Published Jul 28, 2023
WARP FIVE: Ethan Peck Details Spock Shenanigans, Sam Kirk, and His Mother
The Star Trek: Strange New Worlds actor gives us further insight into ‘Charades’!
By Christine Dinh
SPOILER WARNING: Discussion for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 2, Episode 5 "Charades" to follow!
Welcome to Warp Five, StarTrek.com's five question post-mortem with your favorite featured talent from the latest Star Trek episodes.
[Ed. note: This post contains material from an interview conducted before the SAG-AFTRA strike against the AMPTP went into effect.]
According to the Kherkovians, remediations had been made. However, their good deed forces our Vulcan first officer into an episode full of human hijinks in the most inopportune moment.
In Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ “Charades,” Spock, altered to be fully human, following a shuttle accident is left wholly unprepared to face his fiancée T’Pring’s family during the crucial V’Shal ceremonial engagement dinner. While Spock tries to get a handle on his overwhelmingly human emotions and body odor, he thankfully finds support from his crew, his captain, and his mother.
On Spock Shenanigans
Ahead of the Season 2 premiere, Ethan Peck reminded fans that the Spock we meet, at this moment in time, is “wildly uncertain of himself and is really doing his best to discover how he is most effective in Starfleet,” before teasing that this season will challenge him greatly.
The fully human Spock, as head security officer La’An Noonien-Singh points out, the medley of symptoms he’s experiencing — anger, fear, sexual attraction, hunger, etc. — as reminiscent of human adolescence.
Speaking on the episode and the opportunities presented this season, Peck details, “It’s so insane and delightful. It's such a privilege too to be able to play this character in these different situations. And this one especially, when I read the script, my jaw was on the floor. I was like, ‘I can't believe I get to do this. I can't believe I'm going to have to do this.’ It was really intimidating from the perspective of an actor, because how do we make this unhinged, teenage version of Spock still be Spock?’”
“Jordan Canning, our director for that episode, was an amazing collaborator, so inspiring,” continues Peck. “She made me feel so safe to take the risks that I took and really helped find what is the limit, how far outside the bounds of Spock can we take this version of him while still being connected to who he is. It was insane and delightful. Of course, the scene in the bathroom where he's totally flipping out was such a blast and so crazy.”
Shedding light on this iteration of Spock, Peck reveals, “There's a scene where he's walking down a corridor. And I thought, ‘Can I actually start further back?’ Right when we block, we have a start mark and end mark. And I said, ‘Can I actually start further back? Can you get me looking around and just being in awe of the ship and all of the cool lights and instrumentation on the walls?’ Finding moments like that where he's filled with wonder and curiosity, it just made me so happy, because it's a lesson for all of us to just be more in the moment and to appreciate the little things. Because life is a series of little things. It's not a series of big events. I think he was such an embodiment of that philosophy.”
Peck recalls not being ready to part with this iteration of Spock, “At the end of the episode, when we were finished filming, I was really heartbroken to say goodbye to this version of him because I learned so much from him. He brought a lot of joy to the people around him both on camera and off, and it was so liberating. It was really sad to say goodbye to it. Thinking about it now makes me emotional. I wonder if we'll ever see him again, you know?”
On Which Kirk Holds the Number One Spot in His Heart
Before there was James T. Kirk, there was George Samuel Kirk aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise. Spock's relationship with the xenoanthropologist Sam is quite different than his future relationship with the future captain.
“They have great rapport because Sam Kirk doesn’t fully understand Spock,” shares Peck with amusement. “Sam Kirk is mystified by him. You'd have to ask Dan [Jeannotte] about that though. Sam's an amazing teammate and a great officer. And so, in Spock's eyes, he has a lot of value. It's so funny to see him get under his skin and for Spock to be annoyed by the ways in which he's not ‘perfect.’”
