The Enemy Within – First aired on October 6, 1966
Well, here we go, it only took Roddenberry 5 episodes to get to one of Star Trek’s bread and butter scenarios, the dreaded transporter accident!! I have never taken the time to count, but I would be willing to bet that at least 60-70% of all Star Trek episodes involve some sort of minor transporter malfunction, and I’d wager a good 15% or so have a transporter accident as one of the main plot devices. With as inconsistent and unreliable as these transporters seem to be, our hardy heroes sure don’t shy away from using them! Well, ok, Archer does for a while, but I think that taking the shuttles everywhere got old pretty fast. Needless to say, anytime you hear a “beam me up Scotty” (although that phrase is actually never used in the series) you had better be prepared for anything. You could wind up disfigured/dead, or a transporter ghost, or in another dimension, or in another time, or in the case of our good captain, split into two different versions of yourself.
We begin this particular transporter adventure on the surface of a planet currently being explored by Kirk and his crew. Kirk is leading the expedition, while Sulu is investigating the local wildlife. Now, if you are like me and get a kick out of good old fashioned practical effects, then you must have loved the marquee alien of this episode. Or, as I like to call it, Unicorn Dog. How you go from a creature like the one we saw in The Man Trap, to this fuzzy fur ball of 1960’s bad cosplay I have no idea. I’ll still take it over a Jar-Jar Binks any day though.
Anyways, we quickly move on from our adorable Unicorn Dog to an accident where we see a minor injury sustained by Geological Technician Fisher. He winds up covered in what appears to be a harmless yellow ore from the surrounding rocks, and is quickly beamed up to sickbay to tend to his injuries.
Fisher manages to beam aboard without too much difficulty, but there does appear to be some kind of “burnout” midway through the process. Scotty doesn’t seem too concerned, so he goes ahead and beams Kirk aboard soon after. When Kirk materializes, we can immediately see that something is wrong. He is disoriented and confused, but he doesn’t seem to worry too much about it. As he leaves the transporter room, Kirk reminds Scotty to not leave the room unattended, but of course that’s exactly what happens. All of a sudden Captain Kirk is beamed onto the Enterprise again, but there is no one at the transporter controls! Very mysterious….and this Kirk somehow seems more sinister than the Kirk that came on board earlier.
We quickly learn that this evil alter-ego of Kirk is not quite mentally balanced, and he seems to be driven by his more basic urges. While good Kirk retires to his quarters to rest, evil Kirk barges into Sickbay demanding Saurian Brandy from Bones, and nearly taking it by force. He takes his brandy and drinks it all the way to the empty quarters of Yeoman Rand whom we have met before. McCoy reports the odd behavior he witnessed to Spock, but when Spock checks in on good Kirk he is just parading around shirtless in his quarters acting completely normal.
It is at this time that Scotty realizes there is something wrong with the transporter. Remember our cute and docile Unicorn Dog? Well it’s still around, but it now has an evil twin. This is evidenced by much snarling and barking, while the good version of Unicorn Dog just continues to look calm and cute. Scotty tells Kirk that they cannot risk beaming up the away team because the same thing could happen to them.
To reinforce the danger that this would pose, we come to what I would have to call the ugliest scene of the episode. Evil and drunk Kirk essentially tries to rape Yeoman Rand. To their credit, Shatner and Whitney do a good job with this scene. Whitney really portrays the revulsion and fear that Yeoman Rand is feeling. At the same time, she shows how she is somewhat conflicted by the fact that this man is her captain and the inherent power dynamic that exists. Shatner is able to really unleash his more primal side, and it is a scary thing to see what a person is capable of when their inhibitions and conscience are removed. He gives the scene an appropriate sense of awkwardness with the way that he tries to force himself upon the Yeoman, and he gives us a glimpse into the uglier side of men which, unfortunately, many women have had to face. This scene takes on an entirely new reality when you take into account that the actress, Grace Lee Whitney, actually suffered a horrible assault very similar to this one while working on Star Trek.
