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Star Trek: The Enterprise Incident

Spock: "What is your present form of execution?"

There's so much to love about "The Enterprise Incident." Espionage. Sex. Ears.

Why shouldn't a woman be a starship captain? Because the best thing about this episode (for me) is the Romulan commander. Beautiful but not fluffy, strong but not strident, she was dynamic and smart and her crew obviously respected her, and she didn't appear defeated even while on the Enterprise bridge in her sexy comfy seduction clothes. I liked that we never knew if she was truly hot for Spock, or if she was faking it for the sake of her species. I've also always liked that Spock told her afterward that she had genuinely attracted him, whether it was true or not.

Although they've been mentioned a time or two, this is actually only our second episode with Romulans. The first was season one's "Balance of Terror," and the costumes as well as the bridge set looked the same. The core of "Balance of Terror" was the mutual respect between Kirk and the unnamed Romulan commander that he defeats in a fair contest. And it just occurred to me that there was a similar mutual respect between Spock and the unnamed Romulan commander in this episode, as well. Nice parallel.

And I loved the restrained finger-flirting. Sarek and Amanda touched fingers, too. For Vulcans, an emotional connection has to be expressed through a specific form of touching. I always assumed that included some minor mind-melding, perhaps. Or maybe it was just symbolic of their connection. Who knows?

Our guys did a great job. Kirk allowed himself to look like an egomaniacal jerk in order to carry out his mission, and he looked terrific in those ears. And Spock allowed himself to look even worse – like a traitor who would deliberately sleep with the enemy to get what he wants. It was smart to use Spock's divided self as motivation, since he came from two cultures but really belonged to neither one. In truth, any other half Vulcan half human would probably find the more raucous Romulan culture a good place to be. Not for "I'm gonna be more Vulcan than Vulcans" Spock, though.

The only puzzling thing is how everyone but Spock seemed to believe that Kirk could order them into the Neutral Zone just because he was crabby. And how could the Romulans know so much about Vulcan cuisine but not that there was no Vulcan Death Grip? You'd think a militaristic society would have been all over that. If it existed and the Romulans and Vulcans were so physically alike, they'd be doing workshops all over Romulus. Sign up now for your class on How To Use the Vulcan Death Grip!

Ben says...

Spock, you are one super sexy beast. And this was really Spock's episode. Never before or since have eyebrows been used to such erotic affect (Robert Pattinson notwithstanding). Also the whole finger lovin' scene, who wouldn't finger tap that? I think it was how Joanne Linville sold just how hot Spock was. She did a fine job of making us believe that she would behave as foolishly as she did. Damn, I am completely straight, but damn, that's one sexy alien... okay, mostly completely.

This episode shows us what might have been. It has a level of psychological and structural complexity that was largely missing in the earlier seasons. Sadly, it's also in very short supply in much of season three. In fact, the season oscillates even more wildly between real brilliance and complete schlock (if often entertaining schlock) than the first two, which is saying something. But here is what might have been in a well-funded season three and beyond.

That's not to say it was perfect. The whole deniability that the Federation was looking for was really not a possibility when Kirk is caught with a monkey wrench in the cloaking room. And even by Treknological standards, the installing the cloaking device to make the getaway (and then completely forgetting about its existence after this episode) was a bit weak. But who cares? It was generally smart, and also just fun: Kirk going Vulcan, the death grip and sexy Romulans. It expanded Trek mythology, character development and the bar for a good episode, even if the rest of the season rarely got over that bar.

Back to Billie for bits and pieces:

— Stardate 5027.3. The unnamed Romulan flagship and an officially unauthorized spy mission in the Neutral Zone.

— The Romulans were using a Klingon design for their starships? Wasn't it the other way around? I've always been confused about that. At any rate, it certainly made it easier for the special effects department.

— The cloaking device wasn't all that new, since we saw it in "Balance of Terror."

— The Romulan commander said that our language was difficult for her. Does that mean that when Kirk was in disguise, he was speaking Romulan?

— Spock has served in Starfleet for 18 years.

— Scott got exactly fifteen minutes to adapt an alien device to the Enterprise. He doesn't have a reputation as a miracle worker for nothing.

— Never let it be said that hair and makeup don't mean anything. I've always loved the Romulan commander's simple hairdo; it went so well with her ears. And the dress she wore to seduce Spock was like a black and white mod sixties Roman toga. Pretty much perfect.

— Romulans do appear to like pink, don't they?

— Joanne Linville did a wonderful job with the role of the Romulan commander. And D.C. Fontana always did a great job with Spock-related scripts.


Romulan commander: "There's a well-known saying... or is it a myth? that Vulcans are incapable of lying."
Spock: "It is no myth."
And he's lying. Love it.

Romulan commander: "Do you call yourself Terran or Vulcan?"
I like the word "Terran." It's Latin, a dead language, which makes it less nationalistic. And it's a lot prettier and more melodic than "Earther" or "Earthman" or "Earthperson." Yes, I'm a Terran. And you?

Uhura: "Doctor, you must beam aboard the Romulan flagship immediately! There's been an injury."
McCoy: "I don't make house calls."

Romulan commander: "You do know I have a first name."
Spock: "I was beginning to wonder."

Romulan commander: "What are you that you could do this?"
Spock: "The first officer of the Enterprise."

