Balance of Terror

Discussion in 'Star Trek - The Original & Animated Series' started by Coloratura, Mar 4, 2009.

  1. Omega_Glory

    Omega_Glory Commodore

    Feb 20, 2000
    Colorado, USA
    Getting a little grumpy there Timo?

    "Anti-submarine" weapons: Easily early form of pulse phasers (ala the Defiant from DS9) that proved to be less effective than the beam style phasers that came later. In TNG era, the pulse phaser concept was perfected and reused. Thats an easy one.

    Fictional limitations of the hero ship: What were those Timo?

    Romulan setup: How is the Romulan setup significantly different than later episodes of TOS? The ships were changed, but it isn't a stretch to believe that a star faring civilization would have a variety of starships. Nor is it a stretch to believe that the Roms would buy starships from the Klingons.

    Straight shoot’em up plot: I would disagree that the plot is nothing but combat. The central theme to me isn't senseless violence but rather the Romulan warrior society, racism, and holding grudges from years past...the combat to me is incidental to the message. In college, in an essay about the concept of duty, I used a line of dialouge from this episode. And even if it was just about combat, given the idea that the Federation has hostile neighbors, it is not at all contrary to TOS storytelling (or the grander arc that is Star Trek as you put it), to believe that such a neighbor would make a sneak attack across the border. It’s certainly happened in the real world and in many fictional stories/universes, why not in Star Trek? Matter of fact, in the "grander arc that is Star Trek" as you put it, there are numerous examples of shoot'em up episodes from TNG all the way through Enterprise. It would appear that a shoot'em up plot is not contrary at all to Star Trek.

    Justly forgotten….: Trek fans don’t seem to want to forget about this episode; it is pretty popular among Trek episodes. If the spinoffs that came later are unable to come up with decent storylines to flesh out the Romulan civilization further, well perhaps better writers are needed. The Romulans as presented in TOS are not inconsistent….they are noble but arrogant adversaries; not the back-stabbing assholes the spinoffs showed them to be…it would appear the spinoffs got that one wrong. The RNZ? It’s an area of space neither side can cross without it constituting an act of war. Considering how many Romulan episodes were in TOS, its all the information thats needed.

    Faceless War: And the problem here is? By 23rd century standards, the ships and weapons in that war were primitive…similar to how WWII combat aircraft are primitive compared with the latest 21st century combat models. The Earth, Romulan, and allied forces didn’t have weapons comparable to photons (soon to be installed on 23rd century Fed ships) or phasers….and more primitive than the disruptors used on Klingon ships. And that visual contact thing that gets folks in a tizzy. So what? The Romulans, allies, or earthers never sent a visual signal to anyone during the war for reasons not defined. And the problem is? Perhaps the battle signals were sent in code, they would be just battle commands to a fleet anyway…why do they need to bother with visual connections that would interfere with the tactical data onscreen. And even if the Earth forces wanted to use visual signals, would it be a stretch to believe that the Romulans and other forces present were Xenophobic?
    Ditch Balance of Terror: (I am using my best Dr. Daystrom going mad screechy voice now) :)
    Ditch Balance of Terror Timo? No, its invinsible. Look what its done...your mighty spinoffs…toys for TOS to command. Look how they dance to the tune and try to abide to continuity.....

    Speeds: Very little is mentioned about speeds. The Enterprise opens the show at maximum emergency warp speed, assumedly warp 8....Scotty says he'll get a little more out of her. After the Rom destroys outpost 4 and cloaks, the Enterprise adopts a parallel course matching speed and direction whatever range they are when the order is distance to the intruder is mentioned.

    At one hour from the neutral zone (at the Rommies speed), they go to the briefing where Scott says "their power is simple impulse". The meaning of this has been debated for years of course. The only way to know for sure would be to ask those who produced the show, which probably isn't an option now. The most logical meaning of this line would be that the Rom ship's FTL engines are powered by the same type of powerplant as the Enterprise's impulse engines and this is not as efficient as M/A reactors meaning the BOP cannot move as fast as the Big E.

    There is one instance that the speeds are easy to figure out. The sequence where both ships enter the comet's tail. It takes some 75 or so seconds for the Enterprise to go through the end of the comet's tail....that would have to be low end sublight. The Romulan is also taking its time moving through the comet. When the Rom fires, the Enterprise adopts reverse course with full emergency warp power, perhaps warp 8 again. After the hit, they go back to matching course and speed with the indication of how far away or speed.

