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Star Trek – The Enterprise Incident (Review)

This July and August, we’re celebrating the release of Star Trek Beyond by taking a look back at the third season of the original Star Trek. Check back every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the latest update.

The Enterprise Incident is generally regarded as one of the masterpieces of Star Trek‘s much troubled third season.

The third season of Star Trek has cultivated a reputation as a failure or a disappointment, a collection of episodes that are wildly disjointed at best and openly frustrating at worst. This disappointment is largely justified. While the third season struggled with a number of problems beyond its control, there were also a number of serious self-inflicted wounds. The production team consciously chose to bury Spectre of the Gun deep in the running order while pulling Spock’s Brain forward to be the season premiere.

When on Romulus...

When on Romulus…

However, the third season of Star Trek is not the disaster that many would claim. Taken as a whole, the season is much weaker than the first two seasons, but it also has its share of strong and classic episodes. There are classics upon which everybody agrees, like The Enterprise Incident or The Tholian Web. However, there are also any number of delightful oddities like Spectre of the Gun or The Empath. Still, there is a sense that the show is not everything that it once was, and that things have changed.

In some respects, The Enterprise Incident is the most conventional and “classic” of the third season episodes, the episode that feels the most “of a piece” with the first two seasons. It is also the last Star Trek episode of the original series to be credited to franchise veteran Dorothy Fontana.

A Commanding presence.

A Commanding presence.

To be clear, The Enterprise Incident is not the last Star Trek script to be written by Dorothy Fontana. Fontana would oversee production on Star Trek: The Animated Series. She would work on the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. She would even contribute a script to the first season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Even in the context of this troubled third season, Fontana would be involved in the production of That Which Survives and The Way to Eden, although she would ask to be credited under the name “Michael Richards.”

The third season of Star Trek haemorrhaged talent. Among the most notable absentees from the day-to-day running of the show were Gene L. Coon and Dorothy Fontana. Gene Roddenberry was also largely absent from the management of his series, having relocated to the other side of the production lot. All three remained involved in the production in some way; Coon and Fontana contributed scripts and stories, while Roddenberry was still involved in stories and scripting. Still, there was a sense that the series had been diminished through their absence.

"This was a lot of trouble to go to for a pretty stylish lamp."

“This was a lot of trouble to go to for a pretty stylish lamp.”

There were a number of reasons for why these key creative individuals had begun the process of moving on. Gene L. Coon had taken a job with Universal television, working on It Takes a Thief. Given the limited long-term viability Star Trek, which had narrowly escaped cancellation, it is hard to fault Coon for seeking security and steady employment elsewhere. Gene Roddenberry had tried to leverage his involvement in the show to secure a more favourable time slot for the series from NBC. When they refused to budge, he followed through on his threat to leave the show.

The details of Dorothy Fontana’s absence are somewhat more complicated, and shrouded in the backstage politics of the third season’s troubled production. Years after the show went off the air, Fontana became embroiled in a war of words with third season producer Fred Freiberger. With a franchise as popular as Star Trek and a season as troubled with this third season, there was a lot of controversy and a lot of apportioning of blame. It is not uncommon for key figures to trade blows in the press, and there is a sense of that happening with the third year of Star Trek.

The series is in its own death grip.

The series is in its own death grip.

In this case, it was Freiberger who fired the first volley. Talking to Starlog in 1980, Freiberger suggested that the issue had been unprofessional behaviour concerning her second script of the season:

We were desperately trying to get it. We were picked up late for the third season, and she was told, “We need it, please, quickly.” She disappeared. We couldn’t find her. We checked with everybody. I called Gene Roddenberry. We finally got to her agent, and I told my story editor, “You tell her agent if we don’t get her back here, this assignment’s gonna be vacated!” Her agent told us she went to Hawaii! We said to get her back. We finally had to vacate that assignment to another writer. I called Roddenberry and said, “We can’t be the victims of this kind of non-professionalism.” And he said, “Okay, let her go.”

There is a lot to unpack in Freiberger’s accusations, but perhaps most striking is the appeal to Gene Roddenberry; Freiberger seems to invoke the name of the show’s creator to legitimise his version of events and to justify his decision to cut ties with one of the most beloved and influential writers on the show.

Deep purple.

Deep purple.

Fontana vigourously denied these accusations, and offered an alternative narrative about her departure from the series. Responding to Freiberger’s comments through Starlog, Fontana insisted that she left the show of her own volition:

I had told Gene Roddenberry that I did not wish to continue on Star Trek as story editor because I wanted to freelance and write for other series. I did, however, want to continue to do scripts for Star Trek. Gene was agreeable to this, and I was given a contract in February of 1968 which called for a guarantee of three scripts, with an option for three more. Whenever anyone has asked why I chose to leave Star Trek’s story editorship, I have always given this reply.

Even years later, there is some lingering ambiguity about the particulars of what happened and why it happened. Whatever the fine details, The Enterprise Incident sits right in the middle of the controversy.

"Mister Chekov, this can't be a third season script. It makes too much sense."

“Mister Chekov, this can’t be a third season script. It makes too much sense.”

In many respects, The Enterprise Incident is very clearly a Dorothy Fontana script. It is a very conventional episode, in many respects; which stands in stark contrast to the episodes around it. In terms of basic production and plotting, it could easily have been produced during the second season. The themes and plot mechanics feel quite removed from the funereal tone that permeates so much of the third season as a whole, which is really saying something about an episode in which Spock pretends to murder Kirk in self-defense.

Much like Gene L. Coon, Dorothy Fontana has something of a Star Trek writer’s shorthand; The Enterprise Incident is populated with little recurring details that demonstrate the author’s particular interests. Even the sequence in which Spock appears to murder Kirk, only for this to be revealed as a ruse involving McCoy, is lifted pretty heavily from Amok Time. The intimacy of Vulcan hand gestures comes from Journey to Babel. Spock’s conflicts between duty and desire echo The Naked Time and This Side of Paradise.

"I mean, I don't even utter the words 'Spock's Brain' once."

“I mean, I don’t even utter the words ‘Spock’s Brain’ once.”

It is no surprise that Fontana’s original outline for The Enterprise Incident would have featured Mark Leonard returning in the role of Sarek from Journey to Babel. In Fontana’s original story, Sarak would have been cast in a role similar to the one played by Spock here, effectively stalling for time as Kirk and his crew enact a daring espionage mission. Along with Gene L. Coon, Fontana was one of the writers most responsible for cultivating a sense of continuity to the larger Star Trek universe, suggesting connections tying together these episodic adventures.

