One Trek Mind #45: Spock's... Emotions
By Jordan Hoffman - October 17, 2012
The arched eyebrows, pointy ears and green blood of a Vulcan are synonymous with cold, oftentimes cruel logic. Give Dr. McCoy five minutes and I'm sure he'll have something to say on the subject. And yet, the galaxy's most famous Vulcan lets down his logical guard more frequently than you might think.
As a Star Trek skeptic once said when I described an episode where Spock was suddenly acting with uncharacteristic emotion, “Oh, c'mon, that happens all the time!” (He later agreed he was also taking Data's emotion chip into consideration.) Yet, he had a point. Here, then, are 10 exceptions that prove the rule, the most memorable moments of an emotional Spock.
10 – Spore Love
We already knew that Spock was half human, but it took the pod plants of Omicron Ceti III in “This Side of Paradise” to show us. The deadly Berthold rays that should be killing the colonists are held at bay by the unique properties of the plant's spores. They also take aim at Spock's heart, causing a flood of emotion to overpower him in the presence of his would-be young adult fling. Luckily, Kirk is able to snap him out of it with a good ol' tongue lashing, leading to one of the most heartbreaking/hilarious moments in all of Star Trek. Bidding his love adieu, he denies her request to know if he had another name. “You couldn't pronounce it,” he says, wiping away her tears.
9 – The Women!
There are plenty of “real world” explanations for the differences found in the flashback sequences of TOS' only two-parter “The Menagerie.” Part of me (my logical part?) understands that it economically incorporates previously shot footage from the dismissed initial Star Trek pilot “The Cage.” I further understand that the character of Spock hadn't fully been realized yet. Still, it is quite jarring to see Spock, with his Vulcan physiology even more pronounced, giddy at plant-life and shouting all the time. He shouts when he's reading his instruments, he shouts when he's firing laser cannons and he shouts when Number One and Yeoman Colt vanish off the transporter pad. Why hurt your voice, Mr. Spock? Most illogical.
8 – Sarek Is Dead
Blink and you'll miss it, but there's a telling moment when Captain Picard comes to find out what Spock is doing on Romulus in “Unification Part II.” Picard is too good a person to lay in with the questioning before letting Spock know about the fate of his father, the great Ambassador Sarek. “I have the responsibility of being the bearer of unhappy news.” Instinctively, Spock knows. “Sarek is dead.” There's a breath, and a faraway look in Spock's eyes, but only for a second, before he snaps back to the important business at hand. “Walk with me, Picard,” he orders, as they head into an underground cave.
7 – I Have Eaten Animal Flesh And I've Enjoyed It
It's bad enough to get caught back in time in a harsh, frozen world. For starters, no reception. Now, if you are a Vulcan, you'll have the problem of reverting back to your species' earlier, savage characteristics. Luckily it happens slowly, but this transformation means the poor soul has to witness and comprehend his own deterioration. Hence, Spock finds himself shocked at himself in “All Our Yesterdays” “I am behaving disgustingly,” he says, while the rest of us would just call it a BBQ.
6 – Pretty Much All of Star Trek (2009)
You can say it is because he's younger, or because he's in a new timeline (and the destruction of the Kelvin changes everything), but it is pointless to deny that Zachary Quinto's interpretation of Spock wears his green-blood pumping heart on his sleeve. He fights back at school bullies, he tells a council of elders to shove it (well, not in so many words, but that “live long and prosper” sure has some bite) and when he's sad he'll make out with Uhura right in front of the Captain on the transporter pad. It's not just him, though. Nimoy's Spock Prime lays it right out for Captain Kirk. “I am emotionally compromised. What you must do is get me to show it.” McCoy would never buy it, but luckily Kirk does.
5 – The Crying Time
Psi-2000 Polywater Intoxication means different things for different people. For some it's running around with no shirt on, swishing around a sword. For a later generation it's determining if an android is “fully functional.” For Spock, “The Naked Time” means total emotional collapse, sitting at a table and babbling incoherently and, for some reason, counting by twos. To quote: “I'm in control of my emotions. Control of my emotions. I am an officer. An officer. My duty. My duty is, is. My duty is to, to. Too late. I'm sorry. To. Two, four, six! Six!” This is then followed by copious… tears. Vulcans!
4 – The Death of I-Chaya
I-Chaya, the noble pet sehlat of Spock's youth, sacrificed himself so his master may live when Spock went through his dangerous kahs-wan ritual. This moment from The Animated Series' “Yesteryear” is when Spock loses part of his innocence, especially considering a healer offers to prolong I-Chaya's life. Seeing the creature would be in pain, Young Spock determines “it is fitting he die with peace and dignity.” He faces this decision with no tears, but that doesn't mean he wasn't emotional. What I think happened was this: he channeled his sorrow into a trans-television mind meld directly onto me. I say this because I am incapable of watching this scene without sobbing uncontrollably.
3 – I Weep For V'Ger
Years later, though, and in the midst of an identity crisis, Spock abandons his kolinahr studies to rejoin the crew of the Enterprise. They are racing to stop the approach of V'Ger, a sentient probe whose quest for knowledge is causing all sorts of problems. Sensing a kindred spirit, Spock startles his crewmates with tears in his eyes. “I weep for V'Ger, as I would for a brother. As I was when I came aboard, so is V'Ger now, empty, incomplete, ... searching. Logic and knowledge are not enough.” Those are some heavy words for a Vulcan, half-human or not.
2 – Kirk's Survival
“Amok Time” has given us so much. The Vulcan hand signal, the fight music and one of the greatest Kirk-Spock-McCoy wrap-ups in the entire series. Thinking he's slain his beloved Captain, Spock, awoken from his pon farr daze, is overjoyed to see that it was merely a bluff. “Jim!” he exclaims with glee. Later, he explains it away as a logical reaction to seeing that Starfleet hasn't lost a top captain, but we all know the score. You could also maybe rationalize it as lingering effects of pon farr, but I don't buy that either. This is a flash of Spock's human half completely conquering his Vulcan side.
1 – Jettisoning the Fuel
“The Galileo Seven” is basically a full hour of pushing Spock's buttons until he drops the logic and acts emotionally. It comes, oddly, when he finally pushes a button. By jettisoning the remaining fuel of the Galileo shuttlecract and igniting it, he is essentially sending out a Hail Mary pass. By playing against the odds and acting out of passion as Dr. McCoy suggests, he ends up saving the survivors of his away team. When Kirk later razzes him for behaving in such a human manor, he dances around the question, cracking everyone up. Is this, too, an illogical act of emotion? What's so great about Spock is we can never be sure.
Hopefully your green blood isn't burning too much and I haven't forgotten your favorite. If there is, however, a moment of emotional Spock I left out, please let me know in the comments below.
Jordan Hoffman is a writer, critic and lapsed filmmaker living in New York City. His work can also be seen on Film.com, ScreenCrush and Badass Digest. On his BLOG, Jordan has reviewed all 727 Trek episodes and films, most of the comics and some of the novels.
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