Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Questionable Trek vol. 30

A couple weeks ago we asked about Captain Kirk's best qualities, but no man is perfect... except maybe me. :) So maybe we should flip that around?

Question: "What is Capt. James T. Kirk's worst quality as a leader?"

Scott's Answer: I struggled with this one. I really did. An exhaustive Google search came up with all sorts of articles with titles like "Captain Kirk's Best Qualities" but with no mention of his flaws. At the end of the day, I'd say that he could come across as arrogant now and then. Not all the time, mind you, but it was there. On one hand, I suppose a touch of arrogance is required to attain a position like his. On the other hand, sometimes you just want to say, "Dude, you don't know everything!" [smile]

Andrew's Answer: Kirk has flaws? Who knew? Actually, I don't think he does, at least not in the series. In the films, sure, but that's not the real Kirk. So I'm going to go a little philosophical on this one. I think Kirk's biggest problem is that he makes no room in his life for a family. Kirk focuses so excessively on his duty that he's become rather one-dimensional and I that while this makes him an incredible leader, it also will deprive him of the things that are most important in life. It makes me feel sad for him.


Commander Max said...

This sort of thing is all about perception.

Plus STTOS was a product of it's day, at that time they played up different qualities. Kirk was written as the ideal commander, confident, always making the right decisions. Not unlike the public image of many military figures at the time. Family was something you stayed away from, not that it wasn't important. More like it was none of your business. In leadership you do not show weakness, something out current embarrassment and chief should have learned.

In my opinion the character's weakness would have been womanizing. Which would not have been considered a weakness in leadership, but in morality.

shawn said...

Oh sure, he gets all the credit and all the Leg, but what about us?

Dead Redshirts.

Tennessee Jed said...

I'm with Commander Max - if you have to name a weakness, it's that he is Captain James T. Horndog. Alien sex? You betcha! And, if Kirk were around in the 90's, there just may have been a yeoman Lewinsky.

BIG MO said...

His one weakness? Hmmm... Perhaps General Chang from ST: VI said it best: Kirk "violated the chain of command whenever it suited him." Since the "violations" always turned out for the better, Starfleet looked the other way, and maybe even encouraged it.

Possibly another would be repeatedly taking most or all of his command staff with him down to planets (science/first officer and the heads of medical and engineering). One good shot from a potential enemy -- or a vengeful Redshirt -- would have decapitated the Enterprise command.

Also: Andrew, your comment about TOS Kirk being the "real" Kirk is quite interesting. I had never thought about it that way before, but in a sense you're right, because the movie Kirk has one over-all theme (for lack of a better word): family. Kirk feels his age -- more precisely, his career's age -- and when he meets the adult David in TWOK, he laments about "my life that could have been." Losing David right after losing Spock wounded him deeply, and he took refuge in his rightful place: commanding a starship, his de facto family.

Of course, he doesn't show that to the crew, and really only lowers his personal shields somewhat to Bones. The same is true for Kirk in the series, as just about the only time he gets intensely personal is once again to McCoy, when Kirk let Edith Keeler die.

So, the "true" Kirk is his public and private persona, and he really only lets McCoy see behind the curtains.

(Does that make sense? I'm running on little sleep here.)

BIG MO said...

Jed - A "yeoman Lewinsky" - Ha! Glad I wasn't drinking my coffee when I read that.

tryanmax said...

I keep going back to that stupid green wrap. What the heck was that? Fashion sense is Kirk's major flaw.

Anonymous said...

Oddly enough, I almost supplied an answer not unlike Andrew's answer.

But then I thought about it. Sure, Kirk never found time for a family but that in itself isn't a weakness (okay, maybe it is a little), but it's not like the show wallowed in it every episode. In fact, the whole "lonliness of command" trope was built in to the show, and was even mentioned in the original series bible (part of the Hornblower influence). If the show were being made today with bigger stakes and more plot and character arcs, then yeah, I'd expect it to be addressed more often.

Of all the films, Trek II touched on this the most but then it resolves itself by the end, or at least by the end of the fourth film. And Kirk and Picard talk about it in Generations but all the Nexus stuff in that film was handled so ham-handedly (albeit with good intentions) that I don't take it that seriously.. because it doesn't cohere into anything.

By the way, I'm writing this from home because the server at work went down and they have nothing for me to do. Such is life working for a small business where one bad connection or line of code can ruin a whole day's work.

AndrewPrice said...

Shawn, Yeah, I would not want to be a redshirt under Kirk. That's the kiss of death!

AndrewPrice said...

Max, I think it's a testament to Kirk that they could write him without weaknesses and still create a compelling character. Normally, when you get a character without weaknesses, you get a really character. Not so here.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, That would be hilarious! A yeoman Lewinsky! :)

AndrewPrice said...

Big Mo, I think the series Kirk shows his full personality -- you see him in command, with friends, with lovers. You see him go through the whole range of his personality. He even wrestles with the family thing a couple times.

