You know how often at the end of a Star Trek
ep they'll show a Credits Montage
, often ending with a creepy, blue alien face?
. Well, this is the ep that still came from! And if you watch it all the way through, that face won't seem so scary anymore.
Ironically enough, facing your fears is the Aesop
of this episode.
An ordinary day on the Enterprise
. Kirk is taking a required physical, so Spock has the chair. Suddenly, they run into what looks like the Apple Spinning Beach Ball of Doom
that they just can't seem to escape. When evasive maneuvers fail, Spock calls for a red alert. Navigator Bailey, who probably takes 20 minutes to wipe his butt, suddenly becomes a little trigger happy until Kirk reminds him who's in charge. Kirk tells Baily to plot a spiral course at increasing speeds to get away from this Negative Space Wedgie
. When it starts emmiting radiation, Kirk orders to open fire, destroying the object.
Just when everything looks peachy keen, the Enterprise
is caught in the tractor beam of what looks like a cross between the EPCOT Center
and a popcorn ball. The message identifies the sphere as the Fesarius
, the flagship of the First Federation, and the speaker as her commanding officer, Balok. Balok announces that the crew of the Enterprise
has exactly ten minutes to bend over and kiss their collective asses good-bye. If only Kirk can come up with a cunning plan....
Tropes for this episode include:
- Ass Pull: An example of the "Character Made It Up On The Spot" It worked so well, he pulls it out again for some Romulans in "The Deadly Years".
- Attack Reflector: Kirk threatens to do this (as a bluff) with a device embedded in the Enterprise that would reflect any attack back at an aggressor.
- Big Little Man: The Enterprise encounters a alien vessel, and is able to get a video feed revealing the bridge, which shows the alien captain, Balok, to be a scowling monster that looks to be about 7 feet tall. However, later they manage to get on board, revealing they had actually been watching an elaborate puppet show, and the real Balok is no larger than a child.
- Brandishment Bluff: This is Kirk's cunning plan: "This is the Captain of the Enterprise. Our respect for other life forms requires that we give you this... warning. One critical item of information that has never been incorporated into the memory banks of any Earth ship. Since the early years of space exploration, Earth vessels have had incorporated into them a substance known as... corbomite. It is a material and a device which prevents attack on us. If any destructive energy touches our vessel, a reverse reaction of equal strength is created, destroying... the attacker. It may interest you to know that since the initial use of corbomite more than two of our centuries ago, no attacking vessel has survived the attempt. Death has... little meaning to us. If it has none to you then attack us now. We grow annoyed at your foolishness."
- Cargo Ship: Kirk states that the only woman he has room for in his life in the Enterprise. Balok tells Kirk that pride in their ships is something they have in common.
- Chess Motifs: Spock compares their situation to a game of chess. "Not chess, Spock." says Kirk. "Poker!"
- Deadpan Snarker: Bailey tells Spock "Raising my voice back there doesn't mean I was scared or couldn't do my job. It means I happen to have a human thing called an adrenalin gland." Spock responds "It does sound most inconvenient, however. Have you considered having it removed?" Sulu tells him he should know better than to try to out-snark Spock. Kirk gets a snark at Bailey's expense after Bailey "votes" to open fire when he tells him "I'll keep that in mind, Mr. Bailey...when this becomes a democracy."
- Early-Installment Weirdness: Uhura wears a gold uniform. The Enterprise is referred to as an Earth ship rather than a Federation ship. A random crewman wears a life jacket. On a spaceship.
- Eldritch Starship: Balok's starship Fesarius was a gigantic starship the size of a small moon, composed of a sphere made up of smaller spheres of various sizes and colors. At least one part of this ship could break off as a smaller command vessel. It's possible that the ship was composed entirely of smaller vessels to the aforementioned one, clustered together and sharing power.
- Face Death with Dignity: Possibly the reason why Bailey asks permission to resume his post with one minute left on the clock. He takes up most of that minute just walking to his seat!
