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Balok

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"Commander Balok –"
"I know, I know. A thousand questions. But first, the
tranya."
– James T. Kirk and Balok, 2266 ("The Corbomite Maneuver")

Balok was a male citizen of the First Federation. In 2266, as captain of the Fesarius and the sole occupant of that vessel, he made first contact with the Federation.

Balok encountered the Enterprise while it was midway through a star mapping mission. He used a puppet of a bluish, cat-eyed alien, that wavered and rippled on the Enterprise's viewscreen, to fool the starship's crew into believing the puppet was named Balok and was in control of the Fesarius. Balok apparently condemned the crew as warlike, because they had been forced to destroy a marker buoy, and repeatedly threatened them with the consequences, such as seemingly planning to destroy the Enterprise.

After Balok's pilot vessel (a much smaller craft, launched from the Fesarius) was damaged by the Enterprise and Captain James T. Kirk beamed aboard with a landing party that also included Doctor McCoy and Crewman Dave Bailey, the real Balok divulged the truth to his visitors; he revealed his use of the puppet and that the entire encounter had been an elaborate test of character and ethics. Balok was amused by having manipulated the Enterprise crew with the puppet, which he called "Mr. Hyde to my Jekyll", and which he commonly used to frighten and intimidate others. He shared a drink of tranya with the landing party, and gave them a tour of his ship.

As the Fesarius had a crew of only one, Balok was the only representative of the First Federation encountered by Starfleet so far. He admitted he was lonely, so Kirk left Crewman Bailey with Balok, for an exchange of cultures and ideas. Balok gave all three visitors a tour of his small pilot vessel, before Kirk and McCoy departed. (TOS: "The Corbomite Maneuver")

Background information Edit

Balok was portrayed by Clint Howard and voiced by Walker Edmiston.

Jerry Sohl conceived Balok while trying to devise the conclusion to the episode "The Corbomite Maneuver". He later commented, "How the hell were they [the Enterprise crew] going to get out of this one? And then we added the fellow at the end, which was so much like the end of many of my novels, where a little kid is behind the whole thing. That tickled Gene Roddenberry." (Starlog #136)

In the final draft script of "The Corbomite Maneuver" (dated 3 May 1966), Balok was characterized as "a veritable child of a man, pudgy, soft-looking, warm and cuddly, wearing a robe of fine cloth, [...] smiling cherubically." The second revised final draft of the script (dated 20 May 1966) added to this description by commenting that Balok was to be "less than four feet tall." A later description in both of those drafts stated, "Balok's voice, deep and commanding, belies his small stature."

In the final draft script, Balok never met Bailey but allowed Kirk and McCoy to contact Spock, who was on the bridge of the Enterprise. At one point, Balok reacted dismally to being asked what would have happened if they hadn't tried to save him. The scripted stage directions concerning Balok's gloomy response remarked, "The merest shadow of some of Balok's former fierceness plays over his small features and we get a glimpse of the strength that lies beneath. It passes." All of these elements were excluded from the script by the time the second revised final draft of the teleplay was issued, that version also including Balok meeting Bailey and arranging for him to stay.

During a casting meeting for "The Corbomite Maneuver", much discussion was concentrated on how Balok, who was conceived as being three-and-a-half feet tall, should look. Multiple strange ideas were suggested and considered, in an effort to resolve this problem. After quietly listening to the proposed ideas, Gene Roddenberry finally commented, "I think if you cast anyone over seven years old, you're in trouble." (The Making of Star Trek, p. 348) In retrospect, Casting Director Joseph D'Agosta offered, "As I recall we had to get someone who could play young, but was an adult." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 27, No. 11/12, p. 60) Richard Arnold, who worked as a research consultant for Roddenberry, commented, "Yeah, that was Gene pushing the envelope. It was the sort of thing that good science fiction did." ("Inside the Roddenberry Vault, Part I", Star Trek: The Original Series - The Roddenberry Vault special features) One of the initial choices for the role was Michael Dunn, who eventually guest starred, two years later, in "Plato's Stepchildren". (These Are the Voyages: TOS Season One)

