Star Trek: The Original Series/Recap/S1/E14 Balance of Terror

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"Balance of Terror"
Star Trek - Balance of Terror - You Both Look Familiar.jpg
A story from Star Trek: The Original Series
Preceded by: "The Conscience Of The King"
Followed by: "Shore Leave"
Central Theme:
v · d · e

The USS Enterprise is on duty near the Romulan Zone border, and things are calm enough that Kirk can preside over a wedding between two crew members. An urgent call from an Outpost interrupts the wedding, and the ship discovers that a series of outposts have been destroyed by a new energy weapon. A lucky interception of a message from an unseen space ship allows Kirk and crew to find out who they are up against: The Romulans. Using a single cloaked ship firing the most lethal weapon ever witnessed. And The Enterprise is the only one who can stop them...

Tropes used in Balance of Terror include:
  • Big Badass Bird of Prey: The Romulan symbol.
  • Crowning Moment of Awesome: Kirk and the Enterprise defeat one of the show's most dangerous adversaries in the Romulan Commander, who only fails because his warrior culture compels him to listen to an ambitious subcommander and risk an ill-advised final attack.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Scotty states that the Romulans "power is simple impulse." This caused many people (including the writers of the Star Trek Encyclopedia) to assume that the Romulans only had Impulse engines and not Warp Drive. However, considering it would take decades for the Romulans to travel space without Faster-than-light travel, it would be nearly impossible to fight an interstellar war. Eventually, this was retconed by having the Romulans have warp capabilities in Star Trek Enterprise.
  • Fantastic Racism: Lt. Stiles. From a long line of Stiles who fought in the first Romulan War. When he finds out Romulans and Vulcans look alike (and Spock himself confirms the possibility the species are related), he starts viewing Spock as a traitor. Spock saves his life during the final attack, and Stiles learns his lesson.
  • Give Away the Bride: Scotty does the honors.
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: Sarek is the Romulan Commander? No wonder Spock has daddy issues...
  • Honor Before Reason: The Romulan subcommander taunts the Commander into one final attack on a wounded Enterprise, even though the Commander knows that his Federation opponent is too dangerous to be viewed as an easy kill.
  • Mauve Shirt: Tomlinson, so that his death at the end will be meaningful. (And no, he doesn't wear a red shirt.)
  • Not So Different: "In a different reality... I could have called you friend."
  • Outrun the Fireball: In this case, outrun a warp-speed plasma ball. While not fast enough, the plasma energy dissipates enough to weaken its deadly effects to little damage.
    • If only their phasers had been operational at the time. Star Fleet Battles assures us that every 2 points of phaser damage reduces a plasma torpedo's warhead yield by 1 point.
  • Recycled in Space: A World War II submarine movie... IN SPACE!
  • Stealth in Space: The Trope Codifier for Trek, if not all of Science Fiction.
  • Tear Jerker: Only one person aboard the Enterprise doesn't survive the battle - the man who was going to be married earlier that day. The coda in the ship's chapel drives it home.
  • Worthy Opponent: The Romulan Commander. He's only attacking Starfleet bases because he was ordered to test a new weapon (and to test the Federation's vulnerability). He'd rather not start any more wars, and just wants to go home.
    • The Commander quickly recognizes Kirk as one, by the fact that Kirk does a lot of things he would do.
  • You Look Familiar: Two retroactive cases.
    • Mark Lenard, who plays the Romulan Commander here, would go on to play Spock's father in "Journey to Babel" and a Klingon Commander in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
    • Lawrence Montaigne, who plays Decius, would go on to play Stonn in "Amok Time".