Star Trek

Season 1 Episode 10

The Corbomite Maneuver

Aired Unknown Nov 10, 1966 on NBC
out of 10
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221 votes

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Episode Summary

The Enterprise encounters a vast alien ship that sets out to test them.

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  • The Enterprise encounters an alien ship and is tested by Balok of the First Federation.

    The first regular Star Trek episode to be made, "The Corbomite Maneuver" originally aired after several other episodes because of the time needed for the massive amount of unique special effects; but it's a chance to see Trek in its infancy with a bridge-based bottle show designed to highlight the interaction between the characters. (In fact, with DeForest Kelley and Nichelle Nichols - not to mention Grace Lee Whitney - joining the cast for this episode, it marks the first time the original Star Trek crew we know and love was able to begin building their chemistry as a whole).

    Like Star Trek: The Motion Picture, much of "Corbomite" features Kirk and his crew standing on the bridge watching effects and attempting to outthink an unknown adversary who doesn't know what to make of them. It's not a story for everyone, with some people preferring more action and excitement (or more pretty girls); but it's very Star Trek, and director Joseph Sargent successfully builds the tension in each act, creating a natural sense of curiosity for first time viewers unsure about what's going to happen next.

    Anthony Hall stars as Lieutenant Bailey, with the character getting his own little story here (with enough interest to merit a sequel, though it never happens) but it's Ted Cassidy ("You rang?") as the voice of "Balok", the alien puppet, that steals the show.

    The main cast members themselves begin to settle into their roles quite nicely. McCoy delivers his first variant of "I'm a doctor, not and Spock (at the request of the director) responds to a stunning sight with "fascinating" for the first time. Kirk himself is firmly in command of the ship, almost enjoying the cat and mouse game with Balok. But the chemistry between the three is not yet there. McCoy spends much of the time playing the ship's counselor, talking down to Kirk and ignoring Spock (who sits helpless in his chair, unable to present Kirk with ideas and strategies). Looking back, it's easy to see how the relationship needs to be reshuffled to set up a tripod upon which an episode can be built upon.

    Other rough edges would later be smoothed out as well, including lighting issues, awkward camera angles, extraneous stage noises and uniform inconsistency. But for a beginning, "Corbomite Maneuver" accomplishes a lot, giving future directors a nice example of what a bridge-based story should look like.

    Remastered Version: As an effects heavy episode, this one provided CBS Digital with lots to do, though the original effects are rather stunning themselves and an example of early Star Trek's best work. As such, the remastered version is fun to watch but not as much of an upgrade as some other "effects" episodes (like The Galileo Seven and The Doomsday Machine). Sticking to the original ideas, the CGI team basically gives us the original ideas in a more realistic way. But with about six minutes of new effects, the work stands out.

    Almost as notable as not fixing Kirk's grave in "Where No Man Has Gone Before", CBS Digital leaves another mistake alone here: Sulu, supposedly responding to Balok announcing "You now have two minutes" says, "I knew he would". It would be a genuinely funny moment, except the sound editors forgot to insert Balok's line. While some versions of the episode delete Sulu's line to eliminate evidence of the mistake, the Blu-ray edition keeps it intact. (On the other hand, the ship's chronometer, with the original (also appearing in "The Naked Time") being incorrectly geared, is replaced with a visual that counts down time correctly.

  • A classic

    The Enterprise encounters a strange buoy sent out by an alien species in unexplored space. After destroying the buoy and proceeding forward, they also establish contact with the alien flagship Commander, Balok, who is well capable of destroying the ship. This is one of the earliest episode, so the sets, props, characters - Spock especially - and the general atmosphere of the show are a bit different than the later episodes, but that isn't really a problem.

    What I personally love about this episode is the suspense, the encounter with the unknown. We get a good demonstration of what the Enterprise really is about, and a demonstration of Kirk's command skills (only rivaled by another season one episode, "Balance Of Terror"). Balok's mother ship, The Fesarius, is also quite beautiful!moreless
  • The Starship Enterprise encounters a mysterious alien being identified as 'Balok', which blocks their way and refuses to allow them to leave, threatening to destory this ship. A very good episode that leaves you guessing throughout...moreless

    After 'Where No Man Has Gone Before', this was the first regular episode to be produced, but was held back until a bit later in the season (reportedly because NBC wanted more 'planet' based stories near the start of the run).

