Considering how much I enjoyed “The Naked Time,” I was really looking forward to sitting down and watching “The Enemy Within.” So, we did, and . . . well . . .
Boy. Talk about an episode you like in concept and not in execution.
There will be SPOILERS for this episode and probably the Star Trek franchise in general. You’ve been warned.
WHAT GOES DOWN, BASICALLY
Kirk, Sulu, and some randoms are studying plants or whatever on this planet. Kirk beams back to the ship and, due to a weird transporter malfunction, gets split into two people: the Compassionate but Forgetful and Totally Indecisive Kirk, and the Angry, Supposedly Cunning, Attempted Rapist Kirk. They will henceforth be known as Good Kirk and Evil Kirk because it’s frankly just easier to type.
Evil Kirk attacks multiple people, including Janice Rand. Meanwhile, Sulu and the randoms are stuck on the planet in ridiculously freezing temperatures because Good Kirk refuses to use the transporter and create more evil people. Good Kirk and Spock eventually capture Evil Kirk, and it’s quickly discovered that the two captains won’t be able to survive without the other and need to be reintegrated through the transporter. They test out this process on a hilariously ridiculous alien dog-unicorn thing, only the dog dies.
Spock argues that they need to try and reintegrate Kirk anyway because the away team is going to freeze to death soon, and also because the dog probably only died of shock, as it wasn’t cognizant enough to understand what was happening to him; hence, Kirk, a human, will be fine. Bones argues that maybe they should autopsy the dog first and figure out what went wrong before risking the captain’s life on a mere hunch. Eventually, Good Kirk decides they can’t wait and–despite Evil Kirk’s last minute escape attempt–both captains are successfully reintegrated and the away team is saved.
So, okay. “The Enemy Within” is basically Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with transporters, and conceptually, I’ve got no beef with that. How it plays out, though . . . I mean, what the hell.
Let’s set aside some of Kirk’s faces for the moment. I mean, let’s not because holy shit, THIS:
A-maz-ing. Shatner make some hilarious faces in this episode, like, this isn’t even the best one. Some of the acting isn’t great and that certainly doesn’t help the story, but my problem really isn’t performance but writing.
While I genuinely like the idea that some of our strengths come from our negative emotions, that we can’t just be evenly divided into Everything Wrong and Terrible and Everything Positive and Fluffy, I also don’t know if I can buy into the idea that all our decision making skills (not to mention basic memory function) belongs to the Dark Side. That humanity is incomplete without light and dark, sure, but Spock’s whole bit about how Evil Kirk specifically gives us a glimpse into the core of human nature . . . I’m not sure I buy it. To be fair, some of this might be more of an idealistic problem than a writing one. Not all of it, mind; there are some seriously clunky lines here. Still, perhaps part of the problem is that TOS presents a view of the human condition that I just don’t agree with.
What’s considerably worse, however, is what this episode does to Spock’s characterization. First, let’s consider his reaction to Kirk proposing they tell the truth about his newly formed dual nature to the crew: “You’re the captain of this ship. You haven’t the right to be vulnerable in the eyes of the crew. You can’t afford the luxury of being anything less than perfect. If you do, they lose faith and you lose command.”
While this reaction isn’t as horrifying as I initially took it–I thought Spock wanted to completely keep the crew in the dark about Evil Kirk, not just conceal his true origins–it’s still kind of, like, really? Kirk can’t be anything less than perfect? Don’t get me wrong: I’m all onboard with a captain’s responsibility to lead by example, and I get that if his authority isn’t respected, feared, or both, then he has no command. But the language here, all faith and perfection, it just . . . doesn’t seem particularly logical to me? (Plus, it’s just a difficult argument to take seriously when you know damn well that the crew has seen a less-than-perfect Kirk and loved him anyway. This is the problem with going backwards in Trek: Kirk and Spock’s lack of faith in their crew feels OOC to me, even though at this point, it might not be.)
Everything definitely gets monumentally worse later, though, when Spock gives Kirk more shitty advice. Because while Bones is advocating for, you know, SCIENCE, Spock is arguing that the captain should risk his life solely based on a half-baked theory formed from Spock’s own ongoing existential crisis. The actual lines: “Being split in two halves is no theory with me, Doctor. I have a human half, you see, as well as an alien half, submerged, constantly at war with each other. Personal experience, Doctor. I survive it because my intelligence wins out over both, makes them live together. Your intelligence will enable you to survive as well.”