    At one minute to the neutral zone, the Big E acelerates ("full ahead, max warp") and begins shooting at a range where a hit would be "the wildest stroke of luck". The Romulan goes to evasive maneuvers, but whether they actually are at warp or if merely making wild course deviations at sublight is not specified. The Romulans are in the zone, the Ent 20 seconds away. Kirk says to tell Starfleet they are heading into the zone. In the next sequence we have 50-some seconds of the Romulan bridge. The Enterprise "stays within range" according to a Rom officer. Rom ship stops when wreckage is spewed.

    Apparently the Enterprise, in her warp 8 dash did not cross the zone as Kirk says they are at the neutral zone while they are waiting for the Rom to move again. Perhaps they flew back and forth or up and down close to the zone as they tried to blanket the Rommie with phasers or perhaps Stiles was wrong when he indicated the NZ was 20 seconds away. The Enterprise emits a signal of some sort and then powers up. The Rom tries to move towards the ship. The Enterprise backs up but no mention of speed given..perhaps sublight since they do not want to get too far away from the Roms last known approx position. Enterprise fires in general direction of suspected location of intruder.

    Wreckage. Nuclear bomb. Disabled engines, circuit burn outs and overloads. Need to make repairs. Unspecified time passes. Romulan moves toward the Enterprise to speed is mentioned. Enterprise finally gets phasers to fire and ends the engagement.
  2. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Aug 26, 2003
    Antisub weapons: the ship shouldn't have any, because nobody thought that submarines would exist...

    Temporary limitations: the idea that the ship's phasers would fail after one shot, and would require a crew in a separate room not only to push buttons, but to do so in a cycle that takes several precious seconds. Good stuff, potentially - but not the stuff that was used in the rest of TOS. Paul Schneider should perhaps have had his own scifi series...

    Romulans here are some sort of pseudo-Romans led by a Praetor, scheming against each other and having a politruk of some sort aboard. Romulans in "The Enterprise Incident" have none of these elements present, nor do the Romulans of TAS, although the things resurface in TNG (thankfully enough).

    The plot is nothing but combat? Well, no, it also has a cliched spy subplot there. Or had, before rewriting. Apart from that, the depth of characterization is limited to the heroes worrying about how, when and why to kill the enemy, with "whether" hardly entering the picture.

    The problem with a faceless war? None, beyond the fact that it had to be a minor scuffle then, because anything worth writing home about would also necessarily involve attaching pictures of enemy dead in the letters. A few ships exchanging fire in space without exchanging pleasantries - this is what Stiles thinks was a cruel conflict where his family was wronged by "monsters"?

    Paul Schneider wrote "Balance of Terror" into such a deep, dark corner that nobody managed to write the Romulan War out of it in the four decades that followed. Which would be fine if the episode were a standalone where the forgettable villains could be forgotten. But TOS did milk them for further dramatic value, only managing to prove that they can't work as generic villains without completely contradicting the original characterization. Minus points to TOS for that...

    Timo Saloniemi
  3. blssdwlf

    blssdwlf Commodore Commodore

    Feb 26, 2010
    I was under the impression that the phasers were being used in a way not normally used, ie with no visual sensor contact. Proximity-blast pulse phasers were seen again in "Errand of Mercy". If Kirk had photon torps installed he probably would have opted for that (but he might've run out! :D )

    Having an equipment failure seems more like a story reason to keep the episode going. I don't think is a problem in itself. It certainly gave Kirk a reason to run when he came under attack although working phasers could've disabled/destroyed the Romulan ship before it got it's blast off.

    As to the phaser crews, I rather like the idea of it and they are mentioned and ordered about in 5 other TOS episodes. Definitely not a one-off. If the ship was meant to fight then phaser crews make sense in order to be able to engage multiple enemies simultaneously. The whole "one guy" to operate the weapons and defenses of the entire ship is a okay in a ship-vs-ship battle but you need more hands and eyes with multiple ships. I would even imagine that there are phaser crews on the refit-Enterprise given that there were torpedo crews manning their stations.