It is very easy to take the Star Trek canon for granted from the perspective of 2016, when the franchise is fifty years old and the concept of a “canon” has permeated popular culture. However, it should be remembered that it took Star Trek quite a long time to figure out basic continuity concepts like the colour of Sulu or Uhura’s uniform. “Starfleet Command” did not exist until Court Martial. The Federation was not named until Arena. The original Star Trek show was not always consistent in terms of its settings or its history.

"Dammit, Spock. What if the Romulans had seen Amok Time?"

“Dammit, Spock. What if the Romulans had seen Amok Time?”

This speaks to the realities of sixties television production. Nobody working on Star Trek imagined that they were building something to last five decades. Nobody was even sure that the show would get a second season, let alone more than twenty-five seasons of spin-off media. The best that the production team working on Star Trek could have hoped for was that the show would sell into syndication, where the episodes ran the risk of being jumbled around and any notion of continuity from episode to episode would be treated as a barrier to accessibility.

So what little sense of continuity crept into the show mostly crept in by accident. Gene L. Coon helped to create the Klingons and championed them as recurring antagonists for the Enterprise. Indeed, Coon even wanted a recurring Klingon nemesis who might square off against James Tiberius Kirk, perhaps even Koloth from The Trouble with Tribbles. It had been Coon who introduced the concept of the Federation into Star Trek, and who cultivated the idea of the Star Trek universe as more than just an impossibly vast space filled with random wonders and terrors.

"I'm going to be over there, just roamin'... I mean, Romulanin' about."

“I’m going to be over there, just roamin’… I mean, Romulanin’ about.”

Dorothy Fontana did her own bit to ensure continuity and development across episodes. This is most obvious in her stewardship of Spock as a character. Spock’s poignant monologue about his family life in The Naked Time clearly paves the way for the exploration of that family dynamic in Journey to Babel. To demonstrate that this sort of organic character development was the exception rather than the rule, the death of Samuel Kirk in Operation — Annihilate! went absolutely nowhere in terms of defining or shaping Kirk as a character.

The Enterprise Incident is a very rare episode of the original Star Trek in that it leans heavily on existing continuity. It is too much to describe the story as serialised, but it is definitely a narrative that rewards long-term fans. The Romulan cloaking device was a major plot point back in Balance of Terror, and The Enterprise Incident hinges on a significant technical improvement to that device. The episode’s dialogue casually posits an alliance between the Klingons and the Romulans, the show’s primary recurring antagonists.

That's a relationship that we're going to Klingon to...

That’s a relationship that we’re going to Klingon to…

To be fair, there were undoubtedly production realities that dictated that minor detail about a possible alliance between the Klingons and the Romulans. The storytelling decision was likely made to justify the inclusion of the Klingon attack cruiser from Elaan of Troyius in the episode, although there has been considerable debate about why the original cut of the episode did not include the Romulan Bird of Prey from Balance of Terror:

After filming, the Bird of Prey model disappeared, which may account for the Romulans showing up in Klingon D7 cruisers in the third-season episode The Enterprise Incident. It may also have been the case that the producers wanted to display the D7 model as much as possible as a courtesy to the model kit company Aluminum Model Toys, which actually paid for it. In any event, the model’s whereabouts remain unknown.

Exactly what happened to the Romulan Bird of Prey model (if anything) is a matter of some speculation. William McCullor reported gossip that the model was held by a private collector unwilling to exhibit it for the public. Memory Alpha provides an account of a National Public Radio interview with designer Wah Chang who claims to have smashed the model in his own backyard. Notably, the remastered edition of the episode includes a Bird of Prey.

Tal tales.

Tal tales.

Whatever the reason for inclusion of the Klingon ship, the decision to tie its appearance to broader political wrangling involving two major non-Federation powers represents a clear progression in the development of the shared Star Trek universe. The first season had thrown the Federation and Klingons into conflict with one another over Organia; the second season had suggested a simmering cold war between the two major powers. The Enterprise Incident expands upon that by suggesting that the Klingons and Romulans have agency outside that seen by our heroes.

Fontana very much uses The Enterprise Incident as an opportunity to cultivate the sense of the Star Trek universe as something that exists beyond what is experienced directly by out protagonists. The Enterprise Incident consciously builds upon the key revelation in Balance of Terror that the Romulans and the Vulcans share a common ancestry. In Balance of Terror, that detail seemed to exist primarily to serve the themes of the story as an allegory about racism with obvious echoes of Japanese internment during the Second World War. Here, it is something more.

"Mister Spock, I had no idea that this is what you had in mind when you suggested 'reunification'."

“Mister Spock, I had no idea that this is what you had in mind when you suggested ‘reunification’.”

The Enterprise Incident uses the common ancestry between Vulcans and Romulans as an opportunity to build a Star Trek universe that does not centre around Earth, to suggest that  other people have their own agency and their own history quite apart from that of direct relevance to Kirk. The Commander’s reference to the Vulcans as “distant brothers” and Spock’s reference to “the combined Romulan-Vulcan history of obedience to duty” suggest complex long-term relationships that stem beyond those of Earth.

The Romulan Commander all but explicitly states this in her conversations with Spock. “For someone with your capabilities and accomplishments, opportunities are made and will be,” she states. “I will see to that, if you’ll stop looking on the Federation as the whole universe. It is not, you know.” This is a very important thematic point, and it is something with which the Star Trek franchise will grapple over its extended life cycle. The Federation is very much an extension of liberal American values into the future, but those values are not the only way to look at the universe.

"Let's drink to that."

“Let’s drink to that.”

Dorothy Fontana and Gene L. Coon will never get enough credit for building that ambivalence into the franchise’s foundations, perhaps owing to the narrative of Star Trek cultivated and crafted by Gene Roddenberry that portrays the Federation as an unequivocal paradise. Gene L. Coon deserves a lot of credit for being openly critical of these aspects of the Federation in his scripts, daring to ask if extrapolating contemporary American politics into the future is a good thing. Fontana deserves a lot of credit for being willing to look beyond the Federation.

This attitude towards political and historical continuity would pave the way for later Star Trek shows to develop and explore these ideas. In fact, Deep Space Nine would often reduce the Federation to observers watching complex historical dynamics play out between different races; the Romulan and Cardassian attack upon the Dominion in The Die is Cast comes to mind, as does the Klingon invasion of Cardassia in The Way of the Warrior. In building on what came before, Fontana sews the seeds for that approach to Star Trek in The Enterprise Incident.

"He's come down with space dementia."

“He’s come down with space dementia.”


