Reading quite a few fanfictions and essays on the subject of a romantic involvement between our favourite leader of men :-) and his first officer, I would like to contribute my own opinion about it. I do not want to dwell too long on the many scenes, looks and sentences that k/s fans interpret as signs or proofs for an underlying affair respectively love story between Kirk and Spock, I guess all of you know them rather well. What I would like to do is emphasize the reasons why they are not a couple, and why I believe some fans have brought up the idea and keep to it for so many years now. Most of you will probably not share my point of view but are more likely to resent me for it; please try not to. I merely want to add my own argumentation to a subject that has already been discussed for such a long time, and by so many people. I will also include a few details from the novels that were accepted as canon by Gene Roddenberry and his heirs (e.g. Uhura’s first name “Nyota” and Sulu’s first name “Hikaru” were brought up in a Star Trek novel and later taken into the film canon. But please don’t pin me down, there are very many novels, and I assuredly haven’t read all of them.)
Assuming Kirk and Spock are lovers, one of the most important questions would be when and where it started. As spectators, however, we never apprehend how their friendship began, not even when they first met and got to know one another. Watching the episodes in sequence you see the already existing trust between them deepening, but instead of a significant clue or evidence for anything going further, we witness different romantic involvements both of them share with women. Spock’s love story with Zarabeth takes place during one of the last episodes, and it is evident that he feels a lot for her; it isn’t just an affair. Also rather late in the show, Kirk falls in love with Rayna, and losing her hurts him so badly that Spock compassionately erases the memory from his mind.
An often-quoted scene is Edith’s Keeler’s remark to Spock: “You belong at his side, as if you have always been there and always will be.” Knowing Edith’s remarkable intuition, this sentence can be interpreted in many ways. Yes - can, if you wish so. Because a few moments later she leaves with Kirk, and adds to Spock’s words of goodbye: “Captain. He always says that, even when he does not say it.” This attitude on Spock’s side is to be seen during the whole of their relationship: he rarely calls Kirk by his first name, in most cases only when he is overly worried about him, or when the situation requires it, as in this episode, where both must be careful not to betray themselves for who they really are. If they were lovers, should one not assume that Spock would address Kirk with his first name? Even if he is a discreet and secretive person and, supposing they are lovers, he would possibly not want everyone to know, it ought to be natural for him to call a lover with a more intimate address when they are alone. Kirk is, first and foremost, Spock’s captain, his superior officer, whom he trusts and respects; whatever he feels for him comes beyond that. This is also to be seen in “Amok Time”, when he says “I have killed my captain - and my friend.” When he realizes Kirk is still alive, his first impulse is to call him “Captain”; only then he recognizes his friend and calls him by his name.
The episode “This Side of Paradise” is a very melancholy one: we have Spock saying to Leila “I can love you” when the spores set his feelings free, which states that he was not capable of love before. In the end he says, “For the first time in my life, I was happy”, which amply expresses that he had not known happiness before. Are these the words of a man who has known a fulfilled love life? Assuredly not. Moreover, we can clearly recognize that even without the effect of the spores, Leila still loves him and he still feels some degree of affection for her. Nevertheless he leaves her behind, placing his loyalty to the ship above everything else, stating that his own personal purgatory cannot be worse than anyone else’s. These are not the words of a man who believes in love, or in happiness in general for that matter. In the novel “Shadow Lord” by Laurence Yep Spock clearly says that he does not search for happiness, as he is convinced that there is none for him to be found and it would be illogical to pursue what is out of one’s reach. (If Dr. McCoy knew this attitude of his, he would probably accuse Spock of being a neurotic who denies himself what could be the best part of his life because of an assumption he has no proof for; but however, this is Spock’s conviction and choice of life, made up by his own mind, and must therefore be respected.) Additionally, there are several scenes, like in “Amok Time” or “The Apple”, hinting at the fact that Spock is everything but at ease with his sexuality, or with sexuality altogether. He usually feels attracted to women who want to possess him, trying to manipulate him for their own purposes; he never shows more than respect for Christine Chapel, the only woman who honestly loves him for being who he is, supports him as well as she can, and never expects anything or tries to press or influence him in any way. (Vice versa, Kirk has a tendency towards women he must protect, which, for a long-lasting relationship, would definitively not be compatible with his task as a starship captain.)
In “Amok Time” Spock unexpectedly snaps out of his blood fever when he must believe he has killed Kirk. But are friendship and loyalty not enough to explain the depth of his shock? Spock is a lonely person, one of the very few of his kind, ostracized on his own home world, cut out and mistrusted by most humans. He does value his ensuing independence, but on the other hand, Kirk is one of the few who offer him friendship with no questions asked. Having killed a friend with your own hands - even if you were not in your normal state of mind - is awful enough. Apart from that, we know Spock to be a deeply peaceful and honourable person, who detests violence. Having killed someone - and not in self-defence - is horrible enough to give a terrible blow to his self-esteem. And, about the infamous concept of pon farr: why in Surak’s name does Spock remain unmated after T’Pring rejected him, if the blood fever, as we get to know in “The Cloud Minders”, takes place on a regular basis? Who takes care of him now when his nature overcomes him? Being that pon farr has the purpose of making a Vulcan take a mate in order to ensure offspring, it obviously can’t be a male. The episode “Amok Time” is supposed to give us further clues on Spock’s Vulcan culture, but the whole concept of pon farr sounds - if I may venture to say so - illogical. This episode does not bring Vulcan much nearer to us - it never is seen again during the show -, it merely enlightens the three characters we already have grown to appreciate some more, and their team spirit. Also, during their long dialogue at the beginning, Spock asks Kirk whether he knows how Vulcans choose their mates; he hardly would have to ask if Kirk was his lover.
