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57. A Tale of Two Romulan Commanders (TOS 1.14 and 3.02)

Okay, but what if — stop me if this sounds crazy — what if the Romulan Commanders had names?

iz and Anika revisit “Balance of Terror” and “The Enterprise Incident” – the only two TOS episodes to feature the Romulans on screen. 

We discuss: 

  • parallels and contrasts
  • honour, duty and espionage
  • Romulan fashion
  • why do we like the Lenard Commander so much when he killed so many people? 
  • The Kirk-Spock-Lenard Commander-Linville Commander double date

And more!


Liz:   Welcome to Antimatter Pod, a Star Trek podcast where we discuss fashion, feminism, subtext and subspace, hosted by Anika and Liz. That’s me. 

This week, we’re talking about the only two episodes of The Original Series to feature Romulans: “Balance of Terror” and “The Enterprise Incident”.

Anika:   A first season episode and a third season episode.

Liz:   Isn’t it wild that the Romulans are so important to Star Trek and yet they only appear twice?

Anika:   I think it’s — they’re very memorable.

Liz:   Yeah. And unlike the Klingons, they have that connection with Vulcan and–

Anika:   Vulcan.

Liz:   Spock, basically.

Anika:   Yes, precisely. And the Klingons took over. As soon as the movies and Next Generation were around, the Romulans had much — the Romulans were almost working for the Klingons in those later–

Liz:   Yeah, they were sidelined.

Anika:   It’s interesting. It’s interesting. And we’ve discussed how thrilled I am that they’re having a renaissance.

Liz:   This is a pro-Romulan podcast.

Anika:   It’s interesting to go back to the beginning of the Romulans and try to really watch it from a perspective of, you know, not “these are my favorite aliens since I was twelve.” You know, it’s interesting.

Liz:   Sort of trying to piece together how we would feel about them without the baggage of everything else.

Anika:   Right. It’s hard, especially “The Enterprise Incident”, it’s really hard.

Liz:   Oh, I know. I know.

Anika:   “Balance of Terror” is more — even within the context of that episode, we learn so little about Romulans in that episode, and it’s much more about the personalities of the Romulans and the humans than it is about the race.

Liz:   We get intriguing glimpses though, the business about the Praetor, and the junior officer who is more loyal to the politics and the Praetor than to his own commander, and so forth. I really love that stuff. And it feels like the foundation for everything that will come.

Anika:   Those Roman Romulans!

Liz:   I’m on the record as saying that I — like, I think “Balance of Terror” is good, and I respect it, but I don’t enjoy watching it. I was surprised at how much fun I had this time. And I think that’s, in part, because I’ve watched a lot of submarine movies since the last time I watched the episode, and I have more appreciation for the tropes.

Anika:   I was gonna say, so you see that that part of it? And respect it as a genre as opposed to just Star Trek?

Liz:   Yes. And submarine movies are not really something that I watch because I love the characters, they’re because I love the tension. So that that really worked this time. 

But also, in talking to you about the character of Kirk, I really enjoyed what they did with him in “Balance of Terror”, and the way he’s so young, but he’s so paternal with his officers. It’s so interesting. McCoy’s whole, “don’t destroy the one named Kirk,” you know, “there are millions of galaxies and billions of people, and only one James Kirk” felt like such a wonderful statement of the series’ humanism.

Anika:   Yes, I agree. And I think this episode does a lot of heavy lifting for the relationships between Kirk and McCoy, and how Spock is viewed by the rest of the crew. You know, how even if he didn’t have a connection to the Romulans, like, he’s sort of an — he’s the outsider. And I know that intellectually, like, that’s his character description. But, again, because Spock has now been around for so long, and he’s so central to Star Trek, it’s hard to think of him as the underdog.

Liz:   Yes, yes. And it’s interesting to me that we have “Balance of Terror”, where Spock is subject to the bigotry of another crewman, and then we have “The Enterprise Incident” two years later, where the Romulans are sort of trying to play on his experience of bigotry to say, “Wouldn’t you be happier among Romulans?” and he’s going, “Actually, no, I belong with the Federation. I’m not not fully human and not fully Vulcan, but I’m totally Federation.”

Anika:   It’s definitely clear in “The Enterprise Incident” that they have a giant file on everybody in the Enterprise and that’s what I want to know [about]. I want all of the details on how they are getting this information, and how it’s presented to the Romulans, you know, to the Praetor and then the military, and then to the individuals. There’s these layers there. That’s why I’m so obsessed with these Romulans, there are just so many layers to it.

Liz:   I was wondering if the Romulan officers have standing orders to try to recruit any Vulcan they encounter. Like, ideally high ranked Starfleet officers, but literally any Vulcan they can get their hands on. I think that feels very political, and sort of in line with the allegations that North Korea is very into abducting South Koreans when they can, and also ties in with Diane Duane’s plot about the Romulans sort of being a bit obsessed with Vulcans and their abilities, and hating and fearing them, but also really wanting to be part of them.

