James T. Kirk

Captain of Star Trek's Enterprise

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The image above is a spiritual portrait, or Groja.[1] It depicts the personality of James T. Kirk, Captain of the Starship Enterprise on the Original Star Trek series.

Captain Kirk is the main character on the show, and almost all of the episodes revolve around him..[2]

An Archetypal Leader

The Green and Red in Captain Kirk's portrait show he is decisive, an important quality in a leader. Aliens frequently threaten the starship, and these threats often come with a deadline — some sort of ticking clock. In these situations, it is essential for leaders to keep calm and focused so they can find a rational course of action. In cases like this, the ability to quickly make any decision is more important than finding the right decision, because indecisiveness when the clock is ticking can be fatal.

Captain Kirk's image also contains a bit of Yellow, showing he is pragmatic. Pragmatism is another important quality in a leader, because it helps ensure a crew's loyalty when they can also see for themselves the situations driving their leader's decisions.

Kirk enjoys being the one making the decisions. In episode 12 of season 3, The Empath, he, Spock, and McCoy are trapped underground on a planet. They become the subject of some cruel experiments by some aliens and, even though he is under stress and in pain, Kirk manages to find the energy to state The decision is mine. If there are any decisions to be made, I'll make them. if and when it becomes necessary.

Logical but Aware of His Emotions

Green dominates the image, showing the Captain prefers to make logical decisions. But there is also plenty of Red, showing he is in touch with his emotions.

Captain Kirk repeatedly demonstrates a preference for rationality. For one thing, he is able to stay calm in all of the battles he faces, whether on the bridge of the starship or in hand-to-hand combat with an alien in an arena.

Interestingly, Kirk does not cry, even when confronted with great personal loss. In season 1 episode 15, Shore Leave, his personal friend  dies, yet Kirk shows no emotion. When a Yeoman gets upset and blames herself, he reprimands her: Yeoman! We're in trouble. I need every crewman alert and thinking. This happens again in season 1 episode 29, Operation — Annihilate!,  when Kirk sees his own brother die, yet refuses to cry.

Obviously, Captain Kirk knows crying is a sign of weakness, an unacceptable trait in a starship captain. Underneath this macho persona, however, it's clear Kirk understands how extremely important human emotions are.

This awareness of the importance of emotions is most evident in a comment he makes in season 1 episode 13, The Conscience of the King. Thinking out loud while trying to decide whether an actor could actually be a criminal on the run, he states: He could've changed his appearance. No. Logic is not enough. I've got to feel my way, make absolutely sure.

Kirk also shows his more human, emotional side in his encounters with beautiful women. Unlike the totally unemotional Spock, Kirk never has any difficulty turning on the charm.

Finally, by frequently consulting with the emotional McCoy when he faces a tough decision, Kirk further demonstrates his awareness of the need for balanced decision-making.

Pragmatic but Imaginative

As an explorer, James Kirk is very realistic, and the Yellow in his image represents his pragmatism. He spends his day not in some ivory tower, but on the front lines, interacting with — and all too frequently battling — aliens.

But Kirk's image has some bits of Blue in it, showing he can be imaginative, when the situation calls for it. For example, in season 1 episode 10, The Corbomite Maneuver, the ship is threatened with imminent destruction when Kirk is suddenly inspired by the card game poker. His quick, outside-of-the-box-type of thinking enables him to save the starship.

Although Captain Kirk can come up with new ideas, it is usually in response to a critical demand or threat in the real world.

A Respected Leader

Captain Kirk has the characteristics — ratiionality and realism, visualized as Green and Yellow — essential in a leader. He also knows how to temper these with a healthy respect for human emotions and the ability to think creatively.

One could also say that James T. Kirk is more passionate about his crew’s lives than he is about his own — and hence he is more worthy of his crew’s respect and allegiance than many other typical leaders.

These qualities enable him to bring together a team which is, in many ways, invincible in their travels throughout the universe. And his team respects him as much for his archetypal leadership qualities as for his ability to temper them as needed.

Kirk is a fictional character, but he manifests many of the best qualities of people in general — and leaders in particular. Significantly, some of these qualities are outside the scope of the questionnaire used to produce the profiles these images depict, and thus do not appear in it. That is to say, this spiritual portrait does not tell the whole story — and the image of a bad guy's personality might be similar — but it is useful as a starting point.

As a fictional character, Captain Kirk does not have human parents.[3] Instead, his roots are in the stories appearing since the 1920s in pulp fiction magazines such as Amazing Stories and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

Captain Kirk may be make-believe, but he has very real human qualities — qualities ultimately inspired by real people. More importantly, Kirk has inspired not just the members of his fictional crew but countless numbers of real people since his inception in the mid-1960s.

I am confident Captain Kirk's demonstration of archetypal, universal leadership qualities play a big role in the series' continuing popularity.

See More at SeeOurMinds.com

To see full-size images of the personalities of Captain Kirk and other characters — including Scotty — on Star Trek, see the Star Trek gallery at SeeOurMinds.com.

Star Trek TOS on DVD

This portrait is based on the DVD box set containing all 79 episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series. Each episode has been digitally remastered, and the results are amazing.

The remastered episodes include new special effects sequences, reworked using modern technology. The disks have an option enabling you to switch between the original and the updated effects sequences while watching an episode. This unique feature is great fun to play with, but I did not fully appreciate it until after watching the commentaries.

Commentaries are one of my favorite features of watching any series or movie on DVD! I am a lifelong fan of art history, and I love watching these and hearing the behind-the-scenes stories of any show!

The special features include interviews with the people who worked on the special effects discussing the challenges they encountered, their priorities, and the compromises they had to make. The commentaries also include interviews with a few of the writers for the series, including David Gerrold, who wrote The Trouble With Tribbles, and D. C. Fontana, Gene Roddenberry's secretary-turned-story editor and writer.[4]

Watching the special features always make me want to rewatch the episodes in light of the new information. As I write this, I am rewatching the series for the third time, and can say I have definitely gotten my money's worth in buying this box!

I heartily recommend the box set containing Star Trek: The Complete Original Series, Remastered  to everyone!

Tom W. Hartung

 Buy It Now! 

  • 1  A spiritual portrait or Groja — for Graphical Representation of Jungian Archetypes — is an image representing the personality of a person. Essential information about these images is on the About page at Groja.com.

  • 2  Captain Kirk does not appear in the original pilot episode, The Cage. When executives decided to pick up the series after airing a second pilot, the producers remade this initial pilot into a two-part episode, The Menagerie.

  • 3  Rewatching the series today, Captain Kirk actually reminds me quite a bit of Mike Hammer, but that's a different story.

  • 4  There is just something about D. C. Fontana's manner and the way she speaks that makes me want to figure out some way to draw her spiritual portrait. It would also be great to draw profiles of some of the other commentators, such as David Gerrold, David Rossi, and Mike and Denise Okuda. Perhaps I will reach out to them someday and politely ask whether they'd be interested in satisfying my curiosity!