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My favorite episode of Star Trek, any series, is Balance of Terror from the original series. It has absolutely everything that a Star Trek episode should have, and it, along with my favorite Star Trek movie, the Wrath of Khan, inspired the best episode of Strange New Worlds to date, Memento Mori. For some reason, Balance of Terror keeps coming up in my social media streams. Several people keep saying something that prompts me to volunteer this information.
But this post isn’t about Star Trek.
I set my mind to rewatch the episode but kept procrastinating. Yesterday, I was watching the Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. I love both of those movies. It occurred to me that none of the X-Wings, Tie-Fighters, etc. had any aft-firing weaponry. That would have been quite useful when being chased during the attacks on either Death Star. The Millennium Falcon sort of did, but only if there was at least one other person on the ship available to mad that blaster. (If I’m wrong, I’m sure Kessel Junkie will correct me.)
But wait! This post is about Star Trek!
This led me to finally re-watch Balance of Terror (re-watching Memento Mori will follow soon) in which I thought there was some background chatter stating that the aft-firing torpedoes are ready. (Note: I may have been mistaken, but there were mentions to aft-firing weapons in the background charter of several episodes, most clearly at 17:02 of Arena.) It also led to a cascade of thoughts regarding the hubbub about violating canon. I love the FASA Star Trek RPG, and it annoyed me that the Constitution Class starships didn’t have aft-firing weaponry. In fact, they made a big deal out of it. It was a glaring weakness in most Federation ships, and a big deal when some did. But it’s not all about an RPG. Star Trek the Motion Picture also suggested that the Klingon ship (also captained by Mark Lenard) having an aft-firing torpedo was a big deal. He thought it would surprise his enemy.
And then there are those star dates that were completely made up, and the fact that the Romulan ship in Balance of Terror wasn’t capable of warp travel (22:10) yet traveled in interstellar space. In the two episodes I mentioned, there was an inconsistency. In Arena, Kirk comments that diamonds are “perhaps the hardest substance known in the universe” (30:10), and Spock confirms this by stating, “diamonds, the hardest known substance” (41:32), yet Spock points out only four episodes earlier in Balance of Terror that “cast rodinium . . . is the hardest substance known to our science” (21:26). Canon is shit. That’s unfortunate in most (not all) cases, but it’s true. You can’t rely on it. However, one theory says that there’s no such thing as a canon violation because Star Trek First Contact rebooted the franchise, rendering “canon” a nonsense concept.
I love to see Strange New Worlds show aft-firing phasers, see everyone lose their shit for the canon violation, and then lay into them for their ignorance. If everyone now realizes that the Enterprise has aft-firing weapons, that’s fine too. It gives us one more reason to say Star Trek ships are better than Star Wars ships.
Just roll with it and be happy when stories are well-written.