Kirk/Spock controversy

The idea of a romantic relationship between Kirk and Spock was controversial from the beginning. It's been addressed by everyone from fans and fanfic authors to Gene Roddenberry himself.


Star Trek Action Group

In The Inter-Relationships of "Enterprise" Crew Members, published 1973-08 in Star Trek Action Group #3, Jenny Elson made an assertion (Elson, 1973):

On Vulcan, to a Vulcan, he could openly express what he feels, for another Vulcan would understand. But Kirk, a Terran, would not, and therefore Spock must keep to himself the knowledge deep within him: that he is actively and logically in love with James Kirk, captain of the "Enterprise."

In the following issue, many people wrote in either to support or rebut this claim (“What You Say!,” 1973):


Spock being in love with Kirk... That's stupid and ridiculous! Let's keep the Star Trek Party clean, please! It's Science Fiction and far away places in deep space we're interested in. If I were you, I'd keep that OUT of any further newsletters you do. Homosexuality is OUT. Man was made for woman.

(Ed. note... Except that Spock ain't Man, he's Vulcan.)


Loved your article about the relationships of the crew-members. That Spock is in love with Kirk is a beautiful idea... note the way he often looks at Kirk; risks his own life to save him, and, in Amok Time, the dreadful expression on his face when he thinks that his friend is dead.


I've thought of that before... (Spock being in love with Kirk,) but I've never had the courage to mention it until now....


My daughter and I thought that Spock being in love with Kirk was a lovely idea... but be careful, people in the States might be offended by the idea.


Loved your run-down on Sickbay. I found it most amusing, and it does have some good points. Why no loos indeed? And when do they ever take a bath, I wonder? Do they just bung themselves under a chemical spray?


I resist the temptation that Spock is in love with Kirk. Ugh! But on the other hand, I guess it's true in a way. It disturbed me greatly at first, but I see now that you may have a point, remembering the Vulcan nature.... I'm very glad to hear there's nothing physical in it, that's a relief! I must admit that I was repulsed until I looked at it from another angle; then it didn't seem so bad.


Must disagree with you about Spock and Kirk. Please give Kirk some credit for trying to understand Spock. Also, what about Spock's human half.. he has got one, and it's this which gives him the capacity for understanding humans. A Vulcan is supposed to have no emotions, but what about pride? Spock is proud of being Vulcan, but not proud of being half human. Why doesn't he try to communicate to Kirk just how he feels.. he just might get a surprise. Just what do you mean by saying that Spock is actively and logically in love with Kirk? There is nothing logical about love; in fact it's the most illogical of human emotions and there you have a discrepancy, unless you mean that it's his human half, which would make him slightly funny. (Queer, not ha ha) and that is not Spock.

And more letters in the next issue (“What You Say,” 1974):

Chris Gormley: A lot of people seem to have one-track minds! If you had said that Spock loved his mother, no-one would have bothered. It's about time everyone realised all the different kinds of love that can exist.

Ann Wigmore: What I understand by Spock being in love with Kirk is a full and complete evaluation of the Captain's character in relation to Spock himself. Spock is able to relate to Kirk, unconsciously bestowing the emotions he is unable to express to his father onto the captain. That is my opinion of the strange and beautiful relationship between Kirk and Spock.

Pat Jenkins: I don't think a man has to be Vulcan to love another man... and I don't mean a sexual love.

Kay Houston: So many episodes prove this love. "No greater love has any man than he lay down his life for his friend."

And yet more letters in the next issue:

Carol Smith: I really felt I had to say something on the relationship article. Why do people have to bring sex into every relationship? Haven't they heard of true devotion, friendship and trust? Has sex become such a part of our society that we cannot think of anything without including it?

Judy Baily: In some languages there is more than one word for Love, depending on the type of love spoken about. This is logical. The love of God is different to a man/wife relationship, and another word is needed for the love of one person to another, as intended in the statement that Spock loved Kirk

Word of God

Gene Roddenberry

Gene Roddenberry has commented on the issue (Lichtenberg et al., 1975, p. 152):

I definitely designed it as a love relationship. And I hope that for men . . . who have been afraid of such relationships . . . that they [Spock and Kirk] would encourage them to be able to feel love and affection, true affection . . . love, friendship, and deep respect. That was the relationship I tried to draw. I think I also tried to draw a feeling of belief that very few of us are complete unto ourselves. It's quite a lovely thing . . . where two halves make a whole.

