There Was A Freakish Man Who Had A Freakish Smile
Bridge. Spock prairie-dogs into view and reports "exceptionally strong contact." Whatever that means, since they can't even SEE it yet. Finally, Sulu's brown nose catches sight of it on the viewscreen and points it out. It's a sphere. Cube, sphere, what's next? An irascible pyramid? The ship shakes, and Beetle announces that they're caught in something's tractor beam. From this distance, the glowing, tendril-covered sphere looks like the blotted-out sun on Angel. Kirk orders phasers at the ready. The sphere gets closer and closer, and it is starting to look like something I'd insist on buying in a science museum gift shop. From outer space, the sphere looks like it's going to net Enterprise in the same bad graphics as "Encounter at Farpoint" did. "This is the United Earth Ship Enterprise, we convey greetings and await your reply," Kirk announces. (Note: He doesn't announce them as "Federation Starship Enterprise.") Radio silence. Beetle listens with an Uhura earpiece. He's the third crewmember to have one of those in this episode alone. Do you think they're standard Starfleet issue? Beetle is picking up a message coming over his navigation beam. Huh? Kirk orders Uhura to tap into it. We hear an echoing voice: "...and trespassed into our star systems. This is Balock, commander of the flagship Fesarius of the First Federation." The echoing voice -- why do bad guys always have echoing voices in these things? Do you think they perpetually live near a canyon? -- goes on to say that they are inferior and destroyed his warning cube buoy, so now they're in deep space caca. Kirk sends out a message to the rubber bathing cap with daisies and tries to explain that they are on a peaceful mission and did not understand the purpose of the cubuoy. In the middle of his explanation, some serious static erupts. The crew grab their ears. I have this vision of Balock on the other end going, "Crrrrkkkk, I'm sorry you're breaking up -- crkkkkkkk -- going through tunnel -- crkkkkkk!"
Spock announces that they're being probed, and Balock says he's screening his calls, and that if they act in a hostile manner, he will destroy the ship. Kirk ponders, and Spock tells him that the sophisticated entity is managing to shut down many of their systems. When they talk about these "sophisticated" entities, beings, and consciousnesses, do you think they mean "sophisticated" in the sense that they shop at Barneys and buy Jo Malone? I'm just wondering. Kirk orders a recorder marker sent out to warn other vessels. Beetle doesn't react. Sulu looks concerned. "Mr. Bailey?" Kirk prompts. I think I've figured out why we never see this guy again. Beetle finally snaps to and sends out the marker. There's an exterior explosion, and Balock explains that he destroyed their recorder marker. For some reason, it strikes me as really funny that Balock uses the exact term "recorder marker." Balock goes on, "You have been examined." And he's found that Kirk needs to eat much more dietary salad. Balock ignores me and says that the ship must be destroyed: "We make the assumption that you have a deity or deities or some such beliefs, which comfort you -- we therefore grant you ten Earth time periods, known as 'minutes,' to make preparations." Spock tries to locate where the voice is coming from, because he thinks it would be "interesting" to get a visual of their destroyer. Bones enters the Bridge and tells Kirk that Balock's message was heard all over the ship, which prompts Kirk to get on the comm and do a little scenery-chewing pep talk with the aim of bolstering the morale of the crew. Beetle looks like he's close to rocking himself into a fit.