Kirk Your Enthusiasm (9)
August 9, 2012
Ninth in a series of posts, each one analyzing a single Captain Kirk scene from the Star Trek canon.
Good Kirk vs. Evil Kirk | “The Enemy Within” | Star Trek: The Original Series | Season 1, Episode 5 | October 1966
Technology reveals our all-too-fragile humanity — sometimes literally, as Kirk discovers in “The Enemy Within.” As the episode opens, Kirk and Sulu are on the rocky surface of Alfa 177, holding a strange pink single-horned canine, when geological technician Fisher injures himself and is transported to the Enterprise. Scotty, et al., have seen their share of transporter malfunctions, but nothing compared to what is about to go down.
Fisher’s fall has left him covered in a strange yellow ore that causes the transporter to go haywire. Back aboard the ship, Kirk appears dizzy. Scotty takes him to sickbay, ignoring Kirk’s order: “Don’t leave the transporter room unattended.” The unattended transporter energizes and we see someone who looks like Kirk. His back is turned, but it’s definitely him (note the cut of the Starfleet tunic). As if sensing the dramatic and surprising musical cue, the figure turns around — it is Kirk, but he’s lit from underneath, his face all shadowy and sinister; and he’s wearing more eyeliner than Jean Simmons in Black Narcissus or Natalie Portman in Black Swan. The malfunctioning transporter has created two Kirks!
Horny, bad-ass Evil Kirk unleashes his id on the Enterprise and its crew — especially targeting the pretty Yeoman Janice Rand and Good Kirk, who’s about to learn what it truly means to be James Tiberius Kirk. It all comes to a head in the final showdown between Good Kirk and Evil Kirk. Is the latter an impostor, or what Scotty calls “a strange, ferocious opposite”? He’s neither; he’s Captain Kirk’s libidinal energy made incarnate. In a previous scene, Good and Evil Kirk realize they are both aspects of one person: Kirk’s essential “Kirkness” is at stake. Good Kirk is ineffective, indecisive; as Spock tells him, “You can’t afford the luxury of being anything less than perfect. If you do, they lose faith, and you lose command.” Spock is proven right when Evil Kirk takes control of the Enterprise’s bridge, ordering the Enterprise to leave Alfa 177’s orbit, thus leaving Sulu stranded.
Good Kirk arrives, causing Evil Kirk to yell, “I’m the captain! This is my ship! My ship! It’s mine!” Good Kirk’s meek reply — “Can half a man live?” — leads to a scene where Good and Evil are reunited in the transporter room. In the end, Kirk is mended, intact, and ready to command. But this is only the first season, and there are plenty of adventures, near-death experiences, and conquests (explicit and implicit) yet to occur in the upcoming episodes and motion pictures to come. The Kirk that emerges at the end of “The Enemy Within” is familiar — confident, poised, and even mischievous. To get to this point, Kirk had to confront more than just the death of his mind and body. It was not just his life that was threatened; the future of the character we will henceforth know as “Kirk” hung in the balance.
