|Posted on August 8, 2012 at 6:55 AM|
Normally, I don’t care for war stories, whether in sci-fi or in earthbound settings. The series Babylon 5, for instance, completely turns me off; in spite of preaching peace, it shows one war after another, constant battling. I guess this appeals to many fans, but I keep wondering: If they truly want peace, why are they so fascinated by war?
However, it is not my place to judge, so I will keep the question largely to myself. I only know that to grab my own interest, a war story has to be different somehow. Something out of the norm. And most Trek and Star Wars episodes usually deliver.
“Balance of Terror” was the very first Romulan episode. It seems strange today, after their frequent appearance in five incarnations of Trek, but the episode featured an extensive discussion on who the Romulans were, as announced by Mr. Spock and Captain Kirk. Today, simply uttering the name Romulan tells everybody what race you’re talking about.
Perhaps the most curious fact about Romulans is that they hail from twin planets, Romulus and Remus—names also applied to twin boys in Roman mythology. Raised by a female wolf, the boys grew into prominent military leaders, each in his own right. They seemed to get along till Romulus killed Remus, apparently for leaping a wall that was supposed to keep him out.
Now let’s move from mythology to fantasy.
The Enterprise’s approach to the Neutral Zone is to investigate destroyed outposts on the Federation side. By ship intercom, Spock reminds the crew these outposts were “established by treaty after the Earth-Romulan conflict over a century ago.” No doubt this was inspired by the Demilitarized Zone in both Vietnam and Korea, separating two opposing factions.
Because ships back then had no intership visual communication, “no human, Romulan, or ally has ever seen the other. Earth believes the Romulans to be warlike, cruel, treacherous, and only Romulans know what they think of Earth.” Thus, when we first heard these words in 1966, an air of mystery surrounded the Romulans. Of course it would vanish by episode’s end.
Building on Spock’s remarks, Kirk says, “No act, no provocation, will be considered sufficient reason to violate the zone.” Yet many times the zone has been violated by the Federation, usually for strategic purposes, as we will see. “We may defend ourselves,” says Kirk, “but if necessary to avoid interstellar war, both these outposts and this vessel will be considered expendable.” Now there’s a comforting thought.
For the bulk of the episode, Kirk and the Romulan commander (Mark Lenard, who would later play Spock’s father) play cat-and-mouse with each other. I understand the strategies and strikes and counterstrikes we see are loosely based on the movie The Enemy Below, where a warship battled a rival submarine. There, too, the captain of each vessel came to anticipate the other’s move, somewhat like a chess game.
In 100 years’ time, Romulan technology has developed superior weapons which can destroy, in spite of deflector shields. Consistently at first, Romulan ships look like birds of prey, and they can cloak themselves after every attack to hide from sensors. More on this when we discuss “The Enterprise Incident.”
Kirk’s move to parallel the Romulans’ course for a distance also reflects a known strategy in ’50s and ’60s wartime. Fighter planes would get a false echo, as though another airplane was on their tail, but it was only their own plane refracted in the atmosphere. Sometimes an enemy would take advantage of the fact and follow in a position to look like a reflection. But would this be possible in space, without air currents?
Racial prejudice is also part of the story. A helmsman named Stiles had lost family in the ear-lier Romulan war, so the first time he sees them, he notes their commander’s Vulcanian ap-pearance and assumes Spock is a Romulan spy.
Kirk dresses him down: “Leave any bigotry in your quarters. There’s no room for it on the bridge.
The fact is, Romulans are a violent offshoot of the peace-loving Vulcans, so aside from outward evidence, there’s really no comparison. That did not stop some fans from wondering if there were some sort of family ties between the commander and Sarek, because Mark Lenard had played both parts.
The similarity is also played up in “The Enterprise Incident” two seasons later, when Kirk deliberately crosses the Neutral Zone, pretending he has become an obsessed glory hound.
The Romulan commander here is a woman, which surprised everybody. She would not be the last one, either; The Next Generation would present us with Tasha Yar’s daughter Sela, also in charge of a Romulan force. But that’s a subject for another blog.
Turns out Kirk’s obsession is a ruse, devised by Starfleet to get hold of the Romulans’ cloaking technology. As per orders, Spock exposes Kirk’s irrational intrusion, saying, “He is not sane.” The captain is placed in the brig, and the commander offers Spock a chance to take over as Enterprise captain.
Later, when they visit Kirk in his cell, he lunges at Spock who covers his face with one hand, in what he calls the Vulcan death grip, though there really is no such thing, and Kirk’s body is beamed back to the nterprise Since the Romulans believe this little fiction, Kirk is free to disguise himself as a Romulan, so he can reboard the bird of prey and steal the cloaking device.
This part of the plot seems badly thought out, for oddly, the device looks like a giant light bulb. Even in the ’60s, a major function would not be a single object, but a series of computer commands and algorithms. Assuming the huge bulb were the only component, different systems are often incompatible with each other. How could it fit, much less work, on the Enterprise? Consequently, the episode does not make much sense.
Nor does it make sense for some kind of intellectual romance to blossom between the female commander and Spock, during Kirk’s theft. Ultimately Spock’s subterfuge is discovered, and the Enterprise warps out of there. The cloaking device obscures the ship from the Romulans’ view and sensors.
I can see several general parallels between this and the Christian life. With our warfare being waged on a spiritual level, no constant bangs and booms surround us. No loss of life either, unless you count unbelievers who are exposed to the Gospel, only to walk away. If we are committed to Christ, we have no chance of losing our Eternal Life with the Lord.
But my favorite part of Romulan arsenal is the cloaking device. It’s been used and reused in many ways during the franchise, and it has the best biblical parallel. Satan often cloaks his evil intent in positive proclamations. For instance, a cult may hold meetings that are upbeat, al-most Pentecostal, but the positive feel masks a doctrine that contradicts most of Scripture. Even cult names can be part of the cloak, such as The Way International or Latter Day Saints. A dictator often talks as though he’s leading a free, prosperous people, while he blocks all at-tempts to be truly free.
On a personal level, we can cloak our lack of commitment with holy sounding words. We may attend church services every week, but never commit to the Christ we’re supposed to be wor-shipping. Even preachers and pastors can appear to teach spiritual ideals, but proposition naïve girls into bed, or have eyes on making lots of money. These are false prophets.
“Dear friends,” wrote Apostle John, “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God. … This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God” (1 John 4:1-2).
The upside to this: Satan has no idea what God will do next. Though psychics and fortune tellers pretend to know the future, Deuteronomy 18:22 says, “If what a prophet proclaims in the Name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.” In effect, God and His children (us) are cloaked from our enemy by Jesus’ blood.
The Holy Spirit is the only Sensor that allows us to see through Satan’s cloaking devices. All we have to do is remain devoted to Him.
JULY THEME: “CELEBRATE”
AUGUST THEME: “MEMORY”
August 8: Carol Peterson at Carol’s Magic Quill
Aug. 11: Deb Anderson at Faith, Fiction, and Unvarnished Truth
August 12: Lynn Mosher at Heading Home
August 13: Nona King at Spirit Driven Fiction
August 14: Chris Vonada at I’m Just Thinkin’
August 15: Terrie Thorpe at Light for the Journey