THIS IS BALOK!

Discussion in 'Star Trek - Original Series' started by Crazy Eddie, Oct 23, 2013.

  1. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

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    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.

    Thoughts?
     
  2. Mr. Laser Beam

    Mr. Laser Beam Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Before I clicked on the thread I thought it was going to be another Leonidas threadbomb. ;)
     
  3. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Quite possibly. I've always seen the First Federation as being very defensive and wary of outside threats due to their smallness, and thus putting on a big, scary show to protect their territory. So their "tests" of the intentions of alien interlopers might well have ended with the destruction of anyone they feared might pose a threat. And they might have been inclined to err on the side of caution.
     
  4. Melakon

    Melakon Admiral Admiral

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    The First Federation is one race I wish had made a return appearance in the later series. If nothing else, we could have found out what happened to Dave Bailey.
     
  5. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I've been wanting to write The Definitive First Federation Novel for years, but the circumstances haven't come together yet.
     
  6. jayrath

    jayrath Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    The late Balok and First Federation pop up in the Shatnerverse novels, especially "Preserver," which I enjoy tremendously. The lit board kind of sneers at the Shatnerverse stories, but to me they're the absolute best. (After Christopher's books, of course :) )
     
  7. jpv2000

    jpv2000 Captain Captain

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    I have three words for you, Christopher:

    Make it so.
     
  8. Melakon

    Melakon Admiral Admiral

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    Maybe Clint Howard has had a chance to think about it over the years. ;)
     
  9. Redfern

    Redfern Commodore Commodore

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  10. Melakon

    Melakon Admiral Admiral

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    Good theories in those other posts. Dave Bailey, locked in a cell with Lon Suder and Norman Bates.
     
  11. Push The Button

    Push The Button Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    One of those giant First Federation golfball ships up against a Borg cube would have been an interesting battle.
     
  12. Robert Comsol

    Robert Comsol Commodore Commodore

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    I hope your son is still too young to watch Star Trek, otherwise I would have to wonder what kind of Dad you are...;)

    I assume that he would have been somewhat impressed how Kirk and crew faced death and didn't beg for mercy. That could have been the mind changer to explain that they are kept alive for further examination and during the towing of the Enterprise he would have conducted the second character test (we saw in the episode).

    I don't think so. He could have poisoned Kirk and company with his Tranya (and apparently they considered this possibility). A worthy adversary would have said "No, I won't take such a risk" (i.e. by drinking the Tranya Kirk and Co. revealed that they are not that "worthy" and far too trusting).

    The cube at the beginning of the episode is a different thing. The crew of an unarmed space vessel could have been killed because of the increasing radiation. But then again, the cube could have been pre-programmed to have a mechanical failure before radiation levels really became lethal...

    Bob
     
  13. Metryq

    Metryq Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I'm thinking the First Federation has a tremendous technical advantage over the UFP. Balok (and company) probably knew far in advance that the Enterprise was coming and already knew a great deal about the lifeforms aboard, that the Enterprise was armed, etc.

    Another recent thread examines alien "points of view." Actions speak louder than words. I imagine the First Federation had been watching the UFP for a long time, listening to its transmissions. Every test in the encounter with the Enterprise was designed to provoke an extreme response (e.g. calling the UFP primitive, shaking them up and threatening them). It's easy to walk up to people who look friendly and "think the way you do." But how do you deal with people who are truly different?

    Considering the way the Fesarius effortlessly shut down selected systems aboard the Enterprise, I doubt the UFP is any threat to the First Federation. However, they'd want to evaluate the UFP before merely accepting them at face value. What if the Enterprise had failed to past muster, as representatives of the UFP? Perhaps the First Federation would have isolated the UFP into its own volume of space, discreetly or not, to await further evaluation, or even destruction if deemed too dangerous.

    "Adversary" shows the mindset that Balok was trying to evaluate. The Fesarius was in control of the entire encounter. That much should have been evident to Kirk the moment he beamed aboard the small ship. Accepting the tranya showed that he was not hell-bent on being an "adversary."

    In the pilot episode of KUNG FU we see the young Caine waiting patiently outside the Shaolin temple, while others run for cover from the rain, amuse themselves with games—for which they are sent away. When Caine and the few remaining petitioners are led into the temple and offered tea, Caine waits. Was he worried about being poisoned? No, he had the manners to wait for the master to go first.