This idea of Romulan and Vulcan agency is not just a world-building affectation. It very clearly plays into the themes of the episode. It is interesting that The Enterprise Incident chooses to focus on the Romulans instead of the Klingons. In many ways, the Klingons were the breakout alien species on Star Trek. They appeared with much greater frequency than the Romulans, perhaps because gold face paint and fake beards were most cost effective than pointy ears. The show had recently invested in a model Klingon war ship, and they would appear multiple times this season.

In contrast, the Romulans were a low-key Star Trek antagonist. The Romulans only physically appeared in two episodes of the original Star Trek series; Balance of Terror and The Enterprise Incident. They had a small background role in The Deadly Years, but nothing compared to the coverage the Klingons get in episodes like Friday’s Child or A Private Little War. In fact, while the Klingons would play major roles in the film franchise, this is the last major Romulan appearance until The Neutral Zone twenty years later.

"It's Romul-us, not Romul-u."

“It’s Romul-us, not Romul-u.”

It is strange to think of the Romulans as an iconic Star Trek baddie, because they have historically been underserved and underrepresented by the franchise. While alien species like the Klingons, the Borg, the Cardassians, and even the Ferengi have their own larger narrative arcs across the franchise’s history, various production teams have often struggled with what to do about the franchise’s other pointy eared hobgoblins. However, the Romulans endure. They remain an essential part of the franchise, despite the fact they are hard to pin down.

Perhaps the key to their longevity is to be found in these early episodes. In terms of the original Star Trek series, the biggest difference between the Romulans and the Klingons is that the Klingons are most transparently bad guys. Although Gene L. Coon introduced the Klingons in Errand of Mercy as a way to critique Kirk’s warmongering ways, the Klingons were very clearly presented as a yellow peril menace. The Klingons would not really become sympathetic until The Day of the Dove made a conscious choice to subvert this dynamic.

This is the face of a rational man.

This is the face of a rational man.

In contrast, the Romulans came with some measure of sympathy built in. Part of this is down to the make-up design, in that the Romulans had the luxury of looking both more human than the Klingons and resembling Spock. However, it was also largely down to how Balance of Terror had treated its antagonist. Kor and Koloth were great characters, but they lack the humanity and compassion of the anonymous Romulan Commander. Although he lacked a name, Kirk felt a strong sense of kinship to him. The two were mirrored.

Although the Klingons serve as a direct commentary on the Cold War, with their spheres of influence and their proxy wars, the Romulans served as a more abstract anti-war allegory. Although the major Romulan characters of the original Star Trek series were kept consciously anonymous, they were afforded a dignity and humanity that rendered them more than convenient two-dimensional antagonists. The Romulans were a constant reminder that even an anonymous adversary is still a person.

Censured by the Centurions.

Censured by the Centurions.

The plot of The Enterprise Incident was loosely inspired by the Pueblo incident, the capture of the USS Pueblo by North Korean forces in January 1968. The crew were accused of espionage, and were only released after confessing. The ship is still held by the North Korean government. Fontana acknowledges that this international crisis was the genesis of the episode:

I proposed [The Enterprise Incident] as kind of a parallel to the Pueblo incident, which was major news at the time [and] was one of our ships, our navy ships, intruding into, in essence, someone else’s space and being nailed for it. So, I tried to bounce that idea off the Enterprise. What is the Enterprise doing? What is it after?

Fontana takes this basic premise and builds an espionage thriller around it. The episode opens with Kirk leading the Enterprise into Romulan space, with McCoy worried that Kirk has finally cracked under the pressure. The Enterprise is subsequently surrounded by Romulan ships who demand the immediate surrender of the ship and crew. Things go from bad to worse, with Spock appearing to sell Kirk out to the Romulans and even killing him.

"He's dead, Jim is."

“He’s dead, Jim is.”

Naturally, nothing is as it appears to be. Kirk has not cracked under the mental strain of command, or under the combination of earlier episodes (going be production order) like Elaan of Troyius or The Paradise Syndrome. Spock has not been tempted to align himself with the Romulan Star Empire against his fellow crew. Most obviously, Spock has not murdered James Tiberius Kirk, despite how it may appear. It is all a cunning ruse, part of an elaborate con game, authorised by Starfleet Command, to secure a new and improved Romulan cloaking device.

In any other context, all of these reversals would seem like contrivances, a script backing away from a number of potentially series-breaking premises and retreating to the easiest possible resolution. It is to the credit of Dorothy Fontana that she understands this. Of course Kirk hasn’t gone insane. Of course Spock hasn’t betrayed the Enterprise. Of course Spock hasn’t killed Kirk. Any audience member with any degree of televisual literacy would know that these premises could never be allowed to stand on a weekly sixties television show.

"You have to keep in mind, the Dohlman of Elaan and his lost wife and child took a lot out of him. Even if you're watching in broadcast order, the man's just lived through Spock's Brain."

“You have to keep in mind, the Dohlman of Elaan and his lost wife and child took a lot out of him. Even if you’re watching in broadcast order, the man’s just lived through Spock’s Brain.”

Fontana plays into her audience’s televisual literacy, counting on the viewer to understand that things are not as they appear to be. The Enterprise Incident is never particularly coy about the twists that are coming. In fact, it signposts them quite heavily. The Romulan Commander effectively guesses the whole ruse in her first conversation with Kirk. The thrill is not in the twists of themselves, but in watching those twists play out. There is a sense that The Enterprise Incident avoids spelling all this out from the start simply to avoid exposition, not because it is a big twist.

The Enterprise Incident is a great Cold War espionage thriller. The episode is anchored in an incident involving North Korea that was not sanctioned by the Soviet Union; in fact, it arguably damaged the relationship between the two powers. Still, The Enterprise Incident skilfully evokes the general mood of the era. There are two major powers dancing with each other, testing limits and engaged in shell games. Indeed, the portrayal of Spock as a would-be traitor even evokes attitudes in the American media to downed U2 pilot Gary Powers following his own capture.

Drinking the Romulan Kool Aid.

Drinking the Romulan Kool Aid.

