Saturday, February 28, 2015

He Always Was, And Ever Will Be, Our Friend

On Friday, February the 27th of 2015, Leonard Nimoy died.  He was 83 years old.  He was Mister Spock.

I never met Nimoy, and now I never will.  But like so many others, Spock changed my life.  Actually, I'm not even sure of that, because I can't imagine I time that Spock wasn't part of my life.  We watched Star Trek 3 during my 8th birthday.  I remember before I was 10 years old, my mother yelling at me to stop raising my eyebrow at everything (a classic Spock move!) because it was giving my forehead wrinkles.  Spock taught me the benefits and pratfalls of logic long before my voice changed, and I've been wondering why other people always ignore it ever since.

But he's not really gone, as long as we remember him.  And we should grieve in a way that makes us happy.  So, in celebration of the life of Leonard Nimoy, I selected some Spock-heavy episodes (and one movie) of Star Trek- a few of them that I hadn't seen since I was a kid, even- and thought I'd share a few words about it.

The eye of the tiger.
Amok Time

Captain's Log: Spock's acting weird!  Turns out that all those repressed emotions Vulcans keep in really mess them up when their mating cycle is doing it's thing, and much like the salmon of the Pacific-Northwest, Spock must return home to breed.  Except that his bride-to-be has chosen another suitor: Captain Kirk!  And he and Spock must fight to the death to win her hand!

Best Spock Line:  “After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true.”
I know it's kind of cheating, because this was quoted directly on the "Everything I Need To Know I Learned From Star Trek" poster, but yeah.  SOLID ADVICE.

Why This Episode: It's really not fair to open the re-watch with Spock at his craziest, I know, but you can't have a list of Spock episodes without this and the next entry.  Plus, basically all of Vulcan culture first appears here, and most of it Leonard Nimoy made up, including the Vulcan salute all true Trekkies can do.  In their sleep.  By the age of four.
We see how far the bonds of friendship go between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy.  And we get to see Spock throw a bowl of soup at a wall and crush a computer monitor in anger, both of which are delightful.  Plus we get hints as to how important Spock's family is in the politics on Vulcan, which is a nice transition into our next episode.

Journey to Babel

Captain's Log: The Enterprise is assigned to transport a collection of diplomats to an intergalactic conference, which is as good as excuse as any to introduce Spock's parents, Ambassador Sarek and Amanda MrsSpock'smom.  Spock has Daddy Issues!, mostly because a,) Vulcans are repressed-genius-assholes, b.) as an aristocratic family,  said asshole-behavior is obviously magnified, and c.) as a child, other children bullied Spock for being half human, because Vulcan children, like all children, are The Worst.
But that's just the start!  Political intrigue is afoot, complicated by spies and murrrrrrder!  Sarek looks like the obvious suspect, but what terrible secret is he hiding?  And throw in a knife fight and blowing up ships for good measure!

Best Spock Line: "Humans smile with so little provocation."
Oh, Spock.  Thank you.  YOU get me.

Why This Episode: This is an episode so busy that Captain Kirk getting stabbed in the lung is just a minor plot point complicating the family drama.  Stabbed in the lung! Crazy!  A LOT of things happen in this episode, most involving Spock in some way.  Spock and his dad haven't spoken in years, but that gets wrapped up pretty quickly.  Even with all the craziness around this episode, it's really about bringing Spock and his parents back together, so it's pretty much required watching.

"Just look at this mess!"
The Galileo Seven

Captain's Log: While in route to a humanitarian mission, the Enterprise pauses to send a shuttle craft commanded by Spock to investigate an anomaly.  (Why they didn't just mark it down and come back to it after their initial mission, I have no idea.)  Things go wrong, because this is Star Trek, and Spock and the shuttle's crew must try to survive on a lost planet filled with hostile monkey-cavemen.

Best Spock Lines (It's a three way tie)“I, for one, do not believe in angels.”
Spock is a strict rationalist, because obviously!  Use your head!

