The Corbomite Maneuver
The Original Series
Disc No :
First Aired :
10 Nov 1966
Sulu's countdown clock doesn't count the time off correctly, a nit that is fixed in the remastered version of the episode where the old geared clock display is replaced with a digital version.
Balok announces each minute over the comm link, leading Sulu to smile and say "I knew he would!" when the last minute comes. However, they forgot to dub in Balock's one minute announcement so Sulu is responding to nothing. And even though there is a clip of Balok saying there is a minute left in the trailer for the episode, nobody ever thought to dub it in to the episode to fix this nit.
Scotty claims that eveyone should crouch down as he transports them as it is quite cramped in Balok's ship. And indeed when they beam in, the ceiling is quite low... in the spot them beam in to. But the odd thing is, everywhere else that we see it's more than high enough for everyone to stand upright. Scotty picked the one spot where they had to crouch as his beam-in point... I think he just wanted to make Kirk look silly.
Great Moment :
After Balok has spent most of the episode threatening to kill them, Kirk's decision to turn around and help them is a classic Trek moment.
There's a lovely moment when Spock states that they seem to be doomed, using an analogy about chess. Kirk responds bitterly to ask if that is his logical conclusion, and Spock says "I'm sorr-" then cuts off and says he can't find any logical alternatives. It's a nice subtle little touch where we see Spock almost slip up and give a genuine "human" response, only to catch himself and go back to Vulcan stoicism.
Body Count :
This episode marks the first use of the now legendary introduction dialogue, an abstract of which some folks at NASA once semi-seriously proposed would make a good motto for that organisation!
The set of Balok's room was a re-dress of the Enterprise conference room set.
The undistorted close up of Balok which we see when Kirk finds the puppet was used as one of the end title shots for many of the original series episodes. It appears just as the credit "Executive in Charge of Production Herbert F. Solow" appears, a little joke by Robert Justman. Justman kept a screen grab of this shot in his office.
The script said that Spock should look fearful at the arrival of the menacing Fesarius, but on the day the director Joseph Sargent suggested to Nimoy that he instead act completely calm and simply say the word "Fascinating." This went on to help define the whole character of Spock.
The Enterprise is mapping an unexplored region of space, a long and not very challenging mission which has navigator Mr Bailey bored. Excitement soon appears as the ship encounters an object in space, something which matches their course to remain directly ahead of them. The ship comes to a stop with the object directly before it - a spinning coloured cube.
Meanwhile Kirk is in sickbay having his quarterly physical. McCoy sees the alert light flashing but disregards it to finish the test, much to Kirks displeasure. Since the situation doesn't seem to be critical Kirk takes time to stop by his quarters and change before going to the bridge. As they discuss the situation Bailey pushes for an attack, but Kirk sees no real reason to destroy an unknown like that. The ship holds position for more than eighteen hours as they consider their options and the possible purpose of the device.Spock suggests that it is either some kind of marker for an alien species, or that it may be "flypaper", intended to hold them here. Kirk decides on action rather than more waiting, which Bailey interprets as an order to fire on the cube. Kirk overrides him, stating that they will try to spiral away from the device. All attempts to do so fail, and the cube begins to emit harmful radiation. Kirk backs off on warp power, but the cube continues to approach, emitting more and more radiation until it threatens to swamp the shields. Finally Kirk orders it destroyed, but Bailey freezes in place at the order. At the last moment, he manages to fire on the cube and it explodes.
Kirk decides to press on ahead in an attempt to discover the intelligence that created the cube. He discusses Baileys performance with McCoy; the Doctor feels that Kirk has promoted Bailey too quickly, putting him under a strain that he isn't ready for. Kirk thinks he will cope with it well enough. As the ship proceeds another alert sounds, indicating a new object approaching. This proves to be an alien vessel of gigantic size, a sphere a mile across. It seizes the Enterprise in a tractor beam, holding it immobile. Bailey again freezes at the sight of the approaching behemoth, missing another order. Kirk attempts to communicate with the alien ship, and a voice message replies claiming to be Balok, commander of the Fesarius. He declares that by ignoring their warning beacon and then destroying it they have shown themselves to be hostile. The Enterprise is probed and Balok states that their ship will be destroyed, granting them ten minutes to prepare for death. The message is heard throughout the ship, unnerving the crew, and Kirk makes an announcement reassuring them that there must be some possibility of finding a peaceful solution to the situation. However, all attempts to escape fail. Spock is able to listen in on the alien communication system, getting a somewhat distorted view of Balock - a vicious looking being who assures them that there will be no escaping their fate.
With time ticking away Bailey snaps under the pressure, ranting that the crew is wasting time and that somebody has to "do something
!" As he becomes more distraught Kirk relieves him of his post and has Bones take him from the bridge.
Kirk continues to plead for the ship, but Balok simply responds by counting down the remaining time to their destruction. Spock points out that there seems to be no logical way to escape, and the ship appears doomed - "checkmate", in chess terms. As time ticks away McCoy tries to convince Kirk to go easy on Bailey, threatening to officially challenge Kirk's actions in promoting him and ignoring the prior warning. Kirk angrily tells McCoy that there's no way he will bluff Kirk into it before turning back to the situation in hand. The exchange gives him an idea - he informs Balok that the Enterprise has a special substance, Corbomite, built into it. Corbomite is a material which causes any attack on the ship to rebound on the attacker, destroying them instantly. The defence is so secret that it has never been recorded in any databank, which is why Balok's scan of the ship showed no trace of it. Kirk openly invites Balok to attack the ship right now, as it will only result in his own destruction.
Kirk and McCoy settle their differences as the last minute ticks away. Bailey appears on the bridge again, calmly requesting permission to return to his post for his last few seconds, a request that Kirk grants. As the time ticks away, nothing happens. The bluff has worked, and Balock fails to fire on the Enterprise.
The Fesarius dispatches a much small vessel which Balok says will tow the Enterprise back home for evaluation. The big ship proceeds away as the small one takes the Enterprise away. Kirk reasons that no matter how superior the technology, such a small ship must find it a strain to tow the much larger Enterprise. He throws every available bit of power into the warp drive, putting the maximum possible strain on the alien ship. Finally the tractor beam is broken, and the Enterprise is free.
The small alien ship, apparently badly damaged in the escape, attempts to send a distress call. But Uhura reports that the transmission is very weak, and it is unlikely that the Fesarius could have heard it. The ship will likely become powerless, killing the crew. Much to everyones surprise, Kirk decides to beam aboard and lend assistance. He cites that the mission of the ship is to explore and make contact, an inherently risky business.
Once aboard, they find surprises - Balok is nothing more than a puppet, a representation of the real Balok - a small, jovial and rather unthreatening humanoid. Balok reveals that this has all been an elaborate trick, a test designed to establish whether the Enterprises peaceful mission was for real or a sham. He is delighted to find that they are benign and friendly after all, and offers an ongoing peaceful contact. Bailey volunteers to act as ambassador, telling Balock that he isn't the best Earth has to offer, but that Balock will learn more about Humans by having a flawed one around. A delighted Balok agrees, and as the episode ends he takes the crew on a tour of his ship.