“If I seem insensitive to what you’re going through, Captain, understand: it’s the way I am.”
Evil Captain Kirk! Not really evil, just unbalanced … dark; the catalyzing agent for Kirk’s higher reasoning centers. While on a geological survey, a crewman is transported to the ship covered in a yellow ore that messes up the transporter circuits. After a moment, Kirk is beamed up, but he looks like the wind’s been knocked out of him. Concerned, Scotty advises him to stop by the sickbay, and they both exit the transporter room, leaving it conveniently unattended. Moments later, somebody else beams up to the ship. His back is turned to us and he slowly turns around to reveal … Kirk! This Kirk has a devious look on his face.
Director Leo Penn places Kirk in a crouch with unusual makeup and lighting to accentuate his wild eyes, and already we know something is up with this guy. He doesn’t look too good. The first order of business is to grab some booze. Why does McCoy keep hooch in the sickbay? Second order of business is the attempted rape of Yeoman Janice Rand. He enters her quarters and waits for her to return so he can jump her. It doesn’t take Spock long to deduce that there is a duplicate Captain Kirk on board the ship and wreaking havoc. They corner him in Engineering, and Spock performs the first Vulcan neck pinch. They strap him down in the sickbay and start studying him while Scotty effects repairs on the transporter.
We have two ticking clocks in this episode. The first is the remainder of the landing party still stuck on the freezing planet. The second is both Kirks and their failing health. They may die if not reassembled into the one SuperKirk. It is here that Spock surmises both halves of Kirk need each other to survive, not only physically but mentally. Kirk’s dilemma is that he does not want to admit to those negative qualities that make him the man he is; the men and women that we all are. There’s an interesting bit here as “evil” Kirk overhears some of McCoy’s pep talk where he tells Kirk that temperance is what controls the raging beast inside him. He must let the world think that he is dead until he can find a way to control the raging spirit that dwells within him. ROAR!
It is Richard Matheson’s (one of my favorite writers) central thesis that a duality inhabits us humans, and that, even more curiously, it is that negative side which helps us negotiate, helps us make decisions, and how intelligence can be the bridge between the benevolence and the finality. Spock seals the deal for us when he relates to McCoy the exquisite torment he must endure balancing his Vulcan half and his Human half.
There are some excellent ideas at play here, but the story is bogged down by flagrant oversights. Because this was so early on, there was never any mention of shuttlecraft, nor was there any explanation for why the basic essentials of survival (such as coats, blankets, matches) couldn’t be beamed down to Sulu and party. There is also the tense sexual dynamic between Janice and the Captain, as well as Spock’s unsettling exchange with her at the end of the episode. This is Kirk’s episode, through and through, and one of Shatner’s greatest performances.
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