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Season One:
-1: "The Cage"
-2: "Where No Man Has Gone Before"
-3: "The Corbomite Maneuver"
-4: "Mudd's Women"
-5: "The Enemy Within"
-6: "The Man Trap"
-7: "The Naked Time"
-8: "Charlie X"
-9: "Balance of Terror"
-13: "The Conscience of the King"
-16: "The Menagerie"
-20: "The Alternative Factor"
----: _Time Travel Season 1
-21: "Tomorrow is Yesterday"
----: _Prime Directive Origins
-22: "The Return of the Archons"

-23: "A Taste of Armageddon"
-27: "Errand of Mercy"
-28: "The City On the Edge of Forever"
-29: "Operation -- Annihilate!"
-Season 1 Rankings

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The Corbomite Maneuver

(Star Trek story #3 in production order)
  • written by Jerry Sohl
  • directed by Joseph Sargent
  • created and produced by Gene Roddenberry
  • music by Fred Steiner

The Corbomite Maneuver

For the actual weekly Star Trek series, production began with this episode - primarily a shipboard show in which the crew encounter and confront a large and powerful unknown species in an uncharted region. Though nowhere near as eventful as the two previous pilot episodes, this one is successful in creating and maintaining a tense standoff for the main drama, while finishing off with one of the most successful celebrations of Star Trek philosophy that can be found in Trek's earliest episodes.

It actually made a lot of good sense to shoot this episode first in the weekly schedules. This allowed the production designers to really focus on getting the Enterprise sets and costumes right, after which principle photography would be relatively easy and straightforward. Only one small "swing set" was required for the ending and a few inserts. This episode sees some welcome expansions to the sickbay and the Captain's quarters which will benefit all subsequent episodes. However, with all the principle photography in the can, the episode was still far from ready. "The Corbomite Maneuver" required a lot more model and optical shots than most other episodes, so it isn't surprising that it languished in post-production longer than usual, eventually taking the 10th broadcast slot. Its opticals turned out to be quite good in the end, with some of the trick composites giving the episode an enormous sense of scale, nicely coupled with the very "big" sound of Fred Steiner's music.

Though it's not a bad idea to save this big encounter until part-way through the season, I still prefer to watch this as the third episode since it is introducing us to the rest of the regular Enterprise crew for Season One. Episode Three's biggest addition to the line-up is undoubtedly Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy, who spends most of his time in this episode demonstrating his relationship with Kirk while discussing the crew in general and the main guest star in particular. Kirk and McCoy most definitely have a pre-existing and comfortable, warm relationship that they enjoy, one that makes compelling viewing. It's in much the same vein as Captain Pike and John Hoyt's bartending doctor from the first pilot "The Cage", and equally if not more successful, while the age difference between Kirk and McCoy perhaps works a bit better for what the writers had envisioned. It's easy to like McCoy from this episode and get on board with him here. He's clearly the physician in his first scene, getting in the first of his infamous "I'm a doctor" career contrast lines, but he actually spends most of his time in this one performing duty as ship's psychologist, looking out for crew morale. And though he has one moment of getting on Kirk's case at an inappropriate time, he's pretty quick to notice, apologize, and make amends... and the moment also goes on to inspire Kirk to invent the winning tactic that the episode is named after.

Also notable is the first appearance of Lt. Uhura. To be fair, she doesn't get a heck of a lot to do in this story beyond performing her job adequately, but it's reassuring to see the familiar faces of the crew come together here. Uhura turns out to be the only member of the cast who has not yet found the correct colour for her uniform yet - another indication that this is still early days for the show. In actual fact, she bumped our main guest star Mr. Bailey from his position as communication officer, making him the navigator for the episode. At times, one may wonder how Bailey got this position, considering how he behaves, but it's not too hard to accept when one considers he was probably quite a quick replacement for Gary Mitchell.

The last major addition to the crew for this episode is Grace Lee Whitney as Yeoman Janice Rand. Though she turns out to be a very important character for many of these early episodes, she ends up with a smaller and more understated role in this episode, though she at least gets enough scenes and screen time to make a memorable and favourable impression. And it's nice that it does seem that Kirk is just getting used to her presence aboard ship in this one.

For those of you wondering where Ensign Pavel Chekov is, well, he's probably still in his final year of studies at the Academy, because he won't make his debut on the show until next season.

Because this is primarily a shipboard show, and one that has a lot of tense and dramatic "waiting time" in it, we do get a lot of chances to merely observe our crew discussing matters with each other, demonstrating who they are as characters - and they all seem to benefit quite a bit from this approach. Mr. Spock, Scotty, and Sulu are all back from the previous story as well, all getting increasing depth of character and seeming much more like the people we all grew to love as the show progressed. Mr. Spock makes his half-Human heritage known in this story (a step up from the second pilot's implication that he might be something like 1/16 Human), and catches himself almost expressing an emotion. His catch-phrase of "Fascinating!" also begins here.

