Here it is, folks, the precedent for Kirk acting before really thinking something through and being the first person to always volunteer risking his neck for the sake of all.
Kirk was a lieutenant who hesitated to fire for “a grand total of two seconds” when a sickly-sweet smelling creature of gaseous corporeality capable of altering its molecular structure attacked his fellow crew-members on his first deep-space mission. Eleven years later, Kirk is still haunted by the guilt of hesitating (not yet knowing it would have had no effect) and the creature is back on another planet.
Did this creature’s use of Gravity Assist (though not referred to as such in the episode) predict our own use of it? Who knows. What we do know is that this thing likes the taste of redshirts, and not Mr. Spock (copper-based blood as opposed to our iron-based blood).
No one wants to help Kirk at first, mostly because they have perishable medicine that needs to be delivered to a group of sick folks ASAP. Also, the son of Kirk’s former captain (who died in the related tragedy of eleven years prior), is a redshirt in this episode who wants no special treatment but ends up … watch the episode, people, I can’t give you all the answers!
What question could you ask of me
and hear the words you seek?
Could I make more apology,
how much less pain could I still wreak?
What question would you ask of me
so naught but truth your eyes would see?
Do you think that you will bear it
more brave than my poor heart saw fit?
What question — should you ask of me —
would my self-reproach least incur
could I give you just one answer?
What question might you ask of me
that I have not yet asked myself?
My tongue a still and empty shelf.