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Balance of Terror (episode)

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"Balance of Terror"
TOS, Episode 1x08
Production number: 6149-09
First aired: 13 December 1966
Remastered version aired: 16 September 2006
9th of 80 produced in TOS
14th of 80 released in TOS
  1st of 80 released in TOS Remastered
14th of 728 released in all
Romulan Commander on Enterprise Viewer
Written By
Paul Schneider

Directed By
Vincent McEveety
1709.1 (2266)
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The Enterprise battles a Romulan ship suspected of destroying outposts near the neutral zone.



Despite indications that Earth Outpost 2 and 3 have disappeared, Captain Kirk is officiating at a wedding between two crew members, Angela Martine and Robert Tomlinson. Everyone is all smiles when suddenly a klaxon interrupts the ceremony. Outpost 4 is under attack and the wedding ceremony is cut short as everyone runs to battle stations.

Act One

In the vicinity of the Romulan Neutral Zone, the Enterprise investigates. An unknown assailant is methodically destroying each of the Earth Outposts bordering the Neutral Zone. Spock explains that the Romulan Neutral Zone was put into place after the Earth-Romulan War over a century ago. Neither race has had contact with the other since that time. And one hundred years ago there were not even two-way visual communications, so neither side knows what the other looks like. Kirk then tells the crew that while defense is permitted, any act of aggression by the Federation would be considered an act of war by the Romulans. Starfleet Command's orders are that if the situation becomes a choice between their survival or provoking a full-scale war with the Romulans, the Enterprise and its crew are to be considered expendable.

Lieutenant Stiles is willing to intercept and attack Romulan vessels, but after a century, no one even knows what a Romulan ship would look like. Stiles shares his knowledge of (and prejudice against) Romulans, since a number of his relatives died in the Earth-Romulan war a century ago. "Their war," says Kirk. "Not yours."

Earth Outposts 2 and 3 are found to be destroyed, and the Enterprise briefly contacts Outpost 4. The sole survivor of Outpost 4 describes a powerful blast of energy from a ship they couldn't track. The survivor reports that the ship is making another pass at them -- and the viewing screen goes blank.

Spock tries to track the unknown ship but cannot pinpoint its location. He theorizes that the Romulans have some form of invisibility shield. Since the Romulan ship is moving in a leisurely manner, Kirk theorizes that ship may not be aware of the Enterprise. Spock also reports that the ship is heading back towards the Romulan Neutral Zone, towards home.

Despite objections from Stiles, Kirk orders a parallel course, instead of an intercept course. By matching the unknown ship's course and speed, he hopes to make the Enterprise seem like an echo, and under no circumstances are they to enter into the Romulan Neutral Zone without a direct order from Kirk. Then Stiles shocks everyone by declaring there could be Romulan spies on board Enterprise. Kirk gives the order to maintain a security alert.

Uhura picks up a communication signal. Spock is able to tie into the Romulan ship and the Enterprise crew get their first look at the Romulans. Stiles notices out loud the Romulan's physical resemblance to Spock.

Act Two

Attempts to interpret the Romulan signals are hampered by Stiles, who says Spock should have no trouble with them. Kirk tells him that he hopes Stiles refers to Spock's skill at decryption and orders him, "Leave any bigotry in your quarters; there's no room for it on the bridge."

Meanwhile on the bridge of the Romulan ship, the Romulan Commander has noticed the Enterprise following them. On board the Romulan ship, the Commander confers with someone known as the Centurion, much as Kirk would confer with another officer on the ethics of their mission; exposing the weakness of the Federation while risking interplanetary war. A Romulan officer named Decius reports to the Commander as ordered. The Commander rebukes Decius for his carelessness in dispatching a coded subspace message, violating orders for radio silence. The commander reduces Decius two steps in rank and dismisses him. His trusted Centurion warns the Commander that Decius has powerful friends who could be dangerous and that he should be careful. The Romulan Captain quietly expresses distaste for the mission to the Centurion, mirroring Kirk and Spock. The Romulan Captain believes it is only a politically motivated attack, but they are Romulan officers, and they will complete their mission, come what may.

Kirk holds a conference and Scotty and Spock show how the outpost's protective shields were reduced to crumbling by the unknown Romulan weapon. Scotty reports that the Romulan ship has no warp power. Stiles declares that the Enterprise has to attack. Since the Romulan ship is on the Federation side of the Romulan Neutral Zone, there would be no doubt that the Romulans broke the treaty. Stiles claims that running would only guarantee war, and his bigotry emerges in his arguments as he claims that that the Romulans would attack with full force. Stiles also openly accuses Spock of being an 'expert' in Romulans and purposely hiding that fact from the rest of the crew.

