Kirk used the classic “Star Trek” maneuver a few years before Picard


In the finale of the first season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, Captain James T. Kirk borrows a cunning combat tactic that we’ve already seen… or haven’t seen it yet? In “As a Mercy,” Strange New Worlds explores an alternate future in which Pike remained captain of the Enterprise and Kirk took command of the USS Farragut instead. Everything works more or less well until the “Balance of Horror” in Star Trek, where Pike’s refusal to blow things up leads to a new Federation war against the Romulans.

Created to play by Pike’s rules in Strange New Worlds, Kirk develops a “plan B” in case diplomacy fails. When this fails, wild James T. Kirk appears out of nowhere, surrounded by a fleet of ships. As Kirk later explains, these ships are empty, unarmed freighters and freighters that he caught at the very last minute, and his intention is to trick the Romulans into believing they are looking at a deadly Starfleet armada. Since Romulans don’t care how many enemies they face, the gambit doesn’t quite work, but it’s a wonderful attempt nonetheless… and not completely unfamiliar.

In the finale of the first season of Star Trek: Picard, a dying Jean-Luc pilots the Siren against a fleet of Romulan ships, the Harvester. Picard, outnumbered and outgunned, comes up with a new version of his famous “Picard Maneuver” and tricks Romulan sensors into seeing hundreds of ships gathered against them, each carrying a warp signature. The Romulans think they’ve been attacked and start shooting at the ghosts, distracting their attention from Picard’s real ship. Kirk’s bold bluff in “Strange New Worlds” and Picard’s illusion in “Star Trek: Picard” have eerie similarities. Both are used against the Romulan fleet, both are built on the basic principle of using one ship to create the impression of an entire armada, and both tricks are used because the captains involved still believe that a peaceful solution can be achieved. Kirk and Picard’s maneuvers even have the same result: the Romulans are deceived, but they still start shooting, because, as Erica “Lieutenant Stiles” Ortegas would say, that’s exactly what the Romulans do.

How “Strange New Worlds” Foreshadow Kirk’s “Corbomite Maneuver”

Although Captain Kirk is nowhere near as famous as the “Picard Maneuver” from Star Trek (where Jean-Luc made the Stargazer appear in two places at the same time), Captain Kirk did invent the “Corbomite Maneuver” in the sequel to Star Trek: The Original series. At the beginning of his five-year Enterprise mission, Kirka incurs the wrath of an intimidating one-man ship piloted by a Bullock that the Federation has never encountered before. After Balok threatens to destroy the Enterprise with his superior firepower, Kirk exploits his opponent’s lack of knowledge about Starfleet by telling an outright lie that all Starfleet corps are armed with a “Corbomite” that will throw back on Balok if he opens fire. The tactic is successful, and both sides eventually become friends.

In many ways, Corbomite’s maneuver echoes the cargo ship stunt used by Paul Wesley’s Kirk in Strange New Worlds. Both rely on the fact that the enemy knows nothing about Starfleet procedures, and both are a complete bluff used in battles where the Enterprise has no chance of winning a direct fight. The “Corbomite Maneuver” episode from Star Trek predates the “Balance of Horror” in the franchise’s timeline, but since Kirk is not the captain of the Enterprise in the altered timeline, he almost certainly did not meet Balok. Either Pike did it, or that haggard green face is still out there somewhere. Nevertheless, the finale of the first season of the series “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” perfectly anticipates Kirk’s favorite strategy, which is to grasp the weakness of the enemy and deceive him in difficult situations.