    Politruk? "The Enterprise Incident" does mention "duty" although the Romulans in "Balance of Terror" was a mix of "duty-bound" Captain, loyal officer and scheming power-hungry underling. We saw less of the scheming and more of the duty folks in "The Enterprise Incident", IMHO.

    No problem there. "Balance of Terror" was a nice combat-oriented episode.

    And why wouldn't this work as a major conflict? Think about what happened in "The Arena". Imagine if they weren't interrupted by the Metrons and instead of phasers and photons both sides only had nukes like the ones in "The Balance of Terror". The battle would've been decided in space and the loser would have been vaporized and neither side would've known what each other looked like and only have audio recordings of each other. The Earth-Romulan War would just be long enough to have lots of nuclear death in space and on the ground leading to a stalemate and eventually the RNZ.
  4. A beaker full of death

    A beaker full of death Vice Admiral Admiral

    Mar 23, 2002
    I loved the phaser crews. It really gave a sense of this being a real ship, that needs a crew, and it isn't just run by somebody pushing a button on the bridge. TWOK had a similar sense with the photon torpedo crew.
    It was something that was sorely missing from the later series. Of course, TOS was created by people who had been through it.
    I don't think Berman ever thought there was a crew. It is also known that to this day he thinks the viewscreen was a window.
  5. Neutral Zone

    Neutral Zone Captain Captain

    Oct 6, 2009
    There were over 400 crew members aboard Enterprise and each had a job which is something people tend to forget. Not only a phaser/weapons crew but also life support, general repairs. It would interesting to know what all the crew did in their individual jobs. Though a lot of the jobs would have two or three lots of crew as the ship was running around the clock.
  6. Pauln6

    Pauln6 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Jul 24, 2009
    Bristol, United Kingdom
    The TMP refit has two phaser rooms I think plus weapons can be 'slaved' to the bridge, auxiliary bridge, or secondary hull bridge depending on the situation. Plus there is a power distribution room where presumably work the people who direct more power to the weapons, shields, engines, or inertial dampeners under Kirk's bed.

    Sad man that I am, I actually produced a chart with approximate positions of the crew based on the assumption of three rotations. I got up to 423 crew but it's a bit lengthy to post. The ranks were made up as I went along and no doubt there would be variation but curiously most scientists and medical personel seem to come in at Lieutenant JG and above so most of the ensigns seemed to be ops pilots and security team leaders. The Chief Petty Officers are the deputies for the officers in charge and supervise the rotations when the officers are off duty. It worked out ok as a starting point.
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2010
  7. darkwing_duck1

    darkwing_duck1 Vice Admiral

    Nov 18, 2001
    the Unreconstructed South
    No, but they could have weapons to use against small and/or fast evading targets that worked on a proximity basis that would serve just as well against a cloaked ship, which is what we see.

    Uh, no. Background dialogue throughout the series indicates that they continue to have various phaser control rooms around the ship. And even if primary firing control is moved to the bridge, the idea of a backup "fire control center" is sound military thinking. Take out the bridge, and the ship can continue to fight.

    Decius? No indication he was some sort of "political officer", just an over-eager junior command officer.

    Even if such were present, they weren't important to the story, so they wouldn't depicted.
    Every plot is "cliche" to one degree or another. Anyone who knows anything about writing knows that.

    Obviously you were out of the room for all of the scenes with the Romulan commander then...
    Assuming there were dead to find. Remember, Romulan doctrine is to self-destruct to avoid capture.

    You description doesn't mesh with the facts as presented.

    Only in your...shall we say "unique" of Trek. Granted I would like to have seen more of the Mark Lenard type Romulans, but that's the direction the producers chose. We can only assume from the portrayals that they were driven out or underground sometime between TOS and TNG...which if you're a fan of the novels, is where Diane Duane's "Rihannsu" books come in...:techman:

    Though we may well have seen an "honorable Romulan" in Nemesis in the form of Commander Donatra...

    By all means, post if you at all can... :)
  8. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Aug 26, 2003
    But only here, which is my point. Small and/or evading targets elsewhere (such as the missiles of "Patterns of Force" or "For the World is Hollow") don't get this treatment.

    Again my point: "Balance of Terror" shows sound military thinking, but it isn't present elsewhere. The man-in-the-loop factor doesn't manifest as multi-second delays in firing in the later episodes or movies, even if phaser crews continue to exist (they were introduced way back in "Corbomite Maneuver", to be sure).