In The Paranormal and the Paranoid, Aaron John Gulyas argues that The Enterprise Incident endorses the top secret mission undertaken by Kirk and Spock to steal the Romulan cloaking device, pointing to the episode as a relic of an era before Watergate and Vietnam had made the American people more sceptical of their would-be guardians:

True to the series’ 1960s roots, the Cold War metaphor casts the Federation/Starfleet characters in the role of heroes, doing what needs to be done to safeguard the home front against all enemies. The cloaking device – which allows Romulan ships to disappear and reappear at will – is a destabilising technology that would give the Romulans a significant military advantage; acquiring it for the Federation restores stability to the galaxy. Kirk and Spock’s violation of interstellar law and treaty is presented as acceptable, in the sontext of the episode, because their superiors have sanctioned it in the interest of the greater good. They are, in The Enterprise Incident, willing tools of a conspiracy that never question the rightness of their actions. The episode aired, however, in the fall of 1968; within a few years, the end of the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal would leave Americans less tolerant of government secrecy than they had been at the height of the Cold War. A story like The Enterprise Incident would have been difficult to replicate in the 1980s or 1990s, when the public was less likely to assume good intentions on the part of governments.

While this is perhaps an over-simplification of the political themes of Fontana’s script, it should be noted that later episodes of The Next Generation exploring similar plot points and confrontations adopt a more openly sceptical approach to such political manoeuvring.



In The Defector, Picard strays into the Neutral Zone and finds himself surrounded by Romulans demanding to haul the Enterprise home as a trophy. However, in this case, the intrusion into the Neutral Zone is revealed to be an elaborate con orchestrated by the Romulans to trick the Federation. Picard is never implicated in the intrusion in the same way that Kirk is. Similarly, in Pegasus, Federation attempts to develop a new more advanced cloaking device are presented as conspiratorial; Picard ends the episode by coming clean with the Romulans.

However, The Enterprise Incident is openly sympathetic to the Romulan position. It is difficult to imagine the episode working anywhere near as well had Fontana employed the Klingons rather than the Romulans, and not just because that would have meant altering the subplot focusing on Spock. Dating back to Balance of Terror, the Romulans has been portrayed as sympathetic mirrors to the Federation. That shines through over the course of The Enterprise Incident, which declines to treat the Romulans as unreasonable or explicitly villainous.

"Boy, this sixties lighting fixture really ties the room together."

“Boy, this sixties lighting fixture really ties the room together.”

Indeed, the Romulan willingness to exchange hostages for Kirk and Spock is presented as a gesture of good faith that goes beyond what might be expected in this scenario. “Granted, we do not easily trust each other, Captain, but you are the ones who violated our territory,” Tal reflects. “Should it not be we who distrust your motives? However, we agree to simultaneous exchange.” After all, the Romulans would arguably be entirely justified to use overwhelming force to take or destroy the Enterprise.

When Kirk pleads his case to the Romulan Commander, she quite rightly refuses to accept his explanation at face value and to allow him to go on his way. “Captain, if a Romulan vessel ventured far into Federation territory without good explanation, what would a starbase commander do?” she ponders. “You see, it works both ways. I hardly believe you are the injured party.” She is entirely correct. Indeed, the entire purpose of Kirk’s mission is to militarily undermine a foreign power. Kirk is very much the injuring (rather than the injured) party.

"They cannae allow the Enterprise to get away Scott free alright."

“They cannae allow the Enterprise to get away Scott free alright.”

Indeed, The Enterprise Incident is ultimately quite cynical about what exactly this mission will accomplish in the long term. “You realise that very soon we will learn to penetrate the cloaking device you stole,” the Romulan Commander reflects. Spock concedes the point. “Obviously. Military secrets are the most fleeting of all.” Indeed, the capturing of the Romulan cloaking device in The Enterprise Incident seems to have very little long-term impact on the technology; the cloaking device is again largely impenetrable by Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.

If the long-term political impact of this elaborate ruse is ultimately minimal, Fontana suggests that the personal consequences are much greater. Lives and careers are damaged and destroyed in this game of political brinksmanship. Much as the tragedy in Balance of Terror is that Kirk and that anonymous Romulan Commander might have been friends, the tragedy in The Enterprise Incident is that Spock destroys a potentially healthy interpersonal relationship with this anonymous Romulan Commander.

A cloaking dagger operation.

A cloaking dagger operation.

“It is regrettable that you were made an unwilling passenger,” Spock confesses towards the end of the episode. “It was not intentional. All the Federation wanted was the cloaking device.” Spock and the Romulan Commander are reduced to pawns in this larger chess game. Personal desires are secondary to broader concepts of “duty.” Defending his betrayal, Spock reflects, “Clearly, your new cloaking device is a threat to that security. I carried out my duty.” The Romulan Commander responds, “Everyone carries out his duty. You state the obvious, Spock.”

The result is that The Enterprise Incident plays like something of a tragedy. Lives are effectively destroyed, and nothing is gained. The Enterprise Incident is not as explicit in its criticisms of the personal costs of statecraft as episodes like Balance of Terror or The Defector, but the theme bubbles through the episode in a way that is hard to avoid. Although The Enterprise Incident is structured as a playful Cold War espionage heist story, it is also quite cynical about the toll that these games take upon the pieces move across the board.

It does not Tal-y up.

It does not Tal-y up.

The relationship between Spock and the Romulan Commander would be one of the major bones of contention between Fontana and the production team working on the third season. In his interview with Starlog, Fred Freiberger insisted that Fontana had been very unprofessional in taking production notes on the script:

The story, dramatically, I felt, didn’t work. I wanted to get dramatic stories. There were some very good elements in it. She probably had a better grasp of Spock’s character than I did. One of the things I really wanted to do with Spock’s character was to explore the areas Gene had built into the character about a Vulcan father and an Earth mother, which I didn’t see too much of. He was just playing that cool guy all the time from what I saw. I wanted to use the other aspects of the character… which were not germaine to her [Fontana’s] script. So we kept working on trying to get her to rewrite that script. She was very resistant. She was not at all cooperative. She wrote it and then we rewrote the script… extensively. Now she had a choice. If she didn’t like what was there, she could use a different name, which is a procedure the Writer’s Guild has set up for writers who feel this way. She didn’t have to put her name on it. I’m not putting her down as a writer. She’s a pretty good writer. I’m talking about professionalism. So we rewrote the script, and I think we got pretty good reactions on it.

To be entirely fair to Fontana here, it should be noted that when Freiberger talks about “the areas Gene had built into the character“, he is largely talking about the character as defined by Fontana in her rewrite of The Naked Time or This Side of Paradise or Journey to Babel.

One Commander to another...