Spock agrees with Stiles in that if the Romulans are an offshoot of the Vulcan people who have not learned to choose logic over emotions, they are more dangerous than Kirk realizes and that attacking is the logical choice. After a moment, Kirk gives the order to attack.

Act Three

Following the Romulan ship's path into a comet's tail, Kirk orders the Enterprise to jump forward and intercept the Romulan ship on the other side. The Romulan Commander gives the order for the Romulan ship to double back to intercept the Enterprise. Each ship fails to intercept the other and both commanders reflect on the other's intelligence.

A barrage of phaser fire damages the Romulan ship. The Centurion pushes the Romulan Commander out of the way of falling debris but is fatally injured himself. Meanwhile the phaser circuits on the Enterprise burn out as the Romulan ship fires its primary weapon. Kirk orders full astern and as the Enterprise backs up, they find that the weapon has a range limit which causes the shot to partially dissipate, resulting in reduced impact.

Determined to prevent the Romulan ship from reentering the Romulan Neutral Zone, Kirk orders another barrage of phaser fire. Unable to stop the Romulan ship, and aware of the consequences, Kirk orders the Enterprise into the Romulan Neutral Zone. Displaying restrained emotion as his friend dies, the Romulan Commander orders all debris and, sadly, the body of his friend into the escape chute as a decoy. The Enterprise picks up the debris on the sensors but in doing so, loses track of the Romulan ship.

Act Four

It has come down to a waiting game and both ships have powered down in the Romulan Neutral Zone to prevent detection. While making repairs, Spock accidentally activates a panel, and the Romulan ship detects the Enterprise and moves in to attack. Kirk anticipates this and manages to fire on the Romulan ship. Furious, the Romulan Commander orders more debris into the disposal tubes, including a nuclear warhead.

Spock picks up the 'metal cased object' on his sensors and the Enterprise fires upon it (probably thinking it would cause a low grade detonation). The massive explosion causes damage to the Enterprise but despite now having the upper hand, the Romulan Commander decides to head for home.

Scotty reports that while phasers are operational, only Tomlinson, the groom from the wedding, is manning the station. Stiles quotes his experience with phasers and Kirk sends him down to assist. In attempt to lure the Romulan ship back, the Enterprise plays 'dead'.

Despite his reservations, and the crippled status of his ship, the Romulan Commander is reminded by a crewman that it is the commander's duty to crush the enemy. The Commander then reluctantly gives the order to attack.

Meanwhile, Spock checks on the phaser crew and Stiles coldly remarks that they "will handle things without your help, Vulcan." After Spock leaves however, a coolant leak erupts. As the Romulan ship moves in to attack, Kirk gives the order to fire phasers. But both Tomlinson and Stiles have been overcome by the coolant fumes. Realizing the danger, Spock runs back and manages to fire the phasers, severely damaging the Romulan ship.

Visual contact between ships is somehow established as Kirk watches a severely injured Romulan Commander stagger to his feet. The Romulan Commander turns and looks upon the face of Kirk. Despite Kirk's offer to beam aboard any survivors, the Romulan Commander informs him that it is not the Romulan way. He then says, with admiration, "I regret that we meet in this way. You and I are of a kind. In a different reality, I could have called you friend," and as the last part of his duty, he sets the Romulan ship to self-destruct.

Kirk goes to sickbay and it is revealed that not only did Spock fire the phasers, he also rescued someone, Stiles. Stiles is humbled and amazed that Spock saved his life. Unfortunately, Spock was unable to save Robert Tomlinson. Kirk is then forced to console his grief-stricken fiancée, Angela Martine, while she stands alone in the chapel.

Log Entries

  • Captain's log, stardate 1709.2. Patrolling outpost guarding the neutral zone between planets Romulus and Remus and the rest of the galaxy; received an emergency call from Outpost 4. The USS Enterprise is moving to investigate and assist.
  • Captain's log, stardate 1709.6. We are at the neutral zone. I've lost contact with the intruder. No reaction on our motion sensors, but believe the Romulan vessel to be somewhere close by, with all engines and systems shut down. The Enterprise is also playing this silent waiting game in hope of regaining contact.
  • Captain's log, supplemental: Now motionless for 9 hours 47 minutes.

