s brow, puffing some wind into the sails of the HMS Pointy. Bilbo must be severely allergic to Styrofoam, because he looks like he’s in terrible shape. “Captain, our reflection is still following us,” Idiot Officer 3 reports. “Activate our cloak,” Lenard replies. The Idiot Officer says that their fuel is low. “Quickly!” snaps Lenard. If Lenard weren’t surrounded by Idiot Officers, I think the Original Series would’ve been 70 episodes shorter than it is currently. One of the Idiot Officers from before, I think the one with friends in high places, comes forward, shocked. “The Earth vessel? Impossible!” he says. No one cares what you think, Well Connected Idiot Officer. You’re the reason the Earth vessel was able to follow your ship in the first place. “Its commander is not one to repeat a mistake,” Lenard says more to himself than anyone else, seeing as with Bilbo unconscious, there are only Idiot Officers left on the bridge.

Meanwhile, on the Enterprise, Spock leans over Stiles’ shoulder to check out what he’s doing; this causes Stiles to get really uncomfortable. I’ve never seen Spock check out what a navigator or helmsman was doing, so I have to assume he’s just fucking with the kid. Right on, Spock.

Stiles reports that they’ll enter the Neutral Zone in one minute. “Do we violate the treaty, Captain?” Bones asks. “Once inside, they can claim we did—a setup.” Spock and McCoy predictably disagree, but Kirk comes in with a third opinion: attack them before they enter the Neutral Zone. I’d be more impressed with this conclusion if it weren’t decided upon 20 minutes ago in the briefing room. Kirk wants to shoot blindly. “At this distance? A hit would be the wildest stroke of luck!” Stiles exclaims. Kirk is aware of that. He’s also aware that there are still 2 and a half seasons left, and he isn’t a Redshirt. What does he have to lose?

The Bird of Prey’s crew is understandably surprised (and stupid). “Commander!” one Idiot Officer exclaims worriedly, and Lenard, without having to be told what’s going on, replies “Evasive action.” Impressive! The wildest stroke of luck allows the Enterprise to not only hit the Bird of Prey, but also in the same exact places as last time! Ah, the beauty of stock footage. Lenard leans protectively over Bilbo.

“20 seconds to Neutral Zone, sir,” Stiles reports. Kirk has Uhura tell Starfleet Command that there was no other option; on his personal responsibility, they are entering the Neutral Zone. They continue to fire at the Romulan vessel. On the Bird of Prey, Lenard looks even more resigned than usual, staring into space. “Commander, they stay within range!” Idiot Officer reports. Lenard doesn’t move. “I will tend to the Centurion,” Idiot Officer offers. “No need,” Lenard says sullenly. “The Centurion is dead.” Thus sinks the HMS Pointy. Her voyage was short, but eventful. The Idiot Officer wants to know why they aren’t firing back. For once, I agree with him. “No, he’s shrewd, this starship commander,” Lenard muses. Huh? What does that have to do with the fact that your weapons outgun his weapons by like a hundred to one?

“He has estimated he have only enough…” Lenard begins to say, but then he pauses. He tells his Idiot Officer to put all the debris into the disposal tubes. “The body of the Centurion, too,” he adds. He apologizes to the dead body of the Centurion for doing this. This is unnecessary. In my experience, dead people are either (a) bodies, so they won’t hear you, or (b) zombies, so you’d better start running. Neither will accept an apology.

On the Enterprise, Spock reports that there is debris; Kirk at first thinks the ship is destroyed, but Spock clarifies that there is insufficient mass. “Simple debris,” he adds. But this simple debris has confused their sensor devices; they can no longer detect any motion at all. Kirk is so distraught that he needs a commercial break to get over it.

And we’re back. Kirk-log reports that they are at the Neutral Zone, and have lost contact with the intruder. Kirk-log thinks that the Bird of Prey is nearby, with everything shut down. “The Enterprise is also playing the silent waiting game in hope of regaining contact,” Kirk-log adds. Again with the new information, Kirk-log! Spock tells Kirk that he needs to keep repairing the thing beneath his station. Kirk says that’s okay, as long as he keeps quiet about it. All the lights on the bridge are turned off, and Kirk stares solemnly into the Final Frontier.

On the Bird of Prey, Idiot Officer whispers to Lenard that there is still no sign of the Earth vessel. “I say he’s been fooled,” Idiot Officer says idiotically. “He must’ve gone on.” Um, no, because your sensors would observe him leaving, right? “Shh!” Lenard says. Relax, Lenard. Sound doesn’t travel through space. “He is there… somewhere,” Darth Lenard replies. “I feel it.” I bet on the Enterprise, Spock Skywalker is all “I shouldn’t have come along. I’ve endangered everything!”

