|Yeah, get used to this planet.|
Writer: Richard Matheson
Director: Leo Penn
Producer: Gene Roddenberry
This episode is sort've, for me, where we leave "prototype Star Trek" and the series starts settling into its familiar finished form. The uniforms aren't looking as rough, the characters are becoming more fleshed out, Spock's hair looks right, etc.
It's a pretty simple premise from famed horror writer Richard Matheson: Jekyll & Hyde by way of transporter accident. The really brilliant part though, is that Kirk isn't strictly split into "good" and "evil" Kirks. Spock talks of them as positive and negative: Positive Kirk is intelligence, compassion, love, ethics. Negative Kirk is agression, lust, and fear. But ultimately you can't have one without the other. Without the positive, Negative Kirk is basically a babbling bag of compulsions, unable to exist with others. But without the negative, Positive Kirk is indecisive, weak willed. They need each other.
And it's this examination of human nature that provides "The Enemy Within" with its best moments. McCoy pointing out to Kirk that while the negative Kirk has strength, he's also afraid. You need reason to overcome fear. Spock pointing out that the idea of being two warring halves is no theory to him. He's at war with himself every day.
Despite being ostensibly a "Kirk" episode, "The Enemy Within" is pivotal to our understanding of Spock. So far in the series we've learned he has a "Vulcanian" father and a human mother, we've learned that "Vulcanians" can "switch off" their emotions, but the portrayal of what this means and looks like has been inconsistent. This is the episode where Leonard Nimoy really figures out what being Spock means, thanks to the dialogue that reveals his internal struggle between his emotional human half and his logical Vulcan half. "My intelligence wins out over both, makes them live together," he says, and you can feel the victory in his voice. Nimoy is brilliant in this hour. This is Spock.
The rest of the cast gets good moments too, from Shatner having a ball playing the weakened positive Kirk and the raving lunatic negative Kirk, to Sulu being just the sassiest son of a bitch trapped below on the planet freezing to death. (Seriously, Sulu is great).
Unfortunately, this episode also provides a large role for Yeoman Rand, by having her become a victim of attempted rape at the hands of the negative Kirk. It's terrifying, it's brutal, and it's real real awkward and uncomfortable. The episode kinda recovers from it (it happens early on), but makes the mistake of bringing it up again in the coda. Transporter accident or not it would probably ruin Rand and Kirk's relationship going forward in real life, even if I forgave Kirk - not his fault at all - I would still probably request a transfer to another ship.
It also kind of doesn't work, even for what it is. Rand and Kirk are supposed to have this sexual tension relationship, where she wants him to notice her but can't go too far because she's his yeoman, and he wishes he could notice her but can't allow himself to because she's his yeoman. But the series hasn't really shown a lot of that yet. It came across better in "The Cage" with Captain Pike and Yeoman Colt, really. In the main series she's been more "worrying mother figure" around him, and he's seemed more annoyed by her. So negative Kirk's attack on her doesn't quite gain the narrative goals I think it's trying for, and if anything just kind of poisons the well on any "will they, won't they" the audience might feel by going right for "raped by evil doppelganger" before the underlying sexual attraction between the two has much of a chance to get established.
However, "The Enemy Within" is still a victory. It's the first, and probably still the best, transporter accident story. It solidifies and establishes Spock's character for the better. It introduces, as well, the Vulcan Neck Pinch -- a bit of business Leonard Nimoy came up with when he decided it didn't seem in character for Spock to knock out the negative Kirk with a judo chop. And finally, most significantly of all, it stumbles onto the key foundational element of The Original Series -- the Trinity of Kirk, Spock, McCoy.
There's a scene where the weakened positive Kirk, who can't make command decisions, is seeking advice from Spock and McCoy. Spock is offering the logical, pragmatic approach and McCoy is advising a more cautious, subdued one. And Kirk must make the decision. And it's like a thunderbolt. Boom. There's Star Trek. Spock is reason, McCoy is emotion, and Kirk must arbitrate between the two. That's the format of the show.
"The Enemy Within", despite it's really uncomfortable and ill-advised rape subplot, is ultimately an essential episode of the series for being the point where so much of it clicks into place.
Rating: 3 out of 4