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Star Trek TOS - Season 3 - Episode 02

Star Trek TOS - 3x02 - The Enterprise Incident

Originally Aired: 1968-9-27

Disguised as a Romulan, Kirk steals a cloaking device. [Blu-ray] [DVD]

My Rating - 8

Fan Rating Average - 5.82

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Filler Quotient: 2, filler, but an enjoyable episode nevertheless. You can skip this one, but you'd miss out on some fun.
- There's no essential plot or exposition in this episode that renders it unskippable, but it's definitely a fun ride!

- It's mentioned that it would take three weeks to get a message to Starfleet from the Neutral Zone. However in Balance of Terror, it took only a matter of hours.

- Spock's rank is mentioned to be commander in this episode. He also mentions having served in Starfleet for 18 years.
- This episode establishes that both the Enterprise and the Romulan ships are capable of warp 9.

Remarkable Scenes
- Cranky Kirk.
- Kirk inexplicably ordering the ship into Romulan territory.
- The Enterprise surrounded by Romulan ships.
- Spock confronting Kirk about the craziness of ordering the Enterprise into the neutral zone in the first place.
- Kirk lying to the Romulan commander.
- Spock evading the Romulan commander's questions.
- Spock betraying Kirk's statements.
- Kirk repeatedly professing that he will kill Spock.
- Scotty threatening to suicide bomb the Romulan ships before complying with their order to follow them back to Romulus.
- Spock maneuvering with the Romulan commander.
- Spock "killing" Kirk.
- Nurse Chapel: "There's no such thing as a Vulcan death grip!" Kirk: "Ah, but the Romulans didn't know that!"
- Scotty's reaction to seeing Kirk as a Romulan.
- Kirk: "Just don't put me inside a bulkhead. Energize."
- Romulan commander: "Why would you do this to me? What are you that you could do this?" Spock: "First officer of the Enterprise." The Romulan commander slaps him. Spock: "What is your present form of execution?"
- The Enterprise cloaking.
- Spock: "It is regrettable that you were made an unwilling passenger. It was not intentional. All the Federation wanted was the cloaking device." Romulan commander: "The Federation. And what did you want?" Spock: "It was my only interest when I boarded your vessel." Romulan commander: "And that's exactly all you came away with." Spock: "You underestimate yourself, commander." Romulan commander: "You realize that very soon we will learn to penetrate the cloaking device you stole." Spock: "Obviously. Military secrets are the most fleeting of all. I hope that you and I exchanged something more permanent. "

My Review
An exciting episode packed with intrigue and several layers of deception. Throughout the story you're left wondering who is playing who and only midway through the episode do we finally learn that Kirk's confusing array of behaviors were all part of an act designed to deceive the Romulans and that only Kirk, Spock, and McCoy had foreknowledge of the details of the mission. And what a bold mission indeed! The Federation ordered them to steal technology from the enemy. This is only the second time we've seen Romulan characters on screen and it's been two years since their first appearance. Since then, much has changed in the political landscape. The Romulans' shared ancestry with the Vulcans has been unmasked and since the cat is out of the bag the Romulans make no attempt to avoid visual contact any further. In fact, the Romulan commander openly discussed her shared ancestry with Spock, referring to his people as "distant brothers." That leaves me wondering which planet the two species evolved on. Vulcan? Romulus? Or somewhere else?

One curious oddity was the brief mention that the Romulans are now using Klingon ship designs. This hints at a possible alliance between the two empires, but there is no mention of that and outside of that quick one liner the concept isn't explored at all. Other oddities included the mention that English is a difficult language for Romulans to learn which seems strange seeing as how the universal translator would seem to mitigate the need for the Romulans to learn English in the first place. Also it seems unlikely that Kirk could walk around the Romulan ship and especially interact with the crew without being recognized as Kirk, despite his altered appearance. Likewise it seemed rather convenient that the Romulan ship's shields just so happened to be down, allowing Kirk and Spock to be beamed off the ship at just the right moment. Finally I found it a bit strange that the cloaking device could be so easily plugged into the Enterprise, despite Scotty's whining about its alien oddness.

On top of that, the whole idea of a hostage exchange seemed like a poor thing for the Romulans to agree to given that they had the Enterprise completely surrounded and quite frankly held all the cards by that point. But in any case, Kirk and Spock's time aboard the Romulan vessel was the centerpiece of the story. It's a bit annoying that the Romulan commander falls in love with Spock so quickly and easily without much of a substantiation, but despite the strangeness of her obsession with winning him over, the whole plot point is well played. I was intrigued by how well the story played on Spock's half human and half Vulcan nature, as the fact that Spock's human ancestry makes him more like a Romulan than a Vulcan is distinctly ironic. The Enterprise Incident is a fine piece of storytelling overall with only minor flaws. More episodes of Star Trek should be like this one!

