This past weekend was San Diego Comic-Con, and for the uninitiated, it’s sort of like the nerd version of the draft. While actors and talent aren’t chosen based on a lottery, like a draft, the event gives insight to the upcoming “season” of entertainment. This past weekend, we saw much of what we could expect for the next year or so of genre-based entertainment.
CBS gives us a great look, this year at Comic-Con, into upcoming series Star Trek: Discovery. Fans were treated to a gallery of props, costumes, and concept art, as well as a new two-and-a-half-minute trailer, and a panel discussion.
During this panel discussion, it was said that the series main character, Michael Burnham (played by The Walking Dead’s Sonequa Martin Green) grew up under the same roof that another famous Star Trek character grew up under. While during the Panel it was made clear that Sarek, took her in after her parent’s death, Comicbook.com ran a story that she was Spock’s Half Sister, the human daughter of Spock’s mum Amanda, and other outlets ran with the story as presented by Comicbook.com.
As you could imagine, nerd rage hit the internet, as people were levelling the serious charge of “Canon Violation”. How could Spock have a half-sister he never mentioned? Later in the day, from the Trek Writers room twitter account, it was clarified, that she was Spock’s adopted Sister, not his half-sister.
But still, the question remained, how could Spock grow up with an adoptive sister without us knowing about it. As we dig into the question, let’s just see how the timeline of events adds up. What we know about Discovery is that it is set roughly 10 years before TOS. This would set the series in the middle of the 2250’s. This would be close to 25 years after Spock’s birth in January of 2230 (Star Trek Beyond). When Discovery takes place, Spock is on the Enterprise serving under Captain Pike, as a Lt. and Cmdr Burnham is the first officer of the USS Discovery. Prior to her time on the Discovery, Cmdr. Burnham served with Captain Georgiou for 7 years, which means that she potentially left Vulcan to serve in Starfleet when Spock was 18. This would make her somewhat of an older sister to Spock. (I admit much of this is conjecture based on the limited information that has been released so come September 24th, some of this may be different)
So, how could Spock potentially have an older sister, and us, the fans not know about it??
“UHURA: She’s lovely, Mister Spock. Who is she?
SPOCK: She is T’Pring. My wife”
And with that, we are introduced to Spock’s betrothed. This is from the second season episode of The Original Series titled Amok Time. In this episode, Spock gets his Vulcan 7-year itch and has to go home to have it scratched, or face death. Upon returning to Vulcan, and confronted with T’Pring, Spock tells his friends and shipmates that he is married. This is episode 34 of the series, and the beginning of the second year in their 5-year mission. But even then, Spock remained secretive about his relationship with T’Pring, not announcing to the larger audience on the bridge that she was more or less his fiancéé.
SPOCK: The marriage party approaches. I hear them.
KIRK: Marriage party? You said T’Pring was your wife.
SPOCK: By our parents’ arrangement. A ceremony while we were but seven years of age. Less than a marriage but more than a betrothal. One touches the other in order to feel each other’s thoughts. In this way, our minds were locked together so that at the proper time, we would both be drawn to Koon-ut-kal-if-fee.
So this is one of our first glimpses into the private life of Cmdr Spock, and we see that he isn’t very forthcoming about his personal and family life. He is so private that he sought to avoid telling even his captain and friend about his health condition and pending nuptials when asking for leave. Based on this, I don’t think it’s a difficult conclusion to jump to, to think that Spock is fiercely private about his personal life.
But could it be that Spock’s privacy in this situation more tied to potential embarrassment surrounding his libido, and not necessarily tied to privacy around his family? Is there other evidence that suggests that Spock is a private person when it comes to his family?
KIRK: Captain James Kirk.
KIRK: My First Officer, Commander Spock.
SPOCK: Vulcan honours us with your presence. We come to serve.
SAREK: Your service honours us, Captain.
KIRK: Thank you. Chief Medical Officer Doctor McCoy.
SAREK: Doctor. My aides and she who is my wife.
(He holds out his right hand with two fingers extended, and a human woman steps forward to touch them.)
AMANDA: Captain Kirk.
KIRK: Our pleasure, madam. As soon as you’re settled I’ll arrange a tour of the ship. Mister Spock will conduct you.
SAREK: I’d prefer another guide, Captain.
KIRK: As you wish, Ambassador. Mister Spock, we’ll leave orbit in two hours. Would you care to beam down and visit your parents?
SPOCK: Captain, Ambassador Sarek and his wife are my parents.
So, this is another season 2 episode, Journey to Babel. In this episode, the Enterprise is playing Galactic Uber for dignitaries to a conference. One of the dignitaries the Enterprise is expected to ferry is the Vulcan Ambassador to the Federation, a man by the name of Sarek, and his human wife Amanda. We find out through a little bit of family awkwardness, that Amanda and Sarek are in fact Spock’s parents, and the audience is also made aware that Captain Kirk didn’t know this.
There is a saying, once is a fluke, and twice is a trend. So, there is now a trend showing Spock’s propensity towards being private when it comes to his family/personal life. But there is still one larger instance of Spock keeping to himself when it comes to matters of family.
KIRK: Dammit. God dammit, Spock!
SPOCK: Captain, what I have done…
KIRK: What you have done is betray every man on this ship.
SPOCK: Worse. I have betrayed you. I do not expect you to forgive me.