Anika:   I think that that is definitely a throughline through the Romulan stories, even in the first, in “Balance of Terror”, when all they know about each other is this military intel spy stuff, right? They don’t have any personal interactions or knowledge. 

And the Romulan Commander — Not Spock’s Dad — he envies the Federation, in that he — this is gonna sound not to be super political, but I’m very political these days. Because I’d like to, you know, here’s my world. It’s horrible, and very political, literally everything you do is political. And with this pandemic, all of the problems existed before the pandemic, but now they are exposed for literally everyone to see, like, no one can escape them at this point. And one of those is that we force people to work until they die. 

So this guy, this one Romulan Commander, he just wants to go home and be a farmer, and live out his life. He reminds me of people who are, like, forced into the military for whatever reason, either because it’s actually a mandate for their culture, or because they can’t afford to, like, go to medical school otherwise, kind of thing. And then they’re stuck, you know, working off this debt to their society. And it’s like, they’ve done it, he’s done it. 

This guy should be allowed to retire and have his wife and his family and his farm, and instead, he dies. And it’s just like, why? Why did that happen? Other than that we don’t care about people. And so, you know, not to say that America has more in common with the Romulans. But…

Liz:   But… 

What strikes me is that, between these two episodes, the Federation doesn’t really necessarily have much of a moral high ground? Like, yes, the Romulans have been carrying out these unprovoked attacks on what appears to be civilian outposts along the neutral zone. 

But two years later, Kirk is just literally going into Romulan space to conduct an espionage mission, and plausible deniability is literally discussed. It’s interesting that the Federation has not held up as morally superior to the Romulans.

Anika:   I mean, you don’t think it is? Because I got the impression that, because it was Kirk and Spock, we were on their side and they’re doing the right thing.

Liz:   Oh, yeah, absolutely.

Anika:   So it didn’t seem to me, like, if there is a moral we — it was definitely, “the Romulans are bad and whatever we have to do to beat them is okay”. Which isn’t something I agree with on any level, but–

Liz:   I don’t know if it’s necessarily that black and white, because if it were, the Romulans would not be so likable. 

You know, we really respect the Mark Lenard Romulan Commander, and he’s been basically carrying out terrorist attacks along the border. And the Joanne Linville Romulan Commander is so smart and charming, and a character you really enjoy spending time with. I don’t think they would be that likable if the intent was for us to hate them.

Anika:   I can see that. They’re definitely likable. I don’t know that they’re — well, yeah, no. Okay. I will concede the point.

Liz:   Not necessarily admirable. But…

Anika:   Maybe sympathetic.

Liz:   I think that’s it. I think, you know, Spock genuinely hurts the Linville Commander when he betrays her. And you get the impression, that in another life, the Lenard Commander would have been a really stand up, decent guy.

Anika:   Right? Yes. If he wasn’t stuck being that guy? Yeah.

Liz:   Yeah. Well, that’s the thing. He is so decent and honorable that we just overlook all the people he’s killed. 

I just want to say the Linville Commander doesn’t have a body count.

Anika:   Well, I mean, even if I completely erase Diane Duane’s take on it from my mind, the Linville Commander, simply because she’s a woman in the ’60s…

Liz:   Yes.

Anika:   I assume that she had to work three times as much for every inch of power that she got in that society. Now, I know that, since then, we’ve seen the Romulans as kind of matriarchal, that they definitely have a lot of women in high places.

Liz:   But that’s a new thing. And it’s sort of evolved from the force of Linville’s presence.

Anika:   Right. And definitely, in this one, again, simply because it was made in, you know, 1969, and where feminism was at that point, I just assume that she’s this … I don’t know, like a Hillary Clinton figure, who, by the time she gets to be in power, everyone hates her because of all the things she had to do to get there.

Liz:   You certainly don’t get the impression that her subcommander has any strong feelings for her either way. Subcommander Tal, who looks like Peter Capaldi. 

Speaking of feminism in the ’60s, I was going through old zines, and I was really surprised to learn that the fans, the female fans of the ’70s really, really hated this character. And it was partially that she made the moves on Spock, and how dare she, and partially because she does lose in the end, and they felt like it was a story about putting a woman in her place and depriving her of her power.

Anika:   I mean, I guess I can see that argument, but I didn’t — I don’t know. It probably is because I am biased, but I never felt like — I felt like she — her power is very tenuous to begin with. And honestly, Mark Lenard’s, too.

Liz:   Yeah, you constantly expect them to get a knife in the back.

Anika:   Neither of them seem to be, like, commanding their crews in a way — they’re not they’re not Kirk, you know? People aren’t going to line up to fall on a bomb for him. Like, neither of them seem to have that … Loyalty? I don’t know. That … that presence. They just have the–

Liz:   The camaraderie comes from being part of a democracy.

Anika:   Yeah. Yes. It seems like everyone is maneuvering and everyone is looking out for themselves or their interests.

Liz:   I mean, hashtag Romulans.

Anika:   Right, exactly. But it doesn’t feel to me like Spock put this woman in her place, who — no, she wasn’t she wasn’t a woman in power to begin with.

