Star Trek 2009 Character Comparison Essay

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In its half-century history, "Star Trek" has challenged us to boldly go where no one has gone before. The best characters have often encouraged vigorous debate among Trekkies, as they are compared by their rank and species and evaluated for differences in their flaws and virtues. The worst -- we're looking at you "Voyager" and "Enterprise" -- leave fans wondering if there's a point to their existence. 

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A quick note, to keep the list manageable, we're restricting the list to the main cast of the five "Trek" shows -- before the upcoming "Discovery." That means you won't be seeing movie villains like Khan or recurring characters like Q. But let it be said that if we did include him, Q would top the list by several light years.

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39. Wesley Crusher (The Next Generation) By far the most hated character in "Trek" history. A super-genius kid who would on more than one occasion save the Enterprise while others with infinitely more experience struggled. Even the man who played him, Wil Wheaton, hated him.

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38. Travis Mayweather (Enterprise)No backstory, no fears, no desires. No "Trek" crew member was more pointless and two-dimensional than Mayweather, except perhaps for …

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37. Hoshi Sato (Enterprise) ... a poor man's Uhura whose sole purpose was to serve as a translator for the crew since the technology for the Universal Translator hadn't been invented yet. Like many of the characters at the bottom of this list, Rick Berman and Brannon Braga were unable to flesh Sato out beyond her basic premise.

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36. Neelix (Voyager) And now for the "Voyager" portion of our list, starting with the ship's mohawked chef. He never fit into the show's plots, leaving him to spout dumb food jokes and platitudes of optimism to the weary crew.

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35. B'Elanna Torres (Voyager) Next we have the Human/Klingon hybrid lieutenant, whose entire personality too often boiled down to her being a hothead. In truth, she seemed to be designed as a mix of Worf and Tasha, but failed to even come close to being as memorable as either of them.

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34. Chakotay (Voyager)Another character that the writers ran out of material for. At best, Captain Janeway's right hand man was a dull character. At worst, the attempts to honor Gene Roddenberry's dedication to diversity by delving into Chakotay's Native American background came off as too stereotypical.

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33. Tom Paris (Voyager) A slightly better character who had more defined relationships with other crew members, but many of the episodes that focused on him were just variations on him being the stereotypical hotshot pilot looking for a thrill.

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32. Harry Kim (Voyager) His friendship with Paris and awkward conversations with Seven-of-Nine were enjoyable to watch, but other than that he tended to be just a stiff ensign who spouted technobabble.

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31. Malcolm Reed (Enterprise) The inventor of the "red alert" system. Unlike Sato and Mayweather, Reed had a bit of a character arc as he spent his time on the Enterprise coming out of his shell, but this didn't result in Reed becoming much more than a generally affable but nondescript character.

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30. Deanna Troi (TNG)Take a shot every time this Betazoid started a sentence with the words "I sense …" Troi spent several seasons in low-neckline outfits, serving as a counselor on a ship that rarely had any real conflict. Eventually, she was given a uniform like the others and allowed to play a role in missions, but only at a very late point in the series.

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29. Jonathan Archer (Enterprise) When "Enterprise" started, Archer was an interesting captain. As Starfleet's first man in charge, he was bound to make mistakes, and viewers enjoying seeing how he got out of them. Unfortunately, the struggle got stale quick, as he became the "prototype" captain instead of developing into a leader in his own right.

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28. T'Pol (Enterprise) Though Jolene Blalock's acting could sometimes be as ridiculous as her fanservice outfits, the first Vulcan Starfleet officer's slow embrace of her illogical humans was interesting to watch, as was her struggle to cope with a disease that dissolved control over her emotions. 

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27. Phlox (Enterprise) Armed with a massive grin and years of medical experience, NX-01's Denobulan doctor is what Neelix could have been, providing both regular humor and the basis for episodes that explored his values and relationship with a human race still getting used to interacting with aliens. 

