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Glass doors and the loneliness of Kirk

The first two Star Trek movies are very different from one another, in many ways. But despite these differences, they do have some interesting parallels.

For example, both films depict Kirk not as a captain – at least not at first – but as an admiral who takes command of the Enterprise when a crisis arises; and in both cases, the captain who relinquishes command of the ship is dead or "missing" by the end of the movie, due to an act of self-sacrifice.

But watching the two films back-to-back last night, I was struck by one other thing they have in common: namely, their use of glass doors to symbolize the loneliness of Kirk. You can see it, for example, in the shot above, from The Motion Picture.

This is the final shot of a sequence that began with Kirk and Captain Decker butting heads over who would be the best person to lead the Enterprise on its current mission. Once the head-butting is over, Kirk dismisses Decker, only to be lectured privately by Dr. McCoy, who had tagged along to witness the tête-à-tête between the two captains. And when McCoy finally leaves the room, Kirk stands motionless behind his desk as the glass doors close, symbolizing both the loneliness that comes with being in a position of authority as well as the estrangement that comes between Kirk and his colleagues when their hearts and minds are not properly aligned with one another.

And then there is the famous sequence at the end of The Wrath of Khan, in which Kirk speaks to the dying Spock.

This sequence is shot from a number of angles, but I like the two to the right in particular. The first image once again places Kirk behind the glass, and it emphasizes the separation between Kirk and Spock as one of them tries to touch the other's hand. (There is a lot that could be said about this, given how important hands are to Vulcan interaction, but I'll skip all that for now.) But you can still see McCoy, Scotty and at least one other crew member in the background – so I really like the second shot, and the way it emphasizes Kirk's utter isolation. Yes, Spock is there, but he is dead, and facing away from Kirk, and trapped behind the glass. If there is anyone else in Kirk's life that he could turn to – a support network, if you like – they are all kept well, well out of the frame.

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