TOS: S1 – E10: The Corbomite Maneuver

STARDATE: 1512.2

The episode begins with Mr. Spock running a star-mapping project from the bridge. During this work, Spock reports that Enterprise is the first ship to reach this far out. Sulu announced that the sensors detected an object, but there was no visual contact yet. The object was traveling at light speed and seemed to be on a collision course with the ship. As the Enterprise changed course to avoid impact, the object altered its course to match.

The object slowed when it was in range of visual contact, and it appeared to be a rotating, multi-colored cube. Spock ordered Sulu to steer the ship around the object. Ad he did, the object moved back into the path of the Enterprise.

The captain was in sickbay for his quarterly medical exam with Dr. McCoy when the ship’s alert went out. Spock told the captain that the object was probably not a ship. Kirk grew angry at McCoy for not telling him that there was an alert in place on the ship. McCoy responded that he wanted the captain to finish his physical, and then he asked Kirk if he thought he was a “doctor or a moon shuttle conductor.”

Spock and the navigator Bailey exchanged a few words on the bridge regarding when they first saw the object. Bailey raised his voice in excitement during the moment, and Spock told there was no need. Bailey told Spock that he was not scared when he raised his voice, but rather his adrenaline kicked in. Spock said to him that he should consider having his adrenaline gland removed.

When the captain arrived on the bridge, Spock told him that sensors reported that the cube was a solid, but of unknown composition. Uhura continued to attempt to hail the object but to no avail. Scotty said that he had no idea how its propulsion system worked. Mr. Bailey suggested they use phasers to “blast it.”

After 18 hours of contact with the cube, the captain called a meeting with the department heads. Spock said that it could be a space buoy of some kind, or it could be “flypaper.”

After 18 hours of contact with the cube, the captain called a meeting with the department heads. Spock said that it could be a space buoy of some kind, or it could be “flypaper.”

Kirk said that it was time for action. He began to order Bailey to prepare for a spiral maneuver away from the cube, but Bailey anticipated that the captain would want to fire phasers.

As they started the maneuver, they first tried .25 impulse speed, then .50 speed. The cube matched move for move. Spock then announced that the Enterprise was detecting low-level radiation from the object. Bailey reported that the cube was now just 190 meters away; Spock added that the radiation was increasing. Kirk ordered that the ship try full impulse speed. That also did not work, as the cube continued to gain, now just 125 meters away. Kirk ordered warp speed.


Too bad Balok turned out to not be a real species. A shame… they could have been a great enemy. But now, I think we can all agree that Squidward from Spongebob must have been inspired by Balok. Courtesy of CBS / Paramount

As they sped from Warp 1 to Warp 3, the cube matched their speed and continued to push out radiation at a dangerous level. When the cube got to within 51 meters of the ship, Kirk ordered they use phasers. Bailey hesitated when Kirk gave the order to lock phasers… when they were fired, the entire ship shook, and the cube was destroyed.

Kirk then wondered what to do next after destroying the cube — press on with the mission, or go back. He wondered aloud if they would encounter the source of the cube, and if it would be different and possibly superior to their own. Spock said that it would likely be both. Kirk ordered the ship ahead at Warp 1. He also noted that Bailey was slow when he ordered phasers earlier. He told Sulu that the engineering decks could have been faster as well and that he wanted a series of simulations to test the crew.

When Kirk finished on the bridge, he got into the turbolift with McCoy, who said that he was worried about Bailey. McCoy noted that Bailey might have been promoted to soon. In his cabin, Kirk shared some drinks with the doctor, and Yeoman Rand brought him his dinner, which was all vegetables. McCoy told Kirk that he gained a few pounds and he needed to lose them.

When Rand left the room, Kirk said that he wanted to “get his hands on” the person who assigned him a female yeoman. McCoy asked if Kirk did not trust himself. Kirk said that he already had a female to worry about. Her name was Enterprise.

Sulu’s voice called out over the speakers, saying that this was no longer a drill. The crew detected a new more massive object heading toward the ship. Kirk ordered them to prepare for evasive action, but just as he did, the ship was grabbed by a tractor beam. The new object was spherical, and many, many times larger than the cube. Spock said that it must be at least a mile in diameter. Bailey seemed mesmerized by the golden sphere and did not comply with the captain’s order to zoom out the viewscreen. Sulu reached over and did it for him, reducing magnification to 2.5 then 18.5.

