Kirk Your Enthusiasm (20)

By: Ian W. Hill
August 24, 2012

Twentieth in a series of posts, each one analyzing a single Captain Kirk scene from the Star Trek canon.

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Sisko meets Kirk | “Trials and Tribble-ations” | Star Trek: Deep Space Nine | Season 5, Episode 6 | November 1996

How will posterity view Kirk? What we know, mostly, of James T. Kirk is from first-hand viewing of his life, but in the DS9 episode “Trials and Tribble-ations,” we’re given a view of Kirk 80 years after he “died” on the Enterprise-B (and two years post his actual death on Veridian III). It is 2373, and Benjamin Sisko is explaining to two agents from Temporal Investigations what happened when the Defiant was sent back in time to 2268, and the first thing they saw was the first U.S.S. Enterprise.

“James T. Kirk,” says an investigator with deep resignation.

“The one and only,” says Sisko, with unconcealed glee.

Kirk is, even decades after his death, for better or worse, still known, and still known as the Kirk we have followed (and, as posterity tends to make us, for both better and worse).

For men from Temporal Investigations – Kirk has the biggest file on record with their department, with 17 temporal violations – and for a commander like Sisko, yes, it’s likely they would have some knowledge of the man.

However, Sisko’s knowledge goes a little deeper. He mentions Kirk’s reputation as a ladies’ man, and even Kirk’s fight with the Gorn – he’s heard the stories, he’s paid attention. But Sisko is a serious man, with a serious job to do (and it’s an amusing irony just how serious the DS9 crew’s mission is as they move in and out of the most famous comedy episode of TOS). So he does all he can to not pay attention to James T. Kirk.

Until his mission is finished. Then, as he tells the investigators, he does something quite unnecessary, but that he has been longing to do since he first saw the Enterprise.

Dressed in his 23rd-century uniform, he goes to Kirk on the bridge, gets him to sign off on a duty roster (Sisko is, wonderfully, a very bad actor), and responding to Kirk’s query about being new says he’s just there on temporary assignment, and tells Kirk it has been an honor serving with him. Kirk nods, politely, disinterestedly, tells him to carry on, and Sisko beams like he’s won a great prize.

Now, this could just be something for the fans, Sisko acting like a longtime Trekkie approaching The Actor Who Plays James Kirk for an autograph and barely able to get his words out. But if we can (and we should), we can allow ourselves in that same moment to look at James T. Kirk through the eyes of Ben Sisko, without the baggage of 46 years of Star Trek history, or our feelings about That Actor. If we can just let ourselves do that, let all of that go – the jokes, the clichés, That Actor — we can see James T. Kirk anew, as he deserves to be seen, with respect, as a commander, as a legend. As a hero. It is one of Kirk’s greatest moments of glory, and he’s not even really “there” for it.

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2012: KIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (Captain Kirk scenes): Dafna Pleban: Justice or vengeance? | Mark Kingwell : Kirk teaches his drill thrall to kiss | Nick Abadzis: “KHAAAAAN!” | Stephen Burt: “No kill I” | Greg Rowland: Kirk browbeats NOMAD | Zack Handlen: Kirk’s eulogy for Spock| Peggy Nelson: The joke is on Kirk | Kevin Church: Kirk vs. Decker | Enrique Ramirez: Good Kirk vs. Evil Kirk | Adam McGovern: Captain Camelot | Flourish Klink: Koon-ut-kal-if-fee | David Smay: Federation exceptionalism | Amanda LaPergola: Wizard fight | Steve Schneider: A million things you can’t have | Joshua Glenn: Debating in a vacuum | Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons: Klingon diplomacy | Trav S.D.: “We… the PEOPLE” | Matthew Battles: Brinksmanship on the brink | Annie Nocenti: Captain Smirk | Ian W. Hill: Sisko meets Kirk | Gabby Nicasio: Noninterference policy | Peter Bebergal: Kirk’s countdown | Matt Glaser: Kirk’s ghost | Joe Alterio: Watching Kirk vs. Gorn | Annalee Newitz: How Spock wins

ALSO ON HILOBROW Peggy Nelson on William Shatner as HiLo Hero | Greg Rowland on Leonard Nimoy as HiLo Hero | Peggy Nelson on William Shatner in Incubus | Matthew Battles on enlarging the Trek fanfic canon | Radium Age Supermen | Radium Age Robots | Radium Age Apocalypses | Radium Age Telepaths | Radium Age Eco-Catastrophes | Radium Age Cover Art (1) | SF’s Best Year Ever: 1912

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2014: KERN YOUR ENTHUSIASM (typefaces): Matthew Battles on ALDINE ITALIC | Adam McGovern on DATA 70 | Sherri Wasserman on TORONTO SUBWAY | Sarah Werner on JOHNSTON’S “HAMLET” | Douglas Wolk on TODD KLONE | Mark Kingwell on GILL SANS | Joe Alterio on AKZIDENZ-GROTESK | Suzanne Fischer on CALIFORNIA BRAILLE | Gary Panter on SHE’S NOT THERE | Deb Chachra on FAUX DEVANAGARI | Peggy Nelson on FUTURA | Tom Nealon on JENSON’S ROMAN | Rob Walker on SAVANNAH SIGN | Tony Leone on TRADE GOTHIC BOLD CONDENSED NO. 20 | Chika Azuma on KUMON WORKSHEET | Chris Spurgeon on ELECTRONIC DISPLAY | Amanda French on DIPLOMA REGULAR | Steve Price on SCREAM QUEEN | Alissa Walker on CHICAGO | Helene Silverman on CHINESE SHIPPING BOX | Tim Spencer on SHATTER | Jessamyn West on COMIC SANS | Whitney Trettien on WILKINS’S REAL CHARACTER | Cintra Wilson on HERMÈS vs. HOTDOG | Jacob Covey on GOTHAM.

