Saturday, January 19, 2013

My Favourite Vulcan: Spock

The Geek Twins are hosting a "bloghop" called My Favourite Martian on Monday.  Since I've never really discussed why I love the Vulcans so much I thought this would be a great opportunity.


In the Vulcans, Gene Roddenberry created an alien species that is both very relatable to Humans and also very different from us.  There are Humans who pride themselves on living very stoic and spartan lives and there are Humans who rely more on logic than on emotions to guide their decision making but, for the most part, those ideas are a bit foreign to us.  Roddenberry was smart enough to create the logical Mr. Spock and the emotional Dr. McCoy to act almost as a devil and angel sitting on Captain Kirk's shoulders.  Kirk, Roddenberry's ideal future Human, was then able to display a balance of logic and emotion.  He relied in equal parts on the advice of both of his friends but he had the innate intelligence to take only the best of both worlds into himself.


The genius of Spock as a character is that Roddenberry gave him a constant internal conflict.  Spock is both Human and Vulcan and trying to live as a pure Vulcan.  No matter what situation he finds himself in he is beset with turmoil from the inside.  This gave Leonard Nimoy an amazing opportunity to create a very layered and nuanced performance.  Nimoy's genius was that he recognized this internal conflict. He wouldn't just play an emotionless man but a man who was incredibly emotional and struggling to keep those emotions buried.


We have been fortunate to have almost 50 years of Star Trek for Spock to develop within.  Throughout the original series in episodes like "The Galileo Seven" and "The Naked Time" Spock struggles with finding the balance between logic and emotion that Kirk is fortunate enough to have from the beginning. This struggle comes to a very satisfying climax in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country when Spock tells Valeris that "logic is the beginning of wisdom, not the end."  He implores her to also have faith (a very Human concept) that the universe will unfold as it should.  Though still the "Ultimate Vulcan" Spock has now managed to embrace an important part of his Humanity.


Moreover, the design of the Vulcans was so simple and yet so compelling!  The gracefully upswept eyebrows both complement the gently pointed ears and draw attention to the helmet-like hairstyle that is the pinnacle of simplicity. Many writers have explored the combination of intelligence and physicality that makes Vulcans (and Spock in particular) sexy.  My favourite such piece is the TV Guide essay "Mr. Spock is Dreamy" by Isaac Asimov.


As Star Trek has evolved over the decades we have learned that Vulcans were once more emotionally-heated than even 20th century Humans!  They were bloodthirsty and once warred against each other so fiercely that they seriously damaged their planet and came close to self-annihilation.  A man called Surak developed a series of teachings and a way of life that preferred logic over emotion.  He taught his people how to suppress their emotions and, in this way, saved the species.


The Vulcan concept of IDIC has become central to my personal life philosophy. Gene Roddenberry once said:

“If man is to survive, he will have learned to take a delight in the essential differences 
between men and between cultures. He will learn that differences in ideas 
and attitudes are a delight, part of life's exciting variety, not something to fear.” 


To me, this seems incredibly...well, logical.  Biologically, when two persons who are different breed a third, that third is stronger for having the biological diversity of two parents.  The same principle applies culturally, intellectually and politically.  When people who have different ideas about a single problem or subject are able to come together and debate they will usually find their discussion leading to the strongest alternative or solution.  Anything that encourages critical thought and self-examination can only lead to improvements.  Remembering always to respect Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations makes a great deal of sense.  If we were a culture in which no one had an independent thought or ever questioned the way something was done we would stagnate.  The Borg, anyone?

If all of the above isn't enough for you, Vulcans also have super-strength, they're telepathic and their culture has inspired great sci-fi stories like "Amok Time."  Even those who have never seen an episode of Star Trek can immediately identify an image of Spock.  They know he's a Vulcan and that he's "emotionless."  That kind of pervasive cultural icon doesn't show up very often and it will live long and prosper long after anyone reading this is gone.

24 comments:

  1. Spock's journey in the movies, not just his death and return but integral arc in the first one, fascinates me. More than Kirk, he defines what Star Trek is all about.

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    1. In a strange way, Spock is more accessible than Kirk. Maybe because he's a work in progress and not a "paragon."

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    2. The funny thing is that at the beginning he was exactly a paragon. But because he's so fascinating, he became a work in progress.

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  2. Isaac Asimov suggested to his friend Gene Roddenberry that he make Spock and Kirk best friends in the show, pitting humanism against logic and he did.

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  3. Spock is definitely an excellent choice. I must admit though that I quite enjoyed the character of Vulcan Ensign Vorik from Voyager.

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    1. I really enjoy Vorik as well. I was working on an interview with Alexander Enberg last year but he became too busy to finish it. Hopefully we'll be able to someday!

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  4. Saying hello from the blogfest. Spock is certainly an icon for aliens with high visibility in pop culture. Thanks for sharing!

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  5. Spock sits on my computer desk and reminds me everyday... we can achieve anything.

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  6. I will admit that being a big Star Wars fan I never really got into Star Trek however as I have gotten older I have wanted to explore the world of Star Trek and I am still trying to figure out how to go about my exploration of the galaxy. I can say that with the arrival of the new film I really understand what you are saying about the internal conflict of Spock. I really like him as a character and love that I got to read more about him through your pick. So thank you and live long and prosper.

    Teresa
    http://www.fangirlnextdoor.com
    http://www.comehomedisney.com

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    1. My pleasure! I hope you will try to explore some more Star Trek. It's more cerebral than Star Wars but definitely not lacking in conflict or action.

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  7. Spock is a great choice. Definitely my favourite Star Trek character. I enjoyed reading your philosophy about cultural difference. Thanks for sharing this.

    http://www.theelementals.net/blog

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    1. Thanks! I enjoyed your Klaatu post as well.

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  8. Sublime choice in aliens. Spock represented so much of what Roddenberry was trying to do. Thanks for the hop!

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  9. Love the Vulcans! They're such a great way to philosophize on the state of humanity. I also think Roddenberry showed genius in making Spoke half human, rather than full Vulcan. Great pick. :D My Martian Post. Happy Monday!

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    1. Happy Monday to you too! I enjoyed your reminisces about "Darmok."

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  10. I love the Vulcans and Spock, too. Quinto is like Nimoy's twin.

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  11. Spock is a great choice, and you can never go wrong with Leonard Nimoy (or Zachary Quinto)!

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  12. Love this post. I discovered Star Trek when my father was stationed in the Philippines, and we got the show one season behind the States. When we came home I was so excited to see the shows as they were broadcast. And they canceled the show halfway through the season.

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  13. Yes, a great choice. I love the dualism of the Vulcans, that they developed their philosophy of rational logic not because of a genetic predisposition to it, but because they have such violently passionate emotions that indulging them would be destructive.

    Star Trek is great for paradoxes like that.

    Check out my entry at kelworthfiles.wordpress.com (Stupid openID credential verifier.)

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  14. Brilliant and engaging post that takes us deep into the heart of Spock and Vulcans. Thank you for sharing!

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  15. I love Spock - and more so I love Leonard Nemoy. He is a terrific actor and director. I do feel I could relate more to Spock because he was so flawed in an unlogical- logical way :)

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  16. Spock is a good one. I enjoyed your thoughts on him. Julie @ http://icreatepurtythangs.blogspot.com

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  17. I'm ashamed to say I've never seen Spock on the big (or small screen), not in any way shape or form!

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