Recap: Star Trek S 1 E 10 The Corbomite Maneuver
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's struggling to deal with all this, suddenly becomes a little trigger happy until Kirk reminds him who's in charge. Kirk tells Bailey to plot a spiral course at increasing speeds to get away from this Negative Space Wedgie
. When it starts emitting 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's Spaceship Earth
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 an 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."
- 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: This was actually the first episode filmed after the pilot, and some of the details were still in flux.
- Uhura wears a gold uniform.
- The Enterprise is referred to as an Earth ship rather than a Federation ship.
- Spock yells rather emotionally.
- 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.
- I Come in Peace: Kirk says this to Balok.
- Ignored Vital News Reports: McCoy sees the alert light, but prefers to complete Kirk's physical. Presumably McCoy also turned off the sound, since Kirk heard neither the alert, nor Spock's calling him to the Bridge.
- I Resemble That Remark: Kirk berates McCoy for not telling him about an alert. After the former leaves the latter alone, McCoy says "If I jumped every time a light came on around here, I'd end up talking to myself."
- It's Like I Always Say:
- Inverted - Kirk claims that Bones always says "a little suffering is good for the soul". Bones flatly denies it, and he never finds occasion to say it or anything similar in any subsequent episode or movie. (This is given a Continuity Nod in the reboot film, where Bones does say it - of course, that's a different Bones.)
- Kirk also claims that Bones has said "Man is ultimately superior to any mechanical device". Bones denies this, too, but he's probably lying (Kirk's bemused reaction suggests this), and he does make similar statements in many subsequent episodes, such as "The Ultimate Computer".
- 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. And the method Balok used had much more in common with The Wizard of Oz.
- Mad Lib Thriller Title: The Corbomite Maneuver
- Magic Countdown: A fairly subtle example. During the ten-minute countdown to the Enterprise's destruction, the minutes that pass on screen are nearer a minute and a half long.
- 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. Notably, Balok's method was more like another noted man behind the curtain than it was Jekyll and Hyde.
- 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!
- Not So Different: During their conversation at the end of the episode, Balok points out several things he and Kirk have in common, such as the fact that each is proud of his ship.
- One Steve Limit: averted with the alien First Federation only because the creators had not yet established The United Federation of Planets.
- OOC Is Serious Business: There's a great character moment when Kirk berates Spock for his apparent acceptance of defeat: Spock almost says, "I'm, sorry", before catching himself and reporting that he sees no logical alternative.
- 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. Scotty eventually gets annoyed by Sulu's counting down, saying he has "an unhealthy obsession with timepieces".
- At one point the editors forgot to dub in Balok's reminder - leading to Sulu's cryptic, "I knew he would" line (which actually gets cut in syndication).
- Readings Are Off the Scale: Spock says this of Balok's mothership when they're attempting to measure its size.
- 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).
- Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: The Enterprise is 289m long, yet it dwarfs the 107m cube. The Fesarius is a mile in diameter (1609m) according to Spock, yet it dwarfs the Enterprise from 5km away, appearing a hundred times bigger.
- Second Episode Introduction: This is the first non-pilot episode of Star Trek. 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.
- Secret Test of Character: After the Enterprise breaks free of Balok's Tractor Beam, Balok sends out a distress signal indicating that the struggle overloaded his ship's systems and he's now stranded far from any help his own people might send. Kirk decides to beam over and offer the Enterprise's assistance, whereupon it turns out that Balok's ship is fine and he just wanted to learn what Kirk would do. (He also says that the entire encounter has been a test of character, to make sure that the Enterprise's protestations of peaceful intent are genuine. It's not clear, however, what would have happened if the destruction countdown had run down without Kirk thinking up the corbomite maneuver.)
- See the Whites of Their Eyes: The cube initially stops over 1500 metres from the Enterprise, although on-screen they appear nose to nose with each other. Later the cube gets closer than 51 metres before phasers destroy it. (That's closer than half the cube's size.)
- 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.
- Tractor Beam: Balok's ship is equipped with one which he imprisons the Enterprise with.
- 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 (some sources say Walker Edminton's) voice. Ted Cassidy voiced Balok's puppet.