Treknobabble is a continuing series of columns written by uber-Trekkie Reed Farrington in anticipation of the upcoming J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie.
Spock died for us all. Although he may not seem to be the quintessential human since his outward demeanor is of a man of reason, he is one of us. He demonstrated a capacity for caring and empathy that he strove to deny because of the environment in which he was raised. And in the end, his death was a sacrifice. After the rebirth, he became the same man he was before with the help of his friends. He humbly continued his life in the service of a broader humanity.
I am not a religious person. I am neither an atheist nor an agnostic. My opinion about God changes with each passing moment. If I was more educated with the Bible, then I could give you parallels between the lives of Spock and Jesus. Forgive me if this seems sacrilegious, but my understanding of literature and art is that all great works are based on previous works, and the Bible is the greatest piece from which humans have sought inspiration. I suppose since the engineer Scotty was referred to as the “miracle-worker” that it would have been more apt for Scotty to have been brought back to life. But my goal here is to briefly examine the life of Spock.
Spock’s birth was not an immaculate conception, but some believe that it did require the intervention of science for Spock’s birth to be possible. Spock’s parents were not of the same species: his father was Vulcan and his mother was human. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, Spock’s childhood was difficult as his mixed heritage was unusual on the planet Vulcan. Spock was a mother’s boy and ignored his father’s desire for him to follow in his father’s footsteps of intergalactic diplomacy. (Eventually, after his father’s death, Spock did become a diplomat as I’ll mention later.) For Spock, his scientific curiosity and desire for exploration needed to be satisfied. Perhaps to get away from the influence of his father, he chose to attend Starfleet Academy rather than the local Vulcan Academy. If he sought to avoid the teasing of his peers on Vulcan, then he would find that humans behaved the same. People are alike all over.
Much conjecture about how Spock met Kirk will finally be resolved when we see the upcoming Star Trek movie. We do know that there was a period after Starfleet Academy in which Kirk and Spock served on different ships before coming together for the Original Series. Whether or not a strong friendship had developed prior to them serving together on the U.S.S. Enterprise, we do not know.
Spock’s friendship with Kirk is something that anyone who has watched a Star Trek Original Series episode or movie will immediately recognize. The two characters along with McCoy were role models upon which my young friendships were based. (Today, Sean and Jay and myself could be seen as an older triumvirate, but one in which the adventures are over and we see each other sporadically. I’ll let you decide who’s who. I think I am McCoy. Actually, it was a bit disconcerting for me that in the first movie that the three characters had not kept in touch after the five-year mission. But I think that reflects real-life when friends in university, in war, or in some bonding activity will lose touch with each other after the bonding activity is over.)
Ironically, the on-screen characters had their real-life counterparts to thank for the on-screen friendship, but not in a way you might have expected. Apparently, Spock’s immediate popularity with the television audience had caused much jealousy from Shatner. Shatner gave Roddenberry much grief about this, pointing out that he was the star of the show. Roddenberry told his friend, the renowned science fiction author Isaac Asimov, about the situation. Isaac Asimov’s advice was to have Kirk and Spock always around each other so that the audience would identify one character with the other. Thus Spock’s limelight would be shared with Kirk. Fortunately, on-screen, Kirk did not become a Judas character.
In an early episode where Kirk and Spock travel to the past in the early part of the 20th century, Kirk takes a liking to a strong woman named Edith Keeler who has great insight with an optimistic vision of man’s future in space. (Even though Kirk and Spock are warned against the dangers of altering the past and even though their mission is to retrieve the temporarily deranged McCoy and prevent him from altering the past, I can imagine that Kirk and Edith have a love-child who has spun off various timelines like the timeline that the Trekkie disavowed series Enterprise exists in. It should be noted that the producers of Enterprise attempted to recreate the Kirk-Spock-McCoy friendship with Archer-Trip-T’Pol, but the chemistry didn’t exist.) Edith Keeler tells Kirk that she can’t imagine Spock ever not being by his side. And this comment comes from her knowing Kirk and Spock only for a brief period of time.