There never is any hint of jealousy in this long lasting friendship; neither from Spock about Kirk’s frequent affairs, nor from Kirk - he does not even react so when Spock is about to get married. Captain and first officer never share quarters, except when they have to (like in “City on the Edge of Forever”); they are never on shore leave together, except in the film “The Final Frontier”, together with McCoy. (Besides, it would not make much sense for both the main officers of a starship to be on leave at the same time while they’re on a mission.) In “The Naked Time” Spock, stripped to his bare soul, speaks to Kirk of friendship, not of love; and the episode “Whom Gods Destroy”, where Kirk actually says Spock is a brother to him, is rather late in the show. More than once, we observe Kirk angrily chafing at Spock’s unemotional approach on facts and happenings, or, on other occasions, calling him or his behaviour “human”, which is picked up by Spock as an offence. Is this the talk of lovers? It doesn’t sound at all like it. Spock more than once saves Kirk’s life, but we know well that he sees it as his duty. Any personal affection from him is certainly important, but not decisive for his protectiveness.
Another very important factor to be considered is the memorable triumvirate formed by Kirk, Spock and Dr. McCoy: supposing that there is some special, closer undercurrent between Kirk and Spock would mean disrupting their union. After “The City on The Edge of Forever” they become inseparable, the heart of their ship as well as of the show, much to the viewer’s delight. Kirk has to give up Edith, but this misadventure creates the unity with his friends that will carry them and their crewmembers through their five-year mission and back to Earth all in one piece, and the Enterprise is the first known Starfleet ship to accomplish this task. In “Operation Annihilate”, “The Immunity Syndrome”, “The Tholian Web” or “The Empath”, for instance, it is only the unshakeable loyalty between the three of them that can outbalance the horrors they have to endure. Also, in “The Immunity Syndrome” we are testimony of Kirk’s fight with himself over having to choose whether putting Spock’s or McCoy’s life at bay; it is not identifiable that he worries more about one of them than about the other. In the episode “Obsession”, as Spock’s life is threatened by the deadly cloud, Kirk is clearly worried, but not desperate; he even has the nerve to humour Spock when he finds him unharmed. And the only person aboard who always calls Kirk by his first name is assuredly not Spock, it’s McCoy, his oldest friend.
Spock and Kirk were thought up to be exactly opposite: this is to be seen in all details, down to their appearance, since the actors playing them are very different in looks, expression and style. But for all the dissimilarity, these two characters work well together and learn to nurture a considerable fondness for each other. In a time when racial differences were much more manifest than today, Gene Roddenberry wanted to illustrate a friendship that could bring two men together who have almost nothing in common and come from two races which are literally light years apart. Kirk’s often non-conformal decisions disconcert Spock, pulling at the very roots of all he believes in, beginning with Vulcan’s first and foremost philosophy - kaiidth, “what is, is”. Kirk, the poker player, the lateral thinker, the strategist, relies on his first officer’s calm, objective reasoning and knowledge, but then, he often refuses to accept things that appear unshakeable by all logic and searches for creative solutions sometimes in the most unimaginable places; and since this often saves his and other people’s lives, Spock has to acknowledge the evidence that Kirk’s approach to life makes a sense of its own. The one major aim they share is, though for different reasons, their desire to make new experiences and explore new worlds, if possible for the common good, which takes them on many journeys inside and outside of themselves. As a result, they mostly agree on the situations they get into, though from two quite divergent points of view.
Roddenberry himself stated that he had created the Spock character as a being ascetic and asexual, and this matches the fact that he is Kirk’s opposite, seeing that his captain is a bit of a bon vivant. I can’t recall one single occasion where Spock was in his “normal” state of mind and psyche and in love, or engaging in sexual activities of any kind. He falls in love with Leila and Zarabeth, and obviously feels attracted to Droxine and to a Romulan female commander we don’t even get to know the name of, but he never lays the foundation to a real commitment; to Droxine, he says openly that his Vulcan sexuality is repressed and only active every seven years. And in “Mudd’s Women” this was already proven by the fact that Spock is the only male on the whole ship on whom the three women’s spell has absolutely no effect.