2013: HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM (old-school hip hop tracks): Luc Sante on “Spoonin’ Rap” | Dallas Penn on “Rapper’s Delight” | Werner Von Wallenrod on “Rappin’ Blow” | DJ Frane on “The Incredible Fulk” | Paul Devlin on “The Adventures of Super Rhyme” | Phil Dyess-Nugent on “That’s the Joint” | Adam McGovern on “Freedom” | David Abrams on “Rapture” | Andrew Hultkrans on “The New Rap Language” | Tim Carmody on “Jazzy Sensation (Bronx Version)” | Drew Huge on “Can I Get a Soul Clap” | Oliver Wang on “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel” | Douglas Wolk on “Making Cash Money” | Adrienne Crew on “The Message” | Dart Adams on “Pak Jam” | Alex Belth on “Buffalo Gals” | Joshua Glenn on “Ya Mama” | Phil Freeman on “No Sell Out” | Nate Patrin on “Death Mix Live, Pt. 2” | Brian Berger on “White Lines (Don’t Do It)” | Cosmo Baker on “Here We Go (Live at the Funhouse)” | Colleen Werthmann on “Rockit” | Roy Christopher on “The Coldest Rap” | Dan Reines on “The Dream Team is in the House” | Franklin Bruno on The Lockers.

2011: KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (Jack Kirby panels): Douglas Rushkoff on THE ETERNALS | John Hilgart on BLACK MAGIC | Gary Panter on DEMON | Dan Nadel on OMAC | Deb Chachra on CAPTAIN AMERICA | Mark Frauenfelder on KAMANDI | Jason Grote on MACHINE MAN | Ben Greenman on SANDMAN | Annie Nocenti on THE X-MEN | Greg Rowland on THE FANTASTIC FOUR | Joshua Glenn on TALES TO ASTONISH | Lynn Peril on YOUNG LOVE | Jim Shepard on STRANGE TALES | David Smay on MISTER MIRACLE | Joe Alterio on BLACK PANTHER | Sean Howe on THOR | Mark Newgarden on JIMMY OLSEN | Dean Haspiel on DEVIL DINOSAUR | Matthew Specktor on THE AVENGERS | Terese Svoboda on TALES OF SUSPENSE | Matthew Wells on THE NEW GODS | Toni Schlesinger on REAL CLUE | Josh Kramer on THE FOREVER PEOPLE | Glen David Gold on JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY | Douglas Wolk on 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY | MORE EXEGETICAL COMMENTARIES: Joshua Glenn on Kirby’s Radium Age Sci-Fi Influences | Chris Lanier on Kirby vs. Kubrick | Scott Edelman recalls when the FF walked among us | Adam McGovern is haunted by a panel from THE NEW GODS | Matt Seneca studies the sensuality of Kirby’s women | Btoom! Rob Steibel settles the Jack Kirby vs. Stan Lee question | Galactus Lives! Rob Steibel analyzes a single Kirby panel in six posts | Danny Fingeroth figgers out The Thing | Adam McGovern on four decades (so far) of Kirby’s “Fourth World” mythos | Jack Kirby: Anti-Fascist Pipe Smoker

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What do you think?

  1. A nice meditation on the multiple mediations of media-space. How will our projected future view our dreams from futures past? And considering that we may have passed this particular future, or at least paused in its pursuit, this episode presents an (un)intentional eulogy that yes, some messages, mixed though they are, may be worth the massage.

    “…we can see James T. Kirk anew, as he deserves to be seen, with respect, as a commander, as a legend. As a hero. It is one of Kirk’s greatest moments of glory, and he’s not even really “there” for it.” – beautiful.

  2. Ah, but Kirk *is* there for it, in a way the datashadow of his legend isn’t truly (for all the comforting that the thought of remembrance-as-presence gives us) — and through the exigencies of available footage and the existentialism of what moments matter, Sisko sees him at a most ephemeral point in time — a daily routine, his life fully inhabited and his future still in the making. Everybody’s heard of the grand battles and exploratory glories, but what better way to be able to say you really knew him when.

  3. A fitting hat-tip and grace note from DS9 to the man who set their universe in motion. And a suitably conflicted one, caught somewhere between an eye-roll and a genuflect, but settling at last, for an unqualified and nicely nuanced homage.

    As a fan of TOS, I was always susceptible to this kind of stroking by the subsequent series and films and it did much to dissipate my resistance to their otherwise (after getting over the effrontery of daring to inhabit the same space as TOS) commendable efforts. Imagine the frustration of actors who worked in the shadow of a character and actor who was all too very much “there”, not only in the hearts and minds of devoted fans, but intermittently and then continually on the airwaves, whether acting or as pitchman. To be fair, the actor himself had to find and make his peace with his character. If he didn’t always stand on the Federation side of the line, it must have been maddening at times — the suffocating presence which controlled our ability to see the actor in his own light, no matter how long after the switch had been flipped on TOS. But at the same time there must have been a gratifying recognition that this was of his own doing and arose out of his own ability and art and personality.

    What deepened the impact of Sisko’s meeting with Kirk, for me, was that sense of ineffable, illogical, loss, at seeing Kirk alive and in his element, but in the time-bent context of his having died and being accessible “now” only in that echo form. It was not often with Kirk that he was so unaware of what was transpiring, and if Sisko’s demeanor and respect were unassailable, there was something jarring in his taking temporal advantage of Kirk. Of course, I knew Kirk, in all his forms, was (and is still) with us (thankfully) but he is, for me, indelibly a part of my forever receding youth.

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