For Star Trek: Discovery, A Romulan By Any Other Name Would Smell As Treacherous

TOS Romulans from "Balance of Terror"

Star Trek fans are eagerly awaiting any news about the upcoming series Star Trek: Discovery. With the recent announcement that the Original Series episode “Balance of Terror” will be a “touchstone” for the new series, we thought it prudent to take a look back at the history of Romulans in Star Trek. We noticed an odd pattern and have to ask: why are so many Romulans nameless? Could Discovery retcon some key commanders with names? And we found one bit of Trek lore that -no one- else on the Internet has spotted.

Like the White Rabbit chasing Alice across an alien amusement park or a Cardassian vole scurrying to find its next meal, Star Trek fans eagerly await every morsel of news they can get about Discovery – both out of curiosity and the insatiable desire to complain about Star Trek on the Internet.

Recently it was announced that “Balance of Terror,” which finds its way onto most top 10 episode lists, would serve as the “touchstone” for the new show.

Now that could mean it’s a touchstone for continuity (DSC will heavily involve Romulans, despite our pointed-eared friends’ less than successful two outings on the big screen) or it will be a touchstone for tone – that is the series will feature more adversarial battles of wills against enemy commanders rather than subspace anomalies of the week.

Given that the Romulan War would have happened about 100 years before the events of Discovery, we know that won’t be the storyline, but there could still be some legacy from the conflict.

My one request is this: please give the Romulan commanders names.

There are so many unnamed Romulans that there are multiple Memory Alpha pages dedicated to the subject – and this namelessness isn’t restricted to background aliens; frequently the leaders are just “Romulan commander” or “Romulan captain”.

I count two in TOS, two in TAS, two in TNG, two in Nemesis, and one in ENT (though I’m sure they would have had more if they’d gotten to the full seven seasons). The naming convention of not naming Romulans could be to give them an added air of mystery because (as Weyoun says) they’re so “predictably treacherous” – but at this point it would be nice to get some retroactive continuity to help out a couple very notable ones.

The most famous unnamed Romulan commander was played by Mark Lenard from that very touchstone episode:

Romulan Keras played by Mark Lenard from "Balance of Terror"

Romulan Keras played by Mark Lenard from “Balance of Terror”

He retroactively got the name Keras by a designer for the Star Trek card game who had to go with something. Keras is is of course Sarek backwards; the same idea was used for the unnamed Klingon commander Krase. Keras is okay, but a little too cute even for me.

The more interesting one though is the commander from “Enterprise Incident”:

Unnamed Romulan commander from "Enterprise Incident"

Unnamed Romulan commander from “Enterprise Incident”

The nameless character, played by Joanne Linville, received three names in different books: Thea (Killing Time), Di’on Charvon (The Fate of the Phoenix), and Liviana Charvanek (Vulcan’s Heart).

If this character were to appear in Discovery, I would be delighted if they went with the last one. Authors Josepha Sherman and Susan Shwartz may have picked the name Liviana as an homage to another character named Lavinia, also played by Linville, on The Twilight Zone episode “The Passerby”, which was No. 6 on TrekMovie’s top 10 TZ episodes for Star Trek fans.

The character Lavinia from the Twilight Zone episode "The Passerby" may have been the inspiration for the name of the Romulan character, Liviana, played by the same actress

The character Lavinia from the Twilight Zone episode “The Passerby” may have been the inspiration for the name of the Romulan character, Liviana, played by the same actress

I have found no corroboration otherwise that this episode was the inspiration for naming the character, but it’s too close to be a coincidence. (That also means tracking this reference down is a TrekMovie exclusive!) Given how well-plowed the field of Trek lore is after 50 years, it’s always nice to find some new bit of trivia. Here’s hoping it can become canonical. So please, friends at Discovery: #BringBackLiviana.

Or, at least, please just give any new Romulan commanders names.

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You guys still don’t seem to understand what the term “touchstone” means. There is NO evidence that this show will in any way involve Romulans.

