I just watched "The Neutral Zone"
for what may have been the first time since it was first broadcast and I was shocked by how excellently it re-introduced the Romulans into the Star Trek universe. I appreciate it more now having seen "Balance of Terror"
for the first time recently. I think it is in many ways a spiritual sequel to that episode, although it is obviously very different since it doesn't have a tense battle with the Romulans (although the tense conversation at the end is very satisfying too, in a different way) and of course has that cute (maybe too cute) subplot about the people from the past.
After seeing this episode, I can't help but be disappointed knowing that it was never really followed up properly. The original "Star Trek"
didn't really follow up "Balance of Terror"
either (instead making the Klingons the more prominent recurring villain), but in that case the lack of follow-up was understandable since they only did three seasons. TNG had no excuse. I think after the early seasons, the Romulans got more and more marginalized, and in the end, they may be the biggest wasted opportunity of TNG. Mark Alaimo's great threatening announcement (which really shows his charisma and probably had something to do with his eventual casting on DS9) went a long way towards convincingly setting us up to believe that the Romulans would be the supreme badass villains of TNG, but nothing ever came of it.
Now I believe more than ever that "Star Trek: Nemesis"
should have finally given us the epic confrontation with the Romulans and big reveal about the details of their culture that this episode (and even "Balance of Terror"
, arguably) set us up for. It could have even kept the title, which would have been appropriate, since by the time that movie rolled around, the Romulans had been a prime enemy of the Federation for well over a hundred years.