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In episode 3 ("Where No Man has Gone Before"), Gary Mitchell attempts to kill Captain Kirk. Before doing so he uses his powers to create a grave and conjures a tombstone, shown here:

Captain Kirk, his face bloodied and his shirt torn, stands centre-left facing Mitchell, right, back to the camera, who appears unhurt.  Kirk has his back to a rocky wall and in the foreground before him is a plain gravestone whose inscription is the topic of this post.

The information on the tombstone is rather puzzling. As best as I can tell it says:

James R Kirk

0 12771 to 13187

On a regular tombstone this would represent the years that the deceased lived. However, the date range here is nowhere close to any of the answers given for when the show took place. If we drop the "1"s the date range is at least within a few hundred years of the answers given, but it still presents a problem of Kirk being apparently 400+ years old. Moreover, the tombstone has his middle initial as "R", yet his actual middle initial is "T" as far as I can tell (e.g. his Wikipedia entry is listed as James T. Kirk).

So what exactly is going on with this tombstone?

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  • 7
    Does it help if I read the second line as "C 1277.1 to 1313.7"?
    – DavidW
    Sep 20 at 2:01
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    Those are stardates. I don't know if there is a 50 year fan consensus- but I'd speculate that was when he was captain as it's far too little change to be a birth date. This may also be of interest scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/9815/who-is-james-r-kirk Sep 20 at 2:08
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    @DavidW The 1313.7 would also fit with the "stardate" of the captain's log, which in the very next scene is said to be 1313.8, though I'm not quite sure how that relates to actual dates.
    – Alex
    Sep 20 at 2:09
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    Note that the episode's intro gives a stardate of 1312.4, so 1313.7 is only slightly later.
    – DavidW
    Sep 20 at 2:10
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    I think the "R" is just early-installment weirdness.
    – DavidW
    Sep 20 at 2:16
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The episode begins on 1312.4 with the receipt of the distress signal from the SS Valiant. At 1312.9 Kirk makes another log entry after the disastrous encounter with the galactic barrier. At 1313.1 he records one as they head for Delta Vega, and again at 1313.3 when they decide to beam back from the surface.

Kirk records his final entry at 1313.8, noting the deaths of Dr. Dehner and Lt. Commander Mitchell. Thus 1313.7 would be approximately correct for the time of the final encounter with Mitchell.

The Memory Alpha page for Stardate has this to say:

Stardates were first portrayed in TOS: "Where No Man Has Gone Before", the second pilot for the series. Dave Eversole notes that the first draft of the teleplay (dated May 27, 1965) includes "Captain's Log, Report 197."1 In addition, Star Trek Fact Check shows a scripted narration from the same draft containing "star date 1312.6". This became "star date 1312.4" by the final revised draft (July 8, 1965), which also asks for "C-1277.1 to 1313.7" to appear on Kirk's gravestone.

(Note that I don't have access to the raw scripts, but sources like this one validate some of the details here.)

Working backward, then 1277.1 would be 36.6 days earlier. The "C" gives us a clue that this is not Kirk's lifespan that's depicted. It makes sense that this could be the length of Kirk's command of the Enterprise, this mission being his first in command. ("Where No Man has Gone Before" being the first regular episode shot after "The Cage," though episodes were not aired in the same order.)

The name "James R. Kirk" was an error in production (as previously answered):

On the infamous and incorrect "James R. Kirk" tombstone, created by Gary Mitchell in TOS: "Where No Man Has Gone Before", Kirk's middle initial was R, not T. 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."

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  • 3
    So C stands for Captain? Makes sense. Captain from stardate 1277.1 to 1313.7 Sep 20 at 15:21
  • Maybe Gary Mitchell also didn’t know the stardate of Kirk’s birthday or the current Gregorian date (to the extent such a thing can even be defined across interstellar space in modern physics).
    – Davislor
    Sep 20 at 18:42
  • Gyah, that "C" in the picture kind of looks like a "0", and both of those "3"s in the picture look kind of like "8"s. Sep 21 at 15:01
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The middle initial is a well known anomaly that can also be ascribed to the episode being a pilot. It is answered by this SFF question.

As for the dates,, you failed to see the decimal points in the two dates. This

  JAMES R KIRK
O 1277.1 TO 1313.7

There are many Stardate calculators out there and they all give different answers, so I won't present them here. I don't think these are true "Stardates" as Roddenberry imagined. If the person who made the prop got the middle initial wrong, (s)he could also have misunderstood what the date range was for and simply assumed it was the normal thing one puts on such a stone: birth and death years.

If we simply assign the star dates to years, this puts Kirk's "age at death" at a more reasonable 36.6 years.

According to Memory Alpha, the episode's "Captain's Log" lead-in monologue has Kirk giving a date of Stardate 1312.4, which is at least close to the latter date. Kirk would have been 35.3 given the "birth date". In 1966, when the episode was filmed, William Shatner turned 35.

This is still anomalous, because the episode started at 1312.4 and the confrontation happened at 1313.7, and it's hard to believe that the episode spanned 1.3 years of in-universe time. But remember the Enterprise made a very long run out to the edge of the Galaxy at maximum warp.

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  • Kirk mentions several different star dates in his audio logs throughout the episode, each one being later than the last. The final date he mentions near the end of the episode is 1313.8. Sep 20 at 2:48
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    Stardates are not years. That's pretty clear. (And besides, they're called "star_dates_" not "staryears".)
    – DavidW
    Sep 20 at 2:58
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    @DavidW Again: Pilot episode, inconsistent worldbuilding. The middle initial was messed up. The match with Shatner's age is enough for me.
    – Spencer
    Sep 20 at 3:11
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    @lucasbachmann This is a question about a prop, so "what the prop guy thought" is what's important. I don't think it's based on any later star date system.
    – Spencer
    Sep 20 at 3:27
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    @DarrelHoffman I always attributed that to simple translation to time periods that the audience would understand, just like the way the language was translated to English.
    – Barmar
    Sep 20 at 14:22

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