Friday, December 2, 2022

Captain Kirk's Enemy Within

Today’s blog post is brought to you by Paramount Plus and Unicorn Doggo.

Recently, after finishing the first season of Strange New Worlds, I started watching the Original Series (logical place to go). It’s cheesy and the effects suck compared to 21st Century special effects. But the storytelling is timeless (I’ve said the same thing about Classic Doctor Who). Working my way through the first season, “The Enemy Within” caught my attention.

If you need a refresher, “The Enemy Within” features Captain Kirk being split in two during a transporter malfunction. We end up with a “good” Kirk and a “bad” Kirk. But naturally as the story progresses, it would be too straightforward for it to be a matter of good and bad. I mean just look at this conversation between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy:

Captain Kirk: What's the matter with me? 

Spock: Judging from my observations, Captain, you're rapidly losing the power of decision.

Dr. McCoy: You have a point, Spock?

Spock: Yes. Always, Doctor. We have here an unusual opportunity to appraise the human mind, or to examine, in Earth terms, the roles of good and evil in a man: his negative side, which you call hostility, lust, violence, and his positive side, which Earth people express as compassion, love, tenderness.

Dr. McCoy: It's the captain's guts you're analyzing. Are you aware of that, Spock?

Spock: Yes, and what is it that makes one man an exceptional leader? We see indications that it is his negative side which makes him strong, that his "evil" side, if you will, properly controlled and disciplined, is vital to his strength. Your negative side removed from you, the power of command begins to elude you.

Captain Kirk: What is your point, Mr. Spock?

Spock: If your power of command continues to weaken, you'll soon be unable to function as captain.

I wrote before about there being “grace in our failings” (as Vision put it), but I want to expand on that and relate it to Captain Kirk’s experience. As Alma taught his son Shiblon, “bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love” (Alma 38:12). As noted by Spock, Kirk’s “evil” side was driven, powerful, and passionate. But by reigning these traits in with his “good” side, he’s able to be a stronger leader. In fact, without his “evil” side, he had lost his ability to make decisions and lead the Enterprise.

Similarly, in an Animorphs book, Rachel got split in two and ends up with a “mean” side and a “nice” side. Like Captain Kirk, we’re kind of meant to feel that her “mean” side was evil. However, as the story progresses, it turns out neither side was evil. The “mean” Rachel has unbridled rage, anger, and drive… but she has no ability to act on anything but impulse. On the flip side, “nice” Rachel was too scared and timid to do anything, but she had foresight and was able to plan a battle like a war general. In our biggest vices often lie our strongest virtues. Can't have one without the other.

You can’t have the good without the bad. To quote Father Lehi, “it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass” (2 Nephi 2:11). So the drive we have to act, to take care of ourselves (even in unhealthy ways), and to live may feel in conflict with our divine potential. But to wish away our dark side, we just end up with more problems (just ask Regina after she split herself from the Evil Queen). Both sides are needed. By bridling the “dark side”, we’re able to use that drive and those passions (as Alma phrased it) to move forward the work of salvation, to serve our families, and change the world.

It's a good time for some self-compassion.

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