(written from a Production point of view)
The Enterprise battles a Romulan ship suspected of destroying outposts near the Neutral Zone.
Captain James T. Kirk is officiating at a wedding between two crew members, Angela Martine and Robert Tomlinson, when suddenly a red alert klaxon interrupts the ceremony, followed by a request for Captain Kirk to report to the bridge. Kirk learns that Earth Outpost 4 is under attack as everyone runs to battle stations.
The USS Enterprise investigates in the vicinity of the Romulan Neutral Zone, where an unknown assailant is methodically destroying each of the Earth outposts bordering the Zone. Spock explains to the crew that the Neutral Zone was established after the Earth-Romulan War over a century ago. Neither race has had contact with the other since that time, and neither side knows what the other looks like. Kirk then tells the crew that while self-defense is permitted, they are forbidden by Starfleet Command's orders to violate the Neutral Zone. The Enterprise and its crew are to be considered expendable.
Lieutenant Stiles assumes the attacking vessel is Romulan, but Kirk points out that after a century, no one would know what a Romulan ship looks like. Stiles shares his knowledge of Romulan ship markings, as a number of his relatives died in the Earth-Romulan war. "Their war, Mr. Stiles," says Kirk. "Not yours."
Earth Outposts 2 and 3 are found to be destroyed, and the Enterprise briefly contacts Outpost 4. The sole survivor of Outpost 4, Commander Hansen, describes a powerful blast of energy from a ship they couldn't track and the destruction of Outpost 8. He then reports that the ship has reappeared. A view relayed from the outpost's sensors shows the ship firing, and then the viewing screen goes blank.
Spock's sensors detect a moving object, but nothing is visible on the screen. He suggests that the Romulans have some sort of invisibility shield. Since the Romulan ship seems to be in no hurry, Kirk theorizes that it may not be aware of the Enterprise. Spock then reports that the ship is heading back towards the Neutral Zone.
Despite objections from Stiles, Kirk orders a parallel course instead of an intercept course. By matching the unknown ship's course and speed, he hopes to make the Enterprise seem like an echo. Under no circumstances is the Enterprise to enter the Romulan Neutral Zone without a direct order from Kirk. Stiles points out that there could be Romulan spies on board the Enterprise, and Sulu recommends maintaining a security alert.
Uhura picks up a communication signal, through which Spock is able obtain a view of the Romulan ship's interior, providing the Federation their first visuals of the Romulans. Stiles notices the Romulan captain's physical resemblance to Spock.
As Uhura attempts to interpret the Romulan signals, Stiles sarcastically suggests giving the job to Spock. Kirk orders him to keep his bigotry to himself.
Meanwhile, on the bridge of the Romulan ship, the Romulan commander has noticed the Enterprise following them. He confers with one of his officers (the centurion) on the ethics of their mission. He then rebukes and demotes another officer, Decius, for dispatching a subspace message in violation of orders for radio silence. The centurion warns the commander that Decius has powerful friends. The commander quietly expresses distaste for the mission, but assures the centurion of his devotion to his duty.
In the Enterprise briefing room, the officers discuss their chances against the Romulan ship. Spock demonstrates the effect of the Romulan weapon on Outpost 4's protective shields, and Scott reports that the Romulan ship's power is "simple impulse". Stiles urges an attack, arguing from history that running would guarantee war. Spock agrees, pointing out that Vulcan had begun to colonize space before giving up its warlike ways, and that if the Romulans are indeed descended from ancient Vulcans, they are more dangerous than Kirk might realize. After a moment, Kirk gives the order to attack. The Enterprise heads into battle at red alert.
Following the Romulan ship's path towards a comet's tail, Kirk orders the Enterprise to jump forward and attack the Romulan ship when its trail becomes visible. The Romulan commander hopes to double back to intercept the Enterprise, but, on learning that his target is no longer following, orders an evasive maneuver. Each commander, having failed in his plans, reflects on the other's intelligence.
A barrage of phaser fire damages the Romulan ship. The centurion pushes the Romulan commander out of the way of falling debris but is fatally injured himself. Meanwhile, the phaser circuits on the Enterprise burn out as the Romulan ship fires its primary weapon. Kirk orders full astern and as the Enterprise backs up, they find that the weapon has a range limit which causes the shot to partially dissipate, resulting in reduced impact.
