In which the Enterprise violates a sovereign nation, Spock pretends to be Kirk, and Shatner proves his chops as an actor capable of playing a really bad actor to fool his enemies, something which will become very important in “The Wrath of Khan.”
McCoy did the opening monologue because Kirk is being an asshole lately, and McCoy thinks it’s a medical or stress problem. He’s also ordering the Enterprise into the Neutral Zone. Lest we forget, the Romulan Neutral Zone is, at its closest, a scant few light-years from Romulus. The ship is quickly surrounded by Romulans, who are using Klingon hulls. Out of universe, I believe this is because they only had one Romulan Warbird model, but that’s boring.
The Romulans and Klingons are, at this point, both superpowers opposing the Federation for the region. They also both have cloaking devices, while the Federation, which is all gung-ho for science, hasn’t figured it out yet. Clearly there’s some sort of trade going on here. It’s not that Klingons are stupid, per se, but as a society they don’t exactly honor science as their core virtue.
There’s an immediate conference call between Kirk and the sub-commander of the Romulan picket fleet, and I honestly can’t tell right now if the formal bluff oand posturing is sincere. It has the cadence of a set of call and countersigns with enough subterfuge layered on top to confuse those not in the know. It also explains why Kirk was so tetchy. It would be a really shitty mission to be given. In a conference room scene, Kirk continues to be pissy about how he ordered the Enterprise to violate the Neutral Zone.
There’s a hint here of some of the moral grey areas that are going to make some of the very best episodes of late-series Deep Space Nine. TOS is mostly very NobleBright, but occasionally you see this harder edge running through it that DS9 will pick up and sharpen, particularly during the Dominion War. Kirk orders the ship into the Neutral Zone either on secret orders or his own recognizance. Kirk orders Scott to be prepared to blow up the ship.
Hooray, I was right. Kirk gets cosmetic surgery and is going to beam aboard the Romulan ship as a centurion. Spock, meanwhile, is getting seduced by the Romulan commander. He’s smooth like butter. Aww yissss. She goes to slip into something more comfortable, and Spock and Kirk conspire on how they’re going to steal the cloaking device.
Spock gets outed and puts a clock on Kirk’s mission to steal the cloaking device, which looks suspiciously like Spock’s brain. I’m entirely uncertain how such a device could work and be modular between both a Romulan hull and the Enterprise. Scott claims that it will work if they hook it into the deflector which, we should always remember, is designed to throw microdebris away from a ship traveling at warp. This might actually be the first incident of Deflector Dishes Are Magic. In fact, I’m going to initiate a counter.
Anyway, Spock is still aboard the Romulan ship and is set to be executed for espionage. A process which is, according to the Romulan commander is “both painful and unpleasant.” Gosh, really? But luckily he gets to make a last statement, which he is going to use as filibuster while Scott gets the cloaking device installed, get the Enterprise cloaked, Spock beamed out, and away to Federation space.
This is all well and good, but it’s part of the problem between the Federation and the Romulans for years to come. The Enterprise penetrated Romulan space on a covert mission, kidnapped three Romulan crew, and stole state secrets. It’s all part of the war game, but it’s a little GrimDarker than 90% of the episodes out there. The Federation is not always on the up-and-up. Sometimes they arm primitive people to maintain parity. Sometimes the invade foreign nations and steal state secrets. It’s a fact of war.
Deflector Dishes Are Magic counter: 1