Look at the worry in Jim’s eyes in the first image. He’s standing defiant in the face of the unknown, sure, but this is a major internal conflict for him. He’ll argue man’s place over machine, his belief in humanity is boundless – but in himself? Is he better than this machine?
Spock’s comment here implicitly states two things: Jim is more desirable (of a commander, of course, but let my shipper heart take more meaning there), and Spock wishes to serve under him.
The next parts have so much weight in their words I don’t need to elaborate on it – but I want to take a second to look at how much is conveyed in Jim’s eyes.
He’s still plainly apprehensive here, vulnerable.
He watches Spock’s lips as he speaks. This isn’t a glance – his eyes linger. His whole body shifts to look at Spock clearer, and he turns to face him, his eyes remaining fixed.
You can see the creases ease from his face panel by panel. Nothing can replace it – nothing can replace the soul of the ship, the loyalty it runs on, that all under his command feel towards him. That Spock feels towards him. This look is so genuine.
Nothing can replace him.
This look is for Spock.
This is James T. Kirk expressing the most heartfelt gratitude he can convey.
This is Jim Kirk near bursting with pride and adoration.
This look, I think, is Jim taking Spock’s words in. This is James T. Kirk processing what his first officer’s just told him - that no man could replace him, that there’s no man he’d rather serve under. That he’s worthy.
As he takes this in, he isn’t looking at Spock’s lips here, as he was before. This is beyond the words they’ve given him. This is the warmth he feels in his chest. And Vulcan anatomy aside, that’s where Jim’s eyes wander – to his heart.
Warnings - less eye squick in this one, but beware the angst.
McKirk, ‘cause it’s always McKirk
Bones pulls him
from his thoughts with a heavy hand on his shoulder. “Jim,” he says slowly,
pained. Jim feels him kneel on the ground beside him. “I can’t raise the ship.”
Of course you can’t, Jim thinks resentfully. “We’re in the
beside him. “I know,” he says. He’s quiet for a moment, as if considering. “I
think we should keep moving,” he says, after a long moment. “Move beyond it, if
we can. We’ve got to be close to the border.”