A Beach to Walk On (Star Trek: TOS story by JS Cavalcante)

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K/S Fanfiction
Title: A Beach to Walk On
Author(s): JS Cavalcante
Date(s): 1995
Length:
Genre: slash
Fandom: Star Trek: The Original Series
External Links:

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A Beach to Walk On is a K/S story by JS Cavalcante.

title page

It was published in the print zine First Time #42.

Summary

"Kirk and Spock go on shoreleave together when Kirk begins having symptoms of trauma after the transference with Janice Lester."

Reactions and Reviews

As I've never had a screaming nightmare in my life, I always have to suspend disbelief to comprehend Kirk—a man of more inner strength than anyone I know—having them. Anyway, it always works to get Spock to Jim's quarters and I'm all for that premise. After getting past this, I found myself wondering what actions took place in the episode and which were the authors, she wove them together so skillfully. Many times when a scene is recalled, it is dropped in, kind of plop and doesn't have the effect of a few threads carefully stitched into the tapestry of a new story. This one worked! Suddenly, reading, it became imperative to watch "Turnabout Intruder" ASAP. That thought followed me throughout, right to the end. This wasn't typical of post-Janice Lester in many ways, nut it did portray the confusion that would surely follow having experienced a sudden and undesired sex change. Think about waking up with parts you never had before—parts that normally take years to come to terms with—those years known as puberty. Many good emotions flow as Spock helps Kirk deal with his feelings, his misgivings about himself. Loyalty, patience, persistence, love. All worth experiencing, don't you think? [1]
Kirk is plagued by nightmares following his traumatic experience of being in the body of Janice Lester. At McCoy's urging, Kirk and Spock take a shore leave/camping trip on a wilderness planet. A planet with a secret.

There's a wonderful mystery here and a strong plot. But the heart of the story is Kirk's grappling with his emotional needy side-brought out forcibly when he was in a woman's body.

Kirk's dilemma is being a strong and independent male, then suddenly finding himself physically weaker (especially compared to Spock) and in the mind of an emotionally unbalanced woman. Add this to his feelings for Spock and he must come to an understanding and face his own truths or continue to be haunted by terrible visions.

A recurring image for Kirk is the memory of his Smaller woman's hand in the larger, stronger hand of Spock. This image is a perfect metaphor (if you will) of Kirk 's feelings. How Kirk deals with his issues is portrayed so realistically. He remains stubborn, marches off into the wilderness, refuses help, pushes himself physically. All this and clear portrayals of both Kirk and Spock, complete with wonderfully sharp dialogue. An incident in which Spock saves Kirk's life from a dangerous snake precipitates Kirk's inner turmoil. Again, this is a clear example of how Kirk feels. During one of their fascinating discussions. Kirk expresses his fear that Spock can relate much more easily to a woman than to a man. I adored Spock's answer when he said it was all the same to him. Gorgeous description of Spock by the waterfall. Equally gorgeous kiss scene that was heart-stopping as Spock is completely open to the idea. He's touched Kirk's mind and knows he wants it, too. Good balance of their angst with their desire. Then there's the sex.

This girl sure can write good sex. Boy. In addition to the heat, there's also the underlying idea of Kirk's submission.

Actually, that last point was one of the things I loved about this story. There was a clear, thoughtful, intelligent theme underlying all the action. Even a great title to tie the story and the theme together. As Spock defines it, a beach to walk on is "A place or...perhaps a person with whom you do not have to be...in command." Spock's last line at the end of the story will certainly remain one of my all-time favorites. Another superior work from a terrific author. [2]
A beautiful story. Moving, arousing, relevant.

Insightful and subtle connections revolving around Kirk's experience in Janice Lester's body, beginning with that Spock believed him, and held his hand. This sounds so simple, but the way J.S. can write these experiences is so powerful and rich. She had me eating out of her hand lots of times.

Kirk has nightmares. He needs rest leave, so he and Spock go to an uninhabited planet. Starfleet uses this place for cadet training, and there have been some reports of mysterious occurrences.

