Star Trek Guide

Star Trek: 10 Times Captain Kirk Was the Worst

Like him or hate him, you have to admit James Tiberius Kirk is a fascinating character. There's a reason fans are still obsessed with him and his adventurous aboard the Enterprise almost fifty years later. Star Trekendears as a franchise partly because of Kirk, and although he was one of the good guys he wasn't exactly the picture of virtue. In fact, there are plenty of times when Kirk behaved really badly.

It's not just the way he treats women, which is an easy mark when it comes to one of television's favorite "ladies men" but there were plenty of times when Kirk was mean to whoever was closest, even if they weren't an enemy or a woman. There were times when his friends got it as badly as his foes. Here are ten times Captain Kirk was just the worst.

10 Star Trek TOS: Season 1, Episode 1, "The Man Trap."

Kirk was awful right from the beginning, literally. In his very first line in the first scene of the first episode after the pilot, he makes a bad joke about women and flowers, all the while smirking at his cleverness.

As if that isn't bad enough, he says it to the sentimental Dr. McCoy about a former flame. If the writers of Star Trek wanted to give us a bad impression of Kirk from the very beginning, they succeeded.

9 Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

"Let them die," Kirk snarls at Spock. It's understood that Kirk has some issues with the Klingons, but turning aside while the whole race dies?

This is one of those rare moments when we have to ask ourselves if Spock really knows what he's doing. It turns out that of course, he did, but even the most stalwart Kirk fans have to catch their breath when their favorite captain voices this monstrous notion.

8 Star Trek TOS: Season 1 Episode 22, "Space Seed."

There are two interesting examples of abusive relationships in this episode in which the unfortunate Lieutenant McGivers is involved; the romantic one with Khan and the professional one with Kirk. As her boss, Kirk is dismissive and overbearing at the best of times, patronizing her and putting her work down even as he also seems proud of not even knowing what she does.

It's no wonder that Khan, who is able to be both sentimental and savage, draws her in with something that resembles tenderness and understanding. No wonder McGivers chose to leave with Khan. It was worth it to get away from Kirk.

7 Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

No, you really just saw Kirk throw his best friend under the bus to impress a girl. Just to prove that Kirk can also be a jerk to the men in his life, there's this scene in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home where he lies Gillian, the scientist working with the whales, about Spock's past drug use in a rather ham-fisted attempt to learn more about her work.

He even messes that up, referring to it as "LDS" when it's actually "LSD." Kirk is so bad here he can't even be mean properly.

6 Star Trek TOS: Season 1, Episode 26, "Errand of Mercy."

To be fair, it's no just Kirk who's being awful this time, it's all of Starfleet and the Klingons, too. Kirk is really a product of his time and his training in this episode so the audience will be more understanding but it's still satisfying to see the look on his face at the end when he recognizes his behavior.

This crucial revelation escapes the Klingon captain, so at least there's some kind of self-awareness Kirk possesses that makes him less hateful in this episode.

5 Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Even people who like Kirk as a character have to agree that he has no redeeming virtues than this movie. Wiliam Shatner behaves as if he doesn't want to be here, which is just plain weird, and that might be why the role he plays is so unlikeable. It's obvious from the start that he resents the younger and hotter new captain, and eventually, Kirk uses an annoying bureaucratic loophole to seize command from him.

That's bad enough, but with his command gone, Decker has nothing else to do in this movie except being eye candy until he's sacrificed for the greater good. You'd think that would make Shatner happy if not Kirk himself.

4 Star Trek: 2009

Kirk's worst moments are so thoroughly awful they overlap into alternate timelines. Although we already knew about Kirk cheating on his final exam, the scene wasn't depicted on-screen until the Kelvin-timeline reboot movie in 2009.

Not only did Kirk alter the computer to ensure a win, the Academy actually rewarded him for creative thinking instead of giving him the reprimand that people who cheat on exams usually get. Fans can blame Star Trek, at least in part, for a pattern of behavior that continued into his career.

3 Star Trek TOS, Season 3, Episode 17, "A Piece of the Action."

Sometimes what you need to take down a bully is an even bigger bully, one that's so huge he becomes a satire of himself.At least that's how the crew of the Enterprise prevailed in this fan-favorite episode.

It's a novelty to watch our heroes dress up as gangsters, but Kirk fills in the role a bit too easily. He becomes the head gangster in a matter of hours, after making some violent threats and angry phone calls, just to prove how ruthless he can be. Even the Corleones would have been impressed.

2 Star Trek TOS, Season 3, Episode 19, "A Private Little War."

Here's a time when Kirk let his personal issues with Klingons and his roving eye with women start a war on an otherwise peaceful planet and get his best friend's wife killed. That's not even the worst of it. By the end of the episode, Kirk has tasked Scotty with manufacturing early firearms for his friend and his people, putting a permanent end to the idyllic lifestyle the inhabitants previously enjoyed.

This isn't just a series of unfortunate events. Kirk came to the planet knowing that there were Klingons there and they were up to no good. Kirk's selfish nature just escalates an already tense situation, making this one of this worst moments.

1 Star Trek TOS: Season 3, Episode 3, "The Enterprise Incident."

Kirk's behavior in this episode is easier to excuse, but it's not fair to let him off the hook completely. The story makes it clear later that Kirk was acting in order to infiltrate the Romulan ship, but keep in mind that it was part of Starfleet's plan because that kind of behavior would be believable coming from Kirk in the first place.

It's also nice to see Spock get some screen time instead of the captain for a change.