Thursday, November 18, 2010

Spock's Existence: Illogical?

My interest in Star Trek began with The Next Generation, and as such it will probably always be my favorite version of Star Trek. Fun fact: I got into the series right around the time they had announced it was on its last season. Thanks to syndication, I had no idea what was a new episode and what was an old one, so it really didn't matter. After the 2009 film, I decided to delve more into the original series. I believe I saw Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home at some point in my youth, and I went and saw Generations when it came out in the theaters, but beyond that I only knew that which has bled into popular culture. I went somewhat backwards, watching the films first, then the animated series, and then the original series. I guess I figured I could get through the films faster. What a mixture of pleasure and pain that was. I literally watched the majority of Star Trek The Motion Picture on fast forward, and I didn't miss a thing. I thought Wrath of Khan was ok with a particularly strong ending. I enjoyed The Search for Spock and loved The Voyage Home. Those two are definitely my favorites. The Final Frontier and The Undiscovered Country are both good for their character moments.. William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and Deforest Kelley were clearly having a lot of fun together, even if the plots and directorial talents were a bit lacking. For both the animated series and the original, it really just depends on what episode you're watching. I think with the original series in particular, they didn't do a very good job of keeping the facts in line. It makes it a bit harder to analyze a character like Spock when some writers are presenting him as completely emotionless and others show him a bit more kind-hearted. I should mention that at this point and time I've only made it through "Journey to Babel," so I'm not quite halfway through the second season and there may be pieces of the puzzle that I'm missing. After watching that episode, however, there is something that is bugging me that I need to address.

Given that Data is basically my favorite TNG character, it's really no surprise that I enjoy Spock so much. He's not actually my favorite of the crew. That honor goes to McCoy and all his wisecracks. Of course, his interactions with Spock are some of his best moments, so the two sort of go hand in hand. Whenever I see Spock struggling with his control over his emotions, I realize just how strong an actor Leonard Nimoy is. It's a shame he ended up so typecast and wasn't given much effort to explore other roles. "The Naked Time" is probably the best episode I've seen so far in that regard. "Amok Time" starts out strong, as we slowly see Spock losing control but then it sort of floundered when it shifted the focus off Spock and onto Kirk. Spock literally just stands in the background while Kirk moronically agrees to fight Spock, when even I could see the whole "to the death" angle coming from a mile away. For a man who figured out in about one minute that he had ended up in an alternate reality in "Mirror, Mirror" he sure was an idiot in "Amok Time."

Speaking of "Mirror, Mirror," it's another example where the collective memory of society lies to you. I expected everyone in the alternate timeline to have beards and be evil. In reality, only Spock has a beard, and his counterpart really isn't that evil at all. Since he still denies his emotions in the alternate reality, he simply exists within a more violent world and plays by the rules accordingly. So if you run into a bearded version of yourself, don't go assuming he's a bad guy.

The most interesting thing about Spock is his mixed heritage: half human, half Vulcan, his two sides are at odds with himself in terms of expressing emotion. Watching the movies I had exposure to both of Spock's parents already, though I had always wondered how they had gotten together. If Vulcans find humans and their emotions so inferior, how could they possibly fall in love? How could a human woman not be frustrated with a Vulcan who couldn't express love? According to "Amok Time" Vulcan marriages are arranged, which makes sense. If you don't feel love, you would obviously marry in relation to class, business, etc. In "Journey to Babel" Spock actually asks his father why he married his mother, and his response is "It seemed the logical thing to do at the time." They all have a nice big laugh at this, but if I was Amanda I would have punched Sarek right in the arm, I don't care if he had just had major surgery or not. In the movies and TNG, we learn more about Sarek, but this was the only explanation we got for decades. Going on this episode alone he's pretty callous to her. Of course, nearly all of The Original Series is a sexist mess, so I guess this sort of thing shouldn't have surprised me. Despite the fact that Vulcans have a high priestess, wives are apparently required to follow their husbands around and do whatever they tell them to do. First one to say this is "logical" gets punched in the arm.

It seems to me that the real logical assumption would be that barring any obvious physical differences, men and women are equals. As humans it can be argued that women are sometimes more emotional than men, but since Vulcans don't express emotion, this point is moot. Also, I don't know about you guys but I think if I looked at most of my friends, I probably know more emotional men than women these days. It's funny how society is starting to shift in that regard.

The wikipedia entry for this episode says that when Sarek makes his reply, Amanda realizes they are just messing with her. I think that's a little too much of an assumption. Both Sarek and Spock showed repeatedly over the episode that if they do feel anything, they're willing to kill it off for their sake of their Vulcan ideals. Sarek barely acknowledges Spock in the beginning because Spock turned his back on Vulcan and joined Starfleet. Even when he tells Amanda in private that he's proud of Spock's accomplishments, he's not about to say it to his face. Spock is willing to save his father's life, but the moment Kirk gets injured it's "Let my father die, I have to run this ship." So even if deep down Sarek does love Amanda (and many, many years later, when an illness is killing him, we do in fact get this confirmation in TNG) chances are he never really told her so.

Vulcans may not be real, but they are a popular part of fiction because their ideals do appeal to some people. I think when any of us are going through a difficult time in our lives, we'd love to be able to turn off our emotions. I know at least a couple people who do this on a regular basis. Regardless of the old "opposites attract" rule, I think this is the kind of contradiction that could not work well. Can you really see a psychopath (by which I mean the official definition) dating a drama queen? If you lack empathy, you're not going to care when your partner is upset. And if you're upset, and your partner doesn't care, are you really going to choose to stay with that person? Assuming you have the self respect to walk away anyway. Amanda is appropriately emotional as she deals with her husband dying and her son's refusal to help. The hard smack she gives to Spock after his refusal I think also shows a healthy amount of self respect. So the real question to me is, how could she stay with Sarek for so long? How could Spock have ever even been born?

I suppose the problem comes back around to the time period in which this was written. Divorce was still strongly looked down upon and women were still looked at to be dutiful housewives. It's just a shame that while the world Gene Roddenberry created was supposed to be an ideal future society, apparently equality between the sexes was not one of the ideals they strove for. There's also a lack of equality between races, but that's a subject for a different post. I think that's another reason I prefer The Next Generation. While there are no doubt still flaws to be found there, there was also a marked improvement in these ideals, having a female doctor, a blind African American, alien races and an android who were all treated just as fairly as their white male counterparts.

4 comments:

  1. You forgot about how awesome it was to have the sexy, geeky jailbait in spandex on TNG.



    ...I mean, what?

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  2. Our dear Wesley is another post for another time. :)

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  3. Heh, McCoy was always my favorite, too! Great entry. Have you seen The Changeling episode yet? The Motion Picture has been called Where Nomad Has Gone Before because it was so similar to that episode in several key ways.

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  4. I AM NOMAD. Does that answer your question? ;) I liked that one. I might have noticed more parallels if TMP hadn't been so slow paced and spent so much time on visuals rather than story. I recently read that the same director made "The Sound of Music" so I guess he just loves epic length stories.

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