Captain James T. Kirk of Star Trek: BeginningsJames T. Kirk attended Starfleet academy between 2250-2254. He first gained notoriety as a Starfleet Academy cadet when he defeated the “undefeatable” Kobayashi Maru test by hacking its programming. Though this caused no shortage of consternation among Star Trek's Starfleet administrators, it earned him a commendation for original thinking and established his reputation as a leader capable of renegade thinking when required to solve an intractable problem.
Almost immediately (2250), he was given a field commission from cadet to ensign on the USS Republic NCC-1371, where he was promoted to lieutenant junior grade before returning to Starfleet Academy as a student instructor.
Students who studied under Kirk recall him as knowledgeable to the point that he seemed “a stack of books with legs.” They also report that his attitude toward teaching as “think or sink”, rewarding resourcefulness and creative problem solving over rote memorization or analysis alone.
High Marks at Starfleet AcademyKirk graduated Starfleet Academy (2254) in the top five percent of his class and was promoted to lieutenant. Post-graduation, he was first assigned to conduct a planetary survey aboard the USS Farragut. During this mission, the Farragut came under attack allegedly by a Romulan vessel near Vulcan. There are conflicting accounts of the attack, but they agree that the attack killed a large portion of the crew and Kirk's commanding officer, Capt. Garrovick.
Kirk's demonstrated leadership during this crisis earned him his first command at a relatively young age. This was aboard the Baton Rouge-class USS Saladin, which was roughly equivalent to a modern destroyer.
USS Enterprise: Solidifying His LegacyMost biographers consider Captain James T. Kirk's legacy solidified in 2264 when Starfleet made him its youngest captain of a Federation Flagship (a record he still holds) by assigning him command of the The USS Enterprise for the ships 4th five-year exploration mission.
It was during this command that he began converting academic colleagues into lifelong professional partnerships. Among the notables are S'chn T'gai Spock, Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy, Montgomery "Scotty" Scott, Hikaru Sulu, Pavel Chekov, and Nyota Uhura. Though their career tracks would diverge for periods, they were repeatedly teamed together for significant missions, particularly those involving some iteration of the USS Enterprise. Each has their own extensive biographical entry.
The tales of Kirk's explorations and exploits during the original Enterprise mission are innumerable. Many biographers have covered them in-depth and his unclassified logs can be read directly for those who desire more in-depth reading. It is notable that, even after completing this original mission in 2269 and being promoted to Starfleet Admiral in Charge of Fleet Operations, Kirk's predilections (and some would argue, his fate) kept returning him to command of the Enterprise.
The Encounter With V'Ger: Admiral Kirk Retakes Enterprise CommandA 2271 incident illustrates Kirk's repeated returns to command the Enterprise.
The incident was precipitated by a massive and destructive energy cloud that appeared on a collision course with Earth after destroying several Klingon ships and Starfleet's Epsilon Nine monitoring station. Enterprise was the only ship close enough to intercept the energy cloud. However, it was undergoing a major technological refit under Captain Willard Decker.
Admiral Kirk happened to be touring the upgraded Enterprise as a dignitary when the crisis struck. Citing his far-greater crisis command experience, Kirk asserted his authority to assume command of the Enterprise. He retained Decker as his first officer due to Decker's greater familiarity with the ship's newly-installed technologies and ordered Decker to finish testing of these systems en route.
Spock Appears With PremonitionAdmiral Spock, citing what some have described as an illogical premonition of the cloud, arrived and offered to serve as the ship's interim science officer. He identified the cloud as a living machine, with the 20th-Century Earth space probe Voyager 6 at its core. A “living machine” race had discovered the probe and given Voyager 6 a consciousness similar to their own. This “living” Voyager 6, referring to itself mispronounced as “V'Ger” was returning to complete its perceived mission by delivering “all that it had learned” to its Earth maker.