- Freak Out: Bailey has one when he realizes "So this is it; we're all going to die."
- Hello, Nurse!: Yeoman Rand. Kirk has a hard time ignoring her charms.
- Heroic BSOD: Bailey has a disturbing tendency to tharn out in times of stress. He might think about a transport ship. There's a lot less pressure there. Staying on the Fesarius works too.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: I don't always play bit parts on sci-fi shows, but when I do, I play a random Red Shirt. Stay thirsty, my friends. (Also, despite the infamy of Red Shirts, he lives!
- Hey, It's That Voice!: Balok sounds like Lurch, and Ruk from "What Are Little Girls Made Of?".
- Hilarious in Hindsight: Bones needles the svelt Captain Kirk over having put on a few pounds. In more recent years, William Shatner has been having issues with his spare tire.
- I Come in Peace: Kirk says this to Balok.
- Jekyll & Hyde: Balok name checks the famous duo that's really an uno. However, it seems more of a disguise than a true split personality.
- Mad Lib Thriller Title: The Corbomite Maneuver
- The Man Behind the Curtain: Balock has the appearance of a human child. When he communicates with other ships via the view screen, he uses an intimidating puppet.
- Mundane Utility: Rand uses a phaser to heat up the coffee the Captain absolutely must have.
- Must Have Caffeine: Who cares if the ship's 'bout to blow up? Kirk needs that coffee, dammit!
- Picky Eater: Kirk doesn't really want salad, but Bones says he's putting on weight.
- Prepare to Die: The Enterprise is confronted by a powerful alien vessel that announces its intention to destroy our heroes, and goes on to say — "we assume you have a deity... or deities," and politely offers to give the Enterprise crew time to make "whatever preparations" they deem necessary. An unusually explicit example of this trope, where the opponent says "prepare to die" and clearly actually means it. And they're all the scarier for that.
- Race Against the Clock: They only have 10 (Earth) minutes to get out of this. Sulu is watching the clock for them when Balok isn't reminding them.
- No Sense Of Mass: The Enterprise encounters a mysterious cube, which Sulu says is 107 metres on each side and masses just under 11,000 metric tonnes. Scotty says it must be solid metal, leaving him wondering how it could be powered and how it moves around. But the quoted measurements give a density of about 9 kilograms per cubic metre, significantly less than Styrofoam - implying the cube is almost certainly hollow (they may have been aiming for 9 tonnes per cubic metre, which is between the densities of iron and lead, and dropped a factor of a thousand somewhere).
- Second Episode Introduction: This is the first non-pilot episode of Star Trek: The Original Series. Introduced are Uhura, Yeoman Rand, and Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy (as a Second Episode Substitute for Dr. Mark Piper); it is not, however, the second episode aired, as the pilot episode "Where No Man Has Gone Before" was held back until later in the first season.
- Shirtless Scene: Kirk removes his shirt for a physical exam. Guess they decided it was more dignified than a butt-baring hospital gown.
- Smart People Play Chess: In light of this episode, maybe the trope should be "Book Smart People Play Chess" and a new trope be called "Street Smart People Play Poker".
- Stay with the Aliens: After the alien reveals it was all a Secret Test of Character, he asks for a human to teach him about humans. Kirk sends the crew member that was pushing for the alien's death earlier. (Maybe he just wanted to get rid of him?)
- Talking to Themself: Bones is quite alone when he says "Humph...if I jumped every time a light flashed around here, I'd end up talking to myself."
- To Win Without Fighting: Kirk is able to bluff his way out of a fight by convincing his potential enemy that to engage his ship would result in their immediate destruction in turn.
- Two of Your Earth Minutes: "We therefore grant you ten Earth time periods known as "minutes" to make preparations."
- Video Phone: In many episodes, but at its greatest effect here.
- Vocal Dissonance: Balok is played by a very young Clint Howard, but with Vic Perrin's voice. Ted Cassidy voiced Balok's puppet.