The Linguistic Downgrading of the Romulans

Discussion in 'Star Trek - The Original & Animated Series' started by Bubbles McGee, Oct 7, 2012.

  1. Bubbles McGee

    Bubbles McGee Lieutenant Commander

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    IIRC, there are only two TOS episodes which feature the Romulans: Balance of Terror & The Enterprise Incident. I love both of these episodes and all of the Romulan characters in them. However, I must say that I have always found it odd that the Romulans in BOT spoke in a very aristocratic and somewhat Shakespearian manner:

    COMMANDER: Danger and I are old companions.

    CENTURION: We've seen a hundred campaigns together, and still I do not understand you.

    COMMANDER: I think you do. No need to tell you what happens when we reach home with proof of the Earthmen's weakness. And we will have proof. The Earth commander will follow. He must. When he attacks, we will destroy him. Our gift to the homeland, another war.

    CENTURION: If we are the strong, is this not the signal for war?

    COMMANDER: Must it always be so? How many comrades have we lost in this way?

    CENTURION: Our portion, Commander, is obedience.

    COMMANDER: Obedience. Duty. Death and more death. Soon even enough for the Praetor's taste. Centurion, I find myself wishing for destruction before we can return. Worry not. Like you, I am too well-trained in my duty to permit it. Continue evasive manoeuvres. Now, back to the first course.


    While in TEI, the Romulan Commander adopts more of a stereotypical almost cartoonish "we have ways of making you talk" language style:

    COMMANDER: We have not even begun! There's no force that I can use on a Vulcan that will make him speak. That is a fact. But there are Romulan methods completely effective against humans and human weaknesses.

    SPOCK: You would not resort to them, Commander. They would prove ineffective against the captain.

    COMMANDER: Then they will leave him dead, or what might be worse than dead. But I will know your unspoken truths.
     
  2. Admiral_Sisko

    Admiral_Sisko Lieutenant Commander

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    As they're featured in only those two episodes, it's difficult to characterize the entire Romulan race with such a small sample-size. The difference in speech may be due solely to differences in each character's demeanor and usual patterns of speech. What I have always found interesting is that no Romulan characters- be it in TOS, TNG, or DS9- ever spoke in their native language on screen, aside from the occasional word or phrase. The Klingons, by contrast, were frequently shown speaking their language.
     
  3. USS Triumphant

    USS Triumphant Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    In BoT, maybe we were hearing a translation of a conversation they were holding in Romulan, and in TEI, they were speaking in a language they were less versed in because they were talking to Spock?

    Personally, I find the 'everyone wears the same bowl cut and most people wear boring uniform jackets' downgrade of the Romulan people as they were seen in TNG-era to be a lot more annoying than minor variance in writing style for their dialog.
     
  4. Deckerd

    Deckerd Fleet Arse Premium Member

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    It was probably a different scriptwriter.
     
  5. Forbin

    Forbin Admiral Admiral

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    The second episode featured Southern Romulans.
     
  6. Admiral_Sisko

    Admiral_Sisko Lieutenant Commander

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    Agreed. The Romulans of The Original Series were much more realistic than their TNG counterparts.
     
  7. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    Just for the record, Romulan ships fired on the Enterprise in The Deadly Years, but no Romulans appeared on screen or had speaking parts. Carry on! :)
     
  8. scotpens

    scotpens Vice Admiral Admiral

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    From the names and titles the Romulans used in "Balance of Terror," it's obvious that their native language is Latin! :p
     
  9. sbk1234

    sbk1234 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Absolutely, yes!!! It was like everyone of them was a member of the Moe Howard fan club.
     
  10. Albertese

    Albertese Commodore Commodore

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    Interesting. I had always heard this line as "A portion, Commander. 'Tis obeidience."

    Even more Shakespearean that way. I'll have to rewatch with subtitles on. It's always fun to find out if I've been wrong all these years!

    --Alex
     
  11. Myko

    Myko Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Unfortunately, that will only prove what whoever wrote the subtitles heard, not what was in the script or actually said by the actor.
     