Star Trek Lives! (1975-10), 152

He reiterated this a few years later (Marshak & Culbreath, 1979, p. 145):

As I've said, I definitely designed it as a love relationship. I think that is what we're all about--love, the effort to reach out to each other. I think that's a lovely thing.

He even went a bit further, after some prompting (Marshak & Culbreath, 1979, pp. 147–148):

'There's a great deal of writing in the STAR TREK movement now which compares the relationship between Alexander and Hephaistion to the relationship between Kirk and Spock--focusing on the closeness of the friendship, the feeling that they would die for one another--'

"Yes," Gene says. "There's certainly some of that with--certainly with love overtones. Deep love. The only difference being, the Greek ideal--we never suggested in the series--physical love between the two. But it's the--we certainly had the feeling the affection was sufficient for that, if that were the particular style in the 23rd century." (He looks thoughtful.) "That's very interesting. I never thought of that before."

In his novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, he included a footnote intended to either clarify or muddy the waters, depending on your point of view (Roddenberry, 1979):

Editor's note: The human concept of friend is most nearly duplicated in Vulcan thought by the term t'hy'la, which can also mean brother and lover. Spock's recollection (from which this chapter has drawn) is that it was a most difficult moment for him since he did indeed consider Kirk to have become his brother. However, because t'hy'la can be used to mean lover, and since Kirk's and Spock's friendship was unusually close, this has led to some speculation over whether they had actually indeed become lovers. At our request, Admiral Kirk supplied the following comment on this subject:

"I was never aware of this lovers rumor, although I have been told that Spock encountered it several times. Apparently he had always dismissed it with his characteristic lifting of his right eyebrow which usually connoted some combination of surprise, disbelief, and/or annoyance. As for myself, although I have no moral or other objections to physical love in any of its many Earthly, alien, and mixed forms, I have always found my best gratification in that creature woman. Also, I would dislike being thought of as so foolish that I would select a love partner who came into sexual heat only once every seven years."

Naturally, fans took this however they wanted. My own take is that GR is trying to tread the line because he wants to say that, as Dr. Crusher says, "someday, our ability to love won't be so limited" (Rush, 1991). He doesn't want to say "there is no K/S" and have it taken to mean that he's setting down a moral rule for the future.

David Gerrold

In 1985, Gerrold complained that people shouldn't be wasting their time arguing about K/S. Kirk and Spock were not lovers: "When creating Star Trek, from 1966 through 1969, we were not writing masturbatory fantasies for fat ladies with sexual dysfunctions, and those of you reading this can stick it" (Gerrold, 1985).

Nearly thirty years later, he had still more to say: he dislikes K/S fic because it doesn't fit the characters or the story, and anyway it tends to be written by women who don't know what a relationship between gay men actually looks like (Gerrold, 2013). He reiterated his views a few years later, adding that K/S fans "were bullying other fans with the idea that their interpretation was the only possible interpretation of who Kirk and Spock really were and what Star Trek fandom was really about" (Gerrold, 2016).


Elson, J. (1973, August). The Inter-Relationships of “Enterprise” Crew Members. Star Trek Action Group, 3, 5–6.
Gerrold, D. (1985, September 19). An Interview with David Gerrold (T. Farley & R. Landers, Interviewers) [Transcript].
Gerrold, D. (2013, August 27). I probably shouldn’t stir the shit…. Facebook.
Gerrold, D. (2016, July 8). Just for the record, I always assumed Sulu was gay…. Facebook.
Lichtenberg, J., Marshak, S., & Winston, J. (1975). Star Trek Lives! Bantam Books.
Marshak, S., & Culbreath, M. (1979). Shatner: Where No Man…. Ace Books.
Roddenberry, G. (1979). Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Pocket Books.
Rush, M. V. (1991, May 13). The Host (No. 4x23). In Star Trek: The Next Generation.
What You Say. (1974, January). Star Trek Action Group, 5, 7.
What You Say! (1973, November). Star Trek Action Group, 4, 6–7.
Title Type Date Platform Names Characters Series
Star Trek Rerun, Reread, Rewritten: Fan Writing as Textual Poaching JournalArticle 1988-06 Henry Jenkins III