**** (4 stars out of 5)
'Balance of Terror' is "Das Boot" with Romulans, or if (like Captain Mike) you've never seen that one, think "The Hunt for Red October" with Mark Lenard as Sean Connery.
I was eager to say I never tire of this one, but I did manage to bore my poor spouse with it.
"9 hours, 47 minutes motionless." says Kirk's log, and I guess that's how it seemed to her.
Trouble is a'brewin' in the Neutral Zone as Scotty gives away the bride. Angela Martine & Robert Tomlinson from phaser control are to be married by law and according to many traditions... but it is sadly not to be. After a century of isolation, the Romulans are using an invisible ship and a plasma weapon that pulverizes all it touches.
What's more upsetting; humans get their first look at their canny foe of generations past, and they look just like Vulcans! What the what?
The Romulan Commander is marvelous: he's blasting human outposts with hideous ease, and, what's more... he hates his job. Maybe he hates his precious Praetor, too. It sure sounds like it. His pal the Centurion figures strength is all the justification they need for war. "Must it always be so?" the enemy pleads.
"War is never imperative," McCoy echoes. Bones also gets a great little speech. He comforts Kirk with the thought of the vastness of a universe of billions of galaxies, each with millions of worlds "...and in all of that, and perhaps more, only one of each of us. Don't destroy the one called Kirk."
It's delivered almost in a reverent whisper, which is GOOD, because when you're playing space submarines you gotta be quiet. Vewy vewy quiet: we're hunting Womulans. I'd point out (as many have) that sound doesn't carry across a vacuum, except that IT CLEARLY DOES TODAY, BITCHES! It's part of the damned plot: The Romulans detect the loud beeping from Spock's console & that's when they strike! I don't know how. It's the FUTURE! Scanners! Muons! Tunneling anti-gravitons & graviolis! This was an era before technobabble and even treknobabble. If it happened, just shrug and invoke science. Hnn. SCIENCE.
As if the Romulans skulking about wasn't enough, Navigator Stiles has some old family bigotry that gets a chance to peek out now. "This time we'll handle things without your help, Vulcan." Stiles snarls, seconds before not handling things during the phaser coolant leak that kills poor Bob Tomlinson to death.
The Romulan Commander loses his battle of wits with Captain Kirk, and blasts his dandy new cloaking ship to smithereens and gravioli rather than be taken prisoner.
We haven't seen the last of these fan favorite villains, or even the actors who played them, since they'll soon return (still with pointy ears) as the Vulcans called Sarek & Stonn.
Should I still leave my bigotry in my quarters if they really DO all look alike?