The Enemy Within: A Criticism

For those who do not know, the plot of this episode revolves around a transporter malfunction. For some reason the transporter starts splitting the beings who come through into two, one with their good qualities, the other with their bad qualities. Of course, before anybody figures out what is going on, Captain Kirk beams up from a planet.  Two persons who call themselves Kirk beam up to the ship, one mild, the other raging. Now they have to figure out not only how to fix the transporter so they can beam up the rest of the landing party before they freeze to death they also have to figure out how to fix the captain.

Let’s start with what is either physics or metaphysics. Not ‘how could the transporter have accomplished so bizarre a feat?’ but, how could the ‘good … cells? molecules? quarks?’ be differentiated from the evil ones? Let’s take insanity. If a man is insane (and not from external removable pressure on the brain) you cannot do surgery and ‘remove’ the ‘bad’ cells, while leaving the ‘good’. It’s not that simple. You have to heal the whole brain. You don’t have good cells and bad cells. Since the good and evil in men is not physically separable like that, the transporter couldn’t have done it.

But supposing it did. Well, then you’d have everything that was Kirk spread out over two persons. The transporter converted him from matter to energy, then back to matter in two bodies … both of those bodies are going to be only half as large as the original Captain Kirk. Or at least neither as large (one might theorize that one might be smaller than half, and the other therefore larger) since there’s only so much mass in the original Captain Kirk. (Just imagine it … Three foot high Captain Kirk running around screaming “I’m the Captain!!!!)

But, let’s forget these points, and just say, it happened. Okay, so now we have two Captain Kirks (both apparently his full five foot ten or whatever), the one with EVERYTHING that is good in Kirk, and the other with absolutely EVERYTHING that is bad in him. Alright, let’s take a look at what we’ve got. We’ll call them Kirk One and Kirk Two. Kirk One is all of Kirk’s Goodness. Kirk Two is all of Kirk’s badness.

So what’s good? Let’s take an easy one, and one that the episode actually noticed, and say that gentleness is good. Okay, so Kirk One will have all of Kirk gentleness, and Kirk Two will have all of Kirk’s inclinations to cruelty and harshness.

Let’s take an important one, love. Kirk One will of course not have any more love than the original, but it will be free of the evil elements in it which trammeled and perverted it; all of the bad in his love is now in Kirk number two, and Kirk Two will of course have gotten love’s opposite evil, hatred, untempered by the good things in Kirk’s nature that restrained it before. (Of course, this is a little simplified, while Kirk Two will not love anyone or anything, and Kirk One will likely not hold hatred for anyone (that would be evil and belonging to his counterpart), Kirk One would probably still be able to hate the qualities of such things as evil and ugliness in themselves, for that is the ‘right’ and therefore ‘good’ response to them.)

Now let’s take pride and humility, pride not as in the noble, the honorable, but as in the antithesis of humility, which is evil. Now, along with his many good qualities, Kirk seems to have a significant share of this dangerous vice. Kirk number two is going to have the biggest head in the galaxy. Kirk number One, will obviously have Kirk’s humility, and without any pride mixed with it, so it seems inescapable that Kirk One, lacking any pride at all, cannot do ought but be humble, and stop thinking himself quite the pinnacle of mankind he often seems to think he is, while Kirk Two will think himself great enough to tear God from his throne.

Selflessness, or the antithesis of selfishness. Kirk really can be extraordinarily selfless, it is one of his strengths. Remove ALL his selfish impulses from Kirk One and tack them all of Kirk Two. Kirk number Two will be incapable of so much as slowing down to avoid hitting a smaller person the corridor (not that he’d be able to care about knocking them down anyway), While Kirk number One, being completely unselfish, will be able to act without being influenced by his prejudice in his own favor at all. Which brings us to:

Justice. Kirk does care about justice. Kirk One will inherit that from him, all of it. Kirk Two will have not the slightest interest in it left in him. No injustice will phase him, for the concept means absolutely nothing to him, since justice, being a good, has been entirely given to his counterpart.