"I'm frequently appalled by the low regard you Earthmen have for life."
Because humans are just the worst, seriously.

"I am not interested in the opinion of the majority, Mister Gaetano!"
Seriously!  This is not a democracy!  Spock is the Boss!

Why This Episode: In this episode, our hero, Spock, is forced to command a bunch of idiotic, irrational humans in a desperate survival situation.  It does not go well... because these morons keep resisting Spock's every order.  Seriously, these people are supposed to be the best and the brightest in the fleet, yet they panic at the mere notion of death.  Spock points out that to reach orbit they need to loose the weight equivalent of three men, and they start to angrily assume Spock wants to kill half of them.  They freak out because Spock doesn't want to help them preform a funeral, when they are literally in a life or death situation right freaking NOW.  These officers are insubordinate and AWFUL.
McCoy barks at Spock a lot, but at least Scotty is dedicated to fixing things.  But these redshirts?  They're basically useless.  And their first idea is to kill as many of the monkey-cavemen as possible!  Not very Starfleet-like, I'm glad Spock chews them out for it.
I mean, I know that the episode ends with Spock making a wild guess, and learning a lesson about the limits of logic (that he immediately denies), but I chalk that up to the racist, anti-logic opinion of the 1960's writers. :-p

The Tholian Web

Captain's Log: While trying to investigate a missing starship, Kirk gets caught in a different dimension of space/time.  Spock takes command, then some aliens show up to ruin everything.  I don't want to say anything else, because this episode is rad as hell, and I don't want to spoil too much.

Best Spock Line: "I shall not attempt to voice the quality of respect and admiration which Captain Kirk commanded. Each of you must evaluate the loss in the privacy of your own thoughts."
Kirk's eulogy for Spock in Wrath of Khan is far more famous, but for a Vulcan, this seems to display the height of respect, both for the survivors and for the "dead".

Why This Episode: If the last episode was about Spock learning to lead (and not about how humans are dumb), this episode has Spock being that good leader.  God damn, I love watching Spock be in command, he's just so efficient and intelligent in the role.  I get how some can read him as rude, but that's a misunderstanding of the character.  Perfect example, when Uhura tells him she can't reach the Tholian's on the comm, and then tries to explain why not, he cuts her off to deal with more pressing issues.  That's not meant as an act of disrespect, on the contrary, Spock knows she's good at her job.  He doesn't need more information because he trusts her.
Unrelated, but the Tholians are rad, and I wish they'd show up more than twice in Star Trek (And one of those was on Enterprise, that hardly counts).  And how snazzy were the space suits in this episode?  They were All Of The Snazzy.  I want one.  I would wear it to parties.
Seriously, one rad episode.

Spock make outs!
All Our Yesterdays

Captain's Log: Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are investigating a planet orbiting a dying star.  Until recently, the planet was inhabited, but the away team discovers that the population saved itself by sending it's inhabitants into various time periods of the planet's past.  Unfortunately, they make this discovery by becoming stranded in that past themselves: Kirk in a past that resembles a bad three musketeers story, and Spock and McCoy are stuck 5,000 years ago, in the planet's last prehistoric ice age.
Also!  Spock is reverting to the personality of the Vulcans who lived 5,000 years ago, which means he's now Angry Spock.  The plus side: he manages to make sexy time with a Raquel Welsh stand-in.

Best Spock Line: "You are beautiful.  More beautiful than any dream of beauty I've ever known."
Spock is a smooth talker, alright.

