The Enemy Within (Star Trek: The Original Series) Review

Totally appropriate boss behavior.

Totally appropriate boss behavior.

Editor’s note: This review is part of an ongoing series by guest blogger, Joshua, who will view and review the Star Trek Original Series.  

Episode: The Enemy Within — Season 1, Episode 5 (1966)

Director: Leo Penn

Writer: Richard Matheson

During a geological survey[1] of Alpha 177, Captain Kirk is divided by a transporter accident into two incorporate halves of his personality. “Good” Kirk is rational and compassionate but weak-willed. “Bad” Kirk is, no lie, a brandy-swilling rapist.

After fortifying himself with Doctor McCoy’s booze, Bad Kirk forces himself on Yeoman Rand in her quarters. This is the real thing – more graphic than I remembered, and much more realistic than the jackass stage combat they usually do. Rand manages to fight him off long enough for another crewman to draw Bad Kirk’s attention (in the form of punching).

Later, a standing Good Kirk, Spock, and McCoy question the sitting, weeping Yeoman Rand, and Kirk  insists the assault did not happen. Does the Enterprise not have an HR director? Is this how they handle post-sexual assault counseling however many hundred years in humanity’s future — like you’re a coed talking to the dean in 1940? Spock and McCoy fail to do the obvious thing: relieve Good Kirk of command and lock him in a room until they can figure what they hell is going on.  But no, they essentially ignore the Yeoman’s eyewitness identification of her assailant, soon corroborated by the crewman who Bad Kirk beat down.

It takes 20 minutes for Spock to figure all this out, though an earlier transporter incident resulted in psychologically doubled dog-creatures, and people keep observing Bad Kirk do things that their normal captain would never, ever do. Once he solves the riddle, it’s just a matter of tracking Bad Kirk down and smashing him back together with Good Kirk in time to save Sulu and the survey team from freezing to death on the surface.

I acknowledge the point writer Matheson is trying to make: that much of our strength comes from dark parts of our personalities that can’t be “wished away” without destroying us. As a controlled experiment, you can see the interesting applications. Wouldn’t you love to interrogate your own bad self?

But “The Enemy Within” completely muffs the opportunity.  Instead of an introspective coda, we get the final scene on the bridge, where Spock teases Yeoman Rand about Bad Kirk’s “interesting qualities.” For the sake of clarification, that’s a bridge officer hassling a subordinate about her recent sexual assault, in front of other members of the crew as well as the man who committed the assault, and implying her own responsibility for the crime owing to her attraction to Kirk’s evil side.

The only thing this episode gets right is the title, because the “Enemy” is still around. Bad Kirk wasn’t an impostor, he was a piece. Of her boss.

[1] The episode opens with the survey team on the planet’s surface. Kirk and Sulu are talking about how cold it will become after nightfall. The fourth line of dialogue is, seriously:

Sulu: A little nippy.

Really, Gene Roddenberry?  Really?



Filed under Childhood Memories, Star Trek Original Series

2 responses to “The Enemy Within (Star Trek: The Original Series) Review

  1. Kelli

    Yes, Josh, I would love to interrogate my own “bad” self. I foresee much moonwalking, zombie dancing, and wearing of red leather track suits.

  2. One slight wrench in the works…..thr stranded men how come no one thought to send a shuttle craft to pick them up, when the transporter was down? … just asking 🙂

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