Some of the time on the planet was...loose, not written as taut or focussed as I might expect. Meandering. Perhaps this was purposeful —the path is seldom straight; it does meander.

Wonderful innuendoes between Kirk and Spock. I
love the tension, as Kirk keeps getting a touch irritable at
Spock's solicitousness. And Kirk's anguish is gorgeous—beautiful pain and aloneness. Spock's strength is incredible—potent and sexy. Such as when he tosses Kirk aside ten feet with one hand and kills a snake with his boot in an instant. And when Kirk affectionately throws a boot at Spock (after a delightful, classic Spockian line) and Spock catches it without even lifting his head from his tricorder. And later, when Kirk admits he's scared, and Spock says, "You should be. A male Vulcan's love can be dangerous." This story is full of understated examples of Vulcan strength and agility. And Kirk's need to contend with what that means to him; his ruminations about Spock's protecting him.

I love when Kirk says casually, "I could kiss you" (for understanding, believing), and Spock takes it literally. So their first kiss is rather...experimental.

I love Vulcan culture as presented by J.S. For instance, when Spock says, "that sort of division of the sexes does not exist on Vulcan." (That Kirk might have felt free to kiss Spock as a woman but not as a man.) And beautiful touches such as the sharing of water, Spock's Vulcan words. Because of course water is life.

Some very beautiful visuals, too, such as in Kirk's flashback to when Spock had taken him to Vulcan after Edith, taken him to the most unearthly place, to forget. Spock looked part of the savage scenery. I love that.

On the planet. Kirk still has Janice nightmares, and finally admits his resistance to needing Spock, and admits he does need him. Another of those moments, so powerful, when Spock admits his need also. I don't think this Kirk had really considered that the need was mutual.

There is a perfect amount of reflection by Kirk, enhancing the action we had just read about. I really like this. The moments that were most beautiful, intense and significant, were expertly built up just enough more by Kirk's reflections on them.

The scene at the waterfall. Kirk watching Spock, was gorgeous. "So beautiful, so natural, so sensual, so physical. Letting the mask fall away, in front of me." And I love Kirk silently daring Spock to make something of his arousal. A waking vision of Janice tells Kirk, "She cannot conquer, you cannot yield. She gave you a great gift. She showed you the unacknowledged other half of yourself." This kind of theme is the essence of what K/S is for me.

I loved the very ST thing, the high-tech remains of a long-ago culture. This one is particularly inventive: a dream projector, to consciously and therapeutically interact with your conflict. Very cool. I love Kirk getting in touch with his other side—weakness, needing.

Beautiful descriptions of the sensations of orgasm. Kirk's "uncontrolled freefall." And of Spock's expression when he comes, as if he sees into another reality and it is unbearably beautiful. And Vulcan orgasm tears. I was undone. I adore the morning banter.

In their wanderings, Spock finds a beach for Kirk. Kirk's 'beach to walk on." I felt my heart would break, too much beautifulness. Kirk has already found his beach: his place of comfort and freedom is Spock.

A beautiful ending; one of the most moving stories I've read in a while. [3]
This story's strengths include a smooth prose style, strong dialogue, nicely-realized scenes and a nifty science fiction idea. I felt it contained many ingredients of a successful psychological study of Kirk post-Turnabout Intruder.

My initial difficulty was identifying the story's central dramatic problem. Was it the origin of Kirk's nightmares? If so, why did McCoy not try to diagnose a problem that threatened to interfere with Kirk's command? Knowing Kirk wasn't firing on all thrusters, why did McCoy send him off to a deserted planet?

Or was the problem Kirk's resentment of his physical weakness compared to Spock? If so, I needed more justification for Kirk's distress than the story gave me. As Kirk himself acknowledges, his accomplishments have not flowed from physical strength—we've seen him creamed by Gorns, androids and even Spock while keeping his ego intact. Further, the story dwelt on the closeness and warmth Kirk felt toward Spock after the mind-meld in which Spock recognized him in Janice's body. It's possible that Kirk could feel both distress about his own weakness and closeness toward Spock; I just didn't find the dramatic development that combination needed.

