(written from a Production point of view)
It wasn't often that Captain James T. Kirk, commander of the starship Enterprise, had to prepare his vessel for the reception of V.I.P visitors...
Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock make an inspection of officers en route to the transporter room in preparation for the arrival of Ambassador Courtenay Marshall of the Federation Council. The ambassador beams aboard with perfect timing, and suggests that Kirk respectfully refer to him as "Excellency". He informs Kirk that he will be using the captain's quarters and requires a station prepared for him on the bridge. Kirk points out that having civilians on the bridge is prohibited under eighteen Federation regulations, and Marshall angrily retorts that Kirk is to obey his orders without question. Countering, Kirk asks for orders in writing, which Marshall grudgingly produces.
On the bridge, Kirk orders a course set for planet Tondus. It is a strategic world near the Romulan Empire, and Marshall is to negotiate for Tondus to join the Federation, thereby gaining a tactical advantage for the Federation. Marshall orders that a ceremonial guard of officers be provided to escort him to negotiations. Kirk assembles Spock, Chekov, and Sulu in the Quiet Room to practice formation. Chekov complains, protesting that they are being treated like army recruits, and Kirk rebukes him, explaining that he does not like it either, but they are required to adhere to supreme orders. Scotty interrupts the drill, alerting the captain that the Enterprise is under attack, but the ambassador has given orders not to raise shields.
Kirk dashes to the bridge, demanding that the shields be raised. Marshall says that the Tondusian ship is merely suspicious of their approach, and they should show no sign of hostility. After the ship is hit in a critical area, Kirk orders shields raised and retaliatory fire. The attacker retreats, and Marshall dismisses it as a misunderstanding, directing his entourage to accompany him to Tondus immediately. They assemble in the transporter room, and Kirk cautiously suggests that they beam down fully armed. The ambassador furiously threatens to relieve Kirk of command if there are any further arguments against his methods.
As the landing party materializes on Tondus, an officer greets them, requesting their papers. They are escorted to the reception chambers of the Tondusian Premier. The ambassador and the premier exchange cordial greetings. Kirk interjects that there was difficulty in contacting Tondus to announce their arrival, as they had been attacked. Marshall is indignant that Kirk should be so bold as to say anything, but the premier takes Kirk's words seriously. He orders his chamberlain to make a full investigation of all spacecraft activity in the last four hours.
Marshall and the premier commence diplomatic discussions, and the chief of staff takes Kirk and his men on a tour of the capital city. Privately, Kirk ponders misgivings. Meanwhile, the premier and the ambassador raise glasses in a toast – to the might of the Romulan Empire.
The chief of staff shows the landing party a mass-transit system of transporters, and makes small talk with Kirk, recognizing that Tondus could be used as a bulwark against the Romulans. Back at the "negotiations", the ambassador congratulates the premier on the appearance of normality he has preserved in the city. The premier explains that the Tondusians do as they are told. Their leaders issue the orders that are dictated to them, since their families are being held under arrest.
At the end of their tour, Kirk and his men are led into a large building. The door seals shut behind them, and they are borne along on a conveyor belt. They pass a large viewscreen with the grinning face of the chief of staff. When the conveyor stops, they see a tattered old man in chains who introduces himself: Ambassador Courtenay Marshall.
Marshall reveals that the ambassador they had known was an impostor. When the real Marshall transported to the Enterprise, his beam was intercepted, and his signal was replaced with that of the impostor. Kirk doesn't understand why the ambassador was kidnapped, as the Federation only wanted to establish an alliance with Tondus. The chief of staff then reappears, complete with armed guards, announcing that Romulans have already occupied Tondus, and the planet is under their control.
Kirk and his men are taken to the "transformation center", and the chief of staff, or more properly, the consul, tells his men to alert the president. The consul informs Kirk that they are plotting to take over Federation headquarters using Kirk and his men as tools. The president arrives, explaining that the Enterprise is to return to Earth with a fleet of Tondusian ships, apparently on a peace mission, though they will instead be used to attack. He says that the transformation machinery will provide the Romulans with a new command crew for the Enterprise. Spock perceives that they are all in great danger and attacks the Romulan guards, but the president throws a switch, jolting Kirk and his men with a massive shock, rendering them unconscious. They are then and strapped down to procedure tables. The president revels in his plan to wipe out the faces and intelligences of the men, transferring them to Romulan operatives.
On the Enterprise, Scotty, in command, is growing concerned that the landing party has not yet checked in. Just then, Uhura receives a scrambled transmission from Earth. Intelligence reports that Ambassador Marshall has been replaced with an impostor. The official displays a photograph of Marshall, and Scotty realizes that Intelligence is correct. Scotty tries to contact Kirk using a low-pitch communicator signal, but the captain is still unconscious.
The president prepares his willing men for the transformation procedure, describing the process. Their personalities and physical characteristics will be removed by dematerialization, and they will be given the minds, bodies, and memories of Kirk, Spock, Sulu and Chekov. Though thinking, talking, and acting as their templates do, they will still be loyal Romulan agents. Through the captain's open comm link, Scotty hears everything.