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26. Jadzia Dax (Deep Space Nine) An interesting blend of previous personalities. Over the course of six seasons, Dax showed Worf's intensity, Kirk's swagger, and Spock's curiosity. Part of this is due to the fact that she's bonded with a symbiont that has the memories of countless past lives. It's also due to inconsistent writing, particularly after she hooked up with Worf in Season 4.

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25. Quark (DS9) The Ferengi started as the Alpha Quadrant's amoral mafia, but DS9 began to show their capacity for courage and compassion, though they would be loath to admit it. In spite of his insistence that he's nothing but a cowardly smuggler -- and he can be that -- Quark proves to be a valuable ally to Sisko when the chips are down.

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24. Tasha Yar (TNG) Oh, where to start with Tasha. She was a rather polarizing figure, with some people appreciating her status as a more involved woman on the bridge, while others thought she was rather obnoxious. She was killed off near the end of season 1, but was brought back in the episode "Yesterday's Enterprise," which was praised for showing Tasha's true potential as a character while giving her a better send-off.

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23. Tuvok (Voyager) This is where the characters really get good, starting with the Voyager's resident Vulcan. Tim Russ proved to be a worthy successor to Leonard Nimoy, portraying Tuvok as a loyal friend to Janeway and a Vulcan with a dark side beneath all the discipline and repressed emotions.

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22. Doctor (Voyager) Easily the most popular character in the "Voyager" cast, this sarcastic, overworked medical hologram won fans over with his exasperated jokes and quest for respect from the rest of the Voyager crew. His non-organic status also allowed him to bond with Seven-of-Nine

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21. Pavel Chekov (Star Trek)Several members of the original Enterprise crew were not fleshed out on paper, but became beloved thanks to brilliant acting and natural chemistry between the cast. Take Chekov, who became a fan favorite because of his loyalty to Mother Russia as well as the blood samples he was constantly asked to provide.

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20. Nyota Uhura (Trek)Though she was vastly underutilized, Uhura's presence on the Enterprise was a big step forward for African-American women in television. After being skipped on the chain of command for years, Uhura finally got to take charge of the Enterprise during a rescue mission in the animated series.  

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19. Hikaru Sulu (Trek) Like Chekhov's Walt Koenig and Uhura's Nichelle Nichols, the two-dimensional Sulu became legendary thanks to George Takei. For a long time, Sulu was known for being a cultured gentleman and a bare-chested fencer, but he got his big moment in the movie "Star Trek VI" as captain of the Excelsior.  

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18. Seven of Nine (Voyager)  Like Uhura, Troi, and T'Pol, Seven of Nine was the fanservice character of her series, but her introduction to "Voyager" is an episode for the ages. As a former Borg unit brought to Janeway's side, Seven continued the tradition of rounding out alien races that were once bitter Federation enemies by showing just why someone would want to be assimilated.

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17. Miles O'Brien (TNG/DS9)Midway through "TNG," the writers realized there was value in fleshing out the Chekovs in their cast. Miles started as a seen-but-rarely-heard recurring character who eventually became a star on "DS9" thanks to episodes that transformed him into Starfleet's quintessential everyman.

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16.  Charles "Trip" Tucker III (Enterprise)Perhaps Trip's ranked too high, but let's throw "Enterprise" a bone. He was the most interesting character on the show, serving as a right hand man to Archer, a lover to T'Pol, a fighter, a scholar, and ultimately, a martyr to the Federation.

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15. Julian Bashir (DS9)One of the more strongly-defined character arcs in the "Trek" canon. Bashir started the series as a cocky but inexperienced crew member who eventually developed into a mature member of the crew as the Dominion War raged on.

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14. Beverly Crusher (TNG)Unlike her son, Dr. Crusher was a popular "TNG" cast member. Not only was she a compassionate medic, she was a capable fighter and leader who even got to take command of the bridge on a couple of occasions.

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13. Kathryn Janeway (Voyager) The Voyager's captain has become the basis for much debate among Trekkies. In addition to her character swinging from mother figure to ruthless general depending on the writer, Janeway threw away the Federation rulebook in ways that even Kirk would be shocked by as she tried to guide the Voyager back home. Say what you will, but Janeway is an interesting figure in the "Trek" canon, which is why she's ranked so high. 

