|Still from "The Corbomite Maneuver" (1966)|
Story Outline, FIRST DRAFT, March 1966
Report and Analysis by David Eversole
Enroute to the Earth colony on Omicron II, the Enterprise receives a distress signal from another Earth vessel, the Albion. Captain Kirk orders Communications Officer Alden to contact the smaller probe ship. Contact is briefly established, but lost before the nature of the emergency can be determined. Kirk orders the Enterprise to set course for the Albion.
This angers Commodore Andrew Blaine, a stiff, older, by-the-book officer, who is onboard as an observer. He insists that Kirk first contact Earth Base, apprise them of the situation, and await orders. Kirk tells him they have no time to waste; the Albion needs their help. Blaine backs down, but when the Enterprise reaches the area the Albion was last heard from, he insists that Kirk eject a recorder capsule, which will report their actions if they are destroyed. Kirk chafes at the delay, but complies before moving into the area of space the Albion was exploring.
Soon after entering the “danger zone” alarms go off. Something dead ahead. The Albion, all hope. But it is a warning buoy, shaped like a dish antenna with nodules and sensing devices studded about it. As the Enterprise approaches, this “barrier” glows hideously green and emits deadly neutron radiation. Kirk retreats, and calls for a conference with his staff. A young gung-ho officer wants to destroy it, but Kirk reminds him that their mission is to peaceably contact alien life, though he admits he may not have a choice. They must get past it to search for the Albion. Spock advises Kirk that destroying this barrier will surely alert whoever built it and the Enterprise will have to answer to them. Blaine is adamant that Kirk not destroy the buoy, threatening to relieve him of command.
After several unanswered requests to communicate, Kirk orders the buoy destroyed. Commodore Blaine registers his dissent, making sure it is recorded on the recorder capsule. The Enterprise proceeds forward on its search for the Albion.
ALARM BELLS clang. An unknown force rocks the Enterprise and a sleek ship, one mile long, one quarter mile high, blocks her path. Then sensor probes sweep the Enterprise and the attack ceases. Casualty reports come into the bridge. Three crewmen hurt, one dead. Kirk orders Alden to attempt to contact the ship. Soon, they are answered by Balok, who identifies himself as the liaison officer of the Fesarius, the flagship of the First Federation. He informs them that since they have committed an act of war by destroying the warning buoy, they must die. He gives them one hour to prepare themselves.
Kirk assembles his staff. Blaine insists that they go down fighting, but Spock opines that resistance is in vain, and suggests Balok may be open to reason. Kirk reestablishes contact with Liaison Officer Balok:
I am Captain James T. Kirk, commander of the U. S. S. Enterprise, he says. We have heard your ultimatum which would condemn us to oblivion for what you say is an act of war, yet what you are about to do is worse than that. Without a trial, without listening to what we have to say or why we are here, you would destroy us. That is not the act of a people who respect other life in the galaxy. That is barbarism.1Balok replies that his commander is not moved, but he is curious as to what Kirk proposes they do. Kirk insists that he and his crew have the right to face their accusers, to present their case in person. Balok then agrees to come aboard the Enterprise.
A small sleek craft moves from the Fesarius and docks with the Enterprise. Three aliens emerge. They are tall, eagle-like beings, with talons, beaks, and wings folded between their arms and bodies. Balok bears beautiful blue plumage; the other two are less attractive.
In the conference room, Kirk presents his case. He only destroyed the buoy because it hindered his search for his fellows, his friends. Balok tells Kirk that the Albion is gone, destroyed. Blaine interrupts, calls Balok and his people murderers, and insists he does not condone this meeting. Balok notes that Blaine seems to be in the minority. Looking around, Balok notices that there are female officers onboard the Enterprise. He muses that women do not serve aboard First Federation vessels. This changes things, he says. He must return to the Fesarius to confer with his commander. He promises to inform Kirk as soon as possible. He stands to leave. Blaine blocks his path, but Balok sweeps past him, followed by his two aides.
Once Balok’s tiny ship detaches, Kirk very coldly informs Blaine that as Captain, he alone speaks for the Enterprise. Chastened, Blaine asks for forgiveness, which Kirk grants. They head to the bridge to await Balok’s reply. It is not long in coming. Balok’s commander was moved when informed of Kirk’s impassioned plea, and the death sentence is commuted. Balok, aboard his tiny vessel, will lead the Enterprise to Carpi, a First Federation penal planet, where Kirk and crew will be interred. The Enterprise will be towed into deep space and destroyed.
Balok informs Kirk that he will be in constant contact with the Fesarius – any attempts to escape or attack his small ship, and the Fesarius will return and destroy them. All are glum as they are lead across space to be imprisoned.
And then Balok’s small ship suddenly disappears. Is it a trick to get the Fesarius to destroy the Enterprise?
Alden picks up a weak signal sent from Balok to the Fesarius. His ship malfunctioned and leapt into warp, then dropped out of warp three parsecs away. He is injured and his life support is failing...
Kirk orders the Enterprise to move toward Balok’s ship, one hour away. Blaine is furious. Surely Kirk is not going to help their captors! Kirk is, indeed, and will not be swayed. In fact, he orders maximum speed.
Balok’s ship is towed to dock with the Enterprise. Balok is carried to sickbay, where Doctor Piper begins a medical evaluation. Alarm bells clang, and Kirk rushes to the bridge. The Fesarius hangs ominously in space before them. See, Blaine says, they’re here to destroy us.
The elevator doors open and Balok, followed by Dr. Piper, enters the bridge, healthy, unharmed. It was a ruse, he explains. Balok is actually the commander of the Fesarius, and was never in danger or injured. He simply had to be sure Kirk’s intentions were as peaceful as he claimed. Balok apologizes for the loss of the Albion, which was destroyed by the buoy before contact could be established.
Balok is very glad that he met Kirk, and invites all of the Enterprise crew, even Blaine, to be his guests on the Fesarius. Blaine is regretful of his conflict with Kirk and informs him that he will personally erase everything on the recorder capsule — that is, if it is okay with the captain.
JERRY SOHL (Gerald Allen Sohl, Sr., 1913-2002): American Science Fiction writer, best known for his novels The Haploids and Costigan's Needle. For television, he first ghost-wrote episodes of The Twilight Zone for Charles Beaumont (when the latter was suffering from Alzheimer's), nine episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, then later wrote for The Outer Limits and The Invaders. For Star Trek he wrote "The Corbomite Maneuver," provided the story for "This Side of Paradise" (under his pseudonym Nathan Butler), and co-wrote the story for "Whom Gods Destroy." Sohl also served on The Committee of science fiction writers hired by Desilu to evaluate the original pilot of Star Trek and make improvements.
Editor's Note: When Jerry Sohl submitted a revised version of this outline in late March/early April of 1966, it had a new title — "The Corbomite Maneuver."
1 "Danger Zone" Outline by Jerry Sohl, March 1966 (approximate, no date), Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection, Box 3, Folder 6
The Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection (1964-1969)