**** (4 stars out of 5)
Cartoon Romulans, despite being in Klingon ships, buck all the odds and actually appear in Romulan colours. They ambush and chase Enterprise thorough a strange energy field which infects the computer with a case of schadenfreude (happiness at the misfortune of others).
"Practical jokes" break out: dribble glasses, black eye microscopes, food machines throwing pie. (Unforgivable waste of pie, you ask me.)
Even the holographic Rec Room is malfunctioning. That never happens!
"At least we can enjoy our off-hour without worrying about practical jokes," sighs Uhura.
Off-HOUR?!? You only get ONE?
Kirk really IS a jerk.
Enterprise, now totally self-directed and laughing like a giddy schoolgirl, gets its revenge by tricking the Romulans into attacking a giant starship-shaped balloon. It seems Romulans fear disgrace more than death. And when their own computers go humiliation haywire they may be at risk for both, as our crew have been.
Sensing his chance, Kirk pretends he's petrified to go back through that terrible energy field- and tricks Enterprise into returning itself to boring old normal and safe. The gambit is now known throughout the fleet as "The Brer Rabbit Maneuver".
"The Practical Joker" is a hoot. I don't know what's not to like. You get Scotty crawling on ceilings, a back-sassing computer, and the first holodeck malfunction episode. Plus did I mention A GIANT STARSHIP BALLOON?!? It's the purest cheese, aged to perfection.
I noticed a credit that makes me laugh: music and sound effects by Horta-Mahana Corp. No doubt the silicon creature of Janus VI likes to tickle the old ivories.