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The Enterprise Incident (TOS episode)

The Enterprise Incident (TOS episode)

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"The Enterprise Incident" is a third season episode of Star Trek: The Original Series
Star Trek: The Original Series
Star Trek is an American science fiction television series created by Gene Roddenberry, produced by Desilu Productions . Star Trek was telecast on NBC from September 8, 1966, through June 3, 1969...

, first broadcast September 27, 1968 and repeated December 27, 1968. It is episode #57, production #59, written by D.C. Fontana and directed by John Meredyth Lucas
John Meredyth Lucas
John Meredyth Lucas was an American writer, primarily for television.He was the son of screenwriter Bess Meredyth and writer/director Wilfred Lucas, and the adopted son of director Michael Curtiz.-Career:...


Overview: The crew of the Enterprise
Starship Enterprise
The Enterprise or USS Enterprise is the name of several fictional starships, some of which are the focal point for various television series and films in the Star Trek franchise created by Gene Roddenberry. It is considered a name of legacy in the fleet...

are on a secret mission to steal a Romulan
The Romulans are a fictional alien race in the Star Trek universe. First appearing in the original Star Trek series in the 1966 episode "Balance of Terror", they have since made appearances in all the main later Star Trek series: The Animated Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager...

 cloaking device
Cloaking device
Cloaking devices are advanced stealth technologies still in development that will cause objects, such as spaceships or individuals, to be partially or wholly invisible to parts of the electromagnetic spectrum...



On stardate
A stardate is a date in the fictional system of time measurement developed for Star Trek, commonly heard at the beginning of a voiceover log entry such as "Captain's log, stardate 41153.7...

 5027.3, Captain James T. Kirk
James T. Kirk
James Tiberius "Jim" Kirk is a character in the Star Trek media franchise. Kirk was first played by William Shatner as the principal lead character in the original Star Trek series. Shatner voiced Kirk in the animated Star Trek series and appeared in the first seven Star Trek movies...

 takes the USS Enterprise, without apparent authorization, into the Neutral Zone between Federation and Romulan space. Three Romulan vessels decloak and intercept the ship, and Kirk is given an order to surrender. Kirk responds by threatening to destroy the Enterprise if the Romulans attempt a boarding. He is then invited, along with Mr. Spock to a parley aboard the Romulan flagship. Kirk accepts on condition that the Romulans simultaneously transport two of their officers over as an exchange.

Once aboard the Romulan ship, Kirk and Spock are taken before a female commander who demands an explanation for their intrusion into Romulan space. Kirk explains that instrument failure caused the ship to stray off course, but Spock claims the captain ordered entry into Romulan space as an initiative born of insanity. The Romulans lead a furious Kirk, charged with espionage
Espionage or spying involves an individual obtaining information that is considered secret or confidential without the permission of the holder of the information. Espionage is inherently clandestine, lest the legitimate holder of the information change plans or take other countermeasures once it...

 and railing against the treachery of his First Officer, to the brig
A brig is a sailing vessel with two square-rigged masts. During the Age of Sail, brigs were seen as fast and manoeuvrable and were used as both naval warships and merchant vessels. They were especially popular in the 18th and early 19th centuries...

. The Romulan Commander then orders Mr. Scott to follow the Romulans back to their base but the combative Scott refuses.

In the Romulan brig, Kirk injures himself by lunging against the force field enclosing the cell door. Dr. McCoy is then summoned from the Enterprise to attend to him. With Spock in tow, the Romulan commander asks McCoy to confirm Spock's characterization of the Captain as being mentally incompetent and McCoy does so. After listening to the Doctor, the Romulan Commander orders Spock to assume command of the Enterprise, Kirk mutters words of outrage and disgust, then lunges at Spock. Spock defends himself by using the "Vulcan death grip" – understood to be a variation on the Vulcan nerve pinch
Vulcan nerve pinch
In the fictional Star Trek universe, the Vulcan nerve pinch is a technique used mainly by Vulcans to render unconsciousness by pinching a pressure point at the base of the victim’s neck...

 – on the Captain, who slumps to the floor. McCoy then declares him dead.

Alone with Spock in her quarters, the Romulan Commander continues her attempt to persuade him to her people's cause. She argues that humans show their prejudicial disregard of Vulcan talents and capabilities in failing to have placed him in command of a Starfleet ship, but that, should he switch allegiances, he will learn to enjoy the spiritual society of Romulans as her consort.

Back on the Enterprise, Kirk returns to life, emerging from a mere state of suspended animation brought on by Spock's "death grip", and orders McCoy to perform the plastic surgery necessary to give him Romulan features. With his features altered, Kirk borrows the uniform of one of the Romulan hostages and has Scotty transport him back to the Romulan vessel.

While the Romulan Commander is changing into more comfortable attire, Spock directs Kirk, via communicator, to the section of the Romulan ship where the cloaking device is located. From the bridge, Romulan Subcommander Tal discovers and tracks the signal. While Spock and the Romulan Commander commune with one another in a spiritualized erotic exploration of the other's hand and face, Tal interrupts and informs his superior of the alien transmission. Spock presents himself to the Romulan officers affirming Tal's report, but also that they are too late – Kirk has disengaged the cloaking device and returned with it to the Enterprise.

