Crazy Eddie wrote:
Corbomite Maneuver is easily one of my top five trek episodes of all time (all series, even) for a lot of reasons, right up through a relatively satisfiying ending. I had the pleasure of watching that episode again last night right after my son went to bed, and I was on in the middle of nuking cup-a-noodles when suddenly it hit me:
What would Balok have done if Kirk hadn't bluffed him? Which leads to the real question of just how exactly Balok's "test" was originally supposed to play out, and more importantly, what was the real aim of it anyway.
Think about this: Balok had to discover Kirk's real intentions. He hadn't counted on Kirk bluffing about the Corbomite thing. So what exactly would be the endgame when the timer ticked to zero and it was destruction time? Would Balok suddenly say "I changed my mind, I will tow you away now" anyway? Or would he have faked a sudden mechanical failure on the Fesarius?
Considering this, I think we should consider a rather scary alternative: Balok didn't decide to test them until AFTER the Corbomite Bluff. He didn't want to risk that maybe Kirk was telling the truth, so he decided to test their intentions to see if their claimed "respect for intelligent life" really held up to scrutiny. IOW: Balok really WOULD have destroyed the Enterprise if not for his curiosity/uncertainty about the Corbomite Device. That has some interesting implications for Balok's character IMO: he's presented, in the end, as a sympathetic little guy with only the best of intentions, but he is in fact kind of a hardass who just happens to respect a worthy adversary.
is IMO the best episode (and really does a good job of encapsulating the primary themes of Star Trek in this one 50 minute episode) of Star Trek (from any series)
As to your supposition. No, I don't think so. Everything Balok did was part of a First Contact test. IMO, the First Federation Buoy was the preliminary part (to see if a new race was deemed an actual candidate for First Contact.) IE - Had the 1701 just fired and destroyed the Buoy immediately, I'm sure Balok would have concluded "Absolutely hostile race, First Contact protocol unnecessary, engage, evaluate, and eliminate."
But, because the report from the Buoy showed that Kirk's ship had delayed destroying it until no other option was available (IE had he not destroyed it, he and his crew would have perished); then interception, evaluation (IE scanning all their stored records, which Balok did prior to making the 'threat'), and based on said initial evaluation, a First Contact test was allowed - which Balok started by issuing the threat and his other actions to see the response.
I have a feeling had Kirk not bluffed him, either the test would have ended and actual First Contact initiated by Balok; or Balok would have continued onto the 'we have decided to take you to a planet capable of sustaining your life form' phase himself.
When Kirk did his bluff, I think Balok was genuinely surprised, but the rest of the test (including Balok effectively giving them an option to escape was based on Balok's psychological analysis of humanity from the records he got from the 1701's main computer); proceeded as intended, and was designed to see if the Human's actual actions in a stressful situation matched up with actions taken in similar situations shown in their ship's historical records. (IE - Did they truly act in the manner their historical records showed.)
Once balok was assured of that, the test was over, and actual First Contact proceeded.