Determined to prevent the Romulan ship from reentering the Neutral Zone, Kirk orders another barrage of phaser fire. Unable to stop the Romulan ship, and aware of the consequences, Kirk orders the Enterprise into the Neutral Zone. Displaying restrained emotion as his friend dies, the Romulan commander orders all debris and, sadly, the body of his friend into the escape chute as a decoy. The Enterprise picks up the debris on the sensors but in doing so, loses track of the Romulan ship.
It has come down to a waiting game and both ships have powered down in the Neutral Zone to prevent detection. After the Enterprise has been powered down for 9 hours and 47 minutes, Kirk tries to rest in his quarters, when Yeoman Rand walks in and asks the Captain if he would like something to eat from the galley. Kirk shakes his head and tells Rand to get him coffee and have it on the bridge, as he will be heading up there soon. Just then, Dr. McCoy arrives as Rand leaves. Kirk confesses that he wishes he were on a cruise somewhere with no responsibility. He admits to McCoy that when his crew looks to him to make the next move, he wonders, "What if I'm wrong?" McCoy struggles at first to come up with an answer to this and Kirk does not expect him to provide one. However, McCoy puts his hand on Kirk's shoulder and gently says, "In this galaxy, there's a mathematical probability of three million Earth-type planets. And in all the universe, three million million galaxies like this. And in all of that, and perhaps more, only one of each of us. Don't destroy the one named Kirk."
Later on the bridge, Spock, while making repairs, accidentally activates a panel, and the Romulan ship detects the Enterprise and moves in to attack. Kirk anticipates this and manages to fire on the Romulan ship. Furious, the Romulan commander orders more debris into the disposal tubes, including a nuclear warhead.
Spock picks up the "metal-cased object" on his sensors and the Enterprise fires upon it. The massive explosion causes damage to the Enterprise but despite now having the upper hand, the Romulan commander decides to head for home.
Scott reports that while phasers are operational, only Tomlinson, the groom from the wedding, is manning the station. Stiles quotes his experience with phasers and Kirk sends him down to assist. In an attempt to lure the Romulan ship back, the Enterprise plays dead.
Despite his reservations, and the crippled status of his ship, the Romulan commander is reminded by Decius that it is the commander's duty to crush the enemy. The commander then reluctantly gives the order to attack.
Meanwhile, Spock checks on the phaser crew and Stiles coldly remarks that they "will handle things without your help, Vulcan." After Spock leaves however, a phaser coolant leak erupts. As the Romulan ship moves in to attack, Kirk gives the order to fire phasers. But both Tomlinson and Stiles have been overcome by the coolant fumes. Realizing the danger, Spock runs back and manages to fire the phasers in time, severely damaging the Romulan ship.
Visual contact between ships is somehow established as Kirk watches a severely wounded Romulan commander stagger to his feet. The Romulan commander turns and looks upon Kirk's face. Despite Kirk's offer to beam aboard any survivors, the Romulan commander informs him that it is not the Romulan way. He then says, with admiration, "I regret that we meet in this way. You and I are of a kind. In a different reality, I could have called you friend," and as the last part of his duty, he sets the Romulan ship to self-destruct. Kirk watches regretfully as the ship is destroyed.
Kirk goes to sickbay and discovers that not only did Spock fire the phasers, he also rescued Stiles. Stiles is humbled and amazed that Spock saved his life after everything he had said to him. Unfortunately, Spock was unable to save Robert Tomlinson. Kirk is then forced to console his grief-stricken fiancée, Angela Martine, while she stands alone in the chapel. "It never makes any sense. We both have to know that there was a reason," Kirk says softly to Martine. She tearfully assures the captain that she will be fine and leaves.
- "Captain's log, stardate 1709.2. Patrolling outpost guarding the neutral zone between planets Romulus and Remus and the rest of the galaxy; received an emergency call from Outpost 4. The USS Enterprise is moving to investigate and assist."
- "Captain's log, stardate 1709.6. We are at the neutral zone. I've lost contact with the intruder. No reaction on our motion sensors, but believe the Romulan vessel to be somewhere close by, with all engines and systems shut down. The Enterprise is also playing this silent waiting game in hope of regaining contact."
- "Captain's log, supplemental: Now motionless for 9 hours 47 minutes."
"Since the days of the first wooden vessels, all ship masters have had one happy privilege: that of uniting two people in the bonds of matrimony."
- - Kirk, in the chapel
"I had no idea that history was your specialty."
- - Kirk and Stiles, on the Romulan War
"Their war, Mister Stiles. Not yours."
- - Kirk, after Stiles lists his family losses in the Romulan War
"Happy wedding day, almost."
