Captain Kirk's 14 most memorable facial expressions in Star Trek

Contributed by
Apr 8, 2017

There's no doubt that sometimes Star Trek can be gloriously over the top. The Original Series in particular had some of the most amazing of these moments and many of my favorites came from William Shatner's portrayal of Captain Kirk ... specifically, his amazing range of facial expressions.

When I say the faces of Kirk are one of the things I enjoy about The Original Series era, I mean that genuinely. Sure, these moments made me smile and even laugh sometimes, and a lot has been said about Kirk's over-expressive nature, but I'm not here to mock. I really just want to highlight how magnificent Kirk's numerous faces are!

Here's how I'd rank Kirk's most unforgettable facial expressions.

The Enough of You Face (The Search for Spock)

Towards the end of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Captain Kirk has had quite enough of the Klingon Kruge. The two fight as the planet around them begins to fall apart. When Kruge is hanging off a cliff, Kirk offers him his hand but Kruge has other ideas and grabs his leg. That leads to this amazing face made by Kirk as he yells at the Klingon "I have had enough of you!," punctuating his point as he kicks Kruge in the face so he falls. Maybe if he wasn't screaming and kicking at the same time we wouldn't have received such a look, but we did and it deserves to be on this list.

The McCoy! Face ("The City on the Edge of Forever," Season 1)

All it takes is for Edith Keeler to say "Dr. McCoy" for Kirk to stop short, grab her arms and make this shocked face as he exclaims "McCoy! Leonard McCoy?" After all the waiting he and Spock did during "The City on the Edge of Forever," it makes sense for him to be surprised by the news of his friend's arrival at last. Still, it's such a sudden change in expression that just screams "I'm stunned!" that I couldn't resist including it.

The I'm Losing Command Face ("And the Children Shall Lead," Season 3)

Kirk freaking out in the turbolift with Spock is a classic scene from "And the Children Shall Lead." He starts to act this way as a result of a group of children they brought on board and Spock takes him off the bridge. However, in the turbolift, the captain starts to rant about how he's losing command and losing the Enterprise. He dramatically moves from holding Spock's arm to the wall and in his horror this expression appears as he states he's alone. I guess if you're losing command and your ship, you're bound to have some unique reactions but the variety of expressions that cross Kirk's face in this scene, especially this one, is just priceless. Shatner really wanted to get across the drama of the situation!

The Can't Believe You Hit Me face ("The Naked Time," Season 1)

An infection spreads among the crew of the Enterprise in "The Naked Time" and everyone starts to act oddly. This puts the whole ship in danger and Kirk tries to get through to Spock for help in a scene that sees him slapping the Vulcan in an attempt to make him start thinking clearly. This is a terrible idea, though, since Spock retaliates in kind with a backhanded hit that sends Kirk sprawling across a table and onto the floor. From his position Kirk looks back up at Spock with this face obviously trying to express his disbelief and frustration with Spock's actions, though frankly Kirk started it with multiple slaps to Spock. What did he expect?

The Is That Spock in a Tree? Face ("This Side of Paradise," Season 1)

When some flower spores on a planet start making Spock emotional and carefree, Kirk just can't process it. He approaches Spock, who is currently hanging from a tree, smiling and laughing, and gives him this look that says it all. Kirk looks at Spock with confusion as he asks if Spock's out of his mind. Shatner captured the perfect "What the ...?" look for Kirk to have at this moment.

The Painful Collar Face ("The Gamesters of Triskelion," Season 2)

Shatner went all-out for this scene in "The Gamesters of Triskelion." Kirk, Uhura and Chekov are captured on a planet where they are forced to train and fight. The three try to escape when they are being forced into their quarters but their collars are activated. When expressing pain, Shatner really let loose here. The gaping mouth. The wide eyes.