Liz:   But I think it’s also that, but also, that sort of urge that any female character must be perfect and flawless and never make mistakes. And she does make mistakes — she’s attracted to Spock, she lets that interfere with her judgement. And he is also attracted to her, but he is a Vulcan and therefore doesn’t. And I guess one point to logic, zero points to Romulans.

Anika:   But don’t you think Spock would be happier if he … just saying.

Liz:   I would love to see AOS Spock where the AOS Romulan Commander is somehow helping Spock with the rebirth of Vulcan.

Anika:   Oh yeah, you know what? In AOS they definitely got to make up with the Romans much quicker.

Liz:   Yeah, I realise that at this point in time, they still don’t know that the Romulans are related to Vulcans. But that could be a whole movie. Call me, Paramount!

Anika:   Apparently it was trending on Twitter earlier that Zachary Quinto wants to play Spock again. So let’s go.

Liz:   Yeah, yeah, we’ll go for it. I love his work.

Anika:   And I should say it was trending on Star Trek Twitter. Actual Twitter is very busy right now.

Liz:   There’s some stuff going on.

Anika:   Yeah, just a few things.

Liz:   But yeah, I think despite her flaws — maybe because of her flaws — I love the Romulan Commander, the Linville one. I quite like Sarek Commander, and I like to think that he has a nice husband at home. And he’s a really, really good dad, and he has a great relationship with all of his kids. And…

Anika:   He’s the anti-Sarek. I mean, I love the Romulan — wait. The Linville Romulan — this is hard. They need names.

Liz:   I’m very mad that neither of them have names. Why does her subcommander have a name, and she doesn’t?

Anika:   Right? Because if you they were trying to make a whole, you know, the commanders don’t have — this is one of those things that it’s like, now we, the fandom and, and the authors in — the [tie-in] authors, in particular, but everybody has come up with reasons why all of these things are. And we’ve made it part of Romulan culture, but in reality, I think it was just that they didn’t give them names.

Liz:   It’s weird. I wish Dorothy Fontana was around to ask.

Anika:   Like, why, what is this? What is going on here? Because, yeah, other people do have names. It’s just them.

Liz:   Yeah. And all the Klingons we meet have names. So I guess it’s part of that whole Romulan secrecy thing, and, you know, their public name and their family name and their secret name. Thank you very much, Michael Chabon, you’re forgiven on this count. 

But couldn’t we at least find out their public names so we don’t have to refer to them by their actors’?

Anika:   Right. Because it’s annoying, especially, like, Lenard Romulan Commander and Linville. It just sounds — it takes me out of the discussion.

Liz:   I’m always on the verge of saying Linley instead of Linville. And I believe Joanne Linley was a different actress altogether. So…

Anika:   Whoops! Right.

Liz:   This is just one of the things I would change if I could go back in time to fix Star Trek, but it’s on my list. 

I’m really interested in how Kirk is mirrored with the Lenard Commander, who is — I won’t say logical, but he’s sort of stoic and duty bound like Spock. Spock is mirrored with the Linville Commander, who is emotional and sensuous and strategic like Kirk.

Anika:   Interesting, I like this.

Liz:   It just occurred to me this morning as I was making our outline, and I thought, my goodness, that would be an amazing double date. And it’s just — shipping aside, it’s just really interesting how these character types bounce so well off each other. 

And, of course, there’s also a great deal in common between Kirk and the Lenard Commander, and whereas Spock and the Linville Commander have the sort of contrast you get in a really spiky het pairing. It’s a very 1960s seduction.

Anika:   It reminds me of how,, in James Bond, there’s always like the hot girl that is a tragic figure or a side piece. And then there’s the hot girl that is like, he can’t be with her for some reason. And, and in the best Bond films, it’s that she’s on the other side, that she’s the enemy. And it reminds me of that kind of relationship.

Liz:   So what you’re saying is that Mark Lenard is a Bond girl?

Anika:   Yes. I mean, I think it can work, you know?

Liz:   No, I think I think it makes sense. And I don’t really ship anyone with Lenard Commander, because, like, he doesn’t even meet these people face to face. And he kills a lot of people, but still, I–

Anika:   You keep saying that! I don’t even think of it. Like, yes, he’s the enemy, and he’s the Romulan, and he is — because he’s at that level, like, he’s — again, he’s at retirement age, so of course he must have killed people that our crew knew. He’s that level of person. And yet it does not factor into my appreciation of him at all.

Liz:   That’s the thing! It has not factored into mine either! And I’m so interested in how willing I am to overlook that. And will I change my opinion if I keep reiterating, to myself as much as our listeners, that he killed a bunch of people? 

And it’s kind of like, No, I think he’s a great character and I wish he hadn’t died, or we could have spent more time with him and … yeah. Adventures of Romulans in Federation Captivity.

Anika:   It reminds me of my strong feelings for the defector Romulan.

Liz:   Yes.