Kirk hailed the sphere but got no reply. Bailey though received a message over his system, which Uhura then put on the main speakers. The voice identified itself as “Balok,” and said that the Enterprise had trespassed into their territory. The ship was the “Fesarius” from the “First Federation” and said that the Enterprise must be from a primitive and savage civilization. The voice said that the crew ignored a warning buoy and then destroyed it. He continued to say that they were considering the destruction of the ship and all life aboard the Enterprise.

Kirk spoke to the alien ship that they did not realize what the intentions of the buoy were. Instead of a response, the Fesarius sent loud static. Spock then said that sensor probes were invading the ship.

The Fesarius said that no communications would be accepted and if there were any hostile moves, the vessel would be destroyed immediately. Spock said they were shutting down some of the Enterprise’s systems. Kirk ordered Bailey to dispatch a recorder marker for all future Earth ships as a warning. Bailey did not respond.

Dave Bailey

Anthony Call as Dave Bailey. Courtesy of CBS / Paramount

Kirk approached Bailey and asked again. Bailey launched the marker, and as soon as he did, the Fesarius destroyed it. They announced to the crew that the marker had been destroyed and that they had finished their examination. The aliens determined that the Enterprise must be destroyed. The Fesarius granted the crew 10 minutes to make preparations for their death.

Spock said that he was trying to determine where the source of the voice was coming from so that he could get a look at the alien species. McCoy told the captain that Balok’s message was heard across the ship.

Kirk made a ship-wide speech to his crew, telling that they only feared themselves. The unknown was just a temporary thing. Surely a civilization that could achieve space travel would understand their intentions.

He then told the Fesarius that they meant to harm and that they would go back from whence they came. A low hum started, and Kirk ordered Bailey to lay in a course ahead. Bailey, again, did not respond. Sulu leaned over and plotted the course for him. Sulu tried to engage both warp and engines, but there was no response. Weapons systems were also offline.

Spock then was able to pull up an image of Balok, who was a long-faced humanoid, with a giant skull and yellow eyes. He told them that they were wasting their efforts and they had just eight minutes left.

Bailey lost his cool and said that Spock was wasting time and that someone needed to do something. McCoy told him to calm down, and he rose from his seat with great agitation. Bailey ranted for a moment, and Kirk relieved him. Kirk ordered McCoy to escort Bailey to his quarters.

Kirk tried again to speak to Balok, explaining why they destroyed the cube. As soon as he diminished speaking, the humming resumed, and Balok told them they had just seven minutes left.

Spock pulled Kirk aside and said that in chess when the game is over, the game is a checkmate. Kirk asked if that was his only suggestion. Spock said that he could find no other logical conclusion.

McCoy came back to the bridge and told Kirk that he overworked Bailey. Kirk ordered him to drop it. McCoy said that he would challenge the captain in the medical records. Kirk responded with an outburst.

He turned to Spock and said “not chess, but poker.”

Kirk spoke again to Balok, saying that they had “corbomite” aboard, which would respond to any attack with equal destructive power. He said that only two Earth vessels had been destroyed in the past 200 years due to the corbomite onboard. He said that they had no fear of death, and he suggested that they attack now because the crew was growing annoyed at their foolishness.

Spock said that Balok reminded him of his father. Sulu said they had one minute left. Bailey reappeared on the bridge and asked to be allowed to go back to his post. Kirk agreed. Sulu finished the countdown — and nothing happened.

They heard back from the aliens, who said that the destruction of the Enterprise had been delayed. They demanded proof of the corbomite device. Kirk said that the request was denied. Balok came back on screen and said that they would soon inform them on the decision to destroy the Enterprise.

A smaller ship emerged from the giant sphere. Balok told the crew that he would escort them to a planet, which would sustain their lives, but the Enterprise would still be destroyed. Weapons and navigation controls returned, but Balok’s ship put a tractor beam on the Enterprise and began to tow them.

Kirk thought to himself that the smaller ship must be less powerful. This was confirmed when Spock said that they detected that Balok’s ship took their power down. Kirk ordered that the Enterprise begin to shear away from the ship at maximum power. Sulu reported that this effort was straining the Enterprise’s engines.