Seriously. What is this pop psych bullshit? Look, I adore the idea that, emotionally, Spock has been where Kirk is now. There are absolutely ways this episode could’ve made such a comparison to great, thematic effect. But to use this as evidence, actual scientific evidence, that Spock’s plan will work? Holy shit, no. Again, where is the Vulcan logic here?
And then. AND THEN.
At the very end of the episode, Spock–with a slight smirk and a knowing eyebrow raise–says to Janice, the woman who was almost raped, “The imposter had some interesting qualities, wouldn’t you say, yeoman?”
WHAT IS THIS GROSS, MISOGYNISTIC HORSESHIT? Spock is seriously insinuating that Janice might have, what? Liked her attempted rapist’s aggression? Been excited by his confidence? Enjoyed being sexually assaulted? Miss her would-be-rapist? Fuck you, Spock, and your so-called logic; you are, without doubt, the Chief Asshat of the Week.
I really wish I liked this episode better because that moment where Evil Kirk’s all, “I want to live!” is SO my kind of scene. Like, I have a HUGE thing for alternate selves who have a legitimate fear of being erased from existence, whether they’re weird evil duplicates, or, like, future versions from dark timelines. It’s one of those things I really think SF doesn’t bring up enough, honestly. Alas, between my problems with the script and some of Kirk’s extremely hammy performances, I’m having a hard time taking it as seriously as I’d like to.
As much as the episode was mostly a bust for me, there were things I liked about it. Sulu, for instance, and all of his hilarious one-liners. Sulu is currently my favorite character: he brings the fencing and the wit, and thus far hasn’t been Chief Asshat once. Plus, the scenes between him and Kirk were genuinely great.
Also? I mean, come on. It’s all about this weird alien-dog-unicorn thing.
This GIF doesn’t even include the funky tail or the weird ass backbone. This thing is so utterly, adorably ridiculous, and I love that the show manages to get, like, four different main characters to hold it for mostly no real reason. I want one immediately.
Let it be known: TOS condones animal testing. Also, holy shit, THEY KILLED THE DOG.
Here’s a problem for me: why can’t we just send a shuttle to pick up our crew? Do the weather conditions make that impossible? Or do we not actually have shuttles yet on the USS: Enterprise?
Another idea: how about instead of letting a handful of our officers literally freeze to death on a planet, we do something crazy like, oh, I don’t know, beam them up? I’m serious, people; I get why creating more evil doubles is not ideal, and sure, if you can’t find a solution, they’re all probably going to die anyway. But at least this gives you an extension on the deadline, like, now you’ll have time to properly autopsy the alien-dog-unicorn thing before risking the captain’s life on a theory. And it’s not like they’ll be running around amok; unlike with Evil Kirk, you’ll know they’re coming. You’ve got restraints, sedatives, forcefields, logically impaired Vulcans who can neck-pinch the shit out of people. Use them.
First Time We’ve Encountered: Bones saying, “He’s dead, Jim.”
Fashion Report: This can’t be the first ever instance of Evil Eyeliner, right? Man, I’d give all kinds of money to any TV show that let a hero actually wear guyliner for once. Not because he was going undercover or had reverted to his Darker Half. Just cause he liked it.
Here’s a notion: if you have an evil doppelgänger onboard, maybe you should let Security hunt him down instead of going yourself, because seriously. This is common sense here. In fact, if you confine yourself to quarters and let your crew know, they’ll be a lot less likely to run across your Evil Half and assume it’s you.
Finally, Star Trek–at least the Trek I’m familiar with–is usually in present tense, like, it’s “we’re about to see what’s up with this planet,” not “if only we’d known what would happen to us on that planet.” So, it was SUPER jarring to hear Kirk VO, “Unknown to any of us during this time, a duplicate of me, some strange alter ego, had been created by the transporter malfunction.” It really feels like the writers didn’t have faith that the audience would understand what they were doing, so they had to tell us as awkwardly as possible.
LINE OF THE EPISODE
“Any possibility of getting us back on board before the skiing season opens down here?”