Captain's Blog pt. 92: The Enterprise Incident

September 27, 1968
Title (2) Purposefully recalls "The Pueblo Incident," an event that seems to have slipped from collective memory.

Story and Theme (8.5 / 8.5) Probably the most (successfully, anyway) serious-minded Season 3 episode there is. That it aired a week after "Spock's Brain" always makes me chuckle.

The episode begins with the Captain behaving irrationally, taking the ship into the Romulan Neutral Zone where it is quickly captured. Ergo:

Hell, you know the plot. It's a fun one. The script is one of the series' strongest, which should come as no surprise given its author:

Most of my favorite bits I'll cover in Kirk and the Gang, but good (and great) moments abound in practically every scene.

Scotty gets a little too excited to strip one of the Romulans for Kirk's uniform.

Visual Design (3) The hallmark visual image of this show is Kirk as a Romulan.

But the costumes and set design deserve equal praise. Everything we see inside of the Romulan ship is only the Enterprise set, of course, just lit differently. But it matches the costume design so well - quite a beautiful episode to look at.

Lots and lots of purples, a color associated with Rome, so it's only appropriate.
This also showcases the amazing costume design. All hail William Ware Theiss.

Kirk and the Gang (40) As you've likely noticed by now, I am powerless before any episode that has any significant level of Shatner insanity. This one is another best of all possible worlds scenario, as the story is strong and there's a rationale for the lengths Shatner goes to as a performer.

The funny thing is, if Romulan Intelligence is worth its salt at all, it could be forgiven for not thinking anything was out of the ordinary with such theatrics.

Shatner contorts his face so much that screencapping often provides me with a lot of funny facial expressions I don't always use. But directly prior to the above scene, he makes such a deliberately odd face:

It really stands out; watch for it next time, if you've never seen it.

"Let her rant! There's nothing to say!" (Best soundbite ever.)

Once Kirk is surgically disguised as a Romulan, he gives a scenery-chewing master class, but I'll include only my two favorites:

"Over there!"

And this fight scene he gets in before unscrewing (!) the cloaking device is just fantastic. One unbroken shot, as he maneuvers the guard into position, knocks him unconscious with an improbable kick, then goes right back to business.

It's better seen than screencapped, but I couldn't resist.
Shatner's sudden head turns should be so much more widely discussed than they are.

Guest (4.5) Easily the most bad-ass female guest star of TOS:

Joanne Linville as the unnamed Romulan Commander
Well, bad-ass to me, anyway. The episode's writer, DC Fontana, thinks she was watered down from her original script. I'm sure she was, and Fontana has all my sympathies, but Linville exudes a coolness and sophistication that has always stayed with me. Actually, she reminds me more than a little of Janeway, which makes me wonder if the Voyager writers had this episode in mind when creating her. If so, it's never been mentioned, to my knowledge. Maybe it's just a similarity of their command position and the way they speak. Or maybe it's just me.

And Jack Donner as Tal. Donner is, along with a horde of Trek alumni from all the different series, currently filming Unbelievable! a title which officially has five or six exclamation points, but I'm not playing along.
Internal Logistics (2) There are some minor quibbles I could make here, but DC Fontana covers most of them below. David Mack adds: "The Romulan Commander’s claim that it would take three weeks for a subspace message from the Enterprise to reach Starfleet Command seemed unlikely to me, but I assumed this to be yet another example of how things in Star Trek always move 'at the speed of plot.'"

Mack addresses a few other things worth noting, particularly the compatibility of the alien technology with the Enterprise. ("Just a few wee turns of the Philips Head and we'll be Casper in no time 'tall," says Scotty, at least in my imagination.) The whole thing's probably worth quoting; Dayton Ward's (which precedes it) less so.

Memorability (3) Fontana remarked, "Overall it was not a bad episode, but let's face it, the romantic scene between the Romulan Commander and Spock was totally out of context. Any Romulan worth her salt would have instantly suspected Spock because they are related races. That was wrong. Kirk's attitudes were wrong. A simple thing–the cloaking device was supposed to be a very small thing, about the size of a watch, for instance, and it could be easily hidden. Here's Kirk running around with this thing that looks like a lamp. You know, highly visible. This is stupidity as well as illogical thinking."

