In preparation and because I love you guys, I have uploaded a *pdf file* that contains the novel, links to footnotes (mostly) and everything I quote in this essay highlighted for your convenience. All citations used in this essay refer to this file and do not coincide with the book itself, as the page numbers are different and a pdf is readable to anyone. I did it that way because I know there are a ton of people who have either never read the novel or don’t have a hard copy on hand.
Super mega awesome thanks to cicero_drayon who beta'd most of this and gave me the idea of citations. She even offered to do them herself, but I believe in always being kind to your beta and she already does everything for me anyway. :)
This essay assumes you have seen Star Trek: TMP. It does not assume you have read the novel. In fact, the whole purpose of writing this essay is to show off the slashiness of the novel and entice others to read the book or at least flail over what they read here. I mean come on, just look at the cover. Don't think it's that more straight because there's a woman between Kirk and Spock in a rainbow vortex.
I’m not a huge Star Trek novel reader. In fact, this book is the only one I have read cover-to-cover, though I really do have a couple of the more slashy ones lined up to read later and I’ve read pieces of novels, especially The New Voyages. I guess you can call me a canon whore. If it’s not outright slash fic, I don’t really care for reading books that are, essentially, gen or het fanfic. The novels are strictly apocrypha, and while some are (from I’ve been told and believe to be true from what I’ve seen of them) really good, I have only a passing interest in the “slashiness” of some of the novels. But I actually consider this book a part of canon. Why is that? Because if you looked closely at the picture of the cover above, you will notice that the writer is none other than Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek. Look, if I can’t consider a novel written for the first movie by the damn show’s creator as at least somewhat canon, then what the hell can I call canon? But for most people, I think they see it as Gene Roddenberry doing fanfic. Either way, this means that whatever is in between the covers (*inappropriate snickering*) of this book is a reflection on how Gene Roddenberry envisions his characters.
I’m going to be completely honest here: I think the plot of the movie isn’t that bad. The pacing and execution are dreadful, but the story itself is quite good. If you haven’t seen the movie, read the book first, I definitely recommend it. I almost wish I could go back and read the book before seeing the movie so I could imagine them in uniforms that don’t resemble pajamas and save myself the pain of watching the bridge crew stare at dated special effects for two hours. The book actually makes the action scenes exciting, and taking the time to read those scenes is actually better than watching them in the film. Plus you get 1,000 details you don't get in the movie, my favorite probably being Decker actually having sex with the Ilia probe. Dude, and you're telling me Kirk sleeps with anything? (on a serious note, it's pretty sad scene since Decker really is in love with her and believed she was really in there, which *spoiler* she was.) If you read no other ST novel, go ahead and read this one, even if you didn't like the movie.
The story has a clear A plot and B plot. The A plot is basically a rehash of the TOS episode The Changeling on a larger, grander scale. Earth lost a probe a long time ago, probe gains shitload of knowledge out in the universe, calls all living things ‘units’, Spock gets mindfucked when trying to meld with it, and it’s searching for its creator and the meaning to life, the universe, everything. Simple, but gets serious upgrades in that V’Ger is fucking massive and you get the Ilia and Decker storyline (btw, if you haven’t read spookyfbi’s essay on the parallel between Ilia/Decker and Kirk/Spock, STOP READING THIS STUPID SHIT AND GO READ THAT, WTF. I won’t even got into the parallels that much, just so I can intrigue you into reading it because she does all the work for me.) The B plot is Kirk and Spock, and what’s interesting is that it’s almost a lowercase ‘b’ plot because of how understated it is. Non-slasher viewers might even call the B plot ‘Spock coming to terms with his human side,’ which convinces me that these people have vision and hearing problems because they obviously could not see nor hear the entirety of the sickbay scene. But if the movie is being ambiguous about part of the plot being about Kirk/Spock, the novel…is still ambiguous, but ambiguous like the ambiguously gay duo are ambiguous.
But we’re not here for V’Ger or anything else except Kirk and Spock, because plot or no plot, this story is unequivocally about them and should truthfully be called the ‘A’ plot. Every other plot thread just weaves into the slash tapestry—the Ilia/Decker parallel, V’Ger’s search for something beyond itself, Kirk’s need for command, all are there to outwardly express an internal state of affairs between our favorite space husbands. Let’s see what this book gives us slashers that the movie doesn’t.
