In the episode "The Enterprise Incident" the Enterprise crosses the neutral zone into Romulan space to confront the Romulans and allow Kirk to steal their cloaking device while being disguised as a Romulan.

Why are there no consequences? They broke the treaties by not only entering the neutral zone but also the enemy territory, spied, wore enemy uniforms, stole the cloaking device and abducted several enemy personnel and nothing happens? The first point alone is cited often enough as reason for war.

Finally, they now have the cloaking device, how come they don't use it in other episodes?

Am I missing something here?

I think what bugs me most about this is, that they don't even try to explain it away. It would have sufficed if Kirk said something like

Hah, and they can't do anything about it since they would have to admit they broke the treaty themselves when they used Klingon ship designs.

I would totally have bought that but their acting as if escaping was enough to avoid any consequences just makes no sense.


While I am mostly interested in an in-universe answer, I have nothing against hearing about the story writer's thinking as well. I remember having searched for some explanation and reading about the writer being unsatisfied with this episode because there are so many logic gaps and the "romance" between Spock and the Romulan Commander feels to clunky. However, the latter is one of my least concerns with this episode.

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    Roddenberry was very clear that heroes don't (habitually) sneak around. That being the case, there's only one clear use for a stolen cloak
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 16, 2017 at 21:16
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    What consequences would you expect? They were acting on orders from Starfleet and didn't get caught (the only Romulan that knew what happened was captured and taken w/ them back to Federation territory). The whole 'didn't get caught' thing is the big reason why there are no consequences imo
    – NKCampbell
    Commented Mar 16, 2017 at 21:57
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    I'd suggest two things: 1. Starfeelt authorized the mission, so probably had all kinds of cover story prepared. 2. In a previous episode "Balance of Terror" the Romulans were busy destroying Federation outposts, but no war came from that. It's one of those tit-for-tat things.
    – Tim
    Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 3:14
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    I'm no historian, but I'm pretty sure there were plenty of similar or worse incidents in our Cold War. They didn't set off a war because neither side was willing to start one. Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 7:47
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    @NKCampbell Kirk spoke about dropping the Romulan Commander (and probably the other hostages) at a federation outpost for the Romulans to fetch. Additionally, the fact that the enterprise escaped the pursuing Romulan ships by cloaking shows that where the missing cloaking device has gone. I think there is no denying that the Romulans know full well what happened. Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 9:35

1 Answer 1


IMHO most episodes of highly episodic and non serialized TV series like TOS happen in alternate universes of their own. Some episodes are sequels to other episodes but most episodes happen in alternate universes different from the alternate universes of every other episode.

Think of the creators of an episodic series searching thousand and millions and billions of alternate universes and selecting the most suitable events from them to make into episodes.

We may note that "The Enterprise Incident" may not be a sequel to "Balance of Terror". It is not certain whether the surprising Romulan cloaking device is surprising since it has been improved since "balance of Terror" or surprising because the Romulans never used a cloaking device before.

In the latter case "Balance of Terror" would have never happened. Since it is already known in "The Enterprise Incident" that Romulans and Vulcans are related, we might suppose that "The Enterprise Incident" happens in an alternate universe where the Romulan leaders decided not to attack the Neutral Zone outposts but instead perfect the cloaking device and in the meantime open up normal relations with the Federation and sign the Nimbus III treaty from Star Trek V: the Final Frontier. No doubt settlers from Romulan subject races on Nimbus III would tell everyone that Romulans looked like Vulcans.

We could think that it doesn't matter if Kirk & Co. were correct to assume there would be no disastrous consequences of their actions in "The Enterprise Incident" because probably no later episode was a sequel to "The Enterprise Incident" and thus we don't get to see what may have happened as a result of "The Enterprise Incident".

As for why the Enterprise crew didn't worry about the risks of interstellar war or being disavowed by the Federation before crossing into Romulan Space, only Kirk and Spock knew about it beforehand and they were under orders from Starfleet Command. Kirk and Spock probably protested their orders when given and probably worried a lot abut what could happen. That probably helped Kirk to act like he was stressed out and incompetent before giving the order to cross into the Neutral zone because he would have been very stressed out.

Considering how foolish the plan seems and how unlikely to succeed, it seems probable that Kirk and Spock would have been more likely to disobey the admiral who gave them their orders and arrest him for giving illegal orders than to obey him. Unless there were some other factors not mentioned in the episode that made them more willing to take the risk.

Perhaps Kirk and Spock were informed that one or more persons in that particular Romulan fleet was a Federation agent, thus making the plan much more likely to succeed, for example.

Perhaps they were shown proof that the Romulans were planning war and that stealing a cloaking device was the only way to deter them.

Perhaps they were told that the Romulan Peace Party had suggested the mission to capture a cloaking device and discredit the Romulan war Faction.

But the other officers weren't told ahead of time and so the other officers and crew didn't know or worry about it until Kirk ordered them to cross into the Neutral Zone. And after the Romulan ships appeared the others were probably worried more about staying alive and escaping from the Romulans than the political and career implications and didn't talk much or any on screen about the long range fallout from the situation.

  • While that makes sense out of universe and answers the question in the comments, it does not explain why noone aboard the enterprise seems to care about what happens next. Even if they are in an alternate universe to the other episodes, their continuity should have to deal with the aftermath of the events in this episode. Commented Mar 26, 2017 at 6:28
  • Very speculative but since there seem to be no facts any answer would have to be. However, if I were the Romulans planning a war (using a cloaking device), I would try to strike while I know it is still in transit as opposed to waiting until the enemy has probably reverse engineered it. However, since they have not attacked yet, they might see their chance as too low, maybe because they don't have enough cloaking devices or power on their ships to match their enemy. Anyways thanks for the effort of writing this up, I am afraid there is not much that can be explained to salvage this ending. Commented Mar 26, 2017 at 20:23

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