RSS iconTwitter iconFacebook icon

TrekToday title image

The Trek Nation - The Enemy Within

The Enemy Within

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at June 17, 2005 - 11:28 PM GMT

See Also: 'The Enemy Within' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: After an unknown ore damages the transporter, it begins to sever everything it beams up in two. In the case of inanimate objects like thermal heaters, the duplication prevents the equipment from working, but in the case of an alien animal, it creates a docile, friendly pet and a rabid, biting creature. When Captain Kirk transports aboard, unaware of the problem, he is split into an intellectually stable yet indecisive man and a libidinous, violent one. Spock and McCoy become aware of the division after the "evil" Kirk takes brandy from sickbay and sexually assaults Yeoman Rand. The "good" Kirk has difficulty withstanding the pressures of command, and although it is relatively easy for the crew to find and subdue the irrational Kirk, McCoy fears that any attempt to reintegrate the two halves with a possibly malfunctioning transporter could kill him. Since the away team is freezing to death on the planet, Kirk decides with Spock's help that they cannot afford to delay an attempt to test the repaired transporter, and Spock successfully reintegrates his dual natures, explaining that as a half-Vulcan, half-human, he must struggle with the same inner schism every day.


Analysis: This episode is such an enormous moment for Star Trek, having spawned academic essays and hundreds of pieces of fan fiction, that it's intimidating to try to review it. While watching with my family, one of my sons said, "That's what happened to Lex Luthor on Smallville when he got split into Good Lex and Bad Lex," and the other said, "That's what happened to Duncan on Highlander when he had that dark Quickening," and I tried to think of all the other subsequent shows that had done something very similar. Of course the idea isn't original to Star Trek or even science fiction: the "evil twin" archetype shows up in both Eastern and Western mythology and in Shakespeare, while the notion that all people are made up of positive and negative forces shows up in studies of everything from Jungian psychology to devil worship. As television goes, though, "The Enemy Within" is the original for a whole spate of imitators, and although the theme of doubling/splitting will be explored again in such original Star Trek episodes as "The Alternative Factor" and "Mirror, Mirror," this is the most intense examination we get of what happens when one man -- the captain -- must confront all the elements that make him who he is.

This is an intense character episode, so much so that one must suspend logic when it comes to the plot. Why doesn't the ship send a shuttle to pick up the away team? Why can't they beam down more blankets and tents - how can a blanket get split into positive and negative components? Such questions are never addressed, and while Kirk has the excuse of having his psyche shattered for failing to think of alternate solutions to the immediate crisis, the rest of the crew seems to be thinking just as sluggishly. Not that that really matters. The conflict in "The Enemy Within" is Kirk vs. Kirk, even though it's atypically externalized. Even Spock and McCoy are mostly foils for this private struggle, in the developing roles that they will play throughout the series, with Spock offering a cool, analytical approach to the situation while McCoy passionately argues the probable human cost. In many ways that division is too simplistic, just as it is too simplistic to describe Kirk's two beings as "good" and "evil" when as Kirk himself learns the id and superego are interdependent. The viewer identifies Evil Kirk by the fact that he twitches and leers when he beams up, whereas Good Kirk stumbles to his quarters and dismisses a friendly Rand without looking at her or the crew manifest she offers him. Evil Kirk, who's almost too stupid to be believed, goes to sickbay to obtain the means to get drunk and then goes to Rand's quarters, ignoring her scream and struggle when he touches her.

In one of the more amusing moments of the episode, Spock tells Good Kirk that there is only one logical answer to Rand's allegations: "We have an impostor aboard." Given that there are probably a hundred other explanations, many of which involve a schizophrenic Kirk and a dermal regenerator to cover up Rand's scratches - something the impostor doesn't think to find, though we know they exist since McCoy heals an injured crewman in seconds - I find it utterly charming that Spock immediately assumes Kirk must be innocent, even before they become aware of the transporter malfunction that subsequently splits the horned dog. Spock then declares to a wavering Kirk that they cannot tell the crew that the "impostor" is in fact a part of Kirk, warning that the crew will lose faith in a captain who appears less than perfect, and Kirk says he doesn't know how he forgot that. It's a somewhat unnerving moment, since Rand has just explained that she didn't know what to do when Kirk attacked her with the declaration that he was the captain. "I didn't want to get you into trouble," she says. The belief that captaincy confers perfection is associated with Kirk's dark side, not his intellect: it's the evil twin who shouts that he's Kirk when he hears the announcement that all crewmembers must seek an impostor looking like the captain, and it's the evil twin who gives himself away on the bridge shouting that the ship is his.

