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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, in an eerily lit control center 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. In fact, he had forced their hand, goading and threatening them with the device. Then, he advised the crew that they and their vessel, "obviously the product of a primitive and savage civilization," were to be destroyed.

A tense standoff followed, during which Captain Kirk sought vainly for a solution. Eventually, he bluffed Balok with corbomite – a ploy that apparently worked, for Balok decided not to immediately destroy the Enterprise. Instead, it would be towed to a planet of the First Federation, where the crew would be imprisoned and the Enterprise destroyed.

Kirk gambled again, as his ship was being dragged to its fate; he attempted to shear away from Balok's pilot vessel (a much smaller craft, launched from the Fesarius) and succeeded, apparently damaging Balok's ship in the process. At this point, Kirk could have attacked – certainly, he'd been provoked – or he could have fled. He chose instead to board the small vessel and offer aid. There, he learned the truth; "Balok," or at least the Balok he had seen, was merely a puppet.

Moving past this display, Kirk and his landing party discovered the real Balok, a diminutive alien. This Balok revealed that the entire encounter had been an elaborate test of character and ethics. The purpose of the puppet, "Mr. Hyde to my Jekyll", was to frighten and intimidate. Balok 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 Dave 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 sketch

Concept art of the puppet Balok

Balok's puppet voice was supplied by Ted Cassidy. John Fifer functioned as Balok's puppeteer. [X]wbm The actual 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), the Balok puppet's voice was described as "deep, firm and full of resolve" as well as "a firm, militant voice that leaves nothing to doubt." In the second revised final draft of the script (dated 20 May 1966), the puppet's voice was characterized as "deep, a frighteningly strong voice."

In the final draft script, the Balok puppet was described thus; "He seems huge, apparently a giant of a man on a giant ship, but it is his face – a hideously twisted and grotesquely distorted face – that is frightening, for it is glaringly highlighted and formidably immobile. Its skin texture has an almost golden metallic lustre, its eyes are hidden under thick, drooping lids, and its mouth – if it is a mouth – does not move when it speaks." In the second revised final draft, this description was changed to say, "He appears huge, a giant of a being on a giant ship; his face is long and grotesquely grimacing, his eyes are hideous cat-like things." Also, the puppet's mouth was scripted to move when speaking. When this version of Balok was to be revealed as merely a puppet later in the episode, the script (both the final draft and the second revised final draft) described his "grotesque" head as looking "even larger than we thought."

In the final draft script of "The Corbomite Maneuver", the actual 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 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 responded to his distress call by trying 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 the "real" 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." On the following day, Joseph D'Agosta brought Clint Howard, who was then aged seven, onto the Desilu lot. He auditioned for the role and was immediately cast in the part. (The Making of Star Trek, pp. 348 & 349) 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)

To exaggerate Clint Howard's alien look, a skull cap and extremely bushy eyebrows were applied to him. Howard was originally asked if 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) Despite having a childlike appearance, Balok was meant to be an adult alien. It was for this reason 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)

The Balok puppet was created by noted sculptor Wah Chang. (Star Trek: The Original Series 365, p. 35) Ted Cassidy was selected to voice the role because his deep vocalizations were deemed appropriate for the part. After the producers asked him to record the puppet's lines, Cassidy did so during post-production, during the filming of "What Are Little Girls Made Of?", in which Cassidy appeared as Ruk. (Star Trek: The Original Series 365, p. 34; These Are the Voyages: TOS Season One)

Legacy Edit

The Balok puppet appears in the end credits of every second season episode as the last freeze frame shot, with the credit "Executive in Charge of Production: Herb Solow" superimposed over it. This was a joke by Robert Justman, who selected the still images for the credits, played on his friend, Solow. The puppet, like most other "monsters and creatures" of the show, ended up in various places in and around the Desilu offices. Gene Roddenberry even played a practical joke on Justman once, putting the puppet to the next seat to his on an airplane, when Justman went on a vacation. The pilot and crew asked them to remove it before flight commenced. (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story)

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 reminisced, "[Lucas] looks at me and he goes, 'Commander Balok, Corbomite Maneuver.' It absolutely blew me away. George... get a life, George!" (Star Trek Monthly issue 49, pp. 50-51)

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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