James T. Kirk (TOS)

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This article is about James T. Kirk from The Original Series. For James T. Kirk from the AOS films, see James T. Kirk (AOS). For other uses, see Kirk.

Name: James Tiberius Kirk
Occupation: Starfleet Officer
Relationships: Was married to Miramanee while amnesiac, she and their unborn child died. With Carol Marcus, had a son, David Marcus, who was killed by Klingons.
Fandom: Star Trek: TOS
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James T. Kirk (played by William Shatner) was introduced in the premier episode of Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS) -- he was not in the original, unaired pilot, "The Cage" -- and starred in all three seasons, 1966-69, and seven subsequent movies.

Canon Background

(please refer to Memory Alpha for more information)


Fan Responses and Analysis

James Kirk's personality and motivations have been a subject of endless exposition and debate for Original Series fans from the very beginning, as seen in early fanzines. Especially after the release of the new movies, these fans will tell you there is a great difference between canon!Kirk as created by Shatner and Gene Roddenberry and the way he is as played by Christopher Pine in the 2009 et seq. "reboot" films by J. J. Abrams (this character is often called NuKirk or Nu!Kirk) -- and between Shatner's original portrayal vs. the general public's perception of the character. This phenomenon is sometimes called "Kirk drift"[1] Fans cite examples of how in the original series Kirk is shown to be a smart, compassionate, thoughtful man who, while he has many love affairs, treats women with respect, and while he's good at thinking on his feet, is also able to analyze difficult situations carefully and seek advice from his specialists in briefings; as opposed to the rash, macho, womanizer character that most people today likely imagine when they think about Kirk.

kirk is supposed to be the middle ground between spock (mostly logic with little emotion) and mccoy (mostly emotion with little logic). spock’s flaw is that he sometimes fails to consider human emotions and reactions when making a decision; mccoy’s flaw is that sometimes sentiment can cloud his judgement about what the correct course of action is. kirk is supposed to have spock’s intellect with mccoy’s human feeling and understanding.


There is no other way to put this: essentially everything about Popular Consciousness Kirk is bullshit. Kirk, as received through mass culture memory and reflected in its productive imaginary (and subsequent franchise output, including the reboot movies), has little or no basis in Shatner’s performance and the television show as aired. Macho, brash Kirk is a mass hallucination. [1]

where did this bs that kirk is a womanising hardass maverick who shoots first and asks later and rules the enterprise with an iron fist like the manly man he is come from? not from the canon, thats for sure.


I realize some are hyper defensive over NuTrek, and might argue that, 'well Kirk is young in that 1st film! Its realistic to be brash' Kirk was also younger in his TOS pilot, but even in that 1st episode, he tempered any inherent move to action with reason, even doubt. That's what made TOS Kirk a great character: he had the ability to fight--wage war, but he was not impulsive, or some hothead--even in the worst of situations. He was always thinking, which is a trait lacking in NuKirk.[4]

Shatner: Where No Man...

William Shatner's 1979 biography, Shatner: Where No Man..., by Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath, includes long interviews with Shatner, who provides insightful analysis of Kirk's character and personality. He explains how he worked to create a believable image of Kirk as a warm, emotionally appealing but strong and effective leader who cared for his crew as family. Marshak and Culbreath's personal agenda aside, anyone wishing to understand who James Kirk is would benefit by reading Shatner's own words.

Tarsus IV

The first season episode "The Conscience of the King" reveals that a young Kirk had been present on the colony Tarsus IV during a genocide. This incident, mentioned only once on the show, is a popular source of angst in Kirk-centric fanworks, mostly fic. There are communities dedicated to Tarsus IV, tarsus_iv_fic on LJ, and another on ff.net, and Shadowloverk maintains a thematic list for these.[5]


Kirk-centric Fanworks

Examples Wanted: Editors are encouraged to add more examples or a wider variety of examples.




Meta/Further Reading

Archives and Links



  1. ^ a b FRESHLY REMEMBER'D: Kirk Drift by Erin Horáková
  2. ^ pop culture's idea of kirk, tumblr entry by fan BB, dated November 16, 2017.
  3. ^ the appropiation of Kirk by some fans by fan "ifyougonnagetnastyimgonnaleave", dated May 18, 2017.
  4. ^ Trek_God_1, writing in a 2015 discussion about an article from The Federalist, "How Star Trek Explains the Decline of Liberalism". Entire discussion at Star Trek and Liberalism.... on TrekBBs.
  5. ^ Fic Rec List: Tarsus IV (accessed 3 April 2010)