    ...Yet with power to walk over his commander with near-impunity. That aspect was totally dropped later on.

    The "I'm soooo not Nazi, I spit on the photo of Dönitz, and I'm weary of war, but I'll try to kill the heroes anyway because, you know, we're the villains" bits? Lenard deserved better than that. Star Trek deserved better than that.

    Granted. And Trek did do worse than this on occasion. But it's sort of sad that an episode that's so generic also manages to become so iconic...

    But the problem is that no facts were presented. In classic scifi style, a high concept was introduced but was left unfounded, so that it hobbled future storytelling. At least the writers wriggled out of things like pon farr or the galactic barrier during the run of the show already, broadening out the concepts and fuzzying up the edges rather than leaving future writers struggling with over-literal interpretations of poorly thought out original material.

    Timo Saloniemi
  9. darkwing_duck1

    darkwing_duck1 Vice Admiral

    Nov 18, 2001
    the Unreconstructed South
    Because they didn't need it. They were relatively slow targets moving on a predictable trajectory.

    The concept shows up again in Arena, where there is a delay between targeting and firing both phasers and torpedoes. Even if there wasn't, it was a minor flaw in a relatively early ep, not a reason for the amount of disdain you've heaped upon it.

    1) He got his ass busted two steps in rank...wouldn't call that "impunity".

    2) Again, other eps it wasn't a factor in TOS. The Romulans of the TNG era and beyond seem to be fond of it though.

    Godwinning isn't going to help your arguement. We still don't know all the details of what really went on back in the RW (Enterprise notwithstanding). From the Romulans' (admittedly Imperial) perspective, there might well have good reasons for renewing hostilities. It isn't beyond belief that some or many of the Romulan leadership were alive for the first war, given Vulcanoid lifespans. The treaty from their perspective might've been a cease fire only, designed to buy time. It's a "long view" approach, but Romulans are by nature patient.
    Why? Because there wasn't an additional 10 minutes of exposition about the exact nature and causes of the war? That the better part of an entire generation of one family was lost to that war is a sign of how bloody it truly was.

    Timo Saloniemi[/QUOTE]
  10. Nerys Myk

    Nerys Myk The Ghost of Tom Joad Premium Member

    Nov 4, 2001
    To be fair, the episode was based on WWII film and the Romulans are stand ins for the Nazis in "Balance of Terror"/
  11. Nightdiamond

    Nightdiamond Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Feb 18, 2009
    I liked that part too. That was the part that always got my attention, it made you think about the beginning of the episode.

    I like how the credits are showing as he's walking off along with the music.

    It's a technique they used to do a lot, but not as much anymore.

    All around its a great episode, with a lot of suspense and some hard-core ship to ship strategy and fighting.

    I'm going to attempt to crack the whispering on the ship problem with an explanation;

    They may have suspected that the Romulans could tap into their com circuits and listen to the bridge...

    Ok, I know that's a long shot, but trying to make that nitpick work somehow...
  12. RookieBatman

    RookieBatman Commodore Commodore

    Sep 10, 2005
    Out there, thataway...
    It's not a spy subplot, it's a racism subplot. Thinking Spock might be a spy is just one way that Stiles' racism manifests.

    If killing was all they were worried about, then why was Kirk "Standing by to beam your survivors aboard our ship?"

    I thought this was one of the richest episodes for characterization; not in the scene of learning more about a character's history, but really getting to see their true natures shine through dramatic situations. Since you didn't seem to like the characterization here, which episodes do you think did it well?
  13. RookieBatman

    RookieBatman Commodore Commodore

    Sep 10, 2005
    Out there, thataway...
    More like "...because, you know, we were ordered to." Which is the whole point, that this is something he doesn't want to do, but honor/duty is more important to him. If Star Trek deserved better than that, then I can only imagine what you must of think of 24th century Klingons.

    But there's nothing wrong with generic plots if the characters and events that fill them are interesting. Else why would so many people watch all the generic action movies that come out every year?
    Take the Die Hard franchise, for instance. Those movies are fairly paint-by-numbers; it's Bruce Willis' portrayal that makes them at all worth watching.

    I really liked that too. It's sure a whole lot better than the "Scooby-Doo" endings where there's some joke about Spock acting human and everybody laughs.