As part of their ongoing ‘in character’ series, NPR radio took a close look at the character of Spock from Star Trek: The Original Series. The six minute audio report available online includes comments from the original Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy, along with TOS writer DC Fontana and MIT professor Henry Jenkins.
Listen to the entire report at NPR.org, some excerpts below
Nimoy on the birth of ‘fascinating’
The first time Spock used his trademark line, Nimoy recounts how he shouted the line, but the director made a change that shaped the character thereafter
The director, God bless him, said be different from everyone. So on the next take: "Fascinating," in that cool, collected way. I think in that moment a very important aspect of the character was born.
Nimoy on Spock’s status as an outsider.
When [Gene Roddenberry] hired me to do the role, he gave me a very interesting dynamic to work with, in that Spock’s mother was human, his father was Vulcan. He was sort of a half-breed. I think that’s one of the most interesting things about Spock. It’s not what you’re getting, but what you don’t get — what peeks out occasionally.
MIT Professor on Spock – a multicultural sex symbol
Henry Jenkins, humanities professor at MIT, sees that Spock became an unlikely, sex symbol because of the way he showed the struggle between intellect and emotion:
It’s a struggle we all face. Are we driven by our emotion or by our intellect? And how do we reconcile those two things?…Spock is sexy for a large number of people, male and female. Many of the female fans I studied really are attracted to the emotional depths of this character. Spock represses outward signs of emotion. He’s a character "who tries to hold it all in, but who seems to be sensitive, sensuous at certain times…He seems to have a deep affection and even passionate relationship to Captain Kirk. This character, then, became the embodiment of the mystery of masculinity.
Jenkins also sees how Spock’s bridging of his human and Vulcan sides represents multi-culturalism, something that is still relevant today:
In that sense Star Trek looks ahead to the society we live in today, where so many people are mixed race, mixed cultural background,. And I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, looking at Barack Obama. There’s something in the [Obama] mythology that seems to echo our assumption about Spock — that he’s someone able to bridge worlds. And he’s indebted to Vulcan philosophy of IDIC, the Vulcan philosophy of infinite diversity and infinite combination. Someone who is of mixed race is seen as being capable of understanding both races.
As it happens, Leonard Nimoy is a Obama supporter.
Listen to the entire report at NPR.org