Written by: Scott Wance, Special to CC2K
He’s the stuff of legend – resolute military commander, supreme expert on human nature, clipped-style orator, courageous fighter (his fighting prowess is an entirely separate debate, best settled by slap chops, torn tunics, and flying body slams off of walls), and smooth ladies’ man who put Don Juan to shame.
As a kid, I remember hunching in front of a rabbit-ear-antennae-topped black and white TV (In case you’re too young, this was a primitive television device that existed after the discovery of fire, but before the Atari 2600) with my Kool Aid and snacks, engrossed in a Star Trek episode. I couldn’t get enough of my hero of all heroes, the epitome of greatness, and the man I wanted to be when I grew up – Captain James T. Kirk (Adam West’s Batman is an easy tie for this honor). My head floated in a sea of role model worship for this man who faced every menace with bravery, confidence and an always-correct grasp of the situation. And as I entered my pre-teens, seeing that girls weren’t the cooty-infested harpies I took them for previously, I admired how Kirk was always a hit with the ladies. He could cozy up to them like a Tribble on an endless supply of quadrotriticale (While having the same social agenda).
The Man had Skills
You know what I’m talking about – that perfectly-set toupee, that cocky smile, the “I’m too sexy” swagger, his effortless knack for breaking the ice…how could you not admire the man’s skills and epic game? Was there any woman Kirk couldn’t get? The man – nay – the legend – got more strange than James Bond could ever hope to in his prime (I’m speaking of the Sean Connery years). Sometimes it was in the line of duty – to literally save lives! Every Trekkie Trekker fan worth their collection of latex Spock ears and Klingon foreheads tells jokes about the amazing United Federation of Planets’ baby boom during Kirk’s tenure as commander of the USS Enterprise (the likes of which even France never saw while hosting Ben Franklin). For that matter, with all the freaky diseases and modern-day social complications on our singular blue planet (e.g., why does “friends with benefits” work in the movies, but never in real life?), how did Kirk not catch some extraterrestrial venereal disease that made vital parts of his anatomy fall off (I’m referring to his toupee…of course)? One could surmise that prophylactics in the 23rd century had come a long way, but let’s be honest, this is James T. Kirk, a man who fought a Gorn bare-handed, survived a poisonous mugatu bite, and fended off a shirtless, foil-brandishing Sulu. He was far too awesome to fall victim to a mere case of Interstellar Clap.
But wait a Scalosian hyper second, we never actually witnessed Kirk boldly going where so many fans wanted to go, did we? Sure, we get to see the flirty, romantically teasing lead up and face-smothering kiss without any doubt or hesitation (Though making out with Uhura in Plato’s Stepchildren was clearly against both their wills), but then we cut to a subplot scene (Mainly to remind us that there’s more going on than what was in Kirk’s trousers). Sometime later, when we see Kirk again, it’s the inevitable “afterglow” scene (Complete with his “Who just got some alien poon? THIS GUY!” smirk). But do we ever witness him firing all phasers or making a new entry for his captain’s log? How do we really know that he ever actually made a matter/antimatter explosion in a final frontier? And that leaves us with the other burning question – what kind of lover was he, anyway? Slow and smooth, rough and tumble, or the bottom to someone’s top? Was he a romance-novel bodice ripper or did he have a lovely collection of role-playing costumes? Did he like to take care of them first and cuddle afterward, or just roll over and snore away soon as he was done?
It’s Not Like the Man Didn’t Have Needs
The only reasons why any man would flirt and make moves on women the way Kirk did is to 1) compensate for insecurities or his secret wish that all the slash fan fiction involving him and Spock was real, or 2) he’s really that horny. All useless speculation to the former aside, we’ve seen Kirk’s aggressive sexual drive firsthand in The Enemy Within. It’s that age old story, man gets into transporter, and man gets split into “Permanent ‘Friend Zone’ Guy” and “Hormone Control Challenged Douchebag.” In this case, “Wimpy Kirk” comes as close to emulating the Jean-Luc Picard method of “we must think our way to a dramatic resolution” as he ever will, while “Kirk Gone Wild” roams the ship like he’s in a Captain Morgan commercial and attempts to rape Yeoman Rand. And depending on the writer and lack of a female lead for an episode, Rand offers serious doubt about whether she believes “no means no” in regard to Kirk. The lesson learned here is letting Kirk’s libido run rampant is like asking a Ferengi to keep an eye on a bank vault while you grab a hot, steaming cup of Raktajino.
He’s the Jealous Type
Spock explains in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home that Kirk is a man of deep emotions, and it’s clear that when challenged by a superior specimen over a woman, Kirk doesn’t take rejection well. For that matter, Kirk really has a mad-on regarding godlike antagonists. In the third episode second pilot, Kirk’s first BFF/First Officer, Gary Mitchell and his quasi-girlfriend Dr. Elizabeth Dehner, get zapped by mysterious space rays and instead of becoming Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Girl, they get super telepathic/telekinetic powers. Not one to be up-staged by his best bud getting the girl, Kirk gets away with killing his now rival, and all while declaring it being in the line of duty. Not to mention he again cockblocks the consequently promoted next BFF/First Officer Spock not once but twice in This Side of Paradise and Amok Time (Though to be fair, neither case is by choice). He even gets irate about these godlike beings hitting on women he isn’t even trying to bed! In The Squire of Gothos, Trelane (a.k.a., the interstellar king of all dandy douchebags), playfully dances with a female yeoman and irritates Kirk enough to pick a fight, resulting in one of the most anticlimactic episode endings ever. And in Space Seed, the infamous Khan Noonien Singh easily woos ship historian Lt. Marla McGivers (Let’s face it, Ricardo Montalban was so purely awesome, who wouldn’t want him?). McGivers wasn’t only not on Kirk’s romantic radar, but was annoying the Hell out of him for her repetitive dereliction of duty. The inevitable outcome, like many a “jealous Kirk versus super being” plot, is a badass, stunt-doubles fight because, in the end, Kirk really doesn’t like the bad boy getting the girl.
Kirk Aims High, Not Low
If there’s anything perfectly clear about Kirk, it’s that while he allegedly slept around, he preferred a challenging conquest instead of someone laying down and spreading her legs for him.
It’s not as if he didn’t have more than a few willing women figuratively assuming the position for him from time to time. He acted the bad boy to fool the amorous Lieutenant Marlena Moreau in Mirror, Mirror, and fended off Nona’s witch-doctoring seduction spells (If you consider making out like a hormone-crazed teenager “fending her off”) in A Private Little War (Arguably ended prematurely by a conveniently-timed mugatu attack). He shows barely a glimmer of interest to 23rd century prostitutes hookers warp order brides in Mudd’s Women, and has no choice but to play a game of sexual “cat and mouse” with the creepy Sylvia in Catspaw. Even golden opportunities where merely striking up an innocent conversation with women could lead to happy fun time isn’t of much interest to him (e.g., “free love” space hippies in The Way to Eden, a persistent would-be savage lover in Elaan of Troyius, or an army of beautiful, female androids in I, Mudd). In fact, the only time we ever see him take advantage of an already willing woman, is when he’s offered the slave Drusilla in Bread and Circuses. Said occurrence results in his waking up as a creepy bad guy watches over him (Draw your own conclusions here). It’s not like he’s dodging desperate cat ladies at a night of speed dating, these are fairly attractive women (even by 1960s standards). The bottom line is Kirk wasn’t into a “sure thing.”
He Stays on Target
Star Trek is a fictional show, so it relied on drama to tell an engaging story, and drama requires conflict between characters. Where’s the suspense, tension and desire to see how something turns out if everyone just gets along, the antagonist is easily defeated, or a catharsis is achieved without any difficulty? Kirk’s pursuit of women isn’t much different, and is also akin to his skills as a military strategist – he’s a man with a plan when there’s a target in his sights. To be sure, we know he’ll most likely get the girl he’s chasing after (I mean, this is James T. Kirk we’re talking about), but to make things interesting, she has to play a little hard to get (And you know we men love and even prefer when that game never ends…).