Of course, Kirk is important to Spock because it is so difficult for him to befriend anyone; yet his need to be constantly by Kirk’s side is sprung mostly from his sense of duty. Wherever the risk-loving Kirk goes, he searches for trouble, and he usually finds it. He needs Spock’s calm attitude and wisdom to make up for his own impulsive nature, and he knows it, which is why he so often wants him by his side. Their closeness is based upon a deep tolerance and understanding of one another’s strengths and weaknesses. These are very important and beautiful pillars of their friendship, but no proof for romantic love. In the first place, Kirk and Spock are comrades in arms, who must work and live together through countless dangerous, often dramatic situations, and being able to rely upon and knowing one another is vital for them as well as for the crew they are responsible for. There are many scenes, during show and films, emphasizing their strong attachment, but how you want to interpret them is a highly personal matter. Wouldn’t it be just a little non-professional, as a matter of fact, for a captain or first officer to start an affair with a crewmember, and, in Spock’s case, with a superior officer? Kirk himself is renowned for never messing around with his crew, all of his affairs are with women visiting the Enterprise or whom he meets on different planets. And if I simply wanted to be cynical, I might argue that Spock worries about Kirk because if something happened to him, Spock as the first officer would be in charge of the Enterprise, and we know that he is unwilling for a duty that would leave him so little space for his scientific interests. No, please don’t kill me already :-)
When Spock reappears in “The Motion Picture”, Kirk is not the only one who is glad to see him again, there is a wave of affection coming from the whole crew. A lapse of about ten years stretches between the show and the first film; in the novel “The Lost Years” by J.M. Dillard we get to know that Spock left Earth for Vulcan disappointed by Kirk, who took the Admiral rank instead of starting a new five-year mission together with his comrades, as he had promised them. McCoy angrily takes his leave from Starfleet after this incident; some time later, he goes to visit Spock on Vulcan - Kirk never does. In all of the years they know each other, there never is an embrace or closer touch between them as one could expect between “only friends”, except after Spock’s traumatic melding with V’Ger, when he clasps Kirk’s hand to make him understand that their friendship was not destroyed during his training at Gol. And in “The Pandora Principle” by Carolyn Clowes, Spock finds Saavik and raises her on Dantria IV, on his own. Would a loving couple hurt one another so much or allow such a long separation? I don’t think so.
James T. Kirk, for all of his charming nature, love of life, generousness, loyalty, instinct for other people’s capacities and talent for inspiration is, on the downside, a rather immature character. His incorrigibly boyish attitude is engaging, but it tends to give the impression of a rather superficial person. He does not accept defeat, cheats if he thinks it’s necessary for winning, or tells the truth at the right moment and in the right way to persuade someone to take the course of action he wants them to. Spock’s death at the end of “The Wrath of Khan” is an awful blow for him, but let’s face it: had it stayed at that, it would have been his first and only chance to ever grow up. He had to cope with a real, deep personal loss for the first time in his life, and had a chance for an own family, having found back to Carol and David. Confronted with death, he overcomes his vanity and lets go of the midlife crisis that was getting to him at the beginning of the film. But as the story goes on with the third film, he quickly finds back to his boyish nature, and never again gets a chance to evolve beyond who he was in the TV show.
What was in the way? That Kirk could not imagine a life without Spock, and vice versa? No. Let’s say it the way it is - the Star Trek fans. They would not allow such an end to be the last full stop in their hero’s history. Kirk sets very much at stake to save his friend in “The Search for Spock”, yes, but so do his shipmates. At the ending, they all gather close around him, glad to have him back among them. James T. Kirk simply can’t lose; not because he is somehow superior, but because he was depicted to come out alive and successful from any situation. What kind of hero would he be, would he not set everything at stake to save his best friend’s soul? Again, this is no “proof” for amorousness. Parallel to this, any effort to introduce a new character in Star Trek fails, they have no chance of being accepted by the fans. David dies on the Genesis planet; Carol is never heard of again; Saavik is left back on Vulcan - Spock seems to have forgotten her altogether though she might be pregnant from him. (Pon farr again, good heavens. And illogical once more. Why did he experience it as a youngster this time? The unfortunate girl had to help him through it though he is a father figure for her, imagine the trauma it adds to her already hard life. Nobody seems to care - she simply was not liked enough by the fans.) And if we search for a psychological explanation ignoring the fan’s wishes, it is easy enough: the five-year-mission brought the main crew so closely together, connecting them for good and for bad, that they can no longer imagine their lives without one another, mostly do not find a home of their own - a family, for instance - , and keep coming back to go through life’s adventure together.
In “The Wrath of Khan” Kirk repeatedly offers Spock to remain Captain of the Enterprise, until he is reminded, “I am a Vulcan. I have no ego to bruise.” There is still room for such awkward situations between them. How can they have been in an intimate relationship, let alone for years or even decades? Spock always keeps a tendency to be reserved and formal around Kirk; still in “The Final Frontier” he calls him “Captain” until Kirk good-naturedly says “We’re on shore leave. Call me Jim.” During their escape with the antigravity boots, Kirk at first does not even dare to lay his arms around Spock and must be encouraged to do so. Also in this film, we are acquainted with Spock’s brother Sybok, which completely confuses Kirk. It is obvious once more that he did not know his friend’s mind, family and life that well; and yet we gain the impression that he is much more a brother to Spock than Sybok is or ever was. Spock’s and McCoy’s frequent arguments are also known well enough and emphasize Star Trek’s general idea that similarity, harmony or perfect agreement are not what really matters; that you might dislike and mistrust someone at the beginning, but then get used to him and grow together in time. What counts is that two personalities are strong and open-minded enough to learn to trust and lean on one another.