A second difficulty is that much of this long story doesn't advance the central drama. Mostly, it's a Kirk and Spock Go Camping tale—pleasant, but predictable. Spock is over-protective, Kirk is cranky, neither can relax. They have some low-impact adventures. At least one adventure seemed cooked up to make the over-obvious point that Kirk is sometimes dependent on Spock to save his life.

Carried along by the smooth narrative, I anticipated that Kirk's experience in Turnabout /nfruder-and the connection of that experience to his relationship with Spock--would be identified, explored, struggled with, and resolved. Time after time, a potentially fascinating issue was raised. Time after time, the issue was dropped and the narrative went on to another nice scene that was pleasant to read but did not move the story forward. The effect was like swimming in the ocean, watching pieces of flotsam drift to the surface, only to wash away before I could get a grip on them or figure out how they fit together. I read this story three times trying essentially to do that.

The "pieces" are Kirk's nightmares and other vivid scenes that dot the story. They raise many issues on the general theme of gender, including discrimination, rape and equality in relationships. These are good issues, but the story should have developed at least one of them well, instead of merely hinting at them. In one scene, Kirk reflects on discrimination in Starfleet and concludes that his own human male status may confer an unfair advantage. But this potential bombshell isn't pursued; it doesn't even seem to bother Kirk.

In another scene. Kirk concludes he was "selfish" in not continuing his relationships with several women he once loved. But the story didn't justify that conclusion, didn't show what Kirk did that was "selfish." It needed to. After all, it's not exactly a Federation offense to pursue one's career at the expense of a relationship—women have been known to do this, too, and the evidence in the record suggests that conflict between relationship and career was a two-way street for Kirk and the women in his life.

Kirk's resemblance to the archetypal "hero of privilege"-the hero whose search for the Holy Grail depends on the support of unsung supporters at home-was suggested didactically, but the idea was not developed dramatically. There's no evidence in the story (and none in the series that I can think of) that Kirk asks his women to wait at home while he gallivants among the stars.

Because the story doesn't really show what being "feminine" means to Kirk, or how he has "devalued" women, Kirk's realization, about 80% of the way through the story, that his experience with Janice revealed to him the "feminine" part of himself, is unearned. The story's treatment of Janice also makes that idea problematic. Fannish responses to Turnabout Intruder tend to fall into two categories-those who agree that Janice was insane, though not accepting all the episode's misogynist baggage-and those who argue that Janice was on the right track, if a little extreme in her methods. This story straddles both positions, which makes it difficult to see Janice as an example of Kirk's suppressed "other half." Would you want you/other half to be the crazed lunatic that Janice is in this story? I don't think so.

The idea that rigid gender roles have caused men to suppress important dimensions of themselves is valid and indeed, a staple of feminist writing for the last two decades. We could quibble whether Kirk is the best example of this concept; some would say his emotional, intuitive and nurturing side already is alive and well. My problem is that the idea was simply "announced" and not developed. Kirk's realization does not lead anywhere-at least, not to growth and change. Rather, Spock and Kirk make love, Spock penetrates Kirk, and the nightmares magically go away. Spock explains that this is because he gave Kirk what he "needed"- sex in the "yielding" position.

Now, we could argue whether intercourse necessarily requires the submission of one of the parties. This would mean that heterosexual women inevitably "yield" to their partners without the shoe's ever being on the other foot. But let's stick to one issue. It seems that for Kirk, the solution to an identity crisis as the same as that prescribed by men for uppity women in the 1960s: All he needed was a good lay. The notion that spreading one's legs beneath a man is an automatic solution to an existential problem may or may not be sexist; my complaint here is that its just not good drama.

