Category Archives: 1968

“The Enterprise Incident”

“Whoa. Is this Tranya? Because I am relishing the hell out of it.”

Kirk apparently goes all rogue and takes the Enterprise into Romulan territory without authorization. The Enterprise is quickly surrounded by Romulan ships that have Klingon design and sport new and improved cloaking devices that render ships invisible and (for the first time) hidden from tracking sensors. Kirk and Spock beam over to one of the Romulan ships to face the music and Spock reveals that Kirk has gone nuts and then apparently kills Kirk in a struggle. But it’s all a ploy to get a cloaking device and neutralize the new Romulan threat, and Kirk (alive and well) poses as a Romulan and steals the cloaking device while Spock distracts the Romulan commander (Joanne Linville) by (ahem) throwing her a few curves. The Enterprise barely escapes after Scotty incorporates the cloak on the Enterprise. With the cloaking device in hand, the Federation will be able to negate any new advantage and keep the status quo between the two superpowers.

“Spock, I just realized that other Romulan commander looked JUST like your dad.”

Why it’s important

It’s the first time since “Balance of Terror” where the Romulans are more than baddies taking potshots at the Enterprise (or, if you prefer, more than Voyager-style aliens of the week). We learn a lot more about the Romulans and how they’re like and unlike Vulcans. The dialog between Kirk and the Romulan commander is important in explaining the relationship between the two enemies and how the galaxy works in the 23rd century. We learn about steps that could and would be taken after territorial incursions — and just how tense the situation is.

Today is a good day … to use our new Klingon ship models and not really explain how the Romulans got them.

What doesn’t hold up

Well, the conceit that Romulans use Klingon design for their vessels is pretty rich. It’s so hurriedly explained that it clearly wasn’t anything the creators wanted to get into — while the fact that the Bird of Prey first seen in “Balance of Terror” had no warp capabilities (and apparently a very small crew) could have something to do with the choice. Or the creators just really liked the new Klingon design, which was first seen in “Elaan of Troyius” and is pretty badass. There’s also a theory that the Bird of Prey model was lost or damaged, and the Klingon model reused for budgetary reasons. It’s actually kind of funny, because this episode was produced after but originally aired before “Elaan of Troyius,” meaning that the ship first debuted as a Romulan vessel, even though it was first built and filmed as a Klingon vessel.

As good as “The Enterprise Incident” is, one wonders if the Romulans wouldn’t be gearing for war after the events here. Granted, the Federation obtained knowledge of the new cloaking device, negating a tactical advantage. But the Enterprise clearly violated treaty — committing an act of war — and Kirk’s presence on the bridge at the end of the episode should have been enough evidence that Kirk didn’t go nuts/rogue. It would have called everything Spock said to push forward that con into question.

Is the thinking that the Romulans were ashamed that they’d been out-Romulanned, so they tipped their hats and walked away? Or is this just the first example of season three’s anything-goes approach — like the time Spock removes several days worth of memories to prevent Jimbo from having a sad, or the time Spock has brain surgery twice in a few days without any obvious impact on his hair?

Final thoughts

This is one of my favorite episodes of TOS, even acknowledging the logical gaffes. The scenes with Spock and the Romulan commander are, well, fascinating. The writing is taut and the look inside the Romulan ship is, mostly, well done — even if it’s obvious that the corridors from the Enterprise were reused with different lighting.

Apparently, the Romulans started using Klingon ship design because the two powers forged some sort of a pact, perhaps an alliance. It’s never mentioned explicitly, but the sharing of any technology is odd, given how much the Klingons and Romulans are shown to hate each other in TNG and DS9. Like other episodes, it opens a can of worms on when, exactly, the Romulans and the Klingons started hating each other and when the Klingons and Federation became allies. More on the weird love triangle between the Federation, Romulans and Klingons when we review TNG’s “Heart of Glory” and “The Neutral Zone” in a few months.

“The Enterprise Incident” also stands out because of all the really bad episodes that follow it in TOS’ infamous third season. And while Sulu, Chekov and Uhura are restricted to procedural scenes on the bridge, this episode is one of Trek’s better ensemble pieces. It’s worth noting that there really aren’t that many episodes where all seven of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, Sulu, Uhura and Chekov appear — partly because Chekov doesn’t show up at all the in the first season and probably also due to budget reasons.

The creators made an interesting choice in the remastered version of this episode, making one of the three ships that surround the Enterprise a Bird of Prey from “Balance of Terror”, replacing a third Romulan/Klingon cruiser (as you can see in the photo above). It’s a nod to continuity and almost a wink to the idea that the creators in the ’60s used the Klingon ship model (which is much cooler looking than the Bird of Prey) here.

“Bread and Circuses”

“Hodgkins Law of what? You never mentioned any blessed such thing on all the other Earth-like planets we’ve visited, Jim!”

