The Corbomite Maneuver

The Corbomite Maneuver
"The Corbomite Maneuver"
Star Trek: The Original Series episode
The Enterprise encounters the Fesarius
Episode no. Episode 10
Directed by Joseph Sargent
Written by Jerry Sohl
Production code 003
Original air date November 10, 1966
Guest stars

Clint Howard
Anthony Call
Walker Edmiston
Ted Cassidy
Eddie Paskey
William Blackburn
Frank da Vinci
Ron Veto
Sean Morgan
Mittie Lawrence
Ena Hartman
Gloria Calomee
Bruce Mars
John Gabriel
Jonathan Lippe
Stewart Moss

Episode chronology
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"Dagger of the Mind"
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List of Star Trek: The Original Series episodes

"The Corbomite Maneuver" is a first season episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, first aired November 10, 1966, and repeated May 11, 1967. It is episode #10, production #3, the first regular episode of Star Trek produced after the two pilots, although it was aired later in the season. It was written by Jerry Sohl, directed by Joseph Sargent, and created and produced by Gene Roddenberry.

The episode features a very young Clint Howard, brother of actor-turned-director Ron Howard, who plays the alien "child" at the end (with an overdubbed, etheral voice provided by Walker Edmiston[1]). This was also the first episode in which DeForest Kelley played Dr. Leonard McCoy, Nichelle Nichols played Lt. Uhura and Grace Lee Whitney played Yeoman Rand, although viewers saw them for the first time in "The Man Trap".

Overview: The USS Enterprise encounters a massive starship and its unusual pilot.



On stardate 1512.2, the USS Enterprise, commanded by Captain James T. Kirk, finishes a third day of mapping stars when novice navigator Lt. Dave Bailey (Anthony Call) encounters a large spinning colored cube floating in space. Spock orders Helmsman Sulu to sound an alert.

Down in sick bay, Dr. McCoy is giving Captain Kirk his quarterly physical exam. McCoy notices the flashing alert light, but does not mention it to Kirk. Spock calls to inform Kirk about the cube, which is holding steady. Kirk is annoyed that McCoy didn't mention the light, where McCoy stubbornly states that he isn't about to jump and panic over every alert.

On the bridge, Mr. Scott studies the cube but is at a loss to how it works. A nervous and inexperienced Bailey advocates attacking it with phasers. Kirk arrives and instead orders the ship to back away from the object. The cube responds by coming even closer and emitting harmful radiation. Kirk is finally forced to destroy it.

In Kirk's quarters afterward, Yeoman Rand brings Kirk an unappetizing salad, as per Dr. McCoy's medical orders. McCoy tells the Captain he restricted his diet because he has gained weight. In the midst of a series of attack drills, Sulu overrides the simulations, and Spock informs the Captain that a much larger object is rapidly approaching.

Responding to the object's destruction – which the crew soon learn was a boundary marker – a gigantic glowing sphere quickly approaches the Enterprise. It fills the bridge viewscreen, even at low magnification. The vessel's controller, Balok, identifies his ship as the Fesarius, the flagship of the "First Federation."

Mr. Spock manages to get a visual of Balok, a grotesque, blue-skinned humanoid with a frightening face. Balok ignores Kirk's greetings, and announces that he will destroy the Enterprise for trespassing into First Federation territory and destroying the marker buoy. Balok informs the crew they have ten minutes to pray to their deities before their demise.

During this agonized wait for their destruction, Bailey finally gives in to his fears. He rants irrationally, particularly when Sulu makes note of the time remaining. Having enough of Bailey's outburst, Kirk orders him off the bridge.

Mr. Spock compares the situation to a game of chess; "In chess, when one player is outmatched, the game is over" and regrets that he can find no logical answer. Kirk replies that the solution is not chess, but poker. He bluffs Balok telling him that the Enterprise has incorporated into it a substance known as Corbomite which is a material and a device that prevents attack, because if any destructive energy touches the vessel, a reverse reaction of equal strength is created, destroying the attacker.

Apparently falling for the ruse, Balok does not destroy the ship as previously announced. During the pause, Bailey, now calmer, returns to the bridge and requests to return to his station, to which Kirk agrees. Afterward, Balok makes direct contact with the Enterprise, requesting details on the Corbomite device. After allowing sufficient time, mostly to cause Balok to worry the details, Kirk refuses.

A tug ship then detaches from the Fesarius and tows the Enterprise deep into First Federation space, where Balok announces he will intern the crew and destroy the Enterprise. Under tow, Kirk orders the Enterprise to increasingly resist the tug ship's tractor beam. Just as the Enterprise's engines are about to explode from the overload, it breaks free. This disables the alien vessel. With the power supply nearly drained, the tug cannot even call for help from the bigger ship.