Kirk-log is back again? That was quick. “Now motionless for nine hours, 47 minutes,” he tells us. So maybe not so quick. Kirk is lying on his bed, staring at the ceiling. Rand enters and hesitates at the door. “Can I get you something from the Galley, sir?” she asks. Kirk shakes his head. “Coffee, at least?” she asks, silently adding ‘Me?’ Kirk agrees to some coffee. “Bring it to the bridge, I’ll be there in a moment,” he asks. As she leaves, McCoy enters. Kirk grins up at him, and Rand looks on jealously for a moment. How come Kirk never looks at her like that? She leaves huffily.

Bones grins back at Kirk, and I swear to God he looks drunk in this scene. Kirk starts rambling about how he wishes he were on a cruise with no responsibility. Then you probably shouldn’t have joined Starfleet. “Why me?” Kirk asks. Because, as you so eagerly point out in every episode, you’re the captain. That’s why. “I look around that bridge, and I see the men waiting for me to make the next move, and Bones, what if I’m wrong?” Well, then the series gets cancelled, Jim.

“Captain, I…” Bones starts to say. Kirk interrupts, saying he didn’t really expect an answer. “But I’ve got one,” Bones says intensely, grabbing Kirk’s shoulder. He then says, and tell me he’s not obviously drunk, “In this galaxy, there’s a mathematical probability of three-million Earth-type planets.” They’re called “M-Class” planets, Doctor. “And in all of the universe, three million, million galaxies like this one.” Annnnd that’s called a billion, Doctor. “And in all of that—and perhaps more—only one of each of us,” he finishes. He turns and looks at Kirk, who has been (of course) smirking lightly at him the whole time, and says intensely: “Don’t destroy the one named Kirk.” What the hell does that mean? Does that have anything to do with what Kirk was saying? Does Bones think the Captain’s suicidal? Isn’t that grounds to get him medically removed? I just don’t understand what McCoy is trying to get at here. Now, I love Bones, I really do, but he’s obviously freaking smashed. This is like the McCoy version of the drunken “Dude, I love you—no, dude, I love you more. Dude, dude.”

Kirk exits, leaving McCoy looking confused and disturbed, or possibly dizzy and uncoordinated.

Back on the bridge, Spock carefully puts the grate back onto the thing underneath his station. He uses his tricorder carefully, as though pushing buttons slowly will make the beeping quieter. Kirk glances around nervously. Stiles and Sulu are still at their posts, 10 hours later. You’d think they’d find some replacements. Spock uses his hand to lift himself up, accidentally pressing a button! It beeps loudly and obnoxiously, moreso than things normally do on the Enterprise, causing Stiles and Kirk to stand up. Kirk stops Stiles from assumably murdering Spock on the spot, saying “It’s all right!” Spock looks around in an emotionless yet ashamed manner.

Back on the Romulan vessel, an Idiot Officer reports a signal. In a rare moment of joy, Lenard’s face lights up. “We have him!” he whispers. “Move toward him!” The Star Trek “Oh No!” Music reminds us what side we’re supposed to be rooting for, Mark Lenard notwithstanding.

“Power on!” Kirk orders. Stiles and Spock stare at each other tensely for a moment. Kirk explains that the Romulan captain will try to slip under them, and tells Sulu to reverse course. “Phasers… fire!” he exclaims. Sure enough, Kirk guessed Lenard’s next move perfectly, and they hit the stock footage again.

On the Bird of Prey, an Idiot Officer is shocked by the attack. “How, Commander?! How?” he asks. “He’s a sorcerer, that one. He reads the thoughts in my brain,” Lenard snarls. (Steve tells me that this is his favorite line.) Their fuel supply is nearly gone. The Idiot Officer can’t believe that they (and the Praetor’s best flagship) are beaten. Captain Lenard thinks to himself. “Perhaps we can yet save your Praetor’s pride for him,” Lenard tells the officer. He turns suddenly. “More debris in the tubes!” he orders. He turns on Idiot Officer and asks if they have some of the old-style nuclear warheads aboard. Idiot Officers affirms that this is true, “but only for self-destruction!” Lenard orders that one be placed in with the debris.

On the Enterprise, they continue firing. Spock reports that there is debris. “Same type as before, sir,” he says. Then he looks up shocked. “Except…one metal-cased object!” Kirk orders that the phasers fire, point blank to detonate it. There is a blinding flash, and it throws the Enterprise off balance. Everything goes black.

“Glorious! Glorious!” Idiot Officer 1 exclaims proudly. Captain Lenard looks up at him, like “Why do I let such Idiots onto my bridge?” “Now we go home,” he sighs. All the Idiot Officers look at him like he’s crazy. Idiot Officer 1 reminds Lenard that the Enterprise is at their mercy, and reminds him of his duty. It’s his duty to kill? I guess the Romulan’s little space diddy goes a little something like: “Our five year mission – to kill new life, to boldly conquer where some other people may have had a civilization before!”