Anika:   And how I like he is — in that episode, they straight up say, like, this is his resume of death. Here are all the people he personally killed. And yet, I’m so upset that he dies. I’m so upset that –, you know, his family won’t remember him, and they’ll destroy his name. And he won’t get that Romulan legacy thing. And I’m just really distraught that he — that the one good thing that he does, in defecting to the Federation and trying to save both sides, is what destroys him. Both physically and, you know, spiritually, I guess. It’s just really upsetting.

Liz:   Well, you know, we love a redemption arc. 

And I think — we know that the Lenard Commander and the defector whose name I’m blanking on, even though I should know it, neither of them actually had a choice in following out their orders. Romulus is not the sort of state where you can go, “Uh, sir, that is an illegal order, and I’m entitled to not follow it.” That’s the sort of thing that will get you and your family killed. 

It’s like the thing we discussed, I think, in our episode about, you know, odo being a terrible fascist collaborator, and how living under a totalitarian regime compromises everyone? [Transcriber’s note: That was episode 46: #MeToo: Terok Nor]

Anika:   Yes. And it’s — anytime we bring up Emperor Georgiou, it’s like, Emperor Georgiou is a horrible person, yes, but that doesn’t mean that she can’t have a redemption arc, because she didn’t have a choice. That was it. That was the only choice she had.

Liz:   Even as a person in power, if she wanted to live, and she wanted her family to live, then, yeah, she had to go along with it. She probably didn’t need to eat so many people. But this is why she needs a redemption arc.

Anika:   Right. It’s just — I’m always on the side of the people who are terrible, but want to be — like, for me, all it takes is that you want to be better. That’s all. That’s all I need from you, and I will be on your side, and I will help you do it. 

So, of course, the worse the things you’ve done — it’s gonna take longer. There’s gonna be a lot you have to make up for, you know, but I just — I always come from a place of, if you’re going to go on this road, then I will help you on the road. I will be on the road with you.

Liz:   Yeah, yeah, exactly. And so I don’t think that Lenard Commander is irredeemable. I just — I’m so interested that we overlook his crimes. 

Let’s talk about Lieutenant Riley, the bigoted dickhead on the bridge.

[Liz’s note: yes, obviously I meant Lieutenant Stiles. In my defence, Stiles and Riley are basically identical, in that they both have hair and faces and wear the same outfits. Yes, Stiles is addressed by name in dialogue. No, I don’t know what difference that makes.]

Anika:   Yeah. Well, I — yes. So I put in our notes here, like, two seconds before we started, that the line — it’s, like, famous, really, at this point, that Kirk says to our bigot, that “bigotry doesn’t belong in the bridge. Keep that in your quarters.”

Liz:   Yes.

Anika:   Something like that. And you know, it’s like, “Oh, what an amazing, progressive thought to have in the ’60s.” 

First of all, the ’60s were progressive, so let’s just put that aside. But second of all, it’s not actually super progressive to be like, hide your bigotry and it’s okay. That’s not it, guys.

Liz:   It’s sort of the starting point for being in a professional environment where there are no telepaths, but…

Anika:   It’s sort of like sexual harassment in the workplace. You know, I’m sure anyone, everyone, everywhere has had one of those trainings, sexual harassment in the workplace trainings, and like what they hammer into you is that it doesn’t matter if you think it’s sexual harassment, if the person who’s being sexually harassed does, and you are creating a hostile environment by ignoring it, then you are in the wrong.

Liz:   Yeah. And there’s no need for Riley to confront his bigotry. Like, he’s rude about Spock, and then Spock saves his life, regardless of that. And then we’re friends again. And it’s kind of like … it’s just a bit weak.

Anika:   Yeah. I understand that they only had, whatever, 15 minutes to do this whole thing. And he’s not in any other episode. He’s just this random guy. I understand the shortcomings of the medium for this.

Liz:   But to have it still held up in 2020 as an aspirational high point is really…

Anika:   Exactly. It’s really sad. We really need to progress, guys.

Liz:   Yeah. Guys. Come on.

Anika:   We need to move forward. Because the truth of the matter is, is that we’re probably more bigoted as a society, or — not as a society, but as individuals with individual groups within the society, because we’re so partisan, and we’re so entrenched. 

The people who are bigots are, you know, we’ve been fighting against them for forty, fifty, sixty, eighty years, right? So they’ve become very defensive. They’re very entrenched in their beliefs. And it just makes us all become more vocal and more loud. And I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. I am super for being as loud and as vocal as possible in opposition to their open bigotry. 

But because of that, we can’t look at this one moment from 1966, where Kirk says, “Hide your bigotry,” as if it’s a good thing. Like, we just can’t — we need to say no, no hiding. Get rid of that.

Liz:   I also want to say that it’s just bizarre to me that Riley is holding a grudge about a war a hundred years ago. Like, my great grandfather fought in the First World War. I don’t have any negative feelings towards Germans because of that.

Anika:   There’s the people who worship the Confederacy, and they’re upset about getting rid of their Confederate statues, or saying that you shouldn’t fly the Confederate flag at, like, national sporting events. Like, those people exist, and they are those loud, entrenched bigots. And so it’s weird. It’s weird. It’s like that is not unbelievable to me. That, if he was raised in that community of people that — and he was taught from a very young age that, you know, you hate Romulans.