"You won't get off my hook this easily. I'm going to marry you, mister. Battle or phaser weapons notwithstanding."
- - Tomlinson and Angela, in the phaser control room
"Leave any bigotry in your quarters. There's no room for it on the bridge."
- - Kirk, to Stiles, after he implies that Spock could be a Romulan spy
"That Earth outpost sent word to an Earth vessel, now it follows."
"Which neither retreats nor grows near, which turns as we turn. Commander, it is our judgment that we run from a reflection."
"Perhaps so, but my judgment prevails."
- - Romulan commander and Romulan bridge officer
"He has friends. And friends of his kind mean power. And power is danger."
"Danger and I are old companions."
- - Romulan centurion and Romulan commander, after Decius is demoted in rank
"Not too soon for me to see the stars of home."
- - Romulan commander, to the centurion
"War is never imperative, Mister Spock."
- - McCoy, after Spock agrees with Stiles on attacking the Romulans
"It is for them, doctor. Vulcan, like Earth, had its aggressive, colonizing period; savage, even by Earth standards. And if the Romulans retained this martial philosophy, then weakness is something we dare not show."
- - Spock, responding to McCoy
"I wish I were on a long sea voyage somewhere. Not too much deck tennis, no frantic dancing. And no responsibility."
- - Kirk to McCoy, on the Romulan incursion
"In this galaxy, there's a mathematical probability of three million earth-type planets… and in all the universe, three million million galaxies like this one. And in all of that, and perhaps more, only one of each of us. Don't destroy the one named Kirk."
- - McCoy's advice to Kirk
"He's a sorcerer, that one! He reads the thoughts in my brain!"
- - Romulan commander to Decius, on Kirk
"You and I are of a kind. In a different reality, I could have called you friend."
- - Romulan commander to Kirk, after the Romulan ship is disabled
"We are creatures of duty, Captain. I have lived my life by it. Just one more duty to perform."
- - Romulan commander's last words
"It never makes any sense. We both have to know that there was a reason."
- - Kirk to Martine, on Tomlinson's death
- Theatrical premiere of "The Enemy Below": 25 December 1957
- Theatrical premiere of "Run Silent, Run Deep": 27 March 1958
- Story outline by Paul Schneider: 14 April 1966
- Revised Story outline: 26 April 1966, 29 April 1966
- First draft teleplay: 20 May 1966
- Second draft teleplay: 3 June 1966
- Revised teleplay by John D.F. Black: 21 June 1966
- Second revised teleplay by Black: 2 July 1966
- Final draft teleplay by Gene Roddenberry: 14 July 1966
- Revised final draft teleplay: 18 July 1966
- Additional revisions: 19 July 1966, 20 July 1966, 21 July 1966, 22 July 1966, 25 July 1966
- Filmed: 20 July 1966 – 28 July 1966
- Day 1 – 20 July 1966, Wednesday – Desilu Stage 9: Int. Bridge
- Day 2 – 21 July 1966, Thursday – Desilu Stage 9: Int. Bridge
- Day 3 – 22 July 1966, Friday – Desilu Stage 9: Int. Bridge
- Day 4 – 25 July 1966, Monday – Desilu Stage 9: Int. Bridge, Chapel (redress of Transporter room), Phaser control room (redress of Engineering)
- Day 5 – 26 July 1966, Tuesday – Desilu Stage 9: Int. Kirk's quarters, Briefing room, Sickbay, Corridors
- Day 6 – 27 July 1966, Wednesday – Desilu Stage 9: Int. McCoy's office, Romulan bridge
- Day 7 – 28 July 1966, Thursday (Half Day) – Desilu Stage 9: Int. Romulan bridge
- Original airdate: 15 December 1966
- Rerun date: 3 August 1967
- First UK airdate: 25 October 1969
- Remastered airdate: 16 September 2006
Story and script
- The plot of this episode is based on the 1957 film Bird-of-Prey with its cloaking device taking the part of the submarine. (The Star Trek Compendium 4th ed., p. 40) Director Vincent McEveety had seen the film but only noticed the similarity later, when this was pointed out to him. He commented, "Obviously, it's the same story." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 34) , with the Enterprise taking the part of the American destroyer and the
- Star Trek: The Original Series 365 (p. 063) suggests that Schneider may have also been inspired by another submarine film, Run Silent, Run Deep. The authors note that the film contains a similar plot thread of an officer longing for vengeance, as well as the tactic of releasing wreckage and bodies from a damaged vessel in order to mislead the opposing ship. The Star Trek Compendium (5th edition, p. 40) also mentions this film as the inspiration along with The Enemy Below.