2012: KIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (Captain Kirk scenes): Dafna Pleban: Justice or vengeance? | Mark Kingwell : Kirk teaches his drill thrall to kiss | Nick Abadzis: “KHAAAAAN!” | Stephen Burt: “No kill I” | Greg Rowland: Kirk browbeats NOMAD | Zack Handlen: Kirk’s eulogy for Spock| Peggy Nelson: The joke is on Kirk | Kevin Church: Kirk vs. Decker | Enrique Ramirez: Good Kirk vs. Evil Kirk | Adam McGovern: Captain Camelot | Flourish Klink: Koon-ut-kal-if-fee | David Smay: Federation exceptionalism | Amanda LaPergola: Wizard fight | Steve Schneider: A million things you can’t have | Joshua Glenn: Debating in a vacuum | Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons: Klingon diplomacy | Trav S.D.: “We… the PEOPLE” | Matthew Battles: Brinksmanship on the brink | Annie Nocenti: Captain Smirk | Ian W. Hill: Sisko meets Kirk | Gabby Nicasio: Noninterference policy | Peter Bebergal: Kirk’s countdown | Matt Glaser: Kirk’s ghost | Joe Alterio: Watching Kirk vs. Gorn | Annalee Newitz: How Spock wins
ALSO ON HILOBROW Peggy Nelson on William Shatner as HiLo Hero | Greg Rowland on Leonard Nimoy as HiLo Hero | Peggy Nelson on William Shatner in Incubus | Matthew Battles on enlarging the Trek fanfic canon | Radium Age Supermen | Radium Age Robots | Radium Age Apocalypses | Radium Age Telepaths | Radium Age Eco-Catastrophes | Radium Age Cover Art (1) | SF’s Best Year Ever: 1912
2014: KERN YOUR ENTHUSIASM (typefaces): Matthew Battles on ALDINE ITALIC | Adam McGovern on DATA 70 | Sherri Wasserman on TORONTO SUBWAY | Sarah Werner on JOHNSTON’S “HAMLET” | Douglas Wolk on TODD KLONE | Mark Kingwell on GILL SANS | Joe Alterio on AKZIDENZ-GROTESK | Suzanne Fischer on CALIFORNIA BRAILLE | Gary Panter on SHE’S NOT THERE | Deb Chachra on FAUX DEVANAGARI | Peggy Nelson on FUTURA | Tom Nealon on JENSON’S ROMAN | Rob Walker on SAVANNAH SIGN | Tony Leone on TRADE GOTHIC BOLD CONDENSED NO. 20 | Chika Azuma on KUMON WORKSHEET | Chris Spurgeon on ELECTRONIC DISPLAY | Amanda French on DIPLOMA REGULAR | Steve Price on SCREAM QUEEN | Alissa Walker on CHICAGO | Helene Silverman on CHINESE SHIPPING BOX | Tim Spencer on SHATTER | Jessamyn West on COMIC SANS | Whitney Trettien on WILKINS’S REAL CHARACTER | Cintra Wilson on HERMÈS vs. HOTDOG | Jacob Covey on GOTHAM.
2013: HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM (old-school hip hop tracks): Luc Sante on “Spoonin’ Rap” | Dallas Penn on “Rapper’s Delight” | Werner Von Wallenrod on “Rappin’ Blow” | DJ Frane on “The Incredible Fulk” | Paul Devlin on “The Adventures of Super Rhyme” | Phil Dyess-Nugent on “That’s the Joint” | Adam McGovern on “Freedom” | David Abrams on “Rapture” | Andrew Hultkrans on “The New Rap Language” | Tim Carmody on “Jazzy Sensation (Bronx Version)” | Drew Huge on “Can I Get a Soul Clap” | Oliver Wang on “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel” | Douglas Wolk on “Making Cash Money” | Adrienne Crew on “The Message” | Dart Adams on “Pak Jam” | Alex Belth on “Buffalo Gals” | Joshua Glenn on “Ya Mama” | Phil Freeman on “No Sell Out” | Nate Patrin on “Death Mix Live, Pt. 2” | Brian Berger on “White Lines (Don’t Do It)” | Cosmo Baker on “Here We Go (Live at the Funhouse)” | Colleen Werthmann on “Rockit” | Roy Christopher on “The Coldest Rap” | Dan Reines on “The Dream Team is in the House” | Franklin Bruno on The Lockers.
2011: KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (Jack Kirby panels): Douglas Rushkoff on THE ETERNALS | John Hilgart on BLACK MAGIC | Gary Panter on DEMON | Dan Nadel on OMAC | Deb Chachra on CAPTAIN AMERICA | Mark Frauenfelder on KAMANDI | Jason Grote on MACHINE MAN | Ben Greenman on SANDMAN | Annie Nocenti on THE X-MEN | Greg Rowland on THE FANTASTIC FOUR | Joshua Glenn on TALES TO ASTONISH | Lynn Peril on YOUNG LOVE | Jim Shepard on STRANGE TALES | David Smay on MISTER MIRACLE | Joe Alterio on BLACK PANTHER | Sean Howe on THOR | Mark Newgarden on JIMMY OLSEN | Dean Haspiel on DEVIL DINOSAUR | Matthew Specktor on THE AVENGERS | Terese Svoboda on TALES OF SUSPENSE | Matthew Wells on THE NEW GODS | Toni Schlesinger on REAL CLUE | Josh Kramer on THE FOREVER PEOPLE | Glen David Gold on JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY | Douglas Wolk on 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY | MORE EXEGETICAL COMMENTARIES: Joshua Glenn on Kirby’s Radium Age Sci-Fi Influences | Chris Lanier on Kirby vs. Kubrick | Scott Edelman recalls when the FF walked among us | Adam McGovern is haunted by a panel from THE NEW GODS | Matt Seneca studies the sensuality of Kirby’s women | Btoom! Rob Steibel settles the Jack Kirby vs. Stan Lee question | Galactus Lives! Rob Steibel analyzes a single Kirby panel in six posts | Danny Fingeroth figgers out The Thing | Adam McGovern on four decades (so far) of Kirby’s “Fourth World” mythos | Jack Kirby: Anti-Fascist Pipe Smoker
What do you think?