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12. Montgomery "Scotty" Scott (Trek) The miracle worker of the Enterprise treated his ship like a beloved daughter. Whether it was attacked by Romulans or Tribbles, Scotty would always make sure that his beloved ship would make it out in one piece. Unfortunately, as the new movie "Star Trek Beyond" shows, Scotty's counterpart in the reboot universe can't say the same about his Enterprise.

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11. Geordi La Forge (TNG)The Enterprise-D's sweet engineer would often insist that some engineering marvel that would save the day is impossible, only to do it in minutes when pressed. His finest moments as a character came when he helped Data learn how to be more human, often to mixed results.

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10. Kira Nerys (DS9)While "Trek" tackled many philosophical topics, religion was not one of them for a long time. Kira changed that, along with many other things. A firm believer in the Prophets and in terror tactics, Kira's tough past on Bajor caused her to lock horns with the lofty ideals of the Federation members she had to work with on DS9.

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9. Worf (TNG/DS9) The Klingon lieutenant started the trend of turning enemies from past series into complex characters who became vital Starfleet crew members despite cultural differences. Worf has had more appearances and story arcs than almost any other "Trek" character, including rising through Starfleet's ranks, joining the DS9 crew, becoming a father, and preventing a civil war on his homeworld.

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8. Odo (DS9) One of the most powerful twists for any "Trek" character came in "DS9," when Odo discovered that he was a member of the race that leads the Dominion. Sisko's number one was forced to choose a side: his race or the people they wished to exterminate. In the end, there's only one reason he stays with the Federation: his deep love for Kira.

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7. Benjamin Sisko (DS9)Commander of Deep Space Nine, Captain of the Defiant, and one of the most conflicted characters in "Trek" history. Sisko proved to be a truly fearsome captain, but gained that reputation through brutal actions that compromised his ideals. His internal conflict was a driving component behind DS9's deconstruction of Gene Roddenberry's utopia through war and racial conflict.

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6. Leonard "Bones" McCoy (Trek) While he wasn't as fleshed out as Kirk or Spock, Bones didn't need to be. DeForest Kelley's sardonic delivery worked perfectly with both the Captain and the Vulcan, as he served as the voice of reason to keep them both level.

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5. William Riker (TNG)Number One started out as a rehash of Kirk, right down to the cocky smirk. Then came the beard, and with it a fierce sense of duty and undying loyalty to Picard. Both were put to the ultimate test in "Best of Both Worlds," when he uttered the words that became one of the most famous cliffhangers in TV history: "Mr. Worf ... FIRE."  

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4. Data (TNG)The funniest and most thought-provoking supporting crew member ever. Data's overly analytical approach to human minutae made him a charming android, and his status as a sentient A.I. gave birth to "Measure of a Man," one of the franchise's most important contributions to sci-fi.

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3. James T. Kirk (Trek)The original captain, whose appeal hasn't waned in the slightest over the past five decades. Kirk is the perfect mix of geek and space cowboy, serving as a sort of John Wayne figure for the sci-fi crowd. 

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2. Spock (Trek)"Trek" has built its legacy on alien outsiders making observations about the human race. That began with Spock, whose Vulcan blood put him outside of our species while his human blood kept him tethered to it. From his pointy ears came endless ruminations on the nature of humanity and whether we will overcome our differences and reach the stars together.  

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1. Jean-Luc Picard ("TNG") Yep, we're planting our flag firmly in the Frenchman's territory when it comes to the "Best Captain" debate. If Spock began the "Trek" philosophizing, Picard perfected it. He is a diplomat and a scholar, and remains so despite suffering torture and countless near-death situations. He is the embodiment of the intellect-over-brutality ideal that "Star Trek" built its legacy on.

