Written by D.C. Fontana, Arthur H. Singer, and Gene Roddenberry
Directed by John Meredyth Lucas
Proving once again she was integral to the success and popularity of the Star Trek series, D.C. Fontana pens what is arguably the best episode of the third season, and one of the best of the series. It’s filled with political intrigue and female empowerment, plus doesn’t give away its hand early on.
Captain Kirk (William Shatner) is giving a series of orders which mystifies everyone, especially Doctor McCoy (DeForrest Kelley) who is concerned about his health. When Kirk gives an order to enter The Neutral Zone, others in the crew become alarmed.
The Enterprise then encounters a Klingon ship and learns the Romulans have begun using Klingon technology in their ships. This indicates a possible alliance between the two that would spell trouble for the Federation.
Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and Captain Kirk are brought over to the Romulan commander (Joanne Linville) on her ship. She accuses Kirk of deliberately entering the Neutral Zone while he feigns ignorance and claims an instrument malfunction.
Spock will not tell the Romulan Commander what their mission is, then pins everything on the Captain and his mental state, claiming he has been erratic recently in his behavior. This is how his denial of it being a Starfleet mission to spy on the Romulans is played. The Romulan Commander senses an opportunity and tries to tempt Spock to defect.
The Enterprise Incident is a good thriller with lots of misleading threads. It’s all an elaborate ruse to get the Romulans’ cloaking device. The story is pretty far along before the audience is clued in as to what is happening, which works very well. We know, after all, that Kirk is not about to do something to lose his command and that Spock is not going to defect but just what is happening isn’t obvious in the beginning.
The acting here is first-rate. Particularly, Joanne Linville as the Romulan Commander. She more than holds her own opposite Spock and Kirk. When paired off with Spock, they do seem to share some honest chemistry or at least convince the audience they do. She is a strong woman commanding men, something that would never be seen in the 1960s outside of science fiction, and she is very convincing. This was a huge leap for how women had been portrayed on television.
Leonard Nimoy gives one of his best performances as Spock. He is emotionless here, but at the same time is able to convince viewers there is something between himself and the Romulan. He is also able to hold everything close to his chest without seeming wooden – it’s a hard thing to pull off in a thriller setting but Nimoy’s performance is near perfect.
Even William Shatner shines in one of his finest performances as Captain Kirk. In the beginning, it seems like he’s in the midst of a breakdown from overwork, but he shifts later on to being cool and calculated and keeping the tension at the right level as he goes about the mission. He’s able to stand up to the Romulan Commander and be fraying around the edges at the same time.
There are a few special effects here and they fit in nicely with the story. The remastered version is not distracting at all and is a pleasure to watch.
It’s the story here that sells the episode and it is damn good. If only more of the series were like this, they might have lasted a few more seasons.
Previous episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Original Series – Spock’s Brain
Next episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Original Series – The Paradise Syndrome