Star Trek: 20 Things Everyone Gets Wrong About Captain Kirk

Captain Kirk is one of the most iconic characters in the history of both television and cinema. He was first brought to life by William Shatner when Star Trek premiered in 1966. That initial run only lasted three years, but left a legacy that remains to this day. Thankfully, people would see more of Trek and Kirk about a decade later with Star Trek: The Motion Picture. The movie itself is of debated quality, but it reinvigorated the series, allowing audiences to see Kirk grow older and ultimately ascend off the mortal coil. Not even this would be the end of the captain, however. In 2009, Star Trek was rebooted, with Chris Pine taking on the role.

Given Kirk's godlike stature in the pop culture pantheon, there is bound to be a lot of misinformation out there about him. Some of the information is spread maliciously, while other falsehoods developed organically with time. With this list, we plan to set the record straight on some of the most prevalent misunderstandings surrounding Captain Kirk. Both William Shatner and Chris Pine's Kirks will be looked at. The character's contribution to pop culture are irrefutable, so it is only right that everybody knows the truth.

So prepare to boldly go where no reader has gone before, because here are the 20 Things Everyone Gets Wrong About Captain Kirk.

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20 He's Not Stoic

Kirk is not infallible, though those unfamiliar with the character may picture him as a beacon of perfection in the dark depths of space, holding ground even as worst hardships are thrown his away. Truthfully, if Kirk were perfect and unmoved by tragedy, he would be pretty boring. Fortunately, the truth is that he constantly fights to keep his emotions in check, and he sometimes loses that battle.

Many times his feelings cloud his judgement, leading to regrettable decisions. After the untimely passing of his son at the hands of Klingons, the captain harbors an intense hatred for the species. He usually stays brave in the face of certain doom, but sometimes it just becomes too much for him.

19 He Has A Brother

Sam Kirk The Original Series

It makes sense for the new timeline to not dwell on every aspect of Kirk's family, but this one would also fly over the heads of those who watched the original six movies. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier has a scene where Kirk and Spock share an emotional moment upon discovering the Vulcan's long lost brother. Kirk refers to Spock as his sibling that he lost, and luckily got back.

This exchange, while heartfelt, completely ignores the fact that Kirk has an actual brother. George Samuel Kirk was the captain's older sibling who was felled by a parasite in the episode, "Operation-Annihilate". Scenes in 2009's Star Trek with his brother were filmed, but ultimately left out.

18 He Isn't Really A Ladies' Man

Kirk Kissing A Woman

Ask someone only slightly knowledgeable on Star Trek to describe Captain Kirk, and they'll probably mention him being successful with the ladies, both human and otherworldly. William Shatner was certainly an attractive man in his younger days, and Chris Pine is still a hunk, but this trait is not really accurate when looking at what Star Trek really is.

Star Trek's universe follows different rules than ours in regards to relationships, but this proved impossible to portray on 1960s television screens. Kirk definitely got around, but so were all of the other characters. It was not shown because only the main character could be out making conquests. Had all of the whoopee been portrayed, censors would have stopped the show from airing at all.

17 He Never Said "Beam Me Up, Scotty"

Star Trek original series transporter console

The Mandela effect has been plaguing society for longer than most people realize. Kirk himself is at the center of one of the most infamous false recollections in popular culture. Everyone gets the reference when the phrase "beam me up, Scotty" is uttered. This refers to Kirk signaling Montgomery Scott to teleport him back to the Enterprise.

It may come as a surprise then to learn that Kirk never says this phrase in the show or movies. He came close a couple of times, but not once will one hear those four words in that particular order. The phrase has become a pop culture mainstay, and likely won't disappear even after people find out the show never used it.

16 William Shatner Is Actually A Great Actor

People who enjoy dumping on Star Trek are all too quick to harshly judge William Shatner's performance as Kirk, throwing around terms like "hammy" and "overacting." These people present their case by cherry picking examples out of context in order to make them look silly.

Shatner is a legend for a reason, and that is because he is a masterful actor. Outside of Trek, he has numerous other venerated roles, such as an episode of the Twilight Zone and a five season stint as Denny Crane on Boston Legal. The next time someone espouses lies about Shatner's acting, just show them The Wrath of Khan. Kirk's eulogy for Spock is executed perfectly, and could only be done by a master of the craft.

15 He Was Revived... Sort Of

Star Trek Generations Kirk's Demise

Kirk is at the center of one Star Trek's most disappointing moments. The captain is eventually felled, ending his life long journey. The actual moment of his demise is well done, it is just unfortunate that it happens in Star Trek: Generations, one of the worst movies in the franchise. As of today, it is the last time William Shatner has portrayed Kirk.