Liz:   Also, I wonder, on a worldbuilding level, is it — is there this sense of unfinished business? Because we don’t know anything about them, we don’t know what they look like, we’ve never met a Romulan face to face, so it’s very easy for them to become this terrible boogeyman.

Anika:   Oh, absolutely. I mean, imagine if your grandfather fought the Germans, but you never learned about them? Like you never–

Liz:   Yeah.

Anika:   You never learned about Snow White. You know, like, you only ever learned about people who killed your grandfather’s friends.

Liz:   Yeah.

Anika:   I don’t know.

Liz:   That is a really interesting way to look at it. I like it a lot.

Anika:   I mean, as I said, like, five minutes ago, I am the opposite of this. However, I understand it, or I understand why it would happen. And again, it’s all environmental, and what you’re brought up with, and what you learn, and what you’re surrounded by at all times. Those are the things that are going to affect you the most. Not to be all nature versus nurture, but I think we all have the natural ability to be open minded. But if you’re only ever told one story, then that’s the story that you’re going to cling to.

Liz:   Yeah, that’s a really good point. And it’s sort of — I’m trying to bring it back to the actual episode and I can’t. The pollen is in my brain and it’s reproducing. 


Anika:   Yes! I love it. Okay. So Romulans had terrible fashion.

Liz:   Oh, I think it’s great.

Anika:   As a rule, Romulans have terrible fashion, like, they are the worst. And these episodes are no different. Like, it’s worse in TNG, and their ridiculous shoulder pads, and the fact that they all look like they’re wearing, you know, used car leather outfits.

Liz:   And their pants always look like culottes.

Anika:   Oh my god, they’re so bad. Everything is bad in The Next Generation. But the tweed, the different layers of bronze and magenta. Like, I don’t even know what to call that color blue. But that blue–

Liz:   It’s like a deep electric blue.

Anika:   –tweed is also a bad — they all look like they kinda — it kind of reminds me of T’Pol’s sofa jumpsuit that she wears for the first two seasons. And so I kind of like that. It’s like, oh, look, the Vulcans and the Romulans both wear ridiculous–

Liz:   Upholstery….

Anika:   Right. Exactly. Upholstery clothes instead of actual fabrics. You know, clothing fabrics, as opposed to making what you make your furniture out of. But…

Liz:   But.

Anika:   But.

Liz:   I always thought that the Romulan costumes, the Romulan uniforms, were crochet. And I finally watched it in HD and I was so disappointed to learn that it’s just the print on the fabric. I loved the idea of this evil empire wearing grandma’s blankets,

Anika:   Me too. Oh my goodness. Like, that’s another point in the matriarchy.

Liz:   Yes. I guess…

Anika:   There we go. But then they also have that ridiculous helmet. Amazing, ridiculous helmet.

Liz:   Can we assume the helmet is because they couldn’t afford ears for everyone?

Anika:   Yes, definitely. We can. But it’s also hilarious in every way. I mean, it’s, like, spray painted gold. It is so good and so bad. I love it. And then, obviously, I love Linville Romulan Commander. All of her outfits, they’re both amazing. She is like, “I’m going to make this tweet work for me, so you better be ready for my tall boots and short skirt.”

Liz:   It’s [the] 1960[s] so she’s going to command in thigh high leather boots and a skirt so short that, at one point, it rides up to show her undies.

Anika:   It is so ridiculous. But again, this is why I can’t take her completely — I can’t take — like I can take her completely seriously, but I can’t take the idea that everyone on that ship respects her as the captain completely seriously.

Liz:   I think we just have to uspend disbelief. Like, everyone takes Uhura seriously, and she’s wearing an equally brief skirt. I feel like we’ve become more prudish in the ensuing decades about showing vast expanses of thigh.

Anika:   But then she wears that other dress with the swirls.

Liz:   I love that dress so much.

Anika:   That dress is amazing. That’s dress I would wear now–

Liz:   I was about to say that!

Anika:   –with no qualms. I am ready to wear it. It is perfection and it’s timeless.

Liz:   It’s really wonderful. And I look at the way the print on the fabric works, and how it follows the lines of the dress, and I’m just so impressed with that piece of dressmaking. Like, you know, how HD sometimes makes the costumes look a bit shite? Aside from a little wobbliness in the seams on that dress, I think it holds up really nicely.

Anika:   So are we — do you have anything else to say about fashion? Because I have a ridiculous comment.

Liz:   I just enjoy how Spock is kind of offended at Kirk running around in what I’m gonna call  earface.

Anika:   Yes. I mean, I’m kind of offended. But it’s not the ears, it’s the makeup.

Liz:   Yeah, it really…

Anika:   The ears, you know, whatever, even the eyebrows are, you know, passable, but the fact they make him very swarthy is a little upsetting.

Liz:   Yeah. And I think they’ve done the same with Linville, too. Harder to say with Lenard. I don’t think he’s in so much bronzer, but that — this was very much an era where they’re like, “Hmm. aliens. Let’s get some white people and paint them brown.”