One Commander to another…

For her part, Fontana was openly critical of the way that new producer Fred Freiberger and new script editor Arthur Singer. As she explained to the fan magazine Enterprise Incidents:

I took my name from those last two you mentioned. The Romulan Incident — The Enterprise Incident — was heavily rewritten much to my alarm, and I wanted to take my name off it. Gene talked me out of it, but I ended my contract shortly thereafter because I did have a contract to do three or four. And when they—the producer of the show—told me that Dr. McCoy was Kirk’s contemporary and was not old enough to have a daughter at twenty-one years old, I realised they hadn’t even read the Writer’s Guide. I didn’t want to work for anybody who didn’t even have a working concept of the show. In fact, the story editor some three months later wandered onto the set and asked our set decorator, “By the way, what does that transporter thing do again?”, at which point most of the crew gave up caring. Because when you do not have people doing the stories who are knowledgeable about what the entire show is about, you can’t keep up pride in your work because you’re being given drek.

Indeed, one of the big issues with The Enterprise Incident for certain technical-minded fans is all the transporting that takes place when most of the ships should have their shields up; a violation of a basic Star Trek principle.

If only Starfleet had allowed him to continue is research into transwarp beaming.

If only Starfleet had allowed him to continue is research into transwarp beaming.

Talking to Marc Cushman for These Are the Voyages, Fontana explained that her big issues with the changes that were made to The Enterprise Incident concerned the relationship between Spock and the Romulan Commander:

What I didn’t like was the more or less sexual tension that was put in between the Romulan commander and Spock, because I thought, ‘Ughh, I wouldn’t believe it.’ If I was the commander of that Romulan ship and a Vulcan approached me, I wouldn’t trust him for a minute. So, I felt that was not valid, that it was unbelievable. It was put in after I finished my work.

It is not an unreasonable complaint about the episode. After all, the Romulan Commander is effectively undone by Spock’s sex appeal. At one point, Spock is able to communicate with the Enterprise while she puts sexy clothes on.

Romancing the Romulans.

Romancing the Romulans.

Freiberger serves as something of a lightning rod in this controversy, because he was the producer working on the third season and because he is the creative voice that engaged Dorothy Fontana on the matter. However, it is worth noting that Freiberger is not necessarily the only person responsible for the changes. Freiberger was in regular contact with Star Trek veterans Gene Roddenberry and Robert Justman, either of whom could have interjected on the point. Indeed, These Are the Voyages credits Justman with the idea for the romance in the first place.

There is something uncomfortably sexist about the romance. After all, the show would never allow Kirk to be undercut in such a manner. Elaan of Troyius provides a a helpful counterpoint; Kirk was able to resist a woman who had bound him to her on a biological and chemical level. The Romulan Commander has no such excuse. It seems like one look at Leonard Nimoy is enough to make even the most professionally-minded woman forget basic security procedures. Ultimately, Spock is only discovered by Tal, the Romulan Commander’s male second-in-command.

Like any good engineer, Scotty was concerned by the bits and pieces left over from his "assemble it yourself" Romulan Cloaking Device kit.

Like any good engineer, Scotty was concerned by the bits and pieces left over from his “assemble it yourself” Romulan Cloaking Device kit.

This is an example of how frustrating the third season of Star Trek can be on matters of gender. The Romulan Commander is in many ways one of the most overtly feminist figures in the season. It is telling that The Enterprise Incident introduces a female Romulan Commander in the same season that The Turnabout Intruder insists that there are no female Starfleet captains. At the same time, it is hard to argue that The Enterprise Incident is more sexist than drek like Elaan of Troyius or The Paradise Syndrome or Spock’s Brain.

The result is an episode that feels positively feminist in comparison to the episodes around it by virtue of featuring a rare female character in a position of authority, while still being anchored in a number of unpleasant sexist stereotypes about how professional women cannot be trusted to keep their personal and professional lives separate. It is a perfect example of the problematic progressiveness that defines so much of the original Star Trek series, where even the most forward-looking aspects are anchored in troublesome elements.

A touching romance.

A touching romance.

Still, the Romulan Commander is an intriguing character. It is no surprise that the Romulan Commander has become such an iconic Star Trek character. Diane Duane’s Rihannsu novels focus on the aunt of the character in question. The character herself plays a key role in novels like The Fate of the PhoenixVulcan’s Heart and Killing TimeThe Next Generation considered bringing back the character for Face of the Enemy. It is a shame that there were not more female characters like her in the original run of Star Trek.

Despite the troublesome implications of the relationship between the Romulan Commander and Spock, The Enterprise Incident perhaps demonstrates Freiberger’s efforts to attract new audiences to the show. The Enterprise Incident is more overtly built around the sex appeal of Leonard Nimoy as Spock than any other episode of Star Trek, including the episode where Spock gets so horny that he strangles Kirk to death in a hot sweaty wrestling match. The Enterprise Incident is designed to emphasise the sensuous mysterious aspects of the show’s science officer.

Spock is all ears.

Spock is all ears.

After all, Spock was the breakout sex symbol on Star Trek. A profile in People Magazine reported that “the sacks of Spock mail reached 10,000 letters a month, mostly from women, much of it torridly erotic.” In an interview with The Pittsburgh Press, Leonard Nimoy recalled being confronted with his sex symbol status:

“Sometimes, Cleveland,” Nimoy smiled, “it’s fun. I remember at Bowling Green University in Ohio a young woman got up and said, ‘I am going to do something for your ego. Are you aware that you are the source of erotic dream material for thousands and thousands of women around the world?'”

What did he do? “I toasted her, with water, and said, ‘May all your dreams come true.'”

In 1967, Isaac Asimov wrote an article in TV Guide outlining the key to the character’s sex appeal. Asimov argued that Spock had been able to make smart seem sexy. He was very much a contrast to the rugged and conventional masculinity of James Kirk.

"Fascinating Captain. My shirt does not even rip open in the same way that yours does."

“Fascinating Captain. My shirt does not even rip open in the same way that yours does.”

Henry Jenkins contended that it was Spock’s restraint and composure that made him so appealing to fans:

“Spock is sexy for a large number of people, male and female,” Jenkins says. “Many of the female fans I studied really are attracted to the emotional depths of this character.” Like many men, Spock “represses outward signs of emotion,” Jenkins says. He’s a character “who tries to hold it all in, but who seems to be sensitive, sensuous at certain times.”

And Spock’s intense relationship with Captain Kirk only complicates his character.

“He seems to have a deep affection and even passionate relationship to Captain Kirk,” Jenkins says. “This character, then, became the embodiment of the mystery of masculinity.”

Spock is a rather unconventional male lead, but that makes him all the more striking in context.

"Well, this is a little awkward..."

Spock tries to (turbo) lift her spirits.