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From rhea on 2008-04-27 at 8:55pm:
    It is hard to find things to criticize about this episode. The plot is for once entirely believable. The story unfolds gradually, which adds just the right amount of suspense. A wonderful spy story - a blend of suspense, humor and action - yet not lacking in depth, because unlike many action based spy stories it does deal with the emotional implications that such missions often must include (for Spock and the Romulan Commander).

    For once it is not Kirk who gets the girl. There is a beautifully subtle yet captivating eroticism to Spock's encounter with the commander, which is very sensual and essentially mind-based, as opposed to Kirk's usually very physical approach. And it's all the better for it. As a result the short exchange between the two in the end of the episode is very touching and very believable (much more believable than many of Kirk's supposed "true loves"). The not-yet love affair ends not in hatred, but in an honest acknowledgement of something that might very well have been were it not for the circumstances.

    Kirk is again in con man mode, something I always love to watch. Both Kirk and Spock seem to have a remarkable talent for espionage and acting, it is a joy to watch them lay the trap. And even McCoy and Scotty get a little screentime. An outstanding episode indeed.
  • From Rising Isis on 2012-07-08 at 6:44am:
    I came to know Star Trek TOS and instantly became a Trekkie as a child. Because of the blessing of the Internet, I am reconnecting with what feels like old friends, by endeavoring to methodically watch all the episodes of all three seasons. The Enterprise Incident is one I must have missed.

    Perhaps it's as a result of reviewing the Star Trek storybook now through the eyes, heart, mind and physicality of adult experience. But what I find to be the most memorable episodes are those that deliver a relationship story with universal themes of love and intimacy that touch my soul with a lasting impression. In this episode, yes, there is the intrigue of espionage. But what I find most intriguing is the character development of genuine admiration, cultural kinship and intellectually seductive intimacy between Spock and the Romulan Commander.

    Plus, I knew the taciturn Mr. Spock truly has a gift with words worth listening to when he does speak. But I did not know that Spock was such a deft Mack Daddy with a mind blowing rap for a lady! I agree with Rhea that their interaction displayed "beautifully subtle yet captivating eroticism." As a nerd myself, I found their encounter, intellectual exchange and sensual touching of the hands to be hot!

    Very importantly, Spock skillfully navigated his espionage role in what turned out to be a mind field of intimate deception with his principles intact. When you look back, he remained a truthful gentleman through it all. This made Spock's final assurance to the Commander, when she was in doubt, that their encounter deeply touched him in a meaningful way which he would never forget believable, tender and loving. Consequently, he provided a means whereby the Commander could look back in review fondly, and he supported her ability to go forth with her dignity intact. This made Spock's closing presentation to the Commander in the finale a generous, healing and honorable act of compassion.

    The writers did real good here, in my opinion. The role for Spock is an outstanding character study on a high-caliber balance of duty, personal integrity and respectful relationship intimacy. This episode left this audience member with an unforgettable impression and a warm place in my heart, indeed!
  • From Alan Feldman on 2012-11-18 at 6:42pm:
    The Enterprise Incident

    Definitely a fun episode, but it does have some problems. It was indeed well executed, and starts out great, but then goes down to only good.

    The Romulan commander always sound a little nervous, no? Maybe it's just me.

    During the meeting in the briefing room, after being asked how the Romulans could so easily sneak up on them, Spock says, "I believe the Romulans have developed a cloaking device". But we, and the entire crew, already knew that from "Balance of Terror", two seasons back. On top of that, Star Fleet knew, too. They were the ones who initiated the plan!

    How did Star Fleet know that there was enough of a chance to pull this off to be worth taking such a big risk? To have Spock all but seduce the Commander (and to know her gender!), to find the device, get past the guards (all two of them), quickly remove the device, know it was light enough to carry, get back to the ship with it, install it on the Enterprise in only a few minutes and know it would work, seems like a rather unlikely sequence of events to me.

    And this gives the Romulans a good excuse to start a war -- based on "Balance of Terror", anyway.

    Why did the Romulans wait for Spock to recite his "statement" before attacking? They could have destroyed the Enterprise and then done the statement bit.

    Why were the ships of Klingon design? I read that it was because the designer of the Romulan "bird of prey" ship got pissed off about something and destroyed all the models!

  • From Scott Hearon on 2014-04-11 at 1:19am:
    I thought this was a great episode. Although it did become clear, even before the big reveal, that Kirk and Spock were playing at something, it really wasn't clear exactly what it was. This kept me thoroughly interested.

