Being Captain of Starfleet’s flagship is no easy job. Constantly coming up again hostile life-forms, sentient machines and potentially devastating space phenomena means that a Captain has to have a huge number of aces up his sleeve with which to safeguard the lives of his crew. And so Den of Geek is taking a look at all of the tips and tricks that were at Kirk’s disposal during the original series…
A brief, friendly chat
There were very few situations so bad that Kirk couldn’t talk his way out of them. Clearly, the intent was to showcase Gene Roddenberry’s idea of a future where pacifism and logic are the preferred course of action for civilised cultures, and anyone who claims it was largely motivated by budget constraints is lying.
Kirk would often mediate conflicts himself, assuming the role of diplomat, though he would also use his deductive reasoning powers to expose betrayal and subterfuge. Kirk’s best conversational skill, though, was his ability to ruin a computer faster than your grandparents would, simply by talking to it.
In the original series run, this happens countless times. In Return Of The Archons, an unseen computer called Landru, programmed to “destroy evil”, governs the planet – until Kirk convinces Landru that it itself is evil, at which point it explodes.
In The Ultimate Computer, when the experiment M-5 takes control of the Enterprise, Kirk appeals to the guilt that its human-derived personality feels over the deaths it has caused, making it drop its defensive shields as an act of suicide.
In The Changeling, Kirk tricks an alien probe that believes it is perfect into realising that it has made an error – and as a result, it destroys itself.
Even gods themselves aren’t safe from Kirk’s line of destructive reasoning, as in Who Mourns For Adonais, Kirk manages to talk Apollo into suicide. It’s just unfortunate that Kirk wasn’t alive when the Borg attacked Starfleet – a quick chat, and it might all have been over!
Unlike later captains, Kirk wasn’t afraid to break out the guns if things were looking even a little hairy. As if to prove he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty with computers too, Kirk shot and destroyed computers in the episode A Taste Of Armageddon and The Apple, freeing the societies they controlled, whether they liked it or not. I suppose not every machine has a built in self-destruct mechanism, after all.
Kirk also proved that the gun was mightier than the sword in A Piece Of The Action, where he uses the Enterprise’s superior firepower to extort an entire planet of Gangsters out of 40% of their earnings. For altruistic purposes, of course!
Despite Kirk’s propensity for getting into fist fights, it’s actually quite rare that he wins them fairly. In one of his most famous fights, against the Gorn in the episode Arena, he only wins by hastily constructing a cannon that fires gemstones at his enemy. He fights his friend and first officer Spock in both Amok Time and Mirror, Mirror, but is unable to fairly best the far stronger Vulcan either time. In the former, he loses and is killed (but gets better) and in the latter, he only wins because Uhura hands him some crockery that he breaks over Spock’s head.
Surely the best fist fight Kirk ever had, though, was in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, where he combats a shape-shifter that has assumed his own visage. If there’s anything better than watching William Shatner fight William Shatner, we don’t want to know. Even that fight ends in a stalemate, until Kirk convinces a guard to kill his duplicate, not him.
An Alien Best Friend
Although Spock routinely bested Kirk in personal combat, there was never any doubt that he was useful to have on your side, largely due to his poorly-defined and frequently useful mental abilities. In The Paradise Syndrome and Spectre Of The Gun, it’s Spock’s mind melding abilities that save the day and free members of the crew from mind-control, while in “That Which Survives” it’s his capacity as security officer that makes him useful when at the last minute, he manages to (you guessed it) destroy the computer controlling the vindictive holograms that threaten the crew.
Spock isn’t always a reliable figure, of course. It’s hard to forget the time he had his brain stolen by women who needed to use it as their new computer (in the episode Spock’s Brain) but his most embarrassing moment surely comes in the episode Is There in Truth no Beauty? where, despite ample warning, Spock forgets to replace the protective visor that will prevent him going mad after mind-melding with Kollos, member of a race so different to humans (and Vulcans) that merely looking at them drives you instantly insane. Thankfully, another telepath was on hand, and used her own abilities to restore Spock’s mind.
In the world of Star Trek, the transporter manages to be both the cause of and solution to many of the crew’s problems. In The Enemy Within, Kirk finds himself split into his good and evil sides by a transporter malfunction – thankfully, a quick reprogramming later, and the same transporter is able to reconstitute the separate sides of his personality into one being. Similarly, in the episode Mirror, Mirror, a transporter malfunction is the mechanism by which Kirk gets sent to an alternate dimension inhabited by evil duplicates of the crew, and the mechanism by which he returns to his own universe.
So far, things have evened out, but as well as being a cheap alternative to shuttlecraft fuel, the transporter can save the day as well, justifying Starfleet’s decision to equip every starship with one of these metaphysical nightmares. Even as far back as the Original Series, the transporter proves its worth by disabling weapons while in transit and allowing a quick escape on numerous occasions. Use of the transporter is not without its risks, but Kirk has always been a risk-taking kind of Captain!