One of my favorite books is called “Turn the Ship Around” (Marquet 2013) which details the leadership philosophy that took a US Sub from last to first place in the rankings of fitness used by the US Navy. These were difficult leadership decisions that I thought about very carefully when writing this piece, because when I think of Kirk from TOS, I think of this kind of character. My favorite imaginings of Kirk and his real strength as a captain lie in this kind of captaincy. This “episode” of trek will continue with an “Act 3” probably tomorrow, but I think that will finish the episode of this fanfiction.
In the first act, we saw a series of difficulties surrounding the abandonment of the enterprise in space.
By the time Kirk regarded his empty bridge one last time and finished his final log entry, almost 4 hours had passed since the solar storm began bathing the system in deadly radiation. He set a timer on a primary command console; in 10 minutes the Enterprise systems would go into “grey mode”. He found himself climbing onto the transporter pad and waiting for the sequence to automatically activate. Somehow, he knew that it wouldn’t be the last time he saw Enterprise, and he began to smile as the sequence began and he dematerialized.
Act 2 Scene 1
He found himself in a small section of the shuttlecraft near the aft hatch, and as the sequence completed a crush of his crewmates let out a sigh or laugh of relief and let themselves take up the space around the transport area. It was the most people he’d ever seen in a class F. The blast doors covered the windows as he made his way to the front, with people squeezing next to each other, finally he reached the conning station. “Captain on deck!” Said one of the crew triumphantly.
“Sir the radiation is starting to have an effect on the Galileo’s systems.” Several of the crew could see the readouts and started talking over each other.
“Quiet down people, we’re working the problem up here, Lt Hadley has this in hand.” The crew responded to his orders, remaining quiet but focused on the life and death situation unfolding before them. Kirk looked at Hadley and realized that Chekov had arranged for one of his most trusted pilots to be manning the last shuttle, and with Kirk on board.
“That’s it sir. Sensors are gone.” Now everyone was silent. “Without the sensors, we won’t know where we are in order to manage the re-entry procedures, and we can’t afford to open the blast doors right now for a visual. We’re adrift sir, and we don’t have any way of getting back on course.”
Kirk calmly leaned over his shoulder for a better look at the panel and asked “have you ever put one of these into ‘dead-reckoning’ mode?’” Lt Hadley looked at him blankly. “No?” Hadley shook his head tentatively. Kirk stood up and loudly asked the large assembly behind him, “Anyone ever run a dead reckoning landing cycle?” Silence. Kirk smiled at them. With his eyebrows raised he asked playfully “does anyone even know what that is?” Again, silence. “Well you’re in luck Mr Hadley, you’re about to learn how spaceflight inertial guidance worked back when humanity first went to the moon – luckily we have 4 gimbals for this instead of just the 3 they had.”
Hadley looked nervously back at his captain and the crew, “Gyroscopic location finding, that’s not going to be very accurate sir, maybe you should take the helm si- ”
Kirk interrupted him, “It doesn’t even have to be accurate to even 10 meters Mr Hadley. We can look out the windows again after we’re into the stratosphere. I’ll walk you through it. Start by switching the guidance computer to accept input from aux,” Hadley followed the instructions, working away at the controls. “Good, now, initialize gyros and tell the computer to sync them with last sensor trajectory.”
Hadley looked uncertain, “Sir, I’ve got the gyros started but what about the last trajectory? I don’t know where to find that information.”
Kirk looked over his shoulder, “anyone remember how to get the computer to reload the vector tables? So the computer can figure out where Sir Isaac Newton had sent us?”
A junior officer directly to his right spoke up, “it’s not in the aux guidance system, he’ll have to get it out of the navigation log, right?”
“Excellent! Memory! Lieutenant Masters!” Kirk barked out, being sure everyone heard. “Charlene, is that right?” He knew it was.
“Yes, Sir.” she responded, nervous and careful not to be prideful.
Hadley had brought up the information recorded in the navigation logs. “Ok, it says gyros initialized…. Select destination for autopilot!” He read triumphantly. The crew aboard let out a relieved cheer and Kirk clapped Lt Masters on the shoulder.
Kirk held up his hand and said, “Mr Hadley, set course for the landing coordinates. Miss Masters, please take the co-pilot seat and open a channel to the Columbus – let them know how to solve this problem if they also experience sensor failure. And Lieutenant,”
Masters looked up at him as she sat down “Yes sir?”
“I expect you to take time to personally qualify every officer on Enterprise on this procedure. Is that clear?” Kirk knew that a switch in tone was important here. Leadership wasn’t about getting the shuttle down to the planet, it was about creating confidence in people like Masters – giving them opportunities to guide others, showing them that they had valuable leadership abilities of their own. It was important that he reminded her that this was serious, and her worth was greater than simply solving one problem. It was something she could succeed at in the future.
“Yes Sir.” Charlene Masters responded just as he knew she would, and in a moment he heard her relaying the instructions to the other shuttle.
Kirk knew he’d have to keep his eye on her. Knowing systems was different than having a sense of how systems worked and could work together. He looked around, and in unconcerned sort of way, asked, “is there any coffee?”
Once again, lots of fun old trek in here – I realized I could link directly to wiki pages for junior officers and cop out a little from describing them – I had no reason, for instance, to indicate Lt Master’s race, specifically because in the trek world that kind of information is not apropos of anything. Also fun to come up with a spaceflight throwback to weave into this, providing a chance for kirk to show off his skills as an astronaut and a new way of thinking about the backup systems in a sci-fi world that’s over 50 years old now.
The shuttles were the original method for getting crew to planets, but transporters were found to be a cheaper trick for TV production, and had a side benefits of additional plot magic and obviously provide a cool sci-fi technological element. Using a transporter system in conjunction with a shuttle isn’t something I can recall happening in the original series, though it became common enough on later shows when they fitted transporter systems on shuttles themselves.