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Charles Evans

I'm watching TOS, and coincidentally found this essay arguing that Captain Kirk's reputation for toxic masculinity has largely been added to our collective memory. TOS Kirk wasn't nearly as brash or promiscuous as claimed. So it's interesting going into TOS with fresh eyes.

"Charlie X" was the second episode to air, and the third in Netflix order. "Charlie X" opens with the Enterprise picking up a passenger from a cargo ship. Charlie is the sole survivor of a spaceship crash who has miraculously survived from age 3 to 17 on his own. The Enterprise crew are initially befuddled, but not overly suspicious of this story at first.

Charlie immediately crushes on the first woman he meets, Yeoman Janice Rand. Charlie sees a male crew member smacking another on the ass, so he does it to Rand. She awkwardly tells him not to. Charlie's sexual harassment escalates to the point where Kirk is asked to intervene as the ersatz father figure. Kirk gives a dialogue about consent and shuts down Charlie's nice-guy(tm) act:

CHARLIE: What if you care for someone? What do you do?

KIRK: You go slow. You be gentle. I mean, it's not a one-way street. You know, “how you feel” and that's all. It's how the girl feels, too. Don't press, Charlie. If the girl feels anything for you at all, you'll know it. Do you understand?

CHARLIE: You don't think Janice … You … She could love me!

KIRK: She's not the girl, Charlie. The years are wrong, for one thing, and there are other things.

CHARLIE: She can.

KIRK: No, Charlie.

CHARLIE: She is.


CHARLIE: But if I did what you said! If I was gentle!

KIRK: Charlie, there are a million things in this universe you can have and there are a million things you can't have. It's no fun facing that, but that's the way things are.

CHARLIE: Then what am I going to do?

KIRK: Hang on tight and survive. Everybody does.

CHARLIE: You don't.

KIRK: Everybody, Charlie. Me, too.

The script's dancing around issues of sexual harassment is cringeworthy in parts (particularly Uhura accusing Spock of being a ladykiller), but it's not Zap Brannigan or J. J. Abrams' Kirk either. The mid-episode twist is that Charlie has god-like powers. Kirk can't do much more than verbally disapprove of Charlie's actions (which he does in most scenes). A deus ex machina happens at the end where godlike aliens appear in a glowing spaceship to give the homicidal godlike adolescent a much-needed timeout.

The episode suffers from multiple continuity issues. The Antares is described as a cargo ship in one scene and a scientific ship in a later scene. Kirk walks into a turbolift wearing one shirt and comes out of it wearing another.

It's worthwhile to note that the first two episodes also don't follow the common wisdom regarding Star Trek captains either. Captain Pike spends the entirety of "The Cage" refusing to have sex, or even consider having sex with the women in the episode. In "The Man Trap," Kirk meets a telepathic alien and sees her as a non-idealized wife of a scientist (unlike McCoy or Ensign Expendable who see fantasy women.)

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