Twentieth in a series of posts, each one analyzing a single Captain Kirk scene from the Star Trek canon.
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.
POSTS IN THIS SERIES: Justice or vengeance? by DAFNA PLEBAN | Kirk teaches his drill thrall to kiss by MARK KINGWELL | “KHAAAAAN!” by NICK ABADZIS | “No kill I” by STEPHEN BURT | Kirk browbeats NOMAD by GREG ROWLAND | Kirk’s eulogy for Spock by ZACK HANDLEN | The joke is on Kirk by PEGGY NELSON | Kirk vs. Decker by KEVIN CHURCH | Good Kirk vs. Evil Kirk by ENRIQUE RAMIREZ | Captain Camelot by ADAM MCGOVERN | Koon-ut-kal-if-fee by FLOURISH KLINK | Federation exceptionalism by DAVID SMAY | Wizard fight by AMANDA LAPERGOLA | A million things you can’t have by STEVE SCHNEIDER | Debating in a vacuum by JOSHUA GLENN | Klingon diplomacy by KELLY JEAN FITZSIMMONS | “We… the PEOPLE” by TRAV S.D. | Brinksmanship on the brink by MATTHEW BATTLES | Captain Smirk by ANNIE NOCENTI | Sisko meets Kirk by IAN W. HILL | Noninterference policy by GABBY NICASIO | Kirk’s countdown by PETER BEBERGAL | Kirk’s ghost by MATT GLASER | Watching Kirk vs. Gorn by JOE ALTERIO | How Spock wins by ANNALEE NEWITZ
SCIENCE FICTION 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 | Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague, serialized | Rudyard Kipling’s With the Night Mail, serialized | Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Poison Belt, serialized | H. Rider Haggard’s When the World Shook, serialized | Edward Shanks’ The People of the Ruins, serialized | William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land, serialized | 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 | Radium Age Science Fiction Poetry | Enter Highbrowism | Bathybius! Primordial ooze in Radium Age sf | War and Peace Games (H.G. Wells’s training manuals for supermen) | J.D. Beresford | Algernon Blackwood | Edgar Rice Burroughs | Karel Čapek | Buster Crabbe | August Derleth | Arthur Conan Doyle | Charlotte Perkins Gilman | Cicely Hamilton | Hermann Hesse | William Hope Hodgson | Aldous Huxley | Inez Haynes Irwin | Alfred Jarry | Jack Kirby (Radium Age sf’s influence on) | Murray Leinster | Gustave Le Rouge | Gaston Leroux | David Lindsay | Jack London | H.P. Lovecraft | A. Merritt | Maureen O’Sullivan | Sax Rohmer | Paul Scheerbart | Upton Sinclair | Clark Ashton Smith | E.E. “Doc” Smith | Olaf Stapledon | John Taine | H.G. Wells | Jack Williamson | Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz | S. Fowler Wright | Philip Gordon Wylie | Yevgeny Zamyatin | AND LOTS MORE
CHECK OUT HILOBOOKS: In 2012-13, HiLobrow is serializing ten overlooked works of science fiction from the genre’s (1904-33) Radium Age; and HiLoBooks is publishing them in paperback! Here are the first six titles: Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague (in May, Introduction by Matthew Battles; PURCHASE NOW), Rudyard Kipling’s With the Night Mail and “As Easy as A.B.C.” (in June, Introduction by Matthew De Abaitua and Afterword by Bruce Sterling; PURCHASE NOW), Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Poison Belt (in August, Introduction by Joshua Glenn and Afterword by Gordon Dahlquist; PURCHASE NOW), H. Rider Haggard’s When the World Shook (in October, Introduction by James Parker; PURCHASE NOW), Edward Shanks’ The People of the Ruins (in November, Introduction by Tom Hodgkinson; PURCHASE NOW), and William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land (in April 2013, Afterword by Erik Davis; PURCHASE NOW).