Kirk’s Stаr Trek TOS Insult: Wһаt Cаptаin Dunsel Meаns

Jim Kirk’s legendary ego was bruised when he was called Captain Dunsel in Star Trek: TOS, but what does the insult mean, and why throw it at Kirk?

Star trek the original series Kirk M5 the ultimate computer


  • Captain Kirk was insulted when he was referred to as “Captain Dunsel,” a term used to describe something of no use or obsolete.
  • Starfleet attempted to replace Kirk with a computer in the TOS episode “The Ultimate Computer,” but Kirk proved his value by defeating the self-preserving AI.
  • Similar AI mistakes were made in later Star Trek series, such as Star Trek: Lower Decks and Star Trek: Picard, where AI malfunctions threatened the safety of Starfleet and organic life.

While Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) commanded a great deal of respect from his crew in Star Trek: The Original Series, he once earned himself the insulting title of “Captain Dunsel.” Captain Kirk was a Starfleet legend, whose exploits would go on to inspire future generations of officers from Star Trek: The Next Generation to Star Trek: Lower Decks. However, this legendary status could have been scuppered had things gone according to plan in the Star Trek: TOS episode, “The Ultimate Computer.”

In Star Trek: The Original Series season 2, episode 24, “The Ultimate Computer”, Starfleet came up with the ingenious idea to replace Kirk with a computer. Designed by Doctor Richard Daystrom (William Marshal), the M-5 multitronic unit (voiced by Scotty actor James Doohan) was brought aboard the Enterprise to test its capabilities. The battle drills soon became a desperate fight for life when M-5 became solely focused on its own self-preservation. Captain Kirk defeated M-5 when he convinced it to self-destruct, putting an end to any suggestions that he was the Enterprise’s Captain Dunsel.

What Captain Dunsel Means & Why Kirk Was So Insulted

In “The Ultimate Computer”, Commodore Bob Wesley (Barry Russo) wryly referred to Kirk as Captain Dunsel, clearly wounding the Enterprise Captain’s pride. After Kirk had left the bridge, Spock explained that a “dunsel” was a term used by Starfleet midshipmen to describe a part of the ship that was no longer useful. With a computer in charge of the running of the Federation’s flagship, there was a very real risk that Kirk would become redundant, the dunsel. Thankfully for Kirk, the M-5 was no replacement for a human being, proving that he was still incredibly useful aboard the Enterprise.

Interestingly, dunsel isn’t listed in the Oxford English Dictionary, suggesting that unlike a lot of terms in Star Trek, it’s not rooted in ancient nautical traditions, as some have suspected. The first recorded usage of “dunsel” is in the script for “The Ultimate Computer” by Star Trek writer D.C. Fontana. There’s a company specializing in bags made from upcycled sails and marine textiles called Dunsel’s, that has adopted the nautical implications of Fontana’s potentially made-up word. Brilliantly, however, the concept of using recycled materials to reduce wastage is very much in the spirit of Star Trek.

Starfleet Made The Same A.I. Mistake In Star Trek: Lower Decks

USS Almeda and Buenamigo.jpg

A century later, Admiral Les Buenamigo (Carlos Alazraqui) tried to succeed where Richard Daystrom had failed. In Star Trek: Lower Decks‘ season 3 finale “The Stars at Night”, Buenamigo rolled out his new Texas-class starships, which threatened to make California-class starships like the USS Cerritos into dunsels. Like Daystrom’s M-5, the Texas-class starships also had a fault in their programming, which turned the entire armada against Buenamigo and Starfleet. Hilariously, Ensign Sam Rutherford (Eugene Cordero) insulted the hostile A.I. when he threatened to make it dunsel if it didn’t stop attacking Douglas Station.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Star Trek: Picard season 3 revealed that Starfleet had failed to learn from the mistakes of Daystrom and Buenamigo. Fleet Formation Mode was installed on all starships, handing control of the entire Starfleet armada over to A.I. Tragically, this was hijacked by the Borg Collective, who used it as a last ditch attempt to destroy all organic life. It was only thanks to the USS Enterprise-D and Commodore Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton) that the crisis was averted. A century on from Star Trek: The Original Series, and despite Starfleet’s best efforts, there’s still no such thing as Captain Dunsel.

Related Posts

Former 49ers defensive player says QB Brock Purdy “is here to stay”

Logan Ryan appeared in five regular season games for the San Francisco 49ers in 2023. He started two of them. Ryan also played in all three of…

RHOBH: Annemarie Wiley Says She Spoke to One of Crystal “14 Friends,” Calls Her Actions “Pure Evil” and Suggests Crystal’s Living Her “Karma,” See Her Scathing Post

Annemarie Wiley shared she met another member of Crystal Kung Minkoff’s “14 friends” who “dropped her,” hinted that “what she did” to them was “pure evil,” and suggested she’s…

RHONY’s Jenna Lyons Thinks Kyle Richards is “Coming Over” to Her Team and Wants to Style the RHOBH Star Amid Morgan Wade Romance Rumors

Jenna Lyons revealed she would most like to style Kyle Richards because she believes the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star is “coming over to [her] team.”…

Why Fans Are Focused on Kyle Richards’ Massive Cushion Cut Engagement Ring

People have been paying attention to the RHOBH cast member’s rings amid her separation from Mauricio Umansky.  There’s been a lot of chatter about Kyle Richards and her engagement and wedding…

Lisa Rinna Would ‘Love to Play a Murderer’ After Starring as a ‘Crazy’ Parent in Mommy Meanest (Exclusive)

In the Lifetime movie, Rinna stars as a woman who sends her own daughter anonymous, bullying text messages After Lisa Rinna exited The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills in early 2023,…

REPORT: Paul “PK” Kemsley Storms Off After Chat With Mauricio Umansky, and Steps Out Looking “Frazzled” to Film RHOBH Season 14 Amid Separation, See Video as Insider Speaks on Marriage & Split From Dorit Kemsley

Paul “PK” Kemsley was spotted filming for the upcoming 14th season of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills on Thursday at The Henry in West Hollywood, California — just as he and his…