Kirk/Spock

kirk spock

Kirk/Spock (K/S) refers to the pairing of James T. Kirk and Spock from ‘Star Trek’ in slash fiction (erotic fan fiction), possibly the first slash pairing according to media scholar Henry Jenkins. Early on, a few fan writers started speculating about the possibility of a sexual relationship between Kirk and Spock, adding a romantic or a ‘sexual element’ to the friendship between the men.

As of 1998, ‘most’ academic studies on slash focused on Kirk/Spock, as ‘Star Trek’ was one of the most accessible titles for academics and their audience, and as the first slash pairing, K/S was developed independently from the influence of other slash fiction.

Homosocial scenes between Kirk and Spock have been interpreted by some fans as being homoerotic. For example, in ‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture,’ Spock realizes that emotions, ‘play an important part in the richness of life., In a particular scene from the film, Spock is lying down in the sickbay, clasps Kirk’s hand and says that he understands, ‘this simple feeling.’ Author Elizabeth Woledge points out that both the gesture and the words are ‘ambiguous,’ and can be interpreted as homoerotic. Eye contact and gestures throughout the series have also been cited as being part of a homoerotic subtext in their relationship. Another key scene which can be interpreted as homoerotic is in ‘Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,’ when Spock dies, and tells Kirk, ‘I have been and always shall be your friend.’

It has also been noted that although Kirk has had many female companions throughout the series, he always leaves them behind, citing his duties to the Enterprise, but he frequently risks the Enterprise to keep Spock safe. Roddenberry commented on love between Kirk and Spock that: Yes, there’s certainly some of that — certainly with love overtones. Deep love. The only difference being, the Greek ideal– we never suggested in the series– physical love between the two. But it’s the– we certainly had the feeling that the affection was sufficient for that, if that were the particular style of the 23rd century.’

The first Kirk/Spock fan fiction story was ‘A Fragment Out Of Time’ by Diane Marchant, published in the fanzine Grup #3 in 1974. It contained a sex scene but was written to not identify its participants or their sexes; Marchant stated in the next issue, however, that they were Kirk and Spock. Although many early ‘Star Trek’ fans were fans of science fiction in general, an increasing number were not. According to ‘Trekker’ author Joan Marie Verba they, ‘saw it as a ‘buddy’ show, or as a heroic/romantic saga, in which Kirk and Spock were the focus. When these ‘Star Trek’ fans wrote stories, they wrote about what they thought was most important about ‘Star Trek’: Kirk and Spock’s friendship.’ Such ‘relationship’ K&S stories were distinct from homerotic ones, but both often removed Kirk and Spock from the Enterprise to avoid science fiction ‘distractions’ like the starship and the Federation. In 1976, the first Kirk/Spock dedicated fanzine appeared, but as the number of non-science fiction fans grew, within several years ‘relationship’ stories became the dominant form of Star Trek fan fiction outside the K/S genre. By 1987 there were 30 K/S fanzines.

‘Pon farr,’ a condition introduced in ‘Amok Time’ (1967) where Vulcans ‘must have sex or die,’ is a device used in some stories such as ‘The Ring of Soshern,’ a pre-1976 fan fiction where Kirk and Spock are marooned on an uncharted planet. However, it has also been suggested that it is biologically impossible for a male to consummate pon farr with another male, and mating with the nearest organism of any species or gender is not sufficient. Allowing another person to perform a biological function upon oneself clearly is not the definition of a homosexual relationship. Furthermore, in the Original Series, it is stated that Vulcans are mated as children and only return to consummate the marriage. Vulcans must mate or die trying. (In this episode Spock does not mate and lives, using ritual combat to overcome the condition.) Other plot elements include the ‘plak tow’ ‘blood fever’; the fact that Kirk, because of his empathic bond with Spock, can sense when Spock is about to go into pon farr, and even suffers some of its symptoms himself; and ‘lingering death,’ the fate of a Vulcan male in pon farr who is unable to claim a mate.

Author Camille Bacon-Smith speculates that K/S is a way for women to, ‘openly discuss sexuality in a non-judgmental manner.’ Kirk and Spock’s depiction in K/S zines has been described as, ‘two equal individuals who complement each other,’ and a key theme has been that they can continue working and still be a couple, their relationship enhancing their ability to perform competently in their stressful jobs. A fan has said of the pairing: ‘K/S has it all: friendship, relationship drama that gets resolved, enormous expressions of devotion through sacrifice, trust and commitment over a period of decades. It’s really hard to find another fictional couple that did all that, and did it as well.’

Henry Jenkins expresses the opinion that in the 2009 film, Uhura’s character is largely there to be the ‘love object’ in “some kind of still to be explored romantic triangle” between Kirk and Spock, and to ‘discourage’ slashers. He says that in the original series there were hints of a Kirk/Uhura romance, but that it was sub-textual allowing for alternative slash fiction.

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