In this episode of Trekking Through Compliance, we consider the episode The Enterprise Incident which aired on September 27, 1968, Star Date 5031.3.

Story Synopsis

Apparently suffering from the stress of command, Kirk begins becoming irritable and irrational. He even orders the Enterprise across the Neutral Zone into Romulan space. Despite sensor scans which show nothing within a parsec, the Enterprise is immediately surrounded by three Romulan ships. Kirk promptly sends a coded sub-space message to Starfleet Command apprising them of the situation. Sub-commander Tal of the Romulan fleet demands immediate surrender of the Enterprise, then allows it an hour of time to decide.

Meanwhile, the Romulans allow Kirk and Spock to beam aboard for an interrogation by the Romulan commander. Two Romulans are simultaneously beamed aboard the Enterprise as hostages. Kirk claims that navigational errors led the Enterprise to stray into Romulan space, but Spock refuses to corroborate his story. Spock then says that the strain of command has led Kirk to act irrationally, and reports that Kirk ordered the Enterprise across the Neutral Zone on his own initiative and is not sane.

Spock continues to act a traitor in testifying against Kirk, and the Romulan commander convicts Kirk of espionage and courts Spock to join the Romulans as a commander of the Enterprise under Romulan command. The Romulan commander takes a special interest in Spock, and Spock uses the opportunity to seduce her. Kirk is injured while trying to escape detention, and McCoy is allowed to beam aboard to treat him. McCoy corroborates Spock’s testimony that Kirk is not fit for command, and also that he has been under extreme stress. Spock then agrees to take command of the Enterprise and lead it to a Romulan base. Upon saying this, he is immediately attacked by Kirk and defends himself using the “Vulcan Death Grip.” The dead Kirk is then returned to the Enterprise with McCoy.

Amazingly, it turns out that Kirk and Spock have been operating under Federation orders to steal the newly developed Romulan cloaking device, and that Spock has only given Kirk a nerve pinch in order to simulate death. Back aboard the Enterprise, Kirk is disguised as a Romulan Centurion with the aid of plastic surgery to his ears and beamed back to the Romulan ship. He reports to Spock by communicator that the cloaking device is located near the commander’s quarters. The communication is detected, but Spock is able to distract the Romulan commander, who has changed into an evening gown at Spock’s request long enough to enable Kirk to steal the cloaking device.

The Romulan commander is outraged by Spock’s treachery, and further nonplussed when he asks her straightforwardly what the present Romulan method of execution is. Spock gains another delay by demanding the Romulan right of statement. Before Spock can finish, Scott locates him and beams him back on board the Enterprise. However, the Romulan commander is able to grab hold of him and be transported together. Kirk attempts to use the Romulan commander as a hostage, but this scheme backfires when she orders Tal to destroy the Enterprise immediately. Luckily, Scott is able to connect the cloaking device to the shields as the Enterprise speeds away at Warp 9. Thus cloaked, the Enterprise disappears from the Romulan sensors and escapes back to Federation territory. While accompanying the Romulan commander to the brig, Spock reveals to her in confidence that he was not entirely unaffected by her charms.

Fun Fact

The credited screenwriter, Dorothy (DC) Fontana attempted to warn Roddenberry about fan reactions if Spock were to behave out of character by having a romantic scene with the Romulan commander. Even with Nimoy restrained gestural contact, Fontana was flooded with letters from fans. Aware of the pon farrand believing it meant Vulcans had sex only once in seven years, they complained that the scene was out of character. Years later, Fontana wrote sex scenes into Vulcan’s Glory, establishing that the pon farr is only a fertility cycle and that Vulcans can have sex anytime.

Compliance Takeaways:

  1. The power of NO in compliance.
  2. Communicating across cultural boundaries.
  3. Tailoring your compliance message.


Excruciatingly Detailed Plot Summary by Eric W. Weisstein for The Enterprise Incident Enterprise Incident