Kirk and Helen Noel

Discussion in 'Star Trek - The Original & Animated Series' started by JimZipCode, Jul 11, 2014.

  1. JimZipCode

    JimZipCode Commander Red Shirt

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    Disagreeing over Kirk's back-story with Dr Helen Noel before the start of Dagger of the Mind, moving it to a new thread so as to not to blow up the other one. Here's where we left off:

    Oh please.

    I guess in a completely literal sense, Kirk and Lenore also merely "talked about the stars" in Conscience of the King. Do we have to turn off the part of our brains that reads intent and overtones etc? The dialogue in Conscience is loaded with potential, with implication. It is somewhere between gallantry and seduction – it's flirtation. Lenore is more the aggressor in the interaction, and Kirk is more coy; and they both have ulterior motives, Kirk trying to get information and Lenore setting the stage to get close enough later for the kill. But it's no mere exchange of information about stellar luminosity.

    So Kirk and Helen "talked about the stars" too, did they? That is extremely suggestive. Dagger of the Mind makes it clear that SOMETHING happened between Kirk and Helen at the Christmas party. The episode also makes it clear that Kirk didn't sweep her off her feet, take her back to his cabin, and have sex with her – that was the false flashback. I'm not confused about that. But when Kirk sits down at the neural neutralizer at 0:34 on Netflix, we have been given tons of innuendo about the science lab Christmas party that Kirk dropped in on.

    Well, why exactly? Kirk is deft and confident in every normal social gathering we see him in, thruout TOS. He's appropriate, he makes small talk, he essays some gallantries toward the ladies in a way that in the 60s was understood to be social and polite. He's fine. So if *nothing* happened between Kirk & Helen, he has nothing to be uncomfortable about. Yet as you point out he is uncomfortable; clearly and obviously uncomfortable. Therefore something happened.

    Instead of trying to defend your thesis of Kirk's monk-like inviolability, let's try to look at it from the perspective of a typical viewer from the Mad Men era:
    • McCoy changes gears completely and seems to give a secret smirk to Kirk when Kirk tells him to find a suitable partner for the landing party. (15 mins in on Netflix) Then a significant glance back at Kirk as he leaves the bridge.
    • Kirk is momentarily speechless when he sees Helen in the transporter. Looks like embarrassment.
    • Helen whispers "Don't you remember?" to Kirk. He shushes her.
    • Helen gives us the phrase "Christmas party," also "talked about the stars," and he shushes her some more.
    • Kirk has some words for McCoy before he leaves.
    • When Kirk enters Helen's room that evening at the colony, she's awfully confident that he's there for some other reason than to ask her about the inmates.
    • There is a whole affect between them, a prickly but not unfriendly demeanor, that smacks of screwball comedy. Comfortable and uncomfortable with each other.
    • Kirk's attitude toward her in this sequence, from her quarters to the neutralizer room, is like he's wordlessly saying "I know, you're right, but this isn't the Christmas party, I need you to WORK right now." She finally seems to get it in the neutralizer room; she sobers up and snaps to with the line "I know my profession."
    All that is before the neutralizer is turned on. How are we expected to interpret those things?

    "Christmas party" is the biggest hint here. That's when people stereotypically get drunk and the boss nails the secretary. The 60s audience is clearly intended to read it as, there was an indiscretion between these two at the Christmas party: the hints are too broad to be taken any other way. There was something, and Helen thinks he's coming back for more, while Kirk is embarrassed to face her. Kirk's flustered state in the transporter room, and Spock's expression seal it – Nimoy deploys the same near-smirk Spock had for Mudd's Women and when Spock made his terribly inappropriate remark to Janice Rand at the end of Enemy Within.

    (Do you watch Mad Men? Early in season 4, Don has sex with his secretary after an office Christmas party. Don's subsequent demeanor toward Allison in the office is worth seeing, to compare with Kirk' demeanor toward Helen.)

    It's really tough to resist this point. It's too obvious, and the script & acting have worked too hard to feed it to us. As to what EXACTLY went down – well there's a huge spectrum between dispassionate explication of stellar nucleosynthesis, and a passionate one-night stand in the captain's quarters. It has always seemed clear to me, and this is just personal interpretation, that Kirk & Helen at least flirted heavily and made out a little. Helen's fake flashback is a rich field for speculation: maybe she regretted not letting Kirk sweep her off her feet. Anyway they did not actually go any farther than that; they kissed seriously, and then perhaps parted at midnight, going their separate ways, back to their quarters alone. That's always been the way I saw it.

    There is of course one big objection. Kirk hitting on a member of his own crew? That's even more implausible than his actions in Requiem for Methuselah. This is a conflict. The overall series characterization of Kirk is strong evidence that he's far to responsible a commander to initiate a romance with a crew-woman. The dialogue and acting in this episode are strong evidence that he did. How do we resolve this?

