Episode 14: Spock…My favorite Vulcan

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Spock is the half -vulcan, half-human science officer aboard the USS Enterprise who was played Leonard Nimoy throughout the Star Trek franchise that includes the original series, of all 8 movies that include the original cast and even the animated TV series. Spock even showed up in a two part arc in Star Trek: The Next generation.

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Spock begins his career in Starfleet as a science officer, then moves up into a command position as the series progresses into the movies and when he retires, Spock becomes a Federation ambassador helping to bridge the distance between different races and cultures throughout the Galaxy.

Now we’ll be looking at the origins of Spock from the original series and up through to the last of the movies the original cast starred in. We will touch on what is know as the Kelvin timeline. When J.J Abrams rebooted the Star Trek franchise he and the studio took things in a different direction. They changed the timeline of the Star Trek Universe and the trajectory of all it’s characters. It’s called the Kelvin timeline because the Starship Kelvin was the first to encounter the Romulan ship that caused the new Star Trek timeline. But more on that later.

Spock was born on the planet Vulcan and is the son of the Vulcan Sarek and the human woman Amanda Grayson. Had a pretty rough childhood and was an only child but did have a stepbrother named Sybok who was later banished for not abandoning emotions, Being of mixed race the young Spock is tormented by the other children who try to make him show emotion, which is the biggest taboo on their planet. Vulcans have striven to purge all emotions from their being. To be beings of pure logic and reason. Spock being half human means he is always at war with this emotional half. Fighting to control them. See Vulcans do actually have emotion, they can be very emotional and passionate people, and it is the purging of emotions that have elevated their society to the level it has reached. We actually get to see how Spock was bullied during his younger years in the first J.J Abrams Star Trek reboot. It’s very moving to see the emotion just well up in young Spock. It’s also interesting to see the kids bullying him, they seem to be taking pleasure in this, but like I said, they have emotion, they just repress it.

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We also learn in later episodes of the original series that at the age of seven, the young Spock was joined telepathically with a young Vulcan girl named T’Pring. This telepathic bonding is like a really long egg timer for Vulcans. Vulcans have to reproduce and this bonding, in time, will bring about what is known as Pon Farr, a powerful drive to mate with whom you were bonded with. If a Vulcan ignores Pon Farr it is fatale. We learn all of this in the second season premiere of the Star Trek original series episode Amok Time. Through some tricky maneuvering and a mickey that Bones administers to Kirk Spock is freed from his bond and she chooses another for a mate, one she has wanted all along.

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Great Soundtrack

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Now jumping back to when Spock was young, Spock decided he did not want to join the Vulcan Science Academy even though it was what his father Sarek wanted. But Spock turned it down an appointment to the academy and instead joined Starfleet as the first cadet from Vulcan. This causes a rift in relationship between father and son have a tense, if not non-existent relationship for the next 18 years. He excelled at Starfleet and was given the rank of lieutenant aboard the U.S.S Enterprise under Christopher Pike and served as his science officer.

Now I’m going to kind of go out of order here episode wise to what you may be used to starting at the Pilot. Now why is that starting out of order? Pilots come first right? Well not when it comes to the original Star Trek. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

Spock serves as Pikes jr. science officer and we meet him when the Enterprise intercepts a distress call from Talos IV and it’s here where the landing party come up against the Telosians who capture Pike and try to convince him through the use of ultra real illusions. One thing I always remember about that episode is that Spock is very military, very loud. He always seems to be shouting. But the one thing that is out of character is that Spock smiles and over very amused by a plant that makes a neat noise. He is very happy.

