When investigating a unoccupied planet, the ships transporters malfunction after Kirk beams up before the rest of the away team. The malfunction creates a ‘duplicate’ that is comprised of Kirk’s evil side whilst the other side of Kirk becomes even weaker as a result. To make matters worse, the remaining members of the away team are stranded until the transporters can be fixed and the planet gets pretty cold in the late hours.
‘The Enemy Within’ plays out like a battle of two sides that takes place inside each and every one of us every day in our lives. The difference here is that this battle is physical and brought to life, affecting other people as it continues. Most particularly potent is the scene which depicts one of the darkest acts seen in Trek history when evil Kirk attempts to force sex on Yeoman Rand. Not only do both actors play it fantastically with a high level of tension and brutal ugliness but the message it gets across is one of the strong points of the episode.
Throughout the opening scenes of Enemy Within, we are treated to a whole host of amusing scenes involving both sides of Kirk roaming the Enterprise and interacting with the crew he has known for so long in such different manners. There is a definite sense of Kirk in both, probably more so in ‘good Kirk’ but Shatner provides us with an excellent performance, depicting both sides entertainingly and realistically. What I found most effective was his portrayal of good Kirk’s slow but gradual weakened mind due to the ‘tough’ side of him being missing. The progress is never rushed from one extreme to the other and develops perfectly throughout the course of the plot. Sure he chews scenery now and then but I didn’t mind it, in fact the episode probably wouldn’t be as good as it is without it. In the end both versions come off as intriguing yet familiar, and that’s what makes the threat of such a duplication even more engaging and less of a generic threat that has no real ties to the crew themselves.
During the earlier half of the episode Spock made a rather interesting speech to Kirk on the matter of a captain’s duty to keep his vulnerabilities to himself in order to keep order stored within the crew. It’s a topic that I near touched on in my review of ‘Where No Man Has Gone Before’ where it seems Kirk does exactly that when personal issues with his best friend arise and he doesn’t show much emotion as it happens around his officers. I didn’t find it particularly insightful but simply saw it as a good way to confirm how the future form of ‘military’ works, which is often very similar to our present days attitudes, and seems the case here.
Following this the episode begins to shift focus, showing more of the good and bad sides of each character rather than just representing one as good and the other as evil. At first it isn’t directly stated, in fact I noticed it a good 5 minutes before anything was said but nonetheless, it shows the director knew what he was doing. We begin to see that both sides of Kirk need each other just as much as each other not just to function properly and morally but to function as a ship’s captain. Without Kirk’s rough side it seems, Kirk lacks any real sense of command and ability to keep order. However as McCoy states to Kirk later on, without the good side of Kirk, he wouldn’t have his intelligence and moral judgement to rely on in difficult situations. Furthermore McCoy makes an interesting move in claiming that human courage may jus come from those things as when both confronted each other, evil Kirk was scared but good Kirk wasn’t. It’s this sort of discussion between characters that I love about Star Trek, not only does it offer entertaining and intelligent dialogue to take place but it offers an endless amount of discussion to take place afterwards.
Somewhere during the middle section of Enemy Within we get one of our first classic Kirk/Spock/McCoy moments. It all just works fantastically and the chemistry the three have from only knowing each other for so long is almost a prediction of how far these guys will come with each other and the developments that will take place between them. During the rather short debate however, Spock makes a comparison to the situation to that of his battle taking place between the Human and Vulcan side of himself everyday. This works as a good comparison because just a week earlier we seen him eventually break down as a result of the conflict created, but only because he was intoxicated. Spock claims that his intelligence eventually overcomes all conflict and unites both sides peacefully, which in turn shows Kirk what he (as the intelligence) must do.
The battle eventually comes to a conclusion on board the bridge where both meet and evil Kirk begins to hope that the other crew members will be uncertain who is the good Kirk but alas it fails. This is another nice touch that reaffirms how well the crew know their captain and how well the captain knows his crew. In the final sequences, we are treated to some brilliant acting by Shatner and direction by Penn which depicts both sides of Kirk in their most extremes before they finally surrender to each other in recognition of their weakness without each other. I liked this move also; more often than not we would have a battle ensue with the good Kirk coming out on top. Usually his shirt would be ripped as a result too no doubt but thankfully, this battle is won through mutual understanding which stands as a far more effective ending to a compelling and interesting look at both extremes of human nature.
“I’ve seen a part of myself that no man should ever see” Kirk informs Spock back on the bridge, back to his old self and he couldn’t be truer. Nobody every likes acknowledging the dark parts of themselves, nevertheless we have to deal with them everyday, never mind having to look them in eye and realising we need them.
For me, ‘The Enemy Within’ is a classic episode on all parts. In no way is it flawless, in fact I had a hard time trying to buy the freezing away team subplot but whatever reasons I have or not liking the episode are ruthlessly overshadowed by the reasons I have for loving it; Two highly interesting versions of captain Kirk, an excellent performance by Shatner and the rest of the cast, effective direction and character analysis, top-quality dialogue and a captivating science fiction plot that keeps you interested throughout. Brilliant stuff.