by Mark Altman
It’s certainly an established fact that the third season of Star Trek was a relative disaster (which still makes it light years better than most subsequent Trek series) with a new Executive Producer at the helm, Fred Frieberger, budget slashing at Desilu and a lousy new Friday night timeslot on NBC. That said, there are still a few pleasures to be mined from the lackluster year, including the minimalist theatrics of The Empath, the surreally cornball but moody Spectre of the Gun, the swashbuckling sadism of Day of the Dove and, most notably, the Cold War machinations of The Enterprise Incident.
Although the espionage story in which the Enterprise is covertly dispatched to steal a Romulan cloaking device is dealt with only superficially, the real juice is Shatner’s over-the-top histrionics as he apes being an unhinged commander in an attempt to convince the Romulans he’s gone cuckoo for Coca-Puffs. It’s a perfect storyline for Shatner, who milks being coming completely unglued for all it’s worth, no more memorably than when he gets iced with the steely Vulcan death grip by Mr. Spock. Psyche! There is no such thing as a Vulcan death grip, sucker. Kirk manages to steal the Cloaking Device from under the noses of two moronic guards and it culminates with some genuine suspense as to whether or not Scotty can get the device online before the Romulans close in for the kill.
Less effective, despite a terrific performance from guest star Joanne Linville, is the romance subplot which always sets female Mr. Spock fans hearts aflutter since it’s clear, his subterfuge was not a complete act (unlike in This Side of Paradise where the spores force him to go all horizontal on Jill Ireland). I believe some fan fic in the 70s even contemplated that Spock had fathered a child in this episode and it was even briefly considered as an explanation for Saavik being half-Vulcan/half-Romulan. That said, Sixties sexism rears its ugly head when we realize how surprised everyone is that the Romulans are being captained by, gasp, a woman. Not to mention how quickly she’s willing to forsake her obligations as a leader to get into Mr. Spock’s pants. Of course, stranger things have happened in real life, so maybe it’s not so goofy after all. That said, Nimoy’s subtle performance as well as Linville’s credible turn as the Romulan Commander help sell it despite the relative hokeyness of the premise.
Ultimately though, Enterprise Incident remains a fun romp with a memorably bombastic score and a great macguffin in the form of the Cloaking Device which turns starships invisible (yet another prescient invention of the original show foreshadowing stealth technology two decades before it was implemented in real life). Even the ham-handed explanation of the Klingon-Romulan alliance which only existed to explain the use of stock footage of Klingon ships, instead of Romulans, in the original episode, spawned decades worth of fan speculation, and later some great episodes of Deep Space Nine.
As for Enterprise Incident 2.0, like virtually all recent episodes of the remastered project it’s a mixed bag. Lacking any matte shots, which have all been superlatively realized from day one, the starship visuals are problematic. Stock flybys are adequate including an effective boom down on the primary hull, but lack the metallic sheen of the original miniatures. The new shots of the Enterprise being surrounded by two Klingon D-7 cruisers, emblazoned with the Romulan Star Empire insignia, and a Romulan Bird of Prey, are better in conception than execution. The Enterprise looks particularly badly rendered and fake, when surrounded by the troika of three ships, and the D-7’s don’t come close to looking as good as the K’t’inga Klingon miniatures in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. That said, for the most part the scenes are all well storyboarded and shot, often following the original composition, despite only appearing marginally credible. The actual cloaking of the Enterprise is handled adeptly although the overall visual effects for the episode remain maddeningly inconsistent. With only a few episodes remaining, I continue to be frustrated by the many missed opportunities and often sloppy rendering being performed on these episodes which are likely to supplant the original versions in both syndication and on DVD.
Mark A. Altman is writer/producer of the Star Trek homage, Free Enterprise, as well as numerous other feature films and telefilms.
by Matt Wright
by Matt Wright