D.C. Fontana’s initial inspo for this story/title was the Pueblo incident which involved the capture of an American intelligence-gathering ship, the USS Pueblo (AGER-2), by North Korean forces during the Vietnam War. North Korea claimed, w/o evidence, the ship had violated its territorial waters. The incident occurred on January 23, 1968, just two mos. before Fontana completed her first draft story outline. Although the crew was released after nearly a year, North Korea still maintains possession of the vessel as a “war trophy.”
This smart, tense, and dramatic ep has some romance- something not often done well in Star Trek series. As w/ shows like The West Wing and Law and Order, the characters’ personal lives (love) take a backseat to their work (duty). It begins w/ Dr. McCoy recording his medical log (something we’ve never heard before). He explains that Capt. Kirk has been acting unlike his usual self these past few weeks. In the next scene, we see Kirk snapping at officers on the bridge. Kirk decides to fly into the Neutral Zone, which threatens the cease-fire between the Romulans and the Federation. The Enterprise is quickly surrounded by three ships. Why were Klingon ships used in this ep instead of Romulan ones? The Romulan Warbird model was accidentally broken by a PA.
Lt. Uhura says there is a call from one of the ships. Subcommander Tal (Jack Donner) somehow knows exactly which Federation ship this is and who is in charge. Tal declares that they surrender or be destroyed. Kirk retorts that if the Romulans board, he’ll blow up his own ship! Tal notices that Mr. Spock is a Vulcan; he then takes a call from his commander. Tal gives Kirk one hour to decide what to do w/ communication channels left open. Kirk had Uhura send a sub-space message to the Federation, but Tal knows that will take 3 weeks. Wow, they must really be far out in space!
The senior officers meet in the conference room. Spock figures that the Romulan ships are equipped w/ a “cloaking device” (which made them undetectable to sensors). However, Spock says they wouldn’t be in this situation if Kirk hadn’t ordered it! McCoy is shocked and angered; w/o orders directly from Starfleet, Kirk had “no right” to enter the Neutral Zone. Kirk yells at McCoy to get out- another unusual display. Tal calls again, saying that his commander wants to meet w/ Kirk and Spock in person. While they are away on the Romulan flagship, two of the centurions will stay on the Enterprise.
Capt. Kirk: What earns Spock your special interest?
Romulan Commander: He is a Vulcan. Our forebears had the same roots and origins. Something you wouldn’t understand, Captain. We can appreciate the Vulcans, our distant brothers.
It turns out that the Romulan Commander (Joanne Linville) is a woman; both Kirk and Spock are surprised by this revelation! She speaks first to Kirk, who says that his ship made “a navigational error” (which she doesn’t believe). Then she calls Spock in, who she knows (as a Vulcan) “can’t tell a lie.” We see that she is interested in Spock; he may be somewhat intrigued. It looks like Spock has betrayed his captain to the enemy- whoa! Two guards take Kirk away, but not before Shatner does some scenery-chewing dramatics.
When they are alone, the Romulan Commander praises Spock and wonders why someone as “capable” as him doesn’t command his own starship. Nimoy has his arms folded, yet is listening intently as if he might consider her ideas. Meanwhile, Kirk attempts to escape his cell, he is zapped by some lasers. McCoy is called to attend to his injuries right away.
Romulan Commander: I neglected to mention. I’ll expect you for dinner. We have much to discuss.
Romulan Commander: Allow me to… to rephrase. Will you join me for dinner?
Spock: I am honored, Commander. Are the guards also invited?
They go to Kirk’s cell where McCoy explains that he is “unfit” (at the moment) to be in command of the Enterprise. The commander and Spock discuss what should be done next for “the safety of the crew.” Kirk (seething w/ rage) suddenly attacks Spock, who grabs his face and applies “the Vulcan death grip” (not real, but Romulans don’t know that). McCoy declares that Kirk is dead! We soon realize that Kirk has his own plans (while Spock is on his dinner date).
Romulan Commander: Romulan women are not like Vulcan females. We’re not dedicated to… pure logic, and the sterility of non-emotion. Our people are warriors. Often savage. But we are also many other pleasant things.
After this flirtatious speech, Spock leans back on the lounge- closer to the commander. Spock has some good lines, which Nimoy delivers in a dry, suave manner befitting a Vulcan. Cunning, smart, and tough, this female seems like the perfect match for Spock. I loved her off-the-shoulder dress (second outfit); the pattern on it even matched her statement earrings. In the original script, the characters were supposed to kiss, but Nimoy and Linville came up w/ a (creative) alternative. They had some amazing chemistry, too. What about this line? It’s ambiguous, just as we’d expect from Spock!
Spock: [to the Romulan commander] Military secrets are the most fleeting of all. I hope that you and I… exchanged something more permanent.
There are several plot holes in the ep, which you may notice on the second viewing. Transporter beams can’t penetrate shields, but Kirk is able to beam to the Romulan flagship and back again. So, the Enterprise and the Romulan warships had their shields down the entire time. After the Romulan commander leaves Spock alone, he pulls out his communicator to contact Kirk. It makes no sense that she would’ve allowed him to keep this (as a non-Romulan). In order for Kirk’s plan to work, he would’ve had to have prior knowledge that the Romulan Commander was female, would take an interest in Spock’s Vulcan heritage, and have romantic attraction to Spock, so that he could go through w/ the whole charade of Spock being a “traitor.” Otherwise, he would have just been winging it. He was lucky that everything worked out in the end!