"The Enemy Within" is a truly great episode of the original Star Trek, and one I've been thinking about a lot lately. In fact, it's one of the first episodes where the show became the truly special thing that I won't shut up about to this day. It's a bonkers premise -- Kirk is split into two halves, one "good," the other "evil." Experiments on space poodles, arch camera angles to tell the different Kirks apart, and some truly horrendous gender politics* ensue before we realize that neither the ineffectually compassionate Kirk, nor his power-hungry beast of a brother can survive on their own.
If you've never seen it, Netflix it now. I'd put it ahead of "City on the Edge of Forever" as a showcase for young Shatner at his Shatneriest. It's written by Richard Matheson, who is second only to Rod Serling in my pantheon of truly great science fiction television writers. He also wrote "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," which, speaking of Shatner... Just go Netflix it.
Why bring this up now? Good question. I've always had a bit of an "Enemy Within" thing going on. For more on that we go to Gary. Say "hi" to the readers, Gary.
"Hi" to the readers, Gary.
What did we talk about it? I do the jokes around here.
Fine. My name is Gary M. Boyle. I was named for my father, and for once, we'll hear a little bit from me. I figured I'm entitled. I write all the checks, and Mac couldn't get a social security card if he tried. I've seen to that much.
We are all two people on some level, I suppose. Clichéd storytelling might call one half "dark" and the other "light." Just as in Mac's example from that space ship show with the guy from Boston Legal, "good" and "evil" doesn't cover the whole truth. I don't have a goatee. Well, any time I have had a goatee, Mac had one too, but that's beside the point. We're not separate people. Of this much, I can assure you. In truth, Mac and I are just better at different, albeit sometimes conflicting, things. We just happened to have the odd fortune of having one legal name, and another nickname. We've had both since birth. I should probably stop using that "we" pronoun, lest we--damn it--alarm some of you.
I'm more analytical; Mac is more creative. My greatest weakness is my ambition will sometimes blind me to the most prudent path. Mac's tragic qualities come from a desire to screw up on purpose, purely in the interest of creating a better anecdote for later on. Mac thinks he is the funnier one--
--and he's probably right.
Mac was the one who wanted to do a story about Orson Welles and Charlie Chaplin fighting demons. I suggested that it be a larger metaphor for the McCarthy era and that it state unequivocally that there are far worse things in the world to be than a communist. The book landed somewhere in the middle.
It was my idea to go to law school way back when.
And I put a pretty effective stop to that, if I do say so myself.
To be fair, I needed to have a better reason--or any reason, really--to be there. Also, my brief flirtation with a political career was all me.
And I've learned to forgive you for both of those indiscretions. Without them, I never would have found the basis for that first novel.
And, yes. Thank you so much for basing the villain of that book on me.
You know what I mean...
Are you saying you didn't deserve it?
I'm saying that you'd have a hard time finding someone at the age of 22 who isn't the villain of their own story.
But I digress. The problem has always been that for one of us to feel as if we are pursuing our best selves, the other has to be on the decline. The moment I've been slightly open to career advancement--
--advancing the career at which we actually make money, that is--you tend to freak out.
My freaking out is directly proportional to the degree to which I think you're selling out.
And every time you are able to tune the whole world out and focus on the dream we both had since we were young...
I feel like I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing.
And I secretly wonder if we're not living up to our potential. Actually, I wonder if we both need to grow up and join the larger world.
It's not much of a secret. You won't shut up about it.
Look, this sniping at each other is going nowhere. You really want to finish this blog post and go to bed. Here's the truth: I really don't know if I'm ever going to consistently help you be a better writer.
And the odds against me helping you be more traditionally successful are pretty long indeed.
But if either of those things are ever going to happen, I'm pretty sure we're going to have to start working together, so...
I'm thinking! Fine, truce.
For the moment.
I was just about to say the same thing. Struggle with your other half? Tell me, or us about it in the comments.
*Evil Kirk's sexual assault of Yeoman Rand, even before they figure out that strange things are afoot. I fully intend to expound on it later, but by all honest accounts, Gene Roddenberry was a terrible person. He stole brazenly from other writers (when he was even actively involved in the show that gave him his legacy), was absolutely brutish to a slew of women, and basically drank and snorted his way through the last ten to fifteen years of his life. I think this makes him a far more fascinating figure than the saintly pop-philosopher that we remember, and I--we?--want to write that book someday.