So Tell Me ... What's The Weather Like on YOUR Planet?

15 May, 2009

Growing Up Vulcan

(I am endeavouring to not make this a spoilery post, but I recognise that some people are very sensitive so such things. Here's your warning. All direct references to the movie itself are from the character-background setup scenes rather than, y'know, the plot.)

I saw Star Trek: Rebooted on Wednesday.

I'm not old enough to be heavily steeped in ST:TOS, but I've been a Trekkie for all my life, so I know the gestalts. I have a handful of the novels, level of know the gestalts. Went to Trek cons in high school. That kind of thing. So I knew enough to make a reasonable judgement on how the new movie treated the characters.

What I didn't expect was the intense familiarity of Spock's childhood.

It is one thing to know that the Vulcan contemplation of logic and reason and strict emotional control is because they have a history of violence and extremes that they are attempting to avoid recapitulating, and another to see a child, keenly aware of his half-alien nature, confronted by a set of taller bullies whose sole desire is to provoke that emotional reaction, that explosion, that display of response to their taunting. The game is to break Face, to get that feeling engaged; it is a life-or-death game, and if one loses, then one is a lesser being, an alien, not really qualified to take up space among real people.

I know that path, know the cultivation of intellectualism as a form of Face, the deadly risk of emotion that comes up in shaking tunnel-vision quakes. I invented the beginnings of Surak's stoic discipline before I ever saw a Tribble, to survive at home, to survive at school, to never break Face. And I know the gnawing, undermining doubt of the half-alien, wondering if I am destined to fail because of my tainted nature, driven to succeed to prove it is no taint, proud and tenuous and fragile and able to make "Live long and prosper" come out like "Fuck you" with no more than a quirk of an eyebrow.

I know Quinto's Spock in a way I never could know Nimoy's - know the painstaking awareness of every detail, every limitation or feared limitation, every weakness, the guarded protection of every place that might possibly be vulnerable, be a place where someone could get that final snap into violence or sorrow or joy that would show too much and expose everything. Nimoy's Spock was too polished and familiar, too skilled, to ever show that he had a Face rather than was Face, and I was not old enough to empathise.

And now I can remember growing up Vulcan.


Sage said...

I grew up like that too - in fact it's still part of my life in many ways.

I'm like rubber. You're like glue. What bounces off me, sticks to you.

Jess said...

I hear that, I grew up like that too. It's very useful now, but people give me the weirdest looks when I talk about it.

Aqua, of the Questioners said...

I agree Spock's story arc, particularly his childhood, was a real strength of the movie. I just find it a little paradoxical that so many intelligent people who were bullied at school identify with a character who's being bullied because he's believed to not be smart enough, not controlled enough in his emotions (due to being half-human).

In terms of what I saw in the movie, it almost requires re-writing to give the Vulcans a violent past; although I accept it's part of the canon. It's a matter of how expected you are to be familiar with the canon, I guess.