In a 1996 interview with Andrew Duncan for The Radio Times, Leonard Nimoy weighed in with his own thoughts on what made Mister Spock so sexy:

He had an attraction because he was smart and quite sexy. He was unavailable, mysterious, exotic with hidden passions. Sensitive, I went through some awareness of that in the early years and it was very flattering, but I didn’t take advantage. It was so unexpected for me to be treated as rock stars are in their 20s. Here I was, at 35, having this adulation, screaming, fawning, fan magazines. It was interesting and at times quite scary, but I was old enough to handle it.

Whatever the precise reason, there is no denying that Mister Spock was the show’s breakout sex symbol. Dorothy Fontana’s work on The Naked NowThis Side of Paradise and Journey to Babel undoubtedly contributed.

Guarded emotions.

Guarded emotions.

In discussing Elaan of Troyius, Fred Freiberger talked about his efforts to attract female audience members to Star Trek. In an interview with Starlog, writer Margaret Armen claimed that The Paradise Syndrome went down very well with “sponsor’s wives.” As such, it made a great deal of sense to build an episode around Spock’s latent sex appeal. In the context of the third season, The Enterprise Incident seems like a conscious attempt to capitalise on Spock’s allure. This is Fred Freiberger trying to save Star Trek by trying to broaden the audience.

Indeed, The Enterprise Incident offers a much more conventional and safer “sexy Spock” story than the consciously queer Amok Time. After all, Amok Time had emphasised the unconventional aspects of Spock’s biology while stressing his relationship to Kirk; Theodore Sturgeon’s script tied Spock’s sex drive into a wrestling match with Kirk. In contrast, The Enterprise Incident offers a much more heteronormative view of Spock’s sexuality. There is no mention of a seven-year cycle, just a female love interest to gently caress.

Lighten up.

Lighten up.

In fact, it could be argued that the relationship between Spock and the Romulan Commander is a form of “pandering” that takes away a lot of what made Spock so sexy and alluring to the fanbase in the first place. Fontana noted as much in a memo on these rewrites, as reprinted in These Are the Voyages:

Frankly, our fans — especially the vocal ones who write a lot of letters to networks — are very hip to what is and what isn’t “Vulcan.” They write whole treatises and fanzines — for a large circle of subscribers — based on Vulcan psychology, physiology, emotions, mores, and what Spock eats for breakfast. And they will tune us out if the “business” in this seduction scene goes unchanged.

In many ways, this represents a key conflict in the third season of Star Trek. Fred Freiberger had been drafted in to help save a show that could not be saved. Freiberger’s philosophy seemed to be an attempt to push the show towards more mainstream audiences, occasionally at the cost of neglecting what made it Star Trek in the first place.

"Would you believe that we were playing Pokémon Go?"

“Would you believe that we were playing Pokémon Go?”

It should be acknowledged that Freiberger’s efforts to popularise the show were often unsuccessful. Elaan of Troyius and The Paradise Syndrome are terrible episodes of television. However, they were also doomed from the outset. The narrative that has developed around the third season of Star Trek tends to avoid the real issues with the season – budget cuts, the departure of key creative personal, scheduling. Instead, Fred Freiberger has become a convenient scapegoat for all of the flaws with this season of television.

Fan narratives of the third season treat Freiberger and Singer as an external colonising force seeking to transform Star Trek into something alien. Freiberger and Singer are portrayed as television producers with no real interest in Star Trek as an institution, and no respect for the show’s underlying values and philosophies. This narrative has been cultivated by key writers who worked on the third season, writers like Dorothy Fontana, Margaret Armen and David Gerrold. The abiding narrative is that Freiberger and Singer neither knew nor cared about Star Trek.

The Enterprise finds herself in a bit of a fix.

The Enterprise finds herself in a bit of a fix.

In some respects, this would set the tone for the occasionally fraught relationship between the production team working on Star Trek and the audience watching at home. Any deviation from the established template would be treated as hostile until proven otherwise; witness the intense and extreme reaction to the Bad Robot films by certain vocal elements of the fandom who would argue that Star Trek Into Darkness is somehow a worse film than Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

JJ Abrams and his writers were treated as interlopers without the proper respect for the show or its fans. Although history has somewhat vindicated them, it should also be noted that producers like Nicholas Meyer and Ira Steven Behr were also criticised by certain vocal segments of the fandom for daring to imagine their own takes on the Star Trek mythos that deviated from the templates outlined by Gene Roddenberry. A lot of that knee-jerk fan reaction and sensitivity can be traced back to this point in the franchise’s life cycle, the ghost of Fred Freiberger.

Kirk had a somewhat unconventional plan to win over some of Spock's sex appeal.

Kirk had a somewhat unconventional plan to win over some of Spock’s sex appeal.

Indeed, it is interesting to note that this happened in the wake of the high-profile fandom campaign to “save” the series. It could be argued that the campaign served to give fandom a sense of “ownership” and “entitlement” to the show, something that would be consciously cultivated by Gene Roddenberry in the years that followed to help him craft his own narrative of the show’s history and production. Fred Freiberger was an outsider to that fan circuit, a producer who would be unlikely to list Star Trek as the crowning accomplishment of his television resume.

Of course, such criticisms tend to overlook the fact that Freiberger was drafted in at the last minute because Gene Roddenberry resigned when the network refused to ascede to his demands about the scheduling of the show. Freiberger was not a usurper or a hostile invader laying claim to a beloved institution, he was a producer in an impossible situation trying to find a workable solution at a point when many of the show’s veteran production team had already thrown in the towel.

A plot device.

A plot device.

The Enterprise Incident is not quite perfect. However, it feels a lot more like the first two seasons of Star Trek than the rest of the third season around it. If not for the influence of the Pueblo incident on the story, The Enterprise Incident might easily be mistaken for a script carried over from the previous season. As Dorothy Fontana’s last credited contribution to the original Star Trek show, it is a reminder of just how much the show has lost through the absence of key figures like Fontana and Coon in its third year.

Still, The Enterprise Incident holds up well. It is a highlight of a very troubled season.


19 Responses

  1. I think part of the reason the Romulans are so popular is because so little known about them. As you point out other species have had a great deal of time dealt with their culture, but not so the Romulans. The Romulans have almost always remained the inscrutable Cold War, as you say mirror, foes they began as.

    • Yep. And I think the longer they stayed that way, the harder it was to transform them into something else.

      While is something I liked about Enterprise. There was a sense that the Klingons and Romulans had been transformed from external mirrors to contemporary American values, stand-ins for the Russians or the Chinese or the North Koreans, instead become a reflection of American values themselves; the Klingons in Judgment are Bush-era hawks, the Romulans in the United trilogy are living in a state of perpetual warfare striking at their enemies through drones.

