This is a favorite episode for me; perhaps because it is one of the first episodes I bought on video tape with allowance money I had saved up.
You don’t see “The Corbomite Maneuver” brought up a lot as a top and/or favorite episode. “The Trouble with Tribbles” and “The City on the Edge of Forever” inevitably come up. However, if you bring up “The Corbomite Maneuver” it seems a lot of people seem like it, it just doesn’t necessarily come to mind when top episode lists are made.
“The Corbomite Maneuver” has some interesting interactions between the crew and probably the largest starship ever to be shown during TOS.
As a child, Ted Cassidy’s voice, along with the creepy cat eyed alien puppet, both scared and intrigued me. Cassidy would give me the heebie-jeebies again a few episodes later, in person this time, as the intimidating android Ruk in “What are Little Girls Made Of?”
This episode was the first to be filmed when the series was picked up. In-universe, this makes it sometime after “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” obviously some time has passed — crew members have come and gone and the Enterprise has been refit with new warp engines, deflector dish, and a new bridge module.
Along with the ship upgrades, is also a new mix of crew member: Uhura is relatively new, Rand appears to be brand new, and Sulu’s promotion to helmsman is recent as well. Kirk and McCoy are already quite comfortable and casual with one another; McCoy is rather candid about Kirk’s actions with Bailey, and even gives Kirk a little friendly jab under the guise of psychology.
Kirk’s mettle really shines in the episode; the name of the episode is titled after his famous bluff of the obviously superior force. He would use it again to get out of trouble with the Romulans in the second season.
McCoy, Kirk, and Lt. Bailey go exploring
We’re reminded that not every young officer is perfect, newly promoted Lieutenant Dave Bailey is being pushed hard and he flips out as the time to their destruction ticks away, can you blame him? A very large starship is sitting directly in front of your ship, there is a creepy alien on the viewscreen, and there doesn’t seem to be a way out. This reminds us that people in TOS aren’t perfect and new bridge officers often have an adjustment to make in the face of real stress (*cough* Wesley Crusher).
While the cast interaction has mostly found the formula we will come to know and love, Spock is still a bit out of character; he makes a rather caustic comment to Bailey about getting his adrenal gland removed.
Production wise there are still some rough edges. The odd height collars on some of the uniform shirts soon disappear. Some very obvious zippers on the collars and even a few collars not fully zipped up make it into the episode. The bridge is lit differently then it would be in the later episodes. There is a lot of emphasis on the lighting over the top of the workstations which flood colored light down. The lighting scheme used in this episode also brings out a shininess in the actors skin. Thankfully, this will change after the next episode produced (Mudd’s Women). Lastly, Spock is still being shot significantly different than the rest of the crew. He gets odd angles that shoot upward or slightly askew. We get it, he’s an alien… move on. Again, after “Mudd’s Women” this mostly stops.
Spock with high collar and shot from slightly below
The CBS Digital team has really hit their stride with this episode. In an early interview with the CBS team Mike Okuda said he really liked the work they were doing on “The Corbomite Maneuver,” I can see why. The new CG shots add up to around 6 ½ minutes. This is quite a bit more then most other episodes.
The new CG is awe inspiring. The detail on the Fesarius as it dwarfs the Enterprise is incredible. The CBS Digital team made a good call and kept the overall design esthetics but made it look like an actual ship, the round Christmas bulbs of the old model are now geodesic domes interconnected by machinery and docking clamps, etc.
Dwarfed by the Fesarius
The team also paid attention to the light the objects in this episode emit. The buoy’s spinning colors are reflected on the Enterprise’s hull, likewise the giant yellow-orange Fesarius washes the tiny Enterprise in light. It feels like what they would have wanted to do in the 1960s if they could have. Remember TOS was touted by NBC as a reason to buy a new color TV set. So the proper lighting from the spinning cube and the wash from the Fesarius is perfect. It would sure make me want a color TV if I were watching Star Trek on an old black and white set. Sort of like how we all want to have the remastered episodes in their full high definition glory, who knows it might help sell an HDTV or two …are you listening CBS?
The CBS Digital team has gone above and beyond their initial mission of simply recreating the space shots in CG. There are two new shots that have no equivalent in the original episode which is just fine with me as the shots that these replace in the original were simply recycled shots. The first is a shot of the buoy sitting in the Enterprise’s path as seen over the saucer section, the second is a wonderful starboard flank shot of the Enterprise being towed by Balok’s pilot ship.
Being towed by Balok’s pilot shop
The last Enterprise sequence of note is when the Enterprise finally overloads the pilot vessel and is able to break free of the tractor beam. The break away actually breaks away! Kirk orders a right angle sheer and we finally get it!
Other smaller fixes include redoing the ship’s time clock on Sulu’s control panel for better continuity with other Star Trek timekeeping methods, as previously seen in “The Naked Time” remastered. And of course the ship’s phaser fire is made consistent, with the awkward angled beams now shooting straight, and the color standardized as blue.
Perhaps the best compliment is that the new CG looks like it belonged all along. At a quick glance of the cube or a shot of the Fesarius on the viewscreen a casual viewer may not even notice something has changed, things “just look good”, and this is a huge accomplishment.