This story is quite successful at having its cake and eating it too. The main external confrontation literally feels like a very big deal, as though we're encountering a race and civilization that are a real force to be reckoned with. Their spacefaring technology appears far more advanced and powerful than that of Kirk and company, giving them the upper hand. Our first images of Balok on screen, though primitively realized, are also quite effective. We see a figure that is very non-Human, likely quite tall, and in demeanour appears to be quite severe, matching his very stern position in the scripted dialogue. A kind of underwater rippling effect over the screen works to help mask the simple production methods used to create this creature for his full motion scenes, and gives him a more organic believability while also raising questions about what kind of atmosphere his race requires to live in. I think we should also acknowledge the undistorted still image of him that also graces many of the end credit sequences of other episodes, where he also has quite an impact. If you see any of those shows first, you may indeed begin to anticipate and look forward to Balok's episode with baited curiosity, which is all to the good of the show's success.

This big confrontation is quite organically and believably worked out, taking its time and not being afraid to go for the obvious early on, and then see where that would naturally lead the characters.

Best of all, our protagonists' choices at the conclusion of this adventure clearly stamp the highest ideals of Star Trek philosophy onto the show. Having defeated the dangers, they prudently stand ready to assist and pursue friendly relations, and the story's final act indulges them, revealing in great detail what a likeable softie Balok truly is at heart. Yes, we get the first of many examples of Star Trek's staple "It's a test!" clichés making sense of what happened earlier in the episode, but I feel that this one works better than most, and the payoff this time around is well worth it. Balok's friendlier alter ego is once again a pretty good way of achieving otherworldliness, giving Ron Howard's younger brother Clint some early cult fame. Funky stuff.

If perhaps the Enterprise crewmembers go too far in trusting Balok's turnaround so soon, for me it is symbolized by sharing a drink of the orange-juice-like "Tranya" with him. As a child that part always freaked me out a bit, and seemed as tense a moment as the earlier ship-to-ship standoff. It could be a deliberate attempt to poison the landing party. On the other hand, it could be a drink that is perfectly palatable to Balok's species, offered in a genuine gesture of friendship, while Balok is ignorant of the fact that it is completely toxic to Humans. For a first contact between two new species, it seems there's a necessary scientific step of figuring out how compatible the two species' diets are. That step gets skipped here, in the interests of diplomatically sparing Balok's feelings, and it often creeped me out a bit. Couldn't McCoy have run his medical tricorder over a glass of Tranya first, and commented on what was in it? Or would that have offended their host? A minor nit at best these days.

Though this may at times seem to be one of the slower episodes of early Star Trek, it doesn't commit any major sins, and celebrates the natural facets of all the regular characters. Most importantly, I think both its power and its philosophically on-the-money ending give it quite a strong boost into the upper echelons of early Star Trek's better episodes.

Read the next Star Trek review: "Mudd's Women"

This story is available on DVD and Blu-Ray.
Click on the Amazon symbol for the desired disc format and location nearest you for pricing and availability:

Star Trek Season One "Purist" Standard DVD Box Set:

Watch the legend develop from its infancy. Set contains 29 episodes from the first season in their original wacky broadcast order, including "The Menagerie Parts 1 & 2" which used footage from the original unaired pilot "The Cage". However, "The Cage" itself is only included with the Season Three Box Set.

As someone interested in researching how the episodes actually looked and sounded originally, and when and exactly how certain musical cues first debuted, this was the DVD set for me, and it remains the most untampered-with full-season collection of Star Trek out there. Unique extras include pure text commentaries on select episodes. Sadly, these sets are starting to become rare, and prices are now rising as these become collectors' items....


DVD Canada


Standard DVD Extras include:

  • original restored broadcast versions of the 29 episodes.
  • "The Birth of a Timeless Legacy" documentary (24 min.)
  • Text only commentary by Denise & Michael Okuda on "Where No Man Has Gone Before", "The Menagerie Parts 1 & 2", and "The Conscience of the King".
  • "To Boldly Go" featurette (19 min.) discussing
    "The Naked Time", "City on the Edge of Forever",
    "The Devil in the Dark", and "The Squire of Gothos".
  • "Reflections on Spock" featurette (12 min.)
  • "Sci-Fi Visionaries" writing featurette (17 min.)
  • "Life Beyond Trek: William Shatner" featurette (10 min.)
  • "Red Shirt Logs" Easter Eggs (7 min. total)
  • Photo Log (still menus)
  • Original Trailers for every episode (1 min. each)

Standard DVD Remastered with CGI:
DVD/HD Combo R1
DVD/HD Combo R1
DVD/HD Combo R2
Standard DVD only R2

The Original Series Remastered Sets

The re-mastered Star Trek sets are more readily available, and in addition to picture and sound quality restoration, liberties have been taken with "upgrading" the episodes. Most famously, new CGI effects and optical shots have replaced many space scenes, matte paintings, and phaser effects. Unlike similar upgrades applied to select Doctor Who DVD releases since 2002, the CGI effects cannot be turned off to see the original effects. The kicker for me comes from reports that the episodes have been rescored with new music. Interesting, funky, but since it's primarily the original music I'm after in the first place, this was not the set for me.