McCoy: "Well, are you coming, Jim? Or do you want to go through life looking like your first officer?"

Four out of four fleeting military secrets,

Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.


  1. This is an episode that has aged well, but we old-timers remember that when it first aired, it caught quite a bit of flak from the fans, who didn't like Spock's chasing after the Romulan Commander.

    Dorothy Fontana even got hate mail over this episode, and in Gerrold's "World of Star Trek" had to clear things up by noting that the love scenes were rewritten by someone else (my guess would be the new story editor, Arthur Singer). The most tender line in her version of the script was "I admire your mind."

    "The Enterprise Incident" was originally intended to be a retelling of the then-current Pueblo Incident, but NBC vetoed the idea as too touchy - after all, the Pueblo crew was still beind held captive by the North Koreans at the time.

    A few other tidbits:

    While this was indeed the second time we see Romulans face-to-face, we did see their ships - stock footage from "Balance of Terror" - in the second season's "The Deadly Years".

    The Klingon ship was built between the second and third seasons by Matt Jefferies, and made its debut in "Elaan of Troyius", the second episode produced for the third season - but that episode was pre-empted, so when we finally see a Klingon ship for the first time, it's full of Romulans.

    Why the switch? The story is that sometime between 1966 and 1968, the original model of the Romulan ship was stolen, and they just didn't have the time (or the money) to build another. So, they just tossed in a line about how the Romulans were "now using Klingon design" and voila!

    All in all, this is not a bad episode; as I say, it's aged well. Linville plays her part well, and I thought Jack Donner's portrayal of her deputy was well done as well - I always had a sense that there was a little more than met the eye in *his* relationship with the Commander.

  2. Thanks for posting all those fun tidbits, Jerry. I'm enjoying all of your comments.

  3. Glad to be of service, Billie - I've enjoyed reading your reviews and am happy to provide my WABAC perspective on the original episodes.

    I've actually been watching Star Trek since I was a kid (I even have an old picture of a 10-year-old me in a homemade command shirt, circa 1968) but don't really consider myself a "first-generation" fan (like such famous fans as Ruth Berman and Joan Winston and Elyse Pines and Allan Asherman and the others) as I didn't get serious about Star Trek until around 1973, culminating in my own fanzine ("Logically Star Trek") in 1975 and 1976. I actually wrote about ten ST stories in my late teens, including the obligatory "Mary Sue" story involving a teenage FOTC cadet who stows aboard the Enterprise but who (naturally!) saves the day.

    Lest anyone think I'm one of those obsessed-Trekkie types they're writing about nowadays, though, I actually have a wide range of interests - baseball, animation, Silver Age comics, rock-n-roll music (especially the Beatles and Weird Al Yankovic), television, biographies, etc.

    In short, while I may be a bit of a geek, at least I'm a *well-rounded* geek. ;-)

  4. I would like to know what Spock and the Romulan Commander "exchanged?" Obviously some sort of metal sharing of a very intimate kind that had to be voluntary......Certainly not his "katra?"

  5. An entertaining, if at first a little confusing, episode. I love love loved that the Romulan commander was a female, and that there was no sexism in this episode. Wonderful.

    Her "seduction" of Spock and his playing along was an interesting dynamic. The way I understood it, him getting intimate with her was not part of the original plan, but he certainly had no problem going along with it. I thought he seemed genuinely interested in her, compared to all the women he'd gotten closer to in the past. Neither humans nor Vulcans interested him, but finally, here was a being who did. It also kind of paves the way for his later work with the Romulans. As I understand it from hearsay, he eventually ends up devoting himself as a covert ambassador or something along those lines, and spends time among them disguised as one.

    It was great seeing how Romulans acted. We'd seen them before, but that was quite a while back. They were physiologically almost identical to Vulcans, but didn't need to repress their emotions. Great seeing Spock looking just as alien among them as he did among humans. Really sold the "descendent of two worlds, native of neither" thing. Also showed that he could probably learn to live peacefully with his emotions.

    No posturing from Spock this episode. No "if I had feelings, which I don't, I would feel this way" speeches and denials. Maybe that scene he had with McCoy back in 'Bread and Circuses' did him some good, and he's realized that not only is no one buying it, but he doesn't need to. I love character development. Hopefully it sticks.

    Kirk looked pretty great as a Romulan. Dunno what Spock was on about, he totally rocked those ears. Odd that he'd need actual cosmetic surgery rather than just a disguise for what amounted to being a quick job. Another crew member would probably have been a safer choice than him, seeing as the Romulans knew his face (Romulan Sulu, anyone?) but I know this is ultimately the Kirk and Spock and Sometimes McCoy Show and it was a good episode, so I can't really complain.

  6. Solid respect to the romulans for understanding that comfy and sexy don't have to be mutually exclusive

  7. Love it so. Joanne Linville was brilliant. I personally think the idea that a woman couldn't command a starship to be ludicrous, but this was the 60s, and here TOS proves that it can be quite progressive when it tries! She pulls off commanding and sexy so well.

    It is a bit reminiscent of balance of terror of course, but that's not a bad thing as that story is also great, so it's in excellent company. The scenes between Spock and the commander were just so good. I love it when a good show with good actors (regular and guest in this case) get good writing and give us gems like this one.


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