Memorable Quotes

Stiles, Kirk & Scott

Stiles, Kirk, and Scott

"Since the days of the first wooden vessels, all ship masters have had one happy privilege: that of uniting two people in the bonds of matrimony."

- Kirk, in the chapel

"I had no idea that history was your specialty."
"Family history."

- Kirk and Stiles, on the Romulan War

"Their war, Mister Stiles. Not yours."

- Kirk, after Stiles lists his family losses in the Romulan War

"Happy wedding day, almost."
"You won't get off my hook this easily. I'm going to marry you, Mister. Battle or phaser weapons notwithstanding."

- Tomlinson and Angela, in the phaser control room

Romulan commander and Centurian

On board the Romulan vessel

"Leave any bigotry in your quarters. There's no room for it on the bridge."

- Kirk to Stiles, after he implies that Spock could be a Romulan spy

"He has friends. And friends of his kind mean power. And power is danger."
"Danger and I are old companions."

- Romulan Centurion and Romulan Commander, after Decius is demoted in rank

McCoy counsels Kirk

McCoy counsels Kirk

"War is never imperative, Mister Spock."

- McCoy, after Spock agrees with Stiles on attacking the Romulans

"It is for them, Doctor. Vulcan, like Earth, had its agressive, colonizing period; savage, even by Earth standards. And if the Romulans retained this martial philosophy, then weakness is something we dare not show."

- Spock, responding to McCoy

"I wish I were on a long sea voyage somewhere. Not too much deck tennis, no frantic dancing. And no responsibility."

- Kirk to McCoy, on the Romulan incursion

"In this galaxy, there's a mathematical probability of three million earth-type planets...and in all the universe, three million million galaxies like this one. And in all of that, and perhaps more, only one of each of us. Don't destroy the one named Kirk."

- McCoy's advice to Kirk
James Kirk embraces Janice Rand

Janice Rand finds protection in the arms of the Captain.

"He's a sorcerer, that one! He reads the thoughts in my brain!"

- Romulan Commander to Decius, on Kirk

Martine & Kirk

Angela in the ship's chapel

"You and I are of a kind. In a different reality, I could have called you friend."

- Romulan Commander to Kirk, after the Romulan ship is disabled

"We are creatures of duty, captain. I have lived my life by it. Just one more duty to perform."

- Romulan Commander's last words

"It never makes any sense. We both have to know that there was a reason."

- Kirk to Angela, on Tomlinson's death

Background Information

Story and Script

  • The plot of this episode is based on the 1957 movie The Enemy Below, with the Enterprise taking the part of the American destroyer and the Bird-of-Prey with its cloaking device taking the part of the submarine. (The Star Trek Compendium 4th ed., p. 40) Director Vincent McEveety had seen the film but only noticed the differences later, when this was pointed out to him. He commented, "Obviously, it's the same story." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 34)
  • According to Harlan Ellison, when Paul Schneider told him he had adapted "The Enemy Below" for television, Harlan then refused to speak to him. (citation needededit)
  • Star Trek: The Original Series 365 suggests that Schneider may have also been inspired by another submarine film, Run Silent, Run Deep. The authors note that the film contains a similar plot thread of an officer longing for vengeance, as well as the tactic of releasing wreckage and bodies from a damaged vessel in order to mislead the opposing ship. (p. 063). The Star Trek Compendium also mentions this film as the inspiration along with The Enemy Below. (5th edition, p. 40)
  • A long portion of the scene with the doomed Commander Hansen was cut from the final episode. Hansen informed Kirk that the Romulan vessel is of "starship design" which is "remarkably similar to ours", and that the Romulans probably stolen Earth designs via espionage and traitors. This is the basis for Stiles' remarks about having Romulan spies aboard the Enterprise. [1]
  • A shot filmed, but cut from the finished episode shown Kirk saluting the Romulan commander before he destroyed his ship. [2]


  • The music featured during the opening scenes of the wedding ceremony is the 19th century English tune "Long, Long Ago."
  • Although phasers are used throughout the episode, the visual effect seen is that which later became used for photon torpedo launches, probably because the term "photon torpedo" was not invented until later in the season, in "Arena". Kirk orders the phasers to be "set for proximity blast"; each phaser blast acts like a Navy depth charge.
  • Continuing Trek's "progressive" cultural presentations, an almost unnoticed bit of staging might indicate that Angela Martine was Catholic, as she is seen genuflecting before the altar in the ship's chapel during her aborted wedding ceremony. While hardly controversial today, for the 1960s it was a fairly bold thing to show, considering the prejudice against Catholics that was still common in the United States in those days. (Note, however, that this is not exclusively a Roman Catholic practice. Some Episcopalians, for example, also genuflect in front of the altar.)
  • Several sources, including The Making of Star Trek and The Star Trek Compendium (4th ed., p. 40) state that the ship's chapel was a redress of the transporter room. Yet in this episode, and the other episode the chapel is seen ("The Tholian Web") the chapel is an obvious redress of the briefing room. This is confirmed by Inside Star Trek: The Real Story (pp. 170-171), which reproduces the set blueprints created for this episode.