Once this assault is reported, Spock and Kirk realize that there must be an impostor on board, and a manhunt ensues. However, in the process of organizing the manhunt it becomes apparent that good Kirk is losing his edge. He has become unsure of himself and indecisive. This causes him to lean even more on the support and advice of Spock. At this point, Spock tells Kirk that “you can’t afford the luxury of being anything less than perfect. If you do, they lose faith, and you lose command.” but I am not sure that I completely agree with that sentiment. While I agree that a leader certainly cannot afford to be seen as incompetent or weak, there is something to be said for letting the people that you lead see that you are human. I think that sometimes perfection can actually dissuade people from following you since they wind up thinking that there is no way that they could ever reach your level. Plus, while perfection might be good practice for Spock and his Vulcan brethren, it seems a little too Borg for me.
After Kirk makes an announcement over the shipboard communicator, we get a classic Shatner moment rife with overacting and cheesiness, but somehow he makes it work!
Since evil Kirk was scratched during his struggle with Yeoman Rand, that is how good Kirk identifies him to the crew. However, evil Kirk is able to use some makeup to cover up these scratches and proceeds to fool the crew into thinking that he is the real captain. Eventually good Kirk and evil Kirk have a showdown in engineering, but it is quickly interrupted by our first glimpse of the famous Vulcan nerve pinch. With evil Kirk knocked out in sickbay, Spock goes on a rant about analyzing the two different halves of Captain Kirk and how he needs his negative half. Spock speculates that it is the negative side of Kirk which gives him strength, that he needs his good side to provide the discipline and the conscience to control his evil side and utilize it in a positive manner. McCoy agrees for the most part, but things get worrisome when he discovers that the evil Kirk is dying.
Keep in mind, that while all of this is happening, Sulu and the rest of the survey team are stuck down on the planet, which is quickly becoming a frozen tundra during the night. They can’t be beamed up because of the transporter duplicating people. As for why the Enterprise can’t just send a shuttle down to retrieve them, I have no earthly idea. To be honest, the debate for why they didn’t send down a shuttle is older than I am, but I think the simplest answer is that since this is such an early episode of Star Trek, the shuttle wasn’t really a go-to plot device. It also could very well be that they needed a sub-plot to fill up the rest of the episode and the use of a shuttle would have made this problem too short and simple.
We pick things back up with Scotty works some of his engineering magic and manages to fix the transporter and find a way to reconstitute the two halves of the Unicorn Dog; he hopes that it will work for Kirk as well, but is worried since the Unicorn Dog didn’t survive the process. McCoy even gives us the first “he’s dead Jim” in the series, who would have thought that the first utterance would be in reference to a Unicorn Dog?
Good Kirk is literally falling apart and can’t stop evil Kirk from overpowering him. Evil Kirk scratches his face to match his own, and leaves him unconscious while he takes over the bridge. Of course, it is pretty evident which Kirk is in command when he orders the Enterprise to leave orbit and strand Sulu and the men on the planet below. Luckily, before the crew can follow his orders, good Kirk makes his way back to the bridge with the help of McCoy. Kirk finally confronts himself and drags his evil half to the transporter where he finally gets put back together again into the Jim Kirk we know and love. He instantly has his sense of command back as he orders the men on the planet transported back immediately.
While this brings us to the end of the episode, I do feel the need to talk briefly about the final line which is spoken by Spock. After Kirk and Yeoman Rand resolve the tension that was caused between them thanks to the darker half of Kirk, Spock turns to Rand and says, “The impostor had some interesting qualities, wouldn’t you say, Yeoman?”.
Obviously this can be interpreted many different ways. One commonly held viewpoint (which is actually held by the actress Whitney as well) is that it might be seen as implying that Yeoman Rand secretly wanted Kirk to assault her and that she was only feigning resistance while actually enjoying the process. Was this the intent of whoever wrote that particular line? We may never know. Were the 60’s a very different time period where views on this subject were skewed and insensitive? I think that it would be safe to say so. However, I think that all we can do today is take it as a learning opportunity and a message for us to try and be more sensitive and empathetic to anyone who is ever put in a similar situation. Star Trek is Gene Roddenberry’s vision of a better future for humankind. He may not have gotten everything right, and some things may have slipped past him due to the culture of the period, but as Trek fans I think it is our duty to take his vision of a better future and improve upon that even further. Even though Grace Lee Whitney left the show, I like to think that she still admired Roddenberry’s futuristic ideals, which may be why she returned to take small roles in four of the Original Series’ feature films.