The Earth-Romulan war was an important backstory for Starfleet from as far back as the TOS era, but it’s never been realized on-screen in Star Trek.
Although it’s a fascinating bit of early Star Trek continuity, the war between the Romulan Empire and United Earth has never been realized on-screen, representing a huge missed opportunity for the franchise. In Star Trek: The Original Series season 1, episode 8, “Balance of Terror”, Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) encounters the Romulans for the first time since the end of the Earth-Romulan War, a century earlier. The episode explores prejudice as despite a century having passed, certain Enterprise crew members are suspicious of Spock (Leonard Nimoy) due to his genetic similarities to the Romulans.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds revisited this when Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) attempted to outrun his tragic fate, and inadvertently changed TOS’ “Balance of Terror”. However, the Star Trek franchise itself has never properly explored this conflict from the Federation’s history. Executive Producers Manny Coto and Brannon Braga told attendees of the annual Star Trek convention in Las Vegas in 2009 that, had it not been canceled, Star Trek: Enterprise season 5 would begin “whispers of the Romulan War” but this sadly never came to pass. While other attempts have been made to explore the war, it remains one of Star Trek‘s biggest missed opportunities.
Star Trek Almost Had An Earth-Romulan War Movie
After Enterprise was canceled, attention turned to reviving the Star Trek movie franchise, a decision that would lead to rebooting TOS and establishing J.J. Abrams’ Kelvin Timeline. Several projects were being considered prior to Abrams signing up for Star Trek and one of these movies centered around the Earth-Romulan war. Written by Band of Brothers writer Erik Jendresen, the movie was set in the six-year gap between Enterprise‘s penultimate episode, “Terra Prime” and its finale “These Are The Voyages…” It didn’t include any of the main Enterprise cast, and instead introduced a group of young graduate cadets who were thrown into the early stages of the Earth-Romulan War.
Looking at the script, it’s interesting to see the similarities between Jendresen’s movie, entitled Star Trek: The Beginning, and Star Trek (2009). Both movies feature Romulans as their central villains, and both movies feature a young officer with something to prove, Tiberius Chase, who like Kirk and Spock, is paired with an older and wiser Vulcan foil, Ambassador Skal. It was implied that Chase would be an ancestor of James T. Kirk, and Jendresen had hopes for a trilogy of Star Trek movies focused on the war with the Romulan Star Empire. However, due to changes in corporate structure, the incoming Paramount president Gail Berman opted for Abrams’ pitch instead, nixing another attempt to explore this integral moment in Star Trek history.
Strange New Worlds Could Revisit The Earth-Romulan War
The current Star Trek show closest in the timeline to the Earth-Romulan war is Strange New Worlds. Now that Pike has encountered the Romulans in an alternate future, Strange New Worlds can bend canon by sending Pike back into time to experience the war first-hand. Given that the SNW season 1 finale highlighted the universal importance of Kirk and Spock being together on the Enterprise during “Balance of Terror”, it would be interesting to go further back and explore just why the Earth-Romulan war casts a long shadow over the early days of Starfleet and the Federation.
As long as James T. Kirk (Paul Wesley) and Spock (Ethan Peck) aren’t with Pike when he travels back, Star Trek canon would be kept largely intact by another Strange New Worlds Romulan time travel story. Perhaps Pike could find himself aboard the Enterprise NX-01, commanded by Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula) during another examination of what makes a good captain. Alternatively, a Captain Archer show set during the Earth-Romulan war could be the perfect way to continue the story of Enterprise after its cancelation, fixing two Star Trek missed opportunities in one.