Favorite Fictional Characters, #3: Captain James T. Kirk
I'm a Kirk guy. The prototype starship captain, with all the internal dichotomies Roddenberry could cram into his lead. Swaggering self-doubt. Kinetic repose. Romantic loner. I still think the original episodes hold up more than a half-century later, and if you don't agree, put on City on the Edge of Forever. There are few moments in science fiction, indeed all of pop culture, as gripping or affecting as Kirk's brutal choice at the end of that episode, or the final act of Wrath of Khan. William Shatner is lampooned as an over-actor, but he brought huge talent and burgeoning humanity to the role, bringing everyone along on the intrepid explorations of the USS Enterprise.
It's been a Star Wars universe these past few years, and rightfully so, with the glorious return to the franchise's roots. I've enjoyed it as much as anyone. But truthfully, I've always been a Star Trek man at heart, and an Original Series one at that. I'm not really concerned about which franchise is better, but they are very different. Star Wars is opera, centered on family, while Star Trek is episodic drama, rooted in friendship. Specifically, the enduring friendship of the three main protagonists, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. I've been struck during recent rewatching of the SW films that there is very little true friendship. There are teacher-pupil relationships, master-servant relationships, romantic relationships, and endless family relationships, but very little exploration of friendships. Solo and Chewbacca, perhaps, but that dynamic is rarely mined in the films. There are plenty of acts of friendship, but none that mirror the kind of depth and sacrifice that the "big three" in Star Trek have the opportunity to show over 79 episodes and six feature films.
The new movies calling themselves Star Trek are well-cast and slickly produced fan fiction that bears little fidelity to the vision or central principles of the original series. They're not Star Trek, much in the same way the Star Wars prequels abandoned the heart of Star Wars. My only hope is that someday this series finds its way home as well.