In “The Undiscovered Country” Spock tells Valeris: “Logic is the beginning of wisdom, not its end.” This states quite clearly what Spock searches for all of his life: knowledge. Being so different from everyone around him, he has to find his own peace of mind, and being highly intellectual, he chooses the path of wisdom. Feelings are important to him, he learns this at the very latest after his encounter with V’Ger. But they are not all, they only add themselves to the picture of what he is really looking for. In “Generations” we find Kirk living in the Nexus, a paradise-like place, where all of your wishes come true. Does Kirk imagine Spock at his side, as one would suppose if he indeed was his beloved? No. On the contrary, he imagines the company of a woman he once knew and loved. At the end of the film, when Kirk dies in Picard’s presence, he betrays his easy-going nature down to his very lasts words. He has lived for adventure, for making new experiences, “making a difference” all of his life. Neither he nor Spock ever find their own universe in someone else’s eyes; and nothing in show or films shows that there is reason to believe this could be what they ultimately want. Their personal drives (or, you could say, demons) make them choose their lives and keep them going on, making both of them live extraordinary lives, turning them into legendary heroes, but also not leaving much space for private fulfilment. (A fact that the elder Kirk realizes and laments clearly enough, when in the Nexus he speaks to Picard about his “empty house”.)
An undeniable element of their friendship is, of course, the particular way Kirk and Spock communicate. One of the traits that make Kirk a good captain is his kind heart: he wishes his crew not only to be efficient, he wants them to feel at home while they have to spend five years away from their home planet. In some way, you might say he cares for all of them like a father. (Perhaps the main reason why he never founds a family of his own.) Being his first officer, Spock spends a lot of time with him, and Kirk does not want him to be an exception: Spock shall find a home on the Enterprise, too. With his well-known perspicacity, Kirk quickly finds out what to do in order to melt the iceberg - he constantly assaults his Half-Vulcan shipmate with good-natured teasing. And it works: it’s a kind of approach Spock understands and can live with, because it leaves him enough room to choose if, when and how to open up. Kirk knows instinctively that Spock hides a sensitive soul below his formal and controlled demeanour, so he just waves off Spock’s pretences about non-feeling. Spock may fool anyone about his emotional life, including McCoy who so often rants and raves about him; he can’t fool Kirk for a moment. At the same time, he knows about Kirk’s tendency for manipulation, but he is strong enough not to give in to it and to make his own choices, which earns him a great deal of Kirk’s respect. But does this automatically mean romantic love? I don’t think so. Besides, in the episode “Charlie X” there is a very beautiful scene where Uhura bestows a similar gentle mockery upon Spock in song. And Kirk is a “natural born flirter”, Spock is not the only one aboard who is subject to this approach from his captain.
If there is any clue that makes you indeed scratch your head a little, then this: it is indeed the most important relationship of their lives, for both. But this only emphasizes Star Trek’s real problem: the hardcore fans, who would protest loudly against every major change. Not only Kirk and Spock, all of the main crew members are never known to be married and have families of their own, or to choose another path in life. (With the exception of Sulu, who is captain of the Excelsior in “The Undiscovered Country” - but then, it’s the last film with the old crew; and we get to know his daughter in “Generations”, but she only has a very short role.) They are never allowed to be parted, or to change considerably in any way. The protests ensuing from Spock’s death at the end of “The Wrath of Khan” are well remembered. A major character death, just like a considerable change in their lives or personalities, is simply not acceptable. We get to know rather little about their backgrounds; who, never having read one of the novels, knows that Kirk was married to Lori Ciana after the five-year-mission? When she is killed in the transporter incident at the beginning of “The Motion Picture”, Kirk hardly grieves, which is rather astonishing even considered that the marriage wasn’t happy. Just the same, he hardly grieves about his brother Sam’s and his sister-in-law Aurelan’s death, and we never see his nephew Peter again after “Operation Annihilate”, though he is now Kirk’s only living relative. We never get to know McCoy’s daughter, or only learn what became of her when her father left Earth for the stars; the same applies for her mother, the woman he was married to - it seems uninteresting. Fans have elected the characters to some kind of second family, a virtual home, and for his reason, nothing is ever to change about them. Many of the episodes and film scenes were based upon the likings of the viewers; just for instance, Spock showing concern or any other kind of feeling - he of all people - became to some extent Star Trek’s own cliché; his training at Gol and the events ensuing in “The Motion Picture” were supposed to emphasize once more one of Star Trek’s central and most beloved themes, “emotion vs. rationality”.
And, speaking of the Star Trek universe as some kind of second family, here we come to slash. Let’s have a look at ourselves. With few exceptions almost all k/s slashers are, to my knowledge, heterosexual women. The Original Show was aired from 64 to 69, and it gradually became legendary during the following years. Why?
I think the answer is: Roddenberry was somehow ahead of his time. Star Trek dealt with a lot of serious, critical matters like politics, psychology and philosophy, often pushing the limits of what was socially acceptable, which was not quite usual at the time. After the horrors of the two world wars, books, films and shows had to depict a positive idea of life, wherever possible. Unchangeable values, things that showed an illusion of security were what people wanted to see. If you had problems, you hardly ever spoke about them. Family was sacred, divorce an exception; not to mention - God forbid - a bonding between individuals of the same sex. You were supposed to live in a narrow-mindedness that gave you the illusion of security, if possible all of your life. Heroes were not supposed to be personalities who doubt, who have to rethink and extend their convictions. Star Trek was an exception: it wasn’t simply another adventure show. Its depth and critical attitude at first irritated viewers, so that the original show ended after only three seasons. (And this is another reason why I don’t believe Roddenberry meant Kirk and Spock as a couple; pushing limits is one thing, but you still have to make sure your show gets aired, so you can’t risk to scandalize your audience, and we are still speaking of the Sixties.) But as his idea was gradually more understood, it was exactly what made the show become a myth. It is placed right between two different eras, and let me explain, in the following, why I think this is so important when we come to slash.