We meet Spock again on the morning of his kolinahr completion, the ritual that purges all human emotion and earns you the title of ‘Supremely Awesome Vulcan’. Now the movie never does explain why Spock left. I feel I must point this out because it’s a very simple question. I mean, even the shittiest of writers would attempt to address it; it’s that simple a question. That is, unless the writers were outright trying to avoid talking about something that would cause offense. Naturally, I went into this book expecting more of an explanation, because surely the book would have it if the movie didn’t have time or motivation to do so. Imagine my surprise when not a god damn thing is explained here either. Why isn’t it explained? When we left Spock in 1969 (well, WE in a general sense, as a good lot of us weren’t even a twinkle in our parent’s eye at that time), Spock seemed pretty secure on the Enterprise and satisfied working beside Kirk. Yes, he struggled with his identity, but kolinahr is quite an extreme measure to take to resolve that identity, don’t you think? Roddenberry gives us no explanation in the book either. We can maybe guess that Spock was about to approach his second pon farr and he didn’t wish to repeat what happened the first time, but how long would it take to write that into the narrative if it were a factor? It would take all of a paragraph, even just a sentence—and this entire argument would be moot.
So what is said about Spock leaving? Well, let’s see what Spock himself has to say about it, as this is the only time in the entire novel that we get anything even resembling an answer:
It had seemed to Spock that he had no other choice. It was only through the Masters here on Gol that one could achieve Kolinahr. And it was only through Kolinahr that he could once and for all time unburden himself of his human half, which he believed responsible for his pain. (PDF 6)
But wait, you ask, what is this pain he’s talking about? Did you not quote the paragraph before it? There is only one paragraph before it, and it’s him explaining where he’s at and that he left shortly after the five year mission. So, what pain is he talking about? It never says, I’ve checked. You can assume that the pain is his turmoil over his Vulcan and human halves, but there’s still another question that you just can’t ignore: why the ever-loving hell is he suddenly hating his human half with such fervor? What caused this sudden backlash? It’s not referring to the general pain of self-identification either; he specifically wants to purge, eradicate, wipe out, and just wave bye-bye to his human half for good. If this was merely about pon farr, wouldn’t he be angry at his Vulcan side? He is solely blaming his human half for his pain. A page or so over, he goes on to talk about his troubled childhood, and then he talks about joining Starfleet in the first place because he wanted to prove all Vulcans wrong, that he could live and work with humans and be a perfect example of a Vulcan, but then he reveals that he hadn’t thought about these aspects until just that morning. You’re telling me he hadn’t thought about his childhood identity issues and bullying until the very morning of his kolinahr completion? It just proves that while Spock’s goal is being a True Vulcan, his motivations for achieving it are not about his past identify issues regarding his childhood or his reasoning behind joining Starfleet.
Enough of this appetizer—let’s get to best and most easily recognized part of this book, the part I’m sure you are all waiting for: t’hy’la, that magical Vulcan word that was never used in actual canon, never spoken by a character or included in any novel besides this one. If you actually don't know what this is, then—hello! Welcome to K/S fandom, enjoy the ease with which canon lets you ship. But seriously, if you don't know, I'm very excited to be the first one to quote its first appearance for you:
Jim! Good-bye my . . . my t’hy’la.2 This is the last time I will permit myself to think of you or even your name again. (PDF 6)
I’ve talked about this ad nauseam, but I never give up an opportunity to expound my space husbandly beliefs, so I must ask you, dear reader, to forget the arguments. Don’t ask whether the footnote was written as a no-homo clause, implying that the definition of t’hy’la means friend-or-brother-or-lover, which is not the same as friend-and-brother-and-lover, or as a covert way to slip something past the mass public, which is also a good argument as you can see by the line-by-line analysis. I want you to instead focus on the definition itself. Friend. Brother. Lover. Let’s ask an even more important question that no one ever seems to ask:
Why put ‘lover’ into the definition in the first place?