This ep was also the cell which divided to one day form so much of TNG, with its multitude of doubled characters and divergent timelines. That show was about choice on the infinite level of particles of possibility like the profusion of stars, and “Enemy Within” was a preamble to snarky haters of Kirk/Shatner or mere three-dimensional thinkers that there may be no such thing as “good Kirk” or “evil Kirk” but right-Kirk.
The moral of this terrific episode is a Jewish one — man’s yetzer ha-ra (imperfectly translated as “evil impulse,” better translated as “libidinal urges”) is necessarily for survival; when unchecked, the yetzer ha-ra can make you coarse, animalistic, even violent and evil; when checked, the yetzer ha-ra is a force for good. [“Without it, one would not build a house, marry, beget children, or engage in business,” Bereishit Rabba 9:7]
See also the scene in League of Extraordinary Gentleman Series 2 where Hyde builds up to the big reveal of his murder of Griffin and confesses his immolation of himself — Jekyll, he explains, now has no drives and “I…I’ve got no restraints.” Damn sure not a cry for help but as close as he gets to a cautionary tale. Or see the Avengers flick, which to my eye posited the Banner/Hulk split as not mildness and violence but contradiction and clarity — the Hulk is honest about what he is and has some value and even balance; we actually kinda like him while Banner, as he finally admits, is “always angry.” The mix is what’s sustainable, or as one Kirby character put it at the conclusion of The Demon comic’s own evil-twin episode when the two halves were restored, “I’m the Jason Blood you know.”
Shatner gets to play 3 facets of Kirk! I don’t recall the arguments used to convince the bad yetzer ha-ra Kirk to reconstitute with his wimp-side, but the image posted captures Kirk’s self-love nicely — its a tender embrace. “Me, Myself and Irene’.
It’s certainly a fault-line that runs through the industrial age, and probably as far back as civilization itself, needing to cooperate with the other cavemen to land some charismatic megafauna for dinner. “I want to do whatever the hell I want!” versus “I need to get along with everybody. Or at least, *anybody.” But when we manifested logic as large-scale mechanism at the beginning of the industrial revolution, I would argue that that anxiety became even more acute. Passion is harmfully (and, often, self-harmfully) omnidirectional without logic. But logic is nothing without passion. Good Kirk might know what needs to happen, but he can’t make it happen, he can’t even motivate himself. Evil Kirk just needs, and happens! Logic – the machine – doesn’t *care. Kirk’s rogue side is what makes him Kirk. But… so is Kirk’s controlled side. Kirk’s energy may motivate the quest. But for all his baiting of Spock, Kirk’s inner Spock is largely what steers the course.
Maybe, Peggy. Though an emotional intuition seems to be Kirk’s fuzzy wisdom. The-good-of-all as a form of higher gratification; I wonder if characters or humans are capable of it?
“It is Kirk, but he’s lit from underneath, his face all shadowy and sinister; and he’s wearing more eyeliner than Jean Simmons in Black Narcissus or Natalie Portman in Black Swan. The malfunctioning transporter has created two Kirks!”
That makes me really want to watch this episode again.
I think the episode showed more of a duality than the post suggests. Evil Kirk had the decisiveness and cunning necessary for command, but lacked the courage necessary to lead. Good Kirk’s moral compass also allowed him to disconnect his thinking from his personal fate, which made him naturally brave though a ditherer. So it wasn’t just morality that Good Kirk brought to the table, which was a good thing because otherwise Evil Kirk would never have agreed that “we need each other.” He was tired of being afraid.
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