This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe. An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here.
Welcome back to Character Insight! This week, our subject is Captain James T. Kirk from TOS.
Quote: "IIII'M CAPTAIN KIIIIIRK!!!" (Taken from "The Enemy Within")
Anybody who is familiar with Star Trek will likely know Captain Kirk, the brash and bold young captain who leads the Enterprise on its five-year mission that started it all. We see Kirk mature as a captain and eventually move onto Admiral, but Kirk's "do-it-yourself" persona is not suited to a desk job.
The initial character draft by Gene Roddenberry called Kirk "A space-age Horatio Hornblower, with a colorfully complex personality...capable of action and decision that can verge on the heroic - and at the same time lives a continual battle with self-doubt and the loneliness of command." This loneliness is evidenced by the countless women Kirk easily courts, but has trouble maintaining long-term relationships with.
Kirk was born in Iowa (at least until the 2009 movie changed the timeline). The real town of Riverside, Iowa has an annual TrekFest festival and a Voyage Home Museum dedicated to the future birth of Kirk. This town, which is only about an hour from the birthplace of yours truly, is worth a visit for any Trek fan lost in the cornfields of the Midwest.
The name Kirk was selected from a list of sixteen names for the Captain right before production began, and other possible names for the character included Robert April, Hannibal, Raintree, January, and Timber. Kirk seems like a good choice from that lot! Kirk's middle name is Tiberius, which was taken from the name of the second Roman Emperor.
Kirk earns many awards and commendations for his successes in exploration as well as in tactical battles with the Enterprise. When forced into hand-to-hand combat, Kirk's unique wrestling/martial arts fighting styles are sufficient to overwhelm all but the most rugged opponents, such as a Gorn.
Kirk is so quotable, we have two Notable Quotes this week:
"Worlds may change, galaxies disintegrate, but a woman... always remains a woman." ("The Conscience of the King")
"No wants. No needs. We weren't meant for that. None of us. Man stagnates if he has no ambition, no desire to be more than he is." ("This Side of Paradise")
Actors: William Shatner played Kirk, and he can be most recently found interviewing other Star Trek actors in the documentary "The Captains" as well as in his traveling one-man show "Shatner's World."
Chris Pine took over the role in the 2009 reboot and can also be seen opposite Denzel Washington in the choo-choo thriller "Unstoppable."