Ever since Star Trek: The Original Series, Captain Kirk has been known for the iconic (and often hammy) way that he fights his foes. From his famous double-fisted blows to trading barbs with rival starship captains, Kirk is the best there ever was when it came to delivering a Starfleet beatdown (sorry, Jean-Luc). If you’d like to get your blood (red or green) pumping by revisiting Kirk’s classic conflicts, we’ve rounded up the definitive list of his best battles across this iconic Paramount franchise.
6. Kirk Vs. Khan in “Space Seed”
We couldn’t have a list of famous Star Trek fights without listing Captain Kirk’s battle with the legendary Augmented villain Khan Noonien Singh. And while their showdown in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is an all-time banger, we actually prefer their first battle in The Original Series episode “Space Seed.”
One reason for our preference is that this episode, unlike the later Star Trek movie, gives us an actual fight between the two. It’s very exciting seeing Kirk try to figure out how to foil a foe so much stronger than himself, and it’s scary to ponder that Khan has so many genetically enhanced super soldiers under his command. Finally, the resolution to their conflict, with Kirk giving Khan a chance to start a new life rather than just throwing him in jail, demonstrates his generosity and mercy (even if it does bite him in the rear so many years later).
5. Kirk Vs. Spock In “Amok Time”
When it comes to Star Trek fights, there are some that only hardcore fans even know about. But Kirk’s battle with Spock in “Amok Time” is one that has been endlessly homaged and parodied in pop culture. You can probably envision it in your head: Spock is caught in the throes of Pon Farr and must fight Kirk, leaving the captain to fight a stronger foe on an arid world using archaic weaponry, all while deliciously cheesy music plays.
While Kirk holds his own, what’s notable about this Star Trek fight is that he was never destined to beat Spock in a contest of strength. Dr. McCoy knows this, which is why he gives Kirk an injection to help the captain fake his death, shocking Spock out of his stupor. Rather than being a sore loser, Kirk is just happy to get his friend back, which once again demonstrates the quality of his character in a very surprising way.
4. Kirk Vs. The Gorn In “Arena”
Speaking of Star Trek fights that became iconic pop culture moments, it’s tough to beat Captain Kirk’s conflict with the Gorn in “Arena.” This is the episode where a godlike race forces Kirk to fight the violent, lizard-like alien. And Kirk’s ability to survive depends just as much on his pure martial prowess as it does on his ability to MacGyver together makeshift weapons in order to defeat his foe.
Once again, a major part of what is notable about this Star Trek fight is how Kirk responds to victory. When he has the Gorn at his mercy, he decides to spare his life rather than kill him, gaining the approval of the godlike being who transported both of them there in the first place. It’s a timeless moment, though given how vicious the Gorn are in Strange New Worlds, we can’t help but wonder if Kirk’s mercy ultimately caused the deaths of countless more victims.
3. Kirk Vs. Gary Mitchell In “Where No Man Has Gone Before”
Star Trek often deals in iconic sci-fi tropes, and in “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” we get the trope of “ordinary human is given godlike powers.” Kirk must eventually fight his best friend Gary Mitchell after the latter gets powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. And Kirk knows the outcome of this fight could affect everyone on his ship and perhaps everyone in the galaxy.
Eventually, Kirk prevails, killing Mitchell with a phaser-induced rockslide before his former friend can become even more powerful. It’s thrilling to watch a Star Trek fight where Kirk is so far outside his weight class, and Kirk remains a class act even in victory. In the final moments of the episode, he records a log claiming that his friend died “in performance of his duty,” explaining to an incredulous Spock that Mitchell “didn’t ask for what happened to him.”
2. Kirk Vs. Kruge In Star Trek III: The Search For Spock (1984)
In Star Trek III: The Search For Spock, we get a fight between Captain Kirk and the Klingon Captain Kruge that is great on multiple levels. In terms of pure fistfighting, we get a thrilling (if short) battle between the two that involves Kirk kicking his foe into the flowing lava of the Genesis planet. It’s the closest Star Trek has come to giving us a Mortal Kombat fatality, and that’s one kickass combination.
Arguably, though, the more thrilling aspect of this Star Trek fight is seeing Kirk outwit his Klingon foe. He doesn’t just physically beat Kruge: he kills most of the Klingon’s men by blowing up the Enterprise while they are onboard, and he then impersonates Kruge in order to get beamed up to his Bird of Prey… which Kirk’s crew immediately commandeers. Kirk even uses that ship to save the Earth in the next movie, making this one victory that just keeps giving.
1. Kirk Vs. The Chameloid in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)
In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, we get a very memorable fight between Captain Kirk and a shapeshifting creature known as the Chameloid. A big part of what makes the battle memorable is that before they start trading blows, the creature shifts out of its attractive female form into a brand-new shape. Specifically, it takes the form of Kirk himself, meaning that Kirk must fight a different kind of Mortal Kombat: the mirror match.
The actual battle has all the fun campiness of an old-school Star Trek fight, but what really takes it over the top is the dialogue. Kirk expresses disbelief that he previously kissed the shapeshifter, leaving the alien to quip “must have been your lifelong ambition.” It’s a fun meta-joke about both Kirk as a character and Shatner as an actor that each is completely in love with themselves, and that’s a fiercer and more memorable blow than any punch (even the double-fisted one) could ever be.