The Fighting with a Gorn Face ("Arena," Season 1)

The fight between Kirk and the Gorn in "Arena" is classic for a number of reasons, including the impressive range of facial expressions the Starfleet captain goes through during it. Kirk is supposed to be in mortal peril after all, even if the Gorn doesn't exactly seen very threatening to those of us watching now ... yet you can almost believe it when the Gorn gets close to Kirk and the two are grappling each other, leading to perhaps Kirk's best strained face as he struggles with the alien.

The I Didn't Join Starfleet For This Face ("The Trouble with Tribbles," Season 2)

After discovering tribbles on his chair, in his coffee and on his chicken sandwich, Kirk reaches a breaking point with the cute little aliens in "The Trouble with Tribbles." And he can't avoid a final tribble trouble before the end. When he goes to investigate the storage compartments, he's greeted by a shower of tribbles. Emerging from the pile, the way he looks at the tribbles is unforgettable. He's exhausted, frustrated, clearly had enough of this tribble nonsense and might be rethinking the whole Starfleet captain position at this point.

The Sargon in Kirk's Body Face ("Return to Tomorrow," Season 2)

The Enterprise discovers aliens who no longer have bodies but preserved their minds and energy in this episode. Kirk asks the one who called to them, Sargon, what help he was requesting of them and Sargon responds by taking control of his body. Not having had a body for about a half a million years, Sargon takes some time to get used to it. The incredible expression as he touches his/Kirk's face brilliantly gets that wonder across. It may be Sargon making Kirk create such an expression, but it's still Kirk's face so it qualifies!

The Evil Kirk Face ("The Enemy Within," Season 1)

A problem with the transporter leads to there being two Kirks on the Enterprise in "The Enemy Within." There's an evil Kirk and a good Kirk, and no one's around when the evil version of the captain arrives. Before the new Kirk can even say anything, you know he's evil thanks to a combination of the music and this evil expression that's trying very hard to convince us that this is not the Kirk we know.

The Classic Kirk Smile Face ("The Conscience of the King," Season 1)

Appearing in many episodes including "The Conscience of the King," Kirk's classic smile is hard to forget. There's no denying this is one suave captain when you see it. It's a smile he often brought out when meeting women but it also made an appearance occasionally with his friends, especially Spock and McCoy. It's one of Kirk's best expressions in all of Star Trek and came close to topping this list.

The Khaaannn! Face (The Wrath of Khan)

The scene where Captain Kirk screams Khan's name in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is one of the most famous in all the franchise. Khan says he's going to leave Kirk like Kirk left him, marooned on a dead planet. Shaking with rage, Kirk screams his enemy's name (which echoes quite dramatically) and his face twists into this look. The scene would not be the same without it!

The I'm Captain Kirk! Face ("The Enemy Within," Season 1)

I know, you're probably asking why another one from "The Enemy Within"? Because Evil Kirk is the gift that just keeps giving! Shatner took advantage of really letting the bad Kirk through in almost every scene and the most memorable expression is this one. The good Kirk warns the rest of the crew that there's an imposter on board and evil Kirk hears him. This leads him into a spiral of shouting "I'm Captain Kirk!" to the empty room around him, finally letting it loose in a yell that results in this look. It's amazing, to say the least. This isn't a guy you want to argue with about being Captain Kirk.

The Body Swap Going Wrong Face ("Turnabout Intruder," Season 3)

In the final episode of The Original Series, Kirk goes out with the best facial expression he's ever made. Janice Lester switches minds with Captain Kirk but fails to kill her old body with his mind before they're taken back to the Enterprise. This leads to her trying to convince everyone she's Kirk and it all starts to fall apart, especially when she orders the execution of Scotty and McCoy. Sulu and Chekov discuss what to do when Lester/Kirk arrives on the bridge. They start to ignore Lester/Kirk's commands and the not-quite-the-captain starts yelling at them. At the same time, Spock does something that messes with the body swap and momentarily seems to cause them to switch back and forth. Lester/Kirk falls back into the captain's chair making this absolutely marvelous expression. It's such a look of horror, shock and disbelief, and with the added hand gestures makes for the most unforgettable facial expression Kirk ever made!

Do you have a favorite Kirk facial expression? Let us know in the comment section below!