The Original Series‘ “The Enemy Within” in Review
Sulu has found a dog-like alien during a specimen-finding mission on a planet that gets chilly at night. A crewman who’s fallen onto a yellow ore on the planet’s surface beams aboard the Enterprise for medical aid. Despite the transporter briefly malfunctioning, Kirk beams up too, suddenly weaker than usual. Unattended, the transporter reactivates, beaming a sinister Kirk duplicate aboard.
While the weakened Kirk rests in the captain’s quarters, the savage duplicate angrily procures Saurian brandy from McCoy in sickbay and drunkenly creeps into Yeoman Rand’s cabin. McCoy reports his encounter with the brandy-grabbing Kirk to Spock, who is confused to find the captain relaxing in his quarters. The peaceful Kirk innocently suggests the report might be a prank on McCoy’s part.
Scotty demonstrates that the transporter has produced a placid version of the dog-like alien and an indentical vicious one. This discovery prohibits the landing party from being beamed up.
The barbaric Kirk tries to rape Yeoman Rand, who scratches his face. Spock and the other Kirk investigate the incident, Spock concluding that an imposter is aboard.
Scotty blames the yellow ore for the transporter accident. A search for the intruder is organised but the pacifistic Kirk is struggling to be decisive. His ferocious double overhears the instructions for the search and, after shouting that he’s the real Kirk, applies cream to his face so he can’t be identified by the scratches. He assaults a crewman and steals his phaser. All the while, the landing party on the planet, which is designated Alfa 177, are enduring the extreme cold.
The serene Kirk and Spock deduce that the assailant is hiding in engineering. There, the two Kirks face off and Spock neck pinches the antagonistic Kirk but not before he fires an errant phaser shot at the machinery. He is then restrained in sickbay. Scotty discovers that the transporter has been damaged by the phaser shot.
On Alfa 177, Sulu uses his phaser to heat some rocks. Aboard the Enterprise, the compassionate Kirk understands that, unfortunately, he needs to be joined with his strong-minded counterpart so that they can function as one. Having found a way to restore the transporter, the crew test it on the canine but accidentally kill it.
Spock and McCoy debate the animal’s cause of death and whether Kirk will survive whatever it didn’t. Motivated by the landing party’s freezing conditions, the weak-willed Kirk finally decides to go through the transporter with his counterpart, whom he frees in preparation for doing so. However, the angry Kirk overpowers the calm one.
The evil Kirk poses as his mellow double, confidently arranging to visit Rand later. Taking command, he orders the ship to abruptly leave the planet. When McCoy and the soft-natured Kirk arrive on the bridge, the monstrous Kirk desperately pleads that he’s the captain and wants to remain an individual.
Using the transporter, the pair of Kirks are reintegrated. The resultant Captain Kirk immediately orders the recovery of the landing party and supervises the ship’s departure from Alfa 177.
I love that it’s the transporter at fault in this episode. This is the earliest produced tech-gone-wrong installment of Star Trek, a precedent for so many other episodes. The difficulties related to the transporter here obviously also increase our knowledge of it, rather than it simply being used for faultless transport.
Philosophically, I wish the episode dealt with the perspective that the transporter “kills” each person being transported every time they use it, creating a duplicate of that person when they rematerialize. The nearest the story gets to exploring that idea is the brutal Kirk pleading for his own life.
This episode was clearly written and produced before shuttlecraft had been invented. If they had been available, the predicament of the landing party would have been easily resolved. Perhaps the absence of shuttlecraft in this particular case can later be explained by Strange New Worlds, if it catches up to this point in the timeline.
The set used as the planet surface is gloriously colourful. But don’t get me started on how silly the dog looks…
Likewise, the should-appear-fearsome Kirk always has too much makeup on his face (a mix of dark eyeshadow and fake sweat) to be taken as seriously frightening. However, William Shatner’s portrayal of both Kirks is an acting tour-de-force. The costuming for them, usually with one Kirk wearing the gold duty uniform and the other wearing the green wraparound variant, is brilliant too.
It’s slightly uncomfortable to see the easygoing Kirk dealing with command and it’s even more harrowing to watch the attempted rape scene, particularly in light of the awful real-life experiences that actress Grace Lee Whitney encountered on the series. The episode’s ending is in particularly bad taste, with Spock firstly seeming to imply that Rand enjoyed the rape attempt and secondly leering at her himself.
The Vulcan neck pinch makes its debut here, a fantastic invention that allowed Spock to subdue opponents in a nonviolent manner. We also get further insight into Spock when he compares the duality of the two Kirks to his own hybrid physiology, the two sides at odds with each other. In general, Leonard Nimoy’s work in this episode is spectacular.
It’s an ultimately pointless twist when the hostile Kirk is captured halfway through the episode. It stops the excellent forward momentum he provides to the plot up to then. However cold it gets on Alfa 177 isn’t enough to maintain viewer interest. It would have been more interesting if the fact that the planet gets cold at night had been discovered during the course of the episode, not right at the start.
Whereas I find the conceptual origins of this story fascinating, so much of the episode is inaction and poorly paced that it turns out to be a clunker, the first of the entire franchise.
Editor of WarpFactorTrek, Dan is an avid Star Trek fan who lives in Aberdeen, Scotland. Dan has loved Star Trek ever since discovering it in his childhood. He worked as an administrator, for six years, on the encyclopedic Star Trek website Memory Alpha, which involved studying the making of the various series and films. He has been mentioned in the official Star Trek Magazine, has qualified from a Star Trek course taught at Glasgow Clyde College, and coordinates the SubSpace Chatter (formerly The Scotch Trekker) YouTube channel, which regularly features live interviews with the cast and crew of Star Trek.