    Anyway, it is a really good episode. At some points, there really seems no way out for the Enterprise crew and you wonder how they're going to escape.

    Anthony Call is fair as Lt. Bailey, the episode's 'featured crew member', the edgy crewman who nearly loses his head when the Enterprise is caught in Balok's grip.

    Also keep an eye on Mr. Sulu, who for much of the episode carries out both his own duties and that for the fazed Bailey.

    There is the notable goof later in the episode, as Sulu says "One minute ... I knew he would". Balok's dialogue of "One minute" was supposed to be dubbed in between but never was.

    On first viewing, you are led to really wonder who or what Balok is. The outcome of the episode, on first viewing, is quite surprising, and a real twist.

    Although on repeat viewing you know the truth about Balok, the episode still holds up well thanks to some good writing and performances.

    All-in-all, a great episode.moreless
  • Kirk tries to bluff an alien bully, and gets told.

    This episode is absolutely one of my favorites. When I was watching it, I had no idea what was going to happen so it was actually pretty dramatic. I also loved the side story of the tension between Kirk and McCoy over the erratic crewman. But I think what I really appreciated most about the episode was its sense of humor. I was totally cracking up when Balok gave them ten minutes to live, and every time Kirk would start to try and talk to him, all nice and haughty, he'd get shut up by "7 minutes," "3 minutes," etc. Sometimes I think Kirk is a little too cocky and it's nice when he gets taken down a peg, so the whole thing was so funny.moreless
  • A little suffering is good for the soul

    'The Corbomite Manoeuvre' is an unfortunate episode that has its beginning, middle, heart and overall premise in the right place, but unfortunately fails to pay off by the time the credits role. Nevertheless, before I go on about the reason why this episode ended up failing to be what it could have been, let's go over just what makes the majority of it so enticing.

    First of all I have to say that even though it looks pretty dated by today's standards, I love the Balok puppet and regard it as one of the best original Trek prop aliens to be used in the series. Every time I see the thing on the Enterprise viewscreen, I get the creeps. There's just something about it that's always been unsettling for me. In fact, the episode's effects in general are pretty decent overall and as I said, even though they are completely rubbish compared to what we can achieve today, they still do their job well without distracting.

    Joseph Sargent who directs this episode, does a great job for the first two acts: pacing the action and character development; balancing them well to achieve dramatic and cerebral tension. Particularly effective is the scene involving the threat of Enterprise's destruction in which radiation is rapidly being projected at the ship. Not only does he create an atmosphere –with the help of the brilliant performances of cast of course- of immediate panic and fear, but he manages to escalate it to a heart-thumping climax, that pays off excellently. Unfortunately, it's a shame that he couldn't work better with Sohl's script to build this kind of tension throughout the entire episode.

    Nonetheless, what 'The Corbomite Manoeuvre' also gives the Star Trek fan (and this is something I could only really appreciate second time round, having watched the entire series) something to enjoy is the very rare circumstance of all the main cast being aboard the bridge for one very prolonged set of time. Now inherently, this isn't really something to write home about, but thankfully Sohl's script uses this opportunity to create many scenes for characters to establish themselves early on in the series, and to develop themselves and the relationships they have with those around them. This is further exemplified through the entire cast's fantastic performances, giving some of the greatest enthusiasm that they give for the show throughout its entire run. Particularly striking was Nimoy's sometimes aggressive take on Spock, although not in an emotional sense, strictly in a logical command-driven sense of course.