In this same episode, Spock somewhat miraculously is able to create with the period materials a device that hooks up to his tricorder and allows them to see moments in history. In Spock’s own words, he had to work with “stone knives and bearskins.” (Until I did research for this article, I did not know that “stone knives and bearskins” had become part of the hacker vernacular.)
In an episode where Kirk forgives Spock’s apparent insubordination and ignores Starfleet Command’s orders in order to prevent Spock from physical harm as a result of his Vulcan mating urges, Spock is led to believe that he has killed Kirk. Upon finding that he has not really killed Kirk, Spock’s emotional outburst is priceless. And we know that the reaction is not of relief for his sake but rather of elation that his best friend is alive. On an alien planet where dangerous plants shoot spores, Spock pushes Kirk aside and gets hit with the spores instead. One might say that Spock did this out of a sense of duty to his captain, much like a security guard for a president would take a bullet for him or her. Perhaps. In an episode where aliens use Kirk, Spock and McCoy as test subjects in determining whether another alien race has the capability for empathy, Kirk is being tortured, and both Spock and McCoy are willing to exchange places with Kirk. Starfleet Command must have taught a course on self-sacrifice.
And so Spock makes the ultimate sacrifice to not only save Kirk, but everyone on the Enterprise and the Enterprise itself. Spock is not shown agonizing over what to do. He knows the solution and gives his life. I’ve always wondered if Spock could have avoided death if he had taken a minute to put on an environmental suit. But that extra minute would probably have resulted in the Enterprise’s destruction since we see the Enterprise barely warping ahead of the explosion’s aftershock. I would hope that all subsequent starships had a “mix” button to avoid having someone to actually put their hands into the engine core. In his eulogy for Spock, Kirk expresses the sentiment that Spock is the most human person he’s ever known.
Many people consider the movie in which Spock is resurrected to be somewhat sleep inducing even though the path to his recovery is somewhat arduous. Kirk initiates the mission and gathers the core Enterprise bridge crew who are more than willing to help. Spock’s six, not twelve, apostles including Kirk risk their careers. Kirk loses his son who is killed by the Klingons and even sacrifices the U.S.S Enterprise NCC-1701-A. Spock is not quite himself when his Katra is restored after being stored from McCoy’s mind.
In the next movie, we find Spock relearning facts as well as aspects of his personality from family and friends. One has to wonder if this is the normal process when a Katra is restored, or if this is a byproduct of being half-human. I don’t think Vulcans are necessarily immortal because Spock’s dad, Sarek, had a disease that affected his mind and when he died, no one mentioned anything about transferring his Katra, although Picard does have remnants of Sarek’s mind as a result of a mind-meld with him. And in Spock’s case, the Genesis planet was able to restore the physical body. So I really don’t know what use the Vulcans have of being able to transfer their Katra, or soul. We are never told about Vulcan clones or androids which could serve as receptacles for a transferred soul.
Spock eventually becomes his previous self, and the Kirk-Spock-McCoy friendship remains intact as seen in the movie where we find them camping together in Yosemite Park. At the end of this movie, after Spock rescues Kirk, Kirk even hugs Spock. This results in Spock saying the enigmatic line, “Not in front of the Klingons, Captain.”
Vulcans have a longer lifespan than humans. By the time of the Next Generation, Spock is still active and has become an undercover diplomat in attempting to reunify the Romulans with the Vulcans. Romulans are an offshoot of the Vulcans. They left Vulcan because they chose to ignore the path of reason and to continue their warring ways.
Many futurists including Ray Kurzweil believe that humans will essentially be immortal by the end of the 21st century. Whether or not we will be able to rejuvenate our physical bodies doesn’t matter because we will be able to download our minds to a machine. (I just know that I’ll end up dying the year before everyone else becomes immortal.) Regardless of the futurists’ predictions, I think Spock will remain with us until the last mind in the universe winks out of existence.