Ok, so, let’s get this out of the way first: “The Enterprise Incident” is actually a pretty good episode. My mom used to work for an independent video store as she worked her way through nursing school. When she closed up for the night, she could take home any unrented tapes for us to watch Saturday and Sunday. I saw most of the original series that way. Each episode had its own tape, and at the end of the episode was a preview for the next one. Oddly enough, if you watched the series’ final episode, its preview was for “The Enterprise Incident” because, well, I guess that looked better than nothing.
So, really, this episode was previewed as the next one on two different tapes.
I want to get the overall positive out of the way because, like many of the best episodes of Star Trek, some stuff does not add up.
Most of that may have happened to stretch out the running time. Or the writers did it to create drama. Either is fine. But here’s the bare bones of the plot: Kirk is acting crazy and has the Enterprise cross into Romulan space for no clear reason. Quickly surrounded, Kirk and Spock beam over to a Romulan ship. There, the nameless female Romulan Commander tries to get Spock to defect, but the whole thing was just a long con to steal a Romulan cloaking device. Kirk manages to do that after, in part, faking his own death. He also disguises himself as a Romulan. Once successful, Scotty hooks the device up to the Enterprise, and the ship safely returns to Federation space.
After that, there is no more talk of a Federation cloaking device. Romulas keep using them, but that’s it.
All in all, it’s a tightly plotted espionage story set in outer space. I just have a few issues with how it turned out.
First, there’s the Romulan Commander. She’s not a bad character, and the actress playing her does a good job. If anything, given how the last episode of the original series went, this one suggests the Romulans are more progressive in their gender politics than the Federation. Here is a woman who can command a starship. Hell, she commands at least three. True, they look like Klingon ships, but that probably has more to do with budget cuts than anything else.
Then again, she does fall for Spock. And Spock, well, he goes along with it. What we do learn is Starfleet gave Kirk and Spock, and only Kirk and Spock, special orders. They alone knew about the Romulan’s new cloaking device, and they alone had to steal one. Watching Spock somewhat romance this woman is a little weird. He’s still Spock. The most romantic he gets is a finger rub. Does he fall for this woman? She does tell him her name. She whispers it in his ear. I’d say that counts.
So, there’s one thing. Here’s another: why did Kirk have to act like a crazy person? Most of the Enteprise crew wouldn’t have done anything differently. McCoy of all people opens the episode with his own log. He claims Kirk is a little nuts possibly due to a lack of R&R of late. Then we see a demanding Kirk order the Enterprise into the Neutral Zone. Why does he need to put on this performance? At best, it’s so McCoy’s later reaction would be authentic.
See, Spock uses the “Vulcan Death Grip” when Kirk attacks him on the Romulan ship. Spock claims self-defense. Kirk’s attack comes after Spock says Kirk’s been a little nuts lately. McCoy sees the whole thing and returns Kirk’s seemingly lifeless body to the Enterprise. Except, of course, Kirk isn’t dead. There’s no such thing as a Vulcan Death Grip. It’s just a nerve pinch that stimulates death.
So, now it’s OK to bring McCoy and Scotty (and Chapel) into the mission. Why? The only person who had to act believable about Kirk’s craziness is Spock. And Spock knew it was a lie.
Wait, I thought Vulcans couldn’t lie?
But, you know, Star Trek at this point in its history has never been a show to take too seriously. Kirk spends much of this episode disguised as a Romulan. That comes from McCoy doing some quick plastic surgery. It’s…weird. Yeah, this will be a convention going forward. It’s probably more impressive when someone in future series is surgically altered to look Klingon. Spock actually asks Kirk to get his ears fixed at the end of the episode. Spock doesn’t believe the look suits the Captain that much.
But hey, we also see the Romulan Commander in custody after she tries to stop Spock from beaming away. That she then orders her subordinates to fire on the Enterprise anyway says a lot about her. That she did it while wearing her best dress says something else.
Ultimately, this is an episode that acts as a step up after, well, “Spock’s Brain”. True, most anything is a step up from “Spock’s Brain”. I know fans and creators consider season three to be a bit on the weak side, but if it looks more like this one and less like “Spock’s Brain,” it may not be too bad. What’s up next?
Kirk lands on a planet of Native American types and becomes one of them?