Discussion in 'Star Trek - Original Series' started by Botany Bay, Jan 21, 2014.
Right you are.
The first post-pilot episode to be produced is a solid if not exceptional “bottle show” which builds upon the format and conventions established in the two previous pilots and concentrates on developing character within the framework of a straightforward yet engaging storyline.
With Kirk, Spock and Scott having had their presence established in “Where No Man”, the most significant new addition to the cast is of course, McCoy. Right away, DeForest Kelley forges a presence on the program and generates an immediate dynamic with Shatner, in a noticeable contrast to Paul Fix’s somewhat bland Dr. Piper character. And so the lead roles and the chemistry between them are already in full swing.
Faring less well are the lead female characters. After having a woman executive bridge officer in “The Cage” and a woman professional lead character in “Where No Man”, “Corbomite Maneuver” introduces the characters of Uhura and Rand. In this initial offering, the former acts as merely a switchboard operator and the latter as a stewardess. Fortunately, better roles in episodes lie ahead for both.
The central motivating force of the episode is the tense crisis faced by the Enterprise as they face a seemingly hostile threat from an unknown and apparently powerful foe, and how the crew and their fearless Captain face the crisis and search for a way to survive the “no-win situation”. This strategem ultimately emerges in the form of the brash bluff by Kirk which gives the episode its title. The irony is that the whole time the alien Balok is running an even greater bluff.
The tension in the episode as the Enterprise faces destruction is effectively conveyed, with a countdown to destruction presented in real-time (although a careful observer will note that Balok’s “minutes” are actually about ninety seconds in length) and the reactions of the bridge crew to the rapidly approaching deadline.
Another element which the episode puts forward is the gestalt of the program, the ideal of space exploration with an intent to discover alien life - and to seek understanding of and cooperation with that life even when it displays hostility. This is exemplified by Kirk’s initial attempts to reason with Balok when the alien threatens them, and then his decision to help Balok when the alien appears to be in distress, in spite of its previous animosity. “The Man Trap”, the first episode to actually air, did not quite convey those ideals as well as this episode does.
The major guest role, that of Navigator Bailey, help adds some realism to the characterization. His meltdown, however over the top some might view it, shows that the Enterprise crew is made up of human beings, not supermen.
The episode is also memorable for its iconic images in the form of the photographic effects - the multicolored cube, Balok’s ship made up of a thousand balls of glowing light, and of course the hideous Balok puppet itself.
On a side note Balok's treatment of the Enterprise seems kind of paranoid. Despite his technical superiority, he carries on his masquerade until he's absolutely sure the starship is friendly towards him. He even believes that all the voluminous data in the record banks might have been a fabrication! This episode reminds me thematically somewhat of The Twilight Zone fifth-season episode “The Fear.” Of course, “Corbomite” writer Jerry Sohl was closely associated with the Zone.
Not to mention Kirk's little pep talk to the crew on the intercom...reminding them of things that they should already know, for our benefit.
For me, it's 9 out of 10. A very good episode indeed, and I loved the ending. It wasn't anti-climatic, and yet, surprising.
And Chekov should have taken care of all the ambassadors calling the Bridge (after that ride) and calm them down with stories from Mother Russia?
He had already taken over for Spock at the science station, so I'd say that was a good day for him to prove himself and added some "flavor", IMHO.
I think this is my favourite episode of Star Trek.
Just ahead of City because a lot of the regulars are given a chance to say or do things that reflects their roles on the ship and their personalities (with just a few lines of dialog).
- There's Sulu doing the countdown.
- There's Spock trying to tell Kirk hes sorry but not quite managing it
- There's McCoy standing his ground with Kirk
- There's Kirk being testy and stressed
- The meeting where the bridge officers are asked their opinions - which happened less and less
- And there's Kirk's solution
All great stuff IMO
And what an excellent direction: just by putting a bridge officer there who had fallen asleep, this side detail conveyed to the viewer that at this stage they must have spent a lot of time trying to figure their way out of it.
His world of starship captains didn't admit women.
This is not an attempt to hijack this thread into another endless Janice Lester discussion... honestly.
I think it more a case of writers' unconciousness chauvinism showing through.
One of the best of the bottle episodes, the cast and crew really hit it out of the park on their first regular season at-bat. I gave it a nine. The only other episode that I can recall having the same sort of feeling to it is Balance of Terror, which also featured a navigator with "issues".
I really felt the red went better with her skin. She had/has a beautiful complexion and the gold did less for her than the deep red. I wonder if that had anything to do with the change?
My favorite part of this episode is Shatner's eye movements from station to station during the alert.
For the story, Bailey makes a useful focal point for the Captain and Doctor to conflict about, also gives the viewer the "everyman" to relate to. In reality, I'm trying to imagine a present day Mr Bailey freaking out on the bridge of a missile submarine and having any career left afterwards.
The adding of emotion to a group that by training and natural disposition are not going to be anything like that to "establish realism" seems to be required in military dramas. One can see why, the movie Apollo 13 has astronauts flipping out and smacking the sides of the spacecraft, whereas in Lovells book even during the explosion they spend most of the trip calmly reading checklists to each other.
Its one of my favourite early season episodes, but I think the Bailey character takes it down a notch.
The guy is a moron and it mystifies me how he got near the Bridge of a Starship.
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