Misguided and Prejudiced, TOS: S1E14 “Balance of Terror”

Seeking out new life and new civilizations is not always a walk in the park.  In this Cold War-style episode, the Federation gets to see the mysterious Romulan race for the first time.  The story opens with a wedding ceremony between two minor Enterprise crew members, a celebration of unity and mutual trust, but the festivities are suddenly interrupted by the alarm.  Outpost 4, near the Romulan Neutral Zone, has come under attack, marking the first violent incident since the Zone was established after the Earth-Romulan War ended one hundred years ago.  Kirk and his crew are tasked with preventing another scourge…by any means necessary.

The Romulans seemingly attacked and destroyed the outpost with no provocation.  However, when we meet them for the first time, they don’t seem to be a ruthless warrior race similar to Klingons, but instead they come off as elegant, even poetic.  Both ships engage in cunning deceptions, with Kirk finally luring the Romulan ship toward him by pretending to be badly damaged by a hidden explosive.  In the end, both captains acknowledged that they were of similar cunning and bravery, but the themes of this episode are misinformation and mistrust.

When the Romulans are revealed on screen for the first time, their similarity in appearance to Mr. Spock quickly evokes a prejudice in Lt. Stiles…toward the Vulcan.  His bias manifests as a fatal error, when he refuses to let Spock help at a critical moment, killing the man who was to be married that morning.

In a similar bind, Captain Kirk was cut off from communication with the Federation, and desperately wanted to know if he was making the right choices.  Spock informs Kirk that he expects the Romulans to be ruthless in battle, based on information which could be hundreds of years out of date.  In the end, Kirk’s superiors reiterated that he should do what he thinks is best, but perhaps with even the slightest opposing advice, the outcome of the battle would have been different.  Both crew’s actions, fogged by a lens of prejudice and fear of the unknown, caused the very destruction they were hoping to prevent.


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