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Mr. Spock

Can Art 14 (Spock): Matthew Niemi

Can Art 14 (Spock): Matthew Niemi via Flickr

In the TV show Star Trek: The Original Series Mr. Spock is a Vulcan science officer aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise, famously portrayed by actor Leonard Nimoy (1931 – 2015).¹ As Captain Kirk‘s right hand man, Spock plays a pivotal role as the only non-human crew member. In fact, he acts as a foil for not only other characters, but also for some of the prevalent cultural biases of the so-called developed world of the 1960s.

Spock’s father was Vulcan and his mother human. As such he has an internal conflict between suppressing his emotions, which Vulcans are known for, and permitting their expression, as human do.

Publicity photo of Leonard Nimoy and William S...

Publicity photo of Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner as Mr. Spock and Captain Kirk from the television program Star Trek. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While this was a clever idea back in the 1960s, the notion that any species would try to live purely on logic, as Vulcans claim to do, seems impractical. Along these lines, the Swiss depth psychiatrist C. G. Jung advocated the integration of thinking, feeling, sensation and intuition (albeit for human beings).

When Star Trek first appeared in 1966, Spock’s skin was reddish in color, he looked more devilish and his speech was somewhat rough. He originally conformed to the “red Martian” stereotype of the 1950s and 60s. But Trek producers quickly became interested in developing a more complex character and Spock’s appearance softened.

His looks became more elfin than devilish and he began to harbor intense emotions under a somewhat fragile veneer of Vulcan rationality. The changes paid off. At times Spock’s popularity among viewers rivaled Kirk’s. The Vulcan psychological, cultural and political tension between logic and emotion is also brought out in Star Trek: Enterprise through the female character, T’Pol.

Zachary Quinto as Spock in the 2009 Star Trek film

Zachary Quinto as Spock in the 2009 Star Trek film (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Director J. J. Abrams’ 2009 hit movie Star Trek brought Spock back into the spotlight. This time Spock is both an old (played by an elderly Leonard Nimoy) and a young man (Zachary Quinto).

The fact that Nimoy is showcased in this blockbuster film while William Shatner (who played the original Captain Kirk) is absent is perhaps telling as to Spock’s ongoing popularity and cultural significance in the 21st century. Or possibly it just tells us more about internal friendships and politics within the Star Trek franchise.

Spock also had a cameo role in the successful film Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013). Again, Shatner was not included in this production.

Spock’s signature Vulcan saying “Live Long and Prosper” is perhaps equally popular as the phrase “May the Force be with you” from the Star Wars films—two instances where science fiction has had a significant impact on pop culture.

Interestingly, Wikipedia tells us that Nimoy had a difficult time differentiating himself from the Spock character while the original series was in production. Apparently the cool logic of Spock would stay with Nimoy all week and into the weekend, right up to Sunday afternoon. So he’d have Sunday night as Nimoy, only to return to Spock again on Monday morning.²

Vulcan (Star Trek)

Vulcan (Star Trek) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently, an asteroid in our solar system was renamed 4864 Nimoy in his honor.³

¹ Younger Trekkies might not know that, at the time of the original series, a certain Dr. Benjamin Spock was a famous pediatrician, child psychologist and bestselling author. So quite possibly the name Spock was chosen in hope that it would resonate with viewers on some level. See





Star Trek : The Next Generation

Patrick Stewart as Locutus, the assimilated Je...

Patrick Stewart as Locutus, the assimilated Jean-Luc Picard (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Star Trek : The Next Generation is the first and highly successful remake of the original Star Trek TV show. The Next Generation ran for seven seasons from 1987-94.

The captain of the new, beefed up United Federation of Planets starship Enterprise is Jean-Luc Picard, played by the British character actor Patrick Stewart. It seems that Stewart was made for the role. His popularity rivals that of William Shatner and the Captain Kirk character.¹

A new cast of characters and innovations such as a holodeck – where interactive environments are created through holograms – are added. Also noteworthy is the fact that Klingons are no longer arch enemies of the Federation. Lt. Commander Worf, a Klingon, serves on the new Enterprise. And whenever the crew is unhappy or estranged by its various space adventures, a psychological counselor, Deanna Troi, is available.

Another memorable character is Lieutenant Commander Data. He is an android who, like the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz, wants to know what it’s like to be human. And “Q,” played by actor John de Lancie, was something akin to a classical Greek or Roman god in that he had powers and knowledge extending beyond our normal understanding of space and time. Also like the pagan gods, he abused these powers in childish ways and even challenged the authority of the Q Continuum (the ruling body of the Q, representing the status quo), resulting in Q’s frequent punishment.

Star Trek: The Next Generation – A Final Unity

Star Trek: The Next Generation – A Final Unity (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Perhaps the most formidable new enemy of the Federation is the Borg, a horrid collective of cyborgs who suck the life and technological knowledge out of any living creature deemed worthy of its cold malice.

These and other innovations made TNG rival the original Star Trek series in terms of sheer creativity. This isn’t surprising because Gene Roddenberry, the producer of the original show, was directly involved in TNG.

TNG‘s immense popularity attracted the film star Whoopi Goldberg,who played the super-intuitive bartender and wise advisor Guinan. Goldberg apparently approached the producers of TNG, expressing her desire to be on the show.

