In the episode Operation: Annihilate! Kirk finds his brother dead. He didn't seem very upset (definitely no tears, was able to continue with work immediately). Was there any reason in particular for this? Or did the director make the choice because it would have been boring to see his sadness played out for too long?

EDIT: I somewhat disagree with the answers given. Kirk does show emotion, including negative ones. For example in the episode Miri he gets mad when they weren't finding a cure to the disease fast enough and smashes some flasks, and this episode happens prior to "Operation: Annihilate!".

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    It has to be said, William Shatner is not frequently accused of under-acting. Jan 14, 2014 at 12:26
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    I have zero knowledge about US TV audience tastes in the 60s (hence this is a comment, not an answer), but I’d naively suspect that romantic male leads were expected to be strong in those days, rather than sensitive like blubbing Picard in First Contact. Jan 14, 2014 at 12:40
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    Showing emotion would have actually required Shatner to act. I believe there was a clause in his contract precluding that.
    – terdon
    Jan 14, 2014 at 12:50
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    I'm late to the party here, but in answer to Kirk getting mad and smashing flasks in Miri -- he was under the influence of the illness they were trying to cure. In general, Captain Kirk did not allow his feelings to (too greatly) interfere with his job, when on duty. In public, and on duty, he was pretty contained. He would have mourned privately, when the emergency was over. So I agree with the answers; this was indeed in character.
    – Basya
    Feb 11, 2021 at 16:58
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    @PaulD.Waite you're absolutely right. Real Men (especially Real Leaders) don't just stop and cry in the middle of a mission.
    – RonJohn
    Jun 2, 2021 at 4:58

2 Answers 2


Kirk is known to be based on Horatio Hornblower. Hornblower considered it an important part of leadership not to let feelings interfere with his command decisions, and that showing his feelings would be setting a bad example to his men, who he also expected to get on with their tasks despite any feelings. It's a philosophy shared by many (most?) commanders outside of Hollywoodland. In real life SEAL teams don't get to stop and cry because they have found something that upsets them. It's reasonable to assume that the writers wrote Kirk like that, at least in the early days. Later on he was allowed to express his feelings rather more.

  • Can you provide some type of backup for 'known to be based on' ... ? An interview with Roddenberry or one of the main cast characters from TOS would be great.
    – Stan
    Jan 14, 2014 at 19:37
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    This, this, this and this for starters. Jan 14, 2014 at 19:44
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    And now this. Jan 14, 2014 at 19:56
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    Thanks for the great feedback. Learn something new every day. You might consider editing your answer and incorporating those references directly in it. +1
    – Stan
    Jan 14, 2014 at 20:08

Not everyone wears their heart on their sleeve. Any soldier would tell you to mourn your comrades when the mission is over, also some would say honor them by completing the mission.

  • While not strictly in-universe, this attitude is consistent with Kirk's typically unflappable, no-nonsense demeanor. In fact, this is part of why his final encounter with Kahn in The Wrath thereof was so important. He finally lost his cool.
    – Matt
    Jan 14, 2014 at 16:04

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