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Most people are familiar with the iconic James T. (Tiberius) Kirk from Star Trek. But in the original series episode "Where No Man Has Gone Before" a tomb stone is created for Kirk that shows his name as James R. Kirk.

Who was James R. Kirk and when did his name change?

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He's the guy that kept getting James T. Kirk's mail. –  Brian Ortiz Mar 28 '12 at 19:59
Captain of the Enterprise two parallel universes to the left? –  DJClayworth May 27 '13 at 17:22
@BrianOrtiz you mean sub-space messages. –  fredsbend Jul 5 '13 at 23:53
Okay. But, who reads tombstones? I mean seriously? Why were you looking at the tombstone instead of Kirk? –  SS-3.1415926535897932384626433 Apr 9 at 7:41

7 Answers 7

up vote 39 down vote accepted

Straight from Memory Alpha:

According to D.C. Fontana in the introduction for Star Trek: The Classic Episodes 1, when the mistake over the middle initial was discovered, Gene Roddenberry decided that if pressed for an answer on the discrepancy, the response was to be "Gary Mitchell had godlike powers, but at base he was Human. He made a mistake."

Found in the article on Where No Man Has Gone Before and in the section on "Sets and Props".

Then the in universe explanation is that Gary Mitchell forget and the out of universe explanation is essentially Word of God, with the producers saying it's a mistake.

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For supposedly having been such good friends with Kirk you would think he'd remember his middle initial. –  Xantec Jan 27 '12 at 14:24
See my comment here about my learning disability. I can be talking to friends I've had for years and use the wrong name for them and I won't know it until they point it out. (Fortunately, that rarely happens unless I'm very tired because I've learned how to watch for that.) –  Tango Jan 27 '12 at 17:52
Or he might've just made the K wrong. K and R are very alike after all. –  Zibbobz May 2 '14 at 17:24
@Zibbobz: K would've been just as wrong as R. :) –  Martha May 2 '14 at 17:37
@ChrisB.Behrens: To which Mitchell replies, "No, the R is for Raunchy, you know, that really nasty nickname Ruth gave you at the Academy when she found out you were two-timing her? Yes, my old friend. The ultimate burn, right there on your tombstone." –  Tango Jul 10 at 19:23

James R Kirk is in fact James T Kirk. The out of universe explanation is that in that episode, there was a production goof. The in universe explanation is that the man who created that tombstone, Gary Mitchell, must have misremembered Kirk's middle initial. Everywhere else in The Original Series, he's referred to as James T Kirk.

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Other answers include that "James R. Kirk" was an in-joke between them (the "My Brother's Keeper" novel series), or that "James R. Kirk" was an alternate-timeline version of "James T. Kirk" (Q-Squared). Peter David had run with the idea that the slightly different uniforms and careers (Physicist Sulu?) of "Where No Man Has Gone Before" represented a parallel universe (called "Track A").

Explanations that the uniforms had changed soon after "Where No Man..." are contradicted by Kirk and Helen Noel's uniforms in flashback during "Dagger of the Mind".

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This episode was the second pilot for the series. The first pilot, "The Cage," was rejected by NBC. It was more than a year before it actually aired. By then, numerous changes had been made to the characters, storyline, costumes, and appearance of the Enterprise. I have heard that for the Blu-Ray release they actually considered changing the "R." to a "T," but decided against it. This is only one of many plot contradictions, errors, and continuity problems that appeared throughout the series' three year run.

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As some have already stated, this was just a mistake. If you watch more Star Trek TOS episodes you will find simular strange mistakes. For example in the Episode "Court Martial" which is in the 1st season also, Kirk makes a statement that the ships computer can be boosted to hear noises at 1 to the 4th power. Which of course is still one. In the Movie series Kirk is heard to say "Prayer Mr Saavik, Klingons do not take prisoners", yet they are heard a couple times referring to prisoners they have either taken or want to take. Sorry this went long but I just wanted to show some examples that they made plenty of mistakes making the TV shows and the movies, James R. Kirk just being one of the many. Which always makes for a good discussion.

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It is possible that Kirk's full name was James Romulus Tiberius Kirk or James Tiberius Ronald Kirk or something and that Kirk preferred to be known as James R. Kirk until "Where No Man Has Gone before" and then switched to using James T. Kirk because he didn't want to be reminded of the tombstone created by his best friend.

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Since we know Kirk's full name (having seen him named on screen and in in-universe documents, this answer basically falls into the realm of fan fiction –  Richard Apr 9 at 9:51
Richard - Sometimes people are known by different versions of their name. It is legal for a person to use any name he wants if not for purpose of fraud. there are procedures to legally change one's name. Thus the most conservative opinion is that Gary used the form of Kirk's name which Kirk then preferred and that Kirk later changed his preferred name, and that both forms selected from the names Kirk had been given at birth. –  M. A. Golding Apr 12 at 4:26
What you say is indeed true, but we know what Kirk's name is. The most conservative option is not to give him a new and wholly unheard-of name :-) –  Richard Apr 12 at 7:51
Richard - The Initial R is right there on the tombstone. It is probably the initial of a middle name that starts with R. I never said that it was any specific middle name that started with R and I said that middle name could have been before or after Tiberius in the full name. My answer is less speculative than suggesting Mitchell goofed or it was a private in joke. No we don't know Kirk's full name, merely one personal name, one middle name, one surname, and also one additional middle initial. We don't know how many names are usual to have in Kirk's era. –  M. A. Golding Jun 28 at 2:51

read on another forum that the R stands for Roddenberry, the guy claims his parents were involved in script writing and he owns some original notes from the time, apparently the Tiberious name was first coined in the animated series and is the only thing from this taken as canon.

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