Anika:   It’s not great. It’s not great, guys.

Liz:   I understand that, like, our perception of what brownface is has expanded since the ’60s. Like, blackface and brownface, I’m sure, were controversial at the time. But no one would have looked at, for example, T’Kuvma wearing full-length, black latex and gone, “Oh my God, this man is in blackface,” which happened with Discovery. And I’m not saying that’s an incorrect reaction. I just think that our standards have shifted, and we’ve become more sensitive to this sort of thing.

Anika:   I mean, I think that’s probably true that we definitely — I mean, I would hope.

Liz:   Oh, yeah.

Anika:   And I hope that we’re getting better. I hope that we will continue to grow in this area. And you’re right, I think that at that time, it was just makeup.  

Liz:   Yeah.

Anika:   They weren’t trying — I don’t even think they were — like, maybe they were, I’m not gonna say — I don’t know. But it’s possible that they weren’t consciously trying to be racist, or they weren’t saying that this kind of person is evil, and so we’re going to color our white people to look like that. I think they were just using the — again, using the story they knew.

Liz:   Yeah, I think it is that — the makeup for the Klingons and the Romulans is steeped in Orientalism, but I don’t think that was a conscious choice.

Anika:   Right, exactly. That’s what I’m trying to say, that it was definitely true that it was — that it happened. But it wasn’t like they were going out of their way to do it. It just happened because they didn’t know any better. And that is not an excuse. And that is a good thing. But it’s a reason. I understand, again, where it comes from.

Liz:   Exactly.

Anika:   I’m not gonna be angry at Joanne Linville for — she didn’t have any control over that. You know, William Shatner didn’t have any control over that. So you know, whatever. It’s not his fault. I’m not mad at Kirk and I’m not mad at William Shatner. But I am mad at the fact that it happens.

Liz:   Mad at the world in general for  — yeah, yeah.

Anika:   I’m all over the place today. I’m sorry.

Liz:   No, me too. And I guess this is a good time to give our listeners a heads up that I am moving house in a couple of weeks. And for the next two weekends, I will be painting the house I’m moving into. So our next episode could be a little scattershot. Because I’m probably going to have to get up very early in the morning to record it before we go and paint. So sorry.

Anika:   Oh my goodness. Well, good luck with all of that.

Liz:   Thank you. I’ve never painted anything except, you know, a canvas. So it’s exciting!

Anika:   It’s a lot of fun, actually to paint walls. You’re painting, like, walls and –?

Liz:   Yeah.

Anika:   It’s actually very relaxing. And then, when you’re done, you have an amazing sense of accomplishment. In my experience.

[Liz’s note: I had an amazing sense of exhaustion. And fresh walls.]

Liz:   I’m thinking of putting in, like, a bright magenta feature wall so I can make my study feel like the Linville Commander’s office.

Anika:   Yes, do it.

Liz:   Divide it with a trendy with a translucent pink curtain for Spock to hide behind.

Anika:   I really, I mean, you know, I ship them a lot.

Liz:   I know.

Anika:   That’s where I was gonna go earlier. And so I know you have a headcanon that Laris is related to the Romulan Commander, and I’m one hundred percent for that. That’s great. And I just want to say that I definitely at one point plotted a whole arc about how Saavik was their daughter.

Liz:   I mean, she was half-Romulan, half-Vulcan!

Anika:   Right. She was half-Romulan and half-Vulcan and like, Kirstie Alley kinda has the facial features. And then Robin Curtis has the hair. So it’s sort of like, I can see it.

Liz:   No, I can see it.

Anika:   It works.

Liz:   And it’s like, “Well, I’ve had this kid and I don’t think she’s going to be very happy, she’s not very happy growing up as a Romulan, maybe you would like to take care of her.”. And Sarek is like, “A surprise grandchild?!”

Anika:   Exactly! See, like, I think it would actually — we wouldn’t have to change anything in canon, although except maybe when she helped him through Pon Farr.

Liz:   I was gonna say, we have to change the bit where they have sex.

Anika:   But we can just ignore that.

Liz:   I already do.

Anika:   David can help him through Pon Farr.

Liz:   Oh no, that’s a new pairing.

Anika:   I think it’s kind of sweet.

Liz:   I think Kirk is going to have some issues.

Anika:   Anyway, I think that my main comment is that I’m really sad that she’s never mentioned ever again in canon. Like, there’s this whole book series, which I love. We’ve discussed that. [See episode 47: Pride and Prejudice in the Original Romulan] But even there, she’s gone, she’s exiled. And so she’s like a ghost, she’s not actually physically there. 

And then, like you and I have come up with, like, hey– and people are like, “Oh, the universe is too small if everyone’s related to everyone.” And it’s like, yeah, okay, but also…

Liz:   Which I believe! But some opportunities are too good to pass up.

Anika:   Right? And if Harry Mudd gets to have a Renaissance, where is my Romulan Commander? That’s all I have to say.

Liz:   Okay, concept. Concept, concept. The next AOS movie features the Romulan Commander, Jennifer Garner plays her.

Anika:   Yes!

