Sean Healy | Senior Staff Writer
A few years back, I made it a personal goal to watch every episode of Star Trek’s original series. It was an insightful viewing experience, and once I had started watching I became enchanted with the history behind it. The series has somewhat disappeared from television, but its legacy lives on in the many references to it in modern media. Watch a series or two, and you’ll likely recall specific Simpsons episodes where subtle parodies are made.
The idea of Vulcan logic was what drew me in initially. The character of Spock seemed so arrogant at first. I kept watching just to hear his next comical conversation with William Shatner’s Captain Kirk – a human. Neither Vulcan nor human, Spock was partially both. People related to the inclusion of a part-human, part-alien in a television series, and in The Next Generation, the ‘logical’ role was filled by Data. As is perhaps to be expected from a show from the 60s, I think the creators may have failed overall in their attempts to address the world. Although there are many female characters present on Enterprise in the original series, they all wear mini skirts and boots. From female robot to female green alien, if the female character was below the age of 50, the creators seemed to have a rule of only casting the utmost attractive. Captain Kirk often boasted his ability to ‘feel’ while arguing with Spock, but from passionate kisses after getting the girl to an occasional manly roar, I found the captain’s character repetitively masculine and emotionally lacking.
Captain Kirk often boasted his ability to ‘feel’ while arguing with Spock, but from passionate kisses after getting the girl to an occasional manly roar, I found the captain’s character repetitively masculine and emotionally lacking.
These out-dated factors in the original series were tackled more in The Next Generation. First there was the famous alteration of the opening monologue, changing from, “Where no man has gone before,” to, “Where no one has gone before.” The miniskirts – ludicrous as space uniforms – were silently pushed to the side in favour of one uniform for all the crew. Equality came to the fore in more episodes, notably “The Measure of a Man,” where Captain Picard must argue that Data deserves human rights. In a season four episode, “Family”, Picard has an unexpected emotional breakdown near the end.
The late 60s in the US would see the first moon landing, and from the likes of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), we get a clear image of resounding hope, also evident in the Star Trek franchise, that ships would travel far beyond our own solar system. Watching this hopeful science-fiction is a source of comfort for many, but there is also lingering fear resonating throughout the original series. First coming on air 21 years after the end of WW2, the show depicted another world war occurring some time in the late 20th century. The character of Khan, a product of genetic engineering reminiscent of Nazi Aryanism, was the main antagonist in multiple installments to the franchise. The original series captured a sentiment of hope paired with fear of the future, a sentiment not uncommon in America during the 60s.
Space is full of civilisations, but they are not all friendly. The Klingons are ill-tempered and the Borg Collective will try to smother all cultures differing from their own – a depiction very analogous to the cultural spread of Americanism in the 80s and 90s. Another episode from the same era depicts the Enterprise crew all becoming addicted to a video game. This episode coincided with the rapid growth of gaming culture in the real world at the time.
Every series reflects the time in which it initially aired. In the original series the character of Spock was occasionally there to quote logic when old-fashioned trends were dealt with. The franchise is an excellent look at the nature of change. We see a series that would have been seen as undoubtedly out-there in the 60s. We see the creators accepting that times change, thus changing the setting of each series as the decades trek on. When I first watched, I saw the nature of what is and isn’t logical. I saw characters like Spock and Data proudly standing out differently in a society in need of constant changing. I chose the most logical route of trying to change and learn, myself.
When I first watched, I saw the nature of what is and isn’t logical. I saw characters like Spock and Data proudly standing out differently in a society in need of constant changing. I chose the most logical route of trying to change and learn, myself.
Last Friday, Leonard Nimoy, the actor/director who originally played Spock, passed away. After titling his first autobiography, “I am not Spock,” he later titled the second instalment, “I am Spock.” Evidently he and Spock – a fictional character – are not the same person. ‘Spock’ is more than a character. Spock embodies a philosophy the necessity of which is so strong even today – logic. In such a short-time, not even spanning a full lifetime, the world has changed so much, and although I never met Nimoy in real life, I remember the words which he performed so passionately in his role, “Live long and prosper.” His final tweet, along with many others, ended with the acronym, LLAP.
Living and prospering is logical, and it’s what the character and philosophy of Spock was all about. Logic is often viewed as cold and unhumanlike, but unadulterated logic can be the catalyst of positive change: “Change is the essential process of all existence.” I’d hope that, on more than a fanboy level, I can appreciate Nimoy making the comment that he was Spock. It’s a difficult thing to be Spock. Star Trek taught me that there is no final state of right and wrong, but Spock taught me that it’s not a matter of good and bad, or whether we are right or wrong. It’s the striving to become better, and the logic that’s used to move forward. Like many fans of Star Trek, past and present, Nimoy included, I strive to be Spock. LLAP.
Illustration by Seán Healy for The University Times