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12:02 pm: I Heart Spock – my meandering reminiscence of my life-long love affair with a certain Superversive V

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History has overlooked one of my favorite Star Trek characters. You never hear her name any more, even though you hear Uhura all the time. But no one ever mentions Nurse Chapel, but I loved Nurse Chapel as a girl.

Because she loved Spock.

Spock 7

The thought of the unrequited love that this fine young woman (played by Roddenberry’s wife, Majel Barrett, who was also the voice of the ship’s computer) held for the calm, logical Mr. Spock delighted my teenage heart. Especially in the Amok Time episode, where she looked so hopeful when he suddenly got emotional.

I felt so sorry for her.

(Amusing note: Until this very day, I had always thought it was called Amuck Time…meaning the time when Vulcans’ emotions went amuck. )

I loved Spock, too. And like Nurse Chapel, I longed to have a chance to draw his attention. But even more than that, I wanted to be Spock.

The first step to being Spock was to look like Spock.

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I was a slender girl with long hair, so that did limit my ability to look like him…a bit. Other than that, though, you would think a Star Trek uniform would be relatively easy. Blue shirt. Black pants. Gold braid.

But no. My parents felt that was not done for girls to wear black pants. Apparently, this was a thing back then, thinking that only mature women were allowed to wear something that scandalous. So, no black pants.

However, I did cut my black bangs straight across my forehead. And I wore a blue sweatshirt that Mom and I had sewed gold braid onto the sleeves there-of.

I remember the one time I got to borrow a pair of black slacks and wear them with my blue shirt. I felt so Spock-like walking down the road.

But the real kicker for me was not the lack of black pants, it was that I can’t raise just one eyebrow. My mom can do. And I worked at it and worked at it…to no avail. When one brow goes up, so does the other.

Truly a sad thing.

(My favorite Jim Butcher line is still: He spocked an eyebrow.)

Spock 1

But I did not love Spock simply for his outfit or even his eyebrow. I loved him for his Superversiveness.

How was Spock superversive, you ask? Spock was the single impressive symbol of self-control in an age that celebrated indulgence.

Everything in our modern culture screams self-indulgence. Do drugs. Have sex. Let it all hang out. Scream and shout in public like sit-com characters—only now real people act that way, too. Do it your way. Don’t repress. Drink. Smoke. Life is a party. And anyone who says otherwise is a Victorian. A prude. A symbol of ridicule.

But not Spock.

He was the champion of logic. He was the Knight of Science. Kids could admire him and his reserved ways without anyone associating them with the Old Guard of the previous culture, who were so despised.

To quote Spoke himself, he was “fascinating.”

I read an article after Leonard Nimoy’s death praising Data for wanting to be human and condemning Spock for struggling not to be human. I could not disagree more. I loved Data, but he was trying to achieve something we already have, because he suffered from a lack of humanity.

Spock was not like that. He had plenty of humanity, but he tried to resist the worst of it. The fact that he occasionally failed was one of the things that made him so utterly delightful.

Or should I say fascinating?

 

Spoke was delightful in a way that the other Vulcans in Star Trek never quite achieved. Some of them were cool or fun to watch. But none of them had that magical twinkle nor the drama that came from the battle of two natures.

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That battle of two natures was a familiar one to teenage me. As an overly-emotional teenager living in an overly-emotional environment, I could have used a lot more Spock-like qualities in my environment.

And I knew it.

I wanted to be like Spock partially because I so obviously wasn’t.

I was around ten when we first found Star Trek. My brother and I discovered it through the Saturday Morning cartoon, which I still love. They were terrific.

The involvement of Star Trek in my life went beyond just watching. My father distributed television programs, and for one short time, he was distributing some Star Trek episodes. I worked for him. Ordinarily, I made $2 an hour (not a bad wage back then for a teen). But because he considered me an expert, when I did work on Star Trek for him, I got paid $10.

It was Heaven.

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My father believed in fresh air and used to send us outside for much of the day. One summer, we kind of tricked him. We figures out how to turn the space under the front stairs into a fort…so we could sit around even though we were outside.

All summer we played Star Trek. I was Spock. My brother was Sulu. My cousin Ariel was Kirk. Our story involved the crew as kids. Their parents all had the exact position they later had, while Kirk, Spock, etc. snuck around through the ship using secret passages the adults either didn’t know about or couldn’t fit through. (There was also a sister ship that had an equal and opposite compliment of crew of the opposite sex, so that everyone would have someone to marry. The only one I still remember was the brash female captain counterpart for Kirk, whose name was Cindy.)

