Back in the 1960s, when “Star Trek” aired on NBC Television, Gene Roddenberry found that he had a problem. The star of the show, William Shatner, was getting overshadowed by that alien guy with the pointed ears — Spock. Most plots revolved around the adventures of Shatner’s Captain James T. Kirk, whose sense for action was not unlike many other leading men and characters who populated the pop-culture landscape.
But Leonard Nimoy’s Spock was different. He was an interesting character who thought his way out of trouble. He had strange powers — like the ability to mind-meld and use the nerve pinch — which was unique to him.
According to “Star Trek” producer and assistant director Bob Justman, things got heated between Shatner and Nimoy behind the scenes. Justman spoke with Mark A. Altman and Ed Gross for their book, “The Fifty-Year Mission: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek: The First 25 Years.”
Kelvin Spock and Prime Spock
“I don’t think the rivalry began to arise until later when Leonard started getting all this fan mail,” Justman told Gross and Altman. “To both of their credit, it never got in their way. They were professionals, they came in prepared, they knew what they had to do that day, they were never late, they knew their lines, and they worked their asses off.
“They couldn’t have been more professional, so it came out in other ways,” said Justman. “They both had to work together, and I’m sure that there must have been, at first at least, some liking between them, but at least outwardly, they were professional, and we never had to come down on stage and smooth things over because one of them was in a snit.”
Chris Pine and Leonard Nimoy
Eventually, Roddenberry had to get involved between Shatner and Nimoy, clearing up the situation. For years, the public never knew about the disagreement because the two actors resolved their differences for the sake of the show.
Many actors besides Nimoy have portrayed Spock. In fact, for “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock,” five actors portrayed the Vulcan. They were Carl Steven (as very young Spock), Vadia Potenza (adolescent Spock), Stephen Manley (teenage Spock), Joe W. Davis (twenty-something Spock), and Nimoy (fully grown Spock).
The character appeared in three seasons of “The Original Series,” two seasons of “Star Trek: The Animated Series,” eight feature films, two episodes of “The Next Generation,” and even an episode of the animated “Star Trek: Prodigy.” Spock also can be seen sporadically throughout Seasons 1 and 2 of “Star Trek: Discovery.” He was portrayed primarily by Ethan Peck, who resumes the role for “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.”
That is a lot of Spock. No other character (not even Michael Dorn’s Mr. Worf) has popped up in so many different places in so many eras of “Star Trek.” This raises the question — when is all this Spock too much?
Too Much Spock?
On a recent episode of the “The Main Viewer” show, host Ryan Husk brought this up to the other members of the show. In a segment where Husk discussed some of the characters and plot points from “Strange New Worlds” with Malissa Longo, Katie Nickolaou, and Dr. Mohamed Noor, he made a bold statement:
“The one real qualm I have with [‘Strange New Worlds’] is — and I know I am going to get skewered for this — I don’t need more Spock,” said Husk. “I don’t need more Spock! I’m OK with Spock and, to a lesser degree, Uhura too. We got three seasons of Spock and Uhura and six movies. And then, we got three movies of them reimagined.”
“And then we got Spock, again, in ‘Discovery,’” said Husk. “If you guys want to have Uhura and Spock — fine. But I really hope that the other characters get at least as much screen time, or more, as these characters that have been examined inside and out, over and over and over and over again. God love them! But I want new characters.”
Husk might have a point, as the life of Spock (both Kelvin and Prime) has been available for all to see for over fifty years. Paramount is not afraid to use this top-tier character as they feel necessary.
On the other hand, Disney has taken a different approach with some of their most famous “Star Wars” characters. While the image of Darth Vader has been referenced for some time, the character itself has not appeared in very many spots.
Since “Return of the Jedi,” Vader has been seen in just four episodes of “Star Wars: Rebels” and for a few moments during “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” Exacting “Star Wars” fans might quibble with the above count, as the character Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) was christened “Darth Vader” toward the end of “Revenge of the Sith.”
Now Disney is teasing the appearance of the Dark Lord of the Sith in their upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi show. The return of Vader is being hyped as “the rematch of the century” by The Independent.
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