Liz:   You know, she’s a bit older than Quinto, and she has that sort of sexy maternal vibe. We know she can handle an action scene, but she also has buckets of charisma.

Anika:   And we all met her as a spy!

Liz:   Yes!

Anika:   It’s perfect.

Liz:   Yep. As usual, it’s a mystery to me why the entertainment industry isn’t literally beating down my door

Anika:   You know what, I wouldn’t — like, they don’t even have to pay me at this point.

Liz:   Oh, no, they have to pay me. I don’t work for free. But I will accept payment in Australian dollars, which is a great deal if you’re American. I was going to say, do we have much more to say? Could we just make this a short episode and I can take my pollen-filled head and–

Anika:   The only thing I want to say is that I — I wanted to discuss McCoy. Because I think he has an interesting role in both of these episodes.

Liz:   More than usually, he’s the voice of reason and humanity.

Anika:   Yes. And I think I said earlier that “Balance of Terror” does a lot of heavy lifting for the McCoy and Kirk relationship. And I think just establishing McCoy as that, you know, center, heart and conscience of the Enterprise crew.

Liz:   It’s actually interesting how little Spock has in terms of an emotional arc in “Balance of Terror”.

Anika:   What’s interesting about Spock in “Balance of Terror” is that it’s not about him.

Liz:   Yeah. Which I think is sort of a metaphor for bigotry, in a way, that it doesn’t really matter who a person is. 

But the most interesting thing for Spock in this episode is that he makes a mistake and gives away their location. And that’s so unlike him, and it’s the closest hint we ever get to the emotional turmoil he may or may not be suffering in terms of the revelations about the Romulans. 

I’m sorry, I just need to duck out for five minutes, but just keep recording and resume when I get back?

Anika:   Okay.

Liz:   Sorry.

Anika:   That’s okay.

Liz:   Are you there?

Anika:   Yes.

Liz:   So sorry, my breakfast all of a sudden disagreed with me. 

I was going to say, it is so interesting how there are things that have sort of been tacked on to the Romulans later on, like the cultural drive for privacy and secrecy, they’re sort of present in this episode, particularly the bit in “The Enterprise Incident” where the Romulan Commander receives a message from one of her officers. And it’s not an intercom. It’s like, conveyed through an earpiece. And just little things like that really pull it all together and make it consistent accidentally.

Anika:   But those are the bones that we built all of our canon on.

Liz:   I know. And it’s great!

Anika:   And those headcanons became Romulan culture, because, you know, it’s sort of like [how] Hikaru Sulu wasn’t Sulu’s name until Star Trek VI. Like, he didn’t have a first name, but it became his name. It was like the fandom’s accepted name. I think it was in a novel at one point. And then in Star Trek VI, he was like, I’m Captain Hikaru Sulu. And that was his name from then on, you know, it was like, it became canon. 

And in similar ways, like, everybody talks about Romulan culture until a point where it becomes real, and it becomes part of the actual story.

Liz:   Yes, I just love being able to go back and see the seeds of these ideas.

Anika:   That’s, yeah, absolutely. That’s super fun. But so what I was saying about McCoy–

Liz:   Oh, yeah, I’m so sorry.

Anika:   It’s, it’s fine. You have to edit this. 

It’s just that it’s interesting to me that in the first episode in “Balance of Terror”, he is very, like, “Hey, we should, you know, be friendly, and we shouldn’t go to war, we shouldn’t assume that they’re going to attack us, we definitely shouldn’t attack first.” And, “Hey, everybody, you know, and let’s take some steps back and take a breather.” 

And in “The Enterprise Incident”, he’s like, so “I’m meant to pretend that Kirk dies, and then we’re going to turn him into a Romulan, so he can totally steal a cloaking device.” 

And it’s like, Okay, what happened to Dr McCoy? But I think it was the first episode, like, I can sort of see an arc for it. And I think that’s interesting.

Liz:   Yes, and also, I think that there’s still a cloaking device mission. If they pull it off, which they did, there are very few casualties. Like, I think one guy’s injured, and that’s it. And I feel like McCoy–

Anika:   From the McCoy standpoint, I think this is what I was getting at poorly. But now I’m going to get at it well. From a McCoy standpoint, “If I help, you know, Kirk plan the trademark Kirk plan, to work and and not kill off anybody on our side or their side, and have this bloodless battle and war, then I will have helped the cause and stopped the battle that would have occurred and the deaths that would have occurred if I didn’t do this.” I can totally see McCoy talking himself into that.

Liz:   Yes, yes. And I also wonder if he came up with the ruse of faking Kirk’s death, because it seems to be kind of a go-to move for him generally.

Anika:   He did that. He knows how to do that well.

Liz:   Yeah. He’s had a lot of experience!

Anika:   And he’s now tricked Vulcans and Romulans into thinking that Kirk’s dead, which is, I think, a particular achievement.

Liz:   Hashtag goals. Am I right?

Anika:   I like that. I mean, obviously, Kirk, Spock and McCoy are the trinity. And so obviously, they’re gonna have big roles and stuff, but I liked that they did all get something to do in each of these episodes.

