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Recap / Star Trek S3 E2 "The Enterprise Incident"

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Spock and the Romulan Commander, engaging in what's considered in their respective cultures to be "doin' the nasty."

Original air date: September 27, 1968

It's another day on the Enterprise, and Kirk's acting like he had an extra helping of bitch flakes for breakfast. This becomes especially evident when he orders the ship to fly straight into Romulan space, a direct violation of the peace treaty. Of course, they soon find themselves surrounded by Romulan ships demanding their surrender. Kirk tries to B.S. the (female) Romulan commander (Joanne Linville) by saying it was all a big mistake due to equipment failure. Spock rats him out, saying it was deliberate, resulting in Kirk doing a passable impression of Achmed the Dead Terrorist. Bones comes aboard just in time to see Kirk attempt to carry out his threat, only to be thwarted by the Vulcan Death Grip (tm). "You're dead, Jim!"

...Or is he?

This episode is notable for marking the on-air debut of the Klingon D-7 Battle Cruiser... being flown by the Romulans! In-story, this is briefly explained by Spock relaying a Starfleet Intelligence report that confirms that Romulans now have Klingon ships in their fleet. Although the ship was designed and used in "Elaan of Troyius", which was the second episode produced for the third season ("The Enterprise Incident" was the fourth), "Elaan" would be the thirteenth episode aired, after the D-7 appeared again in "Day of the Dove". The 2006 remastered series would retroactively add D-7s to earlier episodes such as "Errand of Mercy" and "The Trouble with Tribbles".

The Enterprise Tropes:

  • 2-D Space: The Enterprise is surrounded by three ships, which should still leave them free to go up or down. This is given a Lampshade Hanging (possibly unintentional?) in the remastered episode, when the Enterprise does exactly that.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Kirk does this with the first guard he encounters on beaming onto the Romulan ship, but is less successful bluffing his way past the two centurions guarding the cloaking device.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Federation has acquired the cloaking device, but it's just one more shot in a Lensman Arms Race. Meanwhile Spock implies that he was not impervious to the Romulan commander's charms, but he had to put duty before love and she would not have respected any other decision.
  • Blatant Lies: Kirk tells the Romulan commander that the Enterprise crossed the Neutral Zone because of a navigational error. She immediately calls bullshit.
  • Canon Discontinuity: In a 1991 interview Tim Lynch, TNG research consultant, Richard Arnold talked about the crew forgetting that Romulans had cloaking devices and said to consider the third season canon until it contradicts something.
  • Cannot Tell a Lie: Discussed. The Romulan Commander asks Spock if it's true that Vulcans are incapable of lying, and he replies that they are incapable of making statements that they know to be untrue, but are capable of selectively withholding the truth. He then proceeds to lie like a rug for the rest of the scene. Thus, he was lying about not being able to lie. . . and a Vulcan can certainly lie, provided they have a logical reason to do so.
  • Captain Obvious: When Spock states "I carried out my duty" while invoking his Right of Statement, the Romulan Commander objects (probably suspecting that he is stalling for time) that he is stating the obvious. Spock simply points out that there are no regulations regarding the content of his statement.
  • Captain's Log: The opening narration is a medical log read by Dr. McCoy, deviating from the norm.
  • Chair Reveal: My God, the Romulan warbird is commanded by...a beautiful woman!
  • Chewing the Scenery: At least this time Kirk has an excuse, as he's pretending to be insane.
  • Custom Uniform of Sexy: The Romulan uniform doesn't involve much fanservice, except for the female commander's short skirt.
  • Deadly Force Field: Kirk injures himself hurling his body at the Forcefield Door.
  • Department of Redundancy Department:
    "Execution of state criminals is both painful...and unpleasant".
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Despite his talents, Spock is subject to his own glass ceiling in Starfleet.
  • Duel of Seduction: Oddly, it's not Kirk trying to seduce the Girl of the Week this time. It's Spock!
  • Elevator Conference: Spock and the Romulan Commander get one. Naturally, the ride (from the Bridge to Deck 2, just beneath) lasts just long enough for their lengthy conversation. Watch.
  • "Everybody Laughs" Ending: Downplayed; Kirk is told to go to Sickbay to have his Pointy Ears removed. Spock urges him to comply as they don't look as 'aesthetically pleasing' on humans. He stops to Death Glare at Spock, then enters the turbolift in a huff as the crew exchange grins.
  • Eye Awaken: Nurse Chapel is shocked when the supposedly dead Kirk suddenly opens his eyes.
  • Face Death with Dignity: After announcing what he's really been up to, Spock calmly asks the Romulans what their preferred method of execution is.
  • Faking the Dead: Kirk. Even his own crew isn't in on it. Dr. McCoy lampshades a real danger with this kind of trick that most people don't think of, "You're lucky they didn't do an autopsy on you".
  • Fate Worse than Death: The Romulan commander hints that their interrogation methods would leave Kirk either dead or worse.
  • First-Name Basis: The Romulan commander whispers her first name to Spock. He comments on the name's beauty, but it is never revealed.
  • Forbidden Zone: The guarded door that is restricted to "loyal Romulans". This only serves to tip off Spock that the top secret cloaking device is inside.
  • Forcefield Door: Kirk gets injured throwing himself at it, causing Dr McCoy to beam over.
  • Foreshadowing: Kirk (or Shatner) looks suspiciously like he’s trying to not laugh when he’s “dead” from the “Vulcan death grip”.
  • Gender-Concealing Writing: The audience doesn't get a gender reveal until the Chair Reveal.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: Romulan!Kirk gets past three of them. Granted, each one is more competent than the last, but still...
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: Kirk and the Romulan commander exchange mutual threats and bluster.
  • He's Dead, Jim: Or in this case: Jim's dead, Spock!
  • Holding the Floor: Spock stalls for time by invoking the Romulan tradition of "Right of Statement", i.e., the last words of a condemned man.
  • Honor Before Reason: The Romulans have Enterprise surrounded by three warships (all Klingon-made D7 battlecruisers originally, two D7s and Romulan-built Warbird in the Special Edition), and request Kirk and Spock beam over to the task force flagship to discuss the situation with the Commander. When Kirk asks what assurance he has that he and Spock will be safe, the Romulans, despite having absolutely no reason to provide such assurances and the ability to simply obliterate Enterprise should Kirk refuse, offer two of their relatively senior officers in a hostage exchange.