Why This Episode: It's Spock's own "The City On the Edge of Forever"!  I mean, no, it's not as good as that episode, but that's still a pretty great episode to be compared to.  And while the time travel stuff is under explained, the Guardian of Forever "just is" in "City on the Edge...", so I'm not gonna complain much.
I like whenever Spock finds love, however briefly, and "primitive Spock" works for me better than "drunk Spock", like in the space hippies episode. And Spock and Zarabeth seem to have a really tactile chemistry between them.  I don't know, it just works for me.
Okay, the "Kirk gets thrown in jail for witchcraft" subplot is a bit rubbish, and McCoy recovers from deadly frostbite awfully fast, but for a late season 3 episode, this one is pretty good.
Wait a minute.... Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, needing to work together, despite failed lines of communication; prisons; our heroes stranded in a frozen wasteland of a planet; near the end of a show/movie run... this all reminds me of---

The look of a man who knows he's the smartest person in the room.
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

Captain's Log: The Wall Comes Down ... In Space.
It's kind of silly to talk about this film without discussing the politics of the day that it's clearly referencing.  So yeah, this is a film about the end of the Soviet Bloc.  It's also a kickass Star Trek film.  Let's dig in.
A massive energy catastrophe in the Klingon Empire has gravely injured it.  In the wake of this, the Federation and the Klingon Empire have agreed to work together to normalize their relations, in order to save the most lives possible: an end to the long cold war between the two powers.
It will be easier said than achieved, as parties on both sides, Federation and Klingon, want to work against this new peace.  Oh, and who has been sent to be the initial envoys for this mission?  Why, the crew of the Enterprise, of course, on their last mission before thy're decommissioned...

Best Spock Line (Another tie):"History is... replete... with turning points."
A fine point about history, spoken with wisdom.  All times may be end times, but the end times never actually come.

"What you want is irrelevant, what you've chosen is at hand!"
It's not on the "Everything I Know.." poster, but holy cats, important life lesson here.  It's harsh, but true:  How we choose to act in any situation defines us more than what we want, how we feel, or what we wish.

"If I were human... I believe my response would be 'Go to hell.' ... If  I were human."
Sooooo perfect.  Just saying.

Why This Movie:  I thought a lot about which movie to put on this list.. In Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Spock is fine, but it's nothing too interesting.  Star Trek 2 and 3 were right out, due to the content of the situation.  (I don't really want to watch Spock die at the moment, even if he gets better.)  Star Trek 5 has a couple of "crowning moments of awesome" for Spock ("Damn you, sir!  You WILL try!"), but on the other hand, that movie is unquestionably terrible.That left Star Trek's 4 and 6, and while 4 came close ("Colorful metaphors", indeed...), it came down to logic.  My sister thought this was the best choice. :)
And that's great, because this is straight up my favorite Star Trek film ever.  Yes!  Even more than Wrath of Khan or First Contact.  And it's topical, because this movie is about a lot of things, but ultimately, it's all in the title:  The Undiscovered Country, the future.
And the future scares a lot of people.
This is a film about a lot of things.  It's about the folly of racism/nationalism.  Even our heroes are guilty of it.  "They don't have the same respect on life as we have " Scotty tells Spock, and, as always, Spock remains the rational one ("Hardly conclusive, Mister Scott, as Klingons have no tear ducts.").  And prejudices are often the hardest thing to overcome when forging a new way.  "Don't let it end this way, Captain" Chancellor Gorkon says as he dies, knowing that changing the way things are is a bloody, but necessary process to building a better future.  Kirk's racism against Klingons- an ancient hatred compounded with the death of his son at the hands of a Klingon- makes matters even worse for him at his trial.  It's only when he overcomes this racial hatred that he sees the truth, that he understands Spock's plan, that he can SAVE THE DAY.  Literally, the only way the heroes can win is to put aside their prejudice to build a better tomorrow.  This is Star Trek at it's finest.
After Kirk and McCoy's arrest, Spock is in automatic command response, which, as usual, he rocks at.  REASON ENOUGH TO WATCH THIS MOVIE.
Plus, the core?  Oh man, it is weird and awesome.  People don't appreciate the music in movies like they should.

We now live in a world without Mister Spock, without Leonard Nimoy.  This is our future now, and Star Trek, at it's core, has always been about building a better, brighter future.  But like I said, Nimoy isn't really gone, as long as we remember him (Star Trek taught me that).  He and his words, his personal journey- both as Spock and as himself- will go on in our memories.  And I, for one, will never forget.

1 comment:

  1. Well said... now ST:TOS is going on my Netflix Que