Star Trek roots in Western stories, and NBC explicitly wanted it to be a “Wild West in space” show, probably not imagining that science fiction could possibly be appealing to their spectators. One of the main elements of Westerns is the “lonely hero”; but even the most lonely of heroes usually has a best friend, his “right arm”, a companion with whom he shares many of his adventures and who would go through fire with him. (In Star Trek, this is hinted at by the fact that on the bridge, Spock has his place at Kirk’s right.) Close male friendships follow a very ancient tradition, like King Arthur and Lancelot, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, or Sherlock Homes and Dr. Watson. If one of the heroes loves a woman, she is usually a stay-at-home; she may possibly be the incarnation of his ideals, but she often doesn’t understand them and hardly ever helps him with them. The classical hero lives in two worlds, the private one where he gains strength from, and the outside one where he has to fight and live through dangers. Nowadays, our attitude has changed; we know that all of life can be an adventure. “Home” does not mean absolute security; “outside” must not mean hurt and discomfort. Both can be pretty much the same, depending on your personal situation.
The Kirk / Spock friendship is the most known, but not the only remarkable friendship in Star Trek; generally, you can say that all of the major characters live to their best because they have their comrades supporting them, believing in them, not deserting them if they go wrong but doing their best to outbalance their weaknesses and helping to overcome shocks and traumata. Before the Sixties, male protagonists were foremost the type of the “lonely hero”; today, the hero is very often accompanied by his woman. But when Star Trek was first aired, the idea was in between - which means, friendship. It is one of the great appealing traits of the show: our heroes live supported by an unshakeable loyalty that we, in our every day’s life, very rarely encounter, neither with friends nor family, sometimes not even with our partners. Watching or imagining situations with such special friends, or lovers if you see them as such, is so appealing because in real life, we often make the experience of betrayal or harsh disappointment by a beloved, trusted-in person, one that our heroes never go through no matter what misadventures they have to endure. Others may betray them, but not their crewmates; no matter what happens, they are never alone when the worst comes to worst. Roddenberry himself later thought up the Vulcan expression “t’hy’la” to describe Spock’s relationship to Kirk - it is translated “blood-brother”, which points out once more the show’s and character’s Western background. The friendship between Kirk and Spock is so deep and trusting and at times so intense that it lacks only a few components to do what you could call “complete the circle”; so it is not to be marvelled that some fans are tempted to add these by means of their imagination.
Looking at the countless fanfictions you find in the web nowadays, you gain the impression that whereas only about forty years ago speaking or reading about sex was almost taboo, nowadays youngsters hardly seem capable to imagine a close relationship without sex, reading sexual connotations in the sometimes most unlikely words and scenes. All the while Star Trek was slowly growing to be more a legend than a chain of stories, mentalities changed and societies developed after the events of 1968. The women of the following generations did no longer accept the role “pretty, passive and protected by some man” (and some from the older generations detached themselves from this idea, too). Nowadays, we want to be the hero’s best friend, his companion, not only his lover; we want to be his partner in all ways, not just to stay home and wait for him. We want to share everything with him, to be near him without the subtle manipulation women of previous generations so often had to employ to control their partner, and today some still have to - or believe they have to - because they can’t meet their partner at eye level. At the same time, we expect him to open up and trust us, and to spare us the “gallantry” many men use to disguise their awe and timidity (often outbalanced by despise and mockery) for us personally, or, sometimes, for the whole female sex. If we want to understand slash, k/s or any other kind, we must look at it not by means of “logical reasons” or “proofs”, but from the point of view of the fans, in this case the female ones.
The concept of k/s mirrors a whole lot of our dreams: it says what many, if not most of us would like to share with a partner. We wish to be so close, to mean so much to someone, to be loving and being loved with all our faults and weaknesses. Torn between our own wishes and expectations of the most different kind - family, friends, school and university, religion, media - we are stressed and often overwhelmed by, we ardently long for someone we can really trust, who believes in us and helps us develop our real self. “Gay or straight” isn’t the point: a woman may well imagine that if someone, male or female, turns out to be the right one to complete you, be always by your side and love you unconditionally, your outlook on the parameters your sex partner ought to fulfil can shift. (Mind you, this is an experience I made myself a few times in my life.) Even if we assume that, as the Kinsey rate says, we all are bisexual and that our orientation may vary in our lives, to a man, going so far as to understand bisexuality is by far more difficult, which is why most men will shake their heads about the mere idea of slash. Men often feel proud about their manhood even if they are not at happy with it, following the line of thought “Well, at least I’m not like one of those gay sissies.” But a female may simply ask herself why two men whose love lives were notoriously ill-fated should not search comfort and warmth near the one person who is the closest to either of them anyway. Another rather common dream among females is the wish to share everything with the one they love, including a professional life that is not only fulfilling to both, but gives them a mutual aim and sense in life. Men tend to separate private and professional life, emotion and sexuality; to a woman, on the contrary, usually it feels perfectly natural that these things intertwine. Thus, imagining the two main officers of the starship being together as a couple also fits into the picture.
