The Enemy Within

Star Trek has a tendency to underscore philosophical themes, with its morality tales and humanistic approach, but I especially appreciate this episode because I feel like it emphasized psychology over philosophy. That’s not to say that there is no philosophy in The Enemy Within – indeed, it is an ancient concept that there is good and evil in every man. As science and our understanding of the human mind has evolved, however, our concepts of the mind and behavior have become more grounded, and psychology has taken over. I will use these different points of view to interpret this episode.

Kirks embracing

“Good” Kirk finally embraces his “Bad” side

The philosophical viewpoint that The Enemy Within most embodies is the Chinese concept of yin and yang. This is an ancient belief of the balance and interdependency of seemingly contrary things. Though “good” Kirk and “bad” Kirk are at opposite ends of the behavioral spectrum, they cannot exist without each other – Dr. McCoy points out that they will die if not reintegrated. It is the balance of the two extremes that makes Captain Kirk a whole man, as well as an effective leader. McCoy says, “without the negative side, you wouldn’t be the captain – you couldn’t be, and you know it.” The philosophical lesson learned is that yin and yang – good and evil – are actually complementary, not opposing, forces, and that their combination forms something greater than the sum of its parts – in this case, Captain James T. Kirk.

Screaming Kirk

“Bad” Kirk’s boundless rage and lack of inhibition perfectly embodies the id

Moving into the realm of psychology, one can find elements of the Freudian model (the id, ego, and super-ego) in The Enemy Within. “Bad” Kirk is the embodiment of the id: primal, instinctual, and pursuing only what can satisfy his own personal desires. “Good” Kirk represents the super-ego: morality and conscience. So what of the ego? Following the concept of the Freudian model, it was essentially removed by the transporter accident. Though some elements of the ego – intellect in particular – appear in “good” Kirk, the main purpose of the ego is to sit in balance of the id and super-ego, moderating the conflict between the selfish and the selfless. Without the two residing in the same vessel, there is no place for the ego, and Kirk basically has none during this episode. Freud’s original definition of the ego pertained to a “sense of self”, and it is obvious that both Kirks lacked this sense, and were therefore incomplete. Each body was little more than a sack of personality traits, both less than half a man, lacking the glue that is ego holding them together.

Half-raped Rand

While the word “rape” was never used, we all know what almost happened

A more modern understanding of psychology has led to a different model encompassing what is known as the Big 5 – a collection of personality traits – which is known as the Five Factor Model (FFM). In looking at these factors, and the traits encompassed by the categories, we found that the two Kirks tended to be on the opposite ends of each spectrum. The most obvious of these is Agreeableness: with his cooperation and compassion, “good” Kirk ranks very high on this scale, while “bad” Kirk, with his coldness, cruelty and open antagonism, ranks very low. Also very clear is where the two rank on Neuroticism: “good” Kirk’s anxious lack of self-confidence displays his high level of Neuroticism; “bad” Kirk is obviously full of himself and eventually settles in to an eerie, cool control which is able to briefly fool the rest of the crew – even Spock – into believing he is the “real Kirk”. There is also a good example of their difference in Extraversion shortly after the transporter accident – “bad” Kirk goes to sickbay, strong-arms McCoy into giving him booze, and gets more than a little rapey on Yeoman Rand; meanwhile, “good” Kirk goes to his quarters, lies down, then takes a shower. The two Kirks are undoubtedly representations of the two opposite extremes of Kirk’s personality, but by looking at the FFM, we can delve deeper into this division and identify the personality traits on which they are opposites.

It is said several times during this episode that “good” Kirk has all the intellect, but none of the decision-making ability or willpower, whereas “bad” Kirk has all the strength of will, but no intellect. By applying these models of philosophy and psychology, we can analyze the two Kirks, not only in terms of how they are different but why they need each other to survive. It goes to show that all the intellect in the galaxy is useless without the capacity for decision-making; the willpower to put it to use.


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