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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  • 49
    He's the guy that kept getting James T. Kirk's mail. Mar 28, 2012 at 19:59
  • 14
    Captain of the Enterprise two parallel universes to the left? May 27, 2013 at 17:22
  • @BrianOrtiz you mean sub-space messages.
    – frеdsbend
    Jul 5, 2013 at 23:53
  • Okay. But, who reads tombstones? I mean seriously? Why were you looking at the tombstone instead of Kirk? Apr 9, 2015 at 7:41
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    The text on the tombstone appears to be "JAMES R KIRK", followed by "C 1277.1 to 1818.7"; the second number is probably supposed to be 1313.7, which fits with the stardates in Kirk's log entries.. Assuming the "C" stands for "circa", this could be another indication of Gary's fallibility -- he didn't know when Kirk was born and had to guess. The range is 36.6 stardates, close to Kirk's age of 33 (we know he was 34 in The Deadly Years). The idea of 1 stardate = 1 year was obviously thrown out the airlock in later episodes. Oct 14, 2016 at 23:40

9 Answers 9


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.

  • 2
    For supposedly having been such good friends with Kirk you would think he'd remember his middle initial.
    – Xantec
    Jan 27, 2012 at 14:24
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    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, 2012 at 17:52
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    @Zibbobz: K would've been just as wrong as R. :)
    – Martha
    May 2, 2014 at 17:37
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    @Martha ...Well, I'm only human too. <.<
    – Zibbobz
    May 2, 2014 at 17:41
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    @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, 2015 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.


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".


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.


One interesting possible answer to this question can be drawn from a reference in one of the original line of Star Trek novels (which, albeit generally considered non-canon, where often written by people close to the original productions and may give some insight into original plans that were dropped, etc).

In this case, the novel is The Galactic Whirlpool by David Gerrold, which includes a section explaining that "Tiberius" is not part of Kirk's given name, but instead is a nickname that was given to him by one of his Academy instructors and which he later officially adopted in order to remind himself of that instructor's lessons.

If this is accepted as true, then it leaves open the possibility that "R" was the initial of an original middle name that he dropped when adopting the nickname.


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.


Back in their Academy days, Gary was Kirk's best friend, but the Barrier energy changed him. Maybe "R" stood for a nickname--perhaps "Ratface" or something cruel like that--given to Kirk by Finnegan! The upperclassman would definitely have pounced on Kirk's unusual middle name "Tiberius"! The altered Gary wanted to get under Kirk's skin and brought up that old painful memory.

If anybody else has got a better explanation...go for it! LOL!

  • 1
    Is this a serious answer, or a humorous one?
    – Adamant
    Oct 28, 2016 at 21:34
  • I think the better explanation is already posted, which is highly upvoted and accepted.
    – Ellesedil
    Oct 28, 2016 at 21:56

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.

  • 1
    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
    – Valorum
    Apr 9, 2015 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. Apr 12, 2015 at 4:26
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    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 :-)
    – Valorum
    Apr 12, 2015 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. Jun 28, 2015 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 Tiberius name was first coined in the animated series and is the only thing from this taken as canon.

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