Slash stories (not only k/s, but of any kind) in my experience rather seldom deal with two guys meeting in a gay bar or a similar place, already knowing that the other may be a potential sexual partner; in most cases, we have two men (usually hetero or bisexual, or at least convinced to be so at the beginning) who are befriended for some time until desire comes more or less creeping upon them, topping an already founded, strong friendship based upon trust, honesty and equality. This is what girls and women so often dream of, but very rarely experience. Most of us wish to fall in love with our best friend, but in real life, this hardly ever takes place; if we try to befriend a guy, to him sexuality is usually much more preponderant and he won’t be ready to wait for more until a friendship is established. (Apart from this, a best friendship is never an easy task to accomplish, even if you leave yourselves the time.) A woman not wanting to become an object of prey, but still desiring to find a partner, therefore has the alternatives of either becoming the “hunter” herself, or searching refuge into coquetry; but any half-way intelligent and sensitive woman will feel disgusted by these prospects, want to be taken seriously by her partner, and feel instinctively drawn to the idea of a relationship based upon respect and frankness. Thus, the deeper a friendship between two men runs, the more it is likely to intrigue and fascinate a female audience, and the Kirk / Spock friendship did not become legendary without reason.
It can be rather difficult for a woman to convince a guy to wait until you are both ready for more without him thinking that you’re not interested (all right, and I admit our own desires can be in the way, too :-). But between two men who were not interested in their own sex at the onset, the problem simply doesn’t come up because of the awkwardness of their unexpected new emotions for one another; and their feelings will be unique alone for the fact that none was interested in another male before. Usually, they won’t find out that they are homo- or bisexual: they will find out that they are more and more physically attracted to one another because of their fascination with each other’s personality. Moreover, being notoriously heterosexual, they will be left alone with their newfound feelings because hardly anyone will expect them to be a couple or a potential couple and their relationship will have the chance to grow unhampered. What every intimate relationship requires most to be consolidated are freedom and trust, and such a kind of love story offers plenty of both. In slash, sexual attraction is usually born from confidence and nearness rather than from the flash-in-the-pan excitement of dealing with someone who for some reason comes up with your expectations for a sex partner. And since no one will expect them to found a family, it will be just them and their love, almost unrestrictedly. Now it is hard to say how many gay couples in real life are indeed like this; in slash stories, however, they very often, if not mostly follow this pattern. And in any case, in real life also a male couple shows that two individuals can be faithful to one another without needing the sanction of marriage; they can take the best from both companionship and romance.
Spock’s and Kirk’s particular way of communicating, the many looks they throw at one another and which seem to speak volumes, are a typical male-male way of nonverbal communication that often eludes a female’s grasp; it does mean silent understanding, but it gives no evidence for any unspoken, deeper affection going beyond a brotherly affection. The famous scene of Spock’s return to the Enterprise in “The Motion Picture” shows us a glad, but also surprised Kirk: his reaction suggests that he had not realized how much he missed his friend until this moment. This is, again, an attribute of a typical (not romantic) male-male relationship. Men need, approve and appreciate interaction with other people just as much as women do, but they are usually less sensitive to and conscious of them; often, they realize their value only after a friendship or intimate relationship they are in is endangered or already destroyed. Female writers, having another and more personal approach, will make up for this by making two men, in their stories, quite aware of their feelings and importance for one another and communicating them much more openly. The “lonely hero” might be only a myth, but as men may admire it, most women - k/s and slash fans, in this case - disapprove of it; they dream of real intimacy, of a relationship that is indeed complete, where two halves can indeed become one, surmounting all differences. Additionally, with today’s changed social attitude (Westerns aren’t as popular as they used to be, and with good reason), someone who once used to be regarded as cool and detached can also be seen as an emotional coward, not capable of a real, deep commitment. This may be true - yet we ought not forget Star Trek was thought up, written and directed mostly by men, who had their own mentalities and convictions. Everybody wants and needs love and happiness, but not everybody sees them as the central themes of their lives.
While Star Trek draws the picture of a strong belief in mankind, in its ability to evolve and learn from its faults, the Vulcan-bred Spock is the criticizing element. As he understands how vital Kirk’s risk-loving attitude, his determination not to accept failure can be, Kirk learns to rely more and more on Spock’s rational approach, which often prevents him to place himself and others into unnecessary danger. They literally could not get through on their own, each would, in his own way, be too narrow-minded; it is perfectly true, thus, that they can’t be without one another. But does this automatically mean romantic love? Passion? Intimacy? Partnership? It does not. Only if you are willing to believe it. Spock’s outer appearance with his pointed ears and slanted eyebrows is deliberately meant to look devilish, yet he is foremost acting as Kirk’s guardian angel, and I believe this is how his role was imagined to be ever since the show was written. (Something Kirk definitively needs urgently - the novel “Collision Course” makes it perfectly understandable why after the horrible events of Tarsus IV Kirk’s valiant attitude springs mostly from the fact that he no longer gives a damn about his own safety.) But even from this perspective, we ought to remember that an angel is only meant to be a companion for some time; he never stays forever at the side of the person to whom he was sent, and certainly not as a partner respectively lover. And I strongly doubt that a loving relationship between Kirk and Spock would be helpful with their mission: it is very often dangerous to the brink of dramatic, they have a high responsibility for the hundreds of people inhabiting their ship and in most cases also feel responsible for alien lives they come across with; a good, steady friendship is helpful in this case, but a romance would - at least in my opinion - be in the way, because such a special relationship would make not the mission, but the partner the centre of their lives.