There was absolutely no reason to tack on the lover part and write that entire footnote. First of all, it is unlikely Roddenberry had some sort of vendetta against K/S. Here’s a famous quote from him on the matter: “Yes, there's certainly some of that—certainly with love overtones. Deep love. The only difference being, the Greek ideal—we never suggested in the series—physical love between the two. But it's the—we certainly had the feeling that the affection was sufficient for that, if that were the particular style of the 23rd century.” Roddenberry wasn’t bothered by K/S and he’s said that though he didn’t intentionally put slash in the series, he didn’t object to the subculture, so he definitely wouldn’t have put in this quote merely to discourage slashers. This isn’t some word used earlier in canon, either. If it was, then the footnote would make absolute sense, as we’d be exploring a new meaning behind the word.
No, Roddenberry made this word up for this novel, for Spock to use specifically to define his relationship with Kirk. If he wanted it to be mere bromance, he could easily have substituted another word, like ‘companion.’ Friend/brother/companion, sounds awesome, and it would get the idea across that they are extraordinarily close friends. Even if he would have put soulmate, it would have been less gay. Because the idea of soulmates is a Platonian concept, coming from the idea that all souls know each other before they are born and therefore some souls are soulmates which is where we get the term ‘Platonic love’ and yadda, yadda, yadda. It would have been fishy, yes, but not downright indicting. For example, in the TV series Supernatural, the main characters Sam and Dean, two brothers, share heaven while most souls do not because they are soulmates. In all likelihood, the writers of that show were leading in the platonic direction, though hey, a lot of us read Flowers in the Attic too. ‘Lover’ has an undeniably sexual aspect to it, which is why the footnote was included, to perhaps wave off the concern that some would see ‘lover’ and ask why Spock is calling Kirk that. My whole argument is that it simply didn’t have to be there, so why include it? Safe money’s on “to get away with
murder buttsex” or “give something fun to the slash fans.”
Moving away from that argument but going back to the quote, notice that Spock is saying goodbye to Kirk FOREVER. He’s not getting an emotional enema for logic brownie points; he is seriously leaving his human side, his emotions, his friends, and Kirk behind. Right here we see a deep emotional reaction. Spock actually hesitates before searching and coming up with the word t’hy’la. Conjecture? Something happened on a highly emotional level with Kirk. We'll never know what exactly that something was, so we must make do with fanfic I suppose.
There’s another, more touching quote I want to address before we get to the big show. Spock is psyching himself up as he meets the Vulcan Masters, thinking about his attempts to prove himself a True Vulcan. Spock remembers this:
But what was it that Jim Kirk had once said? “Spock, why fight so hard to be a part of only one world? Why not fight instead to be the best of both?” (PDF 6)
Yeah, he’s still thinking of Kirk, and I’ve talked about this a lot, especially in my Journey to Babel meta, but this is more proof that Kirk gets Spock and is probably the only one who truly accepts all of Spock, not just wants him to be more Vulcan or more human. That is pretty romantic, if you ask me.
If you still find my arguments leaning more towards conspiracy theory, well, I do tend to reach a little farther than your average fan, but this next part leaps light years ahead of my tinhatting and leaves me in a trail of rainbow-colored dust. My favorite part of the whole novel is right here and it’s never mentioned in the movie. At all. We’re basically led to believe that what happened as Spock was about to receive kolinahr completion was that Spock sensed the consciousness of V’Ger and it somehow stirred up his human side, prompting him to later rejoin the Enterprise crew to get answers for his own capital ‘I’ issues. But that’s not the only thing Spock senses when High Master T’sai melds with him; this is so big that I had to get up and do a little fangirl dance before typing it because I just can’t contain the utter elation this scene stirs in me. Spock’s thoughts of Kirk are broken by a Master, and it’s like Spock had drifted off into Kirk-land and had to be forcibly brought out of the clouds. Here’s what happens after that (emphasis mine):
“Spock, your thoughts. Open them to me.”
Spock could not refuse the High Master T’sai, not even at this moment of shame. As she touched him, Spock let his mind open, in the giving and receiving of mindmeld Oneness. Kaiidth! What was there was there, and it was T’sai’s right to learn the complete truth of it.
