This past Saturday, the latest teaser trailer for Star Trek Into Darkness premiered online, showcasing something that most Star Trek fans are very familiar with: that unflappable certainty of ability in himself and his crew, that overriding desire to see the right outcome no matter what the regulations may order him to do. Bringing the original crew back to the forefront in the new film series means bringing back the most fearless captain of them all...
...James Tiberius Kirk.
Though his current incarnation looks a little different than how we remember due to the casting of Chris Pine, one thing that is consistent in both versions of the iconic starship captain is the less-than-formal attitude they have when it comes to Starfleet regulations. Captain Kirk IS a man that respects the law, but when it binds him too much to accomplish the most good, either for his crew or a society in need of his help, Kirk is likely to throw the rulebook out the window and do what feels right.
For the upcoming Star Trek film, this looks to be the case on perhaps a larger scale than we're used to. With certain hints that Kirk may let his renegade flag fly just a little bit higher in the new film, I thought it might be fun to take a look back at some of the best moments that Jim Kirk swayed from the rules. As a young kid being a Star Trek fan, he taught me that following all the rules in every situation life throws at you may not be the best thing for you or for others around you. In that liberating spirit of rebelliousness, here are five of my favorite moments that Captain Kirk broke the rules. (Just a note to the continuity sticklers, these examples will be pulled from both the "prime" reality and the "alternate" reality.)
5) "Conquest is easy. Control is not."
I realize that this one may be a bit of a cheat, but hey -- It's in the spirit of the captain, isn't it? In the original Star Trek episode "Mirror, Mirror," Captain Kirk, Dr. McCoy, Scotty and Uhura are on the surface of a peaceful planet engaged in negotiations with the natives, the Halkans, for the Federation to mine the planet for precious dilithium crystals, which help to power starship engines. The Halkan council leader, being a planet and culture of pacifists with no means to defend themselves, turns to Kirk and says that he has the might to force the crystals from the planet, if he chooses. "But we won't," Kirk says. "Consider that."
When the party beams away, they feel dizzy as they rematerialize aboard the Enterprise in different clothes, and with a bearded Spock giving a Nazi-like salute to the returning captain. Sensing that something's amiss, Kirk plays along long enough to discover that he, McCoy, Scotty and Uhura have been displaced from their home and sent into a parallel universe. The Federation doesn't exist, only the Terran Empire reigns supreme, where humans are cruel, savage and brutal. Rank is advanced by assassinating your superiors, and Kirk's orders are to lay waste to the Halkan planet if the natives don't give their crystals up to the Empire willingly.
It's here that Kirk's natural instinct to circumvent authority takes over, not just for the hell of it, but because his Federation sensibilities that say all beings have a right to life directly conflict with the militaristic brutality of the Terran Empire. Although Kirk was doing the right things in the eyes of the Federation, he had to break the rules of his current command risking murder by alternate versions of Spock and Sulu in order to get the right thing done.
4) "Kill Spock? That's not what we came to Vulcan for, is it?"
Perhaps one of the most classic episodes of the original Star Trek series is the first broadcast episode of season two entitled "Amok Time." In it, the Enterprise is en route to planet Altair VI under Federation orders to attend the planetary president's inauguration ceremony. It becomes clear to Kirk and Dr. McCoy, though, that Spock just isn't being himself. He hasn't eaten in days, has stayed in his quarters for abnormal amounts of time, and is actually having emotional outbursts, the first time the crew has observed this behavior in him.
After Dr. McCoy manages to get the elusive Vulcan in sick bay for a diagnosis, the good doctor races to the captain, hurriedly telling him to change the Enterprise's course to Vulcan right away. If Spock doesn't get to his home planet in a matter of days, he'll die.
After conversing with Spock, who begrudgingly explains to him that his severe hormonal imbalances and rather fatal irritability are the consequences of the pon farr Vulcan mating cycle, Kirk disobeys direct orders from the Federation by diverting the Enterprise to Vulcan in order to save the life of his best friend and first officer. Even though he was nearly killed by Spock in the process of trying to save his life, "Amok Time" exemplifies the rebellious attitude of Captain Kirk, and gave birth to that awesome fight music that everyone now associates with classic Star Trek.
3) "The man was a menace."
This isn't a reference to one event, but if you're a fan of Captain Kirk, it's one that you have to love. In 1996, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine celebrated the original Star Trek's 30th anniversary by crafting an episode of its current show to take place within the confines of a classic TOS episode. Since one of the most absolutely recognizable episodes of Star Trek is "The Trouble wIth Tribbles," the DS9 writers came up with a very clever scenario for their episode "Trials and Tribble-ations." It calls on Captain Sisko, Odo, Dax, Worf and the other crewmembers of the U.S.S. Defiant to go back in time about a century to stop a renegade Klingon from murdering Captain Kirk, and the episode actually sees them interacting to a degree with the original crew aboard the Enterprise. Since the original is my favorite Trek series, this is easily one of my favorites of Deep Space Nine.