- The "Revised Final Draft" of the script was disseminated on 18 July 1966. (Cover)
- A portion (scene 46) with the doomed Commander Hansen was filmed but cut from the final episode.  In it, Hansen informed Kirk that the Romulan vessel is of "starship design" and that the Romulans had probably stolen Earth designs via espionage and traitors. This is the basis for Stiles' remarks in scene 52 about a vessel "remarkably similar to ours", and having Romulan spies aboard the Enterprise, which was aired and before he even knew what Romulans looked like. 
- A shot filmed for scene 171, but cut from the finished episode shows Kirk saluting the Romulan commander, which the latter acknowledges with a courteous nod, before destroying his ship. 
- The music featured during the opening scenes of the wedding ceremony is the 19th century English tune "Long, Long Ago."
- Although phasers are used throughout the episode, the visual effect seen is that which later was used for photon torpedo launches, probably because the term "photon torpedo" was not invented until later in the season, in "Arena". Kirk orders the phasers to be "set for proximity blast"; each phaser blast acts like a Navy depth charge.
- This is the only time in the series that the Below decks Phaser weapons room is seen.
- The Making of Star Trek and The Star Trek Compendium (4th ed., p. 40) state that the ship's chapel was a redress of the transporter room. Inside Star Trek: The Real Story (pp. 170-171), states that it is, instead, a redress of the briefing room.
- Two of the actors playing Romulans in this episode later played Vulcan characters, namely Mark Lenard (Sarek) and Lawrence Montaigne (Stonn).
- The Romulan helmets shown aboard the Romulan bridge were designed to cover the ears of the actors. This saved the additional cost of creating prosthetic ear-points for each of the supporting actors. They were reused in "Amok Time" (on Vulcans) and "The Enterprise Incident" for the same reason. (Star Trek: The Original Series 365, p. 173)
- The rarely seen command work utility jumpsuit is worn by several crew members in this episode.
- This episode saw the introduction of the Romulan Star Empire in Star Trek. Paul Schneider is credited with creating the Romulans. Schneider remarked, "It was a matter of developing a good Romanesque set of admirable antagonists that were worthy of Kirk. I came up with the concept of the Romulans which was an extension of the Roman civilization to the point of space travel, and it turned out quite well." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 34) Schneider's next contribution was "The Squire of Gothos".
- Associate producer / story editor John D.F. Black said about Schneider, "He was the father of the Romulans. Not Gene, not me, not anyone else – but Paul Schneider. And when he came up with the Romulan characters, they were so wonderful – I mean, they were full. I liked that script a lot." (These Are the Voyages: TOS Season One, p. 217)
- This is the only time in which the ship's weaponry is fired through a chain of commands (Kirk, to Stiles, to phaser room), although "The Corbomite Maneuver" comes close with Bailey's phaser drills.
- Regular first-season extra Ron Veto gets his only close-up in TOS, when he replaces Stiles at the navigation console.
- The preview trailer gives the stardate for this episode as 1710.0.
- The trailer includes footage of the Enterprise firing its phasers from "The Corbomite Maneuver" instead of the "blast-like" phaser effect seen in the actual episode.
- As an homage, Captain Picard's wedding remarks in TNG: "Data's Day" are almost the same as those Kirk uses. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion [page number? • edit])
- When Kirk requests communication with the Romulan flagship, Uhura opens a hailing frequency from the navigation console, which seems unusual. However, when she left the communications station, Uhura had shut down most of the light indicators, which could indicate a transfer of functionality to the navigator's position. This is not the first time the navigation console has been used to open communications. In "The Cage" and "Where No Man Has Gone Before", when Captain Christopher Pike and Captain Kirk, respectively, want to "address intercraft," the system is opened from the navigation console. This apparently is also true in the alternate reality, because in Star Trek, Pavel Chekov is able to address the crew of the USS Enterprise from his position at navigation.