Another curiosity: Season One was released on double-sided discs, with standard DVD on one side and HD on the other. Reportedly, not all extras are accessible on the standard DVD side. However, by the time the remastered versions of seasons two and three were released, HD had clearly lost the standards war to Blu-Ray, and so seasons two and three "remastered" offer standard DVD only yet again.

Adding to the bizarre formatting is the very gimmicky, awkward packaging that is prone to damage both during shipping and with light usage. The season 1 set fares better than its counterparts for seasons 2 or 3 though, in having some interesting bonus features not found on any other season one Star Trek set:

DVD/HD Combo Season 1 Exclusive extras:

  • Starfleet Access interactive trivia plus picture-in-picture interviews for "The Galileo Seven" (HD version only).
  • "Beyond the Final Frontier" History Channel documentary (SD, 90 min.) with host Leonard Nimoy.
  • Trekker Connections interactive DVD game (SD side)
  • Star Trek online game preview (SD, 3 min.)

Season One - Blu Ray

  29 episodes @ 51 minutes
Star Trek sets are now available on Blu Ray. Picture and sound quality restoration has gone up yet another notch since the remastered version, as have the liberties taken with "upgrading" the episodes. Once again, even newer CGI effects and optical shots have replaced many space scenes, matte paintings, and phaser effects.... but this time the upgrades have the same respect and user-functionality applied to select Doctor Who DVD releases since 2002, as the CGI effects can now be turned off to see the original effects. Good show. It seems that the music has still been tampered with too much for my liking though.

Blu-ray U.S.

Blu-ray Canada

Blu-ray U.K.

Blu-ray features add:

  • option to watch episodes with original or new CGI effects.
  • Spacelift: Transporting Trek into the 21st Century featurette (HD, 20 min.) covering the restoration, CGI effects, and music upgrades.
  • Starfleet Access - Okuda interactive trivia plus picture-in-picture interviews on 6 episodes:
    • Where No Man Has Gone Before
    • The Menagerie Part 1
    • The Menagerie Part 2
    • Balance of Terror
    • Space Seed
    • Errand of Mercy
  • Behind-the-scenes 8mm home movies (HD, 13 min.) from Billy Blackburn (Lt. Hadley / Gorn)
  • Kiss 'N tell: Romance in the 23rd Century (8 min.)
  • Interactive Enterprise Inspection (HD)
  • plus all documentaries, featurettes, and episode promos from the "purist" standard DVD set listed far above.

"The Corbomite Maneuver" is also available with an isolated music score in:

The Roddenberry Vault - Blu Ray only

  12 episodes @ 51 minutes
This collection is available on Blu Ray only. It features 12 episodes as originally edited and broadcast. 11 of the episodes feature optional isolated music tracks ("The City on the Edge of Forever" is the episode that does not). I'd be going nuts for those, if only I didn't already have all the music thanks to this 15-CD set. Still, the music tracks are nice to have in this format, right on the episodes. There are apparently small bits of lost footage incorporated into the package's lengthy documentaries, but many fans were disappointed with the small quantity of this type of material. Really, I'd recommend this for those interested in the documentaries/featurettes, audio commentaries, and music tracks, but not for deleted scenes or lost footage.

Blu-ray U.S.

Blu-ray Canada

Blu-ray U.K.

  • Episodes:
    • 03. The Corbomite Maneuver
    • 19. Arena
    • 24. Space Seed
    • 25. This Side of Paradise
    • 26. The Devil in the Dark
    • 28. The City on the Edge of Forever
    • 29. Operation - Annihilate!

    • 31. Metamorphosis
    • 33. Who Mourns for Adonais?
    • 39. Mirror, Mirror
    • 42. The Trouble With Tribbles
    • 51. Return to Tomorrow

  • isolated music tracks on all episodes except "City..."
  • NEW audio commentaries on:
    • 25. This Side of Paradise, with writer Dorothy D.C. Fontana and DS9's Gabrielle Stanton
    • 28. The City on the Edge of Forever, with
      Blu-ray producer Roger Lay Jr., Access Hollywood's Scott Mantz, and fan Mark A. Altman
    • 42. The Trouble With Tribbles, with writer David Gerrold and Enterprise's David A. Goodman
  • Documentaries and Featurettes:
    • Inside the Roddenberry Vault (Parts 1-3)
    • Star Trek: Revisiting a Classic
    • Strange New Worlds: Visualizing the Fantastic
    • Swept Up: Snippets from the Cutting Room Floor

Article written by Martin Izsak. Comments are welcome. You may contact the author from this page:

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Read the next Star Trek review: "Mudd's Women"

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