The Shipping News: Kirk/Spock Edition

From November 1st to November 3rd, the Embassy Suites at Boston’s Logan Airport will host the 2013 KiScon, the fourteenth incarnation of the convention dedication solely to Kirk/Spock, both from the original series and JJ Abrams‘ recent reboot. This was the perfect excuse (occasion, I mean the perfect occasion) to devote an entire column to the most popular slash pairing of all times, so I jumped on the opportunity like a Denevan parasite. Whether you are a Trekkie, a casual fan or a K/S skeptic, you should learn a thing or two about the One Slash Fandom to Rule Them All.

kirkdesk spock desk
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What’s so great about Kirk and Spock, exactly?

You might know them as K/S, Spirk, Spork or Space Husbands. What was the true extent of their relationship? Gene Roddenberry used the Vulcan term “t’hy’la” to explain their bond in his novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, making Kirk and Spock “friends, brothers, lovers”—a fitting description for the pairing that fathered the slash fandom as we know it today.

Roddenberry’s creative development of Star Trek began in 1964, with the proposal of a Wagon Train-like television series set in space for which the episodes would combine an adventure story and a “moral lesson of the day” conclusion. The first pilot submitted, “The Cage”, didn’t feature the crew we know today, but rather Captain Pike and his female first officer, Number One (played by Roddenberry’s future wife, Majel Barrett, who would later play Nurse Chapel). This pilot was rejected, but NBC requested a second pilot, “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, starring William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy as Kirk and Spock, respectively. It is widely believed by K/S fans that this second incarnation of Star Trek didn’t stray from the original relationship intended between the captain and his second officer, something of a vaguely romantic nature originally designed for a heterosexual duo. Fact or speculation? It’s tough to say—because even Gene Roddenberry himself never gave the fans a clear answer. When asked about it, he confirmed that there were “love overtones” to the relationship between Kirk and Spock, and that even though he “never suggested [...] physical love between the two” in the series, he “certainly had the feeling that the affection was sufficient for that”. I’m counting this one as a win.

'Altair and Vega' by Athew‘Altair and Vega’ by Athew

 For those of you late to the party by a few decades, here’s what you need to know about the characters of Kirk and Spock as depicted in the original series: James T. Kirk is the human captain of the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701). He loves his starship more than anything else, but he’s also very fond of women, and his entire identity revolves around a compulsive need to ignore Starfleet’s Prime Directive, which is not to interfere with the internal development of alien civilizations. Spock, who initially appears to belong on the opposite end of the “reckless and emotionally driven” spectrum, is a science officer aboard the Enterprise, as well as Kirk’s first officer. He is half-human on his mother’s side, a heritage he vehemently rejects as he grew up on Vulcan and has been taught that following logic is preferable to being motivated by one’s feelings. If you think this sounds some other familiar couple, you’re not mistaken at all; tons of pairings in both canon and fanon follow a similar pattern of opposites working together and complementing each other—Mulder/Scully (The X-Files) and Destiel (Supernatural), to only name two. At the start of the original series’ first season, the friendship between Kirk and Spock appears to have been established prior to their graduation from Starfleet Academy. However, their bond progressively gets stronger in ways the audience can clearly notice, ultimately making them look like a married couple by the time we reach the six movies produced after the animated series.

Are K/S shippers just seeing things? Could it be that the slash movement was just spawned from the closest thing to homoerotic subtext one could find at the time, without any real material to support it? I’m tempted to say “of course not” right way, but I’d rather let you decide for yourself after a quick look at what I consider to be the 5 best on-screen K/S moments in Star Trek history.


The Kirk/Spock Top 5

5. The Backrub [1x15, Shore Leave]

  Star Trek back rub
(Source)

This scene might be the most convincing argument one can make in favor of intentional Kirk/Spock subtext, and it happens in the very first season of the series. You can watch it on Youtube, but here’s a convenient summary of what happens: Kirk complains about a kink in his back while Spock is standing behind him, not-so-subtly asking Spock for a backrub. It’s however a pretty yeoman who takes the matter into her own hands (literally), unbeknownst to him. Kirk encourages who he thinks is Spock to “push harder” and “dig it in there Mr. Spock”—at which point Spock purposely steps into view, revealing that he wasn’t the one giving him the backrub. Kirk’s tone immediately changes, and he asks the woman to stop. Let me rephrase that: Kirk asks a pretty woman to stop touching him because she’s not Spock. No matter how you interpret it, it’s very difficult to come to a skeptical conclusion.

4. “You Sexy Thing (I Believe in Miracles)” [1x23, A Taste of Armageddon]

Star Trek Taste of Armageddon(Source)

Forgive the reference to the Hot Chocolate song—it’s the first thing that comes to mind whenever I watch this scene.  At the end of the episode, Spock remarks that Kirk took a big chance; he tells him that a feeling is not much to go on. Kirk replies that sometimes, a feeling as all humans have to go on. This is then followed by one of my favorite exchanges in the entire series, and a line every Kirk/Spock fan knows: “Captain, you almost make me believe in luck.” “Why, Mr. Spock—you almost make me believe in miracles.” Now, I’m not sure what directions Shatner was given when they filmed that scene, but the only rational explanation I can come up with is that he was told something like, “Hey Bill, when you say your line, make sure you look at Leonard like you’re madly in love with him and he’s the most precious thing in the universe.” I’m not one to argue that looks prove anything, romantic or otherwise, but the affection here is extremely obvious.

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