Friday, January 29, 2010

The Original Series, Season 1: The Corbomite Maneuver

The Original Series, Season One
"The Corbomite Maneuver"
Airdate: November 10, 1966
3 of 80 produced
10 of 80 aired
Click here to watch on


The Enterprise is stopped by a mysterious buoy in space. Who has left it there, and why can’t the Enterprise get away from it? When our heroes finally meet the buoy’s creators, they are placed in a precarious situation with an apparently superior foe. How will Kirk navigate this treacherous conundrum – with rationality, or with violence?
And will Balok eat our heroes? Raaahr...


Matthew: There are some wonderful things writing-wise to recommend this episode. We get a very early example of the primary goal of the franchise, with the first use in dialogue of “our mission is to seek out and contact alien life.” We get a particularly “other” type of alien, one who is totally mysterious until the very end of the show. Kirk is conspicuously merciful at the end towards Balok’s damaged ship, which is also in keeping with the best Trek ideals.

Kevin: I agree completely here. This is a quintessential Star Trek story. The idea of showing restraint against an enemy that had already shown itself to be hostile is not only a recurring theme in the franchise, it had to be downright shocking to an audience steeped in the Cold War and Vietnam.

Matthew: Character moments also abound in this episode. We are introduced to Dr. McCoy (at least in production order) and he gets some wonderful, juicy scenes. Both in terms of comedy and character development. His interactions with Kirk are gems, both his almost paternal care, his friendly joshing, and his willingness to challenge Kirk when he feels he’s gone off the deep end just a bit.

Kevin: It's always easy to forget watching them in airing order just how out of production order they were. There have been a few times over the episodes we've review where I've caught myself thinking that characterizations were backsliding, and I realized that it was the reverse order showing an actor more than less comfortable with their role. It's a credit to the writers and the DeForest Kelley that the character is immediately established and entertaining.

Matthew: On the other hand, the pacing is rather sluggish in this episode. The space buoy scene goes on way too long, and it would have been nice to cut to the chase. Which also goes on too long.


Matthew: DeForrest Kelly really knocks it out of the park in his first turn at McCoy. He is funny, irascible, charming, and prickly, all at once. They couldn’t have cast the role more perfectly, and it’s a joy to see him at the top of his form, before he got a bit older in the movies.

Kevin: As I said above, it was really great to see them hit the ground running with such a fundamental character.

Matthew: Less successful is Anthony Call as Lieutenant Bailey. He flips out adequately, sure, but he was a bit too zonked out to be convincing as someone Kirk would even think of promoting. The performance could have used a lot more nuance.

Kevin: I think if they are arced the freak out a little more shallowly, it would have worked better. I like how he volunteers to stay behind and Kirk acknowledging that their mistakes are one of the most informative things about them was a really nice scene and very in keeping with Kirk's command style.

Matthew: 7-year old Clint Howard guest stars as Balok in this episode – and I must say, he does a pretty good job. His voice is dubbed, but he enunciates all his lines and it’s clear that this was a pretty smart kid. Howard also portrayed a Ferengi in the notorious Enterprise episode, and crazy homeless guy in a DS9 time travel yarn. Also, he is Ron Howard’s brother. I guess we see who got all the “looks” in that family...

Kevin: Seriously, that little kid freaked me out, but his ability to actually enunciate the words and apparently engage the actors is certainly to his credit. If anyone is looking for a laugh, go find a copy of the Comedy Central roast of William Shatner. Clint Howard makes a guest appearance as an adult (and tranya addicted) Balok.

Production Values

Matthew: There are tons of extras in this episode. Literally! If you add all their weights up, I’m sure you’d be at 2 tons easily. They really add to the corridor scenes, making the ship feel real. It’s too bad that budgets would cut their numbers down. Uhura looks really rough both in makeup and costume. She also looks bored or tired in most of her scenes. I found myself longing for sassy red-uniformed and soft-lit Uhura. I found the alien ship design really interesting, one of the few truly alien-looking designs that wasn’t just a blob of light in the original effects. The remastered effects went even further in making this a fascinating ship.

Kevin: While I agree that the "amorphous blob of light" ships are annoying, most of the time, I liked this one pretty well. The defined edges and different colors made it more credible and more alien. I looked up the pictures of the remastered Fesarius and they are astonishing. Even in their unremastered form, the ship was still a nice change of pace for both Star Trek and science fiction of the day.

Matthew: Crew uniforms are still not refined to their final states. The collars look pretty awful, and very non-futuristic looking zippers break the illusion in several spots.


Matthew: This was a real tough one for me to call. Many of the writing elements are very strong, and would stand the franchise in good stead for their having been introduced here. On the other hand, the somnambulant pacing almost derailed it for me. Still, as I watched the character interplay, I simply couldn’t label this a 3. It rises above just enough to eke out a 4 from me.

Kevin: I am going to give this one a high three. It doesn't quite get to a four for me. The story is very Star Trek, and DeForest Kelley was a lovely addition to an already good cast. That being said, the pacing problems were big enough for me to keep it out of four territory. That gives it a 7. I am pretty happy with that, because truth be told, if I had to rank it myself on a 10 point scale, I would give it a 7.

1 comment:

  1. I /was/ a bit taken aback by Kirk's announcement that he was captain of "the United Earth ship enterprise." Apparently this was in the "STAR TREK universe" in which there was a space between "First Contact" (when the Vulcans landed on Earth) and 'confederation'---will have to dig through the fan-fiction/canon to see how that happened ... or maybe JarJar Abrams needs to build movie around THAT.