I would also like to add that both these characters are very attractive, each in his own particular way: while Kirk is portrayed as a good-looking fellow blessed with disarming manners, who highly appreciates female charms, Spock with his deep voice and graceful movements subtly portrays a more sensual nature than one would perhaps think at first sight. Spock’s sexuality, though meant to be practically inexistent, is mysterious at best, and it adds a very personal layer to a character who is already the deepest and most faceted of all. Another element that makes him interesting is that he represents the gradual change from group mentality and family attachment to the importance of individuality, which also took place during the Sixties and thereafter, because though still pledged to Vulcan rituals and culture, he often displays a strong independence of mind and spirit. He is an eternal outsider, homeless except among his crewmates, constantly searching for his identity, and the more you are young and confused yourself, the more you will be likely to identify with such a character. (Also, if you are not so young any more :-) So it is not surprising that Spock’s life and personality alone already offers a large ground for speculation and fantasies. Apart from this, an attitude that most viewers - usually of both sexes - have, is that when they like a character, they desire him to be happy, and Spock is both a popular and an obviously not very happy character.
As Star Trek viewers respectively novel readers we get some insight into both Kirk’s and Spock’s personal tragedies, and women being the way they are, they have a tendency to meddle with other people’s personal matters, whether these agree or not, often mistakenly taking it as love; the role of the matchmaker is deep in our blood, and personal relationships are usually what matters most to us, despite the other aims we may have in our lives. Our fault is, maybe, that we cannot accept how loneliness may be chosen by someone out of their own free will and not simply be a cruelty of fate. But I wouldn’t blame anyone: without these dreams and wishes, a whole lot of beautiful stories would never have been written and read. And as I heard, many fans have taken a particular liking to our Vulcan friend, pairing him off to anyone and everyone in the universe. If he was indeed Kirk’s partner, it would at least leave matters in the family, so to speak :-) Star Trek is and always remained a quite conservative series of shows; the most erotic scene ever to be seen there was, probably, the long kiss shared by Constable Odo and Kira Nerys during the episode “His Way” in Deep Space Nine. If anything, the many stories written by fans go to prove again and again what an unusually rich density and deep potential both the setting and the characters thought up by Roddenberry have.
Roddenberry did say on occasion that the feelings between his two main characters “would be” deep enough for an intimate relationship, but “would be” also says that in the universe he thought up, they “do not”, else it would be stated or shown without leaving space for doubts. Roddenberry and his heirs would assuredly never accept that the Kirk / Spock pairing belongs to canon among other things for the reason that this would be a major official change and thus mean a displeasure for all those fans who aren’t partial to it. I can discern no reason why a heterosexual man living in the Sixties should think up an adventure timeline like Star Trek, dealing mainly with the discovery of new worlds and life forms, and intersperse it with “subtexts” concerning his two main characters, also considering that US media are usually very conservative until today and that Star Trek is so no less. Which is also why I believe that in the J.J. Abrams film, Spock was surprisingly paired with Uhura, and had a very tumultuous and not at all amicable relationship with Kirk; I had a strong impression that the authors wanted to put a stop to the endless speculations and “interpretations” of female fans. (Not that it helped much, looking at all the k/s fanfictions following the film; up until now, I have never encountered a slash pair that was so beloved, and so firmly believed in.)
I have been reading quite a few k/s stories by now, some of which I liked very much, and at times pining away something awful. I am not saying that the Kirk / Spock pairing would make no sense, respectively that we have no potential for a great love story here. But to me, definitively, it was not meant to be one. It’s the story of a great friendship, a deep affection; certainly, there are these unforgettable moments when Kirk and Spock look directly into each other’s eyes and you can see how well they know one another’s mind, how perfectly they complete each other. When two persons, of whatever sex, do that, I agree that you must definitively speak of love. You can also count in their way of communicating: as they say in Germany, where there’s teasing there’s love. But love can be very intense even if it is “only” brotherly love; it must not be romantic and passionate to deserve this name. All the efforts to find ultimate evidence that we are dealing with a romantic respectively intimate relationship between Kirk and Spock do not sound convincing to me. These added components belong, in my opinion, entirely into the world of fanfiction and the imagination of fans. I would never pretend that such interpretation is wrong or immoral, on the contrary; but I do believe we ought to accept that it is a parallel world and that we should bear respect to how the Roddenberry’s universe and characters were drawn up and meant to be, and that canon and fiction can’t and shouldn’t be seen as one and the same thing. Also, I do not see what should be wrong with letting these two worlds exist in parallel, and why so many fans stubbornly insist on accepting only their interpretation of characters and events.