  • Abusive Parents: His unseen stepfather is heavily implied to have been abusive towards him and his brother. In the original script, his friend "Johnny" that young Kirk speaks to is his brother George Jr, who was running away from home due to this and learning their stepfather intended to sell their father's prized car. Kirk, meanwhile, decided to total it to spite him.
  • Amusing Injuries: A lot of them in the first movie. Gets shades of it in the first half-hour of the second, but after Admiral Pike dies the joke stops being funny in a real hurry.
  • Anti-Hero: He's a Chivalrous Pervert and Jerk with a Heart of Gold with some serious issues when it comes to authority. But at the end of the day, you can count on him to do what's right, even if it conflicts with protocol. By the end of Star Trek Into Darkness he's becoming more of a Hero Classic.
  • Arch-Enemy: No matter the universe or timeline, Kirk and Khan will always be bitter enemies.
  • Badass Biker: Star Trek Beyond has Kirk show his amazing biker skills when he adverts the attention of Krall's men.
  • Badass in Charge: After taking command of the Enterprise.
  • Badass Normal: No superpowers, but he'll go charging in anyway.
  • Big Brother Mentor: To Chekov in Into Darkness and Beyond.
  • Big Ol' Eyebrows: The character retains Chris Pine's bushy eyebrows.
  • Birthday Hater: He hates celebrating his birthday because it reminds him of his father's death. In Beyond, he hates it even more because he's now one year older than his father ever got to be.
  • Boldly Coming: Zig-zagged. So far he's bedded an Orion woman and Caitian twins, but both those incidents took place on Earth. When he's on the Enterprise or otherwise away from his home planet, he avoids actually romancing anyone.
  • Break the Haughty:
    • Kirk is confident about himself, fearless and absolutely believes there's no such thing as a no-win scenario, prompting him to cheat at the Kobayashi Maru test to prove his point. But then comes Star Trek Into Darkness where he gets demoted and lost the command of his vessel, lost his father figure Pike and almost led the entire ship to its demise because of his impulsiveness (good thing Scotty saved them).

    Kirk: I'm sorry...

    • At the beginning of Into Darkness, he bragged how no one in his crew was killed in the past six months of his command, then his mission to Kronos cost the lives of his escorts, many of the crewmen sucked into space at warp speed and fell into their deaths when the ship was crashing. Kirk was unable to do anything but watch. He tried to save one woman but she slipped from his fingers.
    • On the mission to infiltrate the Vengeance, he ordered Spock to stay and take command of the ship, admitting that he didn't know what to do. He realized Spock was the one needed while he's expendable.
    • By the time he's dying, he's definitely broken.

    Kirk: I'm scared, Spock. Help me not be...

