One of the strongest aspects of J.J. Abrams’ rebooted Star Trek is the relationship between hothead Captain Kirk and coldly logical Mr. Spock. That’s not a new concept; in fact, to many fans Star Trek has always really been about Kirk and Spock.
In the Original Series, Kirk, Spock and Dr. McCoy were our leads. Spock was the brains, McCoy was the heart, and Kirk was the drive and ambition, relying on these other two to keep him on his toes as he led the crew of the Enterprise on the five-year mission.
The new films sideline McCoy somewhat, but that’s understandable when Kirk and Spock have such a great buddy cop relationship that’s just perfect for film. They’re Riggs and Murtaugh.
Here are five episodes of the Original Series that highlight these two characters.
Kirk and Spock playing 3D chess.
This is the show’s second pilot after the network rejected the first. It’s also as close to an origin story for the friendship as the Original Series ever got. In the story, Kirk’s best friend is a man named Gary Mitchell who serves on the Enterprise as his navigator. The ship is on a mission to the edge of the galaxy when Mitchell and Dr. Elizabeth Dehner acquire superhuman powers. Kirk is forced to fight his friend to the death. All the while Spock is there to remind the captain of the logic of the actions he doesn’t want to take. This story serves as a great example of why Spock was always the voice of reason pushing Kirk to do the right thing even when he didn’t want to.
This is what happened to the original Captain Pike.
There’s another captain in the new movies: Captain Pike. In the original universe he captained the Enterprise for years with Spock on his bridge before Kirk ever came along. Star Trek (2009) showed this a bit, but the new timeline has moved things around and given Kirk and Pike a relationship they never had. In this original, two-part episode, Spock disobeys orders and steals the Enterprise from Kirk in an attempt to return a now severely paralyzed Pike to a forbidden world. Kirk doesn’t know why and Spock won’t say. They are at odds here, but we see that under the guise of logic, Spock truly has a heart. If he would break the rules for Pike, he would certainly do so for Kirk.
Kirk and Spock enjoy the Great Depression. Notice Spock’s clever disguise: a hat.
Dr. McCoy accidently injects himself with an overdose of a very powerful drug. Stoned out of his mind, he beams down to an unexplored planet. There the crew finds a time portal. It’s an amazing discovery that should be careful studied and tested, but McCoy leaps through it in his crazed state and suddenly time has changed. Kirk and Spock must travel back to the 1930s to find McCoy and set time right again. It’s one of the most-loved episodes of the series, from a story by legendary sci-fi author Harlan Ellison. Kirk and Spock don’t only have to save McCoy. They also have to put history right. Even if it means Kirk has to make the hardest decision of his life. It’s a wonderful episode full of adventure, humor, and heart.
Guess who wins this fight?
This is the essential Kirk and Spock episode. Kirk violates orders so that he can take Spock home to Vulcan. There Spock must marry. Only through some shenanigans we end up with Kirk and Spock forced to fight to the death. There’s more trickery in there and some classic fight music. But it’s all worth it for the way Spock reacts at the end. It’s one case of his human side overshadowing his Vulcan side.
Spock from the darkest timeline.
You know that thing in TV and movies where someone pops on a goatee to signify that they’re now evil, like Abed in a couple of episodes of Community? This is where it’s from. Kirk, Uhura and McCoy cross into an evil parallel universe. In the process of trying to get back, Kirk convinces evil Spock to turn good. That’s how awesome he is.