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.
back to Character Insight! This week, we jump back to the Star Trek movies with a look at David Marcus, the son of Captain Kirk who appears in The Wrath of Khan and The Search for Spock.
("That hair, though...hello 80's")
David is the son of James Kirk and Dr. Carol Marcus, but he grows up in a single parent environment because Carol had split from Kirk and had banned him from being involved in his life. As a result, David becomes a scientist engaged in the research projects of his mother.
While working on Project Genesis with Carol, David shows impatience with the process and adds protomatter to help speed positive results along. This works, but the protomatter also made the Genesis device highly unstable. When Khan lures Admiral Kirk to David and Carol's location under the guise of Kirk taking away the Genesis device, David initially engages in an argument and near fight with Kirk. When Carol intervened, Kirk guessed correctly that David was his son, which is the first time David knew his father.
David quickly turns his opinion around on his father though, thanks to watching him in action while serving as a technical advisor during the battle with Khan. He indicates this process makes his happy to be Kirk's son, although he is likely just as happy to finally understand his heritage and who both his parents are.
Quote: "I'm proud, very proud, to be your son."
David then serves on the Genesis planet with Lt. Saavik to study the effects of the terraforming project, and he discovers to his disappointment that the protomatter he added causes massive environmental instability. He does discover young Spock with Saavik though.
When Klingons arrive and demand the Genesis Device, David ends up sacrificing himself to save Saavik and young Spock's life. David's hot-headed nature and impatience likely stem from his father, and they sadly lead to some failures in Genesis and his death, just after discovering his heritage. The decision to sacrifice himself also leads to trouble for Kirk a few movies later, when his prejudice against Klingons for killing his son help lead to his framing and conviction for murder of a Klingon leader.
David was originally scripted to have a love interest or fling with Saavik, but the evidence of this was cut from what was filmed. Therefore, his legacy is slightly lessened from what it could have been, but he still plays a key role in the character development of Kirk during the movies. David's character allows us to view a glimpse of a different side of Kirk and a family life he was forced not to lead, and that makes him a valuable addition to the movies.
Merritt Butrick played David Marcus, and he was also known for playing in the 80's teen sitcom Square Pegs around the same time of his appearance in The Wrath of Khan. Just like the character he portrayed in Trek, Butrick tragically died in 1989 at the young age of 29 from toxoplasmosis complicated by AIDS, but his legacy lives on in the Final Frontier.
Feedback can be sent to me with future segment suggestions on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy. Until next time, live long and prosper...