The Corbomite Maneuver (TOS) Review

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The episode starts with the Enterprise encountering an unknown object – a spinning colourful cube that blocks their path. On the bridge, in addition Spock, Sulu, and Uhura, is Lieutenant Bailey. Bailey is shown to be very green and is less prepared to deal with the stresses of the unknown than the other characters. He provides an excellent counterpoint to the calmness displayed by the others.

Raising my voice back there doesn’t mean I was scared or couldn’t do my job. It means I happen to have a human thing called an adrenaline gland.

Hmm. It does sound most inconvenient, however. Have you considered having it removed?

Very funny.

You try to cross brains with Spock, he’ll cut you to pieces every time.

Bailey, Spock and Sulu. (Star Trek: The Original Series: The Corbomite Maneuver)

Spock is my favourite character from TOS and it is moments like this that are the reason why.

Kirk, who has been in sickbay for his physical, comes up to the bridge. The department heads report to Kirk. The cube doesn’t respond to attempts at communication and the crew can’t identify what its power source is or how it operates.

Bailey is in favour of simply firing on the cube. If it was the Borg that would be the right call but it is not that type of cube and Kirk wounderfully responds with.

I’ll keep that in mind, Mr. Bailey, when this becomes a democracy.

Kirk (Star Trek: The Original Series: The Corbomite Maneuver)

This is the first episode of the series that feels Star Treky (if I can use that word) they are encountering the unknown and it has no connection to Earth in any way. Technically Miri would be the same but that world was a duplicate of Earth – for some reason.

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We flash forward by eighteen hours. During this time the crew has been trying further analysis of the probe. Spock’s conclusion is that it is either a buoy or fly paper.

Photo by Thierry Fillieul from Pexels

Fly paper seems rather anachronistic, especially for Spock, but that is just nitpicking. The point is well taken though that they are being held in this place for some reason. Kirk decides it is time for action. Rather than opening fire, as Bailey assumes, he intends to pull away from it.

The Enterprise is unable to pull away and Kirk is forced to order the destruction of the cube.

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Kirk and McCoy share a drink, in the former’s quarters, while discussing the morale of the crew. Meanwhile Spock is leading battle drills as the crew was rather sluggish with responding to the threat of the cube.

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Yeoman Rand comes in with Kirk’s lunch, salad on McCoy’s orders, and Kirk expresses discontent at having a female Yeoman – which is odd considering we never see a male yeoman. For Star Trek’s frequent protestations of equality it does have a lot of problematic elements.

Kirk is soon summoned back to the bridge as the Enterprise comes into contact with the spherical Fesarius. First a cube and now a sphere – in hindsight it is hard not to think of the Borg isn’t it?

The Fesarius looks gorgeous in the remastering. They did an excellent job of updating the effects while maintaining the asphetics of the 1960s.

Reading goes of my scale, Captain. Must be a mile in diameter.

Spock (Star Trek: The Original Series: The Corbomite Maneuver)

A rather odd statement considering the Enterprise scans planets almost every week.

Everyone is mesmerised by the ship. So much so that Sulu has to operate Baliey’s console for him when Kirk orders reduced magnification.

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Kirk opens communications and the Enterprise receives a response from Commander Balok – accusing the crew of trespassing – and declaring the crew savage – this happens a lot in Star Trek!

He also says that for this the ship will be destroyed – this happens a lot too – aliens in Trek are very judgemental.

McCoy comes up to the bridge and informs Kirk that the message was heard all over the ship. Kirk tries to reassure his crew – it doesn’t work on Bailey who loses it – if he ever had it.

Incidentally this is one of the only pictures that came up when I searched for crazy. So Bailey is relieved of duty.

Kirk tries again to explain the Enterprise’s actions, in destroying the probe, were simply for self preservation. Balok continues the countdown.

Kirk hits on the idea of bluffing their adversary. He says that the Enterprise contains a substance called ‘corbomite’ and that if Balok makes good on his threat his ship too will be destroyed.

Baliey returns to the bridge and resumes his post – just in time for Sulu’s ten second countdown. Balok doesn’t fire.

Kirk’s bluff has worked, after a fashion, Balok asks for proof of the Corbomite device – which Kirk has to deny of course.

A small ship emerges from the Fesarius and begins towing the Enterprise. Now the First Federation plans to maroon the crew on one of their planets and destroy the Enterprise.

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Kirk gambles that the tractor beam must be a big strain on a ship so small. He give orders to pull away from the small ship. The plan works and the Enterprise breaks free of the small ship. Balock sends a distress signal that is too weak for the flag ship to have received – Kirk decides to render aid.

This action is why I feel this episode is very Star Trek after all that has happened Kirk is still prepared to help out a potential enemy.

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that this behaviour is also typical of the military as we know it. When the Bismark was sunk in World War 2 the survivors were rescued by the Royal Navy.

I have tried to find a specific clip of this to put here but have been unsuccessful. I am now starting to wonder if I imagined it! The clip was a news reel from the time. It talks about the rescue of the enemy sailors and says something about the public questioning why we would help enemies – and concludes with the 1940s equivalent of ‘That’s not how we roll in the Royal Navy’ – it is a concept I have heard before that once the ship is no longer a threat the crew should be rescued – they have served their country and that demands respect.

That was rather long winded way of saying something rather simple… Star Trek often talks about humans being better than today… but it seems to ignore the good qualities we have already and seems to exaggerate how bad we are now and how good they are.

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So Kirk leads a landing party over to the ship. On arrival they see a dummy – it is this that they have been communicating with. Then we meet the real Balok – he appears to be a child (Clint Howard was only 7 when he played the part) but presumably that is just a human perception of an alien.

Balok welcomes them and offers them a drink. He explains that this has all been a test to see how they react to threats and to someone in need. He asks for someone to stay with him for company and an exchange of information. Baliey volunteers for that and the episode ends with the landing party being taken on a tour of Balok’s ship.

This is the best episode of the series so far. It has many of the elements that make Trek the show it is. It is just a shame we never hear of the First Federation again. It makes me wonder what they were up to during the Dominion War and, in general, beyond this episode.

My only criticism is that we don’t get to find out more. It would have been nice to have trimmed down the testing portion of the story and spent a bit of time learning about Balok’s people. Still what we got is a most enjoyable episode.

I just wanted to say that I have checked this post. I really have. Unfortunately my particular combination of dyslexia and dyspraxia makes it really hard for me to spot typos. Please enjoy and I’ll try not to make too many errors.

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