Enterprise: Everyone is in pretty good health, considering that they were just hit by a nuclear warhead. The damage to the ship isn’t too major; Scotty reports that they only have forward phaser power, and that Mr. Yellow Redshirt is manning that station alone. Aha! Mr. Yellow Redshirt is totally becoming Mr. Yellow Deadshirt. “Sir, my first training was in weapons,” Stiles says. Kirk orders him to go. He apparently means to weapons, but I was half-hoping he just meant, like “Leave my bridge. Go away. I don’t care where.” Spock asks if Kirk wants to go and make repairs, but Kirk wants to try playing dead for a while.

Meanwhile, Idiot Officer and Captain Lenard are still bickering about whether or not to destroy the Enterprise. Lenard keeps saying no, even though the Enterprise has not yet moved. He doesn’t trust their Captain. Good call, Captain Lenard. Too bad you are literally surrounded by Idiots. Finally, Idiot Officer is able to hit a sore spot: “Permit me the glory of the kill, Commander,” he asks. This gets Lenard’s feathers all in a ruffle. “We will attack… but on my order,” Lenard replies. As he storms off, Idiot Officer smirks.

In the Front Phaser room, Stiles and Mr. Yellow Redshirt are working hard. Spock enters and asks if they need any help. Stiles sneers at him. “This time, we’ll handle things without your help, Vulcan,” he replies. Mr. Yellow Redshirt looks like “Um… okay then.” and Spock just leaves. The second he leaves, a pink gas substance starts shooting out of a random vent, which I think is just there to kill redshirts. “Tomlinson!” Stiles exclaims, which is Mr. Yellow Redshirt’s real name. Stiles sits there doing nothing, while Mr. Yellow Redshirt gets up to boldly go where many Redshirts have gone before. The morgue.

The Romulans are beginning to uncloak; Kirk demands that the phasers fire. No response. “Fire!” he exclaims, and then finally uses the ship intercom. “FIRE!”

Spock hears this, and runs in the most awkward, nerdy way back to the Front Phaser room. By the time he gets there, the entire room is filled with the pink gas, and both Mr. Yellow Redshirt and Stiles are lying on the ground. Why they didn’t just leave the room and get help is beyond me. Or use a communicator? I don’t know. They clearly had time.

Regardless, Spock gets there in the nick of time, with Stiles trying to push the button from the ground. Spock fires the phasers.

On the Bird of Prey, a shocked Idiot Officer is all, “They’re firing at us!!!” Duh. Captain Lenard told you that the Captain wasn’t to be trusted. Cardboard and paper mache fall from the ceiling, and the lights basically flicker out.

On the Enterprise, Kirk asks Uhura for ship-to-ship communication. Captain Lenard is in as bad shape as Hanson. And by that, I mean both the Commander and the band. He manages to make it over to his communicator screen. Kirk alerts Lenard that they are standing by to beam survivors over. Lenard looks surprised at this offer. “No,” he replies. “It is not our way.” He goes on to add that he regrets meeting Kirk in this fashion. “You and I are of a kind,” he continues. “In a different reality, I could have called you friend.” Too bad. Maybe if you had a son, he could be Kirk’s friend. “What purpose will it serve to die?” Kirk asks. Lenard’s all, ‘Vulcans: Logic:: Romulans: Duty.” “Just one more duty to perform,” he sighs. He turns around and detonates his ship, but in a way that it looks like he’s falling on his sword. How Roman! Did you not get that these guys were supposed to be Roman? Cause I totally missed it until now! Also, way to go, Kirk. You just destroyed the one Romulan who appeared to find war unnecessary in the end. Believe me, this will come back to haunt you, and further generations of starships.

In Sickbay, McCoy is examining Stiles. Kirk enters and asks if Stiles is okay. “I’m alive, sir. But I wouldn’t be. Mr. Spock—he pulled me out of the Phaser Room,” Stiles replies, emotionally. Oh God, I should’ve seen this coming. Cliché! “I saved a trained navigator,” Spock interrupts, uninterested in Stiles speech. Stiles looks at Kirk, like “Is this guy for real?” Kirk asks how many people died. “Only one…” Bones says. Ready for your bets? Who do you say died?

That’s right! It was Mr. Yellow Redshirt! “The boy who was going to get married this morning,” Bones reminds us. Kirk looks shocked by this, like he didn’t know the kid’s name. “His fiancée is in the chapel now.” Kirk nods with a pensive expression, trying to figure out the best pity-sex angle. Rand comes in at this moment and tells Kirk that Command Base says they’ll support any decision Kirk has to make. Kirk smirks at Spock and Bones.

In the chapel, Mrs. Yellow Redshirt is crying silently. Kirk comes in and stands valiantly at her side. She rushes to him and hugs him tightly. Kirk’s all “I didn’t think it’d be this easy.” So he tries his pity-sex speech anyway: “It never makes any sense. We both have to know that there was a reason,” Kirk begins. Yes, and the reason was Stiles’ racism. What a noble cause to die for. “I’m alright,” Mrs. Yellow Redshirt says. Kirk looks at her doubtfully. She leaves the chapel, and Kirk stares off into space, thinking “How did I miss that rebound? It was so easy! I’m losing my touch.”

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