Season 1, Episode 5
Production episode: 1×04
Original air date: October 6, 1966
Star date: 1672.1
On a routine survey mission on planet Alfa 177, geological technician Fisher injures himself and beams up to the Enterprise covered in a strange yellow ore. The transporter suffers technical difficulties while he materializes. Chief Engineer Scott is worried enough to order that the equipment be checked out, but not worried enough to ask Captain Kirk to kindly wait five minutes before beaming back. When Kirk arrives on the transporter pad, he looks a little woozy. Scotty helps him to his quarters, leaving the room unattended, and a few seconds later, the transporter activates by itself. A hunched figure appears, facing away from us. He turns and we see…it’s Captain Kirk! The extreme close-up, dramatic music, and lighting on his face—not to mention the eyeliner—tell us immediately that he’s evil.
As the first Kirk returns to his quarters to rest, his wilder doppleganger bursts into sickbay demanding Saurian brandy. Apparently, that’s where McCoy keeps the good stuff. (Note: in order to avoid referring to the characters as “Good Kirk” and “Bad Kirk,” in this review the evil twin will be referred to by Jim Kirk’s middle name, “Tiberius,” in a nod to the TNG episode “Second Chances.”) Tiberius walks through the corridors swigging brandy straight from the bottle, when he spots Yeoman Rand’s quarters. Meanwhile, Kirk and Spock discover that the transporter has duplicated an animal from Alfa 177, creating strange opposites—one gentle, the other violent (but both ridiculous-looking). Kirk realizes that the same thing may have happened to him. The situation is even more dire for Sulu and the rest of the landing party down on the planet; they can’t risk beaming back to the ship until the transporters are fixed, and temperatures are dropping rapidly as night falls. It’s only a matter of time before they freeze to death.
Yeoman Rand returns to her quarters and finds Tiberius lurking in the shadows. He makes a move on her and admits his true feelings: “You’re too beautiful. Too much woman.” She manages to fight him off, scratching his face in the process. Kirk and Spock now realize that Kirk’s his darker half is running around the ship, but he’s becoming indecisive and forgetful. Rather than risk admitting the captain’s weakness to the crew, they put everyone on alert for an “impostor” with scratches on his face, cautioning them to arm themselves with phasers on the lowest stun setting. They don’t know what might happen if the duplicate is killed, but probably nothing good.
Tiberius tricks a crewman out of his phaser and goes on the run. Kirk and Spock search for him in the bowels of the Enterprise, on the engineering deck, where Kirk faces himself for the first time. His two halves struggle with each other until Spock handily subdues Tiberius with a Vulcan neck pinch before he can shoot Kirk; but the phaser beam goes astray, striking a bulkhead and damaging the transporter circuits further. Once Tiberius is safely strapped down in sickbay, McCoy reveals that the dangerous duplicate is dying. So is the crew on the planet. Temperatures continue to approach 120 degrees below zero, and the transporter will be out of commission for at least a week.
Spock is fascinated by the opportunity to study the two sides of Kirk’s personality:
We have here an unusual opportunity to appraise the human mind, or to examine, in Earth terms, the roles of good and evil in a man. His negative side, which you call hostility, lust, violence, and his positive side, which Earth people express as compassion, love, tenderness.
He observes that Kirk’s negative aspect feeds his strength of will. As much as Kirk dislikes the idea, he sees that without his opposite, he isn’t complete:
I have to take him back inside myself. I can’t survive without him. I don’t want him back. He’s like an animal, a thoughtless, brutal animal, and yet it’s me. Me.
Fortunately, Scotty has gotten the transporter working by tying it into the impulse engines; the real miracle is that he convinces everyone this is safe. They engage in a little animal testing (don’t tell PETA), running the doubled creature through the transporter. They put Humpty back together again, but he’s dead on arrival. The fear and shock of its two halves merging seem to have killed it.
Things don’t look promising for the Kirks. Unwilling to give up his command, Kirk alone must decide whether to undergo this dangerous procedure. Spock and McCoy argue over the best course of action: McCoy wants to wait for an autopsy on the animal, but Spock believes that Kirk’s intelligence will override his fear and allow him to survive. Kirk waffles between their two recommendations, but when he receives Sulu’s last communication before losing consciousness on the cold planet below, he’s certain they have no other choice but to risk the transporter—to return himself to normal and clear the transporter to rescue his men.
Tiberius tricks Kirk into freeing him, then knocks him out and escapes sick bay. He makes one more attempt on both Yeoman Rand and commanding the Enterprise, before Spock and Kirk arrive on the bridge. Tiberius threatens to shoot Kirk, but can’t do it. He breaks down, crying out “I want to live!”Knowing that the only way he can survive is to be reunited with his other half, he gives himself up.