Other notable guest actors in the show in show include Erich Anderson, Billy Campbell, Nikki Cox, Ronny Cox, Olivia d’Abo, Kirsten Dunst, Mick Fleetwood, Matt Frewer, Walter Gotell, Kelsey Grammer, Bob Gunton, Teri Hatcher, Stephen Hawking (as himself), Famke Janssen, Mae Jemison, Ken Jenkins, Ashley Judd, Sabrina Le Beauf, Christopher McDonald, Bebe Neuwirth, Terry O’Quinn, Michelle Phillips, Gina Ravera, Jean Simmons, Paul Sorvino, Brenda Strong, James Worthy, Tracey Walter, Liz Vassey, David Ogden Stiers, Ray Wise, and John Tesh

Several films based directly on the TV series were released at theatres: Star Trek Generations (1994); Star Trek: First Contact (1996); Star Trek: Insurrection (1998); Star Trek Nemesis (2002). TNG video games have also been released.

Cover of the US release of the first I, Claudi...

Cover of the US release of the first I, Claudius DVD. There has since been a remastered edition with a different cover. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

¹ Stewart has taken on many significant roles. In the 1970s, before Star Trek, he played Sejanus in the highly acclaimed BBC series, I Claudius. An ambitious Roman soldier cum commander who gained power through cunning and deception, for me, Stewart’s Sejanus is overplayed. His facial expressions and head movements are often overdone. It’s almost as if Stewart hadn’t settled down yet. I’m not sure a younger Stewart could have played the rock solid Captain Picard that many of us have come to know. Rumors abound that, before becoming Picard, Stewart didn’t know anything about Star Trek or sci-fi, for that matter. Apparently he missed doing Shakespeare and more “serious” roles while committed to Star Trek.


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Shatner, William – TekWar (1990 PB) uploaded by sdobie
via Flickr

TekWar is a series of science fiction novels, TV shows and made-for-TV movies created by William Shatner (Captain Kirk of Star Trek) portraying a disturbing vision of mankind’s technological future.

Although the books imply that Shatner is the author, after some time it came out that they were ghost-written by science-fiction author Ron Goulart.

In TekWar dark warlords enslave the population through the distribution of a mind-altering drug in a corrupt society. What’s novel about this drug is that it’s entirely digital. A microchip.

Good and bad characters fight information wars on an advanced internet, connected directly to the mind. Users wear special headgear and information is externally displayed in holographic images.

So instead of computers merely receiving viruses through the web, as we have today, enemy hackers can literally kill each other through the neural interface.

While the idea of “killing thoughts” may seem unique to science fiction, similar non-technological myths of killing at a distance appear in voodoo doll, witchcraft and evil eye lore. And some mystics and shamanic practitioners believe they are mystically “killing” the lesser aspects of other people’s personalities through a kind of inner, transpersonal “slamming,” for lack of a better word.

English: William Shatner photographed by Jerry...

William Shatner photographed by Jerry Avenaim (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If the claims of these mystics and shamans are true,¹ to me it would seem to involve a kind of unclear, gloomy or possibly hellish underworld that one hopefully would be able to rise above. But as long as individuals identify with this kind of dynamic (i.e. I’m the big, important psychic warrior and you just don’t understand...)² they’ll probably remain stuck there.

On this point the psychologist Carl Jung stressed time and again that so-called archetypal forces are powerful, transpersonal and sometimes volatile. The key, Jung said, is to not identify with any of them. And I think this is an important precursor to enjoying a higher, heavenly bliss that just can’t be found in a shadowy and tumultuous psychological underworld.

¹ (a) The Indian mystic Sri Aurobindo claimed to assist the Allied Forces in WW-II by virtue of his meditation, and at a distance. (b) Mircea Eliade in Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy notes that some shamans take up a different vocation if their culture doesn’t recognize them as such, which seems to suggest that, for some, their commitment to this practice is only as deep as their ability to make a living out of it.

² Jung called this inflation. And Joseph Campbell further delineated different types of mythic involvement with concepts of Mythic Dissociation, Mythic Eternalization, Mythic Identification, Mythic Inflation, Mythic Subordination.

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Kirk, James T.

The Changeling (Star Trek: The Original Series)

Image of William Shatner portraying Captain James T. Kirk from Star Trek: The Original Series episode, The Changeling © 1967 Paramount Pictures, produced by Gene Roddenberry via Wikipedia (Fair Use).

James T. Kirk is the captain and, one could say, mythic hero of the starship Enterprise in the American science fiction TV program Star Trek: The Original Series.

After the show’s early demise in 1969 and before its resurrection on film in 1979, William Shatner, the Canadian-born actor portraying Kirk, did various film and TV jobs, including supermarket ads for Loblaws, a Canadian supermarket chain.

Since then, Star Trek and its various spin-offs arguably have created a global mythology. It’s also proved to be a lucrative franchise. Among other things, Captain James Tiberius Kirk embodies the victory of human freewill over societal and religious tyrants and their oppressive demands for slavish obedience.

Kirk was always the ladies man and the original series seems sexist from a contemporary perspective. But its creator Gene Roddenberry made efforts to overcome this pitfall in the pilot episode, which included a woman first officer to the original captain, Captain Christopher Pike (played by actor Jeffrey Hunter).

After completing the pilot episode, TV network brass made some changes. They brought in Shatner to play Kirk because Jeffrey Hunter didn’t want to film another pilot for the Pike character. They also moved to a less significant female presence on the set. Majel Barrrett now played the character of Nurse Chapel instead of No. 1 to (the departed) Pike.

More recently, Shatner authored and acted in the less commercially successful but innovative TV series, Tek War. He also appears as a befuddled lawyer in the TV program, Boston Legal. And he starred in the 1980’s TV program T. J. Hooker.

While many actors quietly disappear in their golden years, Shatner has remained in the spotlight. He’s still doing ads and spoke at the 2010 Olympics closing ceremonies. Also, he’s the host of the Discovery Channel television series Weird or What? and can be seen on his own show, “Shatner’s Raw Nerve” on the BIO channel. His continued success might be partly due to ability to not take himself too seriously, and partly due to that same charisma that landed him the role as Kirk, back in the ’60s.

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