"Balance of Terror" This one is a character piece for Kirk, of course, examining the burdens of command and giving him a worthy adversary to match wits and compare dutiful expectations with. In terms of this project, though, I'm more interested in what is here "the return of the Romulans" in more ways than one, as opposed to the original "return" which was also their introduction. The Romulans have spent a hundred years in isolation, with generally static borders (or at least having made no move into those areas they coveted before; no testing of Federation or Klingon borders, and the implication seems to be a general lack of violent expansion). A century isn't quite as long for a Romulan as it is for a Human, but it's long enough for their society to have entered a new equilibrium. They're statesmen and old guardsmen, not bloodied warriors. Their sense of identity has begun to shift again, though, moving toward the expansionist 'manifest destiny' pole and away from the pole of cautious conservatism that's dominated for a while. Perhaps the decline of Praetor Vrax, as he ages, has something to do with this? (He'll be replaced as of Storming Heaven). Even as certain Humans remember family tales of the Romulan War and fear the Romulans' return, the generation of Romulans who were politically active during the war are being phased out by, I assume, people like Decius. It's interesting to consider that the vivid memory of the war, kept alive in different ways within the two societies, is responsible for the reasoned peace of the Romulans as much as for the heated paranoia of certain Humans. The lure of consolidation and reflection still holds sway over the Romulans, but it's started to show signs of weakness, and not just in terms of political challenge. We see that in the Romulans it is almost self-defeating; the Commander and the Centurion are all too easily resigned to their role in what, to them, is politically-motivated foolishness because they're beings with a inherently dutiful outlook. The Romulans do contain their passions, only in a different manner from the Vulcans (though quite how dissimilar they actually are is a very worthy topic to pursue). They're a rigid people, and when their social zeitgeist starts bleeding over into active, aggressive paranoia and glory-seeking, abandoning their entrenched cautious, behind-the-walls wariness, the control that defines the latter actually seems to exacerbate the situation rather than work at reversing it. Romulans can't bend. Although there's been a hundred years of silence and no indication of danger - so much so that the asteroid outposts along the Neutral Zone are seen as easy assignments, apparently - the memory of the Romulan War persists in the culture of certain Humans. We indeed saw Stiles' family during the Romulan War books, which makes his presence more interesting, and his own paranoia is easier perhaps to understand when we remember that the expansionist Romulans trashed entire worlds and slaughtered their way across the map for no other reasons than xenophobia and a sense of inherent supremacy. Romulans are a very real boogeyman. Continuity This Romulan mission to test the borders and probe their former enemies was discussed in Summon the Thunder, which (as I noted in the relevant post) was perhaps the first time in this chronology that the Romulans were depicted as a protagonist nation in their own right. Both their ships have now been destroyed; both in an act of Final Honour. Here, the crew of Enterprise learn that the Romulans are an offshoot of the Vulcans. This will apparently become common knowledge in local space from here on, although I don't know if we actually get any fallout on the matter. (Between this and the tensions surrounding the admittance of Coridan, it seems that internal Federation politics is a subject matter woefully and disappointingly neglected during this time period). Stiles is probably in a minority - not that many people are from proud military families who took heavy losses during the Romulan War - but we'll see more like him in time ("Blackjack" Harriman comes to mind), and so he's representative enough of certain Human (and Andorian, I'm betting?) officers. Given that Vulcan is underrepresented in the defensive and exploratory branches of the fleet, I feel that there's a lot of potential for interesting tensions to crop up here, on a wider and more general scale than "a crewman mistrusts Spock" . The Vanguard series has done such wonders for stringing the 2260s together politically in terms of the various empires and Starfleet's overall activities, but one thing we haven't seen is an equivalent project for the Federation itself. We'll see in Amok Time, for example, just how much influence T'Pau still wields in the Federation - she can wave her hand and say "nah, I've got this, chill" and everyone goes along with it unquestioningly, but we know also that Vulcan is squabbling with Tellar over the Coridan issue and that things are getting heated in general. Given Spock's assessment that if Romulans are indeed of Vulcan stock then they're incredibly dangerous and Enterprise must press its attack, one wonders what position the Vulcan government would take on the presumably soon-to-be-commencing Federation/Romulan relationship. This is all begging to be explored in greater detail. We don't need any more generic five-year-mission, planet-of-the-week stories (well, a few, for those readers who enjoy them), we need insight into how the Federation dealt with the return of its nemesis-catalyst. The Federation also learns here that the Romulans have mastered the cloaking device. In addition, of course, the Romulan Star Empire has essentially announced its return to the galactic stage. In A Less Perfect Union, we met the Romulan Commander's alternate timeline counterpart, who was given the sdrawkcab name, Keras. I see no reason not to use that here. Because the Enterprise is now engaging in submarine warfare (I'm not complaining as such, it's a good episode), there's now a chain of commands to the phaser room in order to coordinate weapons fire. I don't think we ever see that again; is it a consequence of their silent running? Next Time: I iz logical Klingon. Romulans are back. Now I must prepare for potential war...with the Federation! It's The Edge of The Sword.