Ethan Peck Talks Spock’s Unresolved Family Issues On ‘Star Trek: Discovery’

The second season episode “Light and Shadows” finally ended Star Trek: Discovery‘s search for Spock. Actor Ethan Peck has given a number of interviews to talk about his debut and what we can expect next for the character and his relationships. We have highlights below as well as some comments from Sarek actor James Frain.

NOTE: There are mild spoilers for next week’s episode below.

Exploring the war within the Sarek family

One of the big mysteries explored in the second season of Discovery is the long estrangement of Spock and his foster sister Michael Burnham. While he didn’t offer spoilers, Peck did discuss the reveal with Entertainment Tonight:

Ethan Peck: It’s super grounded and I think that really grounds our reality too because that’s such a universal conflict we all face—is the conflict between members of a family, within a family. There’s a lot left unresolved between Spock and Burnham that you’ll get to see unravel to the next season.

On the Ready Room after-show, Sarek actor James Frain also talked about Burnham’s secret, and how it will be revealed:

James Frain: I don’t think [Sarek] knows. I think that is something that she hid from them. She starts talking to Amanda about it, and she talks to Sarek about it later and it is like she wanted to protect them from the knowledge that Spock was difficult for her. And so, it was quite a lot hidden. And Sarek is that traditional father. When we first meet him he says “Spock, this is your new sister. I expect you to be friends.” And that’s it. Victorian dad has spoken. So, it is much later on in the story that he discovers that it was not plain sailing.

Later on the Ready Room, Frain talked about how things with the Sarek family are only getting more complicated:

James Frain: The story cranks up. Now that the war is over we are getting really into character and really into some of these darker, difficult stories with the family. So, it is a different kind of war. It is a domestic war.

In a brief video shared by the official Star Trek account on Twitter (see below), Peck talks more about the Michael and Spock dynamic:

Ethan Peck: From my perspective as Mr. Spock, I would say there is a lot of denial there. Michael was teaching Spock to be human because Amanda, his mother, agreed with Sarek to raise him as a Vulcan, even though he is half-human. And that part of him really remains unexplored I think, until this season …Michael is such an important part of his life and his identity and he has really ignored it for a long time. And it kind of comes out in a very ugly way that they need to make sense of together.

Why Spock is headed to Talos IV

Speaking to ComicBook.com, Ethan Peck addressed why the one thing Spock was able to communicate in “Light and Shadows” was the coordinates to Talos IV:

Ethan Peck: Spock believes something in Talos will help ground him. Right? I think he’s fighting to stay present, to stay in reality, where he’s had this very traumatic experience with the Red Angel that’s sort of shown something within himself, to himself that he can’t quite make sense of. And so I think there’s a comfort going there and knowing that it’s like a touchstone almost. That it will bring him back to who he is.

Creating Spock’s origin story for season two, but no comment on season three

Regarding his portrayal of Spock in the second season, he described it as an “origin story” to ComicBook.com. And speaking to ET, Peck contrasted his Spock with the one we will see in TOS:

Ethan Peck: I think the best way I can put it is that he doesn’t quite have the wisdom that he will have in the future. He’s younger and wisdom is a result of accepting pain that you have in your life and this will be a period of discomfort for him and so that conflict between logic and emotion will be much more on the surface.

Finally, Syfy asked Peck if he will be returning for a third season, but the actor demurred:

Ethan Peck: You know I can’t answer that! [Peck says with a laugh] I wish I could. For now, I’m just pinching myself. I’m now a part of a greater community and family. Star Trek, for many people, is a really safe place. Like a beacon of hope. I don’t want to say a place of faith, but in a way, Starfleet represents this ideal notion of unity. And it’s a really beautiful sentiment.

Mia Kirshner as Amanda and Ethan Peck as Spock in a publicity photo for “Light and Shadows” (CBS)

Peck shares “Light and Shadows” photos

Ethan Peck has also shared a couple of fun behind-the-scenes photos from his first episode of Star Trek: Discovery.

James Frain talks Sarek

Actor James Frain had a lot to say on The Ready Room about shooting “Light and Shadows,” which was directed by his wife, Marta Cunningham. He talked about working with Ethan Peck, the shooting location for Sarek’s house (the Integral House), how he nodded off during the meditation scenes, and how he has approached the character of Sarek.