  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Kirk has a brilliant tactical mind and is an outstanding leader, but only if you can pry him away from women and alcohol long enough. Pike even refers to him as the "only genius-level repeat-offender in the Mid-West".
  • Broken Ace: While the Prime Reality version of Kirk had shades of this, the premature loss of his father in this reality definitely has caused this Kirk to grow up a lot more rough around the edges. Many of his behaviors, such as excessive flirting and posturing, could be construed as coping mechanisms for his Dark and Troubled Past.
  • Butt-Monkey: Many of the first film's action sequences, and much of its humor, involve him getting owned in one way or another. He also gets stranded on planets and has freaky and potentially embarrassing reactions to vaccines.
    • He gets choked by Spock at one point and by a Romulan at another. Both times with some pretty good acting by Pine. It hurts as you try to catch your breath afterwards. Pine actually mentioned in an interview that he admires Harrison Ford for his ability to take a beating like it really hurts, and that he considered that an underrated skill.
    • Kirk getting repeatedly owned in hand-to-hand combat with Spock and the Romulans is somewhat justifiable, considering they're meant to be three times stronger than humans.
    • The second film is no different, although it's less humorous this time around: He accidentally shoots the ride that he and Bones were going to use to get back to the Enterprise, loses his ship (temporarily), watches his father figure Pike die, gets the snot beaten out of him by Harrison, and he even dies (albeit temporarily) a very painful death of radiation poisoning.
    • By the third movie, his injuries aren't so amusing anymore.
  • The Captain: Captain of the Enterprise, leading his Ragtag Bunch of Misfits across the stars.
  • Cerebus Callback: Kirk's Heroic Sacrifice in into Darkness is a direct reference to Kirk and Spock's debate in the first film after Kirk cheated the simulation.
  • Character Development: Grows from a smart-ass drifter to a capable leader throughout the first film, and learns to abandon some of his Military Maverick and Leeroy Jenkins tendencies in the second. By the third, he is becoming jaded with the never-ending exploration and considers taking a promotion to a desk job, though he later turns it down and loses his jadedness.
  • The Charmer: He's likable, friendly and charming.
  • Chick Magnet: Gaila was in to him in the first movie and the sequel has him in bed with two Caitians.
  • Chivalrous Pervert: Despite how much he flirts with women, we never see Kirk get pushy, and the only woman he ever (visibly) scores with is Uhura's roommate. Though in Into Darkness, he's in bed with two Caitians. As for the "chivalrous" part, it's worth noting that despite chasing Uhura the entire first movie, in the second movie, he treats her as a professional and an officer worthy of respect and never makes a pass at her. They even have a friendship moment bonding over their frustration with Spock.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Heavily alluded to with Kirk, who lost his father just minutes after his birth, was frequently abused by his stepfather while his mother was off-planet, his brother Sam ran away when Jim was still young because he hated their stepfather so much, nearly killed himself by driving a car off a cliff when he was twelve, and was already a repeat offender long before enlisting in Starfleet. It certainly explains a lot of the behavioral differences between him and the Kirk from Spock Prime's universe.
  • Deadpan Snarker

    Kirk: The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
    Spock: An Arab proverb attributed to a prince who was later betrayed and beheaded by his people.
    Kirk: Well, it's still a hell of a quote!

  • Determinator: He doesn't believe in no-win scenarios and is certainly one stubborn fellow once he sets his mind to accomplishing something. He keeps fighting physically superior beings (Vulcans, Romulans, Klingons, Harrison), and either holds his own or keeps going despite taking beatings that others would collapse from.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Kirk hits on Uhura at the beginning of the movie, but she turns him down. It is later revealed that she and Spock have an established relationship. In the Star Trek (IDW) comics and subsequent films, he's actually quite supportive of the the relationship and gets worried about them when problems arise.
  • Embarrassing Middle Name: To the point his father refused to let it be Kirk's first name.

    George Kirk: What, "Tiberius?" No, that's the worst.

  • Expy: Of Pete "Maverick" Mitchell. Both are Military Mavericks who are also Handsome Leches who eventually prove their mettle when faced with danger in an emergency situation. Both also served on the USS Enterprise and have fathers who were killed in action.
  • Farm Boy: Kirk was raised on a farm in Iowa.
  • A Father to His Men: Kirk loves his crew as if they were his family. Harrison notices this and presents his own love for his crew as a point of similarity between them. Towards the end of Into Darkness, Kirk provides an answer to the question posed by Harrison when he gives his life (temporarily, but he didn't know that at the time) to save the Enterprise and her crew.

    Harrison: My crew is my family, Kirk. Is there anything you would not do for your family?