And then again, why not. Star Trek in itself is an alternative timeline; it is placed in a fictitious 23rd century, a time and place when on Earth there are no wars, no one must suffer from hunger, almost all sicknesses can be healed, men and women are equal, and people of all races can come and work together for a mutual aim: there is no guarantee that our future will indeed look like that, although many like to believe it. Just the same, fanfiction is a universe all of its own. And some stories come from very talented writers, who pour their inventiveness, experiences, thoughts and feelings into their stories, often painting amazing pictures. I have read more than one that made me laugh, others that made me cry, others that made me dream; some held a message for me that made me think for quite a number of days. I do not believe in soulmates or karmic relationships (well, I don’t deny them outright, but if they do exist, I do not believe that they are a guarantee for lifelong love and happiness), life made me too sarcastic for that I’m afraid. But I still do love stories patterned upon fairy tales, where everything turns out all right when you can at last be with the someone in whose eyes you find yourself, and vice versa. Fanfiction is another parallel universe and can mean just as much to the viewer, reader respectively writer. And k/s stories are a place where someone like Spock can experience more happiness, while someone like Kirk has the chance to deepen and mature enough for a close, tight bonding based upon commitment.
Hardcore fans tend to forget that Star Trek is, after all, fiction, that the characters and their lives are not actually real, their dialogues or silent interactions were written in a script before they appeared on screen, the oh-so-often-interpreted looks they throw at each other performed by actors who have lives and personalities separated from the fictional characters they were interpreting. Each episode had to stand alone and was not to be continued, so that even if relationships with new characters were started, in the end there had to be some reason why they could not develop further. Many an irrational element was added into their adventures merely for greater emphasis: just for instance, it makes little sense how many dangers the main crew comes through, sometimes despite the most absurd situations (with Star Trek the description “red-shirt” came up for secondary characters who are killed by rather implausible reasons, while the main crewmembers seem to be capable to survive most anything). Not to mention how many times Spock’s “differing Vulcan physiology or psychology” has to account as an explanation for strange situations or last-minute solutions. And off-worlders, provided they do exist, will assuredly not be as they are in the show: its sources are too easily recognizable. Vulcan’s philosophy based upon “logic” roots in Confucianism; the whole Vulcan culture reminds of ancient China with its clan pride, strong attachment to the family, women being subordinate to their husbands, lifetime partners being chosen by the parents for their children. Klingons, on the other hands, are modelled upon Mongolian culture, Romulans on the ancient Roman Empire, down to their names and those of their planets, Ferengi on Arabian culture. Not to mention the show’ countless, if well-beloved clichés, like a Scotsman having a good Scottish accent, loving to drink Scotch and to play the bagpipe, as you would expect him to; a Southerner having a Southern accent and loving his whisky respectively brandy, a Japanese having the honour codex and the demeanour of a samurai, a Russian with a Russian accent and a strong pride of his nation, an Irishman, of course, an Irish accent and singing Irish folk songs. (Did I forget anything...?) The peace and prosperity this Earth lives in is comprehensible seen the historical background Star Trek was realized in: after two horrible world wars, and during the Cuba crisis, here we saw people from different races, including alien ones, living and working together peacefully and striving for mutual aims. But still, we have no reason to believe that mankind’s future will indeed look like that, much as we may wish it.
However, we are speaking of an universe of characters, timelines and stories that describe an idealized future for our race, and much as it may be unrealistic, it has the advantage of making us dream, imagine a better future, rethink some of our convictions, give us hope, or sometimes simply make us have a good time. So, as they say, keep on trekking, wherein I would include: keep on writing and reading k/s stories if you like to. Do not give up your dreams and ideals - I made the mistake a few times in my life and always lived to regret it. Rather, let them interact with and influence your every day’s life: dreams and ideals are made for giving your mind and heart an orientation, not for being reached. The stories and characters of Star Trek appeal to that bit of magic we all need in our lives. And let’s be grateful the k/s basis is not explicit; if it was, it would lay some more limitations that no fanfiction writer can wish for. One of the great, appealing traits of k/s is that the pairing is half-forbidden, shrouded in imagination and speculations and leaving heaps of space for the fan’s fantasy. If it was all too clear, too much in the open (e.g. the Spock / Uhura couple in the new J.J. Abrams film), let me say it: it would be plain boring and hardly tickle the viewer’s fantasy.
All right, and now I’m really being honest. I do not believe that k/s was ever supposed to be a love story, not in canon, not by their makers. But, let’s look at it from another point of view. Let me suppose it is indeed a love story. We would have two characters who are quite opposite, yet living and working together in harmony. A soul-deep friendship, understanding, trust, loyalty, affection; decades of two shared lives, of countless adventures, good and bad ones, lived through together, never parted for good, working, living, growing, developing together. Add the mind meld to this, which assumes that they indeed know each other’s mind, can really be one, perhaps even learn to love each other’s minds before they do the same with their bodies. Place the romantic element on top, the sparkle of tenderness that lovers share, the magic of intimate feelings and experiences, unforgettable moments that forge two to a unity, and a happy, fulfilled love life without negative side effects. Hmmm. I am not saying that I consider such a relationship to be absolutely impossible. But if it were, I would have to admit that I don’t believe in it because, on the whole - it sounds too good to be true.