At the beginning of the episode, Sisko is forced to recount the tale of his time travel to a couple of officials from the Starfleet Department of Temporal Investigations. When the agents realize whose ship Sisko got to see, their mouths dropped. "His ship. James T. Kirk." Sisko's face lit up with a smile. "The one and only, he said." The officials then looked dismayed: "Seventeen separate temporal violations, the biggest file on record. The man was a menace." Sisko's smile turned quickly to scowl, and Kirk's legacy of rule breaking survives well into the 24th century.
2) "I don't believe in the no-win scenario."
Perhaps the most defining moment that Jim Kirk ever broke the rules was during his time at Starfleet Academy. In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, we met young Lieutenant Saavik: a Vulcan protégé of sorts to Admiral Kirk and Captain Spock. At the very beginning of the film, Saavik takes the ultimate test for Starfleet officers and cadets alike: the infamous Kobayashi Maru training scenario that is specifically designed, in the words of Kirk, to be a "test of character." As do most cadets, Saavik finished the simulation without saving the ill-fated Kobayashi Maru freighter while in the process destroying her ship with all hands. Anxious to hear how Kirk himself completed the test, the Admiral politely rebuffed her.
Later, while waiting out an assault on the Enterprise to be waged by Khan Noonien Singh, Kirk, Dr. McCoy and Saavik had a lot of time to kill inside the Genesis project. It was there that McCoy told the Vulcan that she was serving with the only cadet ever to have beaten the no-win scenario. Kirk then revealed to her, "I reprogrammed the simulation so it was possible to rescue the ship." While Kirk got a commendation for original thinking, his act of cheating was born not out of trying to be different, just for one simple fact of his life: "I don't like to lose."
In J.J. Abrams' 2009 film, we actually see this scenario play out while Kirk is at Starfleet Academy. In changing the conditions of the test, Kirk was brought before the fully enrolled class of the Academy and made a proclamation not unlike his prime universe counterpart: "I don't believe in no-win scenarios." What does Captain Kirk do if he can't win? Simple: he just changes the rules.
1) "Sir...someone is stealing the Enterprise!"
In perhaps his most blatantly criminal act of his life, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock sees Kirk and his friends risk everything to do right by their friend. After enduring the loss of Spock at the end of The Wrath of Khan, Kirk has hopes that he can take the Enterprise back to the Genesis planet to retrieve Spock's body, and return his essence, his katra, to Vulcan along with his remains.
Since Dr. McCoy was the last person in contact with Spock before the Vulcan's death, Spock transferred his katra into McCoy via mind meld, and having Spock basically reside in the good doctor's head was causing a lot of problems for McCoy. Desperate, Admiral Kirk pleads with a superior officer to take the Enterprise to accomplish this mission for Spock and McCoy, but he is denied. The officiating admiral informs Kirk that not only is the Genesis planet off-limits, but the Enterprise is too old for any more missions and is due to be decommissioned soon.
So what does Kirk do? What any sensible person would: he steals the ship.
In an incredible scene that is surely the best of Star Trek III, Kirk and cohorts McCoy, Scotty, Chekov, Sulu and Uhura engaged in grand theft starship in the middle of the night, daringly sabotaging the new prototype U.S.S. Excelsior and making off with full speed towards Genesis. There's a bit of a bittersweet tinge to the events, though, as this would be the last ride of the original Enterprise before its destruction, also at the hands of Kirk in order to keep it out of Klingon hands.
If you're going to break the rules to do what you feel is right, do it like Kirk: in a stylish fireball of glory.
That does it for this edition of the Star Trek Into Darkness Countdown. I hope it put you in a bit of a rebellious spirit, since we're likely going to see another extreme case of Captain Kirk's distaste for rules and regulations coming up on May 15. Be back here in a fortnight for another fix of Star Trek greatness, and perhaps an update or two on news surrounding the upcoming film. #LLAP
The Enterprise Boldly Goes Into Darkness in 63 Days.
Chris Clow is a geek. He is a comic book expert and retailer, and geeky contributor to GeekNation.com, Batman-On-Film.com and ModernMythMedia.com. You can find his weekly piece The Geek Beat every Tuesday and the Star Trek Into Darkness Countdown every other Wednesday right here at Movies.com. Check out his blog and follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.