    Is my memory faulty here, or does the James Blish adaptation have more detail to the backstory? Because for decades, from way before I was old enough to have any clear sense of how these things can go in real life, I have had a visualization of the Christmas party; and I don't know where I got it from. In that visualization, the Enterprise is at a Starbase or something when this Christmas party occurs; and the attendees are a mix of crew and base personnel. Kirk hits on a girl who he thinks is base personnel – he thinks Dr Noel is somebody else at the party – and then later is embarrassed to learn that no, the girl he was with is in fact a member of his crew. Or maybe she was transferred on a day or so later; something. Did I completely imagine that, or is there some basis for it in the Blish?

    There's a lot to like about that scenario. It's consistent with what we see on screen, but it also addresses the objection that Kirk would never be so stupid as to make a pass at a member of his own crew. Because clearly SOMETHING happened between Kirk and Helen at the Christmas party. :)
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2016
  2. J.T.B.

    J.T.B. Rear Admiral Premium Member

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    To me it seemed more like a commanding officer who tries to keep strict barriers between his social life and his professional life being a little embarrassed that he now had to interact directly with a junior subordinate who had seen the other side of the barrier.
     
  3. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    Perfectly put. I think you put your finger exactly on it. All he did was dance with her (and talk about the stars, but, gee, they're in space!), but even simply dancing together had crossed a boundary in his mind.

    I have the feeling that, during the events of the episode beginning in the transporter room, Noel was teasing Kirk because she felt that maybe he'd enjoyed himself at the party a little more than he was comfortable letting on, but that's just my reading of it.

    When Helen says that she was suggesting that things happened in a different way, I think that means that the difference is that romance is inserted. Meaning, there was nothing romantic there before, only Kirk's awkwardness.

    Their embrace in the elevator going down to the colony was just (ham-fisted) foreshadowing that their being thrust together seemingly in romance wasn't really romantic at all.
     
  4. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    In general, I think Kirk prefers to keep his love life and his professional duties separate. Note also that he seems a bit uncomfortable in "The Menagerie" when the subject of some past dalliance comes up when he's meeting with the Commodore. That being the case, I suspect it wouldn't take too much in the way of "fraternization" to make Kirk a little embarrassed by whatever took place at the Christmas party. And it probably doesn't help that Helen seems very inclined to tease him about it . . ..

    How far things went, short of them actually tumbling into bed, can be left to the imagination, but I suspect that Kirk would regard even a little serious flirting as inappropriate afterwards, given that she's a member of his crew. We're probably just talking a smooch under the mistletoe that went on a little too long . . . or something along those lines.
     
  5. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    That's pretty good. Although, if they'd actually kissed, I'd expect her to mention that in some capacity, when she's brainwashing him and mentions how they'd danced and talked about the stars. Not that her failure to mention it means it didn't happen.
     
  6. Serveaux

    Serveaux The Wind Premium Member

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    Probably no more than a blow job.

    "I did not have sex with that lieutenant."
     
  7. Melakon

    Melakon Admiral Admiral

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    Wasn't Helen originally intended to be Janice Rand in early drafts? That might account for some the awkwardness of situations, since it did seem some attraction between Kirk and Rand existed in earlier episodes. Then suddenly, Rand is gone, the script gets another rewrite, but some dialogue and plot points remain.
     
  8. JimZipCode

    JimZipCode Commander Red Shirt

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    Finally, a sensible viewpoint!
     
  9. BillJ

    BillJ Fleet Admiral Admiral

    +1
     
  10. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Revised Final Draft, August 5, 1966

    ]63C TRANSPORTER CHAMBER - INCLUDING KIRK AND HELEN

    The look in Kirk's face makes us see what did happen
    at the Christmas party. Quickly interrupting:

    KIRK
    Yes, of course. I had presumed
    you were one of the passengers
    we were carrying...

    HELEN
    I'm one of the new medical crew,
    Captain.
    (smiles, shakes
    head)
    Dull science degrees and all.​

    And obviously, judging by the twinkle in her eye,
    the fact he thought she was simply a passenger did
    result in something that night.​

    Underlined text is as it appears in the script.

    That help?
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2016
  11. Melakon

    Melakon Admiral Admiral

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    ^ So, Kirk wasn't used to seeing her in uniform.
     
  12. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Or he knew she was Starfleet but thought she was not under his command per se.
     
  13. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    Awesome, though all that dialog was cut for the final episode, or got changed.
     
  14. BillJ

    BillJ Fleet Admiral Admiral

    I guess that's what you get for fooling around with unknown Starfleet personnel before checking the new transfers to the ship. :lol:
     
  15. trynda1701

    trynda1701 Commander Red Shirt

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    Even allowing for the Captain/crewperson relationships, giving this babe a lingering kiss and feeling slightly awkward afterwards is perfectly understandable! (That has to be the shortest Starfleet miniskirt we ever saw!)