    When we DID learn that it was all a ploy to steal the cloaking device, we then had the interesting interactions between Spock and the Romulan commander (I love the fact that it was a woman - I'm guessing that was a bit progressive for the 1960s).

    Like most of the very best episodes that I've seen, this one features an antagonist who is fleshed out much more clearly than the many 1-dimensional villains that we've had to deal with. The mutual respect offered between the commander and Spock and Kirk is extremely satisfying.

    Great episode, no doubt.
  • From jd_juggler on 2015-03-23 at 11:56pm:
    I will admit that this was one of the better episodes, but it did have its problems. As someone here already wondered, how did they know that the romulan captain was a woman? If they didn't, what was the plan?

    In the deadly years, we are told that romulans do not accept surrender, and we are led to believe that the enterprise and its crew would be completely destroyed. But in this episode, apparently the capture of the enterprise intact would have a great career move for the romulan captain. In addition, she seemed sincere in her offer to spare the lives of the crew of the enterprise. Was she lying? Surely she couldn't have expected Spock to be her ally (and more) if the enterprise crew was put to death.

    This episode makes it clear that Spock CAN tell a lie; speaking of Kirk, Spock said: "he is not sane".

    Again, someone already mentioned this, but it bears repeating: the enterprise plan required the assumption that the cloaking device was portable, and could be carried by one man. More importantly is the assumption that Scotty could figure out how to install it so that it could work for the enterprise. "Mr. Scott, even though this is alien technology, developed completely independently of earth technology (and most likely independent of ANY technology known to ANY member of the federation, we expect you not only to figure out how it works, but also to make it work for the enterprise in what might be a matter of minutes. If you can't, then probably you and everyone else on this ship will die. No pressure."

    Wouldn't the romulan ship have its shields up, so that the transporter wouldn't work to beam Spock off the ship? And when the romulan captain grabbed Spock when she realized he was being beamed off the ship, what did she THINK would happen? Either she would become a captive (if the enterprise escaped) or she would be killed (if the enterprise was destroyed). For that matter, why hadn't romulans already taken over the enterprise, ejecting all members of the crew from the bridge, engineering, auxiliary control, and anywhere else they could regain control of the ship ?
  • From Chris on 2019-01-13 at 12:34am:
    Most of these comments are spot on so I need not rehash my take of the episode... much.

    My biggest complaint is Kirk, as a Romulan, still had his hair quaffed like Kirk, and not like a Romulan at all. His hair should've been dyed black and combed down etc. etc...

    He looked stupid IMO.

    I would surmise that Starfleet had actionable intel on the cloaking device to make the mission worthwhile in the first place.

    To risk a starship and its crew for this without rock-solid knowledge of the device they intend to steal, would obviously be insane.

    I imagine that the Romulan intelligence services were thoroughly thrashed after the Enterprise got away and lots of spy suspects were executed or sent to gulags for the fun of it.

    Obviously, this device is a massive refinement of the one in Balance of Terror. It does not consume massive amounts of energy and is capable of cloaking huge ships like Klingon Birds of Prey instead of those puny little Warbirds with their massive weapons.

    The Romulans were far more magnanimous than Kirk and his crew as far as negotiations went. They offered (sacrificed) two of their crew for no good reason and that made me cringe even as a child. Then suddenly Scott declares that they are no longer hostage exchange pawns but are now prisoners to be sent to the brig. These two guys have done nothing! I dunno, it just bugs me.

    The Romulans should have just blown the enterprise out of the sky.

    As an adult, the notion of a part of space to be avoided for the 'Next, however many, Solar Years' due to Corbamite contamination seems beyond preposterous. We know that Space is a VERY deadly place, to begin with! That Corbomite stuff must be some seriously bad radioactive Juju!
  • From Alan Feldman on 2022-08-26 at 12:46am:
    Round 2: Starfleet sticks it to Kirk yet again: KIRK: That's what this whole masquerade was about. To keep the Enterprise and the Federation off the hook.

    Yes, it's very accommodating of Kirk to take 100% of the risk. But it does make for a great opening, with Kirk going mad and such. Only works once, though. Perhaps the all-time winner of the scene to spoil.

    And this isn't the only time Starfleet was dick-ish: A Taste of Armageddon (the dick-ish diplomat), The Alternative Factor (for not giving Kirk any reinforcements), Amok Time, The Ultimate Computer (for the stupid idea of insisting most of Kirk's crew leave the _Enterprise_), For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky, The Way to Eden (for one Tongo Rad's father being in high places), Turnabout Intruder (for not allowing women to be starship commanders).

    I like the way Tal talks.

    Joanne Linville is a most welcome guest star.

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