V'Ger Crisis AvertedWhen intercepted, the energy cloud had replaced the Enterprise's navigator with a conscious humanoid replica of her to communicate with the Enterprise. First Officer Decker, who had a prior romantic relationship with the navigator, said that he sensed the navigator's consciousness was integrated into the humanoid and volunteered to interface with it to communicate with V'Ger. The humanoid absorbed Decker and the energy cloud changed its course away from Earth.
Having diverted the crisis (and found the ship without an official captain), Kirk retained command of the Enterprise, declared it fit for service, and headed further into space for the second of his five-year missions as its commander.
Time-Traveling Whale Theft
Three of Kirk's recurring tendencies—commandeering ships, time travel incursions (14 are documented), and recruiting the same long-term command team from his days as a Starfleet cadet—converge in a single 2286 incident.
A massive cylindrical alien probe approached earth and was determined to be a threat by Star Trek's Federation Council. It had wreaked havoc on numerous ships and planets it had approached previously. Kirk,who had been reduced permanently to Captain a year earlier for stealing the Enterprise, took it upon himself to lead a team to determine if the vessel had discernible demands. They figured out that the vessel sought to communicate with then-extinct humpback whales.
To prevent the vessel from destroying Earth, Kirk and his long-time command quintet used a commandeered Klingon Bird of Prey to perform a Sun-gravity-based slingshot maneuver to time-travel to the 20th Century: the last time humpback whales were known to exist on Earth. The team was able to secure two of the massive creatures and return them to the present to communicate with and satiate the alien probe's demands.
Personal Life Marked by TragedyCaptain James T. Kirk's personal life was marked by tragedies. Though raised primarily on Earth, he lived for a period on Tarsus IV. His 13-year-old self was greatly affected by witnessing the massacre of 4,000 Tarsus IV colonists under the orders of Kodos the Executioner.
He had one sibling, George Samuel, a scientist, who was tragically killed by a parasitic infestation on the Deneva system during James's original five-year mission as captain of the USS Enterprise.
Known Romantic: Maybe a MarriageHe gained a reputation as a romantic and, though it is sometimes difficult to separate the truth from hearsay, he was linked to numerous women (human and alien). There is one reference to a marriage, but Star Trek details are limited except that it ended when she died tragically.
Only Known ChildKirk fathered one son, David, with Dr. Carol Marcus. To protect David from Kirk's constant long-term absences while commanding the Enterprise, Marcus largely hid David from Kirk. The two did spend time together in 2285 when an adult David (then a well-regarded scientist in his own right) was caught in a Starfleet/Klingon clash on a Genesis planet David had helped germinate. The Enterprise was sent to investigate and Kirk spent a short time getting to know his son before David was killed in the conflict.
Two Separate Recorded Kirk DeathsKirk's death was originally recorded in 2293 during the Enterprise-B's maiden voyage, when an energy ribbon struck the ship. He was initially supposed to serve as a dignitary on this ship's christening voyage but volunteered for action when it was clear his assistance was needed. All accounts attribute his death to being in engineering to assist directly when the energy ribbon tore open the hull in that part of the ship.
Picard VersionHowever, Admiral Jean Luc Picard, then Captain of the Enterprise-D, reported encountering a still-living James T. Kirk in the 2371, when his ship encountered a similar energy ribbon (which he referred to as a “nexus”). In Picard's telling, the nexus is a portal to a timeless extra-dimensional zone where he found an ageless Kirk living an illusionary idyllic life on a parallel Veridian III.
Picard convinced Kirk to join him in thwarting an El-Aurian scientist, Dr. Tolian Soran, who was apparently obsessed with launching a trilithium probe to collapse a star to create a shock wave and draw the nexus ribbon to him so that he could enter the timeless zone.
Picard's narrative states that the two were successful in stopping Dr. Soran, but that Kirk perished in the battle. Picard's version record's Kirk's death in 2371 but that, due to the nexus's timeless zone, Kirk was still 60 years old at his time of death. Linear chronology would have made him 138.