    While it is obvious that poisoning was a consideration with the tranya, Kirk would have known that such a tactic was trivial for people who could do what he'd already seen them do. The Corbomite maneuver was a brilliant bluff, and no doubt Balok knew it was a bluff. Accepting the tranya was Kirk's acknowledgment that Balok knew about the bluff from the outset and that it was time to drop the bravado.

    "A thousand questions, but first the tranya." The final test. "Let's break out some of your drinking stuff and celebrate the syndicate."

    By the way, I still cringe at the way Kirk whips out his phaser the moment he finds the Franken-Balok doll. He continues to point the weapon at Balok (in violation of the first rule of gun safety) until he sits down.
     
  14. Richard Baker

    Richard Baker Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Tranya could have been poisonous to humans not Balok's race, just like Wolf could drink Klingon Tea that Pulaski had to drink an antidote before consuming.
    I do think it was a final test of trust though- friendly diplomatic relations require a leap of faith, you must accept the fact the other person is not going to try and destroy you.
    What I love about the Corbomite bluff is that it was a defensive weapon- it would only work if the vessel was destroyed by a hostile force.

    In the fan film 'Of Gods and Men' you see a First Federation Ball ship in the final battle- it is damaged but it was so nice to see it on screen again...
     
  15. Metryq

    Metryq Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I considered that, though did not mention it specifically. It was covered in the general idea that the First Federation knows a lot about the UFP. In the same way that Balok is a token shorthand for an alien, the offering of a drink is a gesture of protocol that would be understood by the audience. After scanning the Enterprise's data banks, Balok would know what he could safely offer the humans.

    (Consider the task of digesting that much information in the time indicated by the story. If Balok himself did not have that capacity, then the Fesarius must have an amazing cybernet system. How about the sparkly cloth band he wears on his head—is that an interface that allows him to use the Fesarius and its systems as an extension of himself? How much more is there to the First Federation than meets the eye?)
     
  16. Melakon

    Melakon Admiral Admiral

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    Either it was very early in the morning when you typed that, or you're Q in disguise. ;)
     
  17. Noname Given

    Noname Given Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Corbomite Maneuver 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.
     
  18. ZapBrannigan

    ZapBrannigan Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    This thread makes me want to see Corbomite again. I'm going to get the DVD out and play it within the next couple of days, despite a backlog of TV on the DVR.

    It really is one of the best episodes of the series. It has a lot of special touches and texture for Kirk, something the early first season shows did best (like the scene with McCoy in Kirk's quarters in "Balance of Terror").

    Corbomite has good action music, too. "Cube Radiation" is one of the most exciting ST cues ever.
     
  19. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    "Corbomite" was the first Trek episode I ever saw, and is still my favorite TOS episode.
     
  20. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

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    He's a Niner. Doesn't care for the original (except the animated series, of course). But that's four-year-olds for you.:p

    Actually, the Tranya was what got me thinking about this. It seems a little out of place until you consider that Balok is basically celebrating the end of a well-played battle of wits that he is humble enough to admit he lost (though not in so many words). The flip side of this is what would have happened if Balok had encountered a Klingon or Romulan ship, whose less inventive commanders would have concocted some kind of elaborate workaround to attack the Fesarius before the time limit ran out. Balok would have almost certainly destroyed them, and I suspect he would have destroyed the Enterprise too if Kirk hadn't played the game correctly. Same again for the Pilot vessel/towing ruse: Kirk would have had the option to FIRE on Balok's ship instead of simply overpowering it with his engines, in which case Balok would again have destroyed them.

    The simple reason I believe it is this: Balok mentions that their records could be "a deception," which is an odd thing to suspect for an alien race that doesn't expect its records to be probed in elaborate detail by an outside force. Balok is implicitly saying that he assumed from the beginning that Enterprise was playing against him and couldn't be sure the tapes were just another chess move on their part. In other words, it really IS a game, and Balok has obviously played it before. It's an odd kind of game that reflects a deeply alien set of priorities, but a game nonetheless. The object of the game is to expose your opponent's biggest secret. If you win, you get a bottle of tranya and some good laughs. If you loose, you die.

    Which might explain why nobody has ever heard of the First Federation -- or Balok -- before now. He very seldom looses.:evil:
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2013

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