Rather than flee, Kirk, McCoy, and Bailey form a landing party to render assistance. Scotty, operating the transporter, tells them to bend down, as the scan on the alien ship reveals it has a very low ceiling and they have to "stoop" over. Beaming over, they quickly discover that the 'Balok' who appeared on their monitor is just a dummy. The real Balok then makes himself known, resembling a hyperintelligent human child. He enthusiastically welcomes them aboard, offering them "tranya", his favorite beverage.

Balok explains that he was merely testing the Enterprise and its crew, to discover their true intentions. Although he had read the Enterprise computer records, he felt they could have been a deception. He created his dummy alter-ego, as he knew his true appearance would never frighten anyone.

Kirk and company finally relax. Balok says that he runs the Fesarius entirely by himself and greatly misses company and conversation. He expresses his desire to learn more about humans and their culture, and Lt. Bailey is volunteered by Kirk to remain on Balok's ship as an emissary of the Federation.


The episode was the first episode of the regular series to be produced, after the two pilots, "The Cage" and "Where No Man Has Gone Before", which had been made in 1964 and 1965. It was shot at a different stage, in Hollywood. Sets were transferred from Desilu's Culver City location, and a new engine room set constructed. Shooting started on May 24, 1966. The episode was held back until November, becoming the 10th episode to be broadcast, as it was decided to focus on planet-based stories early in the show's run.[2]

40th Anniversary remastering

This episode was remastered in 2006 and first aired December 10, 2006 as part of the remastered Original Series. It was preceded a week earlier by "The Menagerie, Part II" and followed after a three week holiday break by "Friday's Child". Aside from remastered video and audio, and the all-CGI animation of the USS Enterprise that is standard among the revisions, specific changes to this episode also include:

  • The buoy cube appeared as a CGI effect. The yellow, blue, and red light from the buoy reflects off the hull of the Enterprise.
  • The Fesarius and the alien tug ship both appeared as CGI elements. The domes of the Fesarius were given a faceted glass-like appearance.
  • The Enterprise bridge chronometer as well as the engine temperature readouts were given face lifts. The computer screen in the meeting lounge was given a detailed star chart image.


Zack Handlen of The A.V. Club gave the episode a 'A' rating, describing it as "TOS at its best—gripping, well-paced, and thematically coherent". Handlen also noted the ending's note of optimism.[3]


This episode was parodied during Comedy Central's Roast of William Shatner, with Balok appearing as a guest via video as an older adult (with Clint Howard reprising his role), stating "I've grown quite a bit, and so has my thirst for tranya! Unlike you, Bill, I admit I have a drinking problem". Balok also made fun of Shatner's baldness and concluded by wishing him a pleasant evening.

The episode was also parodied on Mr. Show in episode 409, "Sad Songs Are Nature's Onions".

A still shot of the fearsome Balok puppet became part of the closing credits of Star Trek, appearing during the theme's crescendo. This still shot is parodied in the Futurama episode "Where No Fan Has Gone Before". During the end credits, Kif Kroker is shown as Balok, even though no such scene appeared in the Futurama episode.

An image of the puppet Balok was used by producer Robert Justman to poke fun at his colleague Herbert Solow. As Solow's name appears in the end credits, it does so superimposed over the puppet's face.[4]

At the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear on October 30, 2010, Jon Stewart used the imaginary threat of "corbomite" in bottled water to illustrate how media figures (personified by Stephen Colbert) create and magnify fears in the public. "You just got scared by something that is not real," Stewart said.[5][6]

In The Venture Bros. episode Assisted Suicide, Henchman #21 pours drinks for himself and Dr. Mrs the Monarch, calling it tranya. She responds with "I hope you relish it as much as I" before mentioning how creeped out she was by Ron Howard's little brother.


  1. ^ Van Hise, James, "Walker Edmiston: A man of many voices talks about his off-and on-screen appearances."[sic], Starlog #58, May 1982, O'Quinn Studios, Inc., p.21.
  2. ^ Herbert F. Solow and Robert H. Justman (1996). Inside Star Trek: The Real Story. Pocket Books. ISBN 0-671-00974-5. 
  3. ^ Handlen, Zack (13 February 2009). ""What Are Little Girls Made Of?"/"Miri"". The A.V. Club.,23786/. Retrieved 15 August 2009. 
  4. ^ Inside Star Trek The Real Story. June: Simon & Schuster. 1997. pp. 194–195. ISBN 0-671-00974-5. 
  5. ^ Stanglin, Doug (October 30, 2010). "Stewart and Colbert rally thousands to 'restore sanity'". USA Today. Retrieved October 30, 2010. 
  6. ^ Itzkoff, Dave (October 30, 2010). "Live Blog: At the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear". The New York Times. Retrieved October 31, 2010. 

External links

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