Liz:   Yes. I also felt very bad for Chekov, the way Kirk snaps at him in the opening scene. Like, the poor boy is just doing his job, but he doesn’t know you’re playing a role. Maybe we need some sort of Original Series Lower Decks that’s just Chekov going, “Why is the captain picking on me?”

Anika:   Poor Chekov. Honestly, Chekov gets yelled at a lot.

Liz:   Justice for Chekov.

Anika:   He could form a support group with Harry Kim. Which I would love to read if anyone wants to write that for me.

Liz:   Yeah, I would go for that. Please, someone write it and send it to us.

Anika:   And then, you know, in “Balance of Terror”, we have Janice Rand [being] sort of like, “Hey, Captain Kirk, I’m here for you.” And then, in “The Enterprise Incident”, we sort of have the, “Hey, I know that I’ve already lost Spock but I’m still gonna keep trying to get Spock” scene with Chapel. It’s like, I don’t know, they both have this weird — it’s both sort of sad and desperate, but also, you know, okay.

Liz:   Yeah, I think it’s a mistake to have both the significant recurring female characters in positions of unrequited love. Put it that way.

Anika:   Unrequited love. Yeah. And they both had a sort of similar aesthetic. They’re very feminine. They’re very, like, I don’t know, I guess — it’s not like Uhura isn’t feminine, so it’s all of them, all women on the show.

Liz:   I think, particularly, Rand and Chapel seem similar because they’re both blonde and they’re both a little older than you would expect for that sort of ingenue role. Which is not a criticism. It’s just an interesting casting choice.

Anika:   I can see that. And they’re both in pretty subservient roles. Supportive roles. And because, again, because it was  the ’60s, they were more subservient than they should have been, perhaps.

Liz:   Yes. And they both go on to positions of more authority in the movies.

Anika:   Right.

Liz:   Not that we ever see much of Chapel as a doctor, but…

Anika:   But we know that it happens. And Rand, too, you know, we only get a few glimpses of her, but–

Liz:   And the whole Voyager episode–

Anika:   The Voyager episode is really — like, I love that that’s our last view of Rand. And it’s it’s such — it really, like, repairs her legacy for me, because I can imagine everything she was doing in between. And it makes me happy.

Liz:   And the way we know Grace Lee Whitney was mistreated on set, it feels like a vindication for her as well. That she gets to have a position of authority, and she gets to have scenes with the first female captain.

Anika:   Okay, I’m gonna cry. Anyway–

Liz:   Oh, one final thing before we wrap up! You know all these scenes in “Balance of Terror” in phaser control, and manually charging the phasers?

Anika:   Yes.

Liz:   I think that’s really cool. And I really wish that it had been a regular thing in Discovery.

Anika:   I mean, that’s a super, like, submarine plot thing, right?  I feel like every — and I don’t go out of my way to watch submarine movies, but I’ve definitely seen the popular ones. And I those are the scenes I remember–

Liz:   Yeah.

Anika:   It takes so long to do everything on a submarine.

Liz:   Yes! If that had been incorporated into Discovery, I feel like it would have been a really good way to demonstrate that, even though the effects and the sets and the trappings are much more modern than The Original Series

Anika:   Yes! You know, you’re right.

Liz:   –this is still an older setting than what we’re used to.

Anika:   And, you know what, you could even have, like, everything except the spore drive be that way. So the spore drive is its own thing, like, you could have this instantaneous dangerous side. But everything else would be in the old style. I like that idea for grounding Discovery.

Liz:   And also for ramping up the tension, and I can just imagine, you know, Lorca drilling the phaser crews endlessly. Not that that show really needs more side characters, but what if it had more side characters?

Anika:   Well, I mean, yeah.

Liz:   Yeah.

Anika:   It’d be good. It’d be good. I like it. 

Alright, so do you have any final thoughts on TOS Romulans before we wrap up?

Liz:   Mainly that I’m just really glad that Picard has returned us to an era where Romulans can have a variety of hairstyles.

Anika:   Yes. I mean, and personalities.

Liz:   Yeah! And also, I think Elnor would look super cute in the electric blue uniform with the culottes and the crochet and … yeah.

Anika:   That’s kind of cute. Someone out there, draw that for us. Okay? I’ll commission you. ‘Cos Liz is right and we shouldn’t work for free.

Liz:   Yeah, yeah. Art is valuable. Even if it’s really silly.

Anika:   Send me your requirements, and I’ll get back to you. 

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Liz:   Yeah.

Anika:   And join us in two weeks we’ll be discussing the season premiere of Star Trek: Discovery. It’s back, guys!

Liz:   I’m so, so excited to move on from my feelings about season two. New Trek, new hair, it’s going to be great.

Anika:   Yes, exactly. I want to put it all down because I continuously get annoyed with Discovery, and I want to go back to loving it.

Liz:   I would like have new things to be annoyed at

Anika:   That too! That’ll work. I just want to be passionate. Any passion is good.

Liz:   It’s 2020 and I just want to feel something.

Anika:   Oh my gosh.