This is part of an ongoing series, ANALYZE TREK, in which we analyze classic Star Trek episodes through a modern, socio-political lens.
The Enemy Within takes a theme addressed towards the end of the previous episode (The Naked Time), and expands on it exponentially. While The Naked Time explored the concepts of who we are vs. what we think and what we believe, The Enemy Within then took this a step further by completely picking apart the notion of the self, and the concept of self-hood.
This story presented a challenge to the traditional ideas of the self; it took a very individualized and personal concept and tore into it quickly by dividing Kirk into two ‘selves,’ due to a transporter malfunction. The idea of the self in regards to eastern spirituality, specifically in non-dual and meditative traditions, had already begun to touch on this notion as it recognized the self as the illusion of individual existence. The presentation of Kirk as two selves in this episode builds on this concept as being an illusion, displaying Kirk’s present mind (his individual self in all other cases) as unaware and unconscious of his own true, inner nature and desires. This then allows for an exploration into the role of ‘good and evil’ within all of us. This exploration is summed up by Spock when he and the rest of the characters realize that Kirk’s ‘self’ has indeed been split into two:
“We have here an unusual opportunity to appraise the human mind, or to examine, in Earth terms, the roles of good and evil in a man. His negative side, which you call hostility, lust, violence, and his positive side, which Earth people express as compassion, love, tenderness.”
The varying natures of the two Kirks, while still building on eastern philosophies mentioned above, also draws the exploration into some more western concepts of the self, specifically those of Scottish philosopher David Hume‘s Bundle Theory. Bundle Theory states that, “we are never intimately conscious of anything but a particular perception; man is a bundle or collection of different perceptions which succeed one another with an inconceivable rapidity and are in perpetual flux and movement.” Essentially, these emotions and feelings such as hostility, lust, violence, compassion, love, and tenderness that Spock points out in the quote above, act as part of a bundle – building upon each other making us the complete beings that we are.
In The Enemy Within, when the transporter divides Kirk into two, Hume’s ‘bundle’ is essentially ripped apart when the whole is divided into two halves. With this, we see the personification of the formulation set forth by psychoanalyst, Heinz Kohut, which proposes that the self is a bipolar concept, comprising of “two systems of narcissistic perfection.” Kohut detailed these two systems as the “grandiose self” and the “idealized parental imago.” The two Kirks can be superficially summed up as “angry Kirk,” which represents Kohut’s “grandiose self,” and the more “friendly Kirk,” which embodies the “idealized parental imago.”
As the story takes the viewers through a connecting journey exploring these various concepts, Spock melds them all together by using them to describe the traits that make an effective leader; more specifically, what gives Kirk the ability to be a good commander:
“What is it that makes one man an exceptional leader? We see indications that it’s his negative side which makes him strong, that his evil side, if you will, properly controlled and disciplined, is vital to his strength. Your negative side removed from you, the power of command begins to elude you.”
It is this that brings the story full circle, going back to the idea put forth at the end of The Naked Time. We are not defined by our deepest desires, fears, and thoughts, but by how we choose to let them inform our actions and lives.
To end this post, I will leave you with an excellent quote from Sirius Black in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix that near-perfectly sums up all of what I and this episode hope to convey:
“We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.”
The screenplay of The Enemy Within was penned by the novelist and screenplay writer, Richard Matheson. Matheson, a legendary science fiction/fantasy/horror writer, is best known for his novels (many of which have become films) The Shrinking Man, Hell House, What Dreams May Come, Bid Time Return, A Stir of Echoes, I Am Legend, and many more. If you have not read any of his work, I highly recommend it. Matheson passed away this past Sunday (June 23, 2013) at the age of 87, leaving a strong legacy and family behind. This post is dedicated to him.