  2. The Enterpriase Incident is an excellent episode, but I think it left a very mixed legacy regarding the Romulans.

    The first was that for better or worse the Romulans became pigeonholed as Cold War-esque espionage antagonists. Now many of the indvidual episodes that ran with this were very good – ‘Face of the Enemy’ from TNG is a particular favourite. However the sheer number of ‘intrigue’ Romulan stories weakened them overall for the simple reason that our heroes always end up winning by outwitting them. The franchise can talk about the fearsome Tal Shiar all they like but if we have just seen them be humiliated by the crew of the Enterprise for the sixth time they will look less impressive. DS9 took this to the logical conclusion where the Romulans are inflitrated by the Founders, manipulated into a war by a Starfleet captain and even are having their strings pulled by Section 31.

    The other issue might be a personal quirk but the playing up of the Vulcan/Romulan element in later stories that built on ‘The Enterprise Incident’ sometimes left me uncomfortable. The big offender here is the ‘Unification’ two-parter from TNG were Spock delivers the hugely racist line: “An inexorable evolution toward a Vulcan philosophy has already begun. Like the first Vulcans, these people are struggling to a new enlightenment and it may take decades or even centuries for them to reach it but they will reach it… ”

    Now I suppose that wasn’t the intention but something about that sentiment has always rubbed me the wrong way, the suggestion that Romulans are simply wrongheaded Vulcans and therefore their own culture has little to no merit. Agan that may be a quirk on my part but it left a sour taste in my mouth.

    • Unification makes sense to me – the Vulcans & Romulans are really one race which separated into distinct cultures. But while they may have been quite different at the point of separation, why would we expect that to remain the same after thousands of years? We’ve seen Vulcans who are quite duplicitous, why should Romulans be entirely immune to logic?

      You also forget the tendency of one’s descendants to reject their ancestors’ trappings. There must be thousands of Romulan teens who don’t want to go into the family ale brewery and would rather meditate over an IDIC.

      Jolan tru.

      • My problem is how reactionary it seems – and how one sided. Spock isn’t saying the Vulcans have much to learn from the Romulans and that the two sides will combine into a stronger, more diverse whole. He is saying the Romulans will effectively be assimilated into a Vulcan identity with the implication that the Romulans have nothing important to teach their cousins, or perhaps even nothing worth preserving. Which honestly feels hugely problematic to me.

        Now granted I may be reading too much into a few lines but it is hard not to read a sense of cultural superiority into Spock’s words.

      • Yeah, Reunification seems to come with a rider saying that the Romulans are effectively “doing it wrong” and that they need to come “home.” It’s not a language of compromise or reconciliation; it sounds almost like absorption.

    • Was it you, Ross, who pointed out that the Tal’Shiar must have an excellent PR department based on what we see of them in the franchise? They certainly don’t appear particularly terrifying when our crew beat them so frequently? (It was a very astute point.)

      And I’d agree somewhat with the uncomfortable undercurrents of Reunification, not least because the Vulcans really aren’t anywhere near as perfect as some fans (and some episodes) seem to suggest that they are.

      • Yeah, glad to see I wasn’t totally alone in thinking that. 🙂

        As I said before my favourite Romulan episode, at least after TOS, is ‘Face of the Enemy’, and not just because it was an unusually strong Troi episode but also because it gives us much more of an insight into the Romulan frame of mind than we usually get – Toreth is justifiably afraid of the Tal’Shiar, but also seems to hold them in contempt (“Contrary to the propaganda that your superiors would have us believe, Starfleet is neither weak nor foolish.”)

        It is a real shame we never got a Romulan equivalent to the rich recurring characters we got from the Cardassians, the Klingons and the Ferengi.

      • I’m quite fond of The Enemy and The Defector as Romulan episodes go. In the Pale Moonlight notwithstanding, for obvious reasons.

        It’s weird to think we had more better-developed Ferengi than Romulans, isn’t it? Heck, more individual Borg, to be honest.

  3. >She probably had a better grasp of Spock’s character than I did.

    “Probably.” How magnanimous of him! I can see why fandom likes to pile on this guy.

    >In some respects, this would set the tone for the occasionally fraught relationship between the production team working on Star Trek and the audience watching at home.

    This isn’t unique to Trek either – look to MST3K fandom who eventually cast their blames on Jim Mallon; Buffy fans blamed the Kuzuis; Chris Carter takes the blame for X-Files, Damon Lindelof for Lost.

    • There are points at which Freiberger makes it very hard to count a credible defense of his tenure. That and the “tits in space” story do him few favours. And the fact that he made a number of ill-judged and poor decisions in his own right. There’s a comparison to be made to Brannon Braga, who also has those sorts of stories and details in his own history.

      But I do think Star Trek is kinda unique in the way that it tends to pile on “outsiders” like Freiberger and Abrams. And arguably Berman, who was somewhat seen as a network-friendly blow-in, even after almost twenty years working on the franchise. I wonder how much of the hatred of Braga is rooted in that infamous (ill-advised) interview in which he boasted proudly of never having watching the original Star Trek.

      • The ironic thing for me is that while Star Trek fans seem to hate Abrams, Star Wars fans have embraced him. Yet, I feel lukewarm towards the force awakens, while I really enjoy the the Abrams Star Trek films. I think it comes down to my appreciation that the Abrams Star Trek films seem to be pushing to explore new things, while the new Star Wars film was so safe I could not muster any interest.

      • It is a strange contrast. I liked The Force Awakens, but I preferred to two Abrams films. I also preferred them to Beyond.

  4. I was really looking forward to Darren’s analysis of “The Enterprise Incident.” Good read.

    This is another one of those ST episodes that I never had the opportunity to watch when I was a kid. I didn’t actually see it until about two years ago. I was quite shocked at how cynical the story was, in what a duplicitous light it placed Starfleet and the crew of the Enterprise.

    There is a real moral ambiguity to this episode. Starfleet are the aggressors who commit an act of war against the Romulans. Now, you could certainly argue that when the Romulan government ordered a series of unprovoked attacks on Starfleet less than two years earlier that resulted in hundreds of deaths (in “Balance of Terror”)and that Starfleet’s actions in this episode were an inevitable response that. I’m sure Starfleet would argue that it was only taking measures to prevent another catastrophic sneak attack. Nevertheless, considering that the Federation is, at least on paper, committed to peaceful resolutions to conflicts, it is interesting that Starfleet felt the need to eschew diplomacy and utilize espionage.