Twice Good Kirk tries to persuade Evil Kirk that they need one another, and twice he fails: first in Engineering, saying, "You can't hurt me. You can't kill me. Don't you understand? I'm part of you," just before Spock demonstrates the Vulcan neck pinch on the double, and again in sickbay, trying to calm the panicked and restrained Kirk by telling him that he can master his emotions with his mind. It works, for Evil Kirk later manages to convince Good Kirk that he won't attack him if set free, then proceeds to do just that, and adopts his mannerisms to get onto the bridge and (decisively) order the ship to break orbit, abandoning the landing party. Apparently Kirk's charm is part of his dark side, for he manages to persuade Rand to see him later, then holds the bridge until McCoy arrives with the other Kirk. It's Spock who puts the labels "good" and "evil" on these characters, claiming that he's using Earth terms, though he is the first to articulate that Kirk's "negative" side makes him strong when it's properly disciplined. McCoy tries to argue that intellect should trump raw power, but even Good Kirk doesn't believe that and McCoy eventually admits that while he hates to agree with Spock, it's true that Kirk's command forcefulness lies mostly in his evil twin.

Kirk sits and sulks in the same room where Spock went to cry in "The Naked Time", answering a call from Sulu and becoming ever more despondent about his impotence to save the landing party. He doesn't want to take back the "thoughtless brutal animal" and he learns from the transporter experiment with the dog-animal that doing so could kill him (thus allowing McCoy to say, "He's dead, Jim," for those keeping score of the number of instances of that phrase). Spock convinces Kirk to take risk his life on a theory, something which becomes increasingly rare for him ("Kill it, Captain, quickly!" Spock will plead in "The Devil in the Dark" when Kirk's life is at risk by a nearly extinct creature that Kirk believes means him no harm). But this is not just a theory to Spock, as he explains: "I have a human half as well as an alien half, submerged, constantly at war." His intellect forces them to live together, and he insists that Kirk can force his two halves to make a whole as well - something that the confused and terrified animal could not do.

When it's over, and the landing party that sat out in 117 below zero temperatures proves to have nothing worse than frostbite, Kirk tells McCoy that he saw a side of himself that no man should ever see. "Thank you," he tells Spock, "from both of us." It's already become an inside joke when Spock smiles (yes, smiles) and asks if he should pass that on to the crew, just before Kirk brushes off Rand again, while Spock makes the most stunningly insensitive, misogynistic joke that will be heard on this series until the third season's "Spock's Brain" and "Turnabout Intruder." Kirk may have seen a side of himself that no one would wish to see, but he doesn't seem all that concerned about his ability to master that side, nor is he compelled to apologize for it. In fact, Spock will repeatedly express regret over his human aspects, far more than any other man will be expected to apologize for the violent, lustful impulses that "The Enemy Within" claims is a part of every human and indeed the reason certain men can lead others.

By this logic, is Commodore Decker's single-minded drive to protect the universe from the planet-killer in "The Doomsday Machine" obsessive or decisive? Is John Gill's recycling Nazism on Ekos a gesture of his dark side or his rational side? The dualism is inevitably a mess, as ultimately it will become for Spock as well: Kohlinahr, V'Ger, death and reincarnation teach him that he is one being, not two. Yet the notion that everyone is made up of light and dark aspects, violent and peaceful, passive and aggressive, emotional and logical, masculine and feminine, passionate and reasonable, yin and yang if you wish, recurs throughout the series and on in to the films, when Kirk insists that God cannot be God and use his powers for evil at the same time. William Shatner went on to parody the notion in his infamous Saturday Night Live appearance, blaming his "get a life" rant to fans on "the Evil Kirk." Then he wrote a book and accepted the phrase as his own.

I got an expected amount of hostile mail last week for mentioning the possibility that Kirk and Spock's relationship ever could have been anything other than platonic. Alongside the requisite "Spock is a Vulcan and Kirk dug chicks!" responses, a couple of people asked why anyone would want to sully the deep, pure, emotionally satisfying friendship between these two men by dragging sex into it. I can cite "The Enemy Within" as a perfect example of one of the reasons K/S appeals to me as a female viewer: That last scene between Spock and Rand would be absolutely intolerable if I took it at face value. Rand, a professional on the crew, is very nearly raped by the captain's libidinous half, and deeply shaken by the attempt: we see her crying, shaking, with her normally immaculate makeup running. It's not something that anyone - certainly not a logical Vulcan - should presume that she will be able to laugh off, certainly not so soon after it happened.

The line about the intruder having interesting qualities, directed at Rand, is blatantly offensive; if the Enterprise had a counselor I'd recommend Spock for anti-harassment training. But what if Spock is actually speaking not to her, but for himself? He gazes speculatively in the direction of the reintegrated Kirk, whose "dark side" he has never before witnessed so closely, and he smirks. Certainly one could write that off as a case of overidentification - Spock has already explained the warring halves of his own personality - but then how to explain the specifically flirtatious element of his query? I reject outright the notion that Spock is the sort of man who'd suggest that Rand should have enjoyed an attempted violation, which means that Spock himself must find it titillating. And that can be titillating for viewers. Rand may not want to talk about strong, lustful Kirk, but Spock does.


Discuss this reviews at Trek BBS!
XML Add TrekToday RSS feed to your news reader or My Yahoo!
Also a Desperate Housewives fan? Then visit GetDesperate.com!

Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Michelle Erica Green is a news writer for the Trek Nation. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.