By Rick Lundeen
In thinking about how important Mr. Spock is to the Star Trek universe, I realised that his fingerprints are everywhere. Leonard Nimoy’s signature character has been with the series from the very beginning. Indeed, he was the only member of the original cast to feature in the pilot episode (‘The Cage’) back in 1966.
Spock grew to become the most popular character in The Original Series during its three year run. As first officer and science officer, the brilliant Lt. Cmdr quite often saved the day, and tended to be a sea of calm amid a tense and occasionally emotional bridge crew. His mathematical and problem-solving brilliance was of immense help to Kirk and his team.
For the uninitiated, Mr. Spock is half Vulcan on his father’s side, and half human on his mother’s side. As the very first Vulcan to join Starfleet – against his father’s wishes – it’s fair to say that Spock never had it easy.
As a child, other Vulcans never really accepted him, owing to his half human biology. Vulcans tend to suppress their emotions and prioritise logic above all else. Often, they have little or no use for emotional humans. For Spock, it was sometimes difficult to tame the emotions that came with his human DNA, but he managed it wonderfully.
Then there is the Mirror Universe, which contained an alternate version of the character. Even in this reality, Mr Spock proved to be immensely important. It was a backward universe in which the brutal Terran Empire ruled all. And when Captain Kirk went there by accident, he appealed to the other Spock to work from within to nudge the Empire in a more peaceful direction.
Spock managed it, and became infamous as a result – but at the cost of the Empire’s power and dominance, which came about decades later.
After TOS, Nimoy returned to the Star Trek universe to voice Spock in Star Trek: The Animated Series, along with most of the original cast. It was around this time that the true popularity of Spock and TOS was realised. Conventions had started to pop up across the US, as more and more Trek fans made themselves known. And whilst The Animated Series was a modest success, fans simply wanted more of the classic Trek.
The Star Trek movies
Due to popular demand, Spock featured prominently in Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1978) along with its sequels: The Wrath of Khan (1982), The Search for Spock (1984), The Voyage Home (1986), The Final Frontier (1989), and The Undiscovered Country (1991.)
Indeed, The Wrath of Khan is a key movie for his character – because he dies. He sacrifices himself to save the Enterprise, ensuring there are no dry eyes in the house. But of course you cant keep a good Vulcan down, and the subsequent movie – The Search for Spock – details the very interesting way in which he comes back.
Visiting the 24th century
Vulcans have a lifespan which is roughly twice that of humans, so the producers of Star Trek: The Next Generation took advantage of this biological trait. Thus, some 100 years after The Original Series, we see an older Ambassador Spock guest-starring in the two part ‘Reunification’ story as he attempts to bring Vulcans and their biological cousins – the Romulans – together in unity. These episodes also gave fans a wonderful opportunity to see the ambassador interact with not only Captain Picard, but with the iconic Mr. Data as well.
Back to film once again
When J. J. Abrams tried rebooting The Original Series in a new 2009 film, he called on Leonard Nimoy’s services once more. The film created an all-new, offshoot timeline, which saw an older Spock (Nimoy) meet his younger, alternate self, played by Zachary Quinto.
This timeline came about as the result of a time-travelling renegade, who murdered James Kirk’s father and destroyed his ship – the USS Kelvin. This is where Nimoy’s Spock is critical to the film’s plot, as he’s trying to stop the villain of the piece from altering the course of history. He fails, and ends up stranded in the alternate timeline – but he’s able to return in an advisory role in the second film, Star Trek: Into Darkness.
Back where it all started
When CBS All Access created Star Trek: Discovery in 2017, they set it within the original Trek timeline, some ten years before the events of TOS. In its second season, we meet a much younger Lt. Spock (played by Ethan Peck, grandson of legendary actor Gregory Peck) who plays a key part in the mystery of The Red Angel.
He’s noticeably different from Nimoy, though; Peck approaches the character in his own fashion, but we can make allowances for this. This is a much younger Spock, after all. And for fans of Peck’s interpretation, he’s set to feature more prominently in the upcoming Star Trek: Strange New Worlds series, which chronicles the character’s time under the leadership of Captain Christopher Pike on the USS Enterprise.
In essence, every era and timeline of Star Trek has, in some way, featured our favourite Vulcan. Mr. Spock is truly one of the most fleshed-out, intriguing, and enduring characters in all of science fiction, with a journey that spans some fifty years, and counting.
A large part of his lasting success is of course down to the inimitable Leonard Nimoy, who has left a huge stamp on the character. Indeed, it was Nimoy who initially came up with the famous Vulcan salute.
How many of Spock’s appearances have you seen? And are you looking forward to Star Trek: Strange New Worlds? Let us know in the comments below.
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