Star Trek Makes Kirk A Terrible Father On Accident

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

star trek kirk father

Even in the heyday of Star Trek: The Original Series, fans liked to joke that Captain Kirk, no stranger to romance, probably had children scattered all over the galaxy (the result of “boldly sewing” his oats). Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan paid this speculation off to some degree by revealing that Kirk did have a so–David Marcus (son of Carol Marcus), a man tragically killed by Klingons in the follow-up film. The reveal and death of David were meant to add depth and pathos to Kirk’s character, but the fact that we never again saw him interact with Carol makes Kirk seem like a terrible father.

David Was Safer Without Kirk, Until He Wasn’t

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“Seem” is really the operative word here: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan made it clear that Kirk stayed away from David at Carol’s request. She was a researcher understandably worried that Kirk constantly gallivanting around the galaxy would mean they couldn’t have a real relationship, much less have Kirk help raise David as a father.

Until Khan came along, Carol’s choice also kept their son safe: certainly, the life of a researcher would be safer than life aboard a starship constantly worrying about death at the hands of the Klingons, Romulans, and various godlike beings Kirk kept running into.

Where Did Carol Marcus Go?

Why, then, am I convinced that the franchise accidentally made Kirk out to be a terrible father? When David Marcus was killed in Star Trek III, it was a big deal for Kirk, but we didn’t find out how keenly he felt this loss until The Undiscovered Country. But outside of the Kelvinverse film Into Darkness and a reference in the later series Strange New Worlds, we never heard from Carol Marcus again.

It’s one thing for Star Trek II to reveal that Kirk deliberately stayed away from Carol and David, but the end of that film implies they had become closer and would try to stay that way. Certainly, the death of David in the next film ruined that, but I hoped that Kirk would have been a good enough father and co-parent to stay in touch with Carol. This would have let both parents grieve together, and Kirk might have emerged with far less of the racist resentment we see in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

There Was A Plan To Bring Carol Back

Speaking of Star Trek VI, the novelization of that film proves my point: in the book, we discover that Carol has been living on a planet that is attacked by Klingons, leaving her on life support and at risk of dying. That helps to motivate Kirk’s later thoughts about how the Klingons killed his son, but the book also clarifies that Kirk and Carol had rekindled their relationship and were going to try to start a new life after Kirk retired. Merely mentioning this in the film would have confirmed Kirk took his brief role as father seriously and had spent plenty of time with Carol in the wake of their son’s death.


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Oh, by the way, the whole “start a new life with Carol” thing was going to be explicitly referenced in Star Trek: Generations. That movie revealed a heretofore unknown woman named Antonia whom Kirk came close to marrying–originally, this was going to be Carol Marcus, but the script was changed at the direct request of Paramount out of worries audiences wouldn’t know who she was. Since Kirk was living an idealized fantasy in the Nexus, this was a real wasted opportunity to show how much he still fantasized about his time with Carol and the opportunity to be a father.

Paramount Was The Real Villain

In other words, the real no-win scenario for this famous Star Trek captain was Paramount. In the films as written, Kirk seemed like a terrible father because he never talked to his former partner or discussed David with anyone else except to justify hating Klingons–something that, honestly, already seemed like his default state. Currently, Strange New Worlds is trying to soften the awkwardness of Kirk fathering a lovechild with Carol Marcus and leaving them both behind, but pulling that off will require nothing short of a miracle.

Then again, this is a team that knows how to make miracles happen. If you don’t believe it, just take a look at the aesthetic perfection of Captain Pike’s hair (talk about “head alert!”) and you’ll have new hope that this spinoff can paint Kirk as something other than a deadbeat dad.

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