Posted by: mulrickillion | March 6, 2012

The Case Against Capt James T. Kirk: “Hero of the Galaxy” or “Casanova of the Cosmos”?

By M. Ulric Killion


(Image via Wikipedia).

Recently, I was reminded about Captain James T. Kirk, who was the Federation of Planets (“Federation”) Starfleet commander of the USS Enterprise. The role of Captain Kirk (played by William Shatner) was the leading role in a host of characters in the first version of the popular American television series—Star Trek, which debuted in 1966 and ran for three seasons on NBC television.

First, there was a sighting at Craig Hill’s blog, though a discussion about a later version of Star Trek,  and then, again, today there is the sighting at Forbes magazine, which is Alex Knapp’s article, “Five Leadership Lessons From James T. Kirk”.

I also took the second sighting as a confirmation that I should write a blog article about the earlier series and its leading character—Captain Kirk. This does not imply criticism of the later versions or series; it is just that, at least for me, there will always be something special about the original version and artists or actors, and their characters, such as Captain Kirk.

The two sightings also served to remind me of a conversation many years ago with a friend about Captain Kirk. My friend strongly intimated that he was a sexist, which I took to mean a sort of predatory sexist. In support of her position, she mentioned that in every episode he is putting the moves on a beautiful woman. After thinking about this for a minute, and in defense, I replied, well, I don’t think that it was “every” episode.

It was not much of a defense, because perhaps what made the character so likable to us was Shatner’s ability to portray the hero as human with human needs and desires. In other words, Captain Kirk could be said to have been somewhat of a “playboy,” which is a character that might arguably reflect an American culture of  the late-1960s.

On this issue, however, I think that it is only fair to allow the reader to judge for himself or herself the morality of our hero—Captain Kirk.

3-6-2012 4-53-51 AM

Photo Source: Captain Kirk’s Guide to Women, by John “Bones” Rodriguez (2008) (Amazon).

In the way of evidence, there is the characterization of Captain Kirk, in John “Bones” Rodriguez’s book, “Captain Kirk’s Guide to Women,” The book description speaks for itself, and reads,

CAPTAIN KIRK’S GUIDE TO WOMEN is the only warp-powered romance manual for anyone who seeks to become a Casanova of the Cosmos. Written with charm and humor, along with fanatic-level detail and the kind of pointy-eared logic even a green-blooded Vulcan would find fascinating, CAPTAIN KIRK’S GUIDE TO WOMEN will teach you:

How to kiss your way out of space-jail

Increase her self-esteem

The top pickup lines of the 23rd century

How to Awaken Her Passion

When it’s time to "de-brief" your mission

However, the case against Captain Kirk, the evidence of his promiscuity notwithstanding, is a weak one. Any issues of wrongdoings by virtue of his promiscuity would have to be judged according to the laws of the Federation, which are standards borrowed or transplanted from U.S. laws, because the Federation’s principle place of business is the United States on Planet Earth, and this is also where the cause of action arises.

This brings us to the questions of morality and what, if any, legal wrongdoings occurred during his adventures. Indeed, his promiscuities present a problem because the alleged acts may be in violation of sexual harassment laws, and also may have occurred while he was on duty aboard the USS Enterprise.

The problem, however, is the lack of evidence substantiating that any of the previously mentioned instances involve personnel that the Federation employs and that Captain Kirk directly supervises; thus, Captain Kirk did not commit acts against others that would reasonably (i.e., by a preponderance of the evidence) constitute acts creating a hostile work environment, which would have been in violation of the applicable sexual harassment laws.

As for the issue of morality, it is an altogether different issue, because “morality” standing alone constitutes a violation of neither Federation law nor U.S. law.

With that being said, whether or not you judge Captain Kirk a “Casanova of the Cosmos,” there are actually many dimensions to his character. After all, he is a hero and protector of the galaxy, though somewhat also arguably a womanizer, if not outright sexist in some respects.

