Typing fictional characters, particularly those who are written by more than one writer, is difficult. Each writer brings a different approach, and the character can prove inconsistent based on the vision of the writer and the “needs” of that episode. Fictional characters aren’t fully human and therefore cannot be fully typed (unless their author is consistent in their reactions!). Bear that in mind, as we explore Star Trek and discuss whether Spock is an ISTJ or an INTJ. (There’s no definite answer… he’s one and the other, based on the episode / movie / situation, but being an INTJ, it’s fun to analyze him anyway!)
Some of my readers encouraged me to write up a character analysis on Spock, so you can thank or blame them for this perusal of the character. Back in the 70’s, he baffled and intrigued audiences due to his “robotic” tendencies: his total logic, his almost nonexistent human emotions, and his unfazed reaction to bad situations (“Fascinating!”). The Spock from the Original Series and the Spock from the new movies are similar in their typing but their variations are different.
So, let’s talk about both versions of Spock… and his behavioral patterns. We’ll call Nimoy “Original Spock,” and Quinto “New Spock” to avoid confusion.
Both versions of Spock are Introverted. Each lives fully in his own head, and struggles to interact with and understand others, while forming very strong personal relationships with one other person – Kirk. (Introverts tend to form a very small, but highly intimate, trusted group of friends… often with just ONE “best” friend, as opposed to the people-loving Extrovert who considers everyone a friend!)
Original Spock and New Spock are also both Thinkers instead of Feelers – in each situation, they react with logic and repress emotion (though New Spock has a harder time controlling his emotions than Original Spock). One of the best moments in the original series is when a distraught crewmember accuses Spock of being heartless because he’s more concerned with saving the rest of their lives than mourning the loss of other crew members. Spock fires back that emotion will wind up killing them all – it’s better to take action to preserve current life than waste time mourning those they cannot help (sound familiar? It should, Sherlock says the same thing when losing an old woman to a bomb blast in the BBC series). A Feeler will react emotionally to a bad situation (how awful is it? isn’t it sad? how must these people be feeling right now?) while a Thinker will react logically (how did it happen? can we stop it? is there anything we can do to save the rest of us?).
Sometimes, Original Spock is a little more of a Perceiver than a Judger in his information gathering (in these episodes he leans INTP), but Judger is his dominant function overall (he takes in information and forms often immediate judgments on it, leading to immediate decisions when in perilous situations). New Spock is very much a J.
So far, we have Spock as an IXTJ, which brings us to the sticking point… his S/N function. Those that insist he’s an ISTJ will argue with those who insists he’s an INTJ to the bitter end. The truth is, he swings back and forth based on the incarnation of Spock, the episode, and the situation… but I tend to think he’s an INTJ with S overtones. Here’s the evidence as I see it:
ISTJs and INTJs are both logical; ISTJs work through logic backwards as Sensors, and INTJs make “logical leaps” based on their Intuition. Sensors base all their moral guidelines on social or religious rules, whereas Intuitives form their “rules” based on their own ideas and the evidence presented. For example, an S would be less likely to lie than an N, because the S values honesty, whereas the N might understand the logic of lying (self-preservation). The S will abide by established rules; the N will question those rules and if they believe the rule shouldn’t apply to them, will break it.
Therein, we run into the conflict with Spock. On one hand, both versions of Spock abide by the rules. New Spock is more offended by Kirk breaking the rules in cheating on his test (S) than he is impressed that Kirk found a way around it (N, admires ingenuity even if they don’t “approve” of the behavior). Yet, both versions of Spock are in Starfleet. An S that abides by social conventions would never abandon his pacifistic culture to become involved in an external military force, but both versions of Spock sees the necessity (his own lack of acceptance in Vulcan culture, as half-human) and the potential (for information-gathering, curiosity for other races) for breaking out of the traditional mold (an N trait).
Both versions of Spock also break Starfleet Rules and sometimes flat-out lie and/or manipulate others to get what they want. Original Spock defies and disobeys Starfleet command on several occasions (often to save Kirk and/or ensure that Kirk escapes a court martial unscathed). Original Spock also seduces and manipulates a female Romulan commander in order to entrap her (an S would balk at the moral implications, but although Spock doesn’t like it, he sees the long-term benefits and does it anyway). New Spock has a relationship with a cadet and lesser officer, beams down to Vulcan to find his parents instead of remaining on board ship, and abandons Kirk on a remote planet instead of throwing him in the Brig (N over S).
New Spock’s relationship with Uhura is a sticking point… it violates the S (which would know that such relationships are frowned on, particularly since Uhura was his student when they first met) and the N (foreseeing the potential negative consequences of such a relationship). But in a way, it also embraces the N – foreseeing them and deciding those rules don’t apply to this situation and the consequences are an acceptable risk. New Spock and Original Spock don’t abide by the “rules” of time travel; when confronted with Khan, New Spock solicits the advice of Spock Prime in dealing with him. Spock Prime says it would be unethical to advise him, however…
All versions of Spock also have a handle on sarcasm, which is a staple of the INTJ type.
It’s also interesting to note that Spock is more “rigid” in the original series but by the time the original movies roll around, is more relaxed when it comes to disobeying Starfleet. Is it a switch from S to N, or is it the result of adapting to his environment and following the leadership of the decidedly ENFP James Kirk? (Does an S adapt? They seem more inclined to hold rigidly to their earlier patterns.)
Spock frequently travels in-between the two types but seems more often in the INTJ camp. New Spock is much more ISTJ than Original Spock (except for his relationship with Uhura). So which is he? Neither and both. Either way, it’s not hard to see why the charming, curious, humorous and robotic Spock is the most beloved (and “fascinating!”) character in the original franchise.
Author’s Note: I enjoy typing characters so if there’s anyone you’d like to see me type (or are curious as to what my opinion of their type is), let me know! They don’t have to be INTJs!