Fair points, that last one especially. A great deal of the satisfaction I get from this story, though, is the Spock and Romulan Commander side of it. 

Maybe she should have sussed out his ulterior motives and subterfuge quicker, but even the most discriminating intellect has a lapse in judgment now and again. Most of the George Smiley stories, for example, (arguably the most critically acclaimed of the genre) involve a failed seduction/ complete snowjob among otherwise seductive, savvy individuals, trained to be on alert for such things.


And the moments at episode's end are nice, as well, as they serve to re-establish the Romulan Commander's reputation. It's a nice moment. She's angry at herself for having been fooled but also sincerely admires the cunning of her adversary.

Poor Christine.
Total Points Awarded: 71.5


  1. I have to out myself as one of those people who has no knowledge of the Pueblo Incident. I had no idea those dadgum North Koreans had one of our ships! Maybe Dennis Rodman can get it back for us.

    When the Mission Log podcast did their episode about "The Enterprise Incident," much merriment was made over the title. It was of the "Hey, remember that ONE TIME something happened on the Enterprise...?" variety, which is certainly low-hanging fruit; but it sort of pointed out to me that the title sort of didn't make any sense. Well, NOW I get it; knowing that it was likely a reference to a then-notorious real-life incident adds another layer to an episode I already liked plenty.

    Boy, are those some great Shatner-caps. I mean, that's usually the case; but here, they're even better than usual. Wow.

    The whole Romulan-commander-has-the-hots-for-Spock thing strikes me as being mostly logical. The Romulans are said to be a fiery, passionate lot, so it stands to reason that Romulan ladies would probably be hot to trot more often than not (as lovely a phrase as any I've got...). Combine this with the likelihood that Romulans are just BOUND to fetishize Vulcans -- with whom they are biologically compatible, yet from whom they are entirely remote (therefore creating an automatic aura of mystery and unattainability) -- and what you come up with is the likely fact that a Romulan woman would probably sell her three best friends into slavery for the opportunity to seduce a Vulcan. If I may reference "The Rage: Carrie 2," that gets you ALL the points in the scorebook.

    I'm a bit less taken with the idea that the Commander is so easily duped. But then again, Spock is a wily fellow, and she would have no reason to believe that he was being disingenuous. It works for me.

    And she really DOES sound like Kate Mulgrew. I'd never thought of that, but it's totally true.

    1. I'm both surprised and completely unsurprised to discover the Mission Log guys didn't bring up the Pueblo Incident. If they didn't, of course. Ah well - these episodes are bottomless wells. Can't catch everything!

    2. They might have. Much as I enjoy that podcast (and I do), I typically listen to it with only about half a brain.

  2. Definitely one of the best scripts of the entire series and may be the best episode of the third season.

    The Romulan-Vulcan romance worked for me as well. Acting it had to be the highlight of what was otherwise a miserable third season for Leonard Nimoy.

    1. I'd second that nomination for season-best status.

  3. Great spot about the Romulan Commander and Janeway. An unbelievable performance by Joanne Linville, and the chemistry between her character and that of Spock is as hot as Kirk and Spock's phasers after the Organians have eventually intervened in 'Errand of Mercy'.

    1. The sheer amount of fanfic involving those two and pon farr must be staggering.

    2. I'm always a fan of Star Trek similes like that one, nice. (as hot as Kirk and Spock's phasers...) Other favorites include, when something is fairly obvious: "Even a blind Denevan bat could see that!"

      Which I actually had corrected on me once. ("You know, the bats weren't native to Deneva...") And of course, this person was correct, if, perhaps a tad overzealous in his pursuit of keeping the record straight.

    3. If you like Trek-flavored innuendo, then boy have I got a video for you:


      Probably not NSFW.

    4. Ha! Yes, not NSFW but I had to watch anyway. That's hilarious. I hadn't seen that before.

  4. Love those replies. Trek-flavoured innuendos and Trek similes-this blog has it all :) I am a new fan.