Star Trek: Strange New Worlds premiered on Paramount+ last week, and the second episode is on the way. The show's debut episode had a little fun with Star Trek fans. Early in the episode, Mr. Spock tells Capt. Pike that they are still missing Lt. Kirk, whom Pike personally requested, from the crew. Star Trek fans might immediately think that this is a young James T. Kirk, especially since they know that the series has cast Paul Wesley in the role. That turned out not to be the case. Instead, it's Lt. Samuel Kirk (played by Dan Jeannotte) who shows up on the bridge at the end of the episode. Who is Samuel Kirk? Fans of Star Trek: The Original Series likely already know, but if you're in the dark, we're here to help you out.
George Samuel "Sam" Kirk is James Tiberius Kirk's older brother. James' senior by about 10 years, Sam followed the footsteps of their father, George Kirk Sr., by joining Starfleet. However, unlike his father and brother, who both went into command, Sam is a science officer specializing in life sciences. This puts him under the command of Science Officer Spock, reversing the Kirk-Spock command structure from Star Trek: The Original Series in what feels like a little wink to fans.
Capt. Kirk mentions Sam in the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "What Are Little Girls Mad Of?" In the episode, Kirk says that Sam saw him off when the Enterprise began its five-year mission. He also mentions that Sam wanted to transfer to the Earth Colony II research station with his wife, Aurelan, and their three children.
We don't know for certain how long Sam remains aboard the Enterprise, but it's possible that he left the Enterprise as his brother came into command. This could be to avoid creating a conflict of interest in the command structure, or maybe Sam didn't feel capable of taking orders from his little brother. Alternatively, with Strange New Worlds taking place years before Kirk's five-year mission, it's possible that Sam will have had his fill of adventures on the final frontier by then and be ready to settle down at a less exciting post with his family, passing on the offer of another five years of exploration.
Whether Sam ever got to go to Earth Colony II is unknown. The Star Trek episode "Operation -- Annihilate!" reveals that, about a year into Kirk's five-year mission, Sam was working as a civilian on the planet Deneva, where he was killed by a parasitic alien swarm. His only onscreen appearance in canon prior to Strange New Worlds is the shot in this episode of his lifeless body (played by William Shatner, to make it clear he's Kirk's brother, but with that striking mustache).
It seems that Star Trek fans are poised to learn more about Sam Kirk as Star Trek: Strange New Worlds' first season continues. New episodes of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds will debut on Thursdays on Paramount+.