    (Actually, I’m sorta confused about the precise nature of the relationship between Starfleet and the Federation. Has that ever been clarified?)

    In certain respects “The Enterprise Incident” feels very much a precursor to Deep Space 9. With only a few minor changes, I could even see it as an actual episode of DS9. (It’s even been suggested that this episode was the behind-the-scenes first appearance of Section 31.) It definitely made me realize that those Star Trek fans who objected to idea that factions of Starfleet would act in an amoral fashion in DS9 and some of the movies were obviously forgetting about this episode.

    I agree that the romance between Spock and the Romulan Captain is probably the one few weak points in this episode. It does make her seem rather naïve. I think the reason why the episode still works so well is that Joanne Linville gives a great performance, and has some genuine chemistry with Leonard Nimoy. it’s too bad that her character was never brought back in Next Gen or DS9. But I can certainly see the events of this episode as one of the things that eventually led Spock to work for unification between the Vulcans and Romulans.

    • I think The Enterprise Incident was hugely influential in terms of what we think of as modern Star Trek; not just DS9, but even late-stage TNG. It gives the Romulans (and even the Klingons) real agency, it suggests a breathing universe outside Starfleet’s sphere of influence. The Romulan Commander was a hugely influential character, and I think that you’re right to point to it as something that might have inspired the story for the Unification two-parter. (It was certainly an influence on Face of the Enemy.)

  5. I’ve always seen the Romulan Commander not as the victim of Spock’s duplicitous seduction but as someone who was trying to seduce him to her side just as much as he was trying to seduce her. She was trying to seduce him in order to turn him, while he was trying to seduce her to distract her. And if she’d managed to turn him, she wouldn’t just have acquired an excellent officer, she’d have acquired an officer who was privy to an enormous amount of classified information about Starfleet — reason enough to promise him his own ship. The fact that he was more successful than she was is because distraction takes less time than turning. Well, that and the fact that he’s one of the heroes. 🙂

    I’m amazed that Freiberger thought that women needed romance to like Star Trek; I like Star Trek because I like SCIENCE FICTION. We do have brains, Fred, and we sometimes use them to think about philosophy or alternate worlds or any of the thousand other things that science fiction can do. Geeze.

    That said, it was nice to see Spock in romantic mode when actually in his right mind and not hopped up on spores or 5000 years in the past or something. Of course, it was mostly an act, rather than a genuine relationship, but it was still enjoyable. I find Spock’s stroking fingers with the Romulan Commander to be way hotter than all the lip-mashing Kirk ever did with the Babe of the Week, but then, I’ve been a confirmed Spock girl since 1969. 🙂

    I’m always amused when I see men scratching their heads about why women like Spock, as if millions of women all liked him for exactly the same reason, because we’re not individuals or anything. *insert eye-roll here* I’ve talked about Spock’s appeal with several other women, and we all have different reasons for liking him.

    In addition to the reasons you’ve mentioned, I think a lot of women want to take care of Spock; he appeals to the nurturer in us. As a hybrid, he seems to be completely accepted and appreciated by neither Vulcans nor humans, and he deserves so much more. That wonderfully ethical, self-sacrificing character, that magnificent mind, that endearing personality … how could such a fabulous person NOT be loved and appreciated? So we perceive a lack and want to rush in to fill it. 🙂

    Another thing I rarely see mentioned is that although Spock has all of the virtues traditionally associated with masculinity (brave, strong, decisive, protective, all that stuff), he has almost none of the FLAWS of traditional masculinity. Instead of being rude, he’s exquisitely polite, almost courtly. He hates violence and uses it only as a last resort. He doesn’t get angry (and SO many women have had SO much cause to fear male anger). He’s never crude. He’s always beautifully groomed. He doesn’t leer at women or treat them like things to be used. And although he’s justly confident in his prodigious abilities, he doesn’t swagger like Kirk; he’s confident in a restrained way, not in a cocky way.

    Another thing is that Spock is capable of mind melds, so if one were in a relationship with him, one would never have to wonder what he really thought or what he really felt, because he could take you inside his mind and SHOW you. Plus, a meld seems likely to produce a very deep intimacy, a level of intimacy that neither talking nor sex can match, a level of intimacy that we humans can’t achieve on our own, without half-Vulcan help.

    There’s more — I could probably talk about Spock all day — but I’ve bent your ear long enough. 🙂

    • I don’t know about that reading of the Romulan Commander. Leaving Spock alone while trying to get into something sexy is a very basic tactical error in a situation like this. (Not even having the room bugged suggests that she wasn’t thinking purely tactically.) And the fact that the script has her male subordinate effectively catch Spock out isn’t particularly flattering. That closing scene between the two does suggest some mutual connection, one that seems to apply to Spock in some degree. The difference being that The Enterprise Incident suggests that Spock was able to suppress that emotional attachment.

      And no worried about bending my ear! That said, I’m not sure I’d describe Spock as “polite.” If anything, I think Kirk is easily the most diplomatic and sociable of the trio. Spock can be quite blunt, and there are quite a few moments over the course of the series where Spock provides a withering commentary or dismissal of his colleagues based on their emotionalism. Which is not necessarily unfair and certainly nowhere near as bad as McCoy’s racism, but I’m not sure I’d buy that Spock is polite or courtly.

      • I tend to agree with Corylea. When the Romulan Commander left Spock alone there were probably guards outside the room and she knew that if Spock contacted the ship it would be detected, which it was. Also I like how when Spock’s deception was discovered the Romulan Commander was canny enough to realize that the Enterprise crew were after the cloaking device.

  6. For what it’s worth, David Gerrold suggests that the revisions Fontana refused to make to her script were the kind that sought to portray the United States as in the right during the Pueblo Incident, and that the episode we see, where Kirk and his crew come off as purely clever and heroic, is the result of others rewriting that script in Fontana’s absence.

    Gerrold implies that the story Fontana tried to tell would have explored Kirk’s complicity in an illegal mission that violated treaty, with Sarek as diplomatic cover and military superiority as the only justification, and those above Fontana both detected the implied criticism of United States policy in Asia and were highly displeased with it. Fontana, already at odds with the show-runners for reasons described above, would have nothing to do with watering down that message.

    Gerrold’s own bad blood with the franchise’s king-makers and his later anti-imperialist critiques of Star Trek are worth mentioning here, but I still don’t find much reason to think he lied about any of this, since when “The World of Star Trek” was published, Fontana could certainly have disputed Gerrold’s version of events that involved her personally. She never did, so far as I’m aware.

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