//The Klingons weren’t destroyed. It feels like . . . like they’ve become “wall exhibits in Hell.” And it’s headed for Earth. Spock, I wish you were here to help me understand.//
Spock looked up, puzzled. That had felt like Jim Kirk’s thoughts. And yet it was T’sai who was standing here and to whom he had opened his thoughts. She was now releasing Spock’s consciousness and retrieving her own. Then her lips opened, and before she spoke Spock already knew what her words would be.
“Your answer lies elsewhere, Spock.” (PDF 7)
OH HO HO! So it was not just V’Ger in Spock’s head. Why, I wonder why the movie might neglect to mention that Spock heard the thoughts of James T. Kirk, who was back on Earth at the time. Not only that, but aside from Kirk’s thoughts being about the intruder, you can tell that the whole point is that Kirk is thinking of Spock, Spock is thinking of Kirk, and Master T’sai is responding to their connection, not the intruder. Furthermore, in the first chapter we see Kirk actually watching the Klingon attack and thinking about it, but nowhere does it say that Kirk actively thinks, “Spock, I wish you were here to help me understand.” (PDF 5) This confused me before I realized that Spock might be reading something Kirk didn’t know he was thinking. Later Kirk will say that he’s just used to having Spock around for emergencies (PDF 40), but that’s just him trying explain what happened and clearly indicating that he has no idea he thought that, meaning that Spock must have been reading an emotion from Kirk, which must mean Spock was going pretty deep there (mind melds must go deeper. /lame Inception joke.)
To recap, especially since I couldn’t quote the entire chapter, here is the sequence of events and you can check them yourself:
*Spock blames his human half for his pain and decides to undergo kolinahr
*Spock was content with his decision for nearly three years, right up until the morning of his kolinahr graduation
*Spock looks up to where Earth is in the sky and says goodbye to Kirk
*The intruder senses Spock’s powerful emotion and probes Spock’s mind
*Spock starts wavering and thinking of what Jim Kirk had once said, second-guessing his decision
*T’sai interrupts these thoughts and melds with Spock, who is feeling shame
*Spock hears Kirk’s thoughts and he’s also thinking of Spock at that very moment
*T’sai tells him his answer lies elsewhere
Fuck. Just, fuck. When you look at it that way, it starts to look less and less like T’sai is telling Spock to meld with the intruder for answers and more like T’sai is telling Spock that he needs to go sweep his man off his feet and leave this logic stuff to Vulcans who aren’t madly in love with humans. In fact, I dare say it makes more sense because nowhere does it say after the initial probing that the intruder is still contacting Spock, so T’sai is directly responding to the fact that his pupil is communicating with his t’hy’la over the cosmos and that Spock is more likely to skip through a meadow in the near future than obtain pure logic. I mean sure, you could say that V’Ger facilitated Spock hearing Kirk, but why is Spock hearing the thoughts of Kirk over the literally billions of other thoughts he could have heard at that moment? How serendipitous was it that Kirk just happened to be wishing that Spock was there by his side? Perhaps they had both been telepathically reaching for the other and connected. Nope, I’m convinced: V’Ger was responding to the mental connection and the emotion they shared. V’Ger is void of love and beauty and was coming to Earth in search of something it couldn’t name and to quote Spock from the movie, “it knows only that it needs, but like so many of us, it does not know what.” The ‘what’ is love, that simple feeling that V’Ger can’t comprehend. Yep, that not only puts the last nail in the big gay coffin, it fucking holds a funeral service and buries it six feet under solid concrete. I’m going to end this paragraph abruptly, because we’ll be talking more about this later and I need to retire to my newly-installed fainting room.