KIRK: Forgive you? I ought to knock you on your goddamn ass!
SPOCK: If you think that will help.
McCOY: You want me to hold him, Jim?
KIRK: You stay out of this! …Why, Spock? Why? All you had to do was pull the trigger.
SPOCK: If I had pulled the trigger, Sybok would be dead.
KIRK: I ordered you to defend your ship.
SPOCK: You ordered me to kill my brother.
KIRK: The man may be a fellow Vulcan, but that doesn’t…
SPOCK: You do not understand me, Captain. Sybok, also, is a son of Sarek.
KIRK: He’s your brother brother? You made that up.
SPOCK: I did not.
KIRK: You did too. Sybok couldn’t possibly be your brother because I happen to know for a fact that you don’t have a brother.
SPOCK: Technically, you are correct. I do not have a brother.
KIRK: You see?
SPOCK: I have a half-brother.
KIRK: I’ve got to sit down.
McCOY: Let me get this straight. You and Sybok have the same father but different mothers.
SPOCK: Exactly. That is correct. Sybok’s mother was a Vulcan princess. After her death, Sybok and I were raised as brothers.
KIRK: Why didn’t you tell us this before?
SPOCK: I was not prepared to discuss matters of a personal nature. For that I am sorry.
KIRK: That makes everything all right? I’m sorry…
McCOY: Stop it, Jim. Spock could no more kill his own brother than he could kill you. If you want to punish him for what he’s done, why don’t you throw him in the brig?
McCOY: Besides we’ve got bigger problems to deal with. Like how the hell do we get out of here? …I’ll say one thing, Spock, you never cease to amaze me.
SPOCK: Nor I myself.
In Star Trek V The Final Frontier the primary Antagonist is a free love hippie Vulcan by the name of Sybok. Sybok saunters into galactic affairs on the Planet Nimbus III (a planet governed by Federation, Klingon, and Romulan representatives). It is here Sybok captures the government of this planet and forces Kirk and Company to come out of shore leave to rescue the hostages. It turns out, that the hostages have a case of Cultish Stockholm syndrome and turn on their rescuers. Sybok and his cult, force Kirk and company to take them up to the Enterprise on their shuttlecraft. After they land/crash Spock gets a drop on Sybok but is unable to kill him and keep the later from seizing control of the Enterprise. Kirk, Spock and McCoy are led to the brig where the above exchange happens.
So, here is the third time where the crew of the Enterprise is meeting a member of Spock’s family, and they aren’t told until it’s almost too late. In this case, it’s AFTER his half-brother has seized control of the ship, and has put his friend’s lives in jeopardy.
When I look at these three situations, it’s clear that Spock is private about his family almost to a fault. The first time, it almost cost him his life, and the third time it almost cost the lives of his friends and crewmates.
So it makes sense that if Spock had a foster/adopted sister that he wouldn’t have necessarily talked about her. Especially considering that she went to the Vulcan Science Academy, and Spock didn’t. It has been stated that it was Spock choosing Starfleet Academy over the Vulcan Science Academy that was central in the rift with his father. Obviously, Spock’s estrangement from his father is a topic he isn’t fond of, and if his Father was closer to his adopted human daughter while rejecting Spock for his own human heritage, it presents a certain logic in the Sarek/Spock relationship dynamic that hasn’t been explained before.
Further, it seems to actually give motivation to Spock’s mentorship of both Saavik, and Valeris. He saw his father mentor a young woman, perhaps it was his way of trying to understand who his father was?
With all that said about Spock, there is another elephant in the room, when it comes to Star Trek, particularly the TOS characters. The narrative laid out in the body of canon, surrounding the family of the central characters isn’t what we would call reliable. In two instances, the audience was made aware that these characters had children when they were never previously mentioned on Screen.
In The Wrath of Khan, we are introduced to David Marcus, who after trying to stab Kirk, we find out, is actually Kirk’s son. Kirk’s progeny was never mentioned before this, and since neither Spock nor Bones seem surprised by the development, it would seem that they knew he had a Child, but the audience didn’t.
In Star Trek Generations, we are introduced to Demora Sulu, who is the daughter of Enterprise Helmsman Hikaru Sulu. Based on the dialogue, we know that Kirk and company knew that Sulu had a child, but it was never referenced on screen. According to Memory Alpha Demora was born in 2271, which was around the time of the V-Ger incident. But again, she was never mentioned onscreen in any of the films prior to that moment.
While in later iterations of Star Trek we see the crew open up more about their family, it isn’t something that is talked much about during TOS and the TOS films. It stands to reason that between Spock’s privacy around his family life, and in general, The Original Series crew outings, not being big on talking about family personal life, that Spock could have easily had an adopted sister, that those of us in the Audience wouldn’t know about.
Of course, none of this suggests that this new Spock sibling isn’t a contrivance or that the relationship needed to happen to tell this story, that remains to be seen. This was clearly an artistic choice by the writers and the team behind Discovery. Whether or not this adds or subtracts from the previous narrative, we won’t know that until the series premieres on CBS on September 24th in the USA/Canada and worldwide on Netflix on September 25th
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Ref/Media Links: Excerpts from Script Transcripts taken from http://www.chakoteya.net/StarTrek/index.html, Dates, and other pieces of information taken from Memory Alpha.