That version, where all the crew were young, yet still living on the ship together reminds me obscurely of the new movies…where the whole crew ends up together when they are barely out of college, instead of after much life experience.

Just before Leonard Nimoy died, I had a conversation on Facebook with friends about whether or not the new movies undercut much of Spock’s appeal when they gave him a girl friend. Sure, it was shocking when we first found out, but once the initial surprise was over…did it take away from the character that he was no longer the tremendously aloof?

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Different friends had different takes on this subject. But I feel that a lot of the mystery was gone. There isn’t nearly as much draw to try and figure out how to win the heart of a guy someone else has already won. (Not to mention that we didn’t even get to see how she did it! Really, a romance that won Spock’s heart should have been onstage. )

Also, I love Uhura as much as the next gal. I’ve played her in roleplaying games. But…it should have been Nurse Chapel.

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I mean, after all these years of waiting!

So I wanted to write this to remember Spock and to remember Leonard Nimoy, the man who brought him to life with such wit and…dare I say it?…humanity.

SPock 8

PS. I never did get to be Spock, but I did get to marry the most logical, Spock-like gentleman I have ever had the honor to meet. (Nowadays, my husband is more Chestertonian, but when we were in college, he was very, very Spock-like. )

Which goes to show: way back when, when I watched those early Star Trek shows and I felt in my soul that I really could be the one to melt Spock’s cold Vulcan heart—I was right.

Click here to see my favorite commercial—staring Old Spock and New Spock.

Comments

Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon. (link)

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Comments

[User Picture]
From:Jenny Bates
Date:March 27th, 2015 06:51 pm (UTC)

Remembering Spock

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A little poem sparked by Spock and your remembrance of dreaming...

I am here on the garden swing
lazing in the sun on the same spot
where the cat lay curled up
in dreams of embryonic peace
before I came;
but, please, don't look for me now.



-Jenny B.


[User Picture]
From:arhyalon
Date:March 27th, 2015 09:24 pm (UTC)

Re: Remembering Spock

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That's lovely! Thanks, Jenny!
[User Picture]
From:lotdw
Date:March 28th, 2015 04:52 am (UTC)

Amok!

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It is called "Amok Time" because the emotions were running amuck. Amuck is just another, outdated spelling of amok.

Also, the ep was written by Theodore Sturgeon, one of the greats.
[User Picture]
From:arhyalon
Date:March 28th, 2015 12:29 pm (UTC)

Re: Amok!

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Ah! That is what I had thought all this time. Thanks.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:March 28th, 2015 08:50 am (UTC)

Spock

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Lovely memoir.

Slightly off-topic, I am curious to know how - given your background as described - you chose to attend college at St John's?
[User Picture]
From:arhyalon
Date:March 28th, 2015 12:30 pm (UTC)

Re: Spock

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Thanks.

My father had considered St. Johns when he came back from WWII, but ended up going somewhere else on his GI Bill.

When the brochure came from St. John's, he showed it to me. I wanted to be a writer, studying the great writers of the past seemed like a wise and delightful step.
[User Picture]
From:juliet_winters
Date:March 28th, 2015 02:02 pm (UTC)

Re: Spock

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It's interesting how a nudge to a high school student by an adult can completely change her future.

My father was not keen on St. John's because of the (relatively) high price tag and his disdain for "dead languages" (though he knew them).

On the other hand, my world history teacher asked me to stay after class and gave me admissions materials to William and Mary. "I think you belong there," she said with a faraway gleam in her eye. "I'm sure of it." After retiring, she went on to open a New Age/Christian crystal shoppe. Probably the closest thing for me to a Hogwarts letter. And my college has been voted best choice for Harry Potter fans.

Edited at 2015-03-28 02:03 pm (UTC)
From:(Anonymous)
Date:September 18th, 2015 08:09 am (UTC)
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This what a great read! As someone who also identified with Spock during her formative years, I can sympathize with a lot of your views on Mr. Spock. Especially the topic surrounding his romance with Uhura in the latest films. I agree, as much as I understand what the writers were trying to do with Spock and Uhura, Nurse Chapel was really the one who fought for Spock's heart. I'll always remember the scene in Amok Time when she found out Spock was feeling ill and made him Plomeek soup ^_^
[User Picture]
From:arhyalon
Date:September 18th, 2015 11:38 am (UTC)
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That soup scene...and the result...is one of my favorite scenes. I tried to find a picture of him throwing the bowl to put on this post but could not.

Thanks!
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