"Balance of Terror"
First Use of The Captain's Happy Privilege: No, sadly, Kirk still has not gotten any. He begins the episode with a marriage ceremony. It begins as it always does, "Since the days of the first wooden vessels..." but then ends in "ALL DECKS ALERT!" The not-so-happy couple return to their posts in the phaser bay, and provide a random C-plot, including a scene where the bride gets all doe-eyed and promises, "I'm going to marry you, mister," and her fiance tells her to pay more attention to her job. The bridegroom dies by the end, but the would-be bride hugs Captain Kirk and decides she's okay with it. In the future, romance ain't what it used to be.
History Was Never My Strong Suit: As they are about to enter the Neutral Zone, Spock exposits a history lesson over the shipwide comm about the Romulan war. Apparently, we pretty much fought it with bows and arrows ("primitive atomic weapons") a hundred years ago, around the time of Enterprise. We also had no ship-to-ship visual ability, which would have made it a lot harder for the Vulcans to glare disapprovingly at Captain Archer. Given that, a hundred years later, the Romulan FLAGSHIP has NO WARP CAPABILITY, I'm kind of surprised they bothered to have a war at all.
Fear the Romulan Pink Bird of War: Das Boy is surprised that Romulans show up in the series before Klingons. I am too overwhelmed by the presence of ROMULAAAAANS to notice, because in my own personal corollary to Kirk's Law, for Little Red, Romulans > Everything. These Romulans are a little weird, though. For one thing, they don't have nearly big enough shoulder pads. The rest of my reaction to their wardrobe choices can only be explained by this pic:
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For another thing, as previously mentioned, THEIR FLAGSHIP CAN ONLY FLY AT IMPULSE. Basically, the Romulans creep their way across the Neutral Zone at impulse to destroy a few Federation asteroids and test the Federation's readiness for war, which, given that the Romulans DO NOT HAVE WARP DRIVE WITH WHICH TO GET ANYWHERE, should happen in another 200 years or so. Their cloaking device is still in beta, in that it renders a ship invisible to the naked eye, but can still be tracked by sensors. They should also consider revising their Starship designs to include less plaster, because every time the Enterprise fires a phaser blast within half a light year, the ceiling caves in. Despite having an off-day technology-wise, a whole bunch of backstory is established for the Romulans I know and love, like how they are all Roman, are awesomely deceptive and clever in their tactics, and there's a twin planet named Remus (or "Romii" on the classy map Spock puts up on the viewscreen) that no one hears about again until "Nemesis."
Technology That Should Not Have Been Lost Between Now And TNG: The Enterprise has the ability to spy on the insides of other people's ships, whether or not they want to be seen. In this way, they first see the Romulans who look so much like Vulcans that nobody actually mentions it aloud except Bratty Navigator Stiles. Mark Lenard plays the Romulan commander, going mano-a-mano with William Shatner for who can chew the most scenery while having deep, contemplative angst. Showing more self-doubt than he does in the entire rest of the career, Kirk asks, "Why me? What if I'm wrong?" Mark Lenard out-hams him by telling the soldiers under his command that he wants their ship to be destroyed in a giant well of Romulangst. The Tal Shiar are not going to like this, Mark Lenard. Surprisingly, Spock does not comment on how this alien reminds him of his dad.
Navigators Suck: To be fair, the only time Stiles actually sucks at his job is when he's been rendered unconscious by some sort of phaser pink-smoke overload. However, he spends a good chunk of the episode trying to suck the wind out of Spock's sails (see what I did there?) by accusing him of BEING A ROMULAN SPY AND KILLING HIS FAMILY like a hundred years ago. Or something. He has Sulu in his corner, though, because when Navigator Stiles says "We could have Romulan spies aboard this ship!" Sulu's all "I totally agree with him, sir!" Um, whu-huh? It's not like a Romulan could have stowed on board a hundred years ago, guys.
Organizational Efficiency: The crazy phasers that look like photon torpedoes take at least four people to fire them. Kirk orders Sulu to "fire phasers!" Then Sulu passes that order on to some random dude in the Phaser Control room. Then the random dude passes the order on to the person who actually pushes the button. There has got to be an easier way to do this.
In Space, No One Can Hear You Whisper Very Quietly: In the most unintentionally goofy sequence of the episode, both the Enterprise and the Romulan ship are playing dead, and this requires that everyone on board keep very, very quiet. There's an exaggerated moment of Spock closing a control panel suuuuuuper quietly, and then accidentally slamming his hand on some sort of alarm that blows their cover. ROMULAN SPYYY!
Never Change, Janice Rand: Okay, I am seriously, seriously going to miss Janice Rand when she "transfers to another ship" in another few episodes. Thankfully, she's letting me stock up on the HELLOWHATJANICERAND? in this episode when the ship is about to be destroyed by the Romulan weapon, Janice asks if she should continue with the log entry, Kirk says yes, and she instead hugs him. On the bridge. Twice.
WTF Prop of the Episode: Totally goes to the random book in the briefing room. Kirk uses it as a prop throughout the scene and then hands it to Spock like it's something important. I just spent ten whole minutes squinting at various screencaps all over the internet to bring you the report that my best guess is that the book is called "Table of Comets." Because I'm sure it makes complete sense to have that in book form instead of on a brightly-colored plastic computer information square.
The Get DeForest Kelley In the Title Credits Now Campaign: McCoy spends most of the episode filling his contractually obligated role of emotionally arguing against whatever anyone else is saying. Then, he goes on to cement his victory as "most awesome Star Trek character EVER" (was there ever really competition?) and delivers one of my favorite lines in all of the franchise: "In this galaxy, there's a mathematical probability of three million Earth-type planets. And in all of the universe, three million million galaxies like this. And in all of that, and perhaps more, only one of each of us." Seriously. Trekcore.com has an audio clip of Kirk hamming it up while eating a ham sandwich with extra ham, and then McCoy busts out with the fabulousness. A-ma-zing.
Please Tell Me This Was On Purpose: This episode features one Commander Hansen as the come-from-behind winner in the scenery-chewing competition. He spends two minutes dying quite dramatically on the viewscreen, like you would not believe. I was all "Hansen... Hansen... OH MY GOD, Admiral HANSEN dying dramatically on the viewscreen in 'The Best of Both Worlds, Pt II'!" Chalk "dramatic death sequences during conversations with the Enterprise" up on the list of "things you would not expect to be genetic."
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