Scotty sounds a red alert, assembling a four-shuttle strike force full of heavily armed officers. As the transformation process begins on the Romulan volunteers, Kirk and his men regain consciousness. The President taunts Kirk with his plans of domination, but a Romulan officer suddenly reports that four armed craft from the Enterprise are approaching fast. Bewildered by how his plans could have been discovered, the president orders a full defense alert, adamant that his plans will still succeed. In the stratosphere above the capital, Tondusian ships intercept the shuttles and engage them in a firefight.
With the Romulans distracted, Kirk is able to contact Scotty, informing him the Tondusian leaders' families are being held hostage. He directs that the strike force be divided, with one group heading for the government building, and the other to the prison. The shuttles are able to overcome and destroy the Tondusian defenses, and the impostors start to panic. Knowing that they will be executed for failure, the President and the fake Ambassador plot to blow up the building with everyone inside. Before they can activate the auto-destruct controls, Scotty and his men burst in, stunning the Romulans with phaser rifles. The men free their crewmates, and Scotty reports that the Tondusians and the prisoners are now free.
"It's happened before that men have been sent to their deaths by the orders of a fool with a headful of nothing!"
- - Sulu, disapproving of the ambassador
"Masterly! But then we are masters, aren't we!"
"Naturally. We're Romulans."
- - The Ambassador and Premier impostors, gleefully manipulating Tondusian politics
"An escalator... out of nowhere!"
"I don't like this one bit! We've been taken for a ride!"
- - Kirk and Spock, reacting to Romulan treachery
"You can't get us to help your treacherous schemes. We're all trained to resist mind domination!"
- - Kirk, despite having been brainwashed on more than one occasion
"There's no time for finesse, sir! We must attack!"
- - Uhura, determined to prevent the transformation procedure
"Out of the way, you snivelling [sic] curs! Make way for your masters!"
"Haw! There's no fight in these spineless jackals!"
- - Two Romulan officers, "complacent in their superiority"
- Although the Romulan posing as Courtenay Marshall had high standards for his reception aboard the Enterprise, Spock comments that the real Marshall had an exacting reputation as well.
- Kirk wears a red uniform and trousers on the cover.
- The impostor Ambassador Marshall was surgically altered to appear Human, evidenced by his ears. The Romulans occupying Tondus all wear hats or helmets, so it is not clear if they too have been altered.
Setting and technology
- Due to the appearance of Chekov and Scotty's hairstyle, this story has to take place between "Catspaw" (2267) and "Spectre of the Gun" (2268).
- This is the first appearance of the Romulans in the UK stories.
- Chekov protests having to practice marching, remarking "What does he think we are, army recruits?" Contrary to the usual portrayal of Starfleet in the UK stories as resorting to military solutions, Chekov's comment implies that Starfleet is primarily for exploration and diplomacy.
- Romulan is misspelled "Romulian" in one instance.
- Kirk's communicator has a vibrate setting, foreshadowing mobile phones.
- The Tondusian (Romulan) officers' uniforms resemble that of Roman soldiers.
- Tondus is evidently outside of the Romulan Neutral Zone, and in or near Federation territory.
- Kirk assembles his landing party in the "quiet room", apparently a previously unseen area of the ship.
- After the Enterprise is hit in its secondary hull, Kirk says that the engine section has been hit, confirming the location of engineering.
- The Enterprise repels the Tondusian attack with its "missile battery".
- The Enterprise is said to be part of a "vast fleet" deployed through Federation territory.
- During the red alert when Scotty assembles his strike force, there are brief glimpses of crew quarters (with a crewmember getting out of bed), the recreation room (with three-dimensional chess), and the ship's armory (with phaser rifles being passed out).
- The Galileo is seen among the Enterprise's shuttles.
Foreshadowing of canon productions
- This story bears a remarkable similarity to the TNG episode "Data's Day", in which the USS Enterprise-D carried a Romulan spy posing as an ambassador. In both stories, the spy is returned to the Romulans and transporters are tampered with.
- The Romulan plot to replace Kirk and members of his command crew with Romulan agents echoes a similar plan involving Jean-Luc Picard and Shinzon in Star Trek Nemesis.
- A Romulan agent also infiltrated the highest level of planetary government in "Kir'Shara".
- A Romulan officer swears by the Romulan "Emperor". A Romulan Empress was later mentioned in "The Q and the Grey".
None of the UK weekly stories had titles. Each installment was two pages in length. The entire story was published in black and white, a first for the weekly UK story arcs.
- Part 1: TV21 & Joe 90 #24, 7 March 1970
- Part 2: TV21 & Joe 90 #25, 14 March 1970
- Part 3: TV21 & Joe 90 #26, 21 March 1970
- Part 4: TV21 & Joe 90 #27, 28 March 1970
- Part 5: TV21 & Joe 90 #28, 4 April 1970
- Part 6: TV21 & Joe 90 #29, 11 April 1970
- Part 7: TV21 & Joe 90 #30, 18 April 1970
- Part 8: TV21 & Joe 90 #31, 25 April 1970
- Ensign Pavel Chekov
- Captain James T. Kirk
- Montgomery Scott
- Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu
- Lieutenant Uhura (referred to as "Uhuru")
- Ambassador Courtenay Marshall
- Romulan impostor of Courtenay Marshall
- Romulan Premier (also referred to as President)
- Romulan Consul / Chief of Staff
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