    The main star of this episode however is Kirk. Indeed watching him keeping his cool and dealing with the situation at hand is rather interesting to watch and Shatner does a great job portraying the captain. He nails his personality, even for so very early on in the series. However, aside from all the command and dealing with alien bullies, my favourite scene of the entire episode occurs when Kirk and McCoy take a trip to Kirk's quarters and engage in a conversational scene that really could have been left out for plot purposes, but would have surely damaged the show's sentimental warmth. Both Shatner and Kelley do a brilliant job here, and having just seen Star Trek II, really wish that they could have pulled off something just a little closer to what we have here in 'The Corbomite Manoeuvre'. For an episode so early on, it really feels like these guys have known each other for years upon years, it's amazing and amusing to watch at the same time. Although not fully developed enough for my liking and in the end seeming like such a waste of development, the character of Bailey is an interesting one, often creating some dramatic scenes that show the pressure involved when working aboard a starship; something we rarely see. Indeed, it's not only Bailey who seems to crack under the stress, many of the ships crew begin to act irrationally at times, creating rather striking scenes with conflict between crew members that is so rarely seen in the Enterprise's sterile crew. In the end however, everyone eventually comes together and works to 'defeat' Balok. Unfortunately this is done through a series of rather repetitive and unimaginative scenes that really hinder the preceding acts. Then comes the twist ending that I'm still not so sure about. In one sense it seems like a cop-out, seems like the writer couldn't be bothered with it anymore, and decided to throw in a cheap wrap-up. On the other hand however, it is naturally a fitting ending for a Star Trek episode and suits the show's overall arching message well. Plus, I can't deny that I didn't see it coming; I was genuinely surprised on my first watch, even if I was genuinely aghast at the same time. Overall, a great episode, but it's a shame about the lackluster ending.moreless
Anthony Call

Anthony Call

Lt. Dave Bailey

Guest Star

Clint Howard

Clint Howard


Guest Star

George Bochman

George Bochman

Crew woman #4 (uncredited)

Guest Star

Grace Lee Whitney

Grace Lee Whitney

Yeoman Janice Rand

Recurring Role

George Takei

George Takei

Lt. Hikaru Sulu

Recurring Role

Nichelle Nichols

Nichelle Nichols

Lt. Nyota Uhura

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (13)

    • In one shot on the bridge, McCoy's uniform changes from the standard black collar version (as he entered the bridge) to the shiny short sleeved version (while watching the Blalok puppet) and back (when leaving with Bailey).

    • In the very first shot in this episode of the Enterprise and the quick zoom in towards the bridge the front of the warp nacelles had short gold spikes on them and the bridge dome was slightly different. This was due to the staff reusing footage from the beginning of the "The Cage."

    • Although the ship is on red alert there are still plenty of people roaming the corridors to get tossed around. During red alert all crewmembers should be at their stations.

    • When Scotty told the landing party to bend down because the ceilings were low in Balok's ship, everyone put their hands on their legs but when they arrived, Dr. McCoy's hands were not on his legs anymore.

    • Kirk asks Spock for the mass of the Fesarius (Balok's ship) and Spock advises him that "the reading goes off my scale". This starship is sent to map star systems and planets. It's highly unlikely that they would be unable to at least estimate the mass of the Fesarius; at the very least, they could do so by measuring its gravity.

    • Spock states that the Fesarius (Balok's ship) "must be a mile in diameter". Yet any one of the small spheres that make up the Fesarius dwarfs the Enterprise. If the Enterprise is about 300m long, the Fesarius would have to be around 6 km in diameter--considerably larger than a mile.

    • Lt. Uhura had a science patch on her uniform but she had a command (gold) uniform.

    • Sulu said that the cube's angles each measure 107 meters. The Enterprise is 289 meters long. If the cube was 107 meters in size, it would have to be about 1/3 the size of the Enterprise.

    • Kirk calls the Enterprise the "United Earth Ship" (U.E.S.) Enterprise, he should have said "United Space Ship" (U.S.S.)

    • The space sensor array wasn't moving at the beginning of this episode.

    • When Kirk and Spock discuss their next move after the warning buoy explodes, Spock does/doesn't have an earpiece in his right ear depending on the camera shot.

    • Once again the little gear-type clock on Sulu's position is out of sync - it reads "2:01 - 1:00 - 1:59." This messes Sulu up, since he announces they have only one minute left. (Editor's note: I belive that the producers actually wanted it to be "2:01 - 1:60 - 1:59" but they made the first second counting wheel go only up to 5.)

    • When Kirk gives his speech shipwide to the crew, in one hallway camera shot a crewman is totally frozen with one foot raised in the air.

