Monday, June 15, 2015

Character Insight No. 150: The Best of Spock, in Abrams universe

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 celebrate 150 segments the same way we've celebrated 50 and 100, with a profile on Spock! 

This is the character's fifth overall appearance which underlines his importance to this franchise. We did the Best of Leonard Nimoy Spock a few weeks ago in memoriam, so let's do another "Best Of" segment, this time with Spock of the alternate Abrams timeline.

Spock (alternate reality).jpg
(Did you want Nimoy Spock, Sheldon...well sorry, you'll have to live with Quinto Spock! Photo courtesy

The first portion of Star Trek 2009 sets the background for how Spock and Kirk grow up and come together, and we see Spock's struggle dealing with fitting in with Vulcans, even upon acceptance to the Vulcan Science Academy:
Spock: Council... Ministers, I must decline. 
Vulcan Council President: No Vulcan has ever declined admission to this academy! 
Spock: Then, as I am half-human, your record remains untarnished. 
Sarek: Spock, you have made a commitment to honor the Vulcan way. 
Vulcan Council President: Why did you come before this council today? Was it to satisfy your emotional need to rebel? 
Spock: The only emotion I wish to convey is gratitude. Thank you, Ministers, for your consideration. 
[In a tone reserved for telling someone to 'Go to Hell'
Spock: Live long and prosper. 

When the planet Vulcan is destroyed, Spock struggles again with controlling his emotions, which is a good parallel to what we know about prime universe Spock:
Spock: I am as conflicted as I once was as a child. 
Sarek: You will always be a child of two worlds. I am grateful for this, and for you. 
Spock: I feel anger for the one who took Mother's life - an anger I *cannot* control. 

This timeline's Spock benefits from having prime timeline Spock as a guide and possible mentor, as evidenced by this exchange between both Spocks:
Spock Prime: Because you needed each other. I could not deprive you of the revelation of all that you could accomplish together, of a friendship that will define you both in ways you cannot yet realize. 
Spock: How did you persuade him to keep your secret? 
Spock Prime: He inferred that universe-ending paradoxes would ensue should he break his promise. 
Spock: You lied. 
Spock Prime: Aww... I... I implied. 
Spock: A gamble. 
Spock Prime: An act of faith. One I hope that you will repeat in your future in Starfleet. 

It would definitely be cool to have 50 years of hindsight when providing advice to yourself. One major divergence in this timeline is a romantic relationship with Uhura, which leads to some humorous dialogue where Spock has to deal with competing professional and personal interests:
Lt. Nyota Uhura: And while you are well aware of my own qualified desires to serve on the U.S.S. Enterprise, I'm assigned to the Farragut? 
Spock: It was an attempt to... 
[he glances around, keeping his voice low
Spock: ...avoid the appearance of favoritism. 
Lt. Nyota Uhura: [Adamantly] No. I'm assigned to the Enterprise. 
Spock: [He adjusts his roster list] Yes, I believe you are. 
Lt. Nyota Uhura: Thank you. 

The struggles of dealing with this relationship continue in Into Darkness, where Uhura feels betrayed by Spock for appearing non-feeling in a moment of near death until he provided the following explanation:
Spock: You misunderstand. It is true I chose not to feel anything upon realizing my own life was ending. As Admiral Pike was dying, I joined with his consciousness and experienced what he felt at the moment of his passing. Anger. Confusion. Loneliness. Fear. I had experiences those feelings before, multiplied exponentially on the day my planet was destroyed. Such a feeling is something I choose never to experience again. Nyota, you mistake my choice not to feel as a reflection of my not caring. Well, I assure you, the truth is precisely the opposite. 

As important as Uhura is to Spock in this timeline, Kirk is still even more so as a friend and co-leader of the Enterprise. We see this banter develop nicely between these two in Into Darkness:
James T. Kirk: The enemy of my enemy is my friend. 
Spock: An Arabic proverb attributed to a prince who was betrayed and decapitated by his own subjects. 
James T. Kirk: Well, still, it's a hell of a quote. 

That led to the climactic scene where Kirk and Spock end up cementing their friendship, despite it coming in the seeming context of one of their deaths:
James T. Kirk: I'm scared, Spock... help me not to be... how do you choose not to feel? 
Spock: I do not know. Right now, I am failing. 
James T. Kirk: I wanted you to know why I couldn't let you die... why I went back for you... 
Spock: Because you are my friend. 

And even though that was practically ripped off from the script of The Wrath of Khan, it still marks a top moment in Spock and Kirk's relationship in the new timeline. It will be interesting to see how Zachary Quinto's Spock further develops from here in next year's movie, especially relative to Kirk and Uhura.

Until next time, live long and prosper, Spock fans...

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