The Enterprise finds the remains of the S.S. Beagle, lost for six years, and tracks it to a planet that, based on broadcasts, is “20th-century Rome.” Kirk, Spock and McCoy beam down (natch) to look for survivors and are captured by a group of runaway slaves who (apparently) worship the sun. Working around the Prime Directive, which he cares about in the second season, Kirk gets the slaves to take the Big Three to the capitol. Shortly thereafter, the group is taken prisoner, and learns that the Beagle’s Captain Merrick (William Smithers) has violated the Prime Directive in order to survive, even telling the Roman Procounsel Marcus (Logan Ramsey) about the Federation. Kirk refuses to beam down the Enterprise crew to engage in coliseum-style battles and (after — hehe — being thrown a few curves) faces execution. He manages to escape thanks to some unbelievably timely assistance from Scotty on the ship and then frees Spock and McCoy. As the Romans close in on the trio, Merrick — who had been emasculated by the procounsel for much of the episode — tosses a communicator to Kirk allowing the trio to beam out. During the typical postgame wrap-up on the ship, Uhura tells Kirk that the slaves were actually worshiping the son of God, based on broadcasts she’s been monitoring. Kirk expresses wonderment that the planet is about to find Christ in the 20th century … and sets course for the next mission.

“I’ll just tell Spock and Bones that ‘they threw me a few curves.’ That’ll be funnier and less creepy than saying I banged the procounsel’s slave girl.”

Why it’s important

This is the first episode that really explains the Prime Directive, which is first mentioned, and then promptly ignored by Jimbo, in “Return of the Archons”. It’s also another example of the goofy parallel-Earth trope that TOS made us sit through three to four times a season (clearly, to save money). Also mentioned here is Hodgkins Law of Parallel Planetary Development as a quick (and actually pretty weak) way of justifying why so many planets are Earth-like. More on that in a moment.

Aside from the Prime Directive exploration, it’s probably important to review an episode like “Bread and Circuses” on this site, as finding Earth-like planets was such a big part of TOS. This episode is the one that best explains why such planets keep popping up, which is to say, it provided any explanation at all.

“Doctor McCoy, do you have any idea when we’ll visit parallel Vulcans?”

Why doesn’t hold up

TOS was just all over the place as far as the Prime Directive. At times — like in this episode — it’s something that Kirk says can’t be bent at all, even if it means his life and his crew are forfeit. At others, Kirk breaks it if his ship or crew is in danger, if he thinks it’s the right thing to do or if he just thinks chicks really dig outlaws. In this episode, as he Spock and McCoy are facing certain death, he refuses to break the order.

I actually don’t take issue with Kirk breaking the Prime Directive in some instances, as doing so is in keeping with his character. But it’s just ridiculous when he goes all Joe Friday about enforcing it in episodes like this. I know that TOS was written with less regard for continuity and that complaining about Prime Directive violations is odd in a series with episodes about brain theft, space hippies and crewmen evolving into lizards after going warp 10 (wait, that last one was Voyager). But still.

It’s also odd that the Prime Directive, in TOS, seems mostly about not interfering with primitive societies. In TNG and DS9, it’s apparently been expanded to keep Starfleet from messing with internal affairs of warp-capable societies, like the Klingons during their civil war. It’s not that hard to believe that the Prime Directive would have been expanded — and, certainly, staying out of sovereign affairs of other species is a pretty good idea. But if Kirk and Co. had been held to the 24th-century standard, the crew would have been mining borite faster than you can say “General Order 1.”

As for this Hodgkin’s Law business, it’s an odd throwaway line (during Kirk’s log entry) in this episode and never really mentioned again, despite other parallel-Earth episodes. Even if you figure it wouldn’t be applicable when outside forces made planets Earth-like (“Patterns of Force,” “A Piece of the Action”, “The Paradise Syndrome”) it’s totally applicable for two of the series’ worst showings in “The Omega Glory” and “Miri”. And yet, it’s only mentioned here.

And if Kirk is really as gung-ho about the Prime Directive as he appears in this episode, his planning abilities are just awful. Why Kirk, Spock and McCoy would beam down to the planet — wearing their uniforms way out in the sticks — as a way to investigate “20th century Rome” is just laughable. Do they think they’ll figure anything out on their hike to the city without being discovered? In other episodes, Kirk and Co. dressed like the locals to fit in. Maybe they really do need a ship’s historian?

Oh, and while I did like Scotty’s idea to cause a power outage as a show of strength, it’s just crazy that the timing works SO well. What if Scotty had turned the lights out while Kirk was being given one last “night as a man” by the procounsel’s slave girl?

Final thoughts

Of course, there’s the big item in this episode, which is the reveal that Christ is coming to 20th-century Rome. TOS had the most instances where some sort of religion was obliquely mentioned — e.g., the “laws of man and god” in “The Ultimate Computer” —  but it’s really pretty overt here, while still leaving a LOT open to interpretation.

I’m not sure how I feel about it, really. The final scene could simply paint Christ as a key philosopher, but not a religious figure, in the eyes of Kirk and Co. Earlier in the episode, Bones does say that they have “many beliefs,” possibly implying that not everybody (or every 23rd-century human) is a Christian.

Or … you can watch the scene and come away feeling as if the idea that Christ was some sort or religious savior is SO obvious to crew of the ship that they DON’T need to explain that they’re all Christians. It’s clever in a way, but so odd that I can’t quite get behind it. As it stands, it’s just a head-scratcher.