  12. A beaker full of death

    A beaker full of death Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Meh. They speak formally. So did Spock. Hardly Shakespearean.
     
  13. Albertese

    Albertese Commodore Commodore

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    'Tis a fair point.

    --Alex
     
  14. MacLeod

    MacLeod Admiral Admiral

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    Well maybe they had a copy of the script as well when they did the subtitiles.
     
  15. Wingsley

    Wingsley Commodore Commodore

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    I think the O.P. makes a fair point about the stylistic differences between the two eps.

    "Balance of Terror" has been acclaimed time after time as a TOS homage to THE ENEMY BELOW of 1957 cinema. "The Enterprise Incident" has, at best, received mix reviews. David Gerrold harshly criticized "Incident", comparing it to the controversial 1968 Pueblo Incident. While I can understand Gerrold's point, "Incident" came across to me as more of a self-defense intrigue story than a jingoistic glorification of Cold War espionage. Still, if there was a "downgrade", it was in the quality of the story as realized through the characters. In "Balance of Terror", the story explores the motivations and anxieties of both warring ships' crews. In "Incident", we see bad play-acting on the part of a Federation attempt to steal strategic Romulan technology, enabled by the apparent romantic weakness of an inept Romulan commander. The two stories are hardly in the same league dramatically.

    The striking thing about "Balance of Terror" apart from the rest of the entire STAR TREK franchise is that we were told that the Romulans were an unknown people, isolated from Earth and the Federation after a crude war fought 100 years before. The "Shakespearian" manner of the characters in "Balance" makes them seem more stilted, but also more alien and thus more interesting. They are mysterious... for this first episode only. Subsequent stories throughout all series usually make the Romulans look like a stereotypical Nazi- or Soviet-like Cold War plot device. Even the TNG staff's excellent work in bringing Tomalak and Jarok to life rests on this cruder, less elegant approach. "The Enemy," "The Defector" and "Face of the Enemy" were high-water-marks for TNG's use of the Romulans, but the TNG staff never managed to transcend this old pattern of presenting the Romulans as Cold Warriors.

    BTW: we should not allow this thread to dwell on the "Shakespearian" nature of any of TOS' characters without slipping in a mention of Chang in THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY. TMP6 was fun to watch, a guilty pleasure perhaps, but if given a choice, I would prefer the watch a well-worn rerun of "Balance". That's just me. ;)
     
  16. Jhubelle

    Jhubelle Ensign Newbie

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    I watched both of these today. In "The Enterprise Incident", the female Romulan commander says to Kirk that she has trouble speaking his language. She's speaking Federation Standard (English).

    I would assume in "Balance of Terror" the universal translator is taking care of the conversation between Kirk and the male Romulan commander.
     
  17. Ssosmcin

    Ssosmcin Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    This dialog always comfused me:

    COMMANDER: Must it always be so? How many comrades have we lost in this way?

    CENTURION: Our portion, Commander, is obedience.

    I really never understood the Centurion's line. Am I missing a reference to something? Becuase listening to it, is sounds like "our portion" is an answer to "how many comrades were lost." The "is obedience" throws me off. I feel kinda foolish for not getting it, but if anyone can enlighten me, I'd appreciate it.
     
  18. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    From http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/portion:

    I always translated

    "Our portion, Commander, is obedience."​

    as

    "Commander, it is not our place to question."​
     
  19. A beaker full of death

    A beaker full of death Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Lenard's reading does suggest that he is answering the question AND saying something else.
    I'm reminded of the line in Hamlet, always read as "But in the beaten way of friendship, what make you at Elsinore?"
    I (and others) have always believed the first part of this line should be grouped with the earlier lines, after R&G say they await Hamlet to walk out first:
    "No such matter. I will not sort you with the rest of my servants, for, to speak to you like an honest man, I am most dreadfully attended. But in the beaten way of friendship!"
     
  20. UnknownSample

    UnknownSample Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    The two conversations in the two Romulan episodes are very different situations. The first is fairly philosophical, where they're taking stock of their lot in life, and in the second, a prisoner is being interrogated. Why would anyone speak the same way, in those two very different situations?