The STAR TREK Top 13 Episode Countdown: #4

Enter the Romulans…

Star Trek logo

Every day between now and 9/8 — the 50th anniversary of Star Trek’s debut — we’re counting down our TOP 13 EPISODES.

For the full STAR TREK Top 13 Episode Countdown INDEX — updated daily — click here.

Now, #4


A particularly striking Juan Ortiz poster

A particularly striking Juan Ortiz poster

Balance of Terror is the polar opposite of The City on the Edge of Forever (our #5 pick, which you can read about here).

Where City is a romance with a philosophical heart, Balance of Terror is a military suspense thriller that also provides us with an enormous helping of world-building, plus some anti-racism social awareness thrown in for good measure.

Basically, what we get is a World War II drama, with a battleship (the Enterprise) playing a game of naval chess with a U-Boat (the cloaked Romulan vessel) — a scenario that played out just as brilliantly in The Wrath of Khan.


But Balance of Terror is more than a martial exercise: Star Trek Zelig Mark Lenard makes his first appearance in the series as the Romulan commander, a military man weary of battle who respects his adversary, Capt. James T. Kirk, who shows himself to be a tactical genius.

As much as I love the Klingons, I’ve long been more intrigued by the Romulans and so much of it goes back to this episode. I prefer their craftiness and inventiveness to the Klingons’ more obvious form of aggression. And of course, Balance of Terror provides us insight into the Vulcans by suggesting that the Romulans were an offshoot of Spock’s race.


In addition to all that, we get some old-school Star Trek social justice thrown in, with Paul Comi’s obnoxious Lt. Stiles trying to cast doubt on Spock’s loyalties given his physical resemblance to the treacherous Romulans.

It’s no wonder that decades of stories have their roots in this Season 1 classic. Because Balance of Terror provides so much of what you want from Star Trek.

NEXT: Space Seed. Click here.

For the full STAR TREK Top 13 Episode Countdown INDEX — updated daily with new entries and other features — click here.

Author: Dan Greenfield

Share This Post On


  1. Um, the Enterprise is really more of a Destroyer than a Battleship here. Battleships don’t hunt subs.

    Post a Reply
  2. To me, this is a marvelous homage to the Robert Mitchum classic war movie, “The Enemy Below”. A marvelous movie set during the Battle of the Atlantic with a destroyer, captained by Mitchum chasing a Uboat commanded by the great Curt Jurgens.

    Post a Reply

Leave a Reply to Dan Greenfield Cancel reply

%d bloggers like this: