This tenth episode, even though it was actually the third to be produced, goes at full speed into pure Star Trek territory. The corbomite maneuver is almost didactic in showing everything that defines the main idea of Gene Roddenberry. Humanity has reached a point in which the only important thing is knowledge deriving from exploration. There’s no aggressiveness, no animosity, there’s only a great desire to know. Even and especially when facing the unknown!
The USS Enterprise is mapping a sector that has never been visited before when an unknown object approaches it. It’s a colored cube that prevents the starship from going further and with which it proves impossible to communicate. After a long enough confrontation, Kirk decides to retrace his steps, but the cube follows the ship and begins to emit radiations. And only when the level of these becomes dangerous for life aboard the Enterprise the captain reluctantly decides to shoot with the phaser destroying the object, after having resisted for a while the pressure of the pilot on duty, Dave Bailey (Anthony Call), who had definitely lost control.
And then things get ugly! A huge and spherical spaceship commanded by a certain Balok (played by Ron Howard’s brother, Clint Howard) intercepts the Enterprise and warns it that, due to the hostile act towards the probe (only at that point it is discovered that the cube was a space buoy of the First Federation), it will be destroyed. Kirk tries to explain himself but Balok doesn’t want to listen. Only Kirk’s bluff, in which he argues that thanks to the corbomite any attempt at destroying the ship will in turn destroy the attacker, seems to calm Balok. At that point, the latter decides to escort the Enterprise to his home planet, rather than destroying it. The final plot twist kicks away the high level of tension sustained throughout the episode (perhaps for a bit too long, to tell the truth: some scenes really drag), and I really hope that this First Federation will appear again in future episodes. It seems to possess a more advanced technology than the Federation that we are used to know and could provide for interesting stories! Ciao!
PS: one scene demonstrates once again that, after all, we are in the Sixties. Yeoman Rand brings Kirk a dish of vegetables, he complains (a real man cannot eat only vegetables, can he?), and then even adds a sexist remark: When I get my hands on the headquarters genius that assigned me a female yeoman…
PPS: and this episode also marks the first reference to poker, when Kirk explains to Spock his intention to bluff with Balok. I wonder if this is the genesis of the idea of having the various Riker, Data, Troi, LaForge… playing poker in The next generation!
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