Star Trek: Discovery is available exclusively in the USA on CBS All Access. It airs in Canada on Space and streams on CraveTV. It is available on Netflix everywhere else.

Keep up with all the Star Trek: Discovery news at TrekMovie.

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Luke Montgomery

This Spock is KILLER HOT.

Professor Spock

Luke Montgomery he is so ugly. Ew! :-$ 😫🤬💩

Mark Calcagno

I think he’s alright.

Boom, all avenues covered.

TG47

Another agree to disagree point Professor Spock.

In the publicity still he’s stunning IMO.

My first thought was that they’ve set him up to surpass Spock’s appeal in TOS.

Spiked Canon

may want to google him. he’s a good looking dude

Corylea

One of the many, many things I loved about Leonard Nimoy’s Spock was that although he WAS beautiful — to my eyes, stunningly beautiful — he wasn’t a pretty boy; his beauty was unique and individual. It was as if Spock’s beauty was a secret that each of us discovered for ourselves.

Nimoy did such a great job portraying a rich inner life in Spock, and Nimoy himself had a certain appeal and a gravity that’s hard to put a finger on. I flipped by “This Side of Paradise” the other day on TV, and of course stopped to watch. He does such an awesome job being both the “freed” Spock with the spores and then the restrained Spock a few minutes later as he beams up Leila to tell her the influence is gone and say goodbye. You can see the sadness just under the surface, that he can’t really return her affection in the way she wants.

Corylea

Yes, you’re right — Nimoy was an amazingly good actor, and the role of Spock allowed him to add SO much depth to his portrayal.

I think part of what makes Spock beautiful to me is the goodness, decency, intelligence, and humor that shone out of Mr. Nimoy’s eyes when he was playing Spock. And those things were all IN Mr. Nimoy, which is why he could put them in Spock for us to find; they weren’t only specified by the scripts.

Kevin Lee

It looks to me as if the ST:Disco show runners are looking to change that with this casting choice. I will admit he isn’t as far into “boy band” territory as I was expecting but it’s obvious they’ve gone for more traditional “prettiness.” Roddenberry wanted Nimoy because he thought his facial structure had more “alien” quality it to it, particularly citing his cheekbones.

Corylea

Yes, I’ve read that Roddenberry said he thought “Pointed ears would look good with those cheekbones.”

In Discovery, we have an actor whose body is as unusual as Mr. Nimoy’s face was. I imagine it’s difficult to grow up as someone who was born to play an alien :-), but both Mr. Nimoy and Mr. Jones have done such good work that we’re really lucky their appearance was unusual enough to get them cast as aliens.

navamske

“I imagine it’s difficult to grow up as someone who was born to play an alien.”

Speaking of which, I think John Goodman was born to play Fred Flintstone, and Shelley Duvall to play Olive Oyl.

navamske

“Roddenberry wanted Nimoy because he thought his facial structure had more “alien” quality it to it, particularly citing his cheekbones.”

I’m of the opinion that you need to have a certain facial structure to be a believable Vulcan. Nimoy had it (of course, as he was the model for all Vulcans who followed), as did Lenard and Alley. Curtis, kinda sorta. Two “Enterprise” Vulcans, played by Robert Pine and Fionnula Flanagan, decidely did not. I don’t think Quinto has it either.

PEB

I so agree, Ethan Peck is….I never really understood the physical attraction some fans had to Nimoy when Trek was first on the air but I can say I now have a Spock crush!

Professor Spock

I’m happy that the show will explain why Spock never mentioned Michael Burnham in TOS and later Star Trek productions. They have a rocky relationship ahead of them. The family dynamics between Sarek, Burnham, Amanda, and Spock is fascinating. Spock has a dysfunctional family. His parents are bad at parenting their son and daughter. When was Sybok born? I don’t think Spock will return in season 3. I want to see Kirk and more TOS characters in season 3.

Arathorn

Kirk won’t happen

A34

Last year they said to the fans that Spock wouldn’t be on the show, while at the same time they were planning and writing season 2. So………..

