On Why Spock Isn't Spock Anymore

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan received a DVD “director’s cut” treatment this week. Most Star Trek fans consider this the best film of the series. While I’ve always loved Star Trek II and have fond memories of going to see it with my father in the summer of ’82, I count Nick Meyer’s other entry in the series, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, as my favorite Star Trek film. Both films are good and capture much of what makes Star Trek great.

I sat down earlier this week and watched Star Trek II again, perhaps for the fiftieth or sixtieth time, but instead of watching the film I took in Meyer’s audio commentary. There were no real surprises to be heard; the stories Meyer tells have been covered before in behind-the-scenes books like William Shatner’s Star Trek Movie Memories. What I did find surprising was Meyer’s lack of engagement on the controversies surrounding the film–his feud with Gene Roddenberry over the film’s creative direction, Spock’s death, the militarism of the film. Meyer, when he mentions these topics, treats them matter-of-factly and without much depth.

Star Trek II is famous, of course, for Spock’s death in saving the Enterprise from the Genesis Wave. Meyer attacks the scene of Spock’s burial tube on the Genesis Planet in his commentary–he didn’t film the scene, he didn’t want it as part of his final cut, but the studio thought the film should end on a positive note. He goes on to say that he could have made Star Trek III but had no interest in resurrecting Spock as Paramount wanted. Once Spock had returned Meyer had no difficulty writing for the character in Star Trek IV and Star Trek VI, but he had objections to bringing a character back from the dead simply for its own sake as the resurrection robs the death of its emotional weight.

For me, Spock’s death in Star Trek II still carries an emotional punch. That Spock willingly gave up his life to save everyone, not knowing that he would come back still has a resonance, even if later events make that sacrifice something less than the character originally intended.

Here’s my view on Spock’s death and resurrection.

Spock died.

Spock regenerated.

The regenerated Spock isn’t the same being as the Spock that died.

They look alike, they have the same genetic structure, they have mostly the same memories, but they’re not the same. Fans think of them as being the same, but they’re really not. The regenerated Spock is more like a clone of the original, grown from a few cells in Spock’s corpse that weren’t killed off by the warp core radiations through the magic of the Genesis Effect. The regenerated Spock doesn’t remember dying. The regenerated Spock doesn’t remember entering the radiation chamber. His memories of his first life end with “Remember.” The Spock post-Genesis was “born” on the Genesis Planet. The consciousness has continuity stretching back another sixty years, but the body itself is relatively new though prematurely aged. The mental continuity may give the regenerated Spock the same personality as his predecessor, but their thinking patterns will be different.

A clone of Spock isn’t exactly Spock, even if the clone doesn’t realize there’s a difference.

Published by Allyn

A writer, editor, journalist, sometimes coder, occasional historian, and all-around scholar, Allyn Gibson is the writer for Diamond Comic Distributors' monthly PREVIEWS catalog, used by comic book shops and throughout the comics industry, and the editor for its monthly order forms. In his over ten years in the industry, Allyn has interviewed comics creators and pop culture celebrities, covered conventions, analyzed industry revenue trends, and written copy for comics, toys, and other pop culture merchandise. Allyn is also known for his short fiction (including the Star Trek story "Make-Believe,"the Doctor Who short story "The Spindle of Necessity," and the ReDeus story "The Ginger Kid"). Allyn has been blogging regularly with WordPress since 2004.

2 thoughts on “On Why Spock Isn't Spock Anymore

  1. The regenerated Spock’s memories continue past "remember." In the last scene in TSFS, the first words he says are "ship… out of danger?"

    It’s one of my favorite ST scenes… here you have Spock, newly re-integrated with his katra, still confused from the process. He sees Kirk, and the first thing he remembers is his death, still in short-term memory — "ship… out of danger… I have been, and always shall be, your friend" he says tentatively. The he takes a long look at Kirk, and remembers his identity. "Jim. Your name is Jim." He doesn’t address him as sir, or admiral, or Kirk, but as his friend Jim.

  2. Glenn Butler wrote:

    The regenerated Spock’s memories continue past "remember." In the last scene in TSFS, the first words he says are "ship… out of danger?"

    Ah, but are they Spock‘s memories? The way I view the scene is this: Spock is remembering his death from the vantage point of McCoy who witnessed it. Spock knows in an unconscious way what happened after "Remember," even if that’s not part of the memories, the spirit that he gave McCoy. And when T’Lar separated the two, there were elements of McCoy left in Spock and elements of Spock left in McCoy. Not ideal by any means, perhaps never even attempted before. But the legacy of the katra transference and the fal-tor-pan ritual.

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