  • QUOTES (12)

    • Spock: I regret not having learned more about this Balok. He was reminiscent of my father.
      Scotty: May Heaven have helped your mother.
      Spock: Quite the contrary. She considered herself a very fortunate Earth woman.

    • Balok: You and I are much alike, Captain. Both proud of our vessels.

    • Kirk: I'll take two men with me. Dr. McCoy, to examine and treat the alien if necessary, and you, Mr. Bailey.
      Bailey: Sir?
      Kirk: The face of the unknown. I believe I owe you a look at it.

    • Kirk: You saw the alarm lights flashing from there, McCoy. Why didn't you tell me?
      McCoy: (yelling as Kirk leaves sick bay) I finally finished a physical on you, didn't I? What am I, a doctor or a moon shuttle conductor? (to himself) If I jumped every time a light came on around here, I'd end up talking to myself.

    • Kirk: Dr. McCoy, I've heard you say that man is ultimately superior to any mechanical device.
      McCoy: No, I never say that, either.
      Kirk: I could've sworn I heard you say that.

    • Kirk: When I get my hands on the headquarters genius who assigned me a female yeoman...
      McCoy: What's the matter, Jim? Don't you trust yourself?
      Kirk: I've already got a female to worry about. Her name is the Enterprise.

    • Kirk: You know the greatest danger facing us is ourselves, and irrational fear of the unknown. There is no such thing as the unknown. Only things temporarily hidden, temporarily not understood.

    • Kirk: This is the Captain of the Enterprise. Our respect for other life forms requires that we give you this... warning. There is one critical item of information that has never been incorporated into the memory banks of any Earth ship. Since the early years of space exploration, Earth vessels have had incorporated into them a substance known as... corbomite. It is a material and a device which prevents attack on us. If any destructive energy touches our vessel, a reverse reaction of equal strength is created, destroying...
      Balok: You now have two minutes.
      Kirk: ...destroying the attacker. It may interest you to know that since the initial use of corbomite more than two of our centuries ago, no attacking vessel has survived the attempt. Death has... little meaning to us. If it has none to you then attack us now. We grow annoyed at your foolishness.

    • Spock: Has it occurred to you that there's a certain... inefficiency in constantly questioning me on things you've already made up your mind about?
      Kirk: It gives me emotional security.

    • Bailey: We've got phaser weapons, I vote we blast it!
      Kirk: I'll keep that in mind, Mr. Bailey... when this becomes a democracy.

    • Kirk: Aren't you the one who said a little suffering is good for the soul?
      McCoy: I never say that!

    • Bailey: Raising my voice back there doesn't mean I was scared or couldn't do my job. It means I happen to have a human thing called an adrenaline gland.
      Spock: It does sound most inconvenient, however. Have you considered having it removed?
      (Sulu laughs)
      Bailey: Very funny.
      Sulu: Try to cross brains with Spock, he'll cut you to pieces every time.

  • NOTES (6)

    • In September 2006, just under 40 years after this episode aired, Clint Howard appeared in character as Balok in the special Comedy Central Presents : The Roast of William Shatner.

    • On the weekend of November 18-19th, 2006 TVLand showed mini-marathons of Star Trek TOS episodes and Star Trek-related shows to note the aquisition of the series for their regular line-up. Showing the episodes out of original broadcast order, they followed up this episode with the second season episode "The Deadly Years" presumably because both episodes mention the fictional explosive compound corbomite.

    • The late Ted Cassidy (Balok puppet) was Lurch on The Addams Family (ABC, 1964-66). He also made a previous appearance as Ruk in the episode "What Are Little Girls Made Of?"

    • Uhura wears a gold uniform in this episode.

    • This is an early episode, so Kirk announces his ship for the first and last time as the "United Earth Ship Enterprise," rather then "Federation."

    • This episode was originally slated to be episode number 2, and the first appearance of Doctor McCoy, Yeoman Rand, and Lt. Uhura.


    • Balok: In your culture, he would be Mr. Hyde, to my Jekyll.
      The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was a story by Robert Louis Stevenson, originally published in the late 19th century. In the tale, Dr. Jekyll, a peaceful man, created a potion that unleashed his "evil side", the murderous Mr. Hyde. Since its publication, the term "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" has come into colloquial use, to refer to the good and evil parts of a person.