This also brings us to the point of Alex Knapp’s article (Forbes magazine), because Knapp allows us a glimpse at the better side of Captain Kirk, and perhaps the real reason for our fascination with him through the years. ‘

He does so by drawing from the weekly series a portrayal of Captain Kirk as the leader, who, more importantly, weekly exhibits the qualities we desire in our leaders; thus, the archetypal leader as a role model for all leaders and models. An excerpt from Alex Knapp’s article reads,

Kirk’s success was no fluke, either. His style of command demonstrates a keen understanding of leadership and how to maintain a team that succeeds time and time again, regardless of the dangers faced. Here are five of the key leadership lessons that you can take away from Captain Kirk as you pilot your own organization into unknown futures.

1. Never Stop Learning

“You know the greatest danger facing us is ourselves, an irrational fear of the unknown. But there’s no such thing as the unknown– only things temporarily hidden, temporarily not understood”. . . .

2. Have Advisors With Different Worldviews

“One of the advantages of being a captain, Doctor, is being able to ask for advice without necessarily having to take it.”

Kirk’s closest two advisors are Commander Spock, a Vulcan committed to a philosophy of logic, and Dr. Leonard McCoy, a human driven by compassion and scientific curiosity. . . .

3. Be Part Of The Away Team

“Risk is our business. That’s what this starship is all about. That’s why we’re aboard her.”

Whenever an interesting or challenging mission came up, Kirk was always willing to put himself in harm’s way by joining the Away Team. . . .

4. Play Poker, Not Chess

“Not chess, Mr. Spock. Poker. Do you know the game?”

In one of my all-time favorite Star Trek episodes, Kirk and his crew face down an unknown vessel from a group calling themselves the “First Federation.” Threats from the vessel escalate until it seems that the destruction of the Enterprise is imminent. . . .

5. Blow up the Enterprise

“‘All I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.’ You could feel the wind at your back in those days. The sounds of the sea beneath you, and even if you take away the wind and the water it’s still the same. The ship is yours. You can feel her. And the stars are still there, Bones.”

One recurring theme in the original Star Trek series is that Kirk’s first love is the Enterprise. . . . Despite that love, though, there came a point in Star Trek III: The Search For Spock, where Captain Kirk made a decision that must have pained him enormously – in order to defeat the Klingons attacking him and save his crew, James Kirk destroyed the Enterprise. . . .

Source: Five Leadership Lessons From James T. Kirk – Forbes

Knapp’s article, the morality and promiscuity of Captain Kirk notwithstanding, essentially tells us by what means was Kirk able to repeatedly rise to the occasion when duty calls. While Kirk may well have been the “Casanova of the Cosmos,” he is more importantly a “Hero of the Galaxy.”

Finally, at the end of the day, he is simply the irreplaceable Captain James T. Kirk, Federation Starfleet commander of the USS Enterprise.

Copyright protected: All Rights Reserved by M. Ulric Killion, 2012.



  1. Surely it’s normal for a single male to chase the ladies? Kirk never got married and his flings were generally with ladies he met on his journeys – it’s not like he had a harem aboard the enterprise is it? I sometimes wonder why it’s considered “sexist” by folks for people to behave like people – if he’d have smacked every woman’s bottom and told them to “run along little lady” – that would be sexist…

    Anyway great piece and I’m 100% with you on this one. 🙂

    • Well, 100% agreement is a rarity and compliment from you. Otherwise, you make good points about his sexism. However, the problem is his making a move on a woman in nearly every episode in the workplace. This, I think could “smack” of sexual harassment if these women were employees of the Federation and/or directly under his supervision or command. The USS enterprise is a warship, not a luxury liner or cruise ship. Otherwise, thanks for your comment. 🙂

  2. Thanks for the reference to my site. I think it is understandable that Kirk would be interested in meeting women, just as much as meeting aliens and people in general, and experiencing new sights and adventures.

    I think it is quite normal for men, and women, to be attracted to others, especially in such high risk and life threatening situations as Kirk seemed to get himself into. He seemed a little like the Tim Taylor (Home Improvements) of the universe, as he often caused the problems he drew everybody into.

    • You are more than welcome, and may have been responsible for this article as my muse, notwithstanding last night’s single malt. Yes, it normal for the attraction between men and women, but one ought to behave oneself at work. In other words, whether we should condone his promiscuities is dependent on whether the objections of his affections were people he supervises in the workplace. You are also right; he might well have been an earlier version of Tim Allen. Good point and thank you for your comment. 🙂

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