TG47

I don’t feel any unfulfilled need for more Kirk or other TOS characters, given all the movies.

So much better to keep going back to the lost opportunities building on the Cage.

I’d like more Number One. But what we’ve seen so far isn’t the cool Number One many of us had expected.

ML31

At this point, I would like to see Discovery run into Lt. Kirk. Find a way to make it happen. To be honest, I’m more interested in Kirk’s early days than Spock’s. What did Kirk do to become the youngest Captain of a Constitution Class?

TG47

Bright, risk-taking officers can move up quickly in a war…

And DSC has provided the Klingon war to explain how Kirk might have shown command readiness very early. In fact, it’s hard to make sense of his command at a young age without a major war.

It also suggests why Kirk already had the kind of antipathy towards Klingons at the beginning of TOS that is formed in war.

ML31

Except, according to the established time line, right smack in the middle of the Klingon War Kirk was taking charge of his first landing party and lost half his men to the vampire cloud creature. Would take some serious retconning to connect that to the Klingon War.

Mark Calcagno

Sybok is older than Spock. His mother was Sarek’s first wife, a Vulcan. Probably the reason he’s not brought up much… This family doesn’t have the best communication skills.

odradek

“This family doesn’t have the best communication skills.”

Which,you would not expect since he is an ambassador and she is a teacher.

TG47

The ‘shoemakers children have no shoes’ irony of Sarek’s poor family dynamic and lack of communication was central to the drama of the TOS episode Journey to Babel that introduced Sarek and Amanda.

Implicit in the family’s poor communication was the challenge of bridging the cultural norms and biological imperatives of two humanoid species. Sarek’s family is struggling at the micro level to live up to the Federation ideals of acceptance and going where none (few) have gone before.

ML31

The show doesn’t need to explain why Spock never mentioned Michael. Spock being tight lipped about his family was well established in both TOS and in TFF. Once again, STD is explaining stuff that doesn’t need explaining and ignoring the things they did that actually do need to be explained.

Marty

Days of Our Lives – the Star Trek Years.

Sam

I feel like almost every other episode of STD compounds the degree of Spock’s unresolved family issues.

Jai

”One of the big mysteries explored in the second season of Discovery is the long estrangement of Spock and his foster sister Michael Burnham.

Ethan Peck: It’s super grounded and I think that really grounds our reality too because that’s such a universal conflict we all face—is the conflict between members of a family, within a family. There’s a lot left unresolved between Spock and Burnham that you’ll get to see unravel to the next season.”

Maybe at some point, Burnham lost her temper at Spock (or decided to engage in some teenage cruelty) and said something like “You will never get married. You will never have children. Your death will have no meaning. And you’ll die alone, farther from your closest friends than you can possibly imagine.”

Tragedy: This is what actually ends up happening to poor Spock.

Jai

The “meaningless death/dying alone” part refers to Spock’s fate in the JJ movies, of course — but if Burnham really did say something like this, it’s occurred to me that it would also have interesting implications about what may have been going through Spock’s mind at the climax of TWOK. That kind of desperate attempt to change what he feared was his destiny and defy Burnham’s prediction. (And *that’s* how to do a prequel/semi-retcon correctly).

Jai

“You will never get married”

‘Married for his whole life’, I meant. Forgot about T’Pring.

navamske

“Forgot about T’Pring.”

Mel Brooks version of Star Trek: “T’Pringtime for Hitler.”

ML31

I have to be honest. Even with the little bits that have been planted thus far, I really have no interest in the divide between Spock and Michael. None. And a lot of that is because I really don’t care about Michael in any aspect to begin with. If she vanished from the show tomorrow without explanation I would not be pining for one.

Corylea

Yeah, I find myself way more interested in Saru than in Michael Burnham. But then, the alien crew members are frequently the most interesting characters on Star Trek.

ML31

With the sequel series’ that was by design. I read multiple times that the humans were told to underplay their roles while the aliens were told to overplay.

Corylea

Ah, interesting. I’ve read a ton of behind-the-scenes stuff for TOS but nothing for subsequent series.

(I lived in a TV-free household from 1986 until 2013, so although I grew up on TOS, by the time TNG came out, I was in that TV-free household.)