We’ve just gone over how much Spock has changed since the five-year mission, but that is nothing compared to how much Kirk has changed. The movie is much more blatant about the transformation without giving us a lot of background on it, as movies must often do: the moment Kirk steps from the shuttle and engages with Sonak at the academy (and do I really need to point out how obvious it is that Kirk is adamant that his science officer must be a Vulcan?), we’re almost blown away at Kirk’s serious and no-nonsense movements and speech. Gone is the charming sparkle in his eyes, that commanding-yet-inviting stride, that lilt to his voice that can convince armies to follow his lead. After a few scenes with no change to his demeanor, it starts to sink in: Kirk isn’t just extra-serious for an important mission. Even his jokes are edged with a sort of bleakness, as when he’s speaking with Scotty in the transport shuttle to the Enterprise. And let me tell you, those five minutes or so of looking at the model of the Enterprise isn’t just awkward because of the absurd length of the scene; something vital is missing in Kirk. This is where I sort of like the novel better, because it gradually eases you into Kirk’s new persona instead. We read from his POV, so therefore you don’t really cotton on that something is wrong until you start getting evidence that Kirk’s life is terrible. And I mean it, Kirk’s life since the end of the mission—and, coincidentally, since Spock left—has been an austere, leeching existence.
First of all, we learn that Kirk was promoted to the admiralty shortly after the five year mission. (Backstory on PDF 8-9)Kirk says that he had not realized how “desperately unhappy” the last three years of his life have been. Of course, this is highly understandable in itself and the text goes on to talk about what we all know to be true, that Kirk is happier having an adventure and not stuck behind a desk. Le duh. But then we get something mighty interesting that tingles my “something fishy is going on here” spidey sense. Turns out, McCoy didn’t want Kirk to be promoted. Well, that’s understandable too. After all, next to Spock, McCoy knows Jim Kirk better than anyone else and he’s trained in psychology to boot. But there’s more to it, as evidenced later in McCoy’s POV:
McCoy had felt some vague worries about Jim Kirk from the moment he had heard that his former captain had somehow regained command of the Enterprise again. After all, McCoy’s resignation from the service had concerned this very subject. Upon learning that Admiral’s stars were to be offered to Kirk, McCoy had protested vehemently and had secured the backing of other prominent medical officers in the fight. (PDF 28)
McCoy didn’t just disapprove of Kirk getting promoted; he flat-out resigned from Starfleet over it. That’s why a reserve activation clause had been activated to bring hippie McCoy back from retirement; McCoy loudly protested Kirk getting promoted and Kirk had ignored the arguments as ‘trivial’ at the time. This isn’t a small detail, people. How often does Kirk take McCoy’s opinion “lightly”, especially on a decision so major? Sure, Kirk sometimes doesn’t listen to McCoy’s good advice, but does he ever just consider it “trivial?”
More is revealed of Kirk’s troubled psyche when we are told that Kirk had basically been in a complete fog for over three years and, after a lot of explanation in chapter three, Kirk ends this entire back story with:
Also, he had not really understood how deeply Spock’s abrupt departure for Vulcan had affected him. He had been depending on the Vulcan’s friendship and logic much more than he realized. (PDF 9)
Spock left abruptly, and in the ‘physical and emotional’ exhaustion after the five year mission, Kirk gets a desk job and becomes a shell of his former self? That’s strange, since we were there for three years of that mission. Did something major happen in the last two years that really pounded on Kirk’s equilibrium? It never says, but I pretty much assume that it’s about the same level that we’ve seen on screen, which begs the question: Why did Kirk do a total 180 from being captain, something he clung onto with every fiber of his being, to getting a desk job because he was worn out? You take shore leave, you move on. It’s not like he was that old and several times in the original series we see that Kirk has a pathological need to have command, even going so far as to suggest that Kirk was able to overcome the effects of the Dohlman’s tears in Elaan of Troyius simply because he had the Enterprise. Spock left and Kirk just shut down and started living this half life. I’m not exaggerating, because not only did Kirk accept this promotion, he was also manipulated for three years.
This stuff is never mentioned in the movie, but Kirk sort of has an awakening after the Klingon ship is destroyed by V’Ger at the beginning of the novel and he starts to see that his life has been manipulated by Starfleet brass because they wanted an honored hero and experienced captain for political purposes, to ‘smile and wave’ as it were, and Kirk, who we all know is incredibly intelligent and can smell bullshit miles away from the vacuum of space, just…let all this happen. Huh. To make it even more interesting, we learn that not only was Kirk manipulated by Admiral Nogura, but Nogura sends a recent ex-lover of Kirk’s, Lori, to ‘manage’ Kirk in her introductory scene.