Enlighten us, oh mighty Dandruff.

Actually he understands quite well. He qualifies his thoughts right here:

“Now that could mean it’s a touchstone for continuity (DSC will heavily involve Romulans, despite our pointed-eared friends’ less than successful two outings on the big screen) or it will be a touchstone for tone – that is the series will feature more adversarial battles of wills against enemy commanders rather than subspace anomalies of the week.”

Touchstone means “a standard or criterion by which something is judged or recognized.” The quote about “Balance of Terror” was NOT an indication that the show is in any way about Romulans. It was saying that the type of quality evident in “Balance of Terror” is what they’re shooting for.

I agree with you. I think they’ll be going for some kind of dramatic,prolonged confrontation, but not necessarily an all-out war; perhaps contesting claims on a newly discovered, highly interesting planet, peppered with loss-of-temper and shooting incidents from time-to-time, between opposing groups of quite ordinary and fallible characters who are lead by leaders of demonstrable “gravitas” (no comic book supervillains or superheroes), pursuing agendas that clash, rather than accommodate, making compromise very difficult and challenging.

That’s true…and I agree with you 100%, but no one’s said there won’t be any Romulans either. If there are, I do hope & pray they’ll look like they did in TOS & STTUC.

Unfortuanetly, they would have to jump through hoops to bring the Romulans back, since nobody knew what they looked like in Balance of Terror. Enterprise did a good job getting around that, but I don’t think they’re going to do another drone ship.

I thought Enterprise got around that issue while still showing Romulans (just hated the fact that they were in style Nemesis uniforms.

Yeah. Though I’ll admit, I can forgive it. Season 4 looked expensive as hell – and reusing movie props and costumes represents a pretty significant cost savings. I just try to tell myself that the anachronistic uniforms probably paid for that gorgeous TOS bridge.

Didn’t they just borrow and rent existing pieces for the bridge? I thought the bits of s4 I saw looked even worse than the earlier seasons, probably because they switched from 35mm to digital.

“DSC will heavily involve Romulans, despite our pointed-eared friends’ less than successful two outings on the big screen” um in what Galaxy was Star Trek 2009, less than successful.
Nemesis yeah but Star Trek 09 was very successful.

Levi,

If THE BALANCE OF TERROR is being regarded as the Romulan tale standard against which all other Romulan tales are judged, then, indeed, the Romulan movies were less than successful tales. BO is simply not a metric of how well a tale was allowed to unfold on screen.

nero said that he was rogue and not affiliated with the romulan government and military.

The question whether Romulans in the new series have names is about as important as the color of the label on a smartphone power cell. If Discovery doesn’t want to be another Note 7 it better refrains from having permanent Romulans, with or without names.

If they did have permanent Romulans, they would be the first Star Trek series to do so. There have been plenty of good one off Romulans over the years, but Sela is the only one I can think of who was in more than one or two episodes. Well, and Tomalak, but he was barely a character.

Did James Blish name the characters in his adaptions? I don’t have them nearby…

I don’t think you even see the romulan side of things in Blish’s BoT adap (in which Stiles dies along with tomlinson.)

So on the basis that in the spirit of Star Trek, this series will deal with contemporary issues (https://trekmovie.com/2016/07/24/exclusive-star-trek-discovery-producers-on-ships-design-shows-themes/), and I’m going to guess that they’re going to explore the ideological divide that exists between the vulcans/romulans. As Legate Demar points out, no one had seen the Romulans in person prior to the Balance of Terror, and their surface features are nearly indistinguishable from those of vulcans. That makes for a very interesting parallel to the religious extremism in the modern world, where a lack of surface features and a hidden enemy characterize the motivation for many modern atrocities.

Vulcans would rather die than harbor a Romulan terrorist, regardess of anything Vulcans and Romulans may have in common. The you-know-who, on the other hand, have no loyalty except to their god. If there is a fitting parallel for them in Star Trek, it’s the Borg.

No. I don’t know who.