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They need him to teach them to really live and to help rebuild their race. The landing party frees Pike and they leave Talos. Now if this episode sounds familiar, it’s because we all got to see it as a two part episode called The Menagerie. See the network was promised Gun Smoke in space, that’s not what they got. The Cage as it was originally called was very trippy and cerebral, so they shelved it. But the powers that be gave Roddenberry another chance and let them do another pilot. The new pilot was named, “Where no man has gone before” and was very Gun Smoke in space. Lots of fights, and lots of testosterone. It’s actually one of my favorites. Just a great episode. And it’s always nice to see the actor who played Poole in 200: A Space Odyssey playing a different part. Yep, Gary from Where No Man Has Gone Before is Poole from 2001.

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So when Roddenberry got the nod to do another pilot there was some problems. For one the actor who played Christopher Pike was demanding more money, so he was dropped from the show and replaced by William Shatner. There were only a few characters that made the transition to the new Pilot and Spock was one of them. He was a fan favorite right off the bat and Roddenberry really wanted him to be a part of the show He character was smoothed out a bit, less yelling, more cool logic. The other character that was brought over was Majel Barrett who played Number One in the first pilot. NBC rejected the idea of a women as second in command, which is gross, but was how things were back in the day, and a little now right. So Majel Barrett was cast as Nurse Christine Chapel in the new Star Trek pilot and series and then as Lwaxana Troi in Star Trek: The Next Generation, And technically she’s in all the series as she is the voice of the computer system and Gene Roddenberry’s wife.

So Spock made the cut and got a promotion to boot up to First Officer and Chief Science Officer. He’s now Kirk’s right hand man and it’s a great pairing. The cool, logical man of science and his best friend and captain who is the exact opposite. We technically meet Spock in the Star Trek episode, The Man Trap which was the first aired episode of the program.

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Throughout the series we get to learn more and more about this amazing character and the Vulcan people. Spock is known for his logic but has a few tricks up his sleeve. The Vulcan people have, through concentration and meditation honed their minds to be able to do incredible things. The most notable is the Vulcan nerve pinch. It was written into the script that Spock hit someone to subdue him and Nimoy thought that was something the character and Vulcans would do. So instead Nimoy conceived the maneuver where by applying pressure to nerve points on someone’s neck and sending a projecting telepathic energy through his fingertips the assailant would be subdued. The nerve pinch was first used in “The Enemy Within” on a doppleganger of Kirk. Shatner knew what Nimoy was going for and really sold it when Nimoy applied the nerve pinch for the first time. It’s one time where Shatner’s overacting really helped out a scene. Another ability that Spock can employ to aid in missions is the Vulcan mind meld. The mind meld is a technique where two minds become one and thoughts and emotions are shared. It can be used as a way to commune with an individual or if needed as an interrogation technique. There have been a few really memorable melds, one being when Spock melded with a Horta, a silicon based life form. The other for me was in the movie The Undiscovered Country where Spock interrogates the Vulcan Lt. Valeris who was played by Kim Cattrall. It was painful to watch.

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Some other notable moments in the development of the character are when we first meet the Romulans in the episode, “The Balance of Terror.” We then learn, like everyone on the Enterprise, that Romulans and Vulcans share a common ancestry but split during the Time of the Awakening when Vulcans went the way of peace and logic and Romulans the way of passion, emotion and power. This was a revelation to the members of the Enterprise since the Federation had had no content with the Romulan Empire for years. It was interesting to see people start looking at Spock differently when they realized he looked like the enemy. It’s one of the cool ways the show examined social issues of the time. He looks like the enemy so can he be trusted.

Another moment in his development was of course the characters death. In the amazing film, The Wrath of Khan, Spock sacrifices himself to save the crew uttering the now classic line, “The goods of the many outweigh the needs of the few…or the one.” He dies but is then resurrected when his photon coffin is pulled into the Genesis Effect and lands on the planet that it creates. Due to the Genesis Effect that creates reconstructs matters into a viable planet. This effect essentially reverts Spock to a child and he rapidly ages as the planet ages due to the instability of the Genesis Effect. He then grows to the age he was just before his death and remembers who he is and rejoins the crew after his katra, or self, if put back into his body after it was stored in McCoy before Spock sacrifices himself.