But the film Kirk is more of a caricature of the original combined this heavy-handed depression about suddenly being too old -- he's really one-note on this throughout the films. Even when he isn't in full-on depression, he's still not the same character.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Yep, that was horrible. If there was one thing to fix digitally, it was that!

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I think the lack-of-family, growing-too-old themes permeate the films. They start in I and don't stop until the very end where they seem to decide that they are all each others' family. I find the films depressing in that regard.

And I do understand that the loneliness of command idea was built into the series, but they make it clear that's a really high price to pay and Kirk probably doesn't really need to pay it. Also, I think it's something many professionals can relate to.

ellenB said...

Difficult question. I would say that Kirk can be a hothead initial at times, but that's part of the drama.

ellenB said...

Scott, That happens at big companies too.

Anonymous said...

ellen -

I don't doubt it, though I've spent most of the last decade as a temp (I.E. not important enough to be told about the problems!) This is the first job I've had in a while where I wasn't a temporary person, but an actual integral part of the operation (which should give you a good idea of the operation). :-D

And I can't disagree about the hotheadedness but it does bring to mind how TV is written and how certain writers bring different things to the table. (Some might "specialize" in hotheadness, for example.) :-)

Individualist said...

Kirk's one flaw is the same as President Obama. He has too many awkward pauses in his speech. - - Just kidding

Seriously though I think that one flaw might be impetiousness. At times this serves him well since he boldy goes where his choices lead him but on more than one occasion this has cost him somewhat.

AndrewPrice said...

Ellen, There is that. Fortunately, he's rarely paid for that flaw because he's very good at readjusting his strategies.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, It happens everywhere. And the bigger the server, the longer it can take to get it running again.

I would imagine that certain writers "specialize" or at least tend to write the same thing over and over.

AndrewPrice said...

Indi, I think that's what Ellen is saying and I can definitely see that as a flaw. Fortunately for him, he's always managed to solve the problem and change course before the episode ends.

Alex said...

A lot of interesting comments here. I never really thought of Kirk as having a "worst" quality, though I would have to say I tend to agree with Big Mo: Kirk violates the prime directive, and just about any other rule, whenever it suits him--a touch of "the ends justify the means." Starfleet is just lucky that Kirk's ends are always the right ends, since Kirk knows no other way than to do the right thing.

And his womanizing being a problem? Guy's a single dude traveling through space! I'd be bagging every alien chick that threw themselves at me, too!

PikeBishop said...

C'mon guys, you actually have to ask this queston. Kirk? The biggest pussy hound in outer space?

If he could have kept it in his pants on so many occasions, we wouldn't have had a plot.

Once again, I just imagine the Romulan equivelant of a 2nd Lt. giving his power point briefing,

"Just throw a nude Orion slave girl in chains at Kirk and he is completely in our power.

AndrewPrice said...

Alex, He does indeed violate Star Fleet rules, but I see that more as him not being rule-bound like a bureaucrat.

AndrewPrice said...

PikeBishop, That might be an effective strategy, but I'm thinking Kirk wouldn't be fooled. He always does his duty first.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Hmm. I can't think of any character flaws, at least not consistent ones.
From a tactical pov I would say it's unwise for the Captain (especially accompanied by Spock and/or Scotty) to explore or investigate a place or alien they know nothing about, but I understand it would get pretty boring if that didn't happen, like a cop show that never solves crimes faster than real time (months/years/never) would be.

As for violating rules when it suits him: I never got that impression. Kirk only violates the rules when it's the right thing to do, like a true leader would.

IOW's, rules can be wrong sometimes, since not every situation can be anticipated, and Kirk recognized when the rules and doing the right thing clashed, and he always chose the right thing to do.

Personally, I wouldn't wanna work for a leader that is bound by rules so much he or she places them on a pedastal over and above doing the right thing.

By the book is fine, as far as it goes, but it doesn't go far enough to always discern right n' wrong.

The best soldiers/sailors/marines/cops, etc., don't always go "by the book."
Particularly the best leaders don't.

It's impossible to inspire those under your command if you consider rules or "the chain of command" to be more important than they are.

Or if you are willing to violate principles (the right thing) over rules.

Not saying rules ain't important, just that principles and good character and good leadership are more important.

That's a distinction the Klingon General in ST6 didn't understand about Kirk's violation of the rules as opposed to his own.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

As for Kirk's womanizing, I suppose that could be seen as a weakness and a strength, since Kirk's charisma with the ladies has also helped him out of some jams, perhaps more than it ever hurt him.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, In truth, I don't think Kirk had flaws. A lot of the flaws people identify, like the womanizing, really weren't the way people want to remember them. To the contrary, the womanizing was typically some woman throwing herself at Kirk and Kirk refusing whatever she wanted so he could do the right thing in the episode. It's more of a caricature that he went after these women.

As for violating the rules, he did have a lot of latitude because of his unique position, and his decisions were always ratified by Star Fleet when he did break the rules.

RGallegos said...

I say letting the exercise routine slack as the seaon went on....Ha! Bill Shatner rules!!!!!

AndrewPrice said...

RGallegos, LOL! Yeah. Kirk kind of fell out of shape, didn't he?

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