Christmas vacation implies a period of time in which there is nothing on television and you are home with the family, searching desperately for something to do for fun. Well, Christmas vacation to me is no different from most of my life in general — I live next door to my family, so it’s a short walk to and from the festivities, which tend to be small in terms of relatives but large when it comes to a “spirit of good cheer.” I have spent the entirety of my Christmas vacation doing two things — wrapping presents* and watching Star Trek. The originals. Believe it or not, for the first time. I did not grow up a sci-fi fan. When most of my friends were catching Kirk on repeat on Saturday mornings, I was devouring Anne Shirley novels and watching old black and white movies at my grandma’s house. (That is where my love of Clark Gable, Cary Grant, and Jimmy Stewart originated. Thanks, Grandma! I love you. Merry Christmas in heaven!)
About a month ago, I rented and watched the new Star Trek movie by that magnificent madman J.J. Abrams (the genius who invented Fringe… among other equally addictive programming) … and I loved it. So I broke a promise I made long ago to myself — that I would never stoop so low as to watching the original franchise. You see, I know nerds who love Star Trek and they scare me. My rational and now, I realize, rather Vulcan-like uncle-in-law has every VHS ever produced of the series. That was just too old school for me. Until now. I am watching it — and I am loving it. Yes, it’s corny, but in a really endearing way. The colors are ghastly and remind me of the worst days of the Brady Bunch, but the characters are just so darn fun I cannot help myself. There is an insult for every occasion but also a sense of humor and tolerant teasing.
Like all women who actually watch sci-fi, I adore Spock. It’s not the pointed ears or his sense of solidarity or the fact that he considers it an insult to imply he might have experienced something as horrific as a human emotion, either. It’s the fact that I understand him. The similarities not only between his character and mine, but also his personality and that of my younger brother, are profound. I grew up around a real live Spock — a highly intelligent young man lacking in emotion who disapproves of “stretching the story,” rounding up, and who literally cannot tell a lie. Watching Spock is like hanging out for a few hours with my brother, so there might be a bit of fondness there on his behalf — but it’s also at times like looking into a mirror. I am rational rather than emotional. I don’t get noisy or excited. I prefer to be calm and private with my feelings. I might be truly furious at something but you would never know just by looking at me — my friends get the benefit of my honest opinion through eloquent and impassioned e-mails, but talking to me face to face would not grant that same emotional openness.
I used to think it was strange that most of the men I am drawn to were like that, but now I am starting to see a pattern. Sometimes, friends would say, “You have strange taste… why do you like those costume dramas so much? The men are all so repressed!”
Repressed. Yes, that sounds about right. Calm. Rational. Non-emotional. Repressed. Works for me, because I “get it.”
Back to Star Trek. So far my favorite episode has been “This Side of Paradise.” I liked it so much I might watch it again this afternoon while waiting for the “Come up for eggnog, cinnamon rolls and Christmas presents!” summons from the main house.
The basic premise is that the Enterprise hovers above a planet in which humans have been sent to attempt a colony. Their survival is impossible given the atmosphere but when Kirk, Spock and McCoy beam down, they find the inhabitants of the planet happy, productive — and in perfect health. It turns out that their state of mind originates from a plant that spews happy spores into the air that infect anyone standing there. On this planet is a beautiful blonde who has a thing for Spock, so she leads him over to a plant and WHAM. This is a side of Spock we have never seen before — a giddy, lovesick half-Vulcan who is climbing trees and talking about rainbows. It’s really funny in a really disturbing kind of way.
To snap him out of it, Kirk has to make him angry enough that his body rejects the spores — no easy task when you consider Spock doesn’t get mad all that often. But after insulting his mother, his father, his home planet, his half-breed status, his pointed ears, and his “computer-like brain,” Kirk gets slammed into the nearest wall and Spock wakes up. The first thing he says is, “I no longer belong.”
Dang, that’s harsh — and sad.
It’s an interesting episode that kind of predates the hippy movement — drugs, freedom, fitting in, and love on a commune of sorts where there are no cares, but equally so, no major achievements or progress. Everyone lacks drive and ambition and so they just float through time, enraptured with one another and their emotions. The underlining social studies and messages are intriguing, but I think the final haunting statement at the end is what most of us will remember the longest — that Spock has never before experienced such complete happiness at the thought of fitting in.
It’s true, Spock doesn’t fit in. Neither do I. I see the world in a far different hue than you do. But I’m glad. The world would be an awfully boring place if we were all the same.
Live long and prosper!
* I am the official go-to-girl when it comes to Christmas present wrapping. So far the only family member who hasn’t come to me for my expertise is my mother, who is a monarch of gift wrapping in her own right.