  • Hostage Situation
    • As Kirk and Spock beam over to the Romulan vessel, two Romulan officers beam over simultaneously as hostages. This comes in handy when Kirk needs to borrow an enemy uniform.
    • Kirk tries to invoke this with the Romulan commander who was accidentally beamed over to the Enterprise with Spock, but she orders her subcommander to destroy the Enterprise with her on it.
  • If I Do Not Return: Kirk leaves Scotty with orders saying that if he and Spock don't return from the Romulan flagship, the Enterprise must not be captured, even if it means self-destructing.
  • If I Wanted You Dead...: The only reason the Romulans don't attack them on sight is because they want to capture the Enterprise intact.
  • I'll Kill You!:
    Kirk (to Spock): I'll KILL YOU! KILL YOU!
  • Intertwined Fingers: For Vulcans, this is practically passionate kissing. Romulans get off on it too.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: The Romulan Commander threatens Kirk with this, after admitting that a Vulcan like Spock would No-Sell it.
  • Jerkass: Kirk acts like one as per his Sealed Orders.
  • Just Following Orders: The Romulan commander uses this as justification to not hold the Enterprise crew responsible for Kirk's transgression.
  • Leave No Survivors: The Romulan Commander demands that everyone on the Enterprise be destroyed, including herself.
  • Lensman Arms Race: Starfleet has to steal the cloaking device to keep the Balance of Power with the Romulans. The new model is even better at hiding cloaked ships from sensors than old models — demonstrated when Enterprise is caught completely by the Romulan armada, whereas in "Balance of Terror" the cloak was imperfect enough Enterprise could catch an echo of the cloaked ship. Starfleet wants a copy so they can study it and build countermeasures. Capping off the episode, at the end after both the new cloaking device and the Romulan Commander have been captured, she chides Spock that any advances they make in scanning technology from studying it will only be transient, as before too long the Romulans will simply build a better one. Spock himself freely admits that military "secrets" are perhaps the most fleeting of all.
  • Look Behind You: Kirk pulls this on a Romulan trying to stop him from taking the cloaking device.
  • Mouth of Sauron: Before The Reveal, Subcommander Tal does the talking for the yet-unseen Commander.
  • Never Give the Captain a Straight Answer: McCoy calls Scotty, who's in acting command of the Enterprise, to sickbay, and refuses to explain in advance why. Justified in this case because he's being called down so he can be let into the conspiracy surrounding Kirk's fake death, which McCoy can hardly tell him over the intercom.
  • No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine: The Romulan commander invites Spock to dinner in her personal quarters. She tries to get to him Through His Stomach by offering him traditional Vulcan fare.
  • No Name Given: The Romulan Commander. Not even in the script is her name revealed.
  • Obfuscating Insanity: Kirk pretends to go off the deep end to explain why he ordered the ship into Romulan space. Spock gets the assist on that, as he tells the Romulan commander that Kirk has gone bonkers. McCoy verifies that as well.
  • Only Mostly Dead: Kirk, thanks to the "Vulcan Death Grip".
  • Plausible Deniability: The reason Kirk is acting crazy, even in front of the crew; should the mission go south, everyone will be able to testify — even under lie detectors — that he acted without the Federation's authority.
  • Plug 'n' Play Technology: The Romulan cloaking device is compatible with a Federation ship? Maybe Scotty has an adapter in his bag of tricks. Downplayed; Scotty notes that it's a slapdash job, likely to overload and blow out the cloak or cause any other number of problems. His wince when he "throws the switch" per Kirk's orders indicates that at least one of those potential problems was a fatally large boom.
  • Properly Paranoid: The Romulan commander doesn't buy Kirk's BS about "navigational error" and believes that he's after the cloaking device. Of course, she's 100% right.
  • Ready for Lovemaking: The Romulan commander comes back to Spock wearing just a robe and barefoot.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: The Romulans are suddenly using Klingon battlecruisers because the original Romulan Warbird model was not available. The reasons are unclear: some say it was lost and eventually passed to a private collector, others say it was damaged or destroyed, either in a mishap while filming for "Balance of Terror" or by the modelmaker himself (who was not in the prop-makers union and so was uncredited and unpaid for his work, and smashed it in anger when it was returned to him without payment).
  • Ripped from the Headlines: D.C. Fontana's initial inspiration for this story and its title was the Pueblo incident which involved the capture of an American patrol boat, the USS Pueblo (AGER-2), by North Korean forces during The Vietnam War. The incident occurred on January 23, 1968, just two months before Fontana completed her first draft story outline.