TG47

Corylea it sounds like you have a lot of Trek available to enjoy!

Our kids have got into TNG and Voyager in the past year, and it’s been a pleasure to see it through their eyes.

Corylea

Yes, I’ve been working on those other Treks! I’ve seen the first 9 episodes of TNG and am surprised at how bad it is so far. People tell me that it’s GOING to become wonderful … but not until the third season. :-) Announcement of the new Picard show has made me re-prioritize this one, though, so I just watched “Hide and Q” recently. Gosh, I hope Jonathan Frakes learns to act before too much more time passes…

I’ve seen the first two seasons of Voyager, and the trio of a dynamic captain, a cranky doctor, and a duty-struck Vulcan is a bit easier for a long-time TOS fan to get into. :-) I’ve heard that the show becomes better once Seven of Nine joins the cast, but of course I’m not there yet. I’m liking Janeway and Tuvok and loving The Doctor, though.

I’ve also seen the first season and a half of Enterprise, and I can only conclude that Archer must come from some alternate reality where science fiction does not exist, because it’s clear that I’ve thought about space exploration more than HE has. My husband isn’t watching with me, but he does hear the things I shout at the screen, and he says that we could make some sort of game out of counting how many times I shout, “Archer, you idiot, listen to T’Pol!” :-)

I haven’t seen DS9 yet, because my husband wants to watch that with me, but he’s too busy to get to it yet.

I have a friend who wants me to watch Babylon 5, but I tell him that I have several hundred hours of Trek left to go. :-)

ML31

“Gosh, I hope Jonathan Frakes learns to act before too much more time passes…”

Abandon that hope. It never happened. By his own admission, too. In fact, Stewart was the best actor by far of the lot. Quite honestly, arguably the best actor to ever be a regular in any Trek show.

If you want to save the best for last of the sequel series’ save DS9 for the end.

Corylea

Yeah, it was almost funny how Jonathan Frakes was kind of posing, rather than acting, during “Hide and Q.” Didn’t they audition this guy before they hired him? Or did they use up all their real-actor salary on Stewart? :-)

I’ve heard that some Trek fans think DS9 is the best of the lot, and some think it’s the worst, so I’ll be very interested to see what my husband and I make of it. We did watch “Trials and Tribbleations” for the 50th anniversary, and I can’t wait to see what the creative team that pulled THAT off can do!

TG47

Corylea there are some gems in season 2 of TNG, and some important backstory for the rest of the series.

Season 1 of DS9 is also hit and miss while the writers figured out what to do with the scenario. The cast is all very solid, with many excellent recurring characters.

Voyager seems to work better for me now rewatching with our kids than it did in first run.

Enterprise showed how important both the casting and the concept of the central character is. I was always wishing Archer would get off the screen.

ML31

TG.. As much as I liked Enterprise I felt Bakula was badly miscast in the role. He just didn’t have “it”. Just like Michelle Yeoh was horribly miscast. Neither are believable in the roles they inhabit. At all.

TG47

I agree that he was very miscast.

However, much of the writing for his part was problematic too. At times, I couldn’t reconcile the writing for other characters (which was often very good) with what they wrote for Archer.

Baluka is also not the kind of actor to lead an ensemble from what could be seen.

Corylea

I lost all respect for Archer when they made him throw a tantrum about his DOG. I mean, I love dogs, but that dog was Archer’s responsibility. Anybody who’s ever had a dog knows that they’ll eat anything that looks as if it MIGHT be edible and will sniff anything and everything. Letting your dog run around loose on an unexplored planet … just how stupid does a person have to be to do that? And how short-sighted do you have to be to poison relations with an alien species because they weren’t sufficiently respectful of your DOG?

Corylea

Would you follow this guy into hell? Um, no. Get me Kirk or Janeway, please!

Affable Everyman is a type of actor that works well in many roles … but not for the captain of a starship.

ML31

“Affable Everyman is a type of actor that works well in many roles … but not for the captain of a starship.”

Exactly. Backula is much better playing a regular guy. I liked him a lot in that short lived Men of a Certain Age. But the charisma laden leader just doesn’t seem to be his forte. Kevin Costner is in the same boat. He can play Ray Kinsella perfectly well. But he’s no action hero.

