Any fan of Star Trek who has spent any time at all watching James Kirk do his thing know that his middle name is Tiberius, but it wasn’t always.
Retcons are a big part of entertainment these days, especally entertainment that sees numerous writers and creators coming aboard. Things change all the time and fans need to kind of roll with it. Like for instance, Spock wasn’t a “Vulcan” when Star Trek started but a “Vulcanian”. Things like that change all the time, but as Trek Culture points out, maybe none is bigger than the retconning of James Kirk and his middle name.
In the series, everyone knows it to be Tiberius, named after Tiberius Caesar Augustus, the second Roman emperor. Yet, in the third episode of the first season, “Where No Man’s Gone Before”, Kirk is battling crew member Gary Mitchell. Mitchell had developed telepathic and telekinetic powers as a result of a space anomaly, and due to that power, he’s now gone insane. Battling Kirk on the planet in the climax of the episode, Mitchell manifests a tombstone for Kirk.
On that tombstone, it reads “James R. Kirk”.
There’s no word as to why his middle name was changed, more than likely it had to do with one writer wanting his middle name to be Tiberius and changing it, or he never knew Kirk had a middle initial, to begin with.
In a rather ironic twist, Kirk isn’t the only iconic science fiction character to carry the name of a Roman leader. Former Star Trek scribe Ronald Moore went and re-launched Battlestar Galactica. In doing so, he decided to reimagine many of the characters, most notably Starbuck, who went from a man to a woman.
Another famous reimagining is that Count Baltar in the original was renamed in the remake series. Gone was “Count Baltar” and instead stood Gaius Baltar, played by James Callis. Gaius is also the first name of the legendary Roman ruler Gaius Julius Ceasar, or as it’s commonly written, just Julius Ceasar.
The irony of one of Star Trek’s greatest heroes, and Battlestar’s worst antagonists both sharing Roman royalty as a name can’t be a coincidence.
It’s the little things like a character’s name and it’s meaning that gets most sci-fi fans all geeked up about the why’s and how’s.