This time, the procedure works and two Kirks become one again. The frostbitten landing party is immediately beamed back, and after glancing at them McCoy confidently proclaims, “I think they’ll make it.” Kirk is worried that the next five years on ship with Yeoman Rand will be awkward, but all is forgiven. Now that Kirk is all man again, it’s business as usual and the Enterprise sets course for their next calamity.
I was steeling myself for this episode, remembering the premise as being rather silly, but I was pleasantly surprised at how thoughtful it was. (The poor dog in that furry costume was very silly, but I was amused that almost every cast member cradled it at some point with a straight expression.) When I saw this one was written by Richard Matheson, the high quality of the script made perfect sense. It’s a shame he never wrote for the series again.
This episode gives us the first in a long line of transporter accidents to plague the Federation. Regardless of the mechanism for splitting Kirk into his positive and negative personalities, the conflict created is a compelling one. This is essentially a variation on the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, forcing a man to confront his darker side quite literally, but what’s so interesting is that it posits that those base urges contribute to our better qualities, that when reason and intellect rule over desire, we can master them and be stronger for them.
Perhaps this isn’t that innovative a concept (it’s as old as Plato after all) but Matheson cleverly makes his point by showing us what each half would be like without the other. I thought it curious that everyone seemed to assume that the good Kirk was the real one; even his duplicate couldn’t survive without him, whether because he was too weak or too afraid. But I preferred to view neither Kirk as the “real” one. Strictly speaking, Kirk was both of them. The good Kirk may have been able to survive without reuniting with his dark double, but he wouldn’t have been fit for command, or he may have been killed off fairly quickly on a mission.
It’s no wonder that Spock is so interested in Kirk’s condition. He tries to convince Kirk and McCoy that they should try the transporter procedure:
Being split in two halves is no theory with me, Doctor. I have a human half, you see, as well as an alien half, submerged, constantly at war with each other. Personal experience, Doctor. I survive it because my intelligence wins over both, makes them live together. Your intelligence would enable you to survive as well.
Earlier in the episode, McCoy says exactly the same thing, that Kirk’s intellect will allow him to hold onto his ability to command, even without his negative side. Yet when his friend’s life is in jeopardy, McCoy is unwilling to take a chance (still ruled by emotion) and Spock…seems to want to see what’ll happen (always the logical one). He insists that those negative qualities are key to Kirk’s strength, but never takes this to the conclusion that he, too, is better because of his human emotions. One wonders whether he would want to be rejoined with his human side if it were he who were split. Incidentally, I love that Spock is entirely unapologetic about his curiosity. He tells Kirk, “If I seem insensitive to what you’re going through, Captain, understand it’s the way I am.”
This scene where they discuss whether Kirk should try the transporter again shows the dynamic between the three main characters perfectly. Kirk is usually able to balance Spock and McCoy’s opinions and make his own decisions, but cut off from his other half, he is completely indecisive. The bond between these characters is obvious and touching throughout this episode. When the two Kirks go into the transporter, only McCoy and Spock are in the room, and Spock handles the controls himself. I was amazed that even in the face of possible death, Kirk was more concerned with comforting his friends. He tells Spock, “If this doesn’t work.” Spock replies simply, “Understood, Captain.” I thought he might have been about to tell Spock the ship would be his, but I think he’s simply acknowledging their friendship in the way that’s most comfortable for the Vulcan—by not saying it outright. He then gives McCoy an encouraging little smile as he steps into the transporter, which also speaks volumes. And then, when he survives the rematerialization, he tells them to “Get those men aboard fast” without missing a beat.
Much of this episode is handled masterfully. At first I thought the over-the-top portrayal of the evil Kirk might be too much, but it’s more likely the director made a conscious effort to evoke a horror movie tone, with the dramatic lighting and the mad close-ups. The shot where the evil Kirk thrusts his bloody hand into the center of the frame is brilliant. When we first see the evil Kirk, he can barely speak, moving with exaggerated gestures like a monster from a silent movie, snarling his words, skulking in shadows, and, finally, descending to the depths of the ship to hide like all monsters do. When Rand scratched him in the cheek, I was reminded of the unmasking of the Phantom of the Opera. Spock frequently refers to the duplicate as “it” instead of him.
The episode also provides a real shock for viewers when the evil Kirk attempts to rape Yeoman Rand. I was certainly horrified, not just by the act, but because you don’t really picture Captain Kirk doing something like that—the man doesn’t need to force himself on the ladies, after all. Rand’s emotional reaction to the experience is all too heartwrenching and realistic, even when she starts to think it was somehow her fault that it happened and apologizes to the Captain for getting him in trouble.
It’s a good thing this episode also provides a fair amount of humor, particularly in the witty banter between Sulu and Kirk. I was so impressed with Sulu that he could face his lingering death with such a cheerful attitude. That subplot was also ingenious; just having Kirk split could have carried the episode, but trapping the landing party on the planet adds a “ticking clock” and a real sense of jeopardy to drive the conflict. I did wonder why they didn’t just beam down some extra coats and blankets or something, though. And I’d forgotten that the Enterprise didn’t always have shuttlecrafts, which would at least have solved one of their problems easily.
There are many nice little moments and touches in this episode. Yeoman Rand’s character is fleshed out a bit when we see the hideous paintings in her quarters; Spock makes his first Captain’s Log entry as “Second Officer”; Kirk steps into the turbolift and gives the order, “Bridge”; Sulu and his men use the phasers to heat rocks on the planet to keep warm, which I always thought was really clever. And this episode has some of William Shatner’s best and worst acting—one standout moment is the anguished expression on his face after he decides to try the transporter again.
This may also be the episode that inspired the original slash fic writers who paired Kirk and Spock romantically: Spock walks into the Captain’s quarters and asks the shirtless Kirk, “Is there something I can do for you, Captain?” Yeah…
Eugene’s Rating: Warp 4 (on a scale of 1-6)
Torie Atkinson: While this episode is clearly indebted to The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, cinematically it looked and felt a lot like Fritz Lang’s Metropolis to me. Kirk’s evil half was distinguishable from his good half with the exact same physical cues used to distinguish the Robot Maria from her good alter ego: eyeliner, wide eyes, smirks and sneers, dramatic lighting (intense white on face, intense darkness in background), and extreme close-ups. Both, when fresh from creation, go around irrationally fondling things (in his case a control panel, in her case, her breasts), become wild and lustful, and ultimately use the image of their dopplegangers to wreak havoc. I have no idea if this parallel was intentional, but perhaps it’s no coincidence that when we imagine a sleek, technological future, we fear becoming separated from our basest human desires, and in turn fear those desires will destroy the clean, pure images we’ve made for ourselves. Or does eyeliner just have an inherent creep factor?
I wanted to touch briefly on two things about Kirk’s personality split that interested me: the importance of decision making, and the extent of the man’s compassion. Both of these things are seen as as absolutely central to Kirk’s identity. I think that in any other show a man’s strength would lie in his courage (often against unreasonable or overwhelming odds), or his ability to strategize (military genius is a frequent trope of a great leader), or perhaps his self-control and determination, to keep on despite demoralizing setbacks. But here Kirk’s strength is in his ability to weigh the emotional with the logical, successfully leading others down the middle path. It’s so simple and yet such a demonstration of intelligent, controlled, and balanced power. I continue to be impressed by how well the show avoids those kinds of idealized, hypermasculine cliches, favoring instead a balanced, thoughtful, and caring leader.
That leadership, that strength, isn’t built on intimidation or persuasion or even sheer confidence (which can go a long way): it’s built on compassion. His men trust him because they know he cares. I found the moment when Kirk comforts his scared, evil alter ego to be incredibly touching—it is that compassion and earnestness that’s able to persuade Tiberius later, on the bridge, to trust him. McCoy tells Kirk, “He was afraid. You weren’t.” I really like the idea that to show compassion and love is to be unafraid—that it’s a demonstration of courage far beyond any wild hostility or brutal violence. It’s the courage to be vulnerable for the sake of another. When they confront each other in engineering, it is Kirk who has the courage to say: “I need you.” That courage saves them both in the end.
Torie’s Rating: Warp 5 (on a scale of 1-6)
Best Line: SULU: Do you think you might be able to find a long rope somewhere and lower us down a pot of hot coffee?
Syndication Edits: Again, lots of little things: many brief dialogue cuts and establishing shots that are not that significant. However, Sulu’s last two reports from the planet got the axe. This leads to a weird transition, as Sulu is talking to Kirk and then it cuts to a shot of the Enterprise orbiting the planet before coming back to their dialogue.
Trivia: When we first see Kirk and his double, his command insignia is missing from his uniform. This mistake occurred because the insignias had to be removed before dry cleaning the shirts, and someone forgot to sew them back on (Source: The Star Trek Compendium by Allan Asherman). Also, in the final sequence, the scratches on Kirk’s face switch sides—at first I thought this was a clever way to show that each was a mirror of the other, but it turns out it was just a blip from reversing the film. Oh well.
Other notes: I was disappointed to discover that The Star Trek Encyclopedia by Michael and Denise Okuda lists the planet in this episode as “Alfa 117.”
For another brilliant William Shatner/Richard Matheson pairing, there is always “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” (which aired three years earlier). “There’s something…on…the wing!”
Previous Episode: Season 1, Episode 4 – “The Naked Time.”
This post originally appeared on Tor.com.