  • Fight Magnet: He gets into no fewer than four fistfights during the first film and loses pretty much all of them.
  • First-Name Basis: McCoy mostly is on this with Kirk, Spock and Scotty as well, but not so much.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: He and Spock had to be this first, though.
  • Former Teen Rebel: In Pike's words, "The only genius-level repeat offender in the Midwest."
  • Freudian Trio: The Military Maverick and Handsome Lech id to Spock's superego and McCoy's ego.
  • Genius Bruiser: According to Pike, "[his] aptitude tests are off the chart." And he's good in a scrap.
  • Guile Hero: He loses most of the physical fights he gets involved in and has limited scientific expertise. Instead, Kirk relies on his wits to win.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: A bit jerkish, maybe, but Kirk still fits the archetype of a heroic blond protagonist. This trait also contrasts against Harrison and Admiral Marcus.
  • Handsome Lech: Played by the attractive Chris Pine, but also eyeballs every woman in the vicinity (even while delirious from the space flu vaccine McCoy gave him).
  • The Hero: He is the lead protagonist of all three films.
  • The Hero Dies: In Into Darkness. But onlybriefly. It helps that McCoy put him into deep freeze cryostasis to preserve Kirk's body as soon as possible.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Goes into the radiation-filled reactor of the Enterprise during Star Trek Into Darkness to save his crew.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Spock, to the point that Spock gets jealous when Kirk accepts Carol Marcus as a second science officer on-board the Enterprise. Spock Prime goes to incredibly risky lengths in order to preserve the natural development of the galaxy's greatest bromance.
    • He also has elements of this with McCoy, which is especially apparent in the first film. In this universe, if there's anyone who's going to stick by Kirk's side through thick and thin, it's the good doctor. And he's proven it plenty so far.
  • I Am Not My Father: He does not enjoy constantly being compared to his deceased father.
  • Iron Butt Monkey: Frequently gets his ass handed to him in fights, but makes up for it with guile and simply refusing to give up.
  • It's Personal: In the sequel after Harrison murders Pike.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Kirk demonstrates the same wheeling, dealing and conniving traits of a Magnificent Bastard. The differences are — first, Kirk was never out to hurt anyone just for his own ends. Second, it is made clear he's only acting up because he lacks a challenge worthy of his smarts. Most importantly, he uses his cunning to save the universe.
  • Living Emotional Crutch: He and Uhura are this to Spock — He is Spock's closest friend (besides Uhura) and their bond is a crucial one in the franchise. Zoe Saldana even describes how he and Uhura are emotional crutches to Spock in For the Love of Spock:

    Zoe: "Everytime he [Spock] goes into a negative place, or he starts being a little bit of a pessimist, he allows Uhura and Kirk to snap him out of it. And I really like that."

  • Manly Tears: When he finds that Pike has died during Harrison's assault.
  • Military Maverick: Regularly says Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right! or straight-out leaps before he looks.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Played by the attractive Chris Pine, and has a number of shirtless scenes.
  • Not Quite Dead: McCoy revives him with Khan's enhanced blood, even lampshades it by saying "Oh, don't be so melodramatic. You were barely dead."
  • Over Ranked Soldier: Gets an Official promotion of Captain at the end of the first film. Note that he wasn't even technically a Cadet at the time. Reality Ensues in the sequel when it shows he's as Hot-headed as ever.
  • Papa Wolf: Kirk will do anything to ensure the safety of his crew.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: The brash, rule-breaking Red Oni to Spock's logical, task-orientated Blue Oni.
  • Revenge Before Reason: He's dead-set on killing Harrison after the death of Captain Pike, to the point that he's nearly manipulated into provoking a war with the Klingons. His crew talks him out of it before it's too late.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!:

    Spock: I would cite regulation, but I know you will simply ignore it.
    Kirk: See? We are getting to know each other.

  • Shipper on Deck: Kirk was genuinely worried (and somewhat amused) when he thought that Spock and Uhura were having relationship problems. In the IDW comics, after Spock risks his life on a mission, Kirk actually orders them to spend some time together.
    • During Spock and Uhura's conversation on Qo'noS, he was clearly on her side, commenting that she's right and Spock's response to Uhura's accusation is "not exactly a love song".
    • Despite Spock's injuries, Kirk still allows him to join the mission into Krall's camp after Spock says it's for Uhura.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Goes from a delinquent in Iowa to being a legendary captain who saved the Federation from total annihilation twice.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: A deleted scene reveals that a young Kirk would get good grades and stay out of trouble. Things didn't stay that way.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: With McCoy. And Spock, far more in the Abramsverse than the original series.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: While he's fully in the right not to trust Khan during their Enemy Mine, he might have ordered Scotty to knock him out a little too early, though admittedly they'd probably not have fared well owing to Khan'sChronic Back Stabbing Disorder.
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