Why Captain James T Kirk deserved better from Star Trek

Captain James T Kirk by Kulanova on Deviantart

Captain James T Kirk by Kulanova on Deviantart

I ENJOYED myself watching the Star Trek movie marathon on Film 4 at the weekend, where they showed every TOS and Next Gen movie, one after the other.

Of course the stand-out was The Wrath of Khan, but The Search for Spock, The Voyage Home and The Undiscovered Country were also exciting and fun. Of the Next Gen offerings, First Contact is easily the best although they were much of a muchness to be honest.

However, one that did stand out was Star Trek: Generations, but for all the wrong reasons – the main one being that it gave Star Trek’s leading man Captain James T Kirk the worst send off it could possibly have done – not once, but twice – and that is an absolute disgrace.

That’s Captain James Tiberius Kirk – the man who fought the Gorn on Cestus 3. Who wept when he destroyed his ship to save the day. Who turned his back on everything he held dear to give his friend another chance of life.

Who had rescued the Federation more times than you can count. Who didn’t let a growing paunch or questionable hairpieces stop him from¬† thrilling us – the audience – from the moment he first swaggered onto the screen with his strange cadence and screen-hogging antics.

And yet Generations chose to kill him – twice –¬† with both occasions amounting to absolutely fuck all.

The first time he saved the Enterprise B from an energy ribbon, and then after coming back from said ribbon, he saved the Veridian system from being destroyed, although lost his life at the hands of the mad scientist Soren. Or something.

Excuse me for saying so, but so the hell what?

This is Kirk we’re talking about. If he was going to bite the bullet, then the entire universe should have been on the line and he should have been backed up by The USS Enterprise and his crew and friends at warp factor one billion.

He should have sacrificed himself in an awesome blaze of nubile, dancing, green-skinned beauties, Klingons (sans head ridges), photon torpedoes, phaser blasts, tribbles, red shirts and space chicks asking him to show them again this Earth tradition called kissing.

Not on a nothing ship or a nowhere planet with a bald guy who couldn’t man up.

And definitely not as a clumsy and pedestrian story-telling device, tacked on to a film that feels like it has been assembled out of half-a dozen really bad ideas that all lack passion, narrative drive and interest.

But ok, lets say he does die – everyone has to after all.

Again this is Kirk – Kirk! – so you’d expect a funeral to bring the stars to a stop, to shake the heavens in its grandeur, with loyal friends and ruthless enemies lining up to pay their respects to the greatest of the great.

He deserves it, but more to the point so do we so we can say our farewells to one of our heroes in the right way, but no, all we get is Scotty and Chekov staring wistfully into space in a scene lasting … oooh … seconds.

This omission is even more shameful when Kirk dies again, nearly 80 years after he first bought the farm. Given a second chance to put things right with a legend brought back out of thin air, how do Star Fleet honour him? With an unmarked rocky grave on a nowhere dustball planet.

In a film that makes you wonder how The Next Gen managed to crank out another three big screen adventures, this is a low point, maybe even the low point in the history of the franchise (and I’ve seen the fifth film) – and a complete betrayal of a legendary science fiction hero.

And although that was 16 years ago, it appears Kirk is now doomed to be treated shamefully by the franchise he helped to build, given the character’s treatment at the hands of the makers of the new Star Trek film.

William Shatner was campaigning officially and unofficially for a role in the film, yet was treated like an annoyance by JJ Abrams and his crew, with his requests for a role dismissed as another Shatner ego trip.

Now there’s no denying that Shatner’s sense of self worth may well have led to him pissing on Kirk’s chips where Trek was concerned. I mean, this was the man who Nichelle Nichols described as ‘someone who’d crap on the last piece of pizza, just so you couldn’t have it.’

And as he has admitted, he did everything he could to build his time on screen, often at the expense of his co-stars.

But all the same, would it really have hurt to give him a role in the new film, something decent, so he could have joined Leonard Nimoy in saying a proper screen farewell and wishing the new kids all the best as they headed out into their final frontier?

Certainly it would not have been impossible, and a film-maker as skilled as JJ Abrams could have made it work.

But more than that, it would have been a chance for Star Trek to say goodbye to its main man, a chance I feel has now certainly been lost and one which the whole franchise is worse off without.

Like Chewbacca not receiving his medal, like Han shooting second, like Firefly being cancelled after one season, Kirk’s underwhelming demise is a science fiction injustice.

For shame Star Trek, for shame.

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