  • The Romulan helmets shown aboard the Romulan bridge were designed to cover the ears of the actors. This saved the additional cost of creating prosthetic ear-points for each of the supporting actors. They were reused in "Amok Time" (on Vulcans) and "The Enterprise Incident" for the same reason. (Star Trek: The Original Series 365, p. 173)
  • The rarely seen Command work utility jumpsuit is worn by several crew members in this episode.


  • This episode saw the introduction of the Romulan Star Empire in Star Trek. It was writer Paul Schneider who is credited with creating the Romulans. Schneider remarked, "It was a matter of developing a good Romanesque set of admirable antagonists that were worthy of Kirk. I came up with the concept of the Romulans which was an extension of the Roman civilization to the point of space travel, and it turned out quite well." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 34) Schneider's next contribution was "The Squire of Gothos".
  • This is the only time in which the ship's weaponry is fired through a chain of commands (Kirk to Stiles to phaser room). This gives the episode more of its "submarine versus destroyer" feel.
  • Dialogue in the episode establishes that there are multiple weapons batteries on board, "Helm" and "Starboard" weapons being specifically mentioned.
  • Regular first-season extra Ron Veto gets his only close-up in TOS, when he replaces Stiles at the navigation console.
  • The preview trailer gives the stardate for this episode as 1710.0.
  • As a homage, Captain Picard's wedding remarks in TNG: "Data's Day" are almost the same as those Kirk uses. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)
  • The viewscreen display shown as the Enterprise approaches the Neutral Zone shows Earth Outposts 1-7 in "Sector Z-6".


  • McEveety recalled, "They [Kirk and the Romulan commander] were very heroic characters pitted one against the other, and it dealt with the length to which people would go for their honor. It was a morality fantasy play, but terribly gripping. I thought that Mark Lenard's performance was brilliant, as was Bill Shatner's. It was a two-people show that I felt was real strong." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 34)


  • In the James Blish adaptation of this story, presumably based on an earlier draft of the script, Stiles dies. In addition, Robert Tomlinson and Angela Martine actually marry, in a second ceremony late in the story.
  • In the William Shatner novel The Return, where Kirk is resurrected by a Borg/Romulan alliance to kill Captain Jean-Luc Picard, the Romulan alliance is arranged by the granddaughter of the Romulan commander of this mission, convinced that Starfleet are brutal murderers and seeking revenge for her grandfather's death at Kirk's hands.
  • The story of the events on Romulus leading up to this episode are told in the comic book "Alien Spotlight: Romulans".

Remastered Information

  • "Balance of Terror" was the first episode of the remastered version of The Original Series to air, though in some markets it was preceded by "Miri". It premiered in syndication on the weekend 16 September 2006 and most notably featured new effects shots of the comet, Romulan plasma torpedo and Bird-of-Prey, as well as of the Enterprise and Bird-of-Prey "adrift".
The next remastered to air was "Miri".

Production Timeline

Video and DVD Releases

Links and References


Also Starring




Uncredited Co-Stars



2156; 2160; asteroid; cloaking device; comet; Cryptography; cycle; Earth; Earth-Romulan War; Galaxy Quadrant YX-12-114; Icarus IV; magnitude; maximum warp; meter; Milky Way Galaxy; Neutral Zone Incursion; Outpost 1; Outpost 2; Outpost 3; Outpost 4; Outpost 5; Outpost 6; Outpost 7; Outpost 8; phaser coolant; plasma torpedo; plastaform; Praetor; Remus; rodinium; Romii; Romulan Star Empire; Romulans; Romulan Bird-of-Prey; Romulan Neutral Zone; Romulan system; Romulus; Sector Z-6; shipmaster; star sector; Stiles, Captain; Stiles family; Table of Comets; tennis; transfer coil; viewing screen; Vulcans; Vulcan (planet); Vulcan history

External link

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Previous episode aired:
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