Wait, back the fuck up, who’s Lori? (PDF 9-10) Why have we never heard of her and why isn’t she mentioned in the movie? She actually is in the movie, except we only see her as she gets killed in the transporter accident that also kills Sonak, thus we see the obvious metaphor that is her purpose in this narrative—a redshirt who got to bang Kirk for a bit. ***omg, aprilleigh24 made the brilliant observation here that she always "saw the transporter accident involving Lori (Human; Kirk's lover and companion) and Sonak (Vulcan; science officer and representative of Starfleet) as very obvious metaphor for the futilely of Kirk's search for a replacement for Spock." Dude, that is a valid thought. I mean, how come it had to be those two? Maybe Sonak we could get away with, but why Lori too? Mind=blown*** Vice Admiral Lori Ciani was Kirk’s lover for a year, which for him is practically an engagement. Kirk thinks of that time fondly, even finds himself getting aroused in her presence again. He describes her as perfection, but it’s like he’s ticking off a laundry list of traits and it’s clear he’s not upset that they’re not together and there’s no indication that he longs for her and wants her back. Interestingly, he realizes that “she had become a surrogate Enterprise to him.” (PDF 9) The more astute slash readers are now raising their eyebrows. Lori, who we are explicitly told to equate with the love Kirk has for the Enterprise, is not that big of a deal to him, as he isn’t really pining over her or thinking of her with anything except distant fondness.
…The next person to tell me that the love of Kirk’s life was the Enterprise is going to get sucker punched, I swear to god.
Even after Lori dies, Kirk thinks of her for a moment, sad about her death, but with the same emotion he shows any crewmember who dies in the line of duty. His parting thoughts on her are quite interesting.
That first year back on Earth he had needed exactly what she had been to him. She had realized that, too, and it had pleased her immensely to both heal and pleasure him so. The fact that the old fox Nogura had used her took none of that away. (PDF 20)
Lori was explicitly there to put together a broken Kirk, which he’s thankful for but doesn’t seem to want to go back to, like he’d broken his arm and was thankful for the cast but doesn’t want to wear the itchy thing anymore. I realize that it says that Kirk was physically and emotionally exhausted after the five year mission, but how could that bring him down to this level? Was he lobotomized sometime in those last three years? It’s like he was holding together just fine until Spock “left abruptly” and suddenly he’s blithely accepting a promotion he clearly shouldn’t, not listening to McCoy wage war against accepting said promotion, essentially hiding from the world, and equates Lori, a woman he contentedly dated for a year to a stand-in Enterprise. You could say that it’s not all about Spock, that Kirk simply needed a purpose again, needed the Enterprise again, and you would be 100% right if not for the following fact:
Even after Kirk gets the Enterprise back, he’s still not happy and continues to be robo!Kirk until Spock returns.
Sure, Kirk’s seeing clearer, is amazed at how good it feels to be back in command and to have all brain cells firing and strategizing and all that, but Kirk is still a fucking dick. You see this plainly in the movie, and even if you get more of Kirk’s self-doubting inner voice in the novel, his actions still spell out D-I-C-K in flashing neon lights. Kirk tells Scotty that “they gave her back to me,” but in all actuality he had to browbeat and argue his way back into command of the Enterprise, getting revenge on Nogura for manipulating him in the first place. Now, that part is a little understandable because Kirk deserves some justice for being Starfleet’s puppet, but in order to do it, he must usurp the command chair from Decker, who Kirk himself specifically recommended to be the new captain of the Enterprise. It wasn’t about getting justice at all, and Kirk knows it. Kirk took command from Decker, command he had personally vouched for, a man who knows a hell of a lot more about the refitted Enterprise than Kirk, because he needs the Enterprise. That is incredibly selfish and very unlike Kirk, who even justifies this kick to the nuts by telling himself that Decker will have his moment later but for Kirk to be on the bridge again is like Lazarus stepping into the sunlight.(PDF 26) That’s…both a fucked up viewpoint and a depressing one, considering that Kirk is basically equating himself to a biblical character who was raised from the dead by Jesus, which means Kirk felt like he had been in a empty, death-like existence for the past three years.