Clint Howard was found by Joe D'Agosta, who added, "I met Clint Howard through the agents as a type, a dwarf-like type." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 27, No. 11/12, p. 60) Howard himself explained, "The Star Trek audition entailed a lot of learning of dialogue, because although they eventually voiced my character, I learned the dialogue." ("Inside the Roddenberry Vault, Part I", Star Trek: The Original Series - The Roddenberry Vault special features) The day after Gene Roddenberry advised casting an actor under the age of seven as Balok, D'Agosta brought Howard, who was then aged seven, onto the Desilu lot. He then auditioned for the role. (The Making of Star Trek, p. 349) "I remember his interview as being kind of overwhelming," D'Agosta admitted, "because he had the built-in cry-baby sneer on his face," (Cinefantastique, Vol. 27, No. 11/12, p. 60) Nonetheless, Howard was offered the role. ("Inside the Roddenberry Vault, Part I", Star Trek: The Original Series - The Roddenberry Vault special features) He was cast in the part immediately after auditioning. (The Making of Star Trek, p. 349) Decades later, Howard commented, "The character of Balok, interesting character because of the way he would taunt the Enterprise, and then the choice of hiring a child, almost with a cherub face, with an adult voice, this kid face, having played this game of death poker with Captain Kirk, was an odd [but successful] choice." ("Inside the Roddenberry Vault, Part I", Star Trek: The Original Series - The Roddenberry Vault special features)

Clint Howard was originally asked if, to play Balok, he was willing to shave his hair off, but both he and his father said no. (The Making of Star Trek, p. 349; These Are the Voyages: TOS Season One) Decades later, Howard recalled, "Now, [that] wouldn't be an issue, but back then... hell, yeah, it was an issue! They went and put a bald cap on me." ("Inside the Roddenberry Vault, Part I", Star Trek: The Original Series - The Roddenberry Vault special features) In addition to the bald cap, a pair of extremely bushy eyebrows were also employed to exaggerate the actor's alien look.

One challenge Clint Howard found with portraying Balok was having to drink the character's tranya, which – according to the actor – was grapefruit juice, a beverage he detested in his childhood. "I saw the guy pouring it from the carton, so I went over to my dad and said, 'Dad? Come on. I mean, [...] grapefruit juice makes me gag. Can you get them to change it to apple juice? I love apple juice.' And my dad said, 'We're not going to change it. Just think about this as an acting challenge. Drink it and just act like you really enjoy it' [....] Probably the most difficult acting I did back then was to drink that stuff," Howard laughed. (Star Trek: Communicator issue 115,  p. 65)

It was because Balok was meant to be an adult alien, despite having a childlike appearance, that Clint Howard's vocal track was deleted in post-production and the character was instead voiced by Walker Edmiston. (Star Trek: The Original Series 365, p. 34) Edmiston later recalled, "We'd tried a number of different things and then we just went to one of those very soft, child-like, ethereal vocals. It was more in timing and attitude than in voice. That's what's so important in creating a voice for creatures and all types of unearthly things. You have to analyze what it is, what they do, are they large, small, and what is the process behind them. And physically, of course, that makes a lot of difference as he had those big teeth and a weird little smile." (Starlog #58)

Legacy Edit

The fact Clint Howard appeared as Balok was referenced during an audition the actor later had, when he was about twenty-two or twenty-three years old, with renowned filmmakers George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola. Howard remembered, "[Lucas] looks at me and he goes, 'Commander Balok, Corbomite Maneuver.'" (Star Trek Monthly issue 49, pp. 50 & 51) Lucas' reference to the character was the first thing he said to Howard. (Star Trek: Communicator issue 115,  p. 65) "It absolutely blew me away," the actor recalled. (Star Trek Monthly issue 49,  p. 51) In reply, Howard felt he wanted to yell at Lucas to "get a life." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 115,  p. 65; Star Trek Monthly issue 49,  p. 51)

Clint Howard later reprised his role as a grown Balok, part of Comedy Central's 2006 roast of William Shatner. In it, Howard portrayed Balok as being an alcoholic, addicted to tranya. As with the episode, Balok's voice was again dubbed in by another actor.

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