Even transporter accidents were new once, and the first of them happened right here, as Captain Kirk is split into two halves – one good, but weak and indecisive, and the other evil yet strong. It’s the Jekyll and Hyde story taken to space, but can we look past the dodgy science and procedural laxity to enjoy the heart of this story?
Naturally, the nitpicking will occur in due course, but before that, let’s take a moment to appraise the episode in the manner in which it was intended to be enjoyed. Is it just a vehicle to allow Shatner to overact? Perhaps, but it’s also a nice touch to make “good Kirk” and “evil Kirk” a little more nuanced than these simple labels. Good Kirk is not the superman Dr Jekyll dreamt of creating when he created his serum – yes, he is the intelligent and compassionate one, but he lacks the decisiveness and drive to be an effective starship captain. These qualities lie with evil Kirk, although admittedly this individual is far more uncontrolled and animalistic – even going so far as to attempt to rape Janice Rand. In this, the show is very much a product of its time, as Rand claims that she “wouldn’t have even mentioned it” had the altercation not spilled out into the corridor.
Naturally, with Kirk weakened by his duplication and in need of advice, it’s up to Spock and McCoy to dispense their wisdom, with each playing off the other as brilliantly as always. Aside from hints that Janice Rand either enjoys painting or collecting paintings, there isn’t much outside of basic plot duties for the other characters, however.
Things That Wouldn’t Happen if I Were Captain of the Enterprise
- Since the transporter is such an important device, I wouldn’t have just the one – thus, when one malfunctioned, a secondary transporter room would be used. Also, for anyone who was wondering why Sulu and the others weren’t rescued from the planet’s surface using a shuttlecraft, this is simply because the shuttlecraft hadn’t been ‘invented’ yet.
- Whatever happened to the decontamination routine from The Naked Time? Instead, the crewman covered in alien dust was allowed to wander to sickbay, presumably shedding dust particles along the way.
- Mr Scott would not have been allowed to leave the transporter room unattended – although to be fair, he wasn’t supposed to, and simply ignored the captain’s directive.
- Evil Kirk spent a lot of time hanging round his and Rand’s quarters, yet no one hurried to look for him until after he headed off to the engineering deck. I would have organised a search far more swiftly, locked down the ship, and revoked all of Kirk’s accesses and command privileges to stop him moving around freely (presumably between them Spock and McCoy would have the power to do this, especially with Good Kirk’s consent).
- Once captured and taken to sickbay, I would have set two security guards to watch over Evil Kirk at all times. At one point, McCoy leaves him unattended, and of course later Good Kirk and Evil Kirk are left alone together.
- If possible, vital transporter circuitry would not be in a location where a hand phaser could easily tear through a bulkhead and damage it.
- I would run all manner of tests on the transporter using vegetables and plants in order to figure out the duplication. Ultimately, being able to beam up Mr Sulu and the others wasn’t dependent on the two Kirks being recombined, as was portrayed here, but on ensuring the transporter was fixed for basic use. Fixing Kirk was really a separate issue.
Naturally, on my Enterprise the stories would be a lot less dramatic, but I like to think it would be better run.
Science Fiction, Science Fact
- Before we get onto the deep stuff, I can’t properly review this episode without mentioning the weird alien dog. It’s unclear where it comes from (is it Sulu’s pet? A specimen from the planet?), and its only raison d’etre is to let the crew find out about the duplication process, its effects, and the fact that recombination might be fatal.
- As we know, the transporter itself defies physics, so instead of harping on about that, I’m only going to comment when it defies physics more than usual. Given conservation of mass, where does the mass even come from to create two Kirks? Are ‘good’ and ‘evil’ really physical things that can be separated out by the transporter? Or was the balance of chemicals in the brain of each Kirk somehow different, thus causing their personality differences? Yet this would be treatable, and the good and evil Kirk condition only seemed to be curable by recombining them.
- The planet’s surface drops to over a hundred degrees below zero, and yet Sulu and his team have only flimsy blankets to protect themselves – at its coldest, Sulu still has his face exposed! I’ve been in Ottawa in February when it was -21ºC, and I can tell you, it was horribly cold and required many layers of clothing. Perhaps these were super duper future blankets, because otherwise these men would not have survived.
Summary – The Enemy Within: I AM CAPTAIN KIRK! Oh no, wait, I’m not. I don’t know what came over me there.