Mercy. Kirk is quite capable of being merciful, and also of being vengeful, look what he did to Mudd. But Kirk One, having kept the mercy and lost the vindictive tendencies, would have forgiven him. While Kirk Two, having kept the vindictiveness and lost all trace of mercy, would be just as bad as the Mirror Kirk with his ‘destroy the Halkans’.
It is long since time we mentioned Courage. None of these virtues could exist in any strength without it. Certainly Captain Kirk is brave, Kirk Two will have NONE of that bravery, leaving him, by default, the most cowardly thing in creation, this will make him not only unable to act selflessly if he wanted to (which he can’t), but incompetent to an insane degree, he will be able to do nothing which might in the slightest provoke him to fear. Kirk One will be brave without a hint of cowardice, able to unhesitatingly face death by torture for a friend, or walk (or sail) into a mouth of flames to keep a destroying robot from reaching a planet … (Er, hmm, come to think of it, even the mixed Kirk could do that one.)

Strength of will is of course closely related to Courage, and it is beyond all shadow of a doubt that it is good to be strong of will. Strength of will can be used for bad purposes, courage can be used in evil causes, but it is in itself good. Kirk number One, inheriting Kirk’s very significant share of the enviable attribute, will be exceedingly strong of will, Kirk number two will of course have none, since if it is good, he cannot have it.

Wisdom, and foolishness. If we are truly separating all that is good from all that is evil in Kirk, we must make this distinction as well. Kirk has ample amounts of both, unlike many who have just enough sense to get along and just enough foolishness to get themselves into trouble now and again, Kirk swings from the one extreme to the other. He is capable of both displaying excellent judgment (wisdom), and extreme foolishness. Kirk number One will still need to increase in wisdom to be as wise as he ought, (and since he is also humble enough to learn this shouldn’t be a problem), but he will be bogged down with less foolishness (not to mention that arrogance which got pawned off onto Kirk Two). And Kirk number Two? There has never been such a fool as he’s going to be! Wow, a spiteful, cowardly, weak willed, cruel, self worshiping remnant of a man, Kirk number Two is looking pretty sorry if you ask me. Without a scrap of courage, he can’t even be vindictive and self promoting very effectively. With his complete foolishness he shall never be able to do anything halfway sensibly, for you recall, he had to leave his sense to his counterpart. This guy is incompetent in the extreme. Kirk number one on the other hand …

Lust. Most will agree that this was a great weakness of the original Kirk, indeed a vice. But sexual desire is in itself a good thing, it is when it is twisted that it becomes evil. Therefore, Kirk number One will be left that desire, free of all its impurities and unlawfulness, from everything in it that was evil. He will now be beyond behaving in any but the most excellent and upright fashion in that regard, retaining wholesome desire. And what will Kirk number two have left? A poor shrimpy thing, utterly and wholly loathsome, yet only a vile ghost of a thing.

And reason, you may balk at this one, but didn’t we say we were trying to divide EVERYTHING good in Kirk from everything evil? And Reason is a good, therefore, Kirk number One will get ALL of Kirk’s reasoning ability. Irrationalities, those were evils, are now all in Kirk number Two, and Kirk number one, can now reason far more clearly. He may even prove to be more logical than Spock. For while his faculties for reasoning may be inferior to Spock’s, Spock will still have to contend with the irrationalities in his mind, which Kirk number One will now be free of. And Kirk number Two, I do not know, but I would hazard a guess that he would be hard pressed to figure on his own steam that if you put two and two together, you get four. That would after all be doing a good thing, called reasoning, which we have established that he cannot do.

Now we’ve covered a lot of ground here, but we set out to divide Kirk completely, leaving nothing good in the one, and nothing evil in the other, so let’s keep going.
Life is a good. Kirk has life. That life goes to Kirk One. And with no life, this leaves Kirk number two, by default, … um … dead, and that is an evil, which is in keeping with his character. So, this stinking, evil, loathsome, spineless, barbaric, idiotic, fool is now not only completely incompetent and self-destructive, he isn’t even alive.

Existence is good. It looks like Kirk number Two is gone.

