Monday, March 2, 2015

Character Insight No. 134: Best of Spock (in memorium)

This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe.  An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here.

Welcome back to Character Insight! This week, we honor the memory of newly departed Leonard Nimoy by continuing our "Best Of" series, this time looking at the best episodes and quotes featuring the iconic Spock character.  

Although this segment has honored the most important character of Star Trek by profiling him on the 50th and 100th installments of this segment, Spock will once again stand out as being the first character to be profiled 3 times on Character Insight. And he should stand out, given the character's vital role in making Star Trek relevant to so many people in modern society, including NASA astronauts.

("In character and in real life, he truly Lived Long and Prospered") 

One recurring character theme of Spock, which effectively speaks to many viewers who feel like they are in the minority in some manner, is the Vulcan need to control emotions versus the human need to express them. This internal conflict boils over at times, but also leads to quiet introspection as shown in these clips:

From This Side of Paradise:
"I am what I am, Leila. And if there are self-made purgatories, then we all have to live in them. Mine can be no worse than someone else's." - Spock, after he is cured of the spores' influence."

From The Naked Time:
Spock: I am in control of my emotions! Control of my emo -
[starts sobbing]  

From The Menagerie, which is typically regarded as the best Spock-centric episode of the show:
Captain James T. Kirk: Eh, Mr. Spock, when you're finished, please come back and see me, I want to talk to you. This regrettable tendency you've been showing lately towards flagrant emotionalism...
Mr. Spock: I see no reason to insult me, sir. I believe I've been completely logical about the whole affair.


Despite dealing with his own internal conflicts and emotions, Spock is a perfect first officer and right hand to Captain Kirk.  He shows his incredible loyalty on many occasions, as shown in these clips:

From The Ultimate Computer:
Mr. Spock: Computers make excellent and efficient servants; but I have no wish to serve under them. Captain, a starship also runs on loyalty to one man, and nothing can replace it, or him. 

From Amok Time:
T'Pau: [returning Spock's Vulcan salute] Live long and prosper, Spock.
Spock: I shall do neither: I've killed my captain and my friend.  

Spock, as a result of his adjustment to living with and working with humans, becomes a perfect Ambassador for working with the Romulans. The Romulans and Vulcans have genetic history in common, and nobody else can understand Romulans quite as well. Spock shows his knowledge and passion for them in TOS and in TNG, as shown in these clips:

From Balance of Terror
"Vulcan, like Earth, had its aggressive, colonizing period; savage, even by Earth standards. And if the Romulans retained this martial philosophy, then weakness is something we dare not show."

From Unification, Part II
Ambassador Spock: The reason for my coming here has never been more clear. The union of the Vulcan and the Romulan people will not be achieved by politics or by diplomacy. But it will be achieved. The answer has been here before us all along. An inexorable evolution toward a Vulcan philosophy has already begun. Like the first Vulcans, these people are struggling toward a new enlightenment. And it may take decades or even centuries for them to reach it; but they will reach it. And I must help. 

Spock provided us with some nice Vulcan lyre which we will use as intermission music, from Charlie X and from The Way to Eden.

And of course, we couldn't profile Spock without covering his frequent verbal sparring with Dr. McCoy. These two fight like spurned lovers, but they have a deep respect for one another despite the often incindiary and even racist comments between them.

From The Trouble with Tribbles:
Dr. McCoy: Spock, I don't know too much about these little tribbles yet, but there is one thing that I have discovered.
Spock: What is that, Doctor?
Dr. McCoy: I like them... better than I like you.
Spock: Doctor?
Dr. McCoy: Yes?
Spock: They do indeed have one redeeming characteristic.
Dr. McCoy: What's that?
Spock: They do not talk too much.

From Bread and Circuses:
Dr. McCoy: Quite logical, I'd say, Mister Spock. Just as it's logical that, uh... 20th-century Rome would use television to show its gladiator contest, or name a new car the Jupiter VIII.
Mr. Spock: Doctor, if I were able to show emotion, your new infatuation with that term would begin to annoy me.
Dr. McCoy: What term? 'Logic'? Medical men are trained in logic, Mr. Spock.
Mr. Spock: Really, Doctor? I had no idea they were trained. Watching you, I assumed it was trial and error.

From The Immunity Syndrome:
Mr. Spock: [Kirk has ordered a tractor beam placed on the shuttlecraft.] Captain, I recommend you abandon the attempt. Do not risk the ship further on my behalf.
Dr. McCoy: Shut up, Spock, we're rescuing you!
Mr. Spock: Why, thank you, *Captain* McCoy.

Finally, Spock shows on many missions that he has learned from the heritage of both his species, leveraging the best parts of human guile and deception when necessary to advance his logical Vulcan agendas. These clips show him reaching true harmony with himself. 

From The Enterprise Incident
Spock: I cannot allow the Captain to be further destroyed. The strain of command has worn heavily upon him. He has not been himself for several weeks.
Captain James T. Kirk: That's a LIE!
Spock: As you can see, Captain Kirk is a highly sensitive and emotional person. I believe he has lost the capacity for rational decision.
Captain James T. Kirk: SHUT UP, Spock!  

From The Galileo Seven:
Spock: It is more rational to sacrifice one life than six, Doctor.
Dr. McCoy: I'm not talking about rationality.
Spock: You might be wise to start. 

From Journey To Babel
Spock: Sarek understands my reason.
Amanda: Well, I don't. It's not human. Oh, that's not a dirty word. You're human, too. Let that part of you come through. You're father's dying.
Spock: Mother, how can you have lived on Vulcan so long, married a Vulcan, raised a son on Vulcan, without understanding what it means to be a Vulcan?
Amanda: Well, if this is what it means, I don't want to know! 


To close, I wanted to share one quote which summarizes my feelings from the past week: "Grief for one who lived so long would be illogical, yet my human emotions demand it."  Much like Spock himself, we all must struggle with internal conflict in this time of loss.  We can be happy Nimoy and his character Lived Long and Prospered, while at the same time being sad over the loss of what many of us think of as a favorite uncle or grandfather figure. 

Rest in Peace, Leonard Nimoy. And thank you for inspiring us all.

From The Wrath of Khan:
Spock: "I have been, and will always be, your friend." 

Feedback can be sent to me with future segment suggestions on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy. Until next time, live long and prosper...

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