My favorite TOS episode, The Enterprise Incident is remarkable for several reasons. One is that the dynamic between Kirk and Spock is just perfect: these guys really are the world’s finest team, even when they reverse roles, with Kirk playing the brains of the duo and Spock playing the ladies’ man.
Second, this episode is unusual for Star Trek in that the heroes are acting rather than reacting. Typically it’s “we are charting a gaseous anomaly and then a thing happens and we have to deal with it.” No. In TEI, they go on a mission to bust up the Romulans and steal their stuff.
Third, of course is this:
A friend of mine emailed me his reaction to this episode:
think I may have had the VHS episode of that as a kid. I went back and re-watched it. Very good episode for Season 3. What struck me particularly was how every single one of the Romulans' actions was entirely reasonable, defensible, and humane. If anything, the Romulans are too naive and trusting. It was like a role-reversal of Data's Day. They try to make the Romulan commander out to be this femme fatale, but there's nothing at all treacherous about her. Consider:
- A federation ship crosses into Romulan space for no apparent reason. They do not treat it as an act of war, but open hailing frequencies to negotiate and discuss.
- When Kirk and Spock beam aboard the Romulan vessels, the Romulan ship sends two of its own officers as exchange hostages. I saw no reason for them to do this other than to foster trust.
- When Kirk has his little psychotic episode aboard the Romulan ship, they not only allow him to have medical treatment, but they allow Kirk's own doctor from Kirk's own ship to come aboard and treat him.
- Presumably, the Romulans had their shields down to allow all the transporter beaming that happened in this episode.
- The Romulans only held Captain Kirk responsible for the incursion into their space and made it clear that the rest of the crew would be released.
- After the Enterprise returns to Federation space, the Romulans make no attempt to retaliate.
- The Romulan commander appears to have harbored genuine feelings for Spock. She was hurt by his betrayal and since she had no way of knowing in advance that the Enterprise was coming, this couldn't have been some plot on her part to ensnare Spock.
- The Enterprise had entered Romulan space in violation of the treaty to engage in a brazen espionage mission. Romulan suspicions of Kirk's motives were entirely correct. The commander says "if a Romulan ship entered Federation space without good explanation, what would a starbase commander do?" An entirely valid question. Her first officer says "but it is you who violated our territory. Should it not be we who distrust your motives?" Again, an entirely valid question.
- Spock lied to the Romulans, violating his own ethical precepts against doing so in order to further a treaty-violating espionage mission.
- The Federation sent the Enterprise into Romulan space to steal technology from the Romulans that the Federation promised by treaty not to develop.
- It is the crew of the Enterprise, not the Romulans, who threaten to blow up their ship to prevent its capture.
- Kirk was willing to risk the lives of 400+ members of his ship's crew to engage on this very illegal and treacherous espionage mission. The Romulans had no interest in killing the crew of the Enterprise; their own captain was a bigger threat to their safety than the Romulans were.
Picard would be appalled. It's no wonder that the Romulans in the TNG era don't trust the Federation.