Case in point, Kirk chases after the smart, strong and willful types who aren’t so easily fooled or impressed by a pretty boy smile and clever banter. In the classic City on the Edge of Forever, Kirk pursues the visionary Edith Keeler (Ironically played by Joan “the British open” Collins), and successfully courts her until she gets plowed down by a fateful truck. While Kirk didn’t have the opportunity to actually sleep with her, he was certainly taking the “slow road to China” in getting there (Sadly, the only sexually-related thing about the episode was Harlan Ellison’s endless and thankfully figurative whacking off about the episode throughout his career, thus ensuring that the world never forgot he wrote it). In Dagger of the Mind Kirk has somewhat of an undefined past with the smart, professional and resistant Dr. Helen Noel, only to get the Total Recall treatment, either reliving their supposed fling or having it twisted into a very Merry Christmas.
Among his other romantic qualifications, Kirk could adeptly wear down his more unknowing targets through persistent romantic gestures and overtures. He certainly put in a Hell of a lot of time and effort into softening up the firm yet dopey Shahna in The Gamesters of Triskelion (Her Reynolds Wrap bikini outfit was definitely a strong motivator for him). In By Any Other Name, Kirk teaches the attractive yet ignorant alien Kelinda about “this human thing called love,” spending much of his time trying to bed her in the line of duty (as well as inspiring future “alien woman on Earth” porn film plots). Ironically, he gets into a fight with Kelinda’s leader Rojan (who is smarter and stronger than him) because Rojan is jealous of Kirk. In addition, Kirk eventually seduces Deela in Wink of an Eye, which offers one of the rare times we see Kirk and his conquest finishing getting dressed right after doing the deed. Consequently, he gets again into yet another fight with an alien woman’s leader in this episode, who’s jealous of Kirk’s womanizing (karma swings back Kirk’s way in the jealousy department).
The Morning After
So, what does this tell us about him as a lover? Well, not much.
Beyond a few coy smiles and lovey-dovey eye blinking, there isn’t much seen or said about his performance. Those same winks and smiles might be genuine appreciation for rocking their worlds, or the 23rd century equivalent of the reassuring “that’s okay, it happens to everyone” post-attempted-coital pat on the back. And this is if we assume that he did actually have sex with them. For all we really know, he only gets to first base or really just wants someone to hold him. I mean, how do we actually know, for a fact, that Kirk ever had a full-on warp core reaction with a woman?
One word – kids.
In possibly one of the dopiest Star Trek stories ever told, confirmed bachelor James T. Kirk finally gets married to the way-too-WASPy-to-be-a-real-Native-American princess Miramanee in The Paradise Syndrome. In a state of conveniently-placed amnesia, Kirk’s inherent alpha male qualities and leadership abilities take over, making him a perceived threat to Salish, the legitimate future tribal leader and steals Miramanee from him, and then Kirk gets her pregnant. Now, assuming that Miramanee isn’t a trashy Real Housewife of the Alpha Quadrant and didn’t sleep around with all the other whiter-than-white braves, it appears that Kirk not only did have sex, but his boys can swim upstream. However, the greatest evidence of the sport of his alleged loins suddenly appears in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Here we discover his long, lost son David, the result of a didn’t-end-well tryst with Carol Marcus, who’s possibly the blonde lab assistant Kirk’s former Godlike Being first BFF/First Officer Gary Mitchell set him up with back in their academy days. Assuming Carol wasn’t the sleeping around type (And even if she were, her bitchy personality might have trumped that), it makes one wonder how she thinks David acts so similarly to Kirk when he’s more of a whiney brat who bears little-to-no resemblance to Kirk (Bad casting call or fictional genetics run amok? You decide). However, I’m a big believer in my man James T. Kirk, so I like to think that he managed to father a child even though he consequently dies shortly after meeting him (See Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, unless you’re one of those “the odd-numbered films suck” fans).
The only viable conclusion we can make about all of this is that Kirk’s performance as a lover is best left to the imagination. Casual fans can suspend their disbelief, recognizing that whether Kirk actually got laid is a completely secondary point in any given episode. On the other hand, more dedicated fans may spend significant portions of their lives in endless “someone is wrong on the Internet and I must correct them” debates over the finer points and perceived evidence of Kirk’s conquests. The little kid in me, sitting in front of the occasionally static-blaring black and white TV, is content with believing that James T. Kirk is the man, and the man always gets whatever he wants.