Spock takes advantage of the traditional Romulan right of statement before his conviction and eventual execution to stall for time. Simultaneously, Kirk assumes command of the Enterprise as Scotty attempts to sync the Romulan cloaking device technology to the Enterprise deflectors. Ensign Chekov
Pavel Chekov
Pavel Andreievich Chekov is a Russian Starfleet officer in the Star Trek fictional universe. Walter Koenig portrayed Chekov in the original Star Trek series and first seven Star Trek films; Anton Yelchin portrayed the character in the 2009 film Star Trek.-Origin:Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry...

 tries to distinguish between Vulcan and Romulan life signatures so that Spock can be transported back to the Enterprise. He eventually acquires a fix on Spock and begins to beam him back to the Enterprise. As Spock dematerializes, the Romulan Commander rushes to embrace him and she is beamed over with him. They materialize and are brought to the bridge of the Enterprise where Kirk gives the order to return to Federation
United Federation of Planets
The United Federation of Planets, also known as "The Federation" is a fictional interplanetary federal republic depicted in the Star Trek television series and motion pictures...

 space. The pursuing Romulans are ready to fire upon them as Scotty activates the cloak and the Enterprise vanishes before their eyes.

Kirk orders the ship to the nearest starbase
A starbase is a facility, often in space, used in science fiction works such as Star Trek, Babylon 5, and Firefly. Typically they act as drydocks, battle stations or trading outposts.- Star Trek :...

 and gallantly invites the Romulan commander to accept Mr. Spock as her escort to her new quarters. Alone with Spock in the turbolift, the Romulan acknowledges defeat and expresses her bitter disappointment at Spock's betrayal. Spock avers that, although his loyalty is to the Federation, she underestimates herself considerably if she believes he was not tempted.

Later on the bridge, Spock overhears McCoy teasingly ask the Captain whether he wishes to return to sickbay for surgery, or whether he wishes to look like his First Officer for the rest of his life. Spock urges the Captain to go, since Romulan (and by implication, Vulcan) features on humans appear distasteful to him.


D. C. Fontana
D. C. Fontana
Dorothy Catherine "D. C." Fontana is an American television script writer and story editor, best known for her work on the original Star Trek series.-Work with Gene Roddenberry:...

 based this story very loosely upon the Pueblo Incident
USS Pueblo (AGER-2)
USS Pueblo is an American ELINT and SIGINT Banner-class technical research ship which was boarded and captured by North Korean forces on January 23, 1968, in what is known as the Pueblo incident or alternatively as the Pueblo crisis or the Pueblo affair. Occurring less than a week after President...

, in which members of that Navy vessel were captured in 1968 and held several months after they allegedly strayed into North Korea
North Korea
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea , , is a country in East Asia, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Pyongyang. The Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea...

n waters.

The first draft script had Spock "raining kisses on every square inch above the shoulder" of the Romulan Commander, but this was changed, at Nimoy
Leonard Nimoy
Leonard Simon Nimoy is an American actor, film director, poet, musician and photographer. Nimoy's most famous role is that of Spock in the original Star Trek series , multiple films, television and video game sequels....

's insistence, to the more demure finger caresses. Fontana has pointed out in recent years that the "raining kisses" scene was actually an embellishment by Gene Roddenberry
Gene Roddenberry
Eugene Wesley "Gene" Roddenberry was an American television screenwriter, producer and futurist, best known for creating the American science fiction series Star Trek. Born in El Paso, Texas, Roddenberry grew up in Los Angeles, California where his father worked as a police officer...

--one of the few he applied to third season scripts—and that the original script submitted had only an embrace and kiss, with most of the passion being delivered by the Romulan commander.

Originally, both Kirk and McCoy were disguised as Romulans and went aboard the Romulan ship to steal the cloaking device. This was dropped not only due to cost concerns, but after Robert H. Justman
Robert H. Justman
Robert Harris "Bob" Justman was an American television producer, director and production manager. He worked on many television series including Lassie, The Life of Riley, Adventures of Superman, The Outer Limits, Then Came Bronson and Mission: Impossible.- Career :Bob Justman was one of the...

 pointed out that having McCoy doing plastic surgery on his own ears would have stretched believability a bit unless another actor was hired—costing more money—to perform the surgery on both Kirk and McCoy.


The D7 models for the Romulan warships are actually Klingon
Klingons are a fictional warrior race in the Star Trek universe.Klingons are recurring villains in the 1960s television show Star Trek: The Original Series, and have appeared in all five spin-off series and eight feature films...

 ships, used instead of the Romulan Bird-of-Prey model seen in the episode "Balance of Terror
Balance of terror
The phrase "balance of terror" is usually used in reference to the nuclear arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War....