Inside the Enterprise, the crew felt the friction of the ship’s engines and the tractor beam. Kirk ordered the ship to “shear away.” Spock said that the engines were 2000 degrees over their maximum temperature. Kirk ordered Sulu to engage the impulse engines as well. The ship broke free from Balok.

Scotty asked for a few hours to fix the engines. Uhura interrupted and said that Balok sent a message to the Fesarius, reporting that his engines were out and that he was stranded and his life support systems were not functioning. Kirk ordered that the Enterprise intercept Balok’s vessel.

Kirk addressed the crew, stating that they would soon board Balok’s ship because there were lives at stake.

McCoy began to question the captain’s orders, but Kirk said that this was the mission of the Enterprise. He said that he would take two men aboard the alien ship — McCoy, and Bailey. Spock asked to go, but Kirk denied the request and said he needed the Vulcan on board and ready.

Scotty said that their oxygen content was higher than what was onboard the Enterprise. They hunched down at their waists and beamed over. When they arrived, they found a puppet. They heard the voice of a humanoid child, who said his name was Balok, stretched out on a purple couch.

Balok offered them a drink called “tranya.” Balok told them that he would answer his questions as soon as they had the tranya. Kirk asked about the puppet. Balok said that this was “Mr. Jekyll” to his “Dr. Hyde.” He said that he was testing them the whole time and that he had no crew. He said that he wanted someone to talk to, and asked if a member of the team could remain behind, like a cultural exchange.

Bailey volunteered. Balok accepted the offer and then showed them around his ship.


I must tell you that I was pretty disappointed when we found out that Balok was a human child sitting on a couch. All of that build up for that? Oh well. The writers of Trek must have been an optimistic bunch. If aliens that we encounter act anything like humans do (when we’ve faced “primitive” societies), there would be nothing left.

That being said, though I was hoping for a different ending, this episode was enjoyable. You got to see Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Sulu, Scotty, and Uhura together in action. The only member of the classic crew was Chekov, who had not yet been created yet.

I always enjoyed the TNG episodes when the Enterprise encountered a ship that was beyond their power. The Enterprise D was almost “too good.” This episode was much like one of those, where the Federation ship was clearly outclassed, and they only had their unpredictable human wits to save them from certain doom.

RATING: 4 out of 5

Clint Howard, who portrayed Balok, is director Ron Howard’s brother. He also appeared in DS9’s “Past Tense, Part II,” Enterprise’s “Acquisition,” and Discovery’s “Will You Take My Hand?”

Directed by: Joseph Sargent
Written by Jerry Sohl
Created and Produced: Gene Roddenberry
Associate Producers: Robert H. Justman, John D. F. Black
Director of Photography: Jerry Finnerman
Art Directors: Roland M. Brooks and Walter M. Jefferies
Theme music by: Alexander Courage
Music composed and conducted by: Fred Steiner


William Shatner as Kirk
Leonard Nimoy as Spock


Anthony Call as Dave Bailey
Clint Howard as Balok


DeForest Kelley as Dr. McCoy
Grace Lee Whitney as Yeoman Rand

George Takei as Sulu
James Doohan as Scotty
Nichelle Nichols as Uhura

Film Editor … Robert L. Swanson
Assistant to the Producer … Edward K. Milkis
Assistant Director … Gregg Peters
Set Decorator … Carl F. Biddescombe
Costumes created by … William Theiss

Post Production Executive … Bill Heath
Music Editor … Robert H. Raff
Sound Editor … Joseph G. Sorokin
Sound Mixer … Jack F. Lilly
Photographic Effects … Howard Anderson, Co.
Script Supervisor … George A. Rutter
Music Consultant … Wilbur Hatch
Music Coordinator … Julian Davidson
Special Effects … Jim Rugg
Property Master … Irving A. Fenberg
Gaffer … George H. Merhoff
Head Grip … George Rader
Production Supervisor … Bernard A. Windin
Makeup Artist … Fred B. Phillips, S.M.A.
Hair Styles by … Virginia Darcy, C.H.S.
Wardrobe Mistress … Margaret Makau
Casting … Joseph D’Agosta
Sound … Glen Glenn Sound Co.

A DesiLu Production in association with the Norway Company

Executive in Charge of Production … Herbert F. Solow