This story does contain the germ of good drama-great drama, in fact. It's the story of a hero thrown into intense inner conflict by a traumatic event in the outside world. To resolve the conflict, the hero must grow and change. To realize its dramatic potential, the story needed to establish where Kirk was at the beginning, how the experience shattered his equilibrium, and how he struggled and finally managed to reach a new and wiser state at the end. If the story is about Kirk's coming to terms with his "feminine side, we need to know: What did it mean to Kirk to be "masculine" before he was imprisoned in Janice's body? What were the critical pieces of his identity as a male? What did he really feel about women? Condescension, pity, disrespect? Where did he get those feelings? How did the experience with Janice challenge his assumptions? What has he learned about men, women and himself by the end of the story? Does he have a new understanding of masculinity and femininity? Do we?

The injunction to "show, not tell" has become a mantra in these pages. This story follows the injunction faithfully—the story is full of strong and vivid scenes. However, "showing" is not always enough. Development of the story's central conflict is also a necessary component of good drama. In my opinion, too many of the scenes in this story are simply vignettes that announce and illustrate an issue; they do not really develop and advance the story or the characters. For instance, I assume that the scene in which Spock saves Kirk's life is meant to illustrate Kirk's difficulty accepting his physical inferiority to Spock. Well, fine, but why is that a problem for Kirk? How did it become a problem? What does Kirk do about it? Too often, too, a scene "announced" an insight the characters had not earned.

The intensity of Kirk's nightmares and emotional angst only compounded my frustration with the absence of the dramatic development that would have enabled me to experience that good old-fashioned Aristotelian catharsis. What I found instead was an interesting succession of scenes, all very readable, in a story that nevertheless remained static. When all is said and done, this is a long but otherwise typical warm fuzzy shore leave tale in which Spock's support helps Kirk recover from a trauma and they end up making love. Nice, but the asserted theme of the story led me to expect much more.

The fine possibilities of the story's science fiction idea were wasted dramatically because the concept makes no contribution to the resolution of Kirk's problem. I would have loved to learn more about the ground breaking work of Kla-Zthan-Kri of Kelvara and to see the good doctor's ideas in action.

A few more picky points: Kirk's alleged need to get in touch with his "feminine" side is linked-confusingly, to me-with his longing for "a beach to walk on." In the series, Kirk dreamed of walking on a beach with a woman, not as a woman. The concept of a time and place of release from responsibility is a stereotypical masculine construct, not a feminine one. At certain highly disciplined masculine institutions such as the infamous Citadel, men actually are acculturated to "let loose" at periodic intervals. Traditionally, women with families and children have not had the luxury of that kind of release. Star Trek identified Kirk's longing for release from responsibility with the "Tahiti syndrome," a fantasy created by men and typically involving lots of sex with pliant, exotic women. The fantasies of women with young children tend to be a lot more modest (for some mothers I know, going to the bathroom by oneself with the I spotted at least five sentences in which "like" should be "as." Some-not all-were in dialogue by Kirk. Since Kirk speaks correct English (Standard, whatever), this mistake was jarring to my ear. And finally, Kirk, singing? Have you ever heard William Shatner sing? And when did "heck" become Kirk's favorite expletive? George Bush will love it if he ever develops an interest in K/S. [4]
As I've never had a screaming nightmare in my life, I always have to suspend disbelief to comprehend Kirk—a man of more inner strength than anyone I know—having them. Anyway, it always works to get Spock to Jim's quarters and I'm all for that premise.

After getting past this, I found myself wondering what actions took place in the episode and which were the authors, she wove them together so skillfully. Many times when a scene is recalled, it is dropped in, kind of plop and doesn't have the effect of a few threads carefully stitched into the tapestry of a new story. This one worked! Suddenly, reading, it became imperative to watch "Turnabout Intruder" ASAP. That thought followed me throughout right to the end.

This wasn't typical of post-Janice Lester in many ways, but it did portray the confusion that would surely follow having experienced a sudden and undesired sex change. Think about waking up with parts you never had before—parts that normally take years to come to terms with—those years known as puberty.

Many good emotions flow as Spock helps Kirk deal with his feelings, his misgivings about himself. Loyalty, patience, persistence, love. All worth experiencing, don't you think? [5]

References

  1. from The K/S Press #24
  2. from Come Together #20
  3. from Come Together #21
  4. from Come Together #23
  5. from The K/S Press #24