". Although in production order the model was first used (as a Klingon ship) in "Elaan of Troyius", in transmission order it is first seen in this episode. It was stated in the first draft of the script that the Romulans and Klingons had an exchange of technology, where Romulans received four Klingon heavy D7 battlecruisers and the Klingons were given Romulan cloaking technology.

There have been two different explanations over the years for this apparent exchange of technology. According to one account, the show's production staff had just finished new Klingon ship models and wanted to show off Matt Jeffries' work and help boost sales on the about-to-be released model kit from AMT
Aluminum Metal Toys
Aluminum Model Toys, or AMT for short, was a Troy, Michigan based company that manufactured various pre-assembled plastic promotional models starting in 1948, when attorney West Gallogly, Sr. started it as a side business. Later, a variety of kits became very popular. Most of the company's vehicle...

. Another report - one considered most likely by Trek historians and somewhat confirmed by model master and sculptor Wah Chang
Wah Chang
Wah Ming Chang was a Chinese American designer, sculptor, and artist. He is known primarily for his sculpture and the props he designed for Star Trek , including the tricorder, and communicator...

 in a 1982 National Public Radio interview - was that the original Bird-of-Prey model was destroyed after its initial use in "Balance of Terror". According to Wah in the interview, there were some issues over payment for the model - which he had designed and built - following a complaint by one of the special effects unions over Wah's non-membership. While Wah's membership was an issue because the union refused to allow him into their guild for the simple reason that his skills were superior to most of the guild's current members, Desilu and the Star Trek
Star Trek
Star Trek is an American science fiction entertainment franchise created by Gene Roddenberry. The core of Star Trek is its six television series: The Original Series, The Animated Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise...

 production staff used his talents anyway, claiming that the props he made were already made and "bought off the shelf". However, the local guild had evidence that Wah had built the Bird-of-Prey model specifically for the show, and after some negotiation agreed to drop the grievance if Wah received no payment for the model. Desilu capitulated, and returned the model to Wah. In a fit of anger, Wah took the model into his back yard, and proceeded to bash it to bits with a sledge hammer.

40th anniversary remastering

This episode was remastered in 2006 and aired April 5, 2008 as part of the remastered Original Series. It was preceded a week earlier by the remastered "Elaan of Troyius" and followed a week later by the remastered "Obsession". Aside from remastered video and audio, and the all-CGI animation of the USS Enterprise that is standard among the revisions, specific changes to this episode also include:
  • The Romulans still use Klingon D7 battle cruisers, although CBS Digital has added the Romulan "Bird of Prey" markings to them. One D7 has been replaced with an actual Romulan Bird of Prey ship like that seen in "Balance of Terror
    Balance of terror
    The phrase "balance of terror" is usually used in reference to the nuclear arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War....

  • The cloaking effect has been revised.
  • The Romulan D7 is shown firing on a cloaked Enterprise (previously, though mentioned in dialog, the Romulan ship was not shown firing on the Enterprise after cloaking).


The actual name of the Romulan commander, and her ultimate fate, are not known for certain. At least three different explanations are given in Trek novels--The Price of the Phoenix
The Price of the Phoenix
The Price of the Phoenix by Myrna Culbreath and Sondra Marshak is an original novel based upon the 1960s television series Star Trek. It was first published by Bantam Books in 1977...

, Rihannsu#1: My Enemy, My Ally and Vulcan's Heart--(in the early days of Trek writing, many novels tended to contradict each other, and so the commander has had many different names and fates). The latest (and most popular) explanation is given in the novel Vulcan's Heart, by Josepha Sherman
Josepha Sherman
Josepha Sherman is an American author. In 1990 she won the Compton Crook Award for the novel The Shining Falcon.-Buffyverse:*Visitors *Deep Water ...

 and Susan Shwartz
Susan Shwartz
Susan Shwartz is an American author.She received her B.A. in English from Mount Holyoke College in 1972 and a Ph.D. in English from Harvard University.-Novels:* The Woman of Flowers * Byzantium's Crown...

, in which her name is given as Liviana Charvanek. Apparently, some time after the events of this episode, Charvanek was returned to Romulus (ch'Rihan) and resumed her military career.

D.C. Fontana co-wrote a sequel: "Star Trek: Year Four - The Enterprise Experiment", a graphic novel published by IDW Publishing
IDW Publishing
IDW Publishing, also known as Idea + Design Works, LLC and IDW, is an American publisher of comic books and comic strip collections. The company was founded in 1999 and has been awarded the title "Publisher of the Year Under 5% Market Share" for the years 2004, 2005 and 2006 by Diamond Comic...

 in 2008.

This episode is referenced in the video game Star Trek: Tactical Assault
Star Trek: Tactical Assault
Star Trek: Tactical Assault is a Star Trek video game for the Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable that was developed by Quicksilver Software, also the creators of Star Trek: Starfleet Command.-Single-player:...

. During a Federation mission the player's ship is equipped with the Romulan cloaking device stolen by Kirk and ordered to launch a sneak attack on a Klingon starbase.

External links