Corylea

Oh, I intend to watch ALL of TNG. I just needed the upcoming Picard show to give me a kick in the pants. :-) “The Naked Now” and “Code of Honor” weren’t exactly inspiring…

Archer would have gotten them all killed in the first week if the scripts weren’t cheating in his favor. Okay, sometimes the scripts cheated in Kirk’s favor, too, but it seemed especially blatant in Enterprise, and Bakula didn’t have the pizzaz to distract us from the massive cheating, whereas Shatner did. :-)

I have read that a lot of people didn’t like Voyager because it seemed too much like TNG. But since I haven’t seen much TNG, the similarities didn’t trouble me.

ML31

I actually think Voyager got a bit of a bad rap. I have been rewathing it for the firs time since it aired and I like it better than the first time around. And I liked it better than TNG back then, too. I think the ensemble cast of characters are all more interesting than everyone on TNG save for Worf. But I may be in the minority on that opinion. ;)

Corylea

ML — I’ve only seen nine episodes of TNG so far, so my opinion may change, or the characters may change, but so far most of the TNG characters seem really BLAND.

I’ve heard that Picard is going to become fabulous, but the captain needs good characters to play off of. Riker, Crusher, and Troi all seem just barely alive.

In “Lonely Among Us,” when Picard ADMITTED that he’d been taken over by an alien entity, his officers tried to do something for about one second, but when he told them to back off, they DID. *mind boggles*

If Kirk had admitted that he’d been taken over by an alien entity, Spock would have neck-pinched him or McCoy would have hypoed him, and then Spock would have melded with the entity to find out what it wanted and what it would take to get it to leave the captain alone. Having senior officers just say, “Oh, you’ve been taken over by an alien? Okay!” had me screaming at the screen. How are you people going to SURVIVE in a dangerous universe?

Janeway seemed like a real captain right out of the gate, and The Doctor has been interesting from his first appearance … and Seven hasn’t even joined the cast yet. So yeah, I hear you. Chakotay and Harry Kim both seem pretty bland, but the other characters are all people.

ML31

Chakotay and Kim were indeed the weakest characters on Voyager. But they did what they needed to and the others were interesting enough for me care about them. TNG on the other hand… Do not expect the characters to get better. They are bland. They are a result of Gene Roddenberry’s “perfect” society. Picard started off as a grumpy Captain but moved to just a boring Captain. A number of the episodes were good but none of the good episodes of TNG were character driven. They were sci-fi driven and the people in them literally could have been anyone. That is my beef with TNG. The characters were boring. But I still appreciate the show for what it did for Star Trek.

Corylea

It sounds like Gene Roddenberry started to believe in his own hype — to the detriment of himself, the show, and everyone around him.

Roddenberry didn’t make TOS all by himself, so matter how much he tried to propagate the “lone visionary” myth at cons. It took Gene Coon AND Dorothy Fontana AND Bob Justman and a bunch of other creative people to make TOS what it was. Roddenberry by himself gave us the likes of “The Omega Glory,” which makes it clear that he NEEDED those other people to curb his worst excesses. :-)

ML31

I do think that GR gets more praise that he probably should. From what I have gleaned both TOS and TNG took off AFTER he gave more control to other people. And I think it is painfully obvious where 4 of the TNG characters came from. He broke down the two main characters from TOS into 4. Elements of Kirk became Picard and Riker. Elements of Spock became Data and Troi. (Troi was originally envisioned to be a complete telepath until she was scaled back to being the nearly useless empath). Really the only thing new he did for TNG was set it 70 years into the future.

Spiked Canon

…that you’ll get to see unravel to the next season.
insinuates Spock and hopefully Pike return next season?

Mike Barnett

Maybe….or perhaps they’ll create another TV series based on Pike’s Enterprise.

Spock Jenkins

With the inclusion of PIKE ( Anson Mount ) and now SPOCK ( Peck ) having such a positive impact with fans, can the show now afford to lose them, going forward?

TG47

I’m wondering whether they’ll need to revisit the no stylistic overlap thing and permit both a Pike Enterprise and S31 show.

After all, if they each are only 13 episodes a season, each show is on hiatus thrice the time it’s running.