The films unfortunately really start to go downhill from here with one bright spot being The Voyage Home which incidentally was directed by Leonard Nimoy. But that can be debated a lot of people didn’t really care for that one either. I have a love hate relationship with the movies. I love Star Trek, it’s my favorite Sci-Fi franchise, but the movies have really been hit or miss. The films do show the advancement of Spock’s career from first officer to someone who commands the enterprise. The films then transition to the Next gen crew and in my opinion just get worse. Love the Nex Gen show, but the movies were just not up to snuff in my option.

Going back to the original series another point I used to enjoy was the relationship between Nurse Chapel and Spock. Remember these were two actors that made it over from the original pilot, Nimoy remaining Spock and Barrett becoming Nurse Chapel. Well Nurse Chapel had the hots for Spock and finally admitted it in the episode “The Naked Time”, when the crew were infected with a virus that stripped them of their inhibitions. They have a few encounters but of course nothing comes of it. I always wished they would have gotten together. Of course now in the new Kelvin Timeline Spock does have a love interest, but it’s Uhura.

And that is a good segway into the new Star Trek reboot series that has been spearheaded by J.J Abrams. In this reboot Abrams takes a bold step and essentially replaces the original Star Trek timeline with an alternate one due to a time traveling Romulan with a grudge against Spock. See in the future of the standard timeline Spock was now the ambassador, and a very effective one. He actually brokered the peace between the Federation and the Klingons. But in his mission to save the Romulan world from utter destruction from a Supernova, he failed and did not make it in time and Romulus was completely destroyed. A mining ship was out of the system when this happened and the Captain, Nero, traveled back in time to destroy Spock, the Federation, everyone, to take his revenge. In coming back in time Nero’s ship comes into contact with the USS Kelvin and destroys the ship. Unfortunately James T. Kirk’s parents are on board and she is pregnant with James. In this timeline the yet unborn Kirk’s father dies and he and his mother escape. This sets the events of Kirk’s life in a much different direction than it did in the timeline we are familiar with. Nero then comes upon Spock’s ship that was also washed back in time due to the Nova. To take his ultimate revenge, Nero destroys Vulcan and everyone on the planet, including the current Spock’s mother. Again this is a huge change in the timeline. Kirk and Spock are not friends, there is no Vulcan, Spock’s mother is dead, just a tone of differences. The really cool thing is now there are two Spocks. There is the Spock of this new timeline created by Nero, and the old Spock from the original timeline.

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I have to say, I love these remakes. Everything is fresh, the characters are new but the same. The actors just nail the characters. I’m always amazed when I read the comments about these new flicks. A lot of people really hate them. Never sure why. They always say that it’s destroyed the show and ruined everything. Never understood that, the original is still there, all of them, but now we have this cool new thing. And two Spocks, heck, that is just awesome. One fun piece I learned in doing the research for the cast was that Nimoy had last approval over who was to be cast as Spock for the reboot and was very pleased with the choice of Zach Quinto. Also Nimoy had thought he was done with acting but thought the script for the new reboot was something he really wanted to do. And as a fringe benefit Abrams got Nimoy to work on the awesome TV show Fringe as enigmatic William Bell. Watch all of that show if you haven’t. So amazing.

Unfortunately with the death of actor Leonard Nimoy and amazing director and photographer the character of Spock, the one from the timeline we grew up with will no longer be with us. If you have never had the opportunity to see some of Nimoy’s photography I’ve provided a link to them. He was just incredible. In the latest movie Star Trek Beyond Zach Quinto the actor who plays Spock in the Abrams reboot learns that the elder Spock has died. In hearing this he decides to quit Starfleet and continue Ambassadors Spock’s work on New Vulcan. But he then receives a package from the elder Spock and in it there is a photo taken during the original series movie, The Undiscovered Country with the entire original cast. Seeing this Spock decides to stay in Starfleet.

Link to Leonard Nimoy’s photography

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