Atoz the Unforgettable

Kaboom

What about V’las? He was the leader of Vulcan, and he worked with the Romulans. Many Vuclans may see an alliance with the Romulans as more logical than sticking with the Federation, due to their similarities. Like Humans, every Vulcan is different.

Lavinia was also the name of Wilbur Whateley’s mother in “the Dunwich Horror” by H.P. Lovecraft

If the romulans are involved, it will likely be as undercover agents driving events behind the scenes, and the federation will never know as I believe it was established that not only does no one know what they look like, but, and correct me if in mistaken, there has been no contact between the romulans and the federation between the romulans war and balance of terror.

The Romulans won’t be involved. This article is in error.

No error, this is simply a light article for fun discussion about Romulan characters not having names on screen, it makes no claims that Romulans will be in DSC. It simply says hypothetically if there were to be Romulans in the next Trek adventure (which is DSC), they should be named.

It has been hinted that Section 31 is involved in the new show, and I wouldn’t be shocked if they knew what the Romulans looked like, and had had interactions with them that most of the Federation didn’t know about.

Section 31 stuff was totally unfounded navel gazing by AICN. The Discovery’s registration is NCC-1031 because Bryan Fuller is big into celebrating Halloween.

“Section 31 stuff was totally unfounded navel gazing by AICN.”

Not at all. During an interview session with journalists in August, Fuller actually described Section 31 as “marble through the meat” of DSC’s story.

http://www.startrek.com/article/bryan-fuller-reveals-discovery-details

He’s idly chatted about all kinds of topics like that. I would take it with a large grain of salt.

”He’s idly chatted about all kinds of topics like that.”

One of the many problems with dismissing Fuller’s detailed answers to journalists during formal Q&A sessions as “idle chatter” is that it also completely discredits any Trekmovie articles based solely on Fuller’s tweets ;)

Anyway, Fuller is supposedly planning to reveal a bit more information about DSC by the end of October.

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Maybe George Kirk’s friend Cale ‘T’Cael’ Sandorsen (apologies for any incorrect spelling) will be involved!

I generally saw the Romulans as communists, hence they were so merciless and evil, so individual identities would mean little beyond people venerated by the state.

I kind of want to see… NO Romulan characters, actually. the middle finger that enterprise kept waving at TOS was bad enough; but a simple watch-through of Balance of Terror (which is basically the singular proof that Enterprise cannot be in continuity to TOS; they describe ships of that era, and they sure as heck aren’t describing an NX-class starship!) demonstrates that Romulan appearance, Romulan contact, Romulan cloaking and weapons technology are all touched on in such a way as to make a Romulan appearance in Disocvery absolutely unworkable. “The treaty, set by sub-space radio, established this Neutral Zone, entry into which by either side, would constitute an act of war. The treaty has been unbroken since that time. Captain.” “After a whole century, what will a Romulan ship look like, Mister Stiles?” This doesn’t even allow for a non-face-to-face, ship-to-ship encounter scenario. (And I can only imagine the ‘oh, it’s classified’ ret-con gymnastics that COULD be used to justify it, but honestly, WHY? Especially when it would fly in the face of all the INTENT of the original episode that is supposedly the touchstone?) I can only look with contempt on another prequel that once again can’t make use of the copious races and events that are valid within its time-frame, and instead feels the need to break in something that continuity doesn’t allow for because that species is *popular.* So I am very much hoping that Discovery is going to avoid Enterprise’s copious offenses in this regard. So,… Read more »

Wow, ummmm… way to retain my line breaks, comment box. :-) (Sorry for the hash of unbroken letter; it wasn’t supposed to be formatted that way).

Don’t worry it only looks that way until you click the “Read more >>” link, and then it expands out to the full comment with nicer formatting.

Enterprise was fine since it was set before the Romulan War. It would be a bit harder for Discovery to do Romulans though.

It gave the Romulans cloaking technology which was a new development in Balance of Terror; if the Romulan wars had been fought with cloaking technology, Earth would have fallen in days. (And that’s not counting levels of knowledge and contact with the Romulans that may or may not violate the intent).

