Nearly 50 years after the show premiered, the original Star Trek is one of the most beloved and iconic TV series of all time. All the spinoffs and tie-ins that have come in the decades since wouldn’t have happened if Gene Roddenberry hadn’t created something special back in 1966. In spite of a great cast and plenty of behind-the-scenes talent, Star Trek’s original three-season run wasn’t without its problems. In fact, a 1968 memo from Gene Roddenberry shows the series’ creator addressing character development issues with Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and others.
Kirk, Spock, and McCoy were the core of the show, a triad that together represented the span of human character. McCoy was the heart, Spock the mind, and Kirk the will. But Roddenberry was concerned that his captain had begun to lose his way and become too “jolly.” Suggesting that Kirk’s leadership and the weight of command had been lost somewhat in building his camaraderie with the crew, Roddenberry reminded his writers:
Kirk must guard his tongue, guard even his affection for others … The trick is something akin to making Captain Kirk seem at times a bastard but keeping the audience in on the fact that he is a really good guy in a tough job which requires a certain amount of command “play acting.” He knows all eyes are on him constantly…
One of the most often heard complaints re: Kirk from fans is that he is too “jolly,” and that he seems to be actively seeking friendship and approval from his subordinates. Our audience likes Kirk best of all when he is at his toughest and then they like contrasting cabin scenes where we learn in privacy that he is not as tough as he pretends.