As I delve deeper and deeper into Season One, I find myself amazed at just how much awful acting there is. Whereas in most Star Trek episodes just one Jim Kirk is enough to satisfy anyone’s appetite for bad acting but in “The Enemy Within” we get two! A malfunction of the transporter causes anything sent through to be divided into polar opposites. A dog with a horn on his head and a really fake looking fur coat is split into a calm docile version and a rabid psycho version. And when Kirk goes through the machine, he becomes polar opposite twins too.
And this pair of Kirks is very special indeed. One of them is Castrated Kirk. The transporter has neutered him. He is indecisive, confused and unmanned. He is constantly reminded by Spock that his Evil side is responsible for his ability to command the ship and therefore Good Kirk while intelligent and principled is unfit to run the ship, a capon and a big loser. Spock really rubs it in. It seems like he’s angling for the job.
The other Kirk is Satyr Kirk. He attempts to rape Yeoman Rand. I suspect given time he might have humped the entire female crew. He berates Bones and orders him to hand over the Saurian Brandy which he wanders around swigging from the bottle. And he beats up various members of the crew whenever the chance offers itself. Later on, when he takes the Helm, he orders the crew to abandon Sulu and the landing party to their frozen deaths. This did actually endear him to me. I think they should have given him a chance. I liked his instincts.
Watching Shatner portray the complementary fragments of Kirk is a thing of grotesque beauty. The feral lascivious leer of Evil Kirk is wonderfully overdone. The fretful womanish whining of Good Kirk is annoying and pathetic.
As a secondary pleasure in the episode, due to the malfunctioning transporter, the landing party is trapped on the planet as the temperature heads down into negative triple digits so we get to watch Sulu slowly freezing to death. Very satisfying.
The climactic scene for each of our demi-heroes comes when Good and Evil Kirk have their showdown on the Bridge. When Evil Kirk submits to Good Kirk’s leadership he cries out in a panicked voice, “I want to liiiive, I want to liiive!” Pure schmaltz, marvelous. Then as both Kirks are standing on the transporter plate waiting to see if the transporter can meld them back into a composite of bad acting, Good Kirk is supporting unconscious Evil Kirk and just before the mechanism is activated Good Kirk hugs his Evil half in a loving embrace. It’s quite nauseating. Truly wonderful.
Obviously, this is a Star Trek must-see episode. Seeing the two polar opposite Kirks you realize that up until this episode, Shatner has been restraining his acting style. We get to see Shatner unbound and it’s not pretty. But it’s important for us to know his true range. It’s good to know that there is more Shatner in there if it’s needed. Well done Bill, well done.