And where does this leave Kirk number One? … Infinitely better off, I should think. Kirk (as now we must call him for there is no other) has not yet perhaps reached perfection, to be what he truly ought he must grow grow in wisdom and love and humility and understanding, perfection is after all, a great deal more than the absence of evil, but look at him!

Courageous, gentle, merciful, loving, just, humble, iron willed, and exceedingly rational …. who would suggest, who would be fool enough to consider, that Kirk should again be saddled with the petty vindictiveness, the cowardice, the self absorption, the vile twists, again bogged down his irrationalities? Because it would help him? Heavens no! He is infinitely better off without all that nonsense. Because the other stuff is, after all, Kirk too? No more than the Rigelian fever virus in his blood was him, or the beginnings of arthritis in his arm. No indeed, those twists, those perversions, those diseases in his soul and flesh, were but mars upon him, twists which, separated from the good things in him, ceased even to exist at all, they were so nearly nothing, they had no substance in themselves, diseases which, removed from their victim, perished, and were no more. And Kirk himself is left, all that was ever Kirk, is here. Kirk number one is not just the only Kirk that’s left, he IS Kirk. The disease is gone and only Kirk is left. Had they not been separated, the disease might have overcome him, true, it could have continued its twisting, till he was twisted past recognition, it could have eaten away at him, till Kirk himself was all but gone. But since it is the disease that is gone, Kirk is now freer than he ever has been before, free to think without irrationalities, to love without selfishness, to command with wisdom and reason, to fight and to kill if need be, to argue in the times when argument is needed, to kiss when it is right to do so, to do everything as well or better than he did before, to continue to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before …

But of course, as I started out by saying, there is no way that Kirk could ever achieve this by physical means such as a transporter. No, it’s much more difficult than that, a much longer harder road, requiring a much different sort of aid than a transporter, filled with the danger of the disease winning, and Kirk being destroyed by it.

But if it HAD HAPPENED it would be insanity to try and recombine them the way the episode insists they must. It is the shallowest treatment of good and evil that I have ever seen. It doesn’t go all the way of course. And it fails to recognize what is good and what is evil, it fails to make sense of its own propositions. It is completely foggy headed. In it, the ‘good’ Kirk is incompetent, indecisive, and fearful, and no explanation for this is ever given. It cannot, even on the episode’s own terms be cowardice or lack of reasoning ability, for it is clearly displayed that it is the good Kirk who will listen to reason, while the bad Kirk throws fits, and it is the good Kirk who will face hard things, and the bad Kirk who becomes hysterical at them. So, what did the good Kirk’s inability to command without the bad Kirk stem from? They never explain this. They seemed to be assuming that decisiveness is bad or something, and then based the whole plot on how incompetent Kirk would be without decisiveness, without investigating into whether their assumption makes any sense. Well it doesn’t. The whole thing is ill thought out, (or never really thought out at all), the ideas behind the story don’t make sense, and the story doesn’t make sense even within those ideas.

But perhaps the most annoying thing about this episode, is that they seemed to think that they were being profound.

Star Trek Criticism by Charlotte Ann Kent

One comment on “The Enemy Within: A Criticism

  1. kel says:

    Thx for the ‘ST:TEW’ critique. I believe you missed the good ship ‘Profound’, ’cause it sailed w/o you 🙂 (little jibe there)!
    You classify all the subjects into good and evil. I believe that virtually none of them are such. They are simply an abundance of something, or a lack of that same thing.
    My thoughts are: lack of willpower is not evil, neither is selflessness, mercy or most of the other traits. Lack of these means they are undeveloped or as some might reason, perhaps the result of sickness of some kind. A being with all these traits, in un-failing quantities, would quickly die, as would the same being without any of them.
    Kirk 1 could not make up his mind, could not decide on a course of action. We would say he had no force of will, no willpower. Clearly, this is a fatal flaw in a Starship Captain. We don’t know that Kirk 2 had an abundance of willpower, his impetuousness never allowed for the development of circumstances to test this idea (whaddya gonna do in a 50 minute show?). The story needed more development. It woulda been a cool 2-parter.
    Anyhoo, just thought I’d throw stuff and see what stuck.
    Thx, kel


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