    It was really based on the Pueblo Incident, in the sense that here's this ship caught spying and they have to find a justification for their being there. Kirk's sanity is put on the line in terms of why they're there. Then, of course, they have to get out safely, preferably with the information they came for. Now that's not what happened with the Pueblo, but the Pueblo Incident kicked off this line of thinking in my mind.
  • Scotty Time: Kirk gives Scotty fifteen minutes to rig up the cloak. Spock meanwhile gives a 20 minute formal statement justifying his crimes, which is almost up by the time Scotty is finished. Unfortunately Scotty's first attempt doesn't work and a Hyperspeed Escape is needed to gain enough time.
  • Sealed Orders: Captain Kirk receives secret orders to steal a Romulan cloaking device. As part of The Plan, he acts like a Jerkass as a form of Obfuscating Insanity.
  • Series Continuity Error: The Enterprise encountered Romulans using cloaking devices back in "Balance Of Terror". Here, the Enterprise crew have never heard of the technology and it's implied to have recently been invented.
  • Some Kind of Force Field: The doorway of the brig on the Romulan ship is covered by a Forcefield Door that's invisible except when Kirk tries to get through it.
  • Slip into Something More Comfortable: The commander leaves Spock to change from her uniform to a more feminine dress, giving Spock a chance to send a signal to Kirk about the location of the cloaking device. Ironically, given the short skirt of her uniform, the "Something More Comfortable" is in many ways less revealing.
  • Staged Shooting: There's no such thing as a Vulcan Death Grip! They can stun the neural system to simulate death, however.
  • Subspace Ansible: Even then, it would take three weeks for a message to get to Starfleet.
  • Superdickery: In the first half of the episode, we see Kirk behaving irrationally, culminating with him ordering the Enterprise to fly unprovoked into Romulan space. And then, we see Spock betray the Enterprise to the Romulans, even killing Kirk. Of course, it all turns out to be a ruse that Kirk and Spock planned ahead of time.
  • Take a Third Option: The Romulan Commander accurately points out that as a hybrid, Spock is constantly torn between the emotionless logic of his Vulcan side and the emotions of his human side. She tempts him that if he joined Team Romulan, he wouldn't have to choose, because the Romulans are an offshoot of the Vulcans who did not reject their emotions and passions, thus making them a nice middle-path where he would actually fit in pretty well. At the end of the episode Spock reveals that this middle path was more tempting to him than he ever let on, and it took his strong sense of duty to Starfleet to reject it.
  • Take Our Word for It: Spock's reaction to the Romulan Commander's name.
  • Taking You with Me: Scotty threatens this if the Romulans try to capture the Enterprise. This is why the Romulan commander tries to seduce Spock over to their side, so he can help them capture it intact.
  • That's an Order!:
    • The Romulan commander orders her Number Two to destroy the Enterprise, even though she's currently aboard.
    • The bridge crew are so astonished that Kirk is alive and wearing Pointy Ears that he has to add, "That is not a request, gentlemen" before they rush to obey his orders.
  • Two of Your Earth Minutes: The Romulans initially give the Enterprise "one of your hours" to surrender.
  • Unfinished, Untested, Used Anyway: Scotty hooking up the cloaking device. It doesn't work immediately, but he still makes it happen.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: It helps that until halfway through the episode, there's no indication that there's a plan going on.
  • Uptight Loves Wild: Invoked by the commander, who holds out the attraction of the passionate Romulan female as opposed to the sterility of pure logic and emotional-denial practised by Vulcan women.
  • Villain Has a Point: The Romulans may be enemies of The Federation, but when Kirk questions their honesty at one point, Subcommander Tal points out that the Enterprise encroached into Romulan space, making Kirk seem like the untrustworthy one.
  • We Will Not Use Stage Make-Up in the Future: Starting a tradition that will be followed in the next generation, Kirk has himself surgically altered to look like a Romulan and ends the episode by going to have his ears bobbed.
  • We Would Have Told You, But...: The crew of Enterprise are kept in the dark so Starfleet can maintain Plausible Deniability regarding Kirk's actions, if things don't work out according to plan.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The two Romulan guards that were beamed over in exchange for Kirk and Spock are presumably still in the brig at the end of the episode (one in his skivvies, since Kirk needed to borrow his uniform to sneak around on the Romulan ship). Presumably they were let off at the Federation outpost with their commander and then handed over to their government.
  • Worthy Opponent: The Romulan Commander. She also views Kirk this way.
  • You Just Told Me: Kirk tells the Romulan guard that there's a spy on board attempting to steal the cloaking device. The guards' eyes instinctively go to the glowing ball thingy, tipping off Kirk that that's his objective.
  • You're Insane!: The Romulan Commander says "You must be mad!" to Spock after he betrays her. He denies it.