Plus the TNG style of uniforms, physical appearance, and starships, which lacked the figure of a bird that was litterally their primary identifying characteristic from the Romulan Wars. (Not that they couldn’t paint them on later, but the lazy choice to not show a reasonable design progression was likewise disrespectful to TOS.

And last but not least, with the technology demonstrated by the mines, the drone ship, etc., it seems rather implausible that Earth could hd its own in a war even barring the cloak. (To be fair, the NX 01 is far too advanced for what TOS described Earth’s Romulan War era vessels being like, too… but Romulan technology seems so advanced that they aren’t the equal match Balance of Terror suggested; they’re a vastly outclassing enemy).

Some of this can be retconned away if you’re in the mood to be generous to Enterprise… but either way, Enterprise definitely did the Romulans wrong.

(Sorry… I am a grumpy old man when it comes to Enterprise). :-)

This was a good article because it sparked senseless arguments among Star Trek fans.

What would be the fun in Star Trek without senseless arguments?

“Lavinia,” perhaps far more importantly than the Twilight Zone reference, is the name of Aeneas’ fated wife with whom he will produce the progenitors of Rome–has no one read The Aeneid, Virgil’s masterwork of propaganda for the Roman Empire and Augustus?!

Yeah, Romulan commanders should have badass Latin(-sounding) names. Like those Mad Max: Fury Road characters, you know – Rictus Erectus and Corpus Colossus and Imperator Furiosa… oh wait, no. That’s the “trash and fun”-enthusiast inside me speaking. But hey, that’s still actually stuff you could wave away, even when sticking to canon: Like the names being code names because Starfleet actually never had direct contact with the Romulans or something like that…

I still don’t think it’s a good idea to shoehorn a new show between old shows. Plot lines will turn into pretzels . Technology will have to be paced. Better to conceive the new show taking place shortly after TNG. New plot lines. New technology. Possible work opportunity for TNG even DS9 actors.

I’ve always thought the Romulans were, at their best, among the best adversaries in Trek, and “Balance of Terror” was a great illustration of why, but I think not naming the commander was actually the right choice. The episode got a lot of its drama by having the two crews learn about each other gradually, with Kirk and the Romulan commander learning intimate details about how each other thinks, but all in service of trying to kill each other. The fact that we never learn the Romulans’ names, and Kirk never even speaks to the commander until right at the end, heightened the effect. (“The Enterprise Incident” could be defensible as well; having the commander whisper her name to Spock instead of just saying it heightened the intimacy of the moment, especially since it signaled that maybe the Romulan military is so regimented that soldiers should identify only by their rank and position, not their names. …That idea obviously didn’t make it through the later series, although the first Romulans to appear in TNG weren’t named in the episode, either.) And if the DSC people are looking to “Balance of Terror” for inspiration, I think they could do worse than learning that sometimes what you don’t put on screen can be just as important to the story as what you do.

I have a request….Bryan Fuller & crew, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do NOT use forehead prosthetics like TNG, DS9, Voyager & Enterprise did. These people are directly related to Vulcans and should NOT have weird forehead ridges of any kind. I HIGHLY doubt that in the 2000 years since Surak that they would have ‘developed’ such a stark difference in appearance from their kindred. Indeed, it seems even more unlikely the Romulans would have developed such ridges in the approximate 100 years since the events of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. They not only had normal foreheads in TOS, they did in that final full, original cast film as well. Even more unlikely is the concept they developed the ridges & had them through the era of Enterprise, lost them 100 years later & regained them 100 years after that. There is no logical reason for them to have them whatsoever. I realize why they were given ridges during Rick Berman’s reign, but I don’t think Trek fans are so clueless as to not be able to tell the difference between Vulcans & Romulans on the show(s). Please…give us that classic Romulan look! It would be so much more exciting for me (and my family…ALL Trek fans!) to see them as they were originally in TOS!

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