That time Captain Kirk was accused of sexual harassment

That time Captain Kirk was accused of sexual harassment

While Star Trek: The Original Series’ view of the future was a positive one (see: The fundamental difference between Star Trek and Star Wars), there are still some things which seem to have underestimated where we would be.

An obvious one is computers: while the Enterprise is way ahead of us in transportation (warp drive and the transporter), the computers are practically primitive. When Captain Kirk asks a question, we can actually hear relays closing! There are advanced artificial intelligences, but not standard issue for Federation vessels.

In this post, though, I’m more concerned with a social issue, which is very much in the news right now: sexual harassment.

While it isn’t the focal point of the episode, we can learn something from how the situation is handled (since Star Trek is typically thoughtful).

Before I go further, I’ll give you a

SPOILER ALERT

The episode is the fifth episode of the first season, The Enemy Within, written by Richard Matheson.

A transporter malfunction has split Captain Kirk into two people…one with the “baser emotions”, and one…well, with the softer ones.

The more assertive one is drinking Saurian brandy, and “visits” Captain Kirk’s Yeoman, Janice Rand.

This is clearly a situation like some of those getting coverage lately: it’s an imbalance of power. Kirk is Rand’s superior officer…basically, her boss. He physically forces himself on her, claiming that she is too much of a woman to resist, and that they have been hiding their feelings for each other.

She fights with him, but it’s really the fortunate accident that the proximity sensor doors open, and there is another crewperson in the hallway…a male one.

The interesting scene, in this context, is when Kirk, Spock, and McCoy interview Rand about it. That’s the “good” Kirk, by the way, who doesn’t know the sexual assault (and that’s undeniably what it is) has happened.

They don’t believe her…it’s not that they necessarily disbelieve her (outside of Kirk), but they question her account.

She says, in part:

“Then he kissed me and he said that we…that he was the Captain, and he could order me. I didn’t know what to do. <snip> I can understand. I don’t want to get you into trouble. I wouldn’t have even mentioned it…”

Three male officers: all ranked superior to her, one the person she is accusing, the other two his best friends. There is no counselor present (there are mental health professionals in the first series, but we don’t get a regular ship counselor as a main character until the Next Generation). Certainly, there is an urgency in the situation, but Spock has heard good reasons to think Kirk could have done it: Kirk’s story is at odds with those of Dr. McCoy (about Kirk’s behavior and whereabouts), and there is physical evidence to support McCoy (the brandy bottle was in Rand’s room).

It certainly appears that she is eventually believed not just because a corroborating witness shows up…but a male witness, who also forcefully accuses Kirk.

Rand is distraught, but still tells her story. Not surprisingly, she doesn’t get everything right, based on the episode itself. She says that Kirk asserts that he is the Captain, and that he could order her…but we see the whole confrontation, and he doesn’t. I don’t think we are supposed to think she is wrong: most likely, there were versions of the script where he did say that, and the scenes were perhaps filmed out of order, so they didn’t realize at the time (those production details are out there, but I don’t remember offhand).

I think it’s reasonable to say that we aren’t seeing a couple of centuries (the timeline is imprecise in the first series…purposefully. It’s why Roddenberry had them use stardates, reportedly) worth of progress in dealing with sexual harassment.

However, the series does show the assault, and does let Rand speak out about it…unusual for the time. We have to remember that the first pilot for Star Trek featured a strong female lead…although women were sometimes objectified in the version that got on the air (and this wasn’t the only time Yeoman Rand would be touched inappropriately on the show). Still, she does speak out, and she is shown as capable. It is Captain Kirk who commits the act…but we are clearly told that it is the “evil” version (and part) of Kirk that takes advantage like that…

Update: I’d forgotten the final part of the episode until I finished the rewatch! A leering Spock suggests to Yeoman Rand that there were certain attractive qualities to the lustful duplicate. While the end of a Star Trek: The Original Series episode is often a joke, this seems wholly inappropriate, seeming to imply that she might enjoy having him force himself on her. She doesn’t find it amusing, and it doesn’t seem really in character for Spock, who likely had some sense of how she should feel in the situation.


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This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to th

 

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