Later we cringe as Kirk makes a wrong (almost fatal) decision because he’s not familiar with the refit and Decker actually saves them all by belaying an order of Kirk’s, which is incredible given what we know of Kirk’s superb command ability. What’s worse is that even before this moment, Kirk knows he’s off balance because he drags McCoy out of retirement because he simply needs him. We all laugh at the hilariously homoerotic scene of, “I need you. BADLY” in the movie, but in the novel you get an idea of how accurate Shatner’s portrayal is. Kirk needs a conscience, needs McCoy there to tell him when he’s going too far, and that’s pretty scary when you think about it. Want to see more proof that something is wrong with Kirk?
After the turbolift doors closed behind Kirk, there was a lull on the bridge before work was resumed. It was as if his presence had left an electric charge lingering there. Chekov was surprised to find that he had been holding his breath for some reason.
“He wanted her back,” said Sulu. “I wouldn’t have wanted to be in his way when he went after her!”
Uhura nodded. This was exactly what she had just felt in Kirk, too. He had also had that look which comes into some men’s eyes when they’ve just won a woman and she lies there ready to be taken. Uhura was not unacquainted with that look, but she was troubled at the amount of hunger she had seen there too. (PDF 17)
Damn. These people who have seen Kirk at his worst in the five years they worked together are all unnerved by what Kirk has become. Even better, this confirms my theory that Kirk’s personality change is directly linked to Spock’s departure because if those last two years of the five year mission were so terrible, then why is his old bridge crew so surprised by the changes they see in Kirk? Another sign of change is hinted at when Chapel updates McCoy on her recent notes of Kirk’s behavior, she likens Kirk’s dependency on the Enterprise to someone going through a narcotic withdrawal (PDF 28) McCoy at first thinks she’s off base, but then has to agree with her when he thinks about it. So now the Enterprise is like a drug now? The poor ship is taking a beating in this book along with Kirk, the recovering drug addict in need of a fix.
The best way to sum up the condition Kirk is in before Spock returns is…in the scene right before Spock returns, how convenient. J It is the scene right after Decker saves their asses by overriding Kirk’s authority and leaves the room. The movie only has McCoy laying it out for Kirk, and the novel has that too, but it manages to go a little darker, as you’ll see.
“I intend to keep her?” Kirk said tightly. “Is that what you’re saying, Doctor?”
McCoy was nodding. “And I can tell you exactly how you hope to keep her. Whether you’re actually aware of it or not, Jim, you are gambling that the Intruder will make it possible somehow . . . ”
Kirk heard himself interrupting—and felt the chill of what he believed to be cold anger. Had he just threatened to physically throw McCoy from his cabin? Yes, something ridiculous like that, but McCoy was nevertheless continuing.
“ . . . and if the Intruder is that dangerous, and if you win, there’ll be enough gratitude for you to name what you want. And if you die in the attempt—incidentally taking all of us with you—so what the hell? You’d rather be dead than give this up again, wouldn’t you, Jim?” (PDF 32)
McCoy, scarily, has Kirk’s intentions nailed down. Kirk is flying balls-to-the-wall, people. He’s not only behaving with an obsessed and do-or-die mindset, but he’s not truly aware of his actions. He’s not even aware of what he’s saying because notice that he hears himself interrupting McCoy and feeling the ‘chill of cold anger’ but he doesn’t even remembering threatening to throw McCoy from his cabin. It’s like Kirk has nothing to lose anymore. Kirk is very good at deluding himself. It makes sense that he’d truly not know how deeply Spock’s “abrupt departure” would affect him, and in my opinion, it’s completely valid that he’s even deluding himself into thinking it’s the Enterprise that will make him a whole person again, when even in full command he’s still not the Kirk we know and love. Astonishingly, Kirk actually thinks about giving command back to Decker when McCoy points out his douchebaggery (PDF 33), and that is when he gets news that they’ve got a surprise guest. Why, I wonder what could be arriving on the courier today?