- McEveety recalled, "[Kirk and the Romulan commander] were very heroic characters pitted one against the other, and it dealt with the length to which people would go for their honor. It was a morality fantasy play, but terribly gripping. I thought that Mark Lenard's performance was brilliant, as was Bill Shatner's. It was a two-people show that I felt was real strong." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 34)
- Mark Lenard said, "The Romulan Commander was one of the best roles I ever had on TV." Comparing the part with that of Sarek, Lenard elaborated, "In many ways, I did enjoy that role [Sarek], but I think the more demanding role and the better acting role was the Romulan Commander". (These Are the Voyages: TOS Season One, p. 217)
- Gene Roddenberry picked this as one of his ten favorite episodes for the franchise's 25th anniversary. (TV Guide [page number? • edit], August 31, 1991)
- According to the original showrunner of Star Trek: Discovery, Bryan Fuller, the events of "Balance of Terror" were to provide a "touchstone" for the series.  However, since Fuller left the series during its development, it is unclear what exactly this was supposed to entail. The Romulans have not been seen or mentioned on Discovery thus far, though Romulus was mentioned in "Context Is for Kings".
- In 2017, Ted Sullivan described the Discovery episode "Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum" as "'Balance of Terror' good". 
- In the James Blish adaptation of this story, presumably based on an earlier draft of the script, Stiles dies. In addition, Robert Tomlinson and Angela Martine actually marry, in a second ceremony late in the story. When the Enterprise fires on the Romulan ship for the final time, the latter explodes immediately, with the conversation between Kirk and the Romulan commander being omitted.
- In the William Shatner novel The Return, where Kirk is resurrected by a Borg/Romulan alliance to kill Captain Jean-Luc Picard, the Romulan alliance is arranged by the granddaughter of the Romulan commander of this mission, convinced that Starfleet are brutal murderers and seeking revenge for her grandfather's death at Kirk's hands.
- The story of the events on Romulus leading up to this episode are told in the comic book "Alien Spotlight: Romulans".
- In the novel Headlong Flight, an experiment in dimensional displacement results in the USS Enterprise-E of the "prime" universe – over a decade after Star Trek Nemesis – encountering both an alternate version of the USS Enterprise-D – from a year after the Battle of Wolf 359, in a timeline which ended with the death of Picard/Locutus of Borg – and a trio of Romulan ships from this era, in a timeline where the Romulan ship depicted here apparently destroyed Kirk's Enterprise in the final showdown.
- "Balance of Terror" was the first episode of the remastered version of The Original Series to air, though in some markets it was preceded by "Miri". It premiered in syndication on the weekend 16 September 2006 and most notably featured new effects shots of the comet, Romulan plasma torpedo, and Bird-of-Prey, as well as of the Enterprise and Bird-of-Prey "adrift".
- The next remastered to air was "Miri".
Video and DVD releases
- US CED VideoDisc release: 1 March 1983
- US LaserDisc release: July 1985
- Original US Betamax/VHS release: 28 February 1985
- Original UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 5, catalog number VHR 2250, release date unknown
- Japan LaserDisc release: 10 November 1992
- US VHS release: 15 April 1994
- UK re-release (three-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 1.3, 8 July 1996
- As part of the US VHS collection Star Trek - The Greatest Battles: 3 April 1997
- As part of the UK VHS collection Star Trek - Greatest Battles: 16 November 1998
- Original US DVD release (single-disc): Volume 4, 19 October 1999
- As part of the TOS Season 1 DVD collection
- As part of the Star Trek: Fan Collective - Captain's Log DVD collection
- As part of the TOS Season 1 HD DVD collection
- View online at the CBS website (available in the US only)
- As part of The Best of Star Trek: The Original Series DVD collection
- As part of the TOS Season 1 Blu-ray collection
Links and references
- DeForest Kelley as Dr. McCoy
- Grace Lee Whitney as Yeoman Rand
- George Takei as Sulu
- James Doohan as Scott
- Nichelle Nichols as Uhura
- Stephen Mines as Tomlinson
- Barbara Baldavin as Angela
- Garry Walberg as Hansen
- John Arndt as Fields
- William Blackburn as Hadley
- Robert Chadwick as a Romulan scope operator
- Frank da Vinci as Brent
- Walt Davis as Romulan crewman 1
- Vince Deadrick as Romulan crewman 2
- Jeannie Malone as a yeoman
- Sean Morgan as Brenner
- Eddie Paskey as Leslie
- Ron Veto as Harrison
- Unknown actors as
- William Blackburn as the stand-in for DeForest Kelley
- Frank da Vinci as the stand-in for Leonard Nimoy
- Jeannie Malone as the stand-in for Grace Lee Whitney
- Eddie Paskey as the stand-in for William Shatner
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- "Balance of Terror" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "Balance of Terror" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Balance of Terror" at Wikipedia
- "Balance of Terror" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
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