    [​IMG]
     
  16. alchemist

    alchemist Commander Red Shirt

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    Oh, this was definitely filmed... including the smile and the twinkle in her eye...
     
  17. JimZipCode

    JimZipCode Commander Red Shirt

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    Yes indeed. Thanks. :)

    That's a heck of a resource to have!
     
  18. CrazyMatt

    CrazyMatt Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    How dangerous was it for Kirk to be screwing around with Mrs. Fredo Corleone? Good thing he and Spocko got some mob training a year later.
     
  19. CrazyMatt

    CrazyMatt Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Superb.
     
  20. JimZipCode

    JimZipCode Commander Red Shirt

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    Can I just say, and I know this is old news, but in this episode Marianna Hill is SO GODDAM SEXY! When we first see her in the transporter room, it still hits me like a punch to the pheromones. When she speaks she has that ultra-silky voice. Later she lays off the one-note sex-kitten act, and talks like a professional to Dr Adams and later to Kirk – and she's even better, smart & nuanced. I would have seen this episode when I was very young, probably under age 7, and then many times after up into my teenage years. I have to wonder how much this actress and role helped form my "type", in so far as I have one.

    She's a great character. Hill / Noel really sells the investigative process in the neutralizer room. She's scrappy in the last third of the episode, killing that guard and knocking out the security screen so Spock can beam down with the cavalry. She's the only Star Trek girl who saves the day, I think. She and Kirk make a very effective team; his only real "teaming" with a woman that I can recall.

    Dagger of the Mind is structured to give Helen an interesting little story arc. Early in the episode, she's smugly confident that Kirk is pursuing her, and she's playing a coquettish game with Helen Gurly Brown -esque moves. A mix of "I'm not that kind of girl" while simultaneously inviting him after her. I think we recognize this dance; and it would not be out of place in a Doris Day movie. Those movies end with Doris landing the man, marrying him. Instead, Helen gets a genie-from-the-bottle twist, when Dr Adams grants her wish. He makes Kirk desperately in love with her, and it's more than she bargained for or wants. I feel like seasons 2 or 3, certainly 3, would have hit this note very hard. This episode spends about a minute on that angle, when Kirk wakes up after the first session. Seriously, it's about one minute. Then professionalism reasserts itself.

    Interestingly, Helen's professionalism has been evident since she snapped out of her sex kitten act and announced it, saying "I know my profession, Captain." That's another fun structural play that the script has. From her first appearance in the transporter room, until her line about her profession, Helen is frankly not that professional. She gives the impression that she regards this assignment as not very serious: a lark with the captain, probably a pretext on his part to get her alone with him away from the ship. It's all in her voice when she says that he could have waited until tomorrow to ask about the patients. She's never met business-Kirk before, and she doesn't recognize it when he crisply cuts thru the bullshit, asks for her assessment on the patients, and takes her to the neutralizer. It's not until Kirk asks her a second time whether she will really be able to keep him safe under the beam, that she realizes he is serious, and she focuses.

    The moment Helen locks in, is pretty much the moment Kirk checks out. Dr Adams takes control, and Kirk becomes the unconscious victim. From here on out Helen is every inch the Starfleet officer. She is very doctorly while Kirk is being tortured, and then when he first wakes up. The episode is structured to give an instant of suspense when they're alone, and Kirk is in love with Helen. This is what she was angling for, isn't it? Will she be tempted to take hold of him this way? No, not for a moment. She is immediately concerned with restoring his agency, his true self. That only takes a couple seconds; then Kirk is in full tactical mode, finding a plan of action and getting her started on it. But Helen is the one who has to execute the plan; Kirk is in the hostage role, while Helen is in the action hero role. It's a fascinating flip.

    I'm really impressed by this script, the more I examine the episode. It's easy to forget that the first third of the episode all occurs on board ship: they don't beam down to Tantalus until 18 or 19 mins in. That stuff on ship is all interesting. I tend to remember Helen as the most essential part of this episode :-) (her, and the first mind meld); but she doesn't appear until 17 mins in. Her arrival gives a jolt of energy to the story, right at a transition moment. It's easy to imagine her character not even existing in earlier drafts; after all, McCoy could go down to the colony with Kirk. But instead she shows up and changes the dynamic for the middle third of the episode. For the next 17 mins she's basically just a walking sex bomb. Her "profession" line is right at the 34 min mark, as exactly divided as you could wish. Then the shit hits the fan and she proves to be an active and resourceful Starfleet officer for the remaining 3rd of the episode.

    Zach Handlen hammered Helen in his review of this episode for AV Club, calling her bossy and uninteresting, and saying she & Kirk have no chemistry. I really enjoyed his string of reviews; but this I disagree with. I love Helen & Kirk together.

    Or, y'know, her all by herself. :)