As for the scene with Jeannotte from both the perspective of his normal self and human self, Peck divulges, “The scene with Sam Kirk in the Ready Room where he's making a mess and Spock's just freaking out, that was so much fun. And Dan was so wonderful, he and I get along super well, we had so much fun doing that. I think we're both surprised with where it went. That was earlier on in the filming schedule for that episode. And so, I was still understanding what it was, who this version of Spock was.”
“Dan's great, and I joke with him,” continues Peck. “It's funny. We have cast chairs that have our names on the back. They were both next to each other, both the Kirk chairs. I took a photo of the two of them, of Paul [Wesley] and Dan sitting together, and I would joke with Dan like, ‘You're the real Kirk. You're the first Kirk to me.’ I mean, I love Paul. But that’s Dan and I's joke.”
On Having His Mother Aboard the Enterprise
“Charades” sees Peck reuniting with Mia Kirshner, who portrayed his and Michael Burnham’s mother Amanda Grayson on Star Trek: Discovery.
On sharing scenes with Kirshner, Peck praises all parties involved, “It was so moving. Mia Kirschner is so talented and brings so much to that role and really to any production that's lucky enough to have her, because she's so generous and willing to take risks and daring and fearless. To have that in a scene partner is really spectacular. She and I also just get along really well. There's really not anyone on set— I tip my hat to Orly Sitowitz and Margery Simkin, the casting directors of the show, because they've put together an amazing cast, not just of actors but of people. And so, Mia and I get along super well.”
“And it was also new,” Peck notes on Spock finally relating and seeing her mother as who she is. “It wasn't Spock as we've known him. It was this uncorked version of Spock that is full of emotions. To really engage with her more openly was very new, and for both of us yielded very surprising results and emotions. The scene in which they're saying goodbye to each other in the transporter room was so hard to get through, because she and I had been through so much in that episode and had shared so much as both fully humans. He could really learn from her for the first time as a human, as a full human. I'm sure that that was really special for her. And so, to say goodbye and have to hide those emotions that he becomes so used to feeling fully was really tragic. There's something tragic about it.”
On Spock’s Revelation at the End
Despite everything Spock endures throughout “Charades,” we arrive at the classic Friends’ Ross and Rachel moment by the end of it. Following all the hijinks, T’Pring asks for some time apart, while Spock makes his (confusing) feelings known to Nurse Christine Chapel.
On the conundrum, Peck reflects, “I don’t think Spock knows where to put it. There’s so much going on for him in this episode. It's so overwhelming that he's just overwhelmed. He discovers that he needs to be selfish at this point in time and do what he needs to do, because he's spent so much of his life being this or that for these people or this organization or this planet, to be Vulcan for Vulcan.”
“At this point in time, he discovers that he's got a lot of resentment for what T'Pring represents, because she represents that which has, I guess, squashed this important part of him or hindered him in this very fundamental way, which it's his humanness, and she can't really understand that in him,” adds Peck. “She's trying, which is really wonderful, but I don't think he knows what to do with it at this point in time. I don't think he knows what a break means. I don't know that she does. I don't know that any of us do. What is a Vulcan break?”
On Spock’s Two Halves
Throughout the Star Trek franchise, the character Spock has always carried a chip on his shoulder for being of both Vulcan and Earth. And in “Charades,” the Kerkhovians are so perplexed of his genealogy, they viewed him as damaged with “mixed instructions.” However, we see in the episode, that to the women in Spock’s lives — his mom Amanda Grayson, T’Pring, and Christine Chapel — his two halves are essential to who he is and what they love about him.
Upon being asked about how Spock views his whole self by the end of the episode, Peck muses, “Oh, that's a great question. I have no idea. Again, that he's just doing his best to stay in the moment and stay afloat and not be totally overwhelmed by these incredible things that are happening to him.”
“Can you imagine waking up one day and being, I don't know, half butterfly or being mixed with some other creature? The opposite's happened with him, but he’s waking up as a different entity, a completely different entity,” Peck concludes. “He misses that fully human experience. I know I was really sad to say goodbye to it, but I think he'll learn that both of these are really essential to his eventual actualization and the final version of him.”