Written by: Richard Matheson
Direct by: Leo Penn
This is where it all began, the transporter malfunction trope. Now, the word trope has a negative connotation but I love most of Trek’s tropes, especially transporter and holodeck malfunctions. In this case, we get our first taste of transporters gone wrong. I love this episode and it’s definitely one of the most iconic Star Trek: The Original Series episodes. Produced fifth but airing fourth, Kirk (and an alien dog creature) get split into two due to a malfunction caused by some mineral dust from the planet. Meanwhile, Sulu and his away team are stuck on an ever cooling planet.
In all, the premise is solid and Shatner does a great job portraying exaggerated versions of two halves of a person, the aggressive\emotional and the intellectual\logical. “The Enemy Within” showcases that we all have parts of our personalities we aren’t proud of. Not only that, but we need those aspects of ourselves. As captain of a starship, Kirk needs his aggressive, assertive personality traits. Without them, he is indecisive and distracted. It plays on Aristole’s Gestalt theory of psychology: “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” We need all of us and broken apart, neither version can survive.
The episode does tackle some intense issues, specifically around sexual harassment. The “evil” Kirk harasses Yeoman Rand, even going as far as physically assaulting her. She tries to fend him off, eventually cutting his face. Now, Kirk’s actions are completely, without question, out of line. While I understand they were trying to exaggerate the inner evil tendencies, I think some of this might have gone a bit too far. For example, I am not thrilled they had Kirk questioning her about the situation in front of Spock and Bones. Rand would have felt very compelled to lie and not call out Kirk for his inappropriate actions in front of other crew members. The questioning should have happened between Rand and Bones, maybe with Spock and that’s a maybe.
I also have some logistical issues about the episode. For one, why didn’t they send a shuttle down to rescue Sulu and the rest of the away team? I’m also not convinced they would have survived the incredibly low temperatures long enough to be beamed up to the Enterprise while still alive. I know shuttles would have been expensive to make and use and they hadn’t been at this time but from a logical perspective, it seems illy.
Overall, it’s a solid episode that introduces transporter malfunctions and paves the way for many more to come. Shatner does a solid job portraying two very different personalities in a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde style. While the episode does hit on the serious issue of sexual harassment, it doesn’t do much to further the discussion or press any major message.