Fortunately, Kirk was revived in a series of books penned by William Shatner (with the help of co-writers). Unfortunately, these books are not canon, instead being dubbed the "Shatnerverse." Anything can happen in this science fiction franchise, so William Shatner coming back as Kirk in a movie is not outside the realm of possibility.

14 He's Not Always A Loose Cannon

Star Trek 2009 Kirk With a Phaser

Kirk is known to be well read. One book that will not be found in his library is the rule book, because he threw that one out the window a long time ago, at least based on people's thinking. When watching the television series and movies, one will ultimately discover that the captain typically adheres to Starfleet's regulations.

There are exceptions, of course, but they only occur when it is absolutely necessary. He is a diligent captain, but he still has his principles, and those take priority over his oath to Starfleet. In the end, though, if he broke the rules so much, he probably would not be venerated and studied by cadets at Starfleet Academy many generations after his untimely passing.

13 He and Uhura didn't share The First Interracial Kiss On TV

Star Trek Interracial Kiss Kirk and Uhura

The leader of the Starship Enterprise is not only fondly remembered for his heroics, but also for breaking new ground in the television medium. William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols are often credited with the first interracial kiss broadcast into homes. This moment comes from the 1968 Star Trek episode "Plato's Stepchildren". It is an important moment in television history, but it was not the first of its kind -- not even close.

The earliest possible occurrence of this dates back to 1959 on television in the UK. There are several well documented occurrences from US broadcasts too. Robert Conrad and Pilar Seurat touched lips in The Wild Wild West, Nancy Sinatra did the same with Sammy Davis Jr. just a year before the Star Trek episode in the 1967 television special Movin' With Nancy.

12 He's Not Always Aiming For A Fight

Chris Pine's Kirk, while a fine interpretation of the character, is often at the heart of a lot of these unfounded ideas. While the new movies may not have created these traits, they have perpetuated them. Most notably, the 2009 films depicts a young Captain Kirk consistently antagonizing people and looking for a fight.

In the Original Series, Kirk could certainly defend himself in hand to hand combat, but it was far from his main priority. Solving problems through non-violent means was a hallmark of Star Trek that made it so special. In "Arena", one of the best episodes of the 1966 television show, audiences even see the captain spare a gorn's life after a brutal fight.

11 He Doesn't Always Win

Star Trek - City on the Edge of Forever

Kirk doesn't believe in no win situations. As a captain, the ship and all of its crew's lives are his responsibility, and the passing of one weighs heavily on his soul. As a result, he refuses to admit any loss as acceptable. It is a noble philosophy for any captain to have, but it does not mean that it is actually true. Kirk unfortunately does lose, and sometimes pays a personal price.

In "City on the Edge of Forever", Kirk goes back in time in order to remedy an error in the timeline. To set history straight, he must allow a woman, with whom he has fallen in love, to be hit by a car. He corrects the timeline, but the ending is downright tragic, especially for 1960s television.

10 He's Not A Party Animal

Audiences get a good laugh at his womanizing ways in Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness. There is even a scene in the latter where he wakes up in bed with two alien women with tails, who appear similar enough to be related. It perpetuates his playboy, womanizing attitude, and also gives people the impression that he is a wild party animal.

A quick gander through the Original Series and six movies will reveal that he is hardly a frat boy, however. He is never seen getting wildly out of hand with his drinking, or hitting on anything that moves. On the contrary, Wrath of Khan's birthday celebration is a highly reserved affair with close friends.

9 The Actual Kobayashi Maru

Chris Pine as Kirk in the Kobayashi Maru Test

Star Trek 2009 is the first time audiences get to see Kirk go through the famed Kobayash Maru test. In the scene, he beats the supposed unwinnable simulation by cheating the system. As a result, he is heavily reprimanded and a hearing is held, led by Tyler Perry in a rare appearance that shows his real face. His detention does not last long, however, as Nero soon shows up to ruin everyone's day.

In the original timeline, this sequence of events turned out differently. He did manipulate the situation in order to beat it, but he was not put into hot water for it. In The Wrath of Khan, Kirk reveals that he was actually commended for his creative thinking.

8 He Didn't Intend To Ruin Khan's Life

Khan and Marla McGivers in Space Seed - Star Trek

Those who haven't watched The Wrath of Khan or its accompanying episode recently may have a fuzzy recollection of the events that transpired. Khans revenge may be incorrectly remembered as a reaction to Kirk's malicious actions against him. Watching the two again, though, will remind you that Kirk was courteous to the conqueror from another time.

When Kirk originally marooned Khan on Ceti Alpha V, it was a harsh environment, but still one capable of supporting life. Only after a neighboring planet exploded did it become a desert wasteland. The truth still paints Khan as a sympathetic villain, but it shows the captain in a better light, since he had nothing but the best intentions for the ruler.

7 He Has A Son

David Marcus - Star Trek III: The Search For Spock

It is easy to forget that Captain Kirk has a family, since his dedication to Starfleet always seems front and center. It also does not help that, throughout the Original Series, he is seen cozying up to several different women. Fans will be quick to point out that, not only does he have a son, but David Marcus is a central character in The Wrath of Khan and The Search for Spock.

Kirk's son is the result of a love affair with Dr. Carol Marcus, who also plays a role in Star Trek Into Darkness. Unfortunately, David is put to the sword by Klingons in the third movie, marking one of the captain's most severe personal tragedies.

6 He's Not Bald

Kirk in Star Trek V

Everyone knows that William Shatner sports a toupee, but one would be hard pressed to find a picture of a bald Shatner floating around on the web. This is an especially impressive feat, as almost nothing escapes the internet's leering gaze these days. Chris Pine better start crossing his fingers that baldness isn't some sort of captain's curse.

It should be noted that though the actor is bald, Captain Kirk himself sports a full head of hair. Yes, the toupee may be a falsehood, but in Trek canon, it is a real mane. Kirk is proud and dignified, and wouldn't hide a bald head, though this isn't meant to criticize Shatner for his choice either.

5 His Upbringing In The Original Timeline Is Actually Darker

Star Trek The Conscience of the king

The 2009 Star Trek movie opens with the USS Kelvin's destruction at the hands of Nero. Aboard the ship is George Samuel Kirk, Sr, who takes control of the vessel moments before it explodes. This event not only changes the whole timeline, but apparently James T. Kirk's personality too. Pine's Kirk seems to have a chip on his shoulder throughout the first movie.

Yes, it is horrible to grow up in a broken home with a bad stepfather, but the captain's upbringing in the Original Series is arguably way worse. In the episode "Conscience of the King", it is revealed that Kirk witnessed the massacre of half an entire colony as a teenager. It's weird to argue which trauma is worse than the other, but witnessing mass slaughter probably takes the cake.

4 He Worked Hard To Become Captain

Kirk in the captain's chair

The year 2009 was the first time audiences got to see the original Enterprise crew as young adults on their first adventure together. Because of this, many may believe that Kirk was fast tracked to the captain's chair in a similar manner during the Original Series. On the contrary, Kirk worked his way through the ranks the old fashioned way, never taking a shortcut.

Kirk is not given command of the Enterprise until he is thirty two years old. A gander through his backstory beforehand shows years of dedicated service in lower ranks. By the time he reaches that high ranking position, he has earned all the respect and admiration that comes with such a responsibility.

3 He's Incredibly Intelligent

Bones Kirk and Spock in Star Trek

The past three Star Trek movies are brimming with action, which was off putting to some veteran fans. This may give people the impression that Kirk is a brute, who does not know squat about life past making things go boom. We rarely get to see Kirk using his noggin in these movies, with the exception of the third one, which has a plot that resembles something closer to the original television show.

In earlier Star Trek fiction, Kirk's wit is on full display as he often finds creative solutions to seemingly impossible situations. Sometimes this does involve using violence, but it was usually a last resort and was not the reason fans watched the show and movies.

2 He's Pretty Selfless

William Shatner as Captain Kirk and Leonard Nimoy as Spock during Spock's death scene in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

Being captain of a space ship does come with perks. It is easy to imagine the captain using his position to get all the best things out of life, from money to dates, but in reality, the job is fairly thankless, save for the occasional ceremony celebrating his accomplishments. He kicks back every once and while to relax like anyone would, but his dedication to Starfleet has meant several personal sacrifices.

In the Original Series, he lost a brother. Then, he lost his best friend. Shortly after that, his only son was violently done away with. The captain really can't catch a break. Despite these losses, though, his commitment to duty and the federation remains unwavering.

1 The New Kirk Is Different For A Reason

Some people take issue with Chris Pine's Kirk. Their gripe is not necessarily with the actor, who does a solid job filling the gargantuan shoes of William Shatner, but with the whole take on the classic character. Every move he makes rubs some fans the wrong way, as they feel the "real" Captain Kirk would not have acted in this manner.

One key difference between the two timelines is the age. The original Captain Kirk first sat in the chair at thirty two years of age. Kirk from the reboot became captain years earlier due to an emergency situation. Given the age difference, it is natural that the two would act differently. Most of the people reading this are probably different than